[Marxism] The Euston Manifesto

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 17 12:26:23 MDT 2006


No matter how badly things have turned out in Iraq, there is still a hard 
core of self-described leftists who continue to wave pom-poms for the war 
and related imperialist initiatives. One imagines that if the US dropped a 
nuclear bomb on Baghdad, they would find a way to put a positive spin on 
the smoking radioactive rubble and millions of dead bodies.

It should be added that these individuals are in an alliance with other 
leftists who, while offering pro forma opposition to the war, reserve most 
of their time and energy to castigating the antiwar movement. They are the 
heirs of what Lillian Hellman referred to as "anti-antifascists" in her 
memoir "Scoundrel Time."

This loosely knit group has almost no ability to actually move people into 
action, as the real left does. When they get involved in rallies or 
demonstrations, the results are generally pathetic such as the actions that 
took place several months ago on behalf of the Danish government's right to 
humiliate Muslims. However, through their media connections and a network 
of like-minded blogs, they maintain a steady drumbeat of support for 
imperialist war abroad and racism at home.

Their most recent undertaking has been to produce something called the 
Euston Manifesto 
(<http://eustonmanifesto.org/>http://eustonmanifesto.org/), a document that 
will generate much more controversy than actual mobilization. One can't 
imagine a group of undergraduates at a British or American university 
becoming inspired to actually *do something* after the fashion of SDS's 
founding documents in the 1960s. For that matter, the only youth who would 
seem to be acting on the precepts of Euston are in uniform right now 
patrolling the streets of Baghdad. Of course, they take their marching 
orders from the Pentagon and not from professors or journalists.

One of the prime movers behind the Euston Manifesto, which takes its name 
from location of the London pub where it was conceived, is retired 
philosophy professor Norm Geras, about whom the London Times had the 
following to say:

 >>AN OBSCURE Marxist professor who has spent his entire academic life in 
Manchester has become the darling of the Washington right wing for his 
outspoken support of the war in Iraq.

Despite his leanings Norman Geras, who writes a blog diary on the internet, 
has praised President George W Bush and says the invasion of Iraq was 
necessary to oust the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein.

His daily jottings have brought him the nickname of "Stormin' Norm" from 
the title of his diary, Normblog. The Wall Street Journal has reprinted one 
of his articles in its online edition and American pundits often cite his 
words.

But the British left has turned on Geras, a veteran of demonstrations 
against the Vietnam war. He has been denounced as an "imperialist skunk" 
and a "turncoat" in e-mails to his blog, which has up to 9,000 readers a day.

Most mornings Geras, 61, the author of such obscure books as Solidarity in 
the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard 
Rorty, sits in the upstairs study of his Edwardian semi in Manchester to 
type his latest entry.

Last week he gave thanks to Bush, quoting an Iraqi who wants to build a 
statue to the American president as "the symbol of freedom".<<

Full: 
<http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1472386,00.html>http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1472386,00.html

One of the pro forma antiwar figures endorsing the Euston Manifesto is Marc 
Cooper, who unabashedly identifies himself as a Nation Magazine contributor 
while violating practically everything that this bastion of left-liberalism 
stands for. On <http://www.marccooper.com/>www.marccooper.com, you can find 
a qualified endorsement of the manifesto from the dyspeptic critic of the 
left: "Even as loose as it currently stands, it's still a bit rigidly 
'progressive' for me." It is difficult to imagine what makes Cooper feel 
this way. Perhaps the declaration that "We uphold the traditional liberal 
freedom of ideas" was seen as contrary to his own inclination to browbeat 
or purge any commenter who strays too far to the left on his own blog. One 
imagines that if Cooper ever got in a position to wield real power, Amnesty 
International would have its hands filled. (Speaking of which, Amnesty 
International gets castigated by the Eustonians for having the temerity to 
link Guantanamo and other such prisons to Stalin's Gulags.)

Most of the Euston Manifesto consists of bromides about the need for 
"egalitarian politics", "good governance" and "global economic 
development." Who can be opposed to such things? Since this document is 
really not about challenging the main obstacle to such noble goals--namely 
US and British imperialism--there is every reason to suspect that this is 
mere window-dressing. If such words are meant to gull the innocent, there 
is little proof that it has succeeded. Just about everybody who has signed 
the manifesto is a case-hardened anti-Communist or Islamophobe, including 
the following:

--Kanan Makiya: ex-Trotskyist who is closely connected to Ahmed Chalabi

--Paul Berman: US journalist who spent most of the 1980s promoting the 
Nicaraguan contras in the pages of the Village Voice, a newsweekly that 
specializes in tepid liberalism and massage parlor ads.

--John Lloyd: Financial Times writer whose only connection to the left was 
informing his bourgeois audience how to combat it when he was the paper's 
East European correspondent.

Such people hardly seem the sort to go out and build support for their 
cause in the real world. Their role is mainly to provide free public 
relations (or perhaps paid, judging from the record of Frances Stoner 
Saunders's "Who Paid the Piper") for the real institutions acting on their 
beliefs, namely the Pentagon, the IMF and multinational corporations.

Lord knows that such institutions need protection from the blind rage of 
the non-Euston left. As they put it, "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 people." Yes, one has to stand guard against the 
xenophobic mood that gripped the world after it was revealed that the CIA 
was spiriting people to secret prisons where they would be tortured for 
months on end. During that mean-spirited time, it was impossible to sing 
"America the Beautiful" without getting chased down the street by student 
radicals agitated by Noam Chomsky's latest pamphlet.

Once you get past the empty generalizations of the Euston Manifesto, you 
find a number of talking points that keep coming up on blogs like "Harry's 
Place." We are warned that anti-Zionism leads to anti-Semitism. We are also 
told that the antiwar movement must renounce the Iraqi resistance with as 
much vigor as it denounces US occupation. Of course, such a position has a 
hoary past. Albert Camus, the ideological inspiration for a number of the 
Euston signatories, especially Paul Berman, put the French paratroopers and 
the FLN on the same moral plane since they both used violence. Needless to 
say, one could have respected Camus if for no other reason that he put his 
life on the line during the Nazi occupation of France as he put out an 
underground newspaper. But the Eustonians have more in common with the 
Vichy collaborators that Camus sought to overthrow rather than with Camus 
himself.


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