Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 18, 2006

Paul Flewers on the Euston Manifesto

Filed under: antiwar,imperialism/globalization,Islam,zionism — louisproyect @ 1:47 pm

(This was posted on Marxmail yesterday by Paul Flewers, who is the editor of "New Interventions" magazine.)

Nick Cohen is a co-author of the Euston Manifesto, a document that sees liberal democracy as the sine qua non of political theory and practice, which has been discussed previously on this list. It signifies a retreat of various left-wingers away from any idea of transcending liberal democracy towards defending those whom it sees as defending it — which in this case means (don't laugh) Bush in the USA and Blair in Britain.

I'm not sure whether these characters are naive or malicious, whether they really believe that Bush and Blair want to see democracy arise across the world, or whether they have keyed into the whole neo-con project of US imperialist expansion. Maybe some are naive, others malicious. However, after three years of disaster in Iraq, the chances of people being naive are small indeed.

In 1940, Evan Durbin, a British labourite theoretician, stated that anyone, Marxist or fascist, who did not accept liberal democracy was beyond the pale of political norms and should be treated accordingly. In short, those who want to go further than liberal democracy (that is, Marxists) were effectively outside the law, fair game for the ruling class. This is the way these Eustonites are going.

I've recently put this message on Dave Ostler's website (http://davespartblog.blogspot.com/), where the manifesto has been discussed:

I've recently had the unenviable job of reading through Encounter magazine for the 1950s. This was a mag that was published by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and was funded indirectly by the CIA. Its contributors were often ex-leftists who still thought themselves as a bit radical, but who, in the Cold War, far from dissociating themselves from both imperialism and Stalinism, sided with the former, just covering their capitulation with a fig-leaf of opposition to discrimination and poverty. Any (mild) criticisms of capitalism were heavily outnumbered by stern denunciations of totalitarianism and those deemed to support it.

The Euston Manifesto is a modern-day version of the kind of programme that Encounter 'socialists' would have put out 50 years back. I think that Dave O is right — this is a land-mark on the way to neo-conism. How many will take the Hitchens route to its conclusion, I can't tell. But that's the way they're going.

There is plenty of scope for socialists to oppose US imperialism without giving a carte blanche to Islamicism or other non-socialist outlooks, just as there was a space for genuine socialists 50 years ago to promote real freedom between the opposing millstones of imperialism and Stalinism.


  1. I like the last paragraph.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — April 19, 2006 @ 2:32 am

  2. See for my deconstruction of the Euston Manifesto, and the reaction it triggered in one of the Manifesto’s drafters.

    Comment by Malooga — April 20, 2006 @ 4:10 am

  3. Whoops! Didn’t take the link: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2006/04/bad_beer_in_a_b.html. Also info on the group behind the Manifesto.

    Comment by Malooga — April 20, 2006 @ 4:12 am

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