T Nation

Euston Manifesto


#1

Any comments on the Euston Manifesto?

Seems to be getting a lot of interest on the internet from both sides of the politcal spectrum. Quite interesting.

A quote from the New Statesmen:
"The Euston Manifesto" offers an encouraging alternative "progressive" counter-point to the loud Left crowd. It rejects those who "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."

A link to the manifesto:

http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=1


#2

It is an interesting document, and I definitely agree with all of it.

However, for now it only addresses a very small part of policy, and hence cannot yet be taken as a full-blown political movement.

It is a great start, though.


#3

Interesting stuff, and from my point of view, there are more liberals out there that share this philosophy already - we just don't hear enough from them.

One major obstacle - getting comfortable with the idea that an opposing idea is usually made in good faith. Most of the liberal lodestars these days can't or won't understand that their opponents really don't have ulterior motives or 'false consciousnesses' - just different ideas on how to solve problems.


#4

A well thought out commentary from Austin Bay:

"The Euston Manifesto": Principled Left Considers War On Terror
by Austin Bay
April 19, 2006
Discussion Board on this On Point topic

On July 7, 2005, at 9:47 a.m., a terror bomb destroyed London's number 30 bus en route from Euston Station to Russell Square. The bomb murdered 13 people.

On May 7, 2005 -- two months before the terror attack -- a group of British scholars, intellectuals and political activists met in a central London pub to discuss the War on Terror. Later that year, they would meet again, in a pub not far from Euston Station, to draft what has become known as "The Euston Manifesto." The name comes from the pub's location, but the connection to the terror attack -- and what to do about jihadist terrorism -- is not coincidental.

The pub crowd included Norm Geras, professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester. In a recent article in Britain's New Statesman, Geras and columnist Nick Cohen described their group as "of the left."

"Many of us were supporters of the military intervention in Iraq," Geras and Cohen wrote, "and those who weren't -- who had indeed opposed it -- nonetheless found themselves increasingly out of tune with the dominant antiwar discourse. They were at odds, too, with how it related to other prominent issues -- terrorism and the fight against it, U.S. foreign policy, the record of the Blair government, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, more generally, attitudes to democratic values."

The News Statesman article doesn't name names, but I'll wager "dominant antiwar discourse" serves as short-hand for the public rant of such "left-wing" luminaries as filmmaker Michael Moore, activist Cindy Sheehan, British member of Parliament George Galloway and websites like www.myleftwing.com (featured in a recent Washington Post article).

"The Euston Manifesto" offers an encouraging alternative "progressive" counter-point to the loud Left crowd. It rejects those who "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."

Its smackdown of knee-jerk anti-Americanism is long overdue, rejecting "without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking." U.S. failings "are shared in some degree with all of the developed world." The United States "is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition ... ." The manifesto abhors "generalized prejudice" against either the United States or its people.

Perhaps writing a manifesto sounds like a quaint, romantic gesture rife with 1930s socialist or 19th century populist nostalgia. Arguably, manifesto is also another Karl Marx-damaged word deserving repair.

James Madison's Tenth Federalist paper is an essay, but it's also a manifesto of sorts, one with manifest historical impact. George Orwell's "progressive" intellectual opposition to Stalin and Stalinism certainly helped solidify liberal resistance to Soviet expansionism. "Containment" and the Truman Doctrine had the support of America's center-Left, and they were the philosophical and strategic foundations for prosecuting the 20th century's Long War, the Cold War.

"The Euston Manifesto" deserves attention for other reasons, journalist Marc Cooper (formerly with The Nation magazine) told me. "I think it is important that there be a viable and principled opposition to the Bush administration," Cooper said.

Free-marketeers (like me) will quibble with the Eustonites' socialist economics -- but so what? An honest intellectual attempt to focus on essential democratic principles deserves praise, for these are value we share.

