Friday, April 21, 2006

The Euston Manifesto: For a Renewal of Progressive Politics

I am proud to be a signer of The Euston Manifesto, a statement of principles for a genuinely democratic, egalitarian, humane, and libertarian progressive politics put together by a group of people belonging, in one way or another, to the British democratic left. This is in part a response to the moral, political, and intellectual derangement of much of the so-called "left" in recent years, but the drafters focused on trying to set forth a positive agenda. I myself would not have formulated every detail in precisely the same way, but I fully endorse its central thrust and animating spirit.
Some highlights are given below, but read the whole thing. Norman Geras, one of those who authored this manifesto, has posted it on his website (Normblog), along with some introductory remarks:
[In the current number of the New Statesman there is a brief account, by me and Nick Cohen, of how the document I post below came to be written. This document is also available on the new Euston Manifesto website, with a list of signatories attached. You may add your own signature there if you wish to do so, as well as support the manifesto in other ways. Queries about the Euston Manifesto can be emailed to me or made by phone on 07890 805576.]
Let me emphasize that although the Euston Manifesto makes a lot of substantive and controversial points, its tone and approach are deliberately non-sectarian. For example, a number of people I know who consider themselves conservative might well find themselves in sympathy with many of its principles (on this, see below). Most of the authors supported the 2003 Iraq war (primarily on anti-fascist and humanitarian grounds), but many people who opposed the Iraq war (an opposition for which I have always recognized there were good as well as bad reasons) should not necessarily find that an obstacle to signing this Manifesto. Read it and see.

=> Since it was issued on April 13, the Euston Manifesto has been printed and otherwise reproduced in a number of places, including the (often appalling) New Statesman, which offered a surprisingly open-minded introduction.
Over the past year a group of progressive journalists, academics and others has been meeting to discuss a shared view that the Iraq war and its aftermath have skewed the left's message, and that attitudes they regard as invidious have gained undue prominence. They have now produced a manifesto, the Euston Manifesto, which the New Statesman publishes here for the first time, with an introductory statement written by two members.
The manifesto does not represent the views of the New Statesman but we welcome the debate it inaugurates, so we invite readers to send in their thoughts.
Martin Bright, writing about the Euston Manifesto in the New Statesman ("The dangers of fragmentation" [4/19/06]), was critical in some respects but argued that this initiative has to be taken seriously, and even that it contains "much to admire."
Some reader responses to my posting were depressing and predictable. Martin Wisse called me “spineless”, “vaguely centrist” and “patronising” for suggesting the name-calling on both sides was not helpful. Others seemed to think the anti-war NS was endorsing the manifesto rather than facilitating discussion. But most responses genuinely engaged with the arguments of the Euston group. [....]
However, one response from a self-confessed “NeoCon” from Australia genuinely took me by surprise. Zoe Brain wrote in the long sentences beloved of bloggers. But bear with her, because she hints at the possibility of a new political alignment.
"If the ‘genuine left’ are against the principles in the manifesto, rather than disagreeing on implementation; and are so blind that partisanship leads them to bed down with murderers and thugs; if their faith insists that nothing on the left can be bad and nothing on the right can be good, then I’m awfully glad to be on the opposite side after all. Call it what you will, NeoCon, NeoLeft, whatever, labels don’t matter.” I e-mailed Zoe to say that her posting was a refreshing contrast to the depressing stock responses of the self-appointed “genuine left”. “How do you think it feels for me?” she replied. “I’m of the right, yet I find that this unashamedly leftist manifesto is far more in accordance with my beliefs and values than anything I’ve seen from my own side . . . It’s not so much depressing as disorientating and calls into question my whole political belief system . . .”. I can’t say the Euston Manifesto has had quite this effect on me, but progressives, whatever they call themselves, or each other, cannot afford to ignore it.
--Jeff Weintraub

[Some highlights ... but read the whole thing. --JW]
The Euston Manifesto:
For a Renewal of Progressive Politics

A. Preamble

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.
The present initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Inernet, especially the 'blogosphere'. It is our perception, however, that this constituency is under-represented elsewhere - in much of the media and the other forums of contemporary political life.
The broad statement of principles that follows is a declaration of intent. It inaugurates a new Website, which will serve as a resource for the current of opinion it hopes to represent and the several foundation blogs and other sites that are behind this call for a progressive realignment.

B. Statement of principles

1) For democracy. [....]
2) No apology for tyranny. [....]
3) Human rights for all. [....]
.4) Equality. [....]
5) Development for freedom. [....]
6) Opposing anti-Americanism. [....]
7) For a two-state solution. [....]
8) Against racism. [....]
9) United against terror. [....]
10) A new internationalism. [....]
11) A critical openness. [....]
12) Historical truth. [....]
13) Freedom of ideas. [....]
14) Open source. [....]
15) A precious heritage. We reject fear of modernity, fear of freedom, irrationalism, the subordination of women; and we reaffirm the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century: liberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness. These inspirational ideas were made the inheritance of us all by the social-democratic, egalitarian, feminist and anti-colonial transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - by the pursuit of social justice, the provision of welfare, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men and women. None should be left out, none left behind. We are partisans of these values. But we are not zealots. For we embrace also the values of free enquiry, open dialogue and creative doubt, of care in judgement and a sense of the intractabilities of the world. We stand against all claims to a total - unquestionable or unquestioning - truth.

D. Conclusion

It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. We must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic 'anti-imperialism' and/or hostility to the current US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda - the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression - are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.


[Paul Anderson (Gauche) offers a condensed version:

April 13, 2006
Paul Anderson writes:

I agree with nearly everything in the Euston Manifesto. Here's a version for people who don't like reading.

1. Islamists are tossers.
2. Stalinists are tossers.
3. Most Trots are tossers.
4. So are most Labour leftists.
5. And most anarchists.
6. And every variety of post-modernist.
7. Sign up if you're a leftie who agrees with these points. ]