December 19, 2006

Why I've Signed The Euston Manifesto

Writing about web page http://www.eustonmanifesto.org/

Well it took me a while but my thoughts over the last few months have convinced me that the purposes and principles of the manifesto need to be spoken up for. Read the Euston Manifesto yourself here linktext

As one of the main aims of the manifesto is to create new debate i’d love to hear your submissions for or against the manifesto.

For those of you unfamiliar with the manifesto it was launched in May by a group of progressive British
journalists, academics and bloggers. It reaffirms the core values of the left against those who have tarnished and trangressed them. As the manifesto puts it we “reaffirm the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century: liberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness” Some have criticised the manifesto as too general but it is precisely because of the disgraceful behaviour of some on the left that such core principles need to be reasserted. The manifesto is not a blueprint, nor the ideological statement for a new political party, but a starting point for renewed debate on the left and elsewhere.

One cannot be a neutral in the struggle between those on the left who support universal human rights and those who conveniently pick and choose according to narrow political interest. The last straw for me came with the SWP/Respect support for Hizbullah over the summer. I support the Palestinian cause for statehood and am no friend of the Israeli government. But i found it utterly contemptible that left-wingers could support a group which has targeted innocent civilians, does not support Israel’s existence, and wants to establish a fascist theocracy in pluralist Lebanon. Not a scintilla of criticism or reserve was placed in front of this rabid support. Add to this the record of the most prominent anti-war figure, George Galloway, fawning over Saddam and Bashar Al-Assad, (see previous post to this) and silence was no longer an option.

So here in summary are my main reasons for support:

- Support for universal human rights. Too often today we hear culturally relativist arguments made that fail to recognise the differences within and not just between cultures and show little awareness of the cultural progress that can be made. A century ago ‘western culture’ was one in which women and gays were explicitly treated as second-class citizens, but a few bold pioneers pushed for the changes that now form the consensus. We must support those pioneers worldwide who seek to achieve the same for their societies today and not condemn them to their countries dominant culture.

- Though a number of its authors were prominent supporters of the Iraq War the manifesto itself has no stance on the war, a war which i opposed. Nevertheless, i wholeheartedly support the manifesto’s argument that after the overthrow of the Ba’athist regime the priority of all on the left should have been solidarity with the peaceful democrats and progressives in Iraq struggling in the most difficult conditions. Those SWP/Respect figures, and other leftists who supported the murderous ‘resistance’ which has killed far many more Iraqis than ‘imperialists’ must be roundly condemned. They betray the principles of internationalism and solidarity.

-A two state solution for Israel and Palestine. This remains the most practical and ethical resolution of the conflict and must be stressed in opposition to those on the left who back a one state solution.

-Freedom of speech and ideas Threats to these are growing at the moment, particularly in light of a damaging religious resurgence (see my piece On Freedom of Speech And Religion) and we must stress that ‘offence’ can never be used as a marker to limit free debate. Religious ideas must be as subject to criticism as all others.

-Opposition to double standards. Too many on the left publicise and protest against the human rights violations of Israel and the US without doing the same for violations in other states. Human rights are universal and therefore breaches of them must be condemned universally. The fact that the US has breached human rights with Guantanamo Bay and ‘extraordinary rendition’ does nothing to lessen the charges against states such as Iran and Syria. Criticism can never be mutually exclusive on either side. But this does not preclude recongition that despite its abuses the US as a liberal democracy remains superior to dictatorships. The SWP and others are so vociferous in their critcism of the US and so muted in their criticism of states such as Iran, that they end up with a de facto acceptance of dictatorships as legitimate resistance to the ‘American Empire’. The slogan of the International Socialists, the forerunner to the SWP, was ‘Neither Washington, nor Moscow but International Socialism’. Today it is just a big no to the US.

Let us now champion the founding Enlightenment values of the left with the same force, persistence and convinction with which others have betrayed them.


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  1. One cannot be a neutral in the struggle between those on the left who support universal human rights and those who conveniently pick and choose according to narrow political interest. The last straw for me came with the SWP/Respect support for Hizbullah over the summer. I support the Palestinian cause for statehood and am no friend of the Israeli government. But i found it utterly contemptible that left-wingers could support a group which has targeted innocent civilians, does not support Israel’s existence, and wants to establish a fascist theocracy in pluralist Lebanon.

