by Chris Bertram on September 14, 2006

Regular readers will know of the Euston Manifesto, a British-based initiative by various self-described leftists some of whom were big supporters of the Iraq war and all of whom share an obsession with the idea that “Enlightenment values” are under threat from a nefarious coalition of Islamists, postmodernists and Chomskyites. Now they have “a US chapter”: , launched by people around the journal Telos. The list of initial signatories and supporters is interesting, but contains figures not usually thought of as having much to do with the left as traditionally construed. They include Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Walter Laqueur, Martin Peretz and Ronald Radosh. Laqueur has become the victim of a Mark Steyn-like obsession with demography and recently gave a positive review of Michael Gove’s execrable Celsius 7/7 in the the TLS, Peretz – a member of the pro-war “Democratic Leadership Council” – has just joined the advisory board of Lewis Libby’s defense fund, and Radosh is a regular writer for David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.

update: a link to Tony Judt’s essay “The Strange Death of Liberal America”: from the latest LRB seems right (via “Marc Mulholland”: ).



astrongmaybe 09.14.06 at 9:03 am

Jeffrey Herf began on the Frankfurt School left – he was involved with New German Critique in the late 1970s, but already in Reactionary Modernism (1985?), he was distancing himself from that position. As a former admirer of Adorno, he might, but probably doesn’t any more, appreciate the irony of turning ‘Enlightenment’ into a slogan.

What is depressing about this is its glib use of ‘totalitarianism’. (It wiggles a bit in the second paragraph, but gets back on the decentist track after that.) Halfwit columnists throwing this term about is one thing, but there are some serious intellectual historians, political scientists, etc. on the list who ought to know better.


roger 09.14.06 at 10:03 am

Wow. What happened to Telos? I didn’t know that journal was in the decent orbit. That is a pretty sad telos for all those New Lefties making the long march through the universities to end up, in their retirement years, rubbing shoulders with Marty Peretz and singing hosannahs to Harry Truman. There was a good deal of con – as in confidence man — in your average Telos-ite at the best of times, but I never thought they would end up happily allied with Nixon’s heirs.


Jon Pike 09.14.06 at 10:19 am

1. The coupling “Enlightenment Values” does not appear in the Euston Manifesto. This seems a bit odd if those of us who signed it are obsessed with them. Of course, Chris is using it as shorthand for a lot more, but that’s his choice, not the choice of the authors of the Manifesto. Chris’s sketch of our obsessions is entertaining but not one that this signer (who opposed the Iraq war) recognises.

2. It’s true that some of the signatories are not form the left as traditionally construed. Given the nature of the EM project, it would have failed, had all the names come from the left as traditionally construed. But, of course, the EM stands or falls indepently from the other positions, writings, and so on, of anyone who endorses it. So a series of quick ad hominems doesn’t really cut much ice.

3. Anyway, wasn’t all this a bit of flim flam that would die away, wasn’t worthy of serious comment, ridiculously named, badly written, and so on? Doesn’t the endorsement of this by some ‘interesting names’ suggest a nudge towards self-reflection on that original dismissal?


Barry Freed 09.14.06 at 10:24 am

Telos needs to give Peretz a blog. That is all.


Chris Bertram 09.14.06 at 10:41 am

Jon, your point 1. seems a little pedantic when the Manifesto reads “we reaffirm the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century ….” and when explicit reference to the Enlightenment has been made ad nauseam on the various leading blogs associated with the EM.


Chris Bertram 09.14.06 at 10:47 am

Matt Yglesias has “corrected”: my claim that Peretz is a member of the DLC. I got this factoid from the “Leiter blog”: . Naturally I’m happy to apologize for any distress this damaging association may have caused to Mr Peretz, his family, his pets, etc.


Barry 09.14.06 at 11:13 am

More like damages that that claim might have done to the DLC, which, as bad as it is, still doesn’t deserve association with that loon.


Steven Poole 09.14.06 at 11:29 am

You’re right, Gove’s book is wretched, but it seems to be what some people want to hear.


abb1 09.14.06 at 11:37 am

Thanks for the LRB link, Chris. He describes it well, but he doesn’t explain. I wish someone would explain.


Uncle Kvetch 09.14.06 at 12:04 pm

Seconding abb1: the Tony Judt essay is excellent.


abb1 09.14.06 at 12:07 pm

…or perhaps Mr. Judt is wrong and there’s no ‘strange death of liberal America’, because American liberals have always been like that, or at least for quite a while. Here:

Consider political commentator Michael Kinsley, who represents “the left” in mainstream commentary and television debate. When the State Department publicly confirmed U.S. support for terrorist attacks on agricultural cooperatives in Nicaragua, Kinsley wrote that we should not be too quick to condemn this official policy. Such international terrorist operations doubtless cause “vast civilian suffering,” he conceded. But if they succeed “to undermine morale and confidence in the government,” then they may be “perfectly legitimate.” The policy is “sensible” if “cost-benefit analysis” shows that “the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in” yields “democracy,” in the conventional sense already discussed.

Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy. 1991.


Glenn 09.14.06 at 12:09 pm

Moral imperative question: If I discover that my advisor at the European university I am visting is an avowed Eustonite(and uses the word “Cretinoleft” in one of his writings on the subject), what manner of vegetable am I morally obligated to throw at him?


Jon Pike 09.14.06 at 12:17 pm

Chris, I don’t think it is pedantic. First, the obvious criticisms that can be directed at talk of “Enlightenment values” – plurality of Enlightenments, complexity of their supposed values, partial and tensioned nature of all of that – can’t be directed as easily at the phrase you cite from the EM. Second, because you revert to talk of the individual blogs around the EM, rather than the manifesto itself, which was a collective effort, you seem to shift the target again to the idea of an EM ‘current’ rather than the words on the page. But the target is now so loose that you can say anything you like about ‘an obsession that we all share’ redefining the constitutency as you go along. It’s a bit glib.

I’d expect you to have much more to say about something that seems to have had some resonance with some serious people. Hence my third point, which I hope you don’t dismiss as pedantry. Overall the reaction here seems a bit ad hominem, and a bit too quick. I guess I agree – for the first time ever – with Abb1. There’s a Transatlantic political/intellectual phenomenon here. What’s your explanation? And what’s your error theory about the EM explanation (viz, that some chunks of the left have pretty clearly lost their bearings)


Marc Mulholland 09.14.06 at 12:38 pm

Jon Pike,

Whatever Euston has or has not to say about the Enlightenment, there are two points of substance amongst the homilies on democracy:

(1) The Manifesto says that it is wrong to pick through the rubble of Iraq War debates. This is the get-out-of-jail-free card that allow pro-war leftists their Moscow Trials moment, in which the shining ideal definitively buries the mundane dead and crippled. I admire the tactical skill of those Manifesto core organisers in managing to gather around them apologists for their refusal to dicuss seriously the greatest foreign policy disaster of the century so far.

(2) The Manifesto calls for international law to be transformed in a manner that weakens the concept of war as legitimate only as a last resort, the fundamental pillar of the post-war order. What this transformation might entail is – breathtakingly – not explained. Presumably because room had to made for attacks on Amnesty International.

The Manifesto supports have promised explanations on point (2), but none have been forthcoming. This would seem more important than interrogating a blog post.


nick s 09.14.06 at 1:10 pm

what manner of vegetable am I morally obligated to throw at him?

An Islamofascist vegetable, of course.


nick s 09.14.06 at 1:12 pm

(Or Christopher Hitchens after the pubs close.)


theo 09.14.06 at 1:22 pm

American liberals have always been like that, or at least for quite a while….consider Michael Kinsley, who represents “the left” in mainstream commentary and television debate.

Kinsley may mistakenly have had a reputation as a liberal in 1991; I don’t really know, but I doubt it. Recently as editor of Slate, Kinsley represented (1) contrarianism (I believe he hired Hitchens) and (2) center-left third-wayism. He doesn’t seem to have drifted much in ideology, and Chomsky is far from an impartial source.


Ginger Yellow 09.14.06 at 1:26 pm

” What this transformation might entail is – breathtakingly – not explained.”

While the US version is less annoying (or rather less designed to annoy), it shares this bizarre trait. Both of them focus on how we must set aside our differences, see the wood for the trees and unite to achieve our common aim, and then don’t say what that aim is. In the US version, having spent paragraph after paragraph stressing that liberals and conservatives alike must grab the bull of Islamic extremism by the horns and confront it head on, together, when it comes to Iraq the authors just state that they have different opinions on what to do and leave it at that. What a great way to set an example.


koshem 09.14.06 at 1:38 pm

I am sorry to see valuing opinions through a filter specialized for the person who expresses them. We should care what is said and not who said it.

Neither the European/Old American academic left nor the “left” in the post are true left. Neither cares to spend time on social issues such as healthcare, pension funds, employment, wages and underclass.

Iraq or the beloved Palestinians are really secondary issues for Cesar Chaves Left, but are centeral for the poster and most of the “left.” For me, it’s a shame.


eweininger 09.14.06 at 1:39 pm

Seconding abb1: the Tony Judt essay is excellent.

