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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Have You Read The Euston Manifesto? (Yawwnn..)

I've said nothing about the Euston Manifesto at all so far, mainly as it is the same old stuff from the "pro-war Left" (the Post-Modern Mussolinis). I noticed in the latest edition of Red Pepper that the Manifesto was drawn up in a garish "Oirish" pub (I found one in Brugge on my trip. I was outraged. Talk about shipping coal to Newcastle, or to use a modern analogy, shipping shoes to Shanghai) not far from Euston station. If I was going to draw up a world-historic political manifesto, or a manifesto with such pretentions, in a pub, I would make that pub classy (ie Greenwich Union, mentioned in my last post) or authentically proletarian (ie the Colin Campbell on Kilburn High Road, where you'd get a real Irish Guinness), not some garish tourist trap.

I could go on a long rant about the Eustonies, but I'll stop myself from doing so on this occasion. However, I think if they are to be any more than the proverbial nine day political wonder, the Eustonies will have to find some social or political movement on which they can hang their "ideals" to.

One of my favourite political bloggers in Dave Osler, a self-styled "libertarian Marxist" with a Trot past. Of course, I don't agree with everything he says (the only person you should agree with 100% is yourself, and even that should be provisional!) but Dave O writes some good stuff on his blog & is no fan of the Euston Manifesto. Moreover, he may have spotted one way the Eustonies may go, thanks to one of the Manifesto's supporters (more or less): "Fatboy Dave" Aaronovitch...

David Aaronovitch: communists for Cameron

'I could vote for David Cameron,' writes David Aaronovitch. And in those six words, the one-time eurocommunist becomes the latest ostensibly radical commentator to come up with a half-arsed justification for voting Tory.

It's not that he's moved right, of course. No, no, no. Certainly not. What you have to understand is that the very terms 'left' and 'right' no longer have any meaning. Hardly an original Aperçu, but hey, let that slide.

In Aaronovitch world, that hoary old paradigm has been replaced by a division between 'progressives' and 'reactionaries'.

And gosh, here's a thing. 'Progressives' include the New Labour leadership, the Orange Book Lib-Dems and the Notting Hill Set Tories. Or - to look at it another way - the neoliberals in all three parties.

Indeed, Aaronovitch even gets in a snide dig at those dinosaur lefties who still consider neoliberalism something to oppose, rather than to glorify.

After all, if the word simply describes 'flexible labour markets, movement of capital etc' - and that's what Aaronovitch explicitly maintains - then what's not to like?

Trouble is, it means a hell of a lot more than that. Anyone even momentarily convinced by the pundit's reasoning could do worse than read David Harvey's stunning recent book 'A Brief History of Neoliberalism'.

Harvey brilliantly dissects the doctrine and illustrates how it boils down to a twin-track project, dedicated to the restoration of both the power of the ruling elites and the conditions for capital accumulation.

Emasculation of the power of organised labour is perhaps the key precondition for its success. The genuine left still sees socialism as the self-emancipation of the working class. Proponents of neoliberalism - however you want to slice it, and whichever party leader acts as its figurehead - constitute the 21st century right.

I don't know what they taught 'em in the CPGB in the 1970s. But elementary class politics does not seem to have been on the cadre school agenda.

• In an interesting aside, Aaronovitch also asserts that 'reds' of old were 'turned on by women with peace symbols painted on their bare breasts'. I know it's whatever floats your boat, Dave. Just don't presume to speak for the rest of us, you old hippy.

So could the Eustonies become ideological outriders for a "progressive" coalition of Blairites, "Orange Book" Lib Dems and Cameroony Tories after the next election? After all, the Eustonies call for "a fresh political alignment" which reaches out to "egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment".

Maybe not, but it is clear that the "pro-war Left" have lost faith in the Dear Leader who has overseen the mess British troops are now facing in Iraq. The following article was Peter Wilby's media column in the New Statesman of the 24th of April, which does cover the Euston Manifesto, the trials of the "pro-war Left" now Blair is starting to lose his Midas touch and a discussion of media bias, the final piece of which I concur 100%.

The Times particularly favours writers who claim to be left-wing but hold no discernible left-wing views. This allows Rupert Murdoch to have his cake and eat it, writes Peter Wilby

Tony Blair's troubles get worse. The Blairite apologist Stephen Pollard has joined the deserters. Pollard is one of those mysterious commentators - Oliver Kamm is another - who claim to be left-wing but hold no discernible left-wing views. Such writers are particularly favoured by the Times, presumably because they allow Rupert Murdoch to have his cake and eat it: he stays onside with the party in power by giving space to its alleged supporters, but keeps his papers ideologically on the right.

