26 April 2006

Daniel Finkelstein claims the Euston Manifesto is right-wing.

The thing about the Times is, it is very cleverly produced and run (as you would expect from a Murdoch paper) but it is also the most sneaky of all the papers. It is very subtlely right-wing while pretending to lean to the left. It plays the game very well. When it comes to spin, New Labour has nothing on the Murdoch press! They are the masters. They pay lip-service to Blair and Labour by using commentators who claim to vote Labour (Stephen Pollard, Oliver Kamm) while still being able to espouse the same right wing policies (they disguise these policies as best they can).

One aspect of the Euston Manifesto is the admirable effort by the originators to get back to leftwing basics, unfortunately they have wrapped it up in apologism for the Bush regime which is why I cannot sign it.

Daniel Finkelstein has taken the schism on the left between the Respect/SWP sympathisers (a small minority) and the rest of the Left and twisted it into the dividing line between Eustonites and non-signers. This is something the Eustonites have inadvertently allowed the Right to do. Not only is this insulting to non-signers like me, who reject Galloway, it is allowing the right to get away with the suggestion that only a minority of the Left accept the universal principles in the Euston Manifesto, which is obviously false. The Eustonites have provided plenty of reasons why the decent Left shouldn't sign.

First and foremost the lack of prescriptive solutions to the admirable aims of the Eustonites leaves the manifesto open to hijack from a disingenuous right, which is precisely what the Murdoch press will and are taking advantage of to the hilt. I mean even Oliver (£20bn cuts) Letwin claims to want to reduce inequality, so do all the Tories. With the Tories desperate to change their image, here is the perfect opportunity, a manifesto that requires no policy commitments but allows them to claim a 'left-wing' status. After claiming to be 'heir to Blair', how long before Cameron also embraces the Euston Manifesto?

The problem is of course that the Tories still have the same old policies and prejudices that so entrenched and widened inequality in the first place. As Polly Toynbee points out, the Tories with their recent poverty commission led by Ian Duncan Smith confuse the symptoms of poverty into the causes of poverty. This relies on the ideology of blaming the immorality of the poor as bringing their own downfall. This is precisely the ideology of Thatcher, nothing has changed. Not a surprise really when you ask a right-winger like Duncan Smith for the answers. If it is the immorality of the poor that causes poverty and tax cuts and less government interference is the answer, why does the US have so much poverty and Sweden so little. How long are we going to let the Tories and the Right get away with this level of dishonesty?

So the answer to poverty for the Tories, is more marriage, to combat the immorality of single parents. For a party that claims that the government should do as little as possible, they have a tremendous faith in their ability to get people, as Polly puts it; "down the aisle and to stay there". It is just plain dishonest to say tax cuts help the poor, they do not. In a country where individuals spend more on gambling and booze than the government is allowed to spend on the NHS, I think somewhere we have got our priorities wrong. There is no practical reason why a country as rich as ours should have such levels of poverty, it is a political decision to allow it (backed/forced by our right-wing media). It is about time we heard the truth that we are a low tax country and that the Cameron/Tories are liars and don't let the Murdoch press and their claims about the Euston manifesto fool you into thinking otherwise.

8 comments:

  1. I think there's a typo in your post. Didn't you mean "wrapped it up in apologism for the Blair regime"?

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  2. Well there may be a bit of that as well, but for all his faults, I think Blair has improved this country.

    Really think about life in 1997. There are been huge improvements for everybody, especially the poorest. Not as much as there should have been, but the minimum wage alone is worth the last 9 years of Labour and surely extra spending on the NHS and education etc. cannot be a bad thing?

    No matter what we think of the Iraq war, Blair or no Blair it would have happened. What purpose would punishing the poor with a Tory government serve?

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  3. Social Democrat27/4/06 6:10 pm

    I keep reading comments about everyone being better off than in 1997 - that is not the experience for a substantial number e.g. many ex car workers are £3,000 to £5,000 a year down on their income. The situation is much more uneven than you claim, particularly as manufacturing jobs decline and the new jobs probably pay less for more hours and probably less job protection i.e. no unions.