    How about evidencing your claims concerning Hizbullah wanting to “establish a Fascist theocracy in pluralist Lebanon”? How about explaining why Israel’s existence should be recognised whilst the Palestinians remain stateless? I have heard plenty of criticism on the left of Hizbullah targetting civilians. And it goes along with criticism of Israel targetting civilians. What it doesn’t do is whitewash what Israel does with “oh but they try their best to avoid civilian casualties by, say, cluster bombing just before hostilities are due to cease” whilst claiming that Hizbullah is on the verge of killing all Jews” as the “Reformed Leftists” (or Rightists who prefer to harbour the notion that somehow calling themselves leftists will magically make them genuinely believe in human rights) seem to do.

    A two state solution for Israel and Palestine. This remains the most practical and ethical resolution of the conflict and must be stressed in opposition to those on the left who back a one state solution.

    OK. Now that you’ve focused on this issue I want to hear you talk about every other problematic issue in the world and condemn all parties involved, from India-China border disputes to the problems of Mongolian Cashmere, to the extinction of the YangZi Dolphin to the border disputes between Iran and Iraq, to the problems of gun crime in the US. I demand that you respect your own demands and include every possible geopolitical and geosocial (woooo how very neogeo-lism ho ho ho) issue in your recommendations and/or criticisms concerning a single issue.

    we must stress that ‘offence’ can never be used as a marker to limit free debate. Religious ideas must be as subject to criticism as all others.

    Indeed. Down with the jailing of Holocaust-deniers in Europe.

    19 Dec 2006, 06:48

  2. Continued:

    Criticism can never be mutually exclusive on either side. But this does not preclude recongition that despite its abuses the US as a liberal democracy remains superior to dictatorships.

    I think you’ve just identified precisely the reason why there is more a focus on the actions of what you are proclaiming a “superior liberal democracy”. The so-called “SLD” has to maintain its superiority somehow, surely. And holding “Free and fair elections” (so long as you have enough money to run for the elections) isn’t the only criterion. One of them happens to be the Government respecting the law. And riding roughshod over that is a terrible blow to the idea that it is, in fact, an SLD. It’s difficult to, with a straight face, point to executions and political prisoners in China when they’re executing retards in Texas and holding prisoners with neither charge nor trial in Gitmo.

    Moreover you’re completely missing the idea that a lot of these “Leftists” you are criticising happen to come from these SLDs and are ashamed of the actions of their own government. Surely it should be the liberty of anyone who believes in “iberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness” to make sure that these are values held in his own SLD before he attempts to convert any savages to his enlightened philosophy? Oh we should go back to those glorious days of the development of Liberalism and now slap on the modern “leftist” label because we fail to quite understand the historical differences between the two. But if you’re arbitrarily defining what is Left in order to pigeon-hole yourself, then that’s perfectly acceptable. But stressing all these wonderful ideological values whilst shaking a stick at people who dare to criticise the wrongs of their own nation, commited in their own name, by officials elected by themselves smacks of blatent hypocrisy.

    19 Dec 2006, 06:51

  3. Christopher Rossdale

    Too many on the left publicise and protest against the human rights violations of Israel and the US without doing the same for violations in other states.

    I criticise the human rights of my own country, and those which my country works most closely with, because that is where I can have an effect. If i go around publicly criticising abominations in Iran (of which there are many) the only possible outcome will be that that validation will be used to carry out action against Iran, using what ‘the left’ have said as an additional pretext. You’re responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions – criticising our own government can have an actual effect on how it operates (however minor), criticising the abuses of an enemy, whilst valid, will only serve to make their population worse off.

    Out of interest George, how can you justify remaining a Labour supporter when you’ve signed the relatively progressive Euston Manifesto? From their complicity and aid in war crimes from Palestine and East Timor to Iraq, and their utter contempt for civil liberties, human rights and democracy, what is there about the party that’s even slightly progressive? Sure, there have been some positive economic aspects i.e. the minimum wage, but the unemployment benefit has had virtually no real term increase, social mobility is lower than ever, prison populations are rocketing and reconviction rates are up – I respect your views, I just don’t see for the life of me how they line up with New Labour’s views.

    19 Dec 2006, 13:12

  4. Chris I can’t answer for George’s reasons for staying in the Labour party but despite disagreeing with a lot of what Blair does (and agreeing with large parts, if not the entirety, of the Euston Manifesto) I would still only ever join one political party, and that would be Labour. Why? Simple, the existing political system is ingrained, monolithic and unlikely to be easily penetrated by new parties. So how do you affect change? By changing a remaining party from within, as has been done by Blair himself. Membership of a political party does not mean agreeing with every little aspect of it (hence why we’ve yet to see the mass exodus from the Tories by the hang ‘em flog ‘em brigade), and Blair is not Labour.