The problem with Judt’s essay is that it forgets entirely about the other half of American liberalism–those who never got on-board with the whole “clash of civilizations” business. Their failure requires explication and explanation as much as anyone else’s. It might simply be that the Friedman/New Republic gang co-opted the best and the brightest. Or it might be something else entirely.


Backword Dave 09.14.06 at 2:12 pm

Suggestion from Ginger Yellow’s precis of the EM: why not add a clause which says “grab the bull of Islamic extremism by the horns and throw it down the well, so the people can be free”? This would surely unite everyone.


Walt 09.14.06 at 3:04 pm

I would support throwing the bull of Islamic extremism down a well. We’ve achieved comity!


Uncle Kvetch 09.14.06 at 3:11 pm

The problem with Judt’s essay is that it forgets entirely about the other half of American liberalism—those who never got on-board with the whole “clash of civilizations” business. Their failure requires explication and explanation as much as anyone else’s.

Eweininger, I think you make a valid point there. But still, I’m more inclined to give Judt credit for his very skillful evisceration of the “decents” than take him to task for neglecting the “indecents”–especially given the fact that the latter are almost entirely absent from “serious” / respectable” / “mainstream” venues of political discourse in the US. I’m not sure it’s fair to charge the antiwar left with “failure” when they’re being systematically excluded from the arena.


abb1 09.14.06 at 3:26 pm

Theo, Kinsley used to be exactly the guy who represents “the left” in mainstream commentary and television debate – crossfire on CNN, remember?

And if you read the Deterring Democracy link I posted, there’s something there about TNR (long considered the beacon of American liberalism), the Boston Globe and other usual suspects – establishment liberals.

I think maybe the problem is that they’re rich and powerful people, they’re an organic part of the establishment – so it’s only natural that they provide what Judt calls ideological and moral cover for war and war crimes. Just like any group of high priests in any society would do.


P O'Neill 09.14.06 at 4:27 pm

Michael Ledeen, or pending further knowledge about how exactly they verify these signatures, someone claiming to be him, has now signed it.


neil morrison 09.14.06 at 4:34 pm

I wasn’t that impressed with Tony Judt’s essay. The very first sentence is a pretty wild generalisation –

“Why have American liberals acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy?”

The paragraphs about liberals and Israel were incomprehensible. Firstly saying –

“Not every liberal cheerleader for the Global War against Islamo-fascism, or against Terror, or against Global Jihad, is an unreconstructed supporter of Likud”

but then concluding that their views –

“..makes more sense when one recalls their backing for Israel: a country which for fifty years has rested its entire national strategy on preventive wars, disproportionate retaliation, and efforts to redesign the map of the whole Middle East.”

So general support for Israel at anytime in its history is actually much worse than uncritical support for the Lukid party. Doesn’t make much sense to me. (And this characterisation of Israeli actions of the past 50 years is rather one-eyed).

But the whole essay is just “I disagree with many liberals who are not as critical of Bush as me” dressed up in some overblown theorising.


Jon Pike 09.14.06 at 6:16 pm

Marc, I regret the line about ‘picking through the rubble’ since it seems to close off quite reasonable debate. (So, by the way, do most of the drafters, as far as I know) Certainly I think it was a mistake. But I don’t think the EM hangs on it.
On the war: there were obviously trashy arguments for it. But there were and are plenty of trashy, chauvinist, isolationist, and illiberal apologies for arguments against it. I’m opposed to unnecessary harm, and to trashy arguments (and to the war). That’s why I marched against the war and signed the manifesto.

I’m alway concerned about ‘last resort’ arguments for reasons drawn from Michael Walzer about the non-temporal nature of these sorts of considerations. Roughly – is terrorism a last resort? after what, exactly, then what, again? Is war a last resort, after, what, then what again? These questions are, in important respects, not temporal.

Whether you take drafting infelicities as a symptom of irredemably degenerate politics, or as the product of people struggling to get things right, to articulate important concerns, to raise difficulties, and worries, about the left, is up to you.

As an addendum: two things, for Chris, that we are against.

One: in our union. The moves to boycott Israeli universities. The left I oppose captured the AUT for six weeks – our union – that’s not insignificant. Chris, of course, opposed this.(However, he only had the oportunity to oppose because of my action. I realise that I sound some like some idiotic ‘don’t just talk, do something’ person. However: we can still talk to colleagues at HUJ and TAU. I’m pleased about that.)

Two: in our profession, where Chris and I both oppose the self proclaimed ‘most important political philosopher of our times’ – Ted Honderich – as a charlatan apologist for terror.

There is surely something there, which we try to articulate in the EM – do we overstate it? Perhaps. Do you lot understate it? Do you lot glibly dismiss it with a few quick ad hominems and some dodgy associations? Perhaps. So why not take on a target that is a bit more meaty, like Democratiya?

