Mind the gap!

by Chris Bertram on April 13, 2006

The “decent left” who brought us Unite Against Terror, Labour Friends of Iraq, Democratiya, Engage and any number of other internet fronts, have now launched their Euston Manifesto . Together with lots of general commitments to motherhood and apple pie, there are the usual obsessions: Iraq, Israel, the alleged anti-Americanism and anti-semitism of those who disagree with them. There’s also a the usual whining reinteration of the complaint that they have difficulty in getting their voice heard given the domination of the meeja by their foes. As Matthew points out this is a bit implausible give the cvs of the participants:

Nick Cohen, columnist in the Observer, the Evening Standard and the New Statesman, with the report signed by Francis Wheen, deputy-editor of Private Eye, columnist in the Guardian, John Lloyd, editor of the FT Magazine etc.

Personally, my attention was caught by sections 13 and 14 on “Freedom of Ideas” and “Open Source”. I conducted a search of the Crooked Timber comment logs last weekend wondering if that would reveal the identity of someone who vandalized a Wikipedia page. I discovered that the vandal’s IP address had been used in comments from both from someone who shows up as a prominent signatory of the Manifesto and by a pseudonymous blogger. I can only suppose that, like Hesperus and Phosphorus, they are identical. No doubt the other signatories have a stronger commitment to open source and freedom of ideas.

For futher reaction see Matthew , Jamie K and Mike Power .

{ 91 comments }

1

chris y 04.13.06 at 8:39 am

The only thing that gives this any passing interest to me is the elephant in the text called “imperialism”. This is mentioned only once, in a ritual denunciation of “simplistic anti-imperialism” in the conclusion.

So do we infer that the signatories believe 1) that imperialism no longer exists, or is no longer important; 2) that imperialism is morally neutral; 3) that it is a good thing?

2

otto 04.13.06 at 8:47 am

We recognize the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There can be no reasonable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that subordinates or eliminates the legitimate rights and interests of one of the sides to the dispute.

You really can’t be a “democrat and a progressive” and only have that to say on Israel and Palestine. After all, putting 100,000s of ethnically privileged settlers into conquered territory is a priori neither democratic or progressive, in fact its axiomatically racist. There really is a paper to be written about the appropriation of the demand for a two-state by those who want to excuse, enable or distract from colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

3

Hektor Bim 04.13.06 at 9:29 am

Chris B.,

What wikipedia page was vandalized? Who do you believe did it by their IP address? If you are going to make claims like this, you really should provide some supporting facts.

Aren’t these the obsessions of the British Left in general? (Iraq, Israel, the alleged anti-Americanism and anti-semitism of those who disagree with them.) That’s certainly the sense I get from reading Crooked Timber.

4

Louis Proyect 04.13.06 at 9:46 am

I keep thinking of Marx’s observation about history being repeated as farce. Basically, Geras and company are trying to build the same kind of movement that existed in the mid-1950s with Camus, Koestler and Orwell in its ranks. Substitute radical Islam for Communism and just about everything else is the same. Who knows, maybe the funding is the same–pace Frances Stoner Saunders. But with people like Camus and Orwell, you had a certain kind of integrity. They risked their lives on behalf of their beliefs in the 1930s and 40s. When they became intellectual handmaidens to the national security state, you could at least understand the source of their bitterness. The Moscow Trials were certainly ample reason for some to throw their radicalism overboard.

But Norm Geras? A professor emeritus whose main distinction was writing for obscure Marxist journals? Nick Cohen, a forgettable journalist? Oliver Kamm, an oily derivatives trader? Farce indeed.

5

Jason Kuznicki 04.13.06 at 9:52 am

You mean someone assumed to be a mature, decent individual actually was not?

My faith in humanity is crushed, I tell you. But yes, some evidence is in order here, rather than an accusation that, in its present form, seems to implicate every one of the signatories — and none of them.

6

Chris Bertram 04.13.06 at 9:56 am

No, I think it is enough that we (CT) know, and that he knows that we know.

7

Mick H 04.13.06 at 10:10 am

Good to see CT keeping up its tradition of ad hominem criticism – except this time the person isn’t even named, so it’s basically, “the sort of people who sign the Euston Manifesto are the sort of people who vandalise Wikipedia pages”.

8

pedro 04.13.06 at 10:17 am

I, for one, appreciate Chris’s decision not to name the vandal. Let him or her feel a bit of shame: that’s okay with me. To identify him publicly is unnecessary at this point.

9

Jaybird 04.13.06 at 10:17 am

Man, I’m glad that we’re real progressives and not like those racist imperialists over there.

10

chris y 04.13.06 at 10:20 am

mick h,

There is nothing remotely ad hominem about pointing out that someone’s behaviour is demonstrably at odds with their professed beliefs. It isn’t a fallacy because it doesn’t constitute an argument – it’s an assertion of fact. As to Chris’s decision not to reveal the person’s identity, without prior knowledge of the conversation which has evidently taken place between them, I don’t see how you can judge.

11

Henry 04.13.06 at 10:21 am

bq. Norm Geras? A professor emeritus whose main distinction was writing for obscure Marxist journals?

Whatever about current disagreements, this flies far wide of the mark – Geras has had a long and distinguished career, with some rather substantial achievements. And isn’t it a bit odd for you to be criticizing someone for “writing for obscure Marxist journals?” As opposed, say to writing for obscure Marxist listservs?

12

Jaybird 04.13.06 at 10:27 am

Are there any prominent Marxist journals?

13

Louis Proyect 04.13.06 at 10:29 am

But that is Geras’s main distinction, isn’t it? A Marxist academic. Now ex-Marxist blogger. When an Albert Camus spoke about the need to defend democracy, he had some moral authority. He published a Resistance newspaper under Nazi occupation. I don’t think that writing articles for Science and Society is the same thing.

As far as writing for Marxist listservs or the comments sections of left-liberal blogs is concerned, there’s really no distinction there either. But then again I don’t mount white horses with a lance in one hand and a flag in the other.

14

Matt Austern 04.13.06 at 10:40 am

Any movement that existed “in the mid-1950s with Camus, Koestler and Orwell in its ranks” would be a pretty odd one. Orwell was indeed an anti-Soviet socialist in the 40s, but by the 50s he wasn’t so active anymore.