    Hamid I can see why the Manifesto focuses on Israel/Palestine at the expense of the other international issues, because it seems to me that it is an issue which more people feel is important and which more people wish to see resolved. This does not necessarily make it the right issue to concentrate on (I’d rank global warming as a more important matter) but as long as it’s being used as an excuse by all sides in the mess that the Middle East (full of oil, nukes and potential nukes, threat of sectarian genocide) then it will remain a more commented on issue than the respression in the Maldives or the gangland killings of Dublin.

    19 Dec 2006, 15:21

  5. Hamid I can see why the Manifesto focuses on Israel/Palestine at the expense of the other international issues, because it seems to me that it is an issue which more people feel is important and which more people wish to see resolved. This does not necessarily make it the right issue to concentrate on (I’d rank global warming as a more important matter) but as long as it’s being used as an excuse by all sides in the mess that the Middle East (full of oil, nukes and potential nukes, threat of sectarian genocide) then it will remain a more commented on issue than the respression in the Maldives or the gangland killings of Dublin.

    Holly this is precisely the point. The manifesto as well as the typical right-wing rhetoric demands that the I/P issue should be mentioned in the same breath with Insert concurrent tragedy/global problem here. Then hypocritically they focus on the I/P problem. Wonderful.

    The specific part of George’s post I’m referring to is:

    Opposition to double standards. Too many on the left publicise and protest against the human rights violations of Israel and the US without doing the same for violations in other states. Human rights are universal and therefore breaches of them must be condemned universally.

    He then goes on to complain about focusing too much on the human rights record of the US et al. It’s like asking someone who’s writing an essay on the Holocaust to include every incidence of Historical genocide or massacre. This is especially interesting because in the previous post he’s hyperbolising Hizbullah (they want to turn Jews into “ashes”) and here he’s talking about double standards. Wonder how he’d react next time his mythical lefty boogeyman compares an Israeli soldier beating a Palestinian minor at a checkpoint to a Nazi beating a Jewish minor in the Warsaw Ghetto (Damn those leftist double standards and veiled anti-Semitism! shakes fist)

    19 Dec 2006, 15:40

  6. I’ll take Hamid’s points first and then give my opinions on the Labour Party in a following post.

    Hamid if you haven’t already done so read my reply to your comment on ‘The Tale Of The Left’s…’.

    So starting from your first comment. Evidence of Hizbullah wanting a theocracy? It was listed as their primary goal in the 1985 ‘Hizbullah Program’ declaring the group’s existence, “The solution to Lebanon’s problems is the establishment of an Islamic republic as only this type of regime can secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon’s citizens.” Do i regard the establishment of political rule based on an irrational superstition which mandates the execution of homosexuals and the stoning to death of adultereers as fascist? Yes, and so should any decent person.

    “I have heard plenty of criticism on the left of Hizbullah targetting civilians.” Yes but its been from the left-wingers i support. The SWP and Respect have not criticised Hizbullah in any way, they explicitly support them and glorify Nasrallah.

    You say, “prefer to harbour the notion that somehow calling themselves leftists will magically make them genuinely believe in human rights)”

    Don’t you dare accuse me of hiding behind a ‘left-wing’ facade. You have no evidence for any claim that i have not stood up for universal human rights. I criticise Israel and Hizbullah when ever they violate human rights. It is your commitment to human rights that is in question with the absence of any criticism or recognition of Hizbullah’s murder of innocent civilians. (see the AI link provided in my reply to your comment on the previous piece)

    You argue “Now that you’ve focused on this issue I want to hear you talk about every other problematic issue in the world and condemn all parties involved” but i never said anyone had to condemn every global human rights violation in one go. I simply pointed out that if you focus heavily on the Middle East you cannot ignore, or worse apolgise for (as Galloway has done), the human rights violations of Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. All are directly related to the main issues in the Middle East and any informed opinion must provide some views on these, and any decent opinion will criticise the human rights violations of all parties (including Israel- i would have thought this was obvious when i pledged my commitment to universal human rights but in your case i’ll make an exception) involved. My point is that unlike some others i don’t just focus on Israel.

    Then you sarcastically criticise free speech ‘Down with the jailing of Holocaust- deniers’ Jailing those who deny the holocaust is an idiotic position. On principle no one should be imprisoned for an idea, however wrong, however evil. All this does is push such malevolent individuals underground, we are all the better for hearing their true opinions and rebutting them accordngly. Judgement on historical matters is the sole preserve of historians, not governments, only a free and fair competition between all ideas ensures that the truth prevails. We need to see the duff “evidence” to establish the genuine truth. Imprisoning individuals for their historical opinions would be the thin end of a very big wedge.