So I’m still looking for a proper explanation, critique, and discussion, beyond knowing that you want to throw vegetables. Since the EM is obviously not a pro-war manifesto, I don’t understand the venom.

All the best


djw 09.14.06 at 8:06 pm

Jon Pike:

On the war: there were obviously trashy arguments for it. But there were and are plenty of trashy, chauvinist, isolationist, and illiberal apologies for arguments against it. I’m opposed to unnecessary harm, and to trashy arguments (and to the war). That’s why I marched against the war and signed the manifesto.

It’s to your credit, I suppose, that you opposed the war. But I don’t really follow the point you’re trying to make here. In a free society, people are going to say a lot of things, and many of them are going to be stupid. THat there were mendacious, illogical, illiberal, and all around bad arguments against the war is neither here nor there: there are terrible, evil arguments against any conceivable policy path, no matter how brilliant or misguided that policy may be. Furthermore, discourse at this level is decidedly unhelpful; unless we’re talking about which arguments are bad and illiberal and which are correct, and which are kinda both and we need to sort them out and so on, this discussion is of very little value except to marginalize a certain set of war opponents because of a distaste for their worldview, rather than the quality of their arguments.

I think Matthew Yglesias effectively summed up why I, and many others, can’t take Euston seriously:

The doctrine spelled out explicitly — that fundamentalist Islam provides a poor basis for governance, that terrorist attacks are immoral, that it would be better if Iran didn’t build a nuclear bomb, that anti-semitism is bad, and that an Iranian nuclear first strike against Israel would be a very bad thing indeed — is almost frightening in its banality. The inference that the reader is plainly intended to draw from the statement — that those of us who’ve been agitating against those who are agitating to start a war with Iran are anti-semites, apologists for terrorism, and perhaps eager to see the population of Israel wiped out in an unprovoked nuclear first strike — is offensive in the extreme.

Your naivete at the rhetorical implications of this document is a bit hard to swallow.


djw 09.14.06 at 8:09 pm

Furthermore, it’s a rather obvious point but an important one: how any person purporting to be a philosophical liberal with any sort of commitment to human rights could sign onto a document prattling on about glory days of Harry Truman’s foreign policy without at least one pretty big caveat strains credibility.


tom hurka 09.14.06 at 9:25 pm

Like Neil Morrison I found the Tony Judt article pretty feeble. The ratio of rhetoric to argument is, what, 10 to 1?

And Chris: The US document says in its second sentence that the signatories aren’t all on the left. So why is it noteworthy that the signatories aren’t all on the left?


eweininger 09.14.06 at 9:28 pm

I’m not sure it’s fair to charge the antiwar left with “failure” when they’re being systematically excluded from the arena.

Uncle K–that’s really the question: why has the Thomas “Let 1,000 democratic flowers bloom” Friedman mumbo jumbo version of US liberalism drowned out the anti-war position?

Is it simply that the msm sidelined the latter (which is what I think you’re suggesting)? Or is it that there was a real failure on the part of “intellectuals”, per the orientation of Judt’s piece, to articulate a coherent, compelling anti-war position in the period leading up to and shortly after the start of the war?

I tend towards the second view. At risk of a pretty simplistic argument, I think that it took a very long time for said intellectuals to come to grips with two recent events: Bosnia and Rwanda. And the result was a discursive vacuum into which all manner of madness rushed.

The fact that such a position has now been articulated (e.g. Yglesias and other routinely discussed on this site), that it has been vindicated by events, and that it appears to be relatively “in synch” with public opinion in the US–none of this changes the fact that it took a very long time (too long) to cohere. Today, it seems to very easy to say something, like, oh, “if we really are engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations,’ isn’t this exactly the wrong time to get involved in humanitarian interventions?” But back then, it wasn’t so easy.

I guess. Or, is my chronology off?


djw 09.14.06 at 10:07 pm

I dunno, I think it’s a bit of the former, too. I’m nobody, so it’s not surprising noone listened to me, but to my 2003 mind, the first and most important set of reasons to not do fight this war were bland, cautious, and small-c conservative. It’s an utterly unsexy set of logic not likely to get much play from the mainstream media because it’s boring stuff, and not at all the script they’ve got in mind from the wacky left fringe.


koshem 09.14.06 at 10:28 pm

Who would have known? From the post and the reactions it turns out that Liberals are full of hate for people, religions, and nations. And I always thought that that political group is call the Republicans.


engels 09.14.06 at 10:40 pm

So the Euston Manifesto Group now has two chapters. Might I suggest that these be named the Charing Cross branch and the Bank branch?