15

Louis Proyect 04.13.06 at 10:42 am

To Jaybird:

Well, there are no prominent Marxist journals in capitalist countries. Journals tend to be for the tenured cognoscenti in such places. In socialist countries like Cuba and Yugoslavia in the 1960s, there are and were prominent journals. Marxism today, at least outside the academy, has a more visible presence on the Internet rather than in print journals. For example, the archives of my own mailing list gets about 40 thousand visits a week. That’s not very much in comparison to Crooked Timber, but is much greater than “Capital and Class”.

16

Chris Bertram 04.13.06 at 10:59 am

Hey! Way to go ….!

The other fruit of my weekend IP researches was to discover that “Urbina”, “Jeremy” and “Fergal” and a whole other bunch of names are aliases for a single sockpuppet who routinely berates us for being soft on “Islamofascism” etc etc. And I’ve just deleted two comments from “Urbina” in this very thread.

17

jacob 04.13.06 at 11:19 am

I don’t mind not knowing who the offender was, but would you please at least tell us what Wikipedia page you’re talking about, so that we might have some sense of what you’re talking about? After all, if all you want to do is privately shame a particular individual, you could have done that in an email.

18

Chris Bertram 04.13.06 at 11:22 am

Sure, it was the page about this blog.

19

David 04.13.06 at 11:28 am

Slightly off-topic, but who is “the world’s leading expert on Vietnamese railway timetables”?

20

abb1 04.13.06 at 11:34 am

My archenemy Fergal, passionate defender of (almost) all persons with Jewish-sounding names is a sockpuppet? Oh, no.

21

roger 04.13.06 at 11:54 am

While I think the decent left peaked long ago, I am interested in how they carry the “left” part into battle, like a piece of the old rugged cross. Their views are definitely conservative in every possible way that counts, but it is as if they can’t let go of the fetish language.

Rather incomprehensible. But then, the labour party is headed, at the moment, by a man who is churlish about the loss of a literally fascist ally in Italy. So perhaps “left” has generally lost its meaning.

22

David 04.13.06 at 12:06 pm

It’s good to know that some people still believe in those things, assuming that the signatories are sincere. Perhaps the rest of the left no longer believe in them, I don’t know.

23

Barry 04.13.06 at 12:19 pm

Chris, at first I read the post as starting with ‘The “decent left” who brought us Unite Against Terror and Labour …”. Reading error, Freudian slip, or psychic power?

24

Mrs Tilton 04.13.06 at 1:08 pm

The Moscow Trials were certainly ample reason for some to throw their radicalism overboard.

Now that is really quite good.

25

Cryptic Ned 04.13.06 at 1:31 pm

Any movement that existed “in the mid-1950s with Camus, Koestler and Orwell in its ranks” would be a pretty odd one. Orwell was indeed an anti-Soviet socialist in the 40s, but by the 50s he wasn’t so active anymore.

In this reenactment, the role of the zombie corpse of George Orwell will be played by the zombie corpse of G.E.M. de Ste. Croix.

26

jet 04.13.06 at 1:38 pm

Interesting. So the commentor who uses sock puppets and made some interesting edits to wikipedia’s entry for Crooked Timber uses an ISP in Regina Canada. I wonder who that could be ;)

27

abb1 04.13.06 at 1:59 pm

Canada? Wikipedia commenter’s IP is traced to 82-36-197-238.cable.ubr01.sutt.blueyonder.co.uk

28

Chris Bertram 04.13.06 at 2:02 pm

There were two people. I was referring to the one in comment 27, though I suspect that the the two collaborate one one of the sillier pro-war group blogs.

29

Ben P 04.13.06 at 2:06 pm

Just a bit off topic, but this whole “decent left” thing is a bit strange to me as an American. I find it interesting that this kind of movement has no traction or voice in the United States as far as I can see.

This must have to do something with differing intellectual traditions, et al – ie that the US has no real socialist tradition outside a tiny marginal circle in New York.

30

Fergal 04.13.06 at 2:29 pm

I will try once again (my previous post was immediately deleted), in hope that this comment will get through —

Re #16 (“Way to go…”): Chris, your aim is way off. I don’t recall commenting here in a long while and I have never used the term “Islamofascism”, neither here nor in any context: the word is simply not in my vocabulary. Furthermore, it is a bit difficult to refute the charge that I am “Urbina” or anyone else as I do not know what their IP address might be. In any case, the possibility that we would have the same address would be quite astonishing in that my Internet provider (currently over 750,000 subscribers) assigns me a new (dynamic) address every time I log on (perhaps someone can do the math). P.S., in case my previous comment has disappeared, I have never commented on Wikipedia and my address is not “82-36-197-238.cable.ubr01.sutt.blueyonder.co.uk”.

[CB: Ok “Fergal”, you’ve had your say. BTW I’ve never suggested you are the person with a blueyonder.co.uk address. You are not. You are connecting from a part of Canada (not the one mentioned above). I’ve looked at the logs and there’s a very clear pattern of people with a name and a bogus email address — e.g. nothanks@none.com (not the one you’ve used this time) — and with a very similar line in politics and sarcasm, all connecting from IP addresses in the same range. In future I’ll delete all comments that seem to me to be from the same source in any of my threads, irrespective of content UNLESS the commenter uses a genuine email address.]

31

Barry 04.13.06 at 3:00 pm

Please note that Chris used the term ‘range of IP addresses’, not ‘one particular IP address’. Assuming that dynamic IP’s assigned by a ISP taned to be in a given range for a single subscriber, those can be used to cast suspicion on a person. IIRC, Lott’s sock puppet Mary Rosch (?) was caught becase of the range of IP addresses used.

32

jet 04.13.06 at 3:07 pm

abb1,
I’d wager that the two ip’s are used by the same person. Or at least two people with similiar axes to grind with Daniel Davies[Wikipedia].

So the mystery deepens a bit. I only found 3 instances of vandalism from 2 seperate ip’s. One from a large city near Leeds and the other in no-where Canada. Yet Chris says neither of these are related to “Fergal” or the Euston Manifesto.