    As for your comment in ‘2.’ you’ve missed the point here. I’m not criticising anyone for highlighting the abuses of their own government. I do it all the time. I’m simply saying that this should never be to the detriment of criticising others. Which it is for Galloway et al. The point of universal human rights is that they are a golden standard which all who fall beneath must be equally criticised for.

    19 Dec 2006, 16:40

  7. Hamid, i’ll take your comments in ‘5’ as well. The manifesto doesn’t focus on I/P, that gets a couple of lines out of a hundred. But again your working on the ridiculous assumption that i demand everybody mention all tragedies, all abuses in one go. That’s wrong, i’m just arguing against the SWP, Galloway et al who NEVER criticise any aspect of Hizbullah.They support Hizbullah! They march with banners glorifying Nasrallah. This isn’t a question of focus its a question of the permanent silence of some and the support of others. I’m not asking for an exact, equal weighting of focus i am just saying that i am appalled by some on the left who have not once spoken out against Hizbullah’s murder of innocent civilians. Just a few lines on this would be all that was needed. But clearly doing this would be incompatible with their unconditional support.

    ‘Mythical lefty boogeyman’, sadly George Galloway is very much a real individual and the most prominent anti-war figure in this country. Do you know about the record of the SWP/Galloway? This might be part of the problem.

    You keep implying that my criticism of Israeli forces is diminished by my criticism of Hizbullah. Why should this be the case? Once again your locked into a false dichotomy. Those who criticise Hizbullah but never criticise Israel are just as guilty of double standards in my book. No one gets off lightly here.

    19 Dec 2006, 17:04

  8. Warwick blogger

    Hear, hear – Hamid Sirhan is no friend of the left. Rather, he is pro-Islamist who dresses up in a human rights/liberal garb positions that are merely defenses of an Islamist agenda.

    19 Dec 2006, 17:31

  9. Evidence of Hizbullah wanting a theocracy?

    No. I want you to provide evidence that Hizbullah wishes to replace the current democratic system with:

    establish a Fascist theocracy in pluralist Lebanon

    Citing a 1985 manifesto that claims to desire to “secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon’s citizens” within a framework of an “Islamic Republic” doesn’t quite cut it as evidence for your claim.

    Do i regard the establishment of political rule based on an irrational superstition which mandates the execution of homosexuals and the stoning to death of adultereers as fascist? Yes, and so should any decent person.

    How very interesting. You manage to combine a straw man, ad hominem and ad populum. You might wish to look over what Fascism is and then present some evidence supporting your accusation.

    Don’t you dare accuse me of hiding behind a ‘left-wing’ facade. You have no evidence for any claim that i have not stood up for universal human rights. I criticise Israel and Hizbullah when ever they violate human rights. It is your commitment to human rights that is in question with the absence of any criticism or recognition of Hizbullah’s murder of innocent civilians. (see the AI link provided in my reply to your comment on the previous piece)

    And yet you accuse Hizbullah of desiring to establish a “Fascist theocracy in pluralist Lebanon” without providing much in the way of evidence. You also say that you try to treat these situations on a universal basis. So given that The 3 million odd Palestinians in the West Bank and Ghaza(and let’s not begin arguing whether it’s 2.3 million or 3.6 million) are effectively an annexed population denied proper representation by the occupying regime, full citizenship and full rights and subject to all the human rights violations you no doubt criticise Israel for purely on the basis of race (ie for being Goyim) I have not heard you refer to Israel as a Fascist Theocracy, you would be happy to call Israel a Fascist Theocracy operating within a pseudo-democratic framework.

    . All are directly related to the main issues in the Middle East and any informed opinion must provide some views on these, and any decent opinion will criticise the human rights violations of all parties (including Israel- i would have thought this was obvious when i pledged my commitment to universal human rights but in your case i’ll make an exception) involved. My point is that unlike some others i don’t just focus on Israel.

    George, it’s very easy to pledge yourself to a universal declaration of human rights. It’s another thing for you to actually believe in it. And when you’re spouting hasbarah (once again we need only to look at your rather distasteful holocaust comparisons) almost verbatim – hasbarah that was used to justify grievous human rights violations against Lebanese civilians and is currently being used to prepare the groundwork for action against Iran – then we can only reason that you are not quite as commited to the reality of Universal Human Rights as much as you may say you are committed to the ideal.

