Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Euston Manifesto I

A new venture in sensible center-left politics has begun in Britain, and spread to America. The British version begins with the "Euston Manifesto," to which a group of Americans has signed on.

I am always in favor of sensible centrist politics. I am working through the details of the manifesto and its amendments, to see what I think about it.

To start with, though, I was struck by the different ways of describing themselves that the British framers and their American cousins adopt.

The preamble to the Euston Manifesto begins "We are democrats and progressives." They go on to say that they are mostly from the Left, but not exclusive. So, who are they trying to reach? "We reach out … beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment." The left-of-center barrier is the fixed point of their identity. They are not aiming to join liberals and the center. They don't even imagine a center. Instead, the new line they are trying to draw is "between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values." The Euston Manifesto alliance is not distinguishing itself from the Reactionary Right – that is a given – but instead from the Looney Left.

The "American Signers of the Euston Manifesto," on the other hand, have views that "range from those of centrists and independents to liberals of varying hues on to the democratic left." The Americans see the Euston movement as a center-left alliance. The line they want to draw is somewhere right of center. There could be an enemy on the left, too, but it is not named.

The Euston alliance is made by the Left. The American counterpart is made by the left.

As the old joke says, Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language.

1 comment:

halifax said...

This difference might be related to the fact that the British have actually had a Left. Labour, after all, was a socialist party, at least until Mr. Tony Blair took over. In the US, I believe that Eugene Debs was the last committed socialist of national political importance, unless you count Henry Wallace (as some gruntled centrists do).