Wednesday, April 19, 2006

C'mon Dave! Sign it!

I'm still not sure why Dave Osler won't sign the Euston Manifesto. My only major criticism of the thing is it's blandness - and on reflection, that's also the greatest virtue that it has. There is so little in it to disagree with - yet the fact that a large slice of the left find it so objectionable explains why it is so necessary.

For years, I assumed that most of the left implicitly accepted that liberal democracy - while not perfect by any means - was better than any of the alternatives currently on offer. That our (the left's) role is to build an alternative that is more attractive. And that the instrument for this alternative-building was either the organised working class or it's parliamentary arm - the Democratic Socialist parties.

I always believed that the left wasn't vocal in it's support for liberal democracy because the socialistic alternative that is under construction is likely to be even better - and when it arrives, it's virtues will need foregrounding without any congratulatory background noise about liberal democracy.

I supported the Manifesto because in recent years, it's become clear that much of the left has chosen to forget the relative value of liberal democracy - and done so for opportunistic reasons.

To me, the manifesto is just a restatement of something that almost everyone I know agrees with - but something that has been lost in the noise. And something that is being threatened by the idiocy of some sections of the Leninist left.


OK? I suspect that there are plenty of people who will disagree with what I've said so far. But there is a lot less to disagree with in the Manifesto.

So, turning to Dave's assessment of the thing:


"I agree with a lot of what the manifesto says, possibly even most of it. Some of the rejoinders to the idiocies of anti-imperialist reductionism are unanswerable.....

.....I’ve always interpreted Marxism in a libertarian way, trying to base myself centrally on the principle that the working class is the sole force capable of bringing about progressive social change."
So far, the only word I'd disagree with here is 'sole'. Replace it with 'main' and I'm happy.

Dave moves on to criticise the manifesto largely on the grounds that it's signatories - while not signing anything that he'd disagree with much - may at some unspecified point in the future move from being the supporters of a specific piece of US foreign policy that they agree with (and by the way, not all of us DID agree with that policy) to being dog-whistle supporters of all US foreign policies.

There is nothing in the text that he can infer this from. If anything, those that signed the Euston Manifesto are in a position to be more powerful critics of the US's dealings with the rest of the world than many on the left - precisely because we have rejected a position that Dave himself agrees is indefensible. If the backstory to your position is a simplistic 'any enemy of the US is a friend of mine' position, then you will not be taken seriously.

Dave knows this, and has said as much. He argues...

"The concept of the self-emancipation of the working class is a vision that today’s far left has almost entirely lost. The dominant trend – the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Action, aided and abetted by a substantial minority of the Communist Party of Britain – now looks to other forces to win the class war for them.

That abandonment of socialist basics has already brought them into the embrace of various stripes of Middle Eastern dictator and political Islamists. While I hope the logic of the process can still be arrested, things are not looking good."
But then the lefty tribalism takes over. That nightmare scenario of being called a splitter takes over. In a subsequent post, he agrees with Mike Marqusee. But I suspect that Mike disagrees with .... er .... Dave.

Mike says...

"...there's the dishonesty of treating the Socialist Workers' party and Respect as the totality of the left or the anti-war movement."
But there isn't, is there? And Dave knows that. He knows that the large slice of of the extra-parliamentary left have put all of their chips on the StWC square. He knows that the StWC is very closely managed by a combination of the SWP and the remnants of the CPGB with a solicitous eye on the MAB - the 'prospects' as a salesman would describe them.

And then Dave bizarrely also agrees with (the blogger) 'lenin's objection to the manifesto. I've quoted it before, but it really is the money quote, so I'll use it again:

"...if the Muslim Brotherhood are fighting to bring down the Egyptian dictatorship, of course the Left should work with them. If they try to limit the revolution, then the left should turn against them. As for a certain off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, if the MAB are fighting against an imperialist war on Iraq, the antiwar left should work with them, precisely on that issue. If they are prepared to offer electoral support to Respect, (while also supporting the Greens, the Lib Dems, Labour etc in other contexts), then the left should be appreciative of the fact that Muslims, even those of a conservative outlook, look to the left to stop the Islamophobic crusade, and deliver justice and freedom from oppression."

Come on Dave. Have the left largely allowed themselves to be consumed by the anti-war movement?
You've more-or-less said that you think that they have.

Is this because they believe that it creates potential 'actors' who will work on their behalf?You've more-or-less said so already, so let's hear it.
If so, do you agree or disagree with Mike Marquesee? And do you agree with 'Lenin' as you say you do. Or do you profoundly disagree with him, as you also say you do?

And why is this so hard for you? This document has the ingredients needed to unite the sensible thinking left. It's not the neo-con Trojan Horse that you say it is. It simply repudiates a lot of the idiocy that you've remarked upon yourself. It has been drafted to appeal to a broad church - thus it's silence on whatever model of insurrectionism it is that you currently favour.

Sign it Dave. They'll call you a ‘splitter’ today. But you disagree with the EM less than you disagree with most of its opponents, I think?


Dave said...


I'm down with my Stoke Newington home boy MM. The StWC is undoubtedly the major component of the anti-war movement, but certainly not its totality.

Mike runs Iraq Occupation Focus, another small Trot group runs a campaign in solidarity with Iraqi unions. Both worth supporting.

Hmmm, perhaps I didn't read Lenin's post closely enough. But the dilemma for the left is this.

Democracy in Egypt means a likely electoral victory for the Muslim brotherhood, just as elections in Palestine saw a win for Hamas.

You and the EM crowd are for democracy, but from your broadly pro-Israeli stance, presumably unhappy about the Hamas win.

I'll take consistency on this one. Democracy, if it is to mean anything at all, encompasses the possibility of the bad guys winning.

And if there was a revolutionary uprising of the MB against Mubarak? Not an easy one, eh? Would you prefer the dictator in place to the dictator to come?

The choice is so tough, I wouldn't like to take a stance on it unless it stopped being a hypothetical.

PS - seen the official endorsement of the EM from no less than Bill Kristol, neocon brother number one?

Anthony said...


One can accept the outcome of a election, without endorsing the views of the elected party.

I accepted that Thatcher won a democratic election, it did not stop me from protesting about the Poll Tax.

Democracy does indeed include allowing the bad guys the chance to win. As long as the Muslim Brotherhood, if they won in Egypt, did not remove the democratic processes that they themselves used to obtain power, then that is something that is something that democrats would have to accept. In the case of Hamas, it is not inconsistent to accept their victory in the elections, while at the same time oppose their policy of suicide bombing and the eventual destruction of Israel - even by the removal of EU funding. The EU, or any state, is under no obligation to fund a government that has policies it finds unacceptable.

As regards William Kristol's endorsement of the Euston Manifesto, it is no such thing, and to suggest it is, is mischievous. Kristol specifically states his disagreement with the domestic and economic aspects of the manifesto. If he agrees with other aspects of the Euston Manifesto, relating to opposition to tyranny and terror, then fine. We stand on our own ground on those points, and his agreement is nothing to be ashamed of.

There are probably people in the Conservative Party who you share some common principles with, such as a free press for example, it does not undermine those principles or your own position that they do so. Nor does it mean you have endorsed Conservative policies or have lurched to the right.