    20 Dec 2006, 22:50

  10. Continued:

    My point is that unlike some others i don’t just focus on Israel.

    What makes you assume the sole focus for most others (and you use plurals and superlatives far too often for someone subsequently claiming to only be referring to fringe elements) is Israel?

    We need to see the duff “evidence” to establish the genuine truth. Imprisoning individuals for their historical opinions would be the thin end of a very big wedge.

    Indeed we do. I just wish that more people who sign the Euston Manifesto were more vocal about the legislative issues concerning Freedom of Speech in Europe when critizing lack of freedom of speech in, say, Iran. :’(

    I’m not criticising anyone for highlighting the abuses of their own government. I do it all the time. I’m simply saying that this should never be to the detriment of criticising others.

    I think Chris has dealt with this perfectly and you have ignored it. I suggest you reread his comment (3).

    That’s wrong, i’m just arguing against the SWP, Galloway et al who NEVER criticise any aspect of Hizbullah.

    George, your problem is that you are speaking whilst presuming that Hizbullah is on the verge of signing a deal with IBM to produce new timers for neo-Auschwitz in Tel Aviv. You therefore assume that because others might not have that fear and, indeed, see the fact that Hizbullah’s Civilian-Military ratio was more towards the military side than that of the I Beacon D Unto F Nations as something not necessarily working against Hizbullah, that there is no criticism of Hizbullah in any way shape or form.

    Let us say for the moment that Hizbullah commited violations of human rights on the scale of Israel or even the US within a military context. Presuming that the group was condemned for the violations, why should it not be supported in principle. You seem to support the existence of the state of Israel despite the 700,000 Palestinian refugees created by its inception in 1948 (thousands of whom were forcibly expelled from their homes). You therefore support the idea and the group whilst criticising their various violations in achieving what they desire to achieve. The same is true for many and their support of Hizbullah. You have not just condemned a lack of criticism but support for Hizbullah on the basis of Hizbullah demanding the creation of a “Fascist Theocracy” whilst busily working on its ash-making business in Eretz Yisrael. Your fundamental basis for your argumentum ad populum is flawed (ie “No decent person would support Hizbullah. All decent people support the right of Israel to exist. I am the arbiter of decency. All decent people would agree with me. No decent person would disagree with me.”)

    You keep implying that my criticism of Israeli forces is diminished by my criticism of Hizbullah.

    You demand some form of equality in criticism (ie criticise all human rights violations). Prima facie it’s all good. But then you go and hyperbolise Hizbullah. You deliberately allude to the Holocaust. And you’re using a debunked fabrication to label Nasrullah with the anti-Semite tag. So it’s not just criticism of actual violation of human rights with regards to Hizbullah and Israel (or Likud or Kadimah or whichever group you’d like to focus on). You’re essentially fearmongering with very little basis. You’re alluding to a genocide in order to wage verbal, ideological war. This goes beyond criticism. Meanwhile the destruction of Power plants in Ghaza, the abuse of the Ghaza aquifer, the labelling of Palestinians as cockroaches and crocodiles (all of which are happily verifiable should you desire ;) ) might merit your criticism but I somehow doubt you would be as happy to accuse the Israelis of being on the verge of turning Ramullah or Beit Laham or Al-Khalil into ashes. How about some equality in that?

    20 Dec 2006, 22:51

  11. Warwick Blogger

    Hey there! How about posting using your name next time?

    20 Dec 2006, 22:51

  12. Ok i’m going to talk about my position in relation to the Labour Party as i promised and take Chris’s other point in 3. which i always intended to combine with this.

    Chris: “If i go around publicly criticising abominations in Iran (of which there are many) the only possible outcome will be that that validation will be used to carry out action against Iran”.

    I agree that there is a danger it could used for such dangerous ends but i wouldn’t say this is the only possible outcome. I think its quite possible to say with one voice ‘No war on Iran; fight for a democratic alternative.’ I could be wrong but i think i saw a Socialist Party placard declaring as much. I hope you’ve noticed that i’ve never attacked the record of the Socialist Party on these issues as i don’t regard them as guilty of any of the failings of the SWP et al. I first read about the hangings of two Iranian teenagers for homosexuality on the front page of their website. We should see more of this balanced coverage of abuses on the left. I’m sure those suffering in Iran would want us to say no to both invasion and abuses.

