The Australian: Right of Left bounces back

A new democratic progressive alliance is born, writes Phillip Adams

IT may not be the biggest news in left-wing circles since the communist manifesto, but the Euston Manifesto (written in a Euston pub) is creating much excitement. While its driving force is a Marxist (Norman Geras, professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester) his clarion call to progressives around the world is getting support across the board, from socialist leftists to egalitarian liberals. Hundreds of thousands are reading the manifesto on a new website - and many who’d left the Left are signing up.

The manifesto begins with some pieties along the lines of “we hold these truths to be self-evident”, stirring paragraphs on democracy, freedom of opinion and assembly, the separation of church and state and legislative, executive and judicial powers. It makes “no apologies for tyranny” and demands human rights for all. It endorses a “generally egalitarian politics” and, though worried by the downside of globalisation, endorses “global economic development as freedom”.

Christopher Hitchens has been telling me for years that he rejects the Left label — almost as much as the Left has rejected him since his solid pro-Bush position on Iraq. Now his quill is poised. “I have been flattered by an invitation to sign the manifesto,” Hitchens wrote in The Times “and I probably will, but if I agree, it will be the most conservative document I have ever initialled. Even the obvious has become revolutionary. So call me a neoconservative if you must; anything is preferable to the rotten, unprincipled alliance between the former fans of the one-party state and the hysterical zealots of the one-god one”. Presumably Hitchens’ hysterical zealots are Islamist fascists rather than Dubyah and his cohorts.

As usual, Hitch presses his contrarian buttons with the skills of a virtuoso pianist fingering a Steinway. What appeals to him — and to others on the Right of the Left — is the document’s condemnation of old leftist links to dictators from Mao to Castro. The manifesto makes mincemeat out of that rotten, unprincipled alliance. Equally it goes for the throat of any lefty who’s deemed anti-American. While it accepts that progressives can disagree on Iraq, it won’t accept what it sees as a pathological detestation of the US.

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