Monday, April 17, 2006

Get off at Euston

The Euston Manifesto has created a storm. What is essentially a Muscular Liberal’s charter that has been published by “30 journalists, bloggers and thinkers” who assert that they represent the true democratic traditions of the Left by supporting the War on Iraq.

I found it to be a document of two halfs. The first half was brilliant. A clear and modulated call for alignment with the Universal Declaration. Human rights for all, Equality, Development for freedom, No apology for tyranny. Nothing a sensible intelligent person can fault. I loved the inclusion of ‘Open Source’. I’m even willing to forgive the insertion of ‘Opposing anti-Americanism’ for its incongruity, in spite of which this can be the mandate for any Liberal movement within any country. And it is trully Internationalist in that respect.

The second half of the document reads like a proviso to the Universal Principles that have just been brilliantly elucidated in the first. This is the “Elaborations” section which is the bit that gets bitchy, mean-spirited and distinctly non-universal. After months of reading this kind of sneering, snarky pap on pro War blogs none of this was new shit. This is the esposition of the Harry’s Place, ProWar Left, Non-Stopper call them what you will. They also claim to be the “intellectual vanguard of the Left”. Well, I believed them!

The publication has no doubt cooked up a torrent of blog activity from the antWar Left who have been struck dumb for months. The Moral Quicksand of the Moral High Ground by Mark Marqusee has so far been the clearest response to the EM.

In the first place, there's the dishonesty of treating the Socialist Workers' party and Respect as the totality of the left or the anti-war movement. One of the problems with the "line" they wish to draw is that it obliterates the existence of much of the actual left: which is diverse and predominantly anti-authoritarian. Huge numbers of people found no difficulty in opposing the war and the regime of Saddam Hussein; they didn't hesitate to condemn either the atrocities of 9/11 or those committed by the US, the UK and Israel; they want an end to the occupation but do not support actions that target Iraqi civilians. In fact, this latter category also comprises the vast majority of Iraqi opinion. It's telling that this is a constituency whose existence the manifesto authors refuse to acknowledge. Likewise, it's telling that among left secular activists across the developing world - the people in the front line of the struggles against fundamentalism, obscurantism, and repression - there is almost no support for the manifesto perpsective.

Marqusee then proceeds to lay into the Manifesto with a clinical efficiency that brought water to my eyes. When I read it I stood up and applauded the monitor.

Its somewhat depressing that the theoreticians of the Mainfesto finds it necessary to hold up a caricature of the Left: Anti-American, Anti-Israeli, Anti-Semitic, Islamists, Apologists, Gallowavians etc and say that is the actual Left, all of it, every last one of you. It wants freedom of expression but non-critical consumption of American and Israel policy as a fundamental tenet. This critique of the Manifesto by Dave Osler makes a great point in regard to the point of Anti-Americanism:

Of course the Islamists are reactionary theocrats that should be opposed implacably by the thinking left. But so are the US imperialist ruling class. Both sides in this dispute are wrong.

Perhaps the AntiWar Left should be joyously happy that the Euston Manifesto has been launched. Now everyone is talking about the Iraq War and the AntiWar camp looks like it has found a voice against the ideas put forth in the Euston Manifesto.

I see the two War camps as two insurmountable ethical moutains. Somewhere between the AntiWar ethical mountain: “How can you be anti-Saddam Hussein and not support a war to oust him?” and the ProWar ethical mountain, “How can you put your hand on your heart and say that the situation in Iraq is any better for Iraqis than it was under Saddam?” lies the answer. But one thing is for sure – its not in Euston.

And, just in case you’re curious, I shall not be signing it.

Update: The Euston Manifesto have a theme song.

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