Pollard has long hailed Blair as the ideal Labour leader because he favours wealth creation and competition. That may sound like a Tory to you and me, but let it pass. He and Kamm both voted Labour in last year's election because they saw it as "a referendum on the veracity, judgement and ethics of the Prime Minister".

Pollard used to be an NS contributor. Then we ran a cover headed "Dictator of Downing Street", with a picture of Blair made up to look like Stalin. It was to illustrate a piece by the Oxford historian Robert Service, who drew a parallel between the PM's governing style and that of the Soviet dictator, though obviously not between the numbers they had murdered. Pollard said that, after this disgusting calumny, he would never darken our pages again. I (then editor) replied that I was sorry he had become so pompous. A few years earlier, he had used the first letter of each paragraph in his final Express column to spell out a rude message to the paper's proprietor, Richard Desmond. He was due to join the Times staff as a leader writer but this was considered inappropriate conduct for such an august position, and Pollard had to resign before he started.

Now this admirable mischief-maker was denouncing my mischief. Yet his latest piece, in last Monday's Daily Mail, compared Blair to Richard Nixon - not Stalin, admittedly, but bad enough. The cash-for-honours affair is unfolding rather as Watergate did, he argued: trivial misdemeanours by people of slight importance lead to a scandal that engulfs the top man. Blair, wrote Pollard, was "up to his neck" in it, and held "the country in contempt". It is as if Eva Braun had deserted Hitler (just kidding, Stephen).

The Prime Minister has some crumbs of comfort, however. After a brief wobble, his hagiographer John Rentoul, of the Independent on Sunday, is back onside. The honours business is just a "media hoopla" he informs us, and Blair's main problem is "to hold off the growing weight of our abiding culture of cynicism". More importantly, Irwin Stelzer (aka Rupert Murdoch thinking aloud) seems to have hardened on his doubts about Gordon Brown. The Chancellor's latest Budget showed that he will use "any conceivable excuse to expand the reach of government", Stelzer wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday. Blair had "an obligation" to stay, he argued. Moreover, the Murdoch court clearly hasn't given up hope that a credible new Labour alternative to Brown will emerge or that David Cameron will (as those who disapprove of such youthful frivolities as saving the planet put it) mature. Either could happen, Stelzer suggested, if Blair stays long enough.

I shall not quarrel with the Euston Manifesto, launched in the NS last week. Its list of supporters, combining the passion of Nick Cohen with the intellect of John Lloyd and the wit of Francis Wheen, is enough to daunt any criticism. They seem to say it was OK for me to be against the Iraq war - though I shouldn't, apparently, go on about it - so I may even sign up.

But I am fascinated by their belief that their views are "significantly under-represented in the mainstream media" and, indeed, "at dinner tables". As I don't get out much these days, I can't speak for the dinner tables, though I am surprised that, even in Islington, these should require BBC-style political balance. On the media, however, it seems odd for people who have columns almost everywhere (Cohen, Wheen and Lloyd all appear regularly in the London Evening Standard, as well as elsewhere) to complain they feel "isolated".

The claim of unfair media treatment is a comfort blanket. The American right argues that the media in the US are dominated by "liberals"; the American left that they are full of White House lackeys. No British government I can remember thought the BBC gave it a fair hearing. New Labour insists it has no true supporters in the national press. James Delingpole, of the Telegraph/Spectator stable, has made a cottage industry out of claiming he hardly dare reveal his "unfashionable" right-wing views. My fellow NS columnist John Pilger swears the media suppress news of western atrocities and marginalise views like his; I have written in his support.

I still think Pilger has the better case. But we are all a bit like footballers griping about biased referees. Shouldn't we drop it, and just get on with the arguments?


Blogger Paulie said...

You haven't looked very far for any context about the Euston Manifesto by the looks of it Noelie.

Here's a little for you to chew on:

1. The Euston Manifesto is not a document of the pro-war left. Plenty of it's signers have been quite clear that they opposed the war in Iraq. The manifesto states this explicitly. You haven't read it, have you? You donkey.

2. Aaronovich has not signed the Euston Manifesto as far as I know. He's not on the list of signers anyway.

9:21 pm  
Blogger Anglonoel said...

You're right Paulie- I haven't got round to reading the Euston Manifesto, but I will. Thanks for spurring me into action on this- there is enough stuff being written about it on the Net and elsewhere about The 'Festo, plus my own observations, to give the whole thing a thorough Fisking, to use blog parlance.

BTW I don't think it's very clever move if you are trying to win friends and influence people to go onto other people's blogs and immediately start calling them "a donkey" [a bit of Freudian self-projection there, mate?] because I don't agree with them 100% with what they post.

A little for you to chew on, to coin a phrase [is that also another bit of Freudian self-projection there?].

9:36 am  

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