Cooper isn't convinced the manifesto is a seminal document. "This is, after all, a statement by writers and not some organizing plan," Cooper observed, though he argued it is indicative of diversity of "left-wing thought."

I see it as an unusual example of fact-based and principled discussion from the political Left. The Eustonites "reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home ... more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples."

Read that last line as saying Iraqis and Arabs can handle democracy.

The Euston Manifesto is a courageous expression of support for the "liberty" and "liberating" components of classical liberalism


#5

This is excellent. I wish everyone would read it.

If the Democratic party would run away from the Michael Moore BS and embrace these ideals it would stand an excellent chance of getting my vote.


#6

Really? That is very interesting.

As I said, I agree with every single thing on the document -- however I do find it very interesting how the right is reading it.

For example, do you guys realize that, technically, according to this manifesto, we should be actively pressuring the Chinese government to change their ways and NOT take "We'll deal with it OUR way" for an answer?

Our dear President, however, basically behaved like he was the Chinese president's bitch and allowed him to walk away with the "We'll deal with it OUR way" spiel.

Our dear president gave away our balls in a silver plate to China while we just watched and kept buying their products.

How about all the other dozens of dictatorships and human rights violators all over the planet, muslim and non-muslim?

You know, Saddam wasn't the only bad guy on the planet...

So why don't I see the regular Bushviks attacking this manifesto?

Isn't there a slight disconnect here?

I vote for a full embargo on Chinese products. Who's with me?


#7

While I don't share the President's approach to China - I think all trade is political, and I am skeptical that an emerging liberal economy will result in the hoped-for liberal state - I do find it hilarious when left-wingers try to talk tough. Funny, unintentionally so, but funny.

This means nothing - conservatives know this, acknowledge this, and respond that because you can't solve all doesn't mean you can't solve one.

Why would all Bush-supporters attack the manifesto? Most of us are happy to see liberalism get a mission and a spine for the sake of the country - good quality competing ideas make for good policy. Conservatives should like what they read in this manifesto, even if they disagree with the policy, especially the express abandonment of relativist principles that have been the sacred cow - and enormous hypocrisy - of the current Left.

Liberalism has needed a dose of this for some time - and the body politic would be better for it. The liberalism espoused in this manifesto would work as a nice counter to the coastal elitism that infects the school of thought currently. This manifesto acts as though it wants to promote ideas and engage in debate, rather than continue the Left's current playbook of smug faux-radicalism and self-satisfied snobbery. The current Left is the equivalent of the smug hipster who rolls his eyes at all things and declares that nearly everything around him is soooo stupid. It would be nice to see liberalism grow up and learn to have a conversation with other political thinking.

Maybe.


#8

... which is a complete cop-out response.

Look, I'm not saying we invade every single human rights violator out there -- I'm saying -- and this manifest is saying -- that we should have a consistent response to them. And the way we treated Saddam's Iraq vs the way we treat China -- that's not consistent.

You're being such a hypocrite too! Do you really believe that the majority of liberals in this country follow that stereotype? That's as wrong as saying that all conservatives are mindless, bible-thumping, hypocritical, fundamentalist automatons whose political ideas are summarized by "lower taxes, ban abortions, gays are an abomination".

The first step in having any intelligent conversation is dropping the stereotypes. I don't see you doing that.

Who's the moral relativist now?


#9

There is a good reason - because no two situations are necessarily alike in terms of history and diplomacy.

I agree with the consistent response - at the very least a consistent philosophy. But treating China exactly like Iraq is stupid on a number of levels - they were/are involved in playing two very different games with the rest of the world. Handling them the same way is pure idiocy.

No, actually I'm not - note above where I said I thought a great many liberals are actually pretty close to the manifesto's approach, we just don't enough hear from them.

I believe something different - I think the stereotype I described is what is currently the leadership-du-jour for liberals, as in, they are calling the shots for the movement.

