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.
Preamble, The Euston Manifesto
The Euston Manifesto was written by Professor Norman Geras, a Manchester University politics academic, along with other like-minded people who call themselves the Euston Group. The group came together out of a loose collection of left-leaning academics, bloggers, journalists, students, unionists and others who met reguarly in a pub in the London suburb of Euston in the weeks following the May 2005 British General Election. Discussions continued further in cyberspace on Norman Geras's blog, shaped from the convictions of its members and the various events that occured over the period that included Live 8, the 2005 London tube bombings, the Danish cartoon controversy and the rise of sectarian violence in Iraq, to say nothing of George Galloway’s appearance on Big Brother.
The Manifesto starts with the core beliefs in equality and human rights that few members of the left would take issue with, but then branches into something completely different.
Of concern to many Eustonians is their perception that other members of the Left, in critiquing its traditional foes like American hegemony, neo-liberal economics and Israel, has itself abandoned core democratic and progressive principles.
The Euston Group believes that other members of the Left have been clumsily dialectic, intellectually facile and morally contemptible in adopting a cultural relativist approach to “understand” the nature of tyranny and terrorism. This has led to many occasions when these purportedly progressive individuals have been silent (or excessively qualifying in their condemnation) in the face of anything that should outrage their traditional sensibilities. The Manifesto states the United States administration should be rightly censured for allowing the scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo to occur, but laments the double standard the Left takes in not responding to far worse atrocities happening around the world. For many a blogger in the Euston Group, the idea of equating as freedom fighters the motley band of illiberal Baathist thugs and theocratic religious fundamentalists who make up the resistance in Iraq is absurd and repugnant.
The platforms expressed in the Manifesto are:
- For Democracy: Governments should be democratic with the institutions necessary to sustain them, such as good governance, pluralism and separation of powers.
- No Apology for Tyranny: The signatories to the Euston Manifesto refuse to align with what they describe as reactionary anti-democratic regimes and movements, and refuse to be drawn into any left-leaning groups that seek to rationalise or condone their behaviour.
- Human Rights for All: The Universal Declaration of Human rights are, well, universal.
- Equality: The Manifesto here espouses equality and peace between people of different genders, ethnic communities, sexual orientations and religious convictions. The Manifesto leaves open the question about which economic system can best work towards equality, but is unequivocal in endorsing the role of trade unions and the International Labour Organization Convention.
- Development of Freedom: Advocates for social justice (i.e.: economic security and welfare is a pre-condition for genuine freedom).
- Opposing Anti-Americanism: …That US foreign policy has often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported regressive and authoritarian ones does not justify generalized prejudice against either the country or its peoples.
- For a Two-State Solution: Recognises the right of self-determination for the Israeli and Palestian people.
- Against Racism: The Manifesto reasserts the left’s opposition to racism and xenophobia. It however warns of a resurgence of anti-semitism that is coming under the guise of otherwise legitimate criticism against Israel.
- United Against Terror: The Manifesto here includes the salient point that Muslims are the main victims of Islamist ideology, and are some of its most courageous opponents.
- A New Internationalism: If a state egregiously violates human rights, then its sovereignty should be considered null and void.
- A Critical Openness: The Left should learn to accept ideas from outside the political fence if they strengthen or complement their own ideals, and ignore superficial and transitory the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend alliances with undemocratic axe-grinders. Deng Xiopeng was best known for this virtue in his axiom about the colour of the best mouse-catching cat, before he let tanks roll into Tiananmen Square.
- Historical Truth: The Left has had a forgettable history of being an apologist to the crimes of Joe and Mao. Learn from this and be honest instead.
- Freedom of Ideas: Including the right to criticise religious ideas...
- Open Source: The Manifesto’s framers techie-bent is revealed here.
- A Precious Heritage: In conclusion the Manifesto recalls the revolutionary ideals of the eighteenth century and the social movements like feminism and anti-colonialism that were spawned from the bedrock of liberty, equality and solidarity.
The Manifesto is due to be released on May 25, 2006 at King's College in London, can be downloaded at eustonmanifesto.org.