Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Euston Manifesto

On the 13th of April, Norman Geras and Harry's Place published the Euston Manifesto, which aims to stimulate a "Renewal of Progressive Politics" a distances itself clearly from the rump of the old Left mired in anti-Americanism and a fatally compromised relationship with revolutionary politics.

I find it mostly a very sensible document, especially because it starts with an acknowledgement of the worth of our own society.

We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance, of those countries in which liberal, pluralist democracies have taken hold.
It holds very firmly to one of the great creations of this society: universal human rights.
We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.
Among which, freedom of speech.
This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general.
There is much else in the manifesto and I recommend you read it all.

What is lacking is any recognition that wealth must be created. The only mention of the economy comes under the sections on globalisation and on equality, and in both there is the same slant - the desirablility of redistribution. There were obviously disagreements here
We leave open, as something on which there are differences of viewpoint amongst us, the question of the best economic forms of this broader equality.
It is the dilemma that the Left has never faced, and it can be brought down to the contradiction between liberty and equality. Insofar as there has been liberty in the West, it has innovated and constantly created new forms of wealth. Whereas in those places of an imposed equality (the Soviet bloc, China), innovation was stifled and killed and the redistibution was made from an ever-shrinking pot.

The document makes no mention of the fact that economies are in competition, as anyone who worked in manufacturing knows all too well, and that countries like the UK will depend more and more on knowledge, innovation and ideas. Those capable of producing this new wealth need room to move outside the morass of gender, diversity and racial politics, which make virtually no contribution to the 'sharp end'. When a document makes statements such as
We look towards progress in relations between the sexes (until full gender equality is achieved)
[my emphasis], it is right to fear the dead hand of central control. But it is worrying because it indicates that wealth creation is taken as a given, as it was by the unions in the 70s and the French now.

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