The Euston Manifesto
A group of bloggers and others on the Left have recently composed, signed, and disseminated this document, known as "The Euston Manifesto." Prominent blogger and Marxist professor Norman Geras was highly involved in the writing of the Manifesto, and has posted a great deal of commentary about it on his blog, both here and here.
Norm is one of those "principled leftists" who recognize the liberation aspects of the Iraqi invasion by the US. The document is well worth reading, and the signatories are an impressive bunch (scroll down to the bottom of the Manifesto link to find them).
There's little in the document with which a former liberal (rather than leftist) and present neocon such as myself would disagree. And that little is exceedingly tangential to the main thrust of the Manifesto, which is to place these leftists back in the forefront of the worldwide struggle for human rights and in opposition to the sort of kneejerk embracing of reflexive anti-Americanism that ends up sending certain other self-labeled "progressives" straight into the loving arms of dictators such as Saddam, and terrorists who purposely target innocent people and blow them to bits.
My quarrels? As I said, they are tangential. Some of them are only with a phrase or an emphasis here and there, hardly worth mentioning. Two slightly larger ones are as follows:
(1) The document's unqualified support of trade unions. Trade unions have done a lot of good, especially back when they began, when capitalism was utterly laissez-faire. But in recent years they've sometimes overcorrected and created new problems. Another topic perhaps, for another time.
(2) The seventh statement, about Israel, is vague and extremely general. My guess is that it represented a compromise between some widely disparate views held by the signers on this incendiary topic. The words "We recognize the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There can be no reasonable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that subordinates or eliminates the legitimate rights and interests of one of the sides to the dispute" are actually words with which I agree, but they are so open to interpretation (especially what's "legitimate") as to mean virtually nothing.
But that's okay; this document isn't really about Israel and the Palestinians. Nor is it, of course, about trade unions.
There are so many good sections in the Manifesto that I would suggest, once again, that you read the whole thing. But I'd like to especially highlight the following (a job well done, and very few punches pulled):
2) No apology for tyranny.
We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces....
6) Opposing anti-Americanism.
We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. This is not a case of seeing the US as a model society. We are aware of its problems and failings. But these are shared in some degree with all of the developed world. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name. Its peoples have produced a vibrant culture that is the pleasure, the source-book and the envy of millions...
11) A critical openness.
Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse-making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the "anti-war" movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there are no opponents on the Left. We reject, similarly, the idea that there can be no opening to ideas and individuals to our right. Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticized in clear and forthright terms. Conversely, we pay attention to liberal and conservative voices and ideas if they contribute to strengthening democratic norms and practices and to the battle for human progress.
12) Historical truth.
In connecting to the original humanistic impulses of the movement for human progress, we emphasize the duty which genuine democrats must have to respect for the historical truth. Not only fascists, Holocaust-deniers and the like have tried to obscure the historical record. One of the tragedies of the Left is that its own reputation was massively compromised in this regard by the international Communist movement, and some have still not learned that lesson. Political honesty and straightforwardness are a primary obligation for us...
We repudiate the way of thinking according to which the events of September 11, 2001 were America's deserved comeuppance, or "understandable" in the light of legitimate grievances resulting from US foreign policy. What was done on that day was an act of mass murder, motivated by odious fundamentalist beliefs and redeemed by nothing whatsoever. No evasive formula can hide that.
The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change. We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Baathist regime in Iraq, and we recognize its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted — rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.
The Manifesto (love that word! it's so apropos for leftists and Marxists) amounts to a shot across the bow from one segment of the Left to the other--a declaration that the Left is not monolithic, nor has it gone entirely mad. Bravo and thank you to the signers!