Most people in America are unaware of the Euston Manifesto. It's an important British-based statement of left and liberal principles in the new era of fundamentalism. Last week, I had dinner in London with Johann Hari and Nick Cohen, two supporters of the project. Norm Geras, an inspiration to many, was a guiding force behind it. In some ways, it's very compatible with Peter Beinart's call for the Democrats to revive their anti-fascist roots, and to fight Islamism with the tenacity of Truman and integrity of Orwell. There is much in the manifesto to celebrate. But here's one passage that struck home to me:
Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse-making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the "anti-war" movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there are no opponents on the Left. We reject, similarly, the idea that there can be no opening to ideas and individuals to our right. Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticized in clear and forthright terms. Conversely, we pay attention to liberal and conservative voices and ideas if they contribute to strengthening democratic norms and practices and to the battle for human progress.
On Iraq, the signers make the critical, inescapable point:
The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change. We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Baathist regime in Iraq, and we recognize its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted — rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.
Those of us who are to the right of these thinkers - on domestic policy, at least - should not corral all of those to our left into the Michael Moore camp. Many liberals are on our side against Islamist threats, and we must support them. Equally, we have to make sure that our criticism of Bush and his dreadful, criminal defense secretary does not mean a capitulation to the anti-Americanism, moral relativism and defeatism of the cut-and-run left. We must fight that tendency as relentlessly as we must fight Christianism and Islamism. But a new coalition is forming - against all these isms. For freedom. For the West.