    A change of regime in Iran is desirable for its own people’s human rights but also because i believe it is only with this that the long-term security of the country can be secured. Incidentally, i’ve always been opposed to any form of action against Iran, including a hypothetical nuclear-armed Iran. I think the correct response to any apparent moves by Iran to develop nuclear weapons is for the existing nuclear powers to look at their own nuclear status and make moves to disarmament. Here the west is guilty of glaring double standards and hypocrisy. I’m against any country holding nuclear weapons on principle as you saw in my post on Trident. Of course the same hypocrisy applies to much of their rhetoric on human rights which is why i criticise the US, for example, as strongly for its abuses such as torture and the death penalty as i do those of Iran (See my piece on Pinochet which documents US torture). I’d just chosen to give some time to the abuses of Iran in this piece. Time that i feel too many on the left have neglected to give.

    As for influence over your own government being the biggest difference you can make i agree. Chomsky is someone who makes this case in relation to the US very well. What i’m essentially calling for though is a simple recognition of human rights abuses by Iran and others from the SWP et al. The SWP for instance initially refused to condemn the September 11th attacks but bowed under pressure.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone should give the same time to criticising abuses in other countries as they do in their own. If i gave this impression to you or Hamid then it wasn’t intended. I’m rather suggesting that all abuses should be equally recognised and be subject to the same universal human right standards.

    21 Dec 2006, 01:36

  13. Labour Party: Why?

    Because as a social democrat i’m not sure where else i could go. The Labour Party might not be a socialist party, and some would argue its not even a social democratic party, but there still some good socialists and social democrats in it. You’ve always got to work with someone in politics and if i left the party i can’t see any other party that i’m ideologically compatible with. Not being a revolutionary socialist or a Marxist (though utilising certain Marxist insights)

    But more clearly i do believe that Labour has made a lot of great changes which would never have happened if the Conservatives had stayed in power. The quantam leap in gay legal rights for instance has been brilliant. Under the Tories Section 28, with Labour its repeal, equalised age of consent, civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.

    I’m a supporter of the EU (though we may be at odds on that one. With this in mind i make the distinction between the EU and Europe. Pro-EU and Pro-European not being necessarily synonymous ) so i favoured Labour’s more positive approach towards it. The gap between the rich and poor overall still grows and this is unacceptable but tax credits have redistributed wealth and made a big difference to a lot of families. Labour has silently redistributed wealth which annoys me as they haven’t embedded the ideological argument for it, nor have they achieved progressive taxation. Regressive taxation means the poorest 1/5th pay a higher % of their earnings than the richest 1/5th, this also annoys me and i think we should adopt Nordic style taxation.

    One of Labour’s best achievements has been sustained low unemployment. In France, Germany and Italy unemployment was one of the big election issues here it didn’t come up and that’s largely thanks to Labour. Of course a lot of those jobs must be better paid with a living and not just a minimum wage. Labour also at least signed up to the Human Rights Act and the Social Chapter. I think devolution for Scotland, Wales and London is also worthy of a mention. 800,000 children out of poverty is progress, the government won’t reach the 2020 target of ending all child poverty but this doesn’t mean they can’t get close. The establishment of Sure Start is also something that you just wouldn’t get under a Tory government.

    So despite my areas of disagreement (Iraq, Trident, 90 days detention, drugs policy, taxation, social housing (lack of), and really rail should have been renationalised by now) i still believe that overall the country has improved under Labour. Moreover, i think the best chance of change on the positions i disagree with and further progress on the positions i do agree with, still lies within the party rather than from forces outside it.

    21 Dec 2006, 01:39

  14. Couple of quick points, Eaton:

    ...only a free and fair competition between all ideas ensures that the truth prevails.

    This is either synonymous with or comes dangerously close to the myth of “marketplace of ideas”. First of all the idea that “free and fair competition” has ever existed or can exist, secondly, the belief that at the end of it “truth” triumphs over all else. It’s exactly this kind of opinion that makes you not a Socialist/”progressive”, on the first count, and naive on the other. Quite worrying.

