Your regular up-to-the-month-or-there-abouts news and comment service is about to bring you the thoughts of chairman Duff on the Euston Manifesto. (Do stop yawning at the back, there!) I realise that everyone else and their uncles have already commented but I like to think that my mind is like a fine old claret that matures over time and is better sampled late than early. For the sake of my readers I shall divide this commentary into two parts. The first will be filled with the sort of sweeping generalities for which I am famed the length and breadth of my study and which is entirely appropriate in view of the equally sweeping generalities contained in this Manifesto. It would be easy to sneer at this, as I shall do, but to be fair most political/philosophical statements of intent have to be couched in such terms. Anyway, no-one loves those nit-picking, pox doctors clerks of a Marxist bent whose only delight lies in never-ending textual analysis, so I will leave my nit-picking to the second part of this commentary where it can be safely ignored by the sensible and pounced upon by the pedants.
I confess that to begin with I hesitated to enter the Euston Manifesto. As any old policeman will tell you, 'domestics' are best left to the warring parties. As 'domestics' go, this one between the Bolsheviks and the Menshaviks, or was it the Socialists and the Communists, or perhaps it was the soft Left against the hard Left, no, no, I remember now, it's NuLabour against SWP/Respect, has been going on for over a century. The Euston Manifesto is merely its latest, er, manifestation. As some-one who loathes Socialism I find myself in the position of the man in a pub watching two louts go outside for a fight; the only sensible course is to offer to hold their coats and whenever the fighting flags, urge one or other of them to 'give 'im one for me!'
Still, even a lazy old re-reactionary like me must try and do better than that. After all, should SWP/Respect ever seize power (and that's the only way they will ever do it) they will almost certainly have me shot! I know I'm an old codger now but it's amazing how precious life becomes when you realise yours hasn't that much longer to go! So, returning to my pub fight metaphor, perhaps a better stance for me would be to cheer on the 'softie Leftie' whilst picking the jacket pocket of the 'hard Leftie'. What I am trying to say here, in my usual long-winded way, is that we are not choosing here between the good Doctor's famous louse and a flea. The hard Left is a lousy flea of the worst, diseased kind and should be stamped on where-ever it appears.
Also, whilst I'm in conciliatory mode, there are two sentences in the Manifesto with which I wholly agree: "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." I'm not quite sure what is meant by "creative doubt" but as I am, myself, despite my blustering style, constantly crippled by doubt, creative or otherwise, I will let it pass.
Well, that's enough 'Mr. Nice Guy'! Now I will consider the remainder of this apparently warm, fluffy, goody-two-shoes of a document. The 'onlie begetter' of the Euston Manifesto was the Iraq invasion, not the 'sainted' Norm (amongst others) who was only the mid-wife (if you will forgive my gender confusion). At this point it is necessary for all of us to try and remember what we knew before, and what we know now. At the time I was in favour of invasion because I believed that Saddam had WMD and was likely to allow third parties to use them against us (by which I mean the west). The more he refused to allow inspectors a free hand, the more I believed he had something to hide. I only began to doubt when he failed to use them against our troop concentrations in Kuwait prior to the invasion and by then it was too late. Today, I am prepared to give Bush and Blair the benefit of the doubt and think that they, too, were convinced at the time. Also today, I am forced to confess that I was wrong in my assumption, and it is of little comfort that so was most of the rest of the world, and a good number of those who maintained he had no WMD before the war did so from a variety of motives not all of which were trustworthy.
However, for many of the signatories to the Euston Manifesto (and for all I know, perhaps Blair and Bush, too), WMD was not the sole casus belli, they had another motive - regime change! Please don't misunderstand, I'm all for a bit of regime change but only if it is for the purpose of furthering the interests of the west. (At this point I had better make clear that when I use the expression "the west", I mean the US and the UK. I believe this relationship to be of the highest level of importance in terms of grand strategy for this country, of which, more later!) For the 'Eustonites', however, there is a more urgent imperative - regime change for its own sake simply because the head of state is a cruel dictator. The folly of this proposition is obvious when you consider that the vast majority of the nations represented at the UN are cruel dictatorships. Thus, such a policy automatically puts you at perpetual loggerheads with most of the rest of the world!
(This is taking even longer than I thought and the little 'Memsahib' is flexing her muscles, so I will post this now and finish the remainder tomorrow - I hope!)