Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 17, 2007

A Critique of the Euston Manifesto

Filed under: cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 2:22 pm


This is a guest entry by Paul Flewers, the editor of New Interventions, a very fine print publication out of Great Britain that I have contributed to in the past. It appeared in Volume 12, Number 3 of New Interventions.

Paul Flewers
Accommodating to the Status Quo
A Critique of the Euston Manifesto

ONE of the more interesting political events of 2006 was the launching of the Euston Manifesto. Somewhat arbitrarily named after the London railway terminus near to the pub where it was drawn up, largely by the academic Norman Geras and journalist Nick Cohen, it is a combination of liberal statements that are uncontroversial and with which few people would disagree (in fact, the sections on equality are part of Western ruling-class official discourse these days), a few mild criticisms of the Western ruling classes, and a big rant against the far left. It has been endorsed by a broad range of individuals largely but not exclusively in what might be called the ‘soft left’. Some, like Francis Wheen and Cohen himself, have always been known as left-leaning radicals. On the other hand, Geras, along with Jane Ashworth, John Strawson, Quintin Hoare, Alan Johnson and John Lloyd, were at one point or another in far-left groups. Ashworth and Jon Pike are prominent in Engage, a pro-Israel website that spends much of its time attacking anti-Zionists. What unites them here, however, is a strong dislike of the far left, and it is this deep antipathy that runs clearly through this document, even though, as we shall, some of the ideas which the Eustonites put in our mouths are barely recognisable to this writer.

The Eustonites’ Friends

It is often said that one can tell a man by the company he keeps, and the Euston Manifesto is no exception here. It has been praised by a wide range of people who would normally have little to do with anyone calling himself a socialist. This is not a fortuitous crossing of paths. Here’s Bill Kristol, a veteran US right-winger, and fierce critic of socialism: ‘It articulates 15 principles reminiscent of the much-missed liberal anti-totalitarianism of the early Cold War period.’ Kristol should know; his father was a leading example of a previous generation of Eustonites, moving from left-wing politics in the 1940s to an early manifestation of neo-conservatism. He no doubt can see the parallels. And here’s Christopher Hitchens: ‘I have been flattered by an invitation to sign it, and I probably will, but if I agree it will be the most conservative document that I have ever initialled.’ Hitchens, as everyone knows, has moved a very long way from his socialist roots, and is to all intents and purposes a neo-con­servative in his current politics (even if his past has yet to catch up).

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1 Comment »

  1. Where’s the critique??

    Comment by B4L — February 17, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

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