    On how the SWP “initially refused to condemn the September 11th attacks”, I think it’s problematic that you find this relevant. Perhaps there are valid points to be made on your broader point concerning the SWP, but It’s hard to see why one should demand such an action from an essentially uninvolved organisation. My reasoning is thus: public condemnation means nothing and does not intend to mean anything either, beyond the politics of it. For example, you may remember leaders of pretty much all moderately important nation-states reported as publically condemning the attacks, including those with a history of antagonism toward the USA. The reason is not that were morally outraged, and it touched their kind souls and were expressing solidarity with an embattled American people. It was a simple political/diplomatic necessity to do so for all that did so. Just as their public episodes were not related to their opinion on it, in the same way, it would be an unacceptable leap of logiv to draw the conclusion that the silence on the part of the SWP leadership meant they supported the “attacks”. In fact, there is only one conclusion one could possibly draw…that they were one group that was not eager to curry favour with the governments of the USA and UK, and were not themselves directly involed in politics at the highest level. That’s all it means
    There are two issues here. One is the problem that you are not making simple distinctions in your word usage. For example “condone”, “support”, “condemn”, “regonition”, and all the other relevant words, especially the verbs are being applied incorrectly by yourself, as they are endlessly by your heroes Aaronovitch and Hitchens. This draws us to the bigger point of the difference between considering x ok, and looking at the reason x came about and pragmatically seeking and end to it. Again your heroes are masters at, perhaps deliberately – since I can’t believe anyone is so stupid – ignoring this distinction.
    On this paticular case, the more important point for you is – and I mean no disrespect here – your seeming ignorance of the workings of organised [and especially international] politics. As I said, the idea that “condemning” any act has any ramifications other than one’s own study of who personally stands to gain/lose what from such a decision, is ludicrous. Let me, if I may, bring in another example. LibDem MP, can’t remember her name, essentially forced to resign for a similar thing, not condemning Palestinian suicide bombing. Did her inaction mean she thought suicide bombing was desirable? No. So we have problem her in that you are looking at PR stunts rather than substance. I understand you were making a wider point, and I remain no friend of the SWP, but I find it problematic that you should bring this one thing up so explicitly, while calling yourself a “leftist” and a “progressive”. I’d expect a progressive to be concerned very much with moving their politics away from PR orientated machines. Your words suggest otherwise, sir.

    Labour party, foreign policy next.

    24 Dec 2006, 14:31

  15. I had a little chat a while ago about joining the Labour Party with a buddy of mine in the Real Ale Society who has just joined you, I’m sure you know him, his name escapes me.
    It ran pretty similar to your one above, ie. a whole long list of major Labour actions he didn’t agree with…of course it’s very interesting that you make Human Rights one of your big things.
    The “reforming it from the inside” idea is an intersting idea. It’s mainly interesting because sometimes it’s hard to fathom the continued belief in this fallacy. The problem is, it overlooks the nature of what we are talking about…the party.
    Let’s assume two routes for simplicity, because I can’t think of anymore possibles:
    the “get to the top by pretending, then change it all when I’m in power” one,
    the “build a small support base, work from there, after a lot of honest work, I’m a progressive PM and everyone loves it” one.

    the first one is easy to dismiss: let’s assume you make it up there, the conditions that allow you to make it there mean you’ll find you have much less practical power than you thought you would, dear boy.

    the second one is a more interesting discussion becase even if I assume you have magical powers, and you can beat the party polity and the public, but you’d still fail.
    Fist of all, the party has never been a bottom-up affair, and it will not be ever. This is it’s nature, the work from within argument ignores this important fact. People move up for certain reasons, George. I’m sure I don’t have go into more detail.
    But let’s say you somehow became high in Labour Party organisation, formulate a “progressive” agenda. But the British people and the owners of the papers they read and shows they watch are not “progressive”. Oh dear, our agenda has not gotten a chance to be implimented.
    Ok, let’s skip that.
    You’ve attained the impossible, got the kingmakers on board, let’s say. Absolutely no way that MI5 would let you have the keys to 10 Downing Street. You’d be kept out of power if you were a Socialist.
    Ok, let’s skip that, we’re in power for real, MI5 blew it somehow. How many unwanted facts have we ignored now? Nevermind, if a Socialist got in there, capital flight from the UK would be so quick and massive that you’re speedy exit would be assured by people you’ve never heard of. To say nothing of the legal and practical constaints on what you could do as a result of previous agreements the UK made.
    No one who is a socialist will ever be in power in the UK in the conditions of an international capitalist liberal democratic nation-sate participating in the system.
    You’re either misusing the word, or you’re rather naive. If you actually mean that you’re a moderate “let’s tax the rich a bit more, that seems fair” so-called socialist, I request you are not referred to as “progressive” or “leftist” or “socialist”. You’re continued support for the Labour Party during this government’s deteriorating record on the things you say you care most about, points to the former.
    If you are so “progressive” and still look forward to a career/activity “within”, prepare for backbench obscurity or selling your soul, or or the party member activist side being ignored, essentially. Parties are not mouthpieces for the common/progressive man, they never were, and were not designed as such.

