Rather belatedly, I’ve signed up for the Euston Manifesto. The reasons I didn’t before are (a) that I've been busy and (b) that I’m not really much of a Popular Frontist. Although I’m happy with voting tactically against the Tories, the BNP or Respect at election time, something deep inside of me clings to the belief that clarity of critique is what matters most. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I share a lot of Socialism in the Age of Waiting’s reservations about Euston’s fudging of questions I don’t want to fudge.
But I’ve been convinced by the idiocy of the assault on Euston from the cretino-left, particularly the Communist Party of Britain's Andrew Murray — I'd link but Comment is Free won't allow me — that it’s worth leaving reservations to one side for a bit and putting my name to “the most conservative document that I have ever initialled” (as Christopher Hitchens described it while contemplating the possibility of signing).
Because the crucially important thing that the manifesto gets right is that the left needs to go beyond arguing about whether or not the Iraq war was right. Should the US and Britain have taken out Saddam Hussein by force? A fascinating question – as is, let’s say, “Should the Soviet Union have signed a pact with Nazi Germany in 1939?” – and a legitimate subject for argument. But it happened, three years ago, and now, for better or worse, the people of Iraq are living and dying with the consequences.
What matters most is what happens next. The manifesto’s position, with which I agree, is that, regardless of what we thought about the Iraq war, the left throughout the world should now be supporting those people in Iraq who want to create a tolerant secular democratic society. And they are not the people who have taken up arms against the occupation.
The schism on the left is not between “pro-war” and “anti-war” leftists, but between anti-totalitarian secular democrats and those whose overweening anti-imperialism leads them to support any opposition to capitalist pig Amerika. I cannot see Ba’athism, the Iraqi “resistance” or radical Islamism as in any sense “progressive”. And I believe that democracy is the best answer to imperialism.
So I signed.