David Sucher 09.14.06 at 10:54 pm

This post purports to be about a manifesto “by various self-described leftists,” many of whom the author disdains as even liberal.

But the Manifesto on its face disclaims Leftist exclusivity.

Seems to me game to Tom Hurka.


Chris Bertram 09.15.06 at 2:01 am

Tom Hurka:

The US document says in its second sentence that the signatories aren’t all on the left. So why is it noteworthy that the signatories aren’t all on the left?

Well Tom, when I wrote that the list of signatories is “interesting”, and that it “contains figures not usually thought of as having much to do with the left as traditionally construed,” the effect I was trying to achieve was ironic understatement. The fact is that many of the Brits are keen on proclaiming their leftist credentials, I think it pretty noteworthy that they’re now in bed with characters like Radosh and Ledeen.

Jon Pike:

Chris, of course, opposed this. However, he only had the oportunity to oppose because of my action.

Jon, your efforts on the boycott were laudable, but this doesn’t strike me as true. I drafted a motion to my association with colleagues, I spoke at the meeting, and we passed the motion after debate. I didn’t need you to do that.

Since the EM is obviously not a pro-war manifesto, I don’t understand the venom.

Well you should re-read and think about Marc Mulholland’s articulate reply to you above then.


abb1 09.15.06 at 2:29 am

10 to 1 rhetoric? Sure, but there’s no denying that a fair number of previously seemingly rational US intelligenzia bought into irrational black-and-white crash-of-civilizations fight-em-to-the-death apocalyptic worldview reminiscent of the worst days of anti-communist hysteria.

And whether they’re on the left or center or even center-right is not as noteworthy as this shift from rational to irrational. If it was just Hitchens and a few others, it could’ve been explained by a series of micro-strokes or something, but it’s much larger than that, it’s a phenomenon. It would be interesting to read some analysis.


Z 09.15.06 at 2:48 am

this shift from rational to irrational […] It would be interesting to read some analysis.
I would guess this drift is not alien to the rise of inequalities. A detailed explanatory mechanism would be too long for a comment but first elements of understanding can surely be found in the “look up” rather than “look down” effect described in this series of paper. I also thought America, Right or Wrong was an interesting read.


Oliver Kamm 09.15.06 at 3:58 am

The points made by Tom Hurka and David Sucher are right, but even so Martin Peretz has much to do with the Left “as it is traditionally understood”. Under the auspices of the Emergency Public Integration Committee, which he had established, Peretz organised some of the first mass protests on the civil rights issue. He was also the leading figure in the conferences for a New Politics, which aimed to co-ordinate peace and civil rights activism in the Democratic Party, and sought unsuccessfully to persuade Martin Luther King and Benjamin Spock to run on a third-party ticket in the ’68 presidential election. Peretz’s views on the Middle East and on various New Democrat issues are unlikely to be congenial to the authors and readers of this blog, but it is the observation of many of us who have signed the Euston Manifesto that such positions have an entirely legitimate claim to be regarded as progressive, liberal or left-wing.

(Much the same, incidentally, could be said of Ronald Radosh, who was a leftist in good standing till he examined the evidence in the Rosenberg case and found that Julius really had been the head of an atomic espionage ring – a conclusion reinforced by the release of the Venona decrypts in the 1990s.)


bad Jim 09.15.06 at 4:02 am

Judt’s right that too many self-proclaimed liberals of the boomer generation opted for the September 11 flavor of political correctness and aligned themselves with the party of fear.

And yet the “decent” “left” considers the rest of us (prematurely anti-war, perhaps) insufficiently serious because we knew better than to swallow the lies they were peddling a few years ago.

Do they imagine that their credibility is undiminished? That we have forgotten the obvious lies they enthusiastically endorsed? How can we credit them with expertise now, with the daily death toll reminding us of their arrogance, their ignorance and their incompetence?

We’ve always have hawks among us, priding themselves on their masculine posturing. We ought to stop taking them seriously.


Marc Mulholland 09.15.06 at 4:13 am

Dear Jon Pike,

I agree that the Euston drafters realised the error they made in demanding that we cease ‘picking through the rubble’ of the Iraq war. The problem is, it lets the cat out of the bag in a particularly vulgar fashion. But they have been as good as their word. Resolutely avoiding the issue of Iraq, or even seriously attempting to compute it’s cost in terms of body-bags nevermind a more complete moral calculus, has been the absolutely consistent line of the pro-war decent left. This strikes me as a very great failing. My regret is that people like yourself are used as cover by those pro-war liberals hawks, who don’t count the dead with god on their side.