Well, since I wasn't suggesting that all liberals think that way, this is a moot point, but next time I am in the Bay Area, I will see if your Enlightened brethren distance themselves from the stereotype you just mentioned.

Regarding what? We already have a trade relationship with China - we have an existing political relationship that has depth now. The 'maybe' comes in as a practical matter - how exactly to unravel such a situation in light of what we previously committed to?

As for 'practical matters' - they do come up in academentia, don't they? At least occasionally?

To pull this conversation back on course - I like what the manifesto has to say. I would love to see liberalism grow in this direction. But it will take some work.


#10

What you are describing is the core driver of moral relativism. You just don't seem to see it yourself.

It is frequently extremely hard to reconcile Capitalism with Moralism. One has to, in many cases, sacrifice one in benefit of the other. However, this manifesto is clear that when it comes to Human Rights Violations, we should NEVER sacrifice in favor of Capitalism.

The current nature of our extremely dysfunctional relationship with China is irrelevant if we do take up the Human Rights banner. I'm not saying we should invade them -- much like I never said we should have invaded Iraq. And I agree that the treatment of each country has to be different -- different cultures will have different approaches work with them.

But if America is to be taken seriously in its plight for Human Rights, one needs to consistently isolate Human Rights Violators. We are not doing that -- at all -- with China. Actually, we're not doing that at all with anyone but Iraq and Iran; with China we're actually feeding the monster and letting it be our master (they own most of our debt).

This is completely against the fundamental principles outlined in this manifesto. That's my point.

I do realize that a trade embargo with China would come at great cost. But that's not the point here: if we do want to become an example for others to follow, we need to have the guts to stand for our principles. If we don't, we're just a bunch of hypocritical cowards.

You're being fairly contradictory here. On one hand, you say that most liberals agree with this manifesto (you're right), and that it's just that the minority found its way to the leadership of the DNC (you're right), but now you again talk about liberalism as a group and say it's not there?

You need to be consistent with that too... And start using more precise terms. The "liberal" label gets used for basically everything on this country that is left of center-right, and that's wrong on sooo many levels...

Actually, that is one thing I miss about Europe. Over there, all the shades of left, center-left and center are actually well distinguished and people call them out by their names, rather than just calling them all "liberals" like if it was a curse word.


#11

Read below.

No problem - but that stands in sharp contrast to the theory of sem-recent vintage that if we can develop trade with illiberal countries that there will be cascading effect into civil society. Now, they may not have worked out as well as hoped, but it was done in good faith. Fast forward to the manifesto - should we immediately end all trade relationships with less-than-liberal countries post-haste? And, what policy baselines do we set for countries before we trade with them?

My point is that I amenable to the idea of 'political trade' or 'strategic trade' - but only with qualifier that such idealism must be tempered with pragmatism. That is not morally relativist - it is realistic. This is taking an ideal - which the manifesto encompasses - and tries to find a real-world fit to achieve some good.

Yes, agreed - what is weird is that you are trying to disagree with me when we probably agree on much here.

I concur - but the movementcan't be an excuse for protectionism and it must be done with the history of our economic relationship in mind.

But you miss an important point - free-trading with China was done also in hopes of creating political change for the better. It was 'soft', not 'hard', but trading with China didn't make us hypocrites. Since invading China to take it on as a human rights abuser, etc. was off the table, what was the next option? Creating market liberalism was a strategy. Perhaps it didn't achieve its goals, but was it hypocrisy to try and achieve change that way? Certainly not.

Think about Cuba - what has changed in Castro's Cuba since the embargo?

Er, what? You are drowning yourself in semantics. Let me simplify: I would like to see the direction of liberalism go on the direction of the Euston Manifesto. There may be many on the left who currently share manifesto's ideas, but liberalism has not moved in that direction because the primary mouthpiece and primary driver of the Left has been a certain fringe of self-appointed radical mandarins.

Liberalism as the US uses it: left of center. If I need to single out a group, I will.

