Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A New Manifesto

A few months ago, during my blogging hiatus, The Euston Manifesto was created and published online. It was written by a group of intellectuals in the UK who, concerned with the direction the modern Left was taking, called for a "progressive realignment" and an establishment of the principles that should encompass the liberal left while maintaining ties with others who share the same values. The statement of principles is pretty wide ranging, including topics from affirmation of democracy to support for open source. While I believe the idea behind the manifesto to be a noble one, I cannot sign it in its present form. I will elaborate more on that in a future post. For now, I must address another item which relates to one of the principles in the EM, and it is also relates to something I brought up in my last post.

Here's an example of where the EM is on the mark:

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.

[...]

"Anti-Zionism"has now developed to a point where supposed organizations of the Left are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups... We stand against all variants of such bigotry.

I don't really mean to harp on the topic, as I have addressed anti-Semitism in recent posts. Anybody who knows me can tell that I'm not one of those types who wears World's Most Persecuted PeopleTM on a t-shirt as a badge of honour, but this needs to be heard. I was sent an e-mail containing photos from a rally in Montreal that was organized as a protest for peace in Lebanon. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, this event attracted a number of Hezbollah supporters and plenty of anti-Israel (as well as blatantly anti-Semitic) signage and chants. (Photos can be seen here. I don't endorse everything on that site.) I've always maintained that racism and bigotry is its own ideology and cries out for a chance to be heard, and this was a great opportunity for this stuff to be aired. I've also stated that I believe opposition to Israel's actions in Lebanon can be taken reasonably. The problem is that the reasonable protesters are unwilling to confront the extremists, and partisans (whether in politics or on issues) get caught up in the quantity of support without regard to quality. The Montreal rally was organized by political parties and trade unions, yet I have not seen any denouncement by them of the Hezbollah supporters among them who were advocating violence against Israel at a rally for peace. This is where I think the Euston folks got it right. I believe the Left gets a lot of things wrong, but the Right gets even more wrong, and it's scenes like this that turn people off other good ideas. Guilt by association may be a logical fallacy, but that matters little in the real world. The "decent Left" really needs to step forward and disassociate itself from this crap.

Along the same lines, there's another theme in the document that is worthy of support:
No apology for tyranny. We decline to make excuses for, to 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. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.
That is just as crucial as condemning racism. The manifesto specifically mentions the Left's follies in the past of being apologists for oppressive Communist regimes, and that extends to today's embracing of "leftist" dictators and "resistance movements". Again, I don't believe these to be the majority of left-leaning people, but they are the ones who are the most vocal and are over-represented in the media because the media like a freak show. Terrorism and tyranny have no place in the discussion for the sensible Left. Leave that to the Right. Let them make excuses for all of the oppressive regimes they have embraced over the years and continue to embrace in the name of spreading democracy(!). Just as with racism, tyranny has no ideology, and let nobody be fooled. We should all stand for freedom and human rights. There is no socialism without humanism.

Feel free to read through the whole manifesto and, by all means, sign it if you like. I think it's a great idea to create a rallying point for those of us who share a certain way of thinking but dislike the reactionaries associated with it. However, I have a number of problems with its language as it is presently written. Stay tuned for my criticisms. (BTW, I won't be titling that post "Euston, we have a problem". Google will tell you that's been overused.)

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