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  4. Neil, you give Oliver Kamm too little credit. If the man says he's on the left (and he has, repeatedly) then why not take him at his word? Simply supporting the Iraq invasion doesn't make you a right winger. I had the chance to meet Kamm recently and there was nothing nefarious about him - very unpretentious. (And what's this about him 'claiming' to vote Labour? The man has been canvassing for Labour for decades - even in 1983. And he freely admits that he voted Conservative at the 2005 election in order to try and elect a candidate who agreed with Blair's foreign policy.)

    I really don't see the apologia for Bush anywhere in Euston. In section 6 of the statement of principles, the manifesto says opposing generalised anti-Americanism "is not a case of seeing the US as a model society. We are aware of its problems and failings", and goes on to condemn past US support for totalitarian regimes, and the human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The simple point is that such behaviour in foreign policy doesn't justify unthinking prejudice against the US or Americans. Where's the problem with that?

    It seems that your real problem with it is that some of the authors supported the Iraq war - but the document is written by people who were both for and against the invasion, and simply states that the priority now must be to support the emerging democratic state in Iraq. Again - where can the objection possibly come from?

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  5. Rob: The Tories are claiming to believe in equality, do you believe them? If the Tories claimed to be 'of the left' would you believe them? Of course you wouldn't.

    It is policies and actions that matter. How can you seriously claim that Kamm is left-wing when he votes Tory? It doesn't matter what he says, it is actions that count.

    I can see that in the long term the invasion could 'possibly' prove beneficial (though that is currently difficult to believe). Supporting the war in Iraq does not automatically make you right-wing, but supporting Bush and the neo-conservative agenda certainly does?

    Why are US attrocities mere 'diversions from universal principles'? I condemn both Al Qaidi and US attrocities equally, why can't Euston do the same?

    More important than this, Euston will not recognise the obvious link between Bush attrocities and the growing terrorism. It also tries to pretend that democracy was the overriding concern. Lets be honest it was petro-dollars. The fact it was petro-dollars driving Bush doesn't necessarily mean the invasion was bad. Be more honest, the removal of Saddam will hopefully be a good thing.

    Then there is all this guff about the US being the home of democracy. Not when Bush fiddles the elections, not with the current right wing media bias, not when Bush supports torture flights and interferes in democratic elections all over the world. Not when Bush suppresses trade unions in Iraq. The EU does far more for democracy.

    social democrat: Everyone is better off in terms of healthcare, their children's education, state pensions, average earnings, the availability of work, the list goes on...

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  6. Everyone is better off in terms of healthcare, their children's education, state pensions, average earnings, the availability of work, the list goes on...

    The above statement is illogical. If average earnings are higher it does not mean everyone is better off. Your statement is just bland complacency.

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  7. "Not when Bush supresses trade unionists in Iraq"? BUSH?!!

    Isn't it rather the forces of fundamentalism in Iraq itself who are suppressing trade unionism, and hounding gay people, and harrassing women? Isn't it the enemies of social justice in the hardcore Islamic movements who have no love for democracy or for equality? How exactly is Bush responsible for ANY of that?!

    How can I say that Kamm is left wing - well, I don't; he does, and has set out the reasons why on many occasions. Why don't you e-mail him and ask him about it? I did in the run up to the election, asking him how it was possible to want a strong Blair Government returned and vote Tory at the same time. His answer was unconvincing, for me, but I can understand it.

    I really don't see Euston making any distinction between human rights abuse carried out by US personnel or atrocities like 9/11. All are crimes against humanity. But in the same vein, I simply cannot accept the 'link between Bush atrocities and foreign terrorism'. It is simplistic, a classic logical fallacy and, worse, it lends legitimacy to acts of unparalleled, unforgiveable murder like those which took place on September 11. You're not telling me that any of the people in those towers or on those planes somehow deserved their fate because of the actions of their government. If the response to a country's foreign policy is to hijack a plane and kill thousands of people, in no way is that justified. It is barbarism, pure and simple.