    24 Dec 2006, 15:24

  16. of course that’s a brief sketch, ask if you need more clarity

    24 Dec 2006, 15:25

  17. Vincent’s comments in his first post of the three above reminded me – not entirely sure why – of an article I co-wrote on Sep 24 2001, two weeks after the WTC attacks. It might provide some insight into why people on the left focus their criticisms in the way that they do (and incidentally is a reminder that the predictions the left were making regarding the likely consequences of the ‘war on terror’ on civil liberties, the level of threat of terrorism, and the civilian casualties of US military action have largely been shown to be accurate). You can read it here.

    24 Dec 2006, 15:40

  18. Christopher Rossdale

    September 11th was significant because it was the first time we got a taste of what we’ve been dishing out for the last 50 years. A decent person should abhor the event with as much force as they abhor any such act; sadly few pay much attention to similar or worse crimes against humanity.

    Vincent – good points about Labour, pretty much what I was planning to say. The opportunities for change within the party are limited because it’s not constructed in such a way as to echo those views. If it was, it would not succeed in our current ‘democratic’ system, where private capital controls both opinion and the economy. Holly – the fact that Labour are the closest to what you think may be a reason to vote for them and such (anyone but the Tories etc) but to see that as anything other than a stopgap is missing the point. Things are not going to change significantly through the party system, for the reasons Vince outlined. There are plenty of movements in the UK and around the world aimed at building a more viable long term solution for the people and the planet – we can either put energy into building them, or we can push for Labour because they’re the least bad option. We’re doomed to failure anyway, we might as well die trying!

    24 Dec 2006, 23:58

  19. Where I come from the left lost a long time ago. There is no Labour party worth mentioning. The Lib Dems hold pockets of slightly more urbane support. The Tories reign and any vote I cast there was a negative one. There are no socialists, no anarchists, no syndicalists. There is no stopgap in my mindset because I’ve seen that nothing I cold ever do there made any difference. And that’s why I will never go into politics.

    25 Dec 2006, 13:07

  20. Vincent, thanks for your contributions. Regarding your comments on free speech and expression; in writing the words, ’...only a free and fair competition between all ideas ensures that the truth prevails.’ i specifically had in mind the historical controversies involving David Irving. It was a response to Hamid’s reference to holocaust denial. In Irving’s 1998 libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt the truth did prevail. The case put Irving’s ideas on trial and contrary to him a number of eminent historians amassed an almost unprecedented range of evidence displaying the truthfulness of the systematic nature of the holocaust. It is because Irving’s ideas were given a hearing as history rather than ignored for their prejudices, that the truthful outcome rested on far sturdier foundations. I follow Karl Popper’s edict that a case has not been refuted until it has been stated at the strongest level possible, and John Milton’s ‘Areopagitica’ in which he proclaims that whatever one believes to be right should be exposed to the claims of the wrong, because only in an open fight could the initial view claim vindication.

    But indeed my words are most obviously read as having more universalist implications, and this matter should have been clarified. I am not so muddle headed as to subscribe to the theory of a ‘marketplace of ideas’. Free and fair competition is of course an aspiration not a reality. But in any case this is a reason for redistributing power and influence not for limiting free speech. A point made in my earlier piece on free speech at the bottom of this page. Nor am i so naive to believe that ‘truth’ shall always prevail. It is better said that i believe free speech and application of Popper’s principle allow for a far greater chance of truth prevailing as in the case of Irving.

    What i am really trying to get at in relating free speech and competition is that its interactions allow for a permanent struggle between ideas, progress in mental life is made through argument and disputation.

    You appear to be trying to knock me off a ‘socialist’ pedestal! To my knowledge i haven’t claimed to be a socialist, this being a quite conscious choice. I have spoken of being a progressive and a social democrat, a position quite distinct from socialist. Progressive and socialist are of course not mutually exclusive, but social democrat and socialist are.
    I’ll return to this in a future comment soon.

    26 Dec 2006, 02:18

  21. With regards to your claims concerning the truth prevailing George: You have still failed to prevent evidence of Hizbullah attempting to set up a “Fascist Theocracy” in Lebanon, nor have you truly substantiated any of your fearmongering concerning Hizbullah and its desire to turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into “Ashes” or start up a second Holocaust. Your profile says you’re a history student, so why not, perhaps, create another blog post where you show us on what real foundation you lay your claims?

    26 Dec 2006, 13:21


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