Euston Manifesto

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The Euston Manifesto (pron. "yoosten", IPA /ˈjuːstən/) is a declaration of principles by a group on the democratic left. The statement is a reaction to what are asserted to be widespread violations of left-wing principles by other left-wingers. The manifesto states that "the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between forces on the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values."

These alleged violations are largely in relation issues in the Middle East, such as the Iraq war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the War On Terror etc. Broadly speaking, the group asserts that the left as a whole is overly critical of the actions of Western governments, such as the military presence in Iraq, and correspondingly is overly supportive of forces opposing Western governments, such as anti-Western Iraqi forces. As the document puts it, "we must define ourselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic 'anti-imperialism' and/or hostility to the current US administration."

The manifesto began as a conversation between friends, a gathering of (mainly British) academics, journalists, and activists. At their first meeting in London, they decided to write a "minimal manifesto", a short document summarising their core values. The original intention of its proposer was that the manifesto would provide a rallying point for a number of left-leaning blogs, to be collected by an aggregator, and the basis for a book collecting some of the best writing about related political questions. The group met more formally after the document's first drafting, at a branch of the O'Neill's Irish-themed pub chain on London's Euston Road — just across the road from the British Library — where the manifesto was named, and its content voted on. It was first published in the New Statesman on April 7, 2006.

The manifesto proposes a "fresh political alignment," which involves "making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not," in which the left stands for democracy, freedom, equality, internationalism, the open-source movement, and historical truth, while condemning all forms of tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Semitism, including any form of it that "conceal[s] prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of " anti-Zionism". The signatories say they "reject fear of modernity, fear of freedom, irrationalism, the subordination of women," and "reaffirm the ideas that inspired the great rallying calls of the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century: liberty, equality and solidarity; human rights; the pursuit of happiness ... But we are not zealots. 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."

Euston Manifesto Group

The panel at the public launch of the Euston Manifesto. From left to right: Alan Johnson, Eve Garrard, Nick Cohen, Shalom Lappin and Norman Geras.
The panel at the public launch of the Euston Manifesto. From left to right: Alan Johnson, Eve Garrard, Nick Cohen, Shalom Lappin and Norman Geras.

The authors and their collaborators call themselves the Euston Manifesto Group. There are about thirty members of the group, four of whom were most heavily involved in authoring the document: Norman Geras, Marxist scholar and professor emeritus at Manchester University; Damian Counsell; Alan Johnson, editor of Democratiya; and Shalom Lappin. Other members include Nick Cohen of The Observer, who co-authored with Geras the first report on the manifesto in the mainstream press; Marc Cooper of The Nation; Francis Wheen a journalist and authority on Marx; and historian Marko Attila Hoare. (see complete list)

There are similarities between the manifesto and the aims of the non-partisan Henry Jackson Society which was launched at Cambridge University in March 2005. Some Henry Jackson Society members are among the signatories of the manifesto. Figures around the American journal Telos have launched an American chapter of the Euston group. Early signatories of the American statement included Ronald Radosh, Martin Peretz, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Michael Ledeen, and Walter Laqueur.


The manifesto was published in the New Statesman and on The Guardian's blog, "Comment is Free," then was launched formally on May 25, 2006 at the Union Chapel in Islington.

It generated much lively debate on British and American blogs on the day of publication. Its critics argued it contained too many statements of the obvious, that it had little to say about imperialism or the power of global corporations, and that it was in reality a front for its authors' support for the current foreign policies of the British and American governments. Its supporters countered that very little of the statement's content had been directly criticised and that its opponents were merely worried that its principles would win broad support on the British left, thus challenging the consensus among left-liberal opinion that they believe predominates in the mainstream media.

The manifesto takes no position on the invasion of Iraq. However some of its most prominent contributors, including Nick Cohen, and the proprietors of the left-wing blog Harry's Place, supported the invasion. Of the manifesto's principal authors, two were broadly against the war; two were broadly in support. Of eight people advertised as attending a Euston Manifesto Group meeting at the 2006 Labour Party Conference, six supported the Iraq War. One of these, Gisela Stuart MP, declared during the 2004 American presidential election that a victory by challenger John Kerry victory would prompt "victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies."

Some of the manifesto's authors have criticised certain anti-war figures and groups, notably George Galloway and the Stop the War Coalition for their alliances with Islamists. Although there is still disagreement within the group over the rationale for the war, the authors agree that, after the bombs stopped falling, the left should have united around a campaign to support Iraqi democrats, feminists, and progressives. Instead, in their view, alliances were formed with Islamist groups, Baathists, and the libertarian

The manifesto states that the left's political focus should be on reconstructing Iraq and instituting a stable democracy. Opponents reject this, saying that the question of invasion is still legitimate, and that refusal by some authors to oppose the invasion is unacceptable.

As of November 2006, the left can be said as a whole to continue to focus on rationales for the war (for example whether the Iraqi government was or was not developing weapons of mass destruction, or whether oil was a motive), against what seems to be the aim of the manifesto (see for example ).


