The authors and signatories of the Euston Manifesto always reminded me of those self-described leftists of the Cold War era. You know the ones. They would describe themselves as “anti-Communist or Democratic Labour” or some such thing. Their aim was to divert the suspicious gaze of the Right and to claim the moral high ground over the Left, many of whom continued to see the Soviet Union as a beacon of progress.
In many respects, the Eustonites were barely different from their more right-wing cousins in the Henry Jackson Society. In fact, some Eustonites straddle both camps. For example, the Labour MP, Gisela Stuart, is a member of both groups. In 2006, The Telegraph reported that,
…Miss Stuart claimed that a Kerry victory over President George W. Bush would prompt “victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies”.
Stuart herself added
“You know where you stand with George [W. Bush] and, in today’s world, that’s much better than rudderless leaders who drift with the prevailing wind.”
While Stuart is a member of both groups, the Labour MP, Chris Bryant is a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society’s statement of principles along with Tories Michael Gove, Greg Hands and Michael Ancram.
The Euston Manifesto was born in 2006, three years after the disastrous invasion of Iraq and a year after the Henry Jackson Society was formed. It was signed by a number of soi-disant left-wing academics, journalists and politicians. Those who authored the document include Marxist historian, Norman Geras, Observer hack, Nick Cohen and journalist and Marx expert, Francis Wheen. The disgraced Labour MP, Denis MacShane is also a signatory.
The preamble to the manifesto says,
We are democrats and progressives.
We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.
The present initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Internet, especially the “blogosphere”. It is our perception, however, that this constituency is under-represented elsewhere — in much of the media and the other forums of contemporary political life.
The broad statement of principles that follows is a declaration of intent. It inaugurates a new Website, which will serve as a resource for the current of opinion it hopes to represent and the several foundation blogs and other sites that are behind this call for a progressive realignment.
From the beginning, the Eustonites attacked the anti-war movement and, in particular, George Galloway, whom they claimed was “anti-Semitic”. Indeed, the Eustonites referred to anyone who criticized Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories and Gaza as “anti-Semitic”. Similarly, any criticism of the United States’s foreign policy objectives was described as “anti-American”. They are indiscriminate.
The Eustonites also have a close link to the notorious Harry’s Place blog, which claims to be left-wing but is, for all intents and purposes, a rather right-wing blog that attracts all kinds of swivel-eyed Islamophobes and closet Tories. It is often cited by right-leaning hacks like Gilligan.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the Eustonites is the way they tacked on open source software clause at the end of their manifesto. It doesn’t actually fit with the rest of the document. It’s almost an afterthought. It’s a little like adding “free beer on Wednesdays” at the end of a constitution.
The Euston Manifesto website has been quiet since 2011. The last entry is about the death of Osama Bin Laden.
The purpose of the Euston Manifesto was to attack the Left and suck up to the Right, while claiming to be left-wing. Confused? So am I. Perhaps this is the reason why the Euston Manifesto has been such a failure: its authors and signatories are not in synch with one another and its mission is at odds with the traditional left-wing position of anti-imperialism. If anything the Eustonites are apologists for imperialism. The Euston Manifesto failed to ignite left-wing imaginations and remained in the cultural and ideological ghetto of the blogosphere. In short, its attempt to emulate the Right and the Third Camp of Schachtmanism has ended in failure. And hallelujah for that!