33

abb1 04.13.06 at 3:48 pm

The Canadian “142.165.117.4” guy – I don’t really see him trolling. He changed “who has expert knowledge of Vietnamese train timetables” into “and the world’s leading expert on Vietnamese railway timetables“, but that’s just re-phrasing a bit of friendly teasing. And he actually un-trolled a part of the article. That is not a ‘bad’ guy.

34

Chris Bertram 04.13.06 at 4:01 pm

Why am I playing this?

Jet: there are 2 Canadians (a persistent troll and a Wikipedia vandal) and 1 Brit. Neither of the first 2 are the Euston guy. The Brit is.

35

brendan 04.13.06 at 4:15 pm

Just come back from rubbernecking at the car crash in slow motion that is Harry’s Place. And reading through the ‘Euston Manifesto’. I think it is safe to say that this will remember long after the Communist Manifesto is forgotten (but not until then, as the joke has it). Christ what a load of crap. Bits of it are quite funny though. ‘(we oppose) those on the Left who have actively spoken in support of the gangs of jihadist and Baathist thugs of the Iraqi so-called resistance’. Or indeed the Jihadist thugs of the so-called Iraqi government. But that doesn’t seem to bother them so much.

Another doozy is this: ‘Humanitarian intervention, when necessary, is not a matter of disregarding sovereignty, but of lodging this properly within the ‘common life’ of all peoples.’. Isn’t it funny how people suddenly stop making any sense when they are trying to say something that they think the reader won’t like? They lack the balls to say ‘we believe that the United States should be allowed to invade any country it wishes’ so instead start going on about lodging my intervention in your common life, which sounds painful. ‘No apology for tyranny.’ is quite funny too, considering that huge chunks of HP are spent on apologising for tyranny (usually on the grounds that American backed tyrannies ‘aren’t as bad’ as whatever it is).

As for: ‘The Stoppers once claimed they spoke for the entire left over Iraq but even they know they can’t pretend that anymore’.

In the UK the ‘muscular’ ‘pro-american’ or ‘pro-imperialist’ left run the fucking country, and the ‘liberal’ papers combat this by a strategy of aggressive fellatio of ‘new labour’, pausing occasionally only to breathe and sneer. What’s the matter with these people? Only in the blogosophere could supporting the government be considered a radical act.

Obviously opinion poll data about what real people in the UK, the US and Iraq think about the glorious invasion is simply ignored. Many of these people didn’t even go to Oxford or Cambridge, and therefore bear only a superficial resemblance to the human race.

36

josh 04.13.06 at 4:16 pm

What exactly are the various internet ‘fronts’ fronts for, Chris? (Or, what’s ‘behind’ the fronts?) I’m somewhat concerned to know, as I was very mildly involved in Engage (which, so far as I know, isn’t linked to defending the Iraq war/occupation, or Israeli policy re the occupied territories, etc.), and the idea of being a dupe of some vast ex-Left-wing conspiracy is rather worrying.

37

jet 04.13.06 at 4:20 pm

abb1,
Chris ruined the fun and lowered himself to “playing this” and gave us the answer.

But the link I showed was actually two seperate cases of vandalism changing Daniel Davies entry back to roughly the same entry, as you noted. The corrections you noted are just improvements made inbetween the vandalism. Sorry, I shouldn’t have linked to the comparison like that as it wasn’t clear which versions were being shown.

38

Simon 04.13.06 at 4:27 pm

I think the pro-war blog Chris is referring to is ‘Drink Soaked Trots For War’, the respective styles of two of whose posters are evident in the vandalisms of the CT wikipedia page. Feel free to delete this post if I’m outrageously slurring said weblog, though.

39

Daniel 04.13.06 at 4:54 pm

If anyone cares, Nguyen Huu Bang is the Director General of Vietnam Railways at present, but the guy who runs http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm is probably going to be easier to get hold of. They’re going to be launching a new high-speed service later in the year – 29 hours from Hanoi to HCMC which is pretty damn good.

40

abb1 04.13.06 at 5:19 pm

Yes, but to buy a ticket you probably need to know someone who knows someone who knows Nguyen Huu Bang’s cousin.

41

Ben Alpers 04.13.06 at 5:48 pm

I find it interesting that this kind of movement has no traction or voice in the United States as far as I can see.

How about Todd Gitlin…and, presumably the U.S. signatories of the Euston Manifesto: Paul Berman, Mitchell Cohen, Marc Cooper, Michael Walzer and Jeff Weintraub?

42

Louis Proyect 04.13.06 at 6:19 pm

Berman, Cooper, Walzer? Right. No traction.

43

Uncle Kvetch 04.13.06 at 7:19 pm

What’s the matter with these people? Only in the blogosophere could supporting the government be considered a radical act.

And here I was thinking that the persecution complex of the prowar set was something peculiar to the US–you know, the country that appears to be run by Republicans, but which in actuality is under the iron grip of George Clooney, Cindy Sheehan, and the Women’s Studies faculty at Harvard. But apparently we haven’t cornered the market on simultaneously sucking up to the powerful while whining about being oppressed.

44

Ben P 04.13.06 at 8:22 pm

Paul Berman, Mitchell Cohen, Marc Cooper, Michael Walzer and Jeff Weintraub?

Weintraub, I’ve never of. I don’t think Berman and Cooper have an important platform anymore, and the other three write for an ultra-marginal magazine, Dissent, that is basically a relic of New York factional socialism

But really, and maybe I’m overinterpreting the degree to which the decent left is a singificant phenomenon in the UK, but those above names are very marginal to the current discourse. Look at virtually the entire left-of-center blogosphere. Look at the polling of Democratic Party members. Look at the major center to left magazines – the Nation, the Prospect, Washington Monthly, even the New Republic.

45

Ben P 04.13.06 at 8:26 pm

Put it to you another way, I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but the kind of arguments advanced by the so-called Decent Left just aren’t a part of the conversation centrists and leftists have in the United States. Read a blog like TPM Cafe, Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, or Democracy Arsenal, which are def. centrist Dem blogs, and you’ll see what I mean.