Chris Bertram 09.15.06 at 4:22 am

Oliver, since you have yourself contributed to Horowitz’s FrontPageMag, it is unsurprising that you don’t find yourself uncomfortable in the company of Radosh, Peretz, and so on. Since you also think of yourself as “progressive” and “left-wing” it is also unsurprising that you don’t think it odd that self-described progressives and leftists end up consorting with them. Many of us think, however, that your insistence on thinking of yourself as being on the left is rather weird.


Jon Pike 09.15.06 at 4:30 am

Why was there a meeting at Bristol? Or rather, why was there a point in having a meeting at Bristol, Warwick, Oxford, Open, and the twenty or so other institutions that debated the matter in the run up to the Special Council last year? Well, because it was the run up to the Special Council. There was a mechanism in place for changing the
policy, which made it meaningful for members of the AUT to decide whether they wished to change the policy. The Special Council overturned the decision on a national basis, within the rules of the union. It would be wrong of me to take any credit for what you and your colleagues did at Bristol, which was, of course, great. But in terms of turning over the policy, rather than declaring UDI from it, everything depended on the Special Council, (which was, for various technical reasons, time-critical)

I called the Special Council.

But the substantive point is that the current against which the EM directs itself took control of our union for five weeks. That seems of some significance.


soru 09.15.06 at 4:36 am

The inference that the reader is plainly intended to draw from the statement

The thought process behind this kind of thing seems pretty familiar.

premise: the Euston manifesto is evil, possibly the direct work of the devil or one of his earthly misions.

observation: what they actually say is inoffensive, perhaps self-evident, perhaps banal.

conclusion: they are really saying something else, which we will proceed to condemn in detail.

Flawless logic, as far as it goes, although it does leave open the question of what type of fruit to throw.


Chris Bertram 09.15.06 at 4:41 am


Your efforts were commendable and without them the stupid policy would not have been abandoned. But, speaking just for myself, I took myself to be merely opposing that one stupid policy rather than being engaged in a more comprehensive struggle against a “current”. My opponent in the Bristol debate was Tariq Modood, whom I like and continue to respect despite his support for the silly policy. Should I, instead, see him as part of a “current” against whom the EM is “directing itself”?


Jon Pike 09.15.06 at 5:17 am

Probably not, Chris, but it was very clearly the SWP and their co-thinkers, some hysterical figures like Steven Rose and an a collection of Mugabe apologists and unregenerate Stalinists who pushed for the boycott, and tried to pass themselves off as the left. This is what I mean by a current. In acting as you did, you were indeed engaged in a more comprehensive struggle against that current, I’m afraid. So was I, though perhaps not consciously at the time – like you, I thought I was just trying to turn over a stupid policy. But then I was told that I was heading up a well-funded Zionist conspiracy. You were part of it too, apparently. That came as a bit of a surprise, and got me thinking.


dsquared 09.15.06 at 5:33 am

[Since the EM is obviously not a pro-war manifesto]

Yes it obviously is pro-war, and as far as I can tell your basis for claiming otherwise is a bit of linguistic rococco about the phrase “last resort”. The facts are:

1. Currently under orthodox UN jurisprudence, the position on wars of aggression is that they are forbidden.

2. Currently under a non-orthodox but legitimate school of UN jurisprudence, there is some support for a “responsibility to protect” which would legitimate the UN fighting wars of aggression in order to prevent imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

3. The Euston Manifesto would legitimate wars in situations of “regimes which fail to protect their citizens in an appalling manner”.

Since “failing to protect citizens in an appalling manner” is clearly a much weaker criterion than “imminent humanitarian catastrophe”, the document in question is proposing, as one of its very most important points, a considerable weakening of the current legal prohibitions on wars of aggression.

It is therefore “pro war” in the same sense that the “High Times” newspaper is pro cannabis; it wants to see it legalised.

Marc’s points are not unconnected; the Euston Manifesto specifically disavows analysis of the nature of the failure in Iraq, precisely for the reason that no debate on the fundamental issue is possible given the document’s assumptions; if you do not believe that wars of aggression in the absence of humanitarian crisis can sometimes be justified, and if you do not believe that military intervention can build democracies, then you cannot sign this document because that is what it says.

Belief in the legitimacy of interventions by democracies in non-democracies is hardly a peripheral, ephemeral belief of the Euston Manifesto, is it? Well let me whisper; those interventions are the same thing as what are commonly known as “wars”.


harry b 09.15.06 at 5:56 am

Didn’t Michael Kinsley used to advertise Crossfire with the phrase “I’m not a leftist, I just play one on TV”? Or am I imagining it? I remember how difficult Pat Buchanan used to find things when Hitchens would stand in for Kinsley, because Hitchens would, rudely but brilliantly, call him on all sort of his BS. It was the best TV around when Hitchens was on.