    Euston is, too, about getting past this prevalence for making a choice between being engaged in Europe or being an ally of the US. It is possible to be both without contradiction. And it is also about challenging precisely the kind of generalised thinking you demonstrate: Bush fiddling elections? How many of those 45 million (I forget the exact figure) ballots that were cast in his favour in 2004 were rigged? The right-wing media bias - including the New York Times and the other 'liberal' papers, presumably? Or are you only counting the Fox network?

    And ... "tries to pretend" that democracy is the overriding concern? It IS the overriding concern, there's no pretending about it! Democracies don't gas their neighbours; in democracies, people throw out the government, they don't get executed by it. The only way in which that war was 'all about oil' was the fact that Saddam Hussein, a proven manufacturer and user of WMD, was sitting on the world's biggest well of it.

    Petro-dollars be damned - this is about more than Blair, Bush or anyone else. This is about a nascent democracy, and about the fact that the Iraqi people, who have been royally screwed for decades, deserve better. That's why Euston should be signed.

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  8. michael: "If average earnings are higher it does not mean everyone is better off."

    Employment is higher and average earnings are higher. Everyone has a better chance of getting a better paid job, doesn't mean they will, but their opportunities have been improved so they are better off.

    rob: "Isn't it rather the forces of fundamentalism in Iraq itself who are suppressing trade unionism, and hounding gay people, and harrassing women?"

    Who is pulling the levers? It is the US which is backing this so called democracy that it is sponsoring.

    "how it was possible [for Kamm] to want a strong Blair Government returned and vote Tory at the same time. His answer was unconvincing, for me, but I can understand it."

    How?

    "You're not telling me that any of the people in those towers or on those planes somehow deserved their fate because of the actions of their government."

    Did civilians deserve to die in Nazi Germany? Of course they didn't, you are asking a stupid question.

    "How many of those 45 million (I forget the exact figure actually 52 million) ballots that were cast in his favour in 2004 were rigged?"

    When a republican senator says before the election that the company funding their campaign is the company responsible for the electronic counting machines and have promised 'to deliver the election'. As he put it 'it is all over bar the counting and we will take care of the counting', it doesn't inspire confidence. Some districts had registered more Bush votes than electors. Then of course there was the massive suppression of the democratic (largely black) vote. Didn't it seem strange to have 5 hour queues to vote?

    "The right-wing media bias - including the New York Times and the other 'liberal' papers, presumably? Or are you only counting the Fox network?"

    No, I am counting the overall right-wing media bias across the whole media, radio talk shows, etc, even supposed liberal TV stations. Even the NY Times is quite right-wing (although democrat supporting).

    "The only way in which that war was 'all about oil' was the fact that Saddam Hussein, a proven manufacturer and user of WMD, was sitting on the world's biggest well of it."

    Who put Saddam in place? Who fostered the Iran/Iraq war killing millions? Who supplied chemical weapons to kill the Kurds? Is it true that 23bn dollars of the Iraqi people's money has disappeared to western companies? Look at all the money being siphoned out of Iraq by US companies such as halliburton. Does this not mean anything?

    "Democracies don't gas their neighbours; in democracies, people throw out the government, they don't get executed by it."

    No but they kill millions with carpet bombing and invasions. They use napalm, they sponsor terrorism, interfere in democratic elections, sell weapons to and sponsor brutal dictatorships all over the world in the name of economic interest. Is this not true? Am I wrong?

    Isn't it curious that the Euston Manifesto is only written in English and Italian. Italy, the home of that paragon of democracy, Belusconi! Coincidence, I think not.

    I am essentially a Blairite but this IS about Bush, Blair, Belusconi, corruption and oil. Which is not to say that everything they do is wrong or even that the available realistic alternatives to Blair are any better - I don't think they are, it is just to admit the truth about the situation. Eustonites deny this truth, which is why I cannot sign.

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