The decent left strikes me as yet to be neo-consevatism. The US already had that transition 40 years ago over the Vietnam War.

46

jet 04.13.06 at 9:39 pm

Daniel,
I got a stitch in my side and beer on my keyboard I laughed so hard.

47

Adam Kotsko 04.13.06 at 9:50 pm

I just honestly don’t see what the need for this manifesto is. At all.

48

jet 04.13.06 at 10:03 pm

I don’t see what’s wrong with the manifesto. Sounds like good stuff to me.

49

Katherine 04.13.06 at 11:06 pm

Whatever faults Camus had, I cannot imagine him producing this paragraph:

The violation of basic human rights standards at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and by the practice of “rendition”, must be roundly condemned for what it is: a departure from universal principles, for the establishment of which the democratic countries themselves, and in particular the United States of America, bear the greater part of the historical credit. But we reject the double standards by which too many on the Left today treat as the worst violations of human rights those perpetrated by the democracies, while being either silent or more muted about infractions that outstrip these by far. This tendency has reached the point that officials speaking for Amnesty International, an organization which commands enormous, worldwide respect because of its invaluable work over several decades, can now make grotesque public comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag, can assert that the legislative measures taken by the US and other liberal democracies in the War on Terror constitute a greater attack on human rights principles and values than anything we have seen in the last 50 years, and be defended for doing so by certain left and liberal voices

If this is decency, count me out.

50

Ben Alpers 04.14.06 at 12:40 am

For the record, I was not trying to toot the horn of the “Decent Left” on either side of the pond (quite the opposite in fact). But I just don’t think it’s true that folks like Gitlin (who I think belongs despite his non-signing of the EM), Berman, Cooper, and Walzer have no presence in the US. They may be relatively minor voices in the US these days, but they have more than “no voice.” As for their absence from the blogosphere, that’s partly generational (in the case of Walzer, e.g.).

51

neil 04.14.06 at 3:56 am

I’ve signed up to the EM and here’s why –

I live in New Zealand. (Well, I can hear you say, that’s your cross and you should bare it stoically and in silence, preferably. But read on). In the lead up to the war in Afghanistan the liberal media in NZ was awash with the opinions of Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Tariq Ali and many others of similar persuasion. Nowhere did one see the opinions of those on the Left who supported that military action.

And similarly with the Iraq war. The anti-war case was being made not by moderates such as Jonathan Freedland but by Michael Moore. Moderate left opinion that opposed the war, but with some sense of ambivalence, was nowhere represented let alone voices on the left who supported the war.

If I go down to the local video store I can easily select from the wide range of political material – all the way from Chomsky to Michael Moore. Similarly with the local bookstore.

So, from personal experience I’m fully supportive of those associated with the EM, the “decent” left, since they are the only ones combating the influence, and a very strong influence, of the likes of Tariq Ali.

52

abb1 04.14.06 at 4:37 am

Neil, fair enough, but your comment brings up the question first posed by Roger in this thread: why would you call yourself ‘left’? Chomsky, Ali and Moore certainly are on the left: one is an anarchist, another one is marxist, and the last one is trade unionist. What’s ‘left’ about you, guys? Admiration for US and Israeli imperialism combined with Islamophobia doesn’t exactly imply kinship with Marx and Che Guevara, you know.

53

zdenek 04.14.06 at 5:14 am

The decent left indeed is interventionist and for perfectly good reasons ( actually the gloss on this, found in the section B of the Euston Manifesto could have been written by Rawls ).

” if in some minimal sense
a state protects the common
life of its people ( no torture ,
slaughter of its own citizens ,
and meets their most basic
needs of life ), then its
sovereignty is to be respected.
But if the state violates this
common life in appalling ways ,
its claim to sovereignty is
forfeited and there is a duty
upon the international community
of intervention and rescue.”

As I said this could have been written by John Rawls who says in the Law of the People the following on the subject :

“…if the offences against
human rights are egregious
and the society does not
respond to the imposition
of sanctions , such intervention
in the defence of human rights
would be acceptable and would
be called for”. (p94 footnote #6.)

So what ? Well at the minimum the repudiation of this classic Left stance ( remember Rawls in his late work becomes less Kantian ) shows how out of touch with it’s roots the Left has become.

54

neil 04.14.06 at 5:34 am

Good question.

I belong to 2 unions, believe in a progressive tax system and in a predominantly publicly owned health and education services. I think that on the whole the centre right has failed in supporting gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights rights etc. I think that markets can be flawed and require government regulation. ie I would not vote for Bush on the basis of his domsetic policies.

I don’t admire US imperialism. I was and still am very critrical of US policy in Central America during the 80’s. I would not want to romanticise the Sandinistas but the US sponsered Contras were an abomination. I recall when Gore was defated that I felt particulary depressed as I was, and still am, a big Clinton fan.

My ideal solution for Israel/Palestine would be for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders. The settlements are indeed a form of imperialism.

I don’t consider myself Islamophobic. I believe that Islam is no more inherently obnoxious than any other religion; most of its adherents are moderate but an extreme, as with Christianity, abuse the faith.(Two of my favorite movies of the past year are “Paradise Now” and “Saint-Jacques… La Mecque”).

I’m not a Marxist but I think Marx did have some worthwhile observations. I would like to have sympathy for Che, I had Hendrix on my wall as a teenager, but the more I learn about him and the current state of Cuba, the more I don’t like.

But all of a sudden I’m defending US military action. Topsy-Turvy, as Gilbert & Sullivan might say.

55

soru 04.14.06 at 7:36 am

‘So do we infer that the signatories believe 1) that imperialism no longer exists, or is no longer important; ‘

Obviously 1. It is largely a british movement, consequently it actually knows what an empire is, and is aware of the history of the ultimately successful anti-imperial movement. Consequentially, it is rather dismissive of american claims to have any such thing, in rather the way same way a delta Blues singer might feel of a white brit using that musical style.

It’s not that girlfriend problems are not important to those that have them, it’s just that one is a rather bad metaphor for the other.