The authors start by identifying themselves as "progressives and democrats" and calling for a new political alignment in which the left stands unambiguously for democracy, and against tyranny and terrorism. Additionally, the authors note that, while they all identify as leftists or liberals, their anti- totalitarian ideals are not exclusive to any one point on the political spectrum. Following this, the manifesto lists and explains the core principles of their ideology:

Democracy, tyranny, and human rights

First and foremost, the authors say, the manifesto stands in support of pluralist democracy, including free expression, political freedom, and the separation of powers of government. The authors note that the most effective governments in the world today are democracies.

Conversely, the authors strongly condemn tyrannical governments, regardless of the circumstances (i.e. during the Cold War, supporting right-wing dictators in opposition to Communism was immoral, just as supporting totalitarian communism was equally repugnant). The authors "draw a firm line" between themselves and those on the left who might support authoritarian regimes (e.g. those who support totalitarian communism in the pursuit of social progress).

The authors strongly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, dismissing all arguments against the idea of eternal truths. They do not believe that any circumstance can justify ignoring a human right, if it is a human right. Particularly, they reject cultural relativism, the belief that different cultures can have different standards, and one culture may not judge another. Also, they condemn what they see as a willingness by some on the left to criticise minor (although real) violations of rights at home, while ignoring or excusing much greater violations abroad.

Equality and development

The manifesto is strongly supportive of egalitarian principles. While they intentionally do not specify their preferred economic system, they say that a fundamental tenet of left-liberalism must be economic and social equality between people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. Within this, they say labour unions are "bedrock organizations in the defence of workers' interests and are one of the most important forces for human rights, democracy-promotion and egalitarian internationalism." They also say "labour rights are human rights" and single out different, less-commonly represented people, including children and the sexually oppressed.

As part of promoting economic equality, the authors call for supporting increased development in poorer nations in order to alleviate extreme poverty. Their prescription for this includes greater distribution of wealth within the trading system, and the radical reform of the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. They also call for fair trade, environmental protection, debt forgiveness, and more aid. They support the campaign to Make Poverty History.

Opposing anti-Americanism

The authors stand unambiguously in support of America the country and people, while still allowing for criticism of its government and foreign policy. While noting that the United States is "not a model society," the authors note that it is a strong and stable democracy. Particularly, they commend America for its "vibrant culture." This said, they note that America has in the past supported dictators, contrary to the values of the manifesto.

Israel and Palestine

The authors support the creation of a Palestine and the continuance of Israel, known as the two-state solution. They can see no reasonable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which one side's rights are subordinate to another's.

Against racism and terror

The manifesto is opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-immigration, inter-tribal conflict, and other forms of discrimination. The authors draw particular attention to what they describe as the recent resurgence of anti-semitism, believing that some have attempted to hide anti-semitism under a cover of anti-Zionism.

Using strong language, the authors condemn and reject all forms of terrorism (defined by them as the intentional targeting of civilians) and call it a violation of international law and the laws of war. In their view, nothing can excuse terrorism. They single out Islamist terrorism as particularly heinous. They do however defend Islam itself, saying that within that faith, the victims of terrorism's worst atrocities and its most vigorous opponents can be found.

A new internationalism

The manifesto calls for the reform of international law in the interests of "global democracy and global development". It supports the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, and argues that a state's sovereignty should be respected only if "it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life". If it fails in this duty, "there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue". The form of such an intervention is not specified, but possible interpretations include diplomacy, economic sanctions, and military action. This implied support for military action is one of the main points of disagreement between the manifesto's authors and their critics.

Historical truth, openness, and heritage

The manifesto argues that pluralism within the movements of the left is essential. The authors promise to criticise in forthright terms those leftists who ally with "illiberal theocrats" or other anti-democratic figures and organisations. Additionally, they promise to listen to the ideas of both the left and the right, if such communications is made in the hopes of furthering democracy.

The manifesto emphasises the duty which genuine democrats have to respect historical truth, and to practice political honesty and straightforwardness. It claims that the reputation of the left was tarnished in this regard by the International Communist movement. It argues that some elements of the anti-war movement are guilty of making the same mistake in being too willing to work with " Islamist fascist" organisations.

Later in the manifesto, the legacy of democratic movements is recalled. The authors say that they are the latest in a long line of activists committed to the spread of human rights and free expression. They recall specifically the revolutions of the eighteenth-century (most prominent among them the French Revolution).


In the final section, the authors elaborate on specific world issues. Most prominently, the authors condemn those who call the Iraqi insurgency "freedom fighters" and reiterate their opposition to the previous Baathist regime. Furthermore, they argue that the focus of the left--regardless of how someone might have felt about the invasion--must be supporting the creation of a stable democracy in Iraq. Again, the authors espouse their egalitarian principles, saying that global inequality represents a "standing indictment of the international community."

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