Yeah, I know it’s a month old, but I’ve only just got round to reading the Euston Manifesto. I seem to recall thinking “yeah, let me queue up to read wet liberal pundits justifying themselves and doing their damndest to make themselves look non-threatening to the powers that be, that sounds like a terrific way to pass five minutes”. However, it was linked to from a blog piece I was reading this morning (“Can There Be a Decent Left that SHUTS UP for a Minute, Ever?“) and I succumbed. It’s pretty short at least.
If anyone else who’s not read it would like a summary, it seems to have three main themes, in no particular order:
Unthreatening stuff that pretty much everybody agrees on, or at least agrees to say they promote, whatever their actual policies (“For Democracy”, “Equality”);
Slagging off other lefties. Okay, “other” is pushing it a bit here;
Reassuring the establishment that they agree with them on all the things that matter.
You can do #3 by picking up on all of the straw men that have been used by governments and government supporters against anyone who disagrees, and saying “no no, we don’t do that, not like some people”, which neatly satisfies #2 as well, putting the boot in. Thus you have paragraphs titled, for instance, “Opposing anti-Americanism” (you leftists hate America!), “United against terror” (you leftists are soft on terrr!), “A critical openness” (what about Stalin, eh? eh?) and “No apology for tyranny” (dirty Saddam-lovers!)
The “putting the boot in” part is undertaken with such enthusiasm that you can tell that, whatever they support now, the authors have almost certainly come from a leftie background, where that’s a favourite pastime. Even in a paragraph about human rights, which you’d think would come under #1, they put the boot in (italics mine):
3) Human rights for all.
We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.
Let’s slip that in, completely unprompted, and have a pop at the People’s Front of Judea!
The way to respond to straw man attacks is not to react to them as if they were real accusations and vocally deny that you ever believed such a thing – that just puts you on the defensive, allows the attacker to control the debate and provides the impression that there was ever a case to answer.
16) Against baby-eating
We affirm as a central point that eating babies is unacceptable under all circumstances, and support the universal adoption of the Child Consumption Declaration. Unlike some so-called “progressives” on the left, we do not engage in apologia for regimes supporting baby-eating, and do not believe that the babies of certain nations are tastier than others and thus should be eaten more often.
This can’t honestly be unknown to the authors. I have to conclude that there’s no actual intent to oppose anything in the first place, just to reassure the establishment that just because they say things about unions, doesn’t mean that they’ll give anyone any real bother, they’re not like those troublemaking lefties. An exercise about kissing certain arses and kicking other ones, with barely any political content at all. A declaration of agreement with whatever you happen to come up with next.
I don’t recall feeling the need for a movement that defines itself by other people’s stereotypes and a desire to not challenge the political status quo, but if I ever do I’ll know where to look.