56

kid tiger 04.14.06 at 7:40 am

dear josh,
a simple test of whether an organisation is a front or not is whether Jane Ashworth and Simon Pottinger are involved in it. This unsavoury pair ran a front organisation in the NUS in the 1980s and have been entering things ever since, as silkworms secrete silk.

57

Hektor Bim 04.14.06 at 8:17 am

Neil brings up an important point. There is more to being on the left than “anti-imperialism”. There’s fighting against religious indoctrination, supporting trade unions and the “working man”, a whole panoply of social welfare programs from the state, etc.

It doesn’t follow that because one supports a certain stance in foreign affairs that one is against universal health care at home.

58

abb1 04.14.06 at 8:19 am

Yes, Neil, but this is not ‘left’, Clinton is not ‘left’. By the European standards these are all sensible “new labour” center-right positions, by the US standards these are sensible liberal center-left positions, but it’s not ‘left’ by any stretch of imagination. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

59

chris y 04.14.06 at 8:22 am

Nobody but a fool would suppose there was nothing to the left but anti-imperialism, but…

Young lady to Arnold Bennett: “Love only means one thing to men like you.”

Bennett: “No, it means twenty things. It doesn’t mean nineteen.”

60

Hektor Bim 04.14.06 at 8:40 am

If you are saying twenty things, then lots of people who claim to be on the left aren’t.

Anyone who supports the Soviet Union or North Korea doesn’t support independent trade unions. Anyone who makes alliances with radical Islamists doesn’t support secularism. Anyone who supports Chinese control of Tibet isn’t anti-imperialist.

There’s a vanishingly small number of people who support all twenty things.

61

chris y 04.14.06 at 8:53 am

There’s a vanishingly small number of people who support all twenty things.

The Eustonistas evidently not being among them.

62

Hektor Bim 04.14.06 at 8:58 am

chris y,

absolutely. But then neither are you or me or anyone else posting on this blog. Is it really a meaningful term if no one really meets the qualifications?

I submit that in this list of 20 things, some things are more equal than others for many people. Anti-imperialism is more important than secularism or trade unions.

63

Simstim 04.14.06 at 9:01 am

Adam Kotsko: “I just honestly don’t see what the need for this manifesto is. At all.”

That’s my view as well. Are they a political party, no. Are they an avant garde cultural movement,* no. Those are the only two instances that I know of in which manifestos have been effective in late capitalist times, and even that’s debatable. It just seems like a bunch of bloggers and their friends in the media doing a bit of self-important political posturing, much like those learned societies that feel they have to have a public position on Israel or the Dollar-Renminbi exchange rate regardless of whether they’ve got anything to do with Near Eastern studies or international finance.

*With the partial exception of Brendan’s comment above that “only in the blogosophere could supporting the government be considered a radical act.”

64

soru 04.14.06 at 9:09 am

After Iraq, how can people still honestly claim western imperialism is a significant threat, something worth being against?

I can perhaps understand not being able to predict events, but isn’t it about time to check those predictions against reality?

In the West, imperialism is about as likely to make a comeback as monarchy. QEII would probably stand more chance of winning a war against the people of Britain than the USA would against the people of Iraq.

65

Pierre T 04.14.06 at 10:44 am

[Nice try, Fergal/Urbina etc and new IP address I see!]

66

brendan 04.14.06 at 10:57 am

We’ve reached a pretty pass when the best the ‘decents’ can come up with is: ‘Well so what if we ARE imperialists. At least we’re crap at it!’.

The argument: ‘How can we be a threat to anyone: look at the balls up we’ve made of Iraq’ is the sort of the thing that gives incoherent illogical gibberish a bad name.

67

Brendan 04.14.06 at 12:13 pm

‘A stronger emphasis here, a lesser one there, but, in all, what’s to disagree?’

Yeah but that’s the point. It’s a bit like the technique of psychics called cold reading . The technique is to produce a series of statements that sound highly specific but are in actual fact so vague that almost everyone can agree to them. I mean ‘We support the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution.’ Who could object to that? ‘Millions live in terrible poverty’. Gosh well that’s terribly awful. Someone really ought to blog about that, because after all, blogging has saved the situation in Iraq, which is why it is now such a shining beacon of democracy. ‘we on the left fight for justice and a decent life for all. ‘ Phew! Well that certainly differentiates them from those political parties that campaign for injustice (and an indecent life for all? Actually that sounds quite appealing).

The problem is the move from vapid generalities (and the Euston Manifesto consists of nothing except vapid generalities, truisms, and doublespeak) to the specific case.

For example: ‘This puts us in opposition …to those on the left who have actively spoken in support of the gangs of jihadist…thugs of the Iraqi “resistance”’ But what about the gangs of jihadist thugs of the Iraqi “government”? Or what about the nascent fascist state of Kurdistan? Or those who ‘observe a tactful silence about the ugly methods’ of the American and British occupation?

The next paragraph has a token and not very heartfelt apology for the existence of American run torture chambers. But then it continues (look, incidentally, at the length of the sentences, and the length of the clauses in the sentences. Abu Ghraib is passed over as quickly as possible before we get much more time devoted to why it doesn’t really matter: a useful indication of the author’s real concerns): ‘a departure from universal principles (for the establishment of which the democratic countries bear the greater part of the historical credit). But we reject the double standards by which too many on the left consider the violations of hu man rights perpetrated by democracies to be more serious than far worse infractions committed by other countries – about which they have little to say.’ After mentioning Universal Standards (a phrase, which, if it means anything means that something is bad regardless of whether it is done by a democracy or not), they then go onto to assume that some human rights violations committed by totalitarian states are worse than those committed by democracies. In some cases no doubt. But (and this is where their argument falls down), this is not NECESSARILY true. What about a situation where the crimes of the democracies are worse than those of the totalitarian states? Or, where there are only crimes of the democracies? The fact is that (whatever the empirical facts) this is a logical possibility: but it isn’t for the decents. For the decents, crimes of democracies are always and in all cases less bad than crimes committed by ‘others’ (and in practice their use of the word ‘democracy’ tends to be quite elastic, meaning, in practice, the United States).

