Monday, January 08, 2007

The Euston Manifesto: Offences against Reason

As stated in the previous post on
The Euston Manifesto this is basically old news that I missed when it was hot, due to other pressing matters (like fleeing Western Europe). A few Google exercises however learn that criticism of the Manifesto mostly came from bloggers on the Leftest side of the authors, and were termed in the usual expletative and unmotivated style that we now know is associated with a relative world view. After working a way through four of the ten pages, said to contain 402,000 hits, I had seen enough. I am seriously wondering why no one else has taken the thing apart, but then that review might still be hiding in the remaining six pages of lower Google rank. If so, I'd like to know.

Not far from where Karl Marx used to jot down his misguided lunacy that led to so much human misery in later years, in the early months of 2006 a group of the Leftist Intelligentsia came together to distance themselves from what had become a movement of terrorist and totalitarian apologists. In the words of the Manifesto: "...a reaction to what are asserted to be widespread violations of left-wing principles by other left-wingers". The manifesto states that "the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between forces on the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values". (Sorry about the lingo, which is to convey the general atmosphere: I'll distill and re-phrase as much as I can.) Said violations are largely in relation to issues in the Middle East, such as the Iraq war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war on terrorism etc.

Broadly speaking, the group asserts that the Left as a whole is overly critical of the actions of Western governments, such as the military presence in Iraq, and correspondingly [1] is overly supportive of forces opposing Western governments, such as the Iraqi insurgents. As the paper puts it, "we must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic 'anti-imperialism' and/or hostility to the current U.S. administration".

So, there you have it. The nomenclature and terminology are Old Marxist School (so much for mainstream socialism the 3rd way), but don't let that mislead you! This stuff makes the Leftist building shake on its very foundation: this is the Elite (academics, journalists, activists, pundits) disseminating right wing neo-con agit-prop, displaying neo-imp tendencies, and this is a minimum Manifesto - your guess as good as mine what blasphemy a fully fledged paper might have produced!

The Manifesto states it cares for historical truth. Reading this for the first time I was at first mesmerized by the very expectation of real historical confessions of earth shattering proportions, but the authors hereby merely express their intention, hence to criticise in forthright terms those Leftists, who ally with "illiberal theocrats" or other anti-democratic figures and organisations (one feels George Galloway is singled out here). Additionally, they promise to listen to the ideas of both the left and the right, if ... furthering democracy.

The paper is showing more signs of maturity: "... making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not ..." (does that extend to George Bush, one wonders?) and the self-confessed democratic and progressive forces continue that: "... after the bombs stopped falling, the Left should have united around a campaign to support Iraqi democrats, feminists, and progressives". Instead, in their view, alliances were formed with Islamist groups, Baathists and the libertarian One does wonder what the extent is of these alliances and what they entail. The question also springs to mind if these treacherous acts in a time of war, are no longer punishable by law?

The Manifesto puts paid to blindly appeasing the ravings of the Sons of Peace, "... condemning all forms of tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Zionism, (they) reject fear of modernity, (fear) of freedom, irrationalism [2], the subordination of women and 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".

But we aren't to hold them for zealots (I wasn't particularly inclined to - no idea why the aforementioned might lead to such a conclusion): they also embrace the values of free enquiry, open dialogue and creative doubt, of care in judgement and a sense of the intractabilities of the world. And here we have it:

"We stand against all claims to a total - unquestionable or unquestioning - truth".

Against all claims of unquestionable or unquestioning truth. More relativist they don't come! And it may be because I'm no member of the Leftist Intelligentsia by any stretch of the imagination, but this is where they loose me entirely:

The group strongly supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, dismissing all arguments against the idea of eternal truths.

If there is any Eternal Truth it is Universal Human Rights! That is the whole point of them: eternal, absolute and untouchable, a gift of dignity from God to man, made in His image (although I'm sure the authors have another source). The statement directly contradicts the earlier claim that "we stand against all claims to ... truth"? And yet here they declare they don't accept arguments that say there are no eternal truths, so which is it to be?

The Manifesto then takes another turn and continues to stress that it "rejects cultural relativism". This may explain their acceptance of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, but then we still have the "eternal truth" issue.

It is beyond me why an Intelligentsia doesn't have the intelligence to have their scribbles screened by logicians before setting them loose on society, a large part of which takes these things seriously for some reason.

The Manifesto intentionally does not specify the preferred economic system, but we must assume they subscribe to the capitalist free-market system, that being the best capable of guaranteeing "the economic and social equality between people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations" that they demand.

Next we hit trouble again as the Manifest declares that "labour rights are human rights, in defence of less-commonly represented people, including children and the sexually oppressed". Can anybody please explain to me, who are the sexually oppressed?! Trafficked women working in legalized brothels, or what? Equating labour rights with human rights is a fine example of what has given human rights a bad name and what has caused the lamentable devaluation of what we should be holding sacred as the very guarantor of human dignity. It is a stretch but let's suppose some labour union functionary demands a new coffee machine on the third floor, or a day care centre in the basement? One cannot in his right mind categorize that as human rights; it trivializes and debases them and will lead to their erosion!

Apparently the U.S. is "not a model society", begging the question what then is the ideal? Since the demise of the Soviet Union the Left is very short on ideals, reason why they display that obnoxious cynicism, what pundits mistake for an attitude of healthy criticism.

While the statement is commendable in that the authors condemn and reject all forms of terrorism (at long last) and equate it with a violation of international law, that nothing can excuse terrorism and they admit that the worst atrocities happen within Islam, the choice of words and feeling for detail is at times astonishing: what to think of their "opposition on inter-tribal conflict": yes, the war of Hutus and Tutsis was something terrible!

The Manifesto wraps it up by declaring that it condemns those that call the Iraqi insurgents freedom fighters, that people must be allowed to express and criticise opinions within the traditional constraints against libel, slander, and incitement to violence, and that religion is fair game for expression and criticism alike (of course). However, the authors say, this right should be tempered by the personal responsibility of the speaker. In that case it is hoped that parenting and education is improved. Or somebody wakes up and explains to the world at large not to confuse the person with the issues.


Eric Simonson said...

I have to confess that I still haven't had the will power to read through the entire manifesto, so the part about the eternal truth of Universal Human Rights and their aforesaid stand against any "eternal truth" is a great catch!

I'm praying for the day when the particular strain of marxist meme is in fact dead. No telling how many hundreds of years that might be though.

Cassandra said...

Not in our life time, I'm afraid.
This piece of news dates back to May 2006 and haven't been heard of since. Perhaps we can conclude that the Euston Group (which is a model of mature behavior!) lost this particular battle within Leftism. What I hear, are still the same noices re "the war in Iraq": Bush lied, children died.