I don't think it is a bad word, just as I am comfortable with conservative.


#12

I think this is the core of our disagreement (we essentially agree on the rest), so let me address it exclusively:

Even if free-trading with China was, partially, intended to induce political change, it has to be accompanied with clear, strong statements that the Human Rights Violations there are NOT acceptable. That is not what is happening. Not only the US administration is not making any fuss about it (except for weak statements that nobody really takes seriously), we have several US companies not making ANY qualms about, e.g., censorship, and writing it off as "well, it's just the business rules out there".

The message we're sending China is, for ALL practical purposes, that their violations are tolerable -- acceptable, even -- and just "different business rules". That's my point.


#13

A speech by one of the founders of the Euston Manifesto, Norman Geras.

May 26, 2006

A beginning
[The following is the text of my talk at last night's Euston Manifesto launch.]

By one of those coincidences that don't mean anything, 70 years ago today - and I mean to the very day - the poet T.S. Eliot paid a visit to a small hamlet in Cambridgeshire. He took the name of this place as the title for the fourth of his Four Quartets - 'Little Gidding'. What has that got to do with the Euston Manifesto? Nothing, really.

But in the way of these things, I went back to the poem just to have a look, in case (you never know) I might find some other connection than merely the date. What I came back to there were these lines:

And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from...
There you go ? that gives me somewhere to start from this evening. Because I want to talk about ends and beginnings in both a public and a personal sense.

The first of these: 9/11 - September 11, 2001. It is a day imprinted on the public memory - indelibly - because the crime committed in New York and Washington DC announced a terrible willingness, of which few previously had been aware: a willingness to use terror without limit for political ends; a terrorism, that is to say, unconstrained by any concern about the numbers of the innocent dead. That day was both an end and a beginning because it showed, and to many of us in an instant, that the world was now different, dangerously so, and in a way not amenable to simple-minded responses.

This brings me to a second end and beginning, and if I may get your indulgence for this, I will frame it in more personal terms. It happened in the days immediately following 9/11. Not just simple-minded, but cold, shameful, appalling responses to the crime that had been perpetrated, parading across the pages of the liberal and left press. You know the terms of it: blowback; comeuppance; yes, a crime of course but... But what? But a crime to be contextualized immediately, just in case you might be unaware that it wasn't the first or the worst crime in human history.

This kind of stuff, I regret to say, was coming principally from a part of the left. And in those few days, 12, 13, 14 September 2001, it became clear to me that this part of the left wasn't a part one should have anything - or anything more, depending on where you were at the time - to do with if the left was to have a worthwhile future and merit anybody's support.

Anyone who's ever belonged to anything, as we all have - a family, a group, a club, a movement - will know that this involves having some quarrels. If you're part of the left then you have your quarrels; and having been a part of the left all my adult life, I've had my share. But some things you quarrel about. About other things you draw a line.

Over 9/11 I decided the time had come to draw a line. A left truly committed to democratic values doesn't make excuses for terrorism, not at all, not ever. Terrorism is murder. There is no context that makes it OK. This is a simple principle - that you do not wantonly kill the innocent - embodied in the most basic moral codes of civilized existence, embodied in the rules of warfare and in international humanitarian law.

The left paid a heavy price for its fellow-travelling with - its justification and apologetics for - the mass crimes of the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. For another generation to put its foot upon a similar path is not something any of us should look upon with indulgence. It's the place to draw a line. You make an end and, if necessary, another beginning. The left has to be better that.

OK, now push the clock forward. It's 2003. A number of people are blogging about the Iraq war. In my own case this starts in the summer of 2003, but others have already been going a while, and more others are getting into the conversation with each month that passes. There are bloggers of the left who support the war. How's that possible? Support the war? From the left? Well, it's possible because Saddam Hussein's regime is a murderous tyranny - as it has been said, a torture chamber above ground, a mass grave below - responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people of that long suffering country.

