A group of left intellectuals have recently issued The Euston Manifesto. The signers are mostly British, and the American signers include both editors of Dissent magazine (Michael Walzer and Mitchell Cohen), a member of the Dissent editorial board (Paul Berman), a Dissent contributor (Kanan Makiya) and a contributing editor to The Nation (Marc Cooper).
The Euston Manifesto consists of (A) Preamble, (B) Statement of Principles, (C) Elaborations, and (D) Conclusions.
(A) In the preamble, the signers declare themselves “democrats and progressives,” proposing a “fresh political alignment”. The identify themselves as people on the left, reaching out to others (whether leftist or not) who have “an unambiguous democratic commitment”.
(B) The 15-point Statement of Principles is a catechism of positions:
(1) For democracy,
(2) No apology for tyranny,
(3) Human rights for all,
(5) Development for freedom,
(6) Opposing anti-Americanism,
(7) For a two-state solution (In Israel and Palestine),
(8) Against racism,
(9) United against terror,
(10) A new internationalism (in favor of “humanitarian intervention”),
(11) A critical openness,
(12) Historical truth,
(13) Freedom of ideas,
(14) Open source, and
(15) A precious heritage.
In part C, “Elaborations,” we finally we get to the point: support for the US occupation of Iraq.
The signers explain 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.”
Translation: the signers proclaim that the Left should be helping, not opposing, the US occupation of Iraq. After all, teaching the backward natives the art of self-government is part of the White Man’s Burden!
(D) Conclusion, quoted in its entirety: “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.”
They have not noticed that some of their principles are contradicted by their political positions.
For example, consider Principle #8, “against racism”. The signers write that “the recent resurgence of another, very old form of racism, anti-Semitism, is not yet properly acknowledged in left and liberal circles. Some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of ‘anti-Zionism’. We oppose this type of racism too, as should go without saying.”
The manifesto signers do not consider that the “legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel” arise because the Palestinians are the victims of Israel’s racism. In this connection, what about Principle #3. “Human rights for all”? Do they really mean all, even including Palestinians? In that case they would be severely critical of Israel, but they are not. Dissent magazine’s editor, Michael Walzer, actually endorsed Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon! To the manifesto signers, anyone accusing Israel of systematic racism against the Palestinians is guilty of “anti-Zionism”, and of course this equals anti-Semitism. So there you have it! Anyone accusing Israel of racism must be an anti-Semite!
Among the Statement of Principles, there is no mention of opposition to war or imperialism. There is only a passing mention of colonialism in point #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.”
Finally they mention the “anti-colonial transformation.” But isn’t the US invasion and occupation of te Persian Gulf (today Iraq, and tomorrow Iran?) a modern form of colonialism, motivated by the US desire to control the oil of the Persian Gulf? Aren’t the efforts of the Iraqis and Iranians to resist US imperialism therefore an anticolonial struggle? Of course, the signers of the Euston Manifesto have absolutely nothing good to say about the “the gangs of jihadist and Baathist thugs of the Iraqi so-called resistance.”
The Euston Manifesto was written by social democrats who support the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. They are pleading for support from other leftists and from the broader community of liberals. I predict that this manifesto will fail to rally pro-war sentiment. It’s too late, and opposition to the war is by now nearly universal among the people they hope to convince. Instead, the likely effect will be the political isolation of the signers.
John Farley lives in Henderson, Nevada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org