In other words, the ‘decents’ do not in fact uphold Universal Values at all, because they actually hold a ‘double standard’ whereby the crimes of the United States and Britain are ignored (what’s the phrase…oh yes…’have little to say’). In practice the crimes of the US and the UK can always be explained away because they were ‘in response to’ something or other, or ‘in retaliation for’ or ‘there was an inquiry’ or something of that sort.

The decents also omit an incredibly salient point: bad as the horrors of China, the Congo, Iran and so forth are, I, personally, do not actually live in China, or Iran, or the Congo. My tax payers money does not go to stoning women in Iran, or ethnic cleansing in the Congo, or the colonisation of Tibet. It costs me little (in fact, nothing) to condemn these crimes, as I am not responsible. However, I am, literally, responsible for the anninhilation of Fallujah, because I helped to pay for it: and so did Nick Cohen, and so did Norm Geras. Obviously they are proud of what they ought to be ashamed of. But this does not alter the objective fact of their responsibility.

And since I am responsible, I feel I ought to do something about it. I do not feel the same way about human rights violations (horrendous as they sometimes are) in Iran, or the Congo, or whatever.

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Pierre T 04.14.06 at 12:57 pm

[Nice try, Fergal/Urbina etc and new IP address I see!]

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Uncle Kvetch 04.14.06 at 1:00 pm

Thank you for that, Brendan. Very well put.

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soru 04.14.06 at 1:08 pm

‘The fact is that (whatever the empirical facts) ‘

Interesting turn of phrase.

‘It costs me little (in fact, nothing) to condemn these crimes, as I am not responsible. ‘

No doubt that’s a comforting belief, but it doesn’t really have a lot of empirical support.

Look at who reads what, who buys what, who kills who. Track the flow of ideas, of money, of products, of people. See if they really arrange themselves into neat hierarchical bundles, everything passing through an isolator switch marked ‘the US government’.

You really can’t guarantee yourself perfect moral isolation simply by cutting a single switch, simply by opposing everything the US government does.

There is a world wide moral web, a tangled mess of connections. Playing the Kevin Bacon game, it may be that any of us are closer to the person planting the roadside IED than the person being blown up by it, closer to the kidnapper than the hostage, the detainee than the judge.

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abb1 04.14.06 at 1:12 pm

Yes, and what about Chechnya, Bosnia and Kosovo, Pierre? You don’t want to Unite Against Terror with Russians and Serbs; don’t like their little Wars On Terror, huh?

Sounds like you just want to unite US, UK and Israel against the rest of the world, buddy.

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Pierre T 04.14.06 at 1:42 pm

[Nice try, Fergal/Urbina etc and new IP address I see!]

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abb1 04.14.06 at 2:10 pm

Well, Pierre, hopefully I will convert into your more prestigious religion and become your buddy if you can explain your logic here:

On November 16, 1996 an apartment house in Kaspiysk (Dagestan) was blown up. Sixty-nine persons, mainly members of frontier guards’ families, died. Moscow authorities blamed Chechen fighters for this action and other actions listed below. Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov did not support any of these actions.

On April 23, 1997 a bomb was detonated in the Russian railway station of Armavir. Three persons died.

On May 28, 1997, there was an explosion in the Russian railway station of Pyatigorsk, killing two persons.

In December, 1997 the Chechen warlord (emir) Hattab attacked the Russian garrison of Buynaksk (Dagestan). The President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov condemned this action, but many comentators accused him of not taking action to prevent the incursion; Russian authorities blamed Chechen govenment for all the hostilities taking place at that time.

On March 19, 1999, an explosion in the Central market of Vladikavkaz (Ossetia), killed 64 persons.

The incursion by Chechen armed groups into Dagestan and apartment bombings on September 1999 (attributed by the Russian government to Chechens) were used to justify the second invasion of the Russian army into Chechnya. Bombs determined to be hexogen based were set off at apartment blocks at Buynaksk in Dagestan (on September 4, killing 62 people, mostly members of families of frontier guards), Moscow, and Volgodonsk (on September 16, killing 18) in Southern Russia. The Russian government immediately blamed Chechen terrorists. Later two Islamists allegedly participating in these acts, were convicted of terrorism in a closed trial in Moscow.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechnya

So, then the Russian army went in, Chechens resisted, Chechen capital was bombed into the stone age, guerrilla war is still ongoing, Chechen terrorists are still blowing up buildings and taking hostages.

So, apparently the Russians are your bad guys, yet you don’t see any problem with the Iraq war, not to mention the Afghan war before that.

This seems rather illogical, unless you want to admit to some kind of a double-standard and try to explain it.

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Hektor Bim 04.14.06 at 2:37 pm

Brendan,

By international treaty, the governments of the world are obliged to intervene to prevent acts of genocide. That means that the US and Europeans are obliged to do something about Darfur, especially because Powell labeled it as genocide. That means you personally are responsible for what goes on in Darfur. If you consider what is going on in Chechnya genocide (where the population has suffered at least 10% casualties) this also applies.

It isn’t so simple to wash your hands of the rest of the world.

I also challenge your basic point. It does cost us something to condemn the actions of foreign governments. This might imperil whatever relationship we might have with them. In fact, it is common for governments to repress the domestic opponents of governments it wishes to do business with. Consider South Korea, which is currently repressing (through a variety of means) enemies of North Korea as part of its sunshine policy.

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Pierre T 04.14.06 at 2:51 pm

[Nice try, Fergal/Urbina etc and new IP address I see!]

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abb1 04.14.06 at 3:07 pm

I still don’t get your point: what issues, contexts and urgencies between Darfur and Chechnya?

But OK, fair enough, I guess.

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Brendan 04.14.06 at 3:09 pm

‘By international treaty, the governments of the world are obliged to intervene to prevent acts of genocide’.

This is actually false, and blatantly false, although it seems to be quite commonly believed by the decents, who specialise in believing ‘ten impossible things before breakfast’. In actual fact, countries which have signed up to the UN convention on genocide are yada yada yada. In actual fact it’s not even that simple because some evil totalitarian states only signed up once it had been established that they themselves could never be called to the ICJ unless they gave their consent. Evil totalitarian states like Vietnam, Yemen, Singapore and….er….the United States.