Of course, it was also possible to oppose the war, even while knowing this - as did a number of the supporters of the Euston Manifesto. There were weighty considerations on both sides, and reasonable people could reasonably disagree about the prospects and the dangers, how things were likely to turn out, as well as about the alternatives to war and their likely consequences and dangers.

But there has been another discourse of opposition to the Iraq war, starting with the banners and slogans for that Saturday on 15 February 2003, from which one would never have known what kind of a place Saddam's Iraq was. It has been a discourse of denial, evidenced by the numbers of those on the left unwilling to allow, or even comprehend, why others of us on the left supported the war; by a rancorous hostility towards the pro-war left; and, most seriously of all, by the lack of interest in initiatives of solidarity with the forces in Iraq battling for a democratic transformation of their country, itself part of a wider lack of enthusiasm for the success of this enterprise.

To those who now say that such criticisms levelled by the Euston Manifesto at a large part of the anti-war left are misdirected, applying only to a small number of people on the far left, I have two answers. (1) Not true. (There's a more forceful way of putting that, but it violates the rules of public civility.) (2) That it isn't true has been documented at length.

In any event, this takes us back to those shameful responses to 9/11 from which I started - because some of the themes of what I'm calling the discourse of denial in argument about the Iraq war are for their part shameful too: a tendency to go silent about, or at least to minimize, the horrors of Baathist Iraq; a manner of distributing blame for everything that has gone wrong in that country in such a way that the daily killing of civilians by so-called insurgents figures only as one of the lamentable consequences of coalition failure, and barely at all as the result of the actions of those who are directly responsible - as if they were merely a hive of bees stirred up and not people making choices; only the most grudging acknowledgement - if that - that millions of Iraqis voting for a different kind of future for themselves was a matter of some significance.

One has to draw a line. This is not the authentic voice of the left, and it is not a voice which any self-respecting liberal should be willing to own. It is a disgrace to the best aspirations of the progressive and democratic tradition.

So, some people - bloggers, the owners of other websites, trade unionists, other kinds of activists - come together last May. We know there are others out there who share our sense of non-belonging to the left-liberal consensus on such issues. We know because of the feedback we get. 'Thank goodness, I found your blog. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who feels that this left doesn't speak for me.'

We decide to produce a document setting out some general principles, some common positions. The Euston Manifesto steps out into the world. What it says I hope many of you now know, and I won't try to rehearse it here.

But thank you all for coming this evening. We need to insist that there is a different tradition which socialists and democrats and liberals can speak out for. There's been quite a chorus of voices these past few weeks saying that the Euston Manifesto is of no account - though a lot of those saying so seem rather animated about it. Well, we make no extravagant claims. It's a beginning, that's all.


#14

I agree with most of that Manifesto, although I need to really sit down and read it thoroughly, which I don't have time to do now.

I understand what you're trying to say, Thunder, but I just can't believe that everyone in Washington doesn't have ulterior motives, and that they're more concerned with keeping themselves in office then actually accomplishing anything.

Generally, I don't hold the government in any kind of faith, and W. has done even more to polarize the people; that's why you're seeing liberals like me get even more reactionary, and sometimes forgetting core values.

Of course, I don't have a party I can vote for that actually represents Democratic values- I have Hillary Clinton to vote for (the carpetbagging bitch- are you fucking kidding?) or Howard Dean, whom I just don't think was smart enough to be president (although after W, who the fuck knows).

Not too mention, the Republicans have done such a wonderful job of fooling the populace that they give a fuck about them, it almost seems like the Democrats have no reason to be around anyway, being as when one says, "liberal" it is seen as an insult.

All in all, with Congress not even reading the Patriot Act, the NSA deal, the leaks, the false information on the start of a "pre-emptive war"....I've lost faith in Democrats to stand up for what they believe.

I'd rather waste my vote in 2008 with the Green Party, or maybe write in ALF's name, or maybe Pedro Martinez.