John Emerson 09.15.06 at 6:00 am

Judging by the website,Telos seems to be one guy now, Russell Berman.

Peretz belongs to The Left the way Horowitz does.

“Failing to protect citizens in an appalling manner”: the primary duty of government is to protect citizens in an appalling manner. Without appalling protection, anarchy ensues. Carl Schmitt explained that long ago.


John Emerson 09.15.06 at 6:22 am

Trivia: in my own very obscure field of interest, steppe history, two of the major figures have signed: Peter B. Golden and Anatoly Khazanov.


abb1 09.15.06 at 6:31 am

Chomsky calls him: “…Michael Kinsley, who represents “the left” in mainstream commentary and television debate.” That’s exactly the point: they play the left on TV (and in their glossy magazines), but their job is give ideological and moral cover to The Man, whatever action needs to be justified at the moment. And the job is not too complicated, any variant of “better dead than Red” will do in most cases.

John, I’m sure Lev Gumilev wouldn’t have.


Oliver Kamm 09.15.06 at 10:05 am

Chris (comment 42), let’s leave me aside for the moment and concentrate on Peretz, who is a more significant Eustonite. You disputed that he was a man of the Left as it is traditionally understood, yet his roots in the campaigns for civil rights and the Great Society, and against the Vietnam War, are deep. Horowitz has moved politically a long way since the 1960s, but Peretz, judging by his commentaries and his magazine’s editorials, has not. His views on environmentalism, abortion rights, the miminum wage, taxation and social security appear to have remained as consistent as his support for Israel.

On FrontPage, I’m surprised you don’t distinguish between contributing to a publication and supporting a publication’s editorial line. I’ve contributed to The Guardian as well, yet for some reason you don’t associate me with that paper’s values, which would be more sensible. I write for publications where I’m invited and where I believe, rightly or wrongly, my message may be effective. (It wasn’t effective in the case of FrontPage, with which – bar an unsuccessful interview – I severed connections after one of its contributors published an inflammatory article that I took particular exception to.)

The views I express in media that are open to me are moderately egalitarian and redistributive in economics and welfare, and liberal on social issues such as abortion and gay rights. I can only think that the reason you find it weird (not even merely questionable) that I regard myself as a left-winger is that I support the foreign policies of Tony Blair and the Atlanticism that has been associated with every Labour Government since 1945. If that’s right – and I can’t see what else it could be – then, by anathematising standard progressive and liberal opinions, Peretz/TNR’s or mine, you nicely confirm the reasoning behind the Euston Manifesto.


Chris Bertram 09.15.06 at 10:32 am

Oliver, the Guardian is a general newspaper with a broadly left-of-centre editorial line. FrontPage is the vehicle of an right-extremist political project. If you had contributed to Socialist Worker I would have been entitled to draw conclusions about your politics from your having done so. The same goes for FrontPage. Are you telling me that the conclusions I should have drawn concern your practical wisdom and good judgement rather than your politics?

You disagree with my view that it is weird that you think of yourself as being on the left. Fine. My view on these matters should have no special weight. You, on the other hand, have a somewhat privileged perpective on the contents of your own mind. I note, however, that people are, for various reasons, often self-deceived about such matters. In any case, regular readers of your blog will form their own opinion based on what they read there.


Daniel 09.15.06 at 11:20 am


I don’t think Chris anathematised anything; he just suggested you weren’t on the left.


John Emerson 09.15.06 at 11:26 am

Curse Oliver Kamm and all his seed, unto the third and the fourth generation!

OK, done.


Chris Bertram 09.15.06 at 11:32 am

What Daniel said.

(By the way, voting Conservative in a general election, supporting the re-election of George W. Bush, and taking pride in drafting an election manifesto that was “so right-wing that Hamilton [the Conservative candidate] was incapable of outflanking it”, are unusual items on the cv of a person who thinks of himself as being on the left, but by all means go ahead and describe yourself however you like.)


Steven Poole 09.15.06 at 12:13 pm

Is it anything like how Bjorn Lomborg claims to be an environmentalist, to destroy the system from within?


Oliver Kamm 09.15.06 at 12:17 pm

You would be entitled to draw inferences about the politics of a writer in Socialist Worker because the party whose propaganda vehicle it is operates on democratic centralist principles. Leninist parties, and fractions within those parties, do not publish views that conflict with the party line. FrontPage Magazine is a stridently conservative site whose ideology and views on numerous domestic and foreign issues I take strong issue with, but whose readers I felt it was worth trying to reach with opinions that were subject to no editorial constraint. You may infer whatever you wish about my wisdom in that largely unsuccessful venture (though I still consider it might have worked, and believe the site has published some useful material specifically as regards Noam Chomsky), but I thought this was a post about the politics of the Euston Manifesto rather than my character. On that question, as it relates both to the intended range of political opinion and the politics of named signatories, you are mistaken, which largely undermines the point of your post.