Moreover even then it’s not that simple. The key fact about the convention is to establish legal norms for setting up courts to try people who committed and planned genocide, not to create excuses for the United States to invade other countries.

Moreover, it has to be agreed upon by the UN that genocide has actually taken place (or is taking place) for the convention to ‘kick in’: something which has yet to happen in the Sudan.

This is hardly to provide a reason for the UN (NOT ‘the West’ or ‘us’ or ‘the US’)not to intervene and do something about genocide. But it does mean that outside the Tolkienish world of the ‘decents’ (in which evil doers have dark swarthy skin, beards, and mutter dark threats under their breath before escaping from our clutches with one might bound laughing ‘Mwah ha ha ha ha! You thought you had defeated me but you will be hearing from me again Luke Skywalker, I mean Tony Blair!’) life is complicated, international law is tedious, slow, and needs international agreement to function, and life can be complicated with shades of grey on both sides.

Luckily, however, outside the complexities of the Sudan, there is another situation where life really is a lot simpler and where we can achieve ‘good’ relatively easily. It is where we are causing the evil. And in that situation all we have to do is……stop.

The fact is (and all you cynical readers of CT might find this slightly ironic) that the Decents do not, in actual fact, believe in Universal Moral Standards. In reality, they are cultural relativists. It’s just that their cultural relativism works the other way round. The believe (and rightly so) that when Iran and China and Syria commit human rights violations, these are objectively bad or evil. But when it comes to similar (or in some cases identical) crimes by the US or the UK or the ‘west’ then some excuse must be found, the events must be contextualised, we must ‘understand’ the ‘difficult situation’ ‘our boys’ find themselves in….and what is it? Oh yes. ‘ we (must) reject the double standards by which too many on the left consider the violations of human rights perpetrated by ‘them’ to be more serious than far worse infractions committed by ‘us’ – about which they have little to say.’

This is cultural relativism in its purest form.

One last point. Despite all the crap about the Euston Manifesto, and ‘bloggers’ and the ‘left’ and all that: the Euston Manifesto promotes one political ideology and one only. The Euston Manifesto promotes the foreign policy of New Labour: no more no less. It is a Blairite document. Lenin’s Tomb has shortened the Manifesto for comic effect, but actually you can shorten it further: shortened version of the EM: ‘Vote Labour’. And in fact if you look at the political ideology of the ‘decents’ it has not, at any point, deviated from the foreign policy of new Labour. In other words, the anti-establishment rebels of the ‘decents’ have devoted huge amounts of time to rewriting a political document which already exists. It is called the Labour party manifesto.

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Louis Proyect 04.14.06 at 3:27 pm

Bim: “By international treaty, the governments of the world are obliged to intervene to prevent acts of genocide. That means that the US and Europeans are obliged to do something about Darfur, especially because Powell labeled it as genocide.”

In all the thousands of references liberals have made to the Sudan on the Internet (especially those anxious to see a war on 3 fronts–Iraq, Iran and Sudan), there is a dearth of historical context. Sudan, like so many other countries that “benefited” from the sort of American or British colonial administration hailed by Christopher Hitchens or Niall Ferguson, is a classic example of divide and rule.


After finally taking control over the Sudan, the British created a civil service, railways, taxation, police and all the other accoutrements of colonial rule. Except for occasional nationalist outbursts, the British kept order in the country in classic “white man’s burden” fashion. They made sure to utilize all the time-tested methods for keeping their subjects in line, including divide and conquer.

They sought to deepen racial divisions that had existed in the past. Understanding that the southern tribes felt alienated from the north for obvious historical reasons, the British made sure to impose political-geographical obstacles that would deepen the divide. Muslim northern Sudanese were banned from the south by law. While excusing the British as being protective of the victimized southerners, the eminent scholar P.M. Holt is forced to admit:

“The work the British administrators in opening up and pacifying the Southern Sudan, their devotion to duty at the cost of health and life, cannot be too highly praised. Yet there was an insidious danger in their position. Their isolation, the great burden of their individual responsibilities, and their immunity from criticism by the people they ruled, tended to confirm the idea that the system of administration they represented was the only possible system, and must endure indefinitely. The personal rule of the British administrators was in its origin beneficent; the mistake was that it went on too long.” (A Modern History of the Sudan, p. 149)

Too long, indeed.

The other tried-and-tested method involved sending in Christian missionaries to the southern Sudan. Although “proselytization had, from the outset, been forbidden in the Muslim north,” the “pagan south, on the other hand, was opened to the missionaries.” Holt describes a situation that not only is too familiar for students of colonial rule, but one that anticipates Sudan’s current-day problems:

“The missionaries were entrusted with the development of education in the south. This made possible the early, if limited, organization of schools at a time when the government’s meagre resources were needed for the north. As time went on, however, the defects of missionary education began to appear. The sectarian differences of Europe and America were incongruously transported to the marshes and forests of central Africa. The language of instruction at the higher levels was English; Arabic, except in a debased pidgin form, was unknown. A new barrier of language and religion seemed to have been added to those already existing between north and south. The missionaries, for their part, had reason to fear that the admission of northern Muslims into the region would endanger the permanence of their work.”

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/fascism_and_war/mahdism.htm

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Hektor Bim 04.14.06 at 4:04 pm

All the signatories of the Genocide convention are required to prevent and punish acts of genocide – and that includes the US and the UK. It is not required for their to be a judgement of the UN Security Council that genocide be occurring – all nations are required to prevent and punish these acts regardless. You are right that many countries that are signatories refuse to accept this juridiction over themselves, but they are still obligated under treaty to act. That is precisely why nations are reluctant to label mass killings as genocides, because the parameters of the treaty come into effect. In the case of Darfur, the US is already in breach, because it believes these crimes are genocide and yet has done nothing about them. Thus US taxpayers are partly responsible for this lack of action.

Just because no country currently takes its responsibilities seriously does not mean that those responsibilities do not exist.

This issue has very little to do with the Iraq war, which is more conclusively covered under the rules against aggressive war, which are also binding and that the US is almost definitely in violation of.

