I didn’t sign the Euston Manifesto mainly because it avoided any mention of capitalism’s inherent limitations. The Eustonite advocacy of the need for bourgeois revolution was fine, as far as it went. I agree that this is the most pressing task in the world today. However, for all its talk of extending human freedom, it failed to face the issue of wage slavery. Once the bourgeois revolution has been completed this will be the main restriction on human freedom. The Euston position remained wedded to the idea of social reform: kinder bosses, rather than no bosses. Were it not for this, I would probably have seen it as worth signing.
Nevertheless, I did still think it was positive that there was a group prepared to come out and say that:
[it] reject[s] fear of modernity, fear of freedom, irrationalism, the subordination of women, .. reaffirm[s] the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century: liberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness … But we are not zealots. For we embrace also the values of free enquiry, open dialogue and creative doubt, of care in judgement and a sense of the intractabilities of the world. We stand against all claims to a total — unquestionable or unquestioning — truth.”
And then to go on to maintain that a new alignment of forces is necessary, possibly crossing traditional left-right lines, and defined by “unambiguous democratic commitment”:
“It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. We must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic “anti-imperialism” and/or hostility to the current US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda—the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression—are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.”
These things do need to be said. However I see the task of Strange Times as being to go further than just restating fundamental principles. In fact, the principles cited in the first quote above are not even especially controversial, very few people would oppose them. The problem is more complex than that. Continue reading ‘The Euston Manifesto and all that’