You don’t, as it happens, need any special insight into my psychology, nor do I need self-knowledge, to judge my political views. You just need to read what I write. As those stated views are consistent with the mainstream of British social democracy and American liberalism as those terms have been understood since 1945, yet are in your eyes “weird” when considered as part of left-wing opinion, you perform a modest service by confirming that the Euston Manifesto, to which I happily append my name, is not a series of truisms.


Oliver Kamm 09.15.06 at 12:47 pm

Re: 2004 and 2005 elections. I clearly argued in print the grounds of my electoral preferences, which were related to candidate (one of them local) and not party. In each case, I was supporting a foreign policy more consistent with the traditions of British social democracy and American liberalism than the proposals of the alternative candidate. I gave an account of that left-wing tradition in a short book last year; I haven’t made it up.

Re: 1997 election. You seem to think I was the candidate standing against Neil Hamilton, or at least that the manifesto I drafted was intended for me [No, I knew perfectly well the manifesto OK drafted was for his uncle, Martin Bell. CB]. I was not, and it was not.

If you find my views not of the Left, then you judge accordingly a central part of the British and American Left as those terms have been “traditionally construed”. The more you repeat this line of reasoning, the more you underline the value of the Euston Manifesto.


Marc Mulholland 09.15.06 at 12:57 pm

But Oliver, other than condemnation of dwelling on the Iraq debacle as frivolous and the bold and exciting if utterly opaque project to re-write international law, the truisms of Euston are not specifically left-wing, nor are they claimed as such:

“Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive.”

The principles of Euston are not left-wing, only the proclaimed allegiances of its signatories, which thus bear examination.

All “views … consistent with the mainstream of British social democracy and American liberalism as those terms have been understood since 1945” are not all left-wing. It is a slander on the post-war conservative and christian-democratic right to imply that they did not share Euston-ite truisms on democracy etc.


engels 09.15.06 at 1:06 pm

Is it anything like how Bjorn Lomborg claims to be an environmentalist, to destroy the system from within?

The tactic I think it resembles is the Leninist one of “heightening the contradictions”.


John Emerson 09.15.06 at 2:36 pm

Since 1914 the military establishments have consistently succeeded in co-opting, out-manoeuvring, and humiliating the left, and that’s Oliver’s left tradition.


Chris Williams 09.16.06 at 6:29 am

Jon, was it really as simple as this:

“But then I was told that I was heading up a well-funded Zionist conspiracy. You were part of it too, apparently. That came as a bit of a surprise, and got me thinking.”

You need a thicker skin, matey – actually, I thought you had one. Exposure to the pseudo-left idiocy of transferred nationalism is no excuse for taking up with the neocolonialist project. George Galloway is indeed a dangerous man; but Donald Rumsfeld is far more dangerous.

What’s wrong with this, then:




abb1 09.16.06 at 7:38 am

Exposure to the pseudo-left idiocy of transferred nationalism…

Transferred nationalism? Could you elaborate on this pseudo-left thingy and its transferred nationalism, please? And I mean in the context of someone accusing someone else of being a ‘Zionist conspirator’.




Chris Williams 09.16.06 at 4:23 pm

Actually abb1, when I wrote ‘transferred nationalism’, it was indeed Orwell I was thinking of. Since at least 1849, the elements of British left have had this habit of picking up on romantic loser nations and extolling their every virtue, at the expense of any number of evil oppressor nations. Hungary, Italy, Poland, Israel, Palestine, etc.

It’s yet to work.


Jon Pike 09.16.06 at 5:13 pm

Chris W, thanks for the advice – I’ll look for that skin. But it ain’t personal, it’s political. And no, it wasn’t quite so simple, but neither is it, to my mind, some sort of Damascene conversion. I still think, what I thought, that the Iraq invasion was a disastrous, reckless adventure. That’s perfectly compatible with the liberal interventionist framework outlined in the EM. That’s roughly Walzer’s position, as I understand it. But, otherwise, since I’m nowhere near endorsing Donald Rumsfeld, and neither is the EM, I’m not entirely sure what you’re on about.


Daniel 09.18.06 at 6:28 am

They are red-hot revolutionaries as long as all goes well, but every real emergency reveals instantly that they are shamming. One threat to the Suez Canal, and ‘anti-Fascism’ and ‘defence of British interests’ are discovered to be identical.”

also George Orwell.

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