After all, communists were required to show total commitment to the "party line" as laid down, ultimately, by Moscow. "The Party", Hobsbawm writes, "had the first, or more precisely, the only real claim on our lives...whatever it had ordered, we would have obeyed". Among the "party lines" which Hobsbawm had to swallow were the definition of the German Social Democrats as "social fascists", the Great Purges of the 1930s, the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939, and the show trials of the late Stalinist era, many of them with distinct anti-Semitic undertones.
And while he was seriously disturbed by the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Hobsbawm did not join the general exodus from the party.
None of this, of course, disqualifies Hobsbawm as an historian. Even today, such innovative works as Primitive Rebels , Labouring Men  and Bandits  can still be read with profit. When they appeared, they were rightly regarded as sensational. Likewise, his three volumes on 19th-century European history, The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 , The Age of Capital, 1848-1875  and The Age of Empire 1875-1914  have all achieved the status of classics. These were, by their nature, not works of original research. Where Hobsbawm broke new ground was in his ideas, the inspired hunches which showed us how to look at familiar phenomena in new ways. For example, in The Invention of Tradition (which he co-edited with Terence Ranger), he demonstrated how many "timeless" British traditions were actually recent 19th-century inventions.
It is in his study of the 20th century, to which much of his oeuvre is devoted, that the cloven hoof becomes apparent. The heterodoxy of the earlier work gives way to ideologically conformist sleight of hand. In The Age of Extremes , for example, he glosses the Soviet attack on Finland in 1939-1940 with the remark that it "pushed the Russian frontiers a little further away from Leningrad", parroting contemporary communist propaganda that Stalin's unprovoked aggression had actually been some form of self-defence.