Louis Proyect,

Why is Arab imperialism visited upon non-Arab peoples forced into a state with Arabs through the idiocy of British imperialists fine and dandy? Why is Muslim prosyletization somehow more pure than Christian prosyletization?

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Phill 04.14.06 at 4:16 pm

These guys are clearly clueless putting out a manifesto in PDF format rather than HTML. Old School, no wonder they can’t get much attention in the press.

I don’t quite see the point being made here. There is advocacy for two state and one state solutions on both sides. The only difference between Hammas and Likud is the nature of the one state solution being sought.

In the past the mainstream left backed a two state solution, then the PLO was persuaded to accept the two state solution in return for Arafat being allowed to rule one of the states.

At this point there is no point in pursuing the two state solution, neither side is willing to honor such an agreement. Israel will never allow a sovereign Palestinian state, nor will it withdraw from the bulk of the settlements. Hammas has no intention of settling for half a country when time and demographics will give them the whole lot.

At some point Hammas will give up the terror tactics, start demanding one person one vote, a universal franchise and the end of all institutionalized discrimination in favor of any group, whether Palestinian or Jew. That is the day that Sharon genuinely feared.

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Louis Proyect 04.14.06 at 6:01 pm

Hektor Bim:
“Why is Arab imperialism visited upon non-Arab peoples forced into a state with Arabs through the idiocy of British imperialists fine and dandy? Why is Muslim prosyletization somehow more pure than Christian prosyletization?”

I am totally opposed to Arab domination of southern Sudan. However, the point I was making is that it is pure folly to look to US and European imperialism to remedy the situation since they were the ones who cobbled together the Sudanese state on the basis of divide-and-conquer.

This of course applies to Iraq as well, a state whose bloody civil war is the direct result of British calculation after WWI and Lawrence of Arabia in particular.

Asking the American military, which is really the continuator of the British Empire, to intervene on behalf of human rights in a place like Sudan or Iraq is like asking Rupert Murdoch to chair a governmental commission on the quality of network television.

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abb1 04.14.06 at 6:30 pm

I don’t know about the “mainstream left”, but it’s my strong impression that the left has always been and still is in favor of one bi-national state in Palestine.

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Tom 04.15.06 at 3:52 am

I don’t understand why editing a Wikipedia article is inconsistent with support for open source and freedom of ideas. I thought Wikipedia, and the possibility of editing its pages, was all about open source and freedom of ideas – and editing a page implies support for that, I’d have thought.

[not if you deliberately insert misleading information or abuse CB]

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soru 04.15.06 at 7:47 am

Asking the American military, which is really the continuator of the British Empire

If you start from a nonsense premise like that, everything else you ever think or do is going to be right only by coincidence.

Is that kind of ultra-essentialist thinking really any different from reciting the crimes of some old-school Muslim conqueror like Tamurlane and saying ‘can you trust Iran?’

The point is certainly not the opposite, that no americans or muslims commit crimes. It is simply that some vague cultural ties are simply not a useful basis for predicting military, economic and political outcomes.

In other words, it is not merely wrong, it is nonsense, something with no connection to the truth at all.

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Kevin Donoghue 04.15.06 at 8:19 am

A snarky comment of Abiola Lapite’s referring to “Warped Planks” got me wondering about just where Chris Bertram and his colleagues differ from the decent left. A clue is provided by another recent pronouncement, this one the work of the American Society of International Law, which resolved that:

1. Resort to armed force is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and other international law (jus ad bellum).

2. Conduct of armed conflict and occupation is governed by the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and other international law (jus in bello).

3. Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any person in the custody or control of a state are prohibited by international law from which no derogations are permitted.

4. Prolonged, secret, incommunicado detention of any person in the custody or control of a state is prohibited by international law.

5. Standards of international law regarding treatment of persons extend to all branches of national governments, to their agents, and to all combatant forces.

6. In some circumstances, commanders (both military and civilian) are personally responsible under international law for the acts of their subordinates.

7. All states should maintain security and liberty in a manner consistent with their international law obligations.

Probably CB would sign up to that without hesitation, while the decent left would certainly have reservations. It all comes down to differing tastes in apple pie.

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Ginger Yellow 04.15.06 at 8:42 am

Interesting that Walzer should join up with the rest of them. I distinctly remember him saying before the war that while a just war case could be prosecuted against Saddam under certain circumstances, the war the Bush administration wanted to fight wasn’t one.

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Louis Proyect 04.15.06 at 8:43 am

Soru: “Is that kind of ultra-essentialist thinking really any different from reciting the crimes of some old-school Muslim conqueror like Tamurlane and saying ‘can you trust Iran?’”

Well, if Iran had a historical record like this, I’d certainly say you couldn’t trust Iran:

http://www.zmag.org/crisescurevts/interventions.htm

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luc 04.15.06 at 10:26 am

AFAIK Walzer always sympathised with the decents (including Engage).

What is funny is him signing up with a statement dismissing the discussion whether war against Iraq was justified as “picking through the rubble”.

“We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been [yada bla di da] — rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.”

Walzer as the binman of the decents.

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guthrie 04.15.06 at 5:14 pm

Personally, I think this “Manifesto” just goes to show how out of touch these intellectuals are with us plebs working away keeping the world going round. I’d like to get them to do a few weeks work at the places I have done over the past few years, and see what they say then.

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rollo 04.16.06 at 2:18 am

Brendan-

“…since I am responsible, I feel I ought to do something about it”

This is much more than semantic. The anal timidity that cites law as final arbiter seeks its moral justification in the holes between the laws.
Since you are responsible, you have to do something about it.
Even when you’re not responsible, you should.
The degrees of moral compunction aren’t a matter of regulation, they’re a matter of conscience.

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abb1 04.16.06 at 6:13 am

Right, a matter of conscience; individual conscience. It’s fine with me if Hektor and others feel they must do something about, say, Tibet or Chechnya or Darfur. As far as I’m concerned, Hektor as an individual is perfectly entitled to join the armed resistance in Chechnya or stage a protest in front of the Russian Duma or in front of the Russian embassy in Washington for that matter.

There is a whole range of actions the ‘decents’ could attempt as individuals to satisfy their conscience without becoming cheerleaders for the worst kind of militarism and imperialism.

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