Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Left worth belonging to? (Or one at least worth a capital "L"?)

Readers from more prolific, bygone times will recall some fretting here at Commoner Sense over the destruction of the terms "liberal" and "progressive" by addleheaded pacifists who converged on my city chanting "Not In Our Name" before there'd even been a rain to wash away the dust of the Twin Towers. For a while, my title-bar sub-head read, "Liberating the term liberalism," and, "Shouldn't progressive have something to do with progress?" Like many former Leftists, I long ago threw in the towel and stopped calling myself a liberal, or a progressive, since no one around me seemed know what the terms meant anymore. I've tried "liberal hawk," but that tends to draw blank stares. In conversation I have glumly accepted "neo-conservative" when it's offered, if only because it puts me in the company of people who think rather than chant.

Well, on the horizon appears new hope that I may one day be able to pack up my pro-democracy, pro-women's-rights, anti-theocracy, anti-fascist viewpoints and move back in with the Left! A group of democrats (small "d") and progressives in London will in a week's time officially launch "The Euston Manifesto," a remarkable statement of principles that might just have the force to wrest all these terms out of the hands of dissemblers and restore them to their once glorious meanings. (It gets extra points in my book for being conceived in a pub.) Here's an excerpt from the Euston Manifesto's preamble:

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line 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. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

Despite the declaration's fine provenance, these are the people who sold me Marxism back in the early 1980's, so I'm going to give the Euston Manifesto a thorough study before signing on. Have a look, especially if you called yourself a liberal before 2001.

Read the whole thing.


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