Thursday, 20 April 2006

A NeoCon at the New Statesman

There's an article by Martin Bright, their political editor, which reads in part as follows:
However, one response from a self-confessed “NeoCon” from Australia genuinely took me by surprise. Zoe Brain wrote in the long sentences beloved of bloggers. But bear with her, because she hints at the possibility of a new political alignment.

“If the ‘genuine left’ are against the principles in the manifesto, rather than disagreeing on implementation; and are so blind that partisanship leads them to bed down with murderers and thugs; if their faith insists that nothing on the left can be bad and nothing on the right can be good, then I’m awfully glad to be on the opposite side after all. Call it what you will, NeoCon, NeoLeft, whatever, labels don’t matter.”

I e-mailed Zoe to say that her posting was a refreshing contrast to the depressing stock responses of the self-appointed “genuine left”. “How do you think it feels for me?” she replied. “I’m of the right, yet I find that this unashamedly leftist manifesto is far more in accordance with my beliefs and values than anything I’ve seen from my own side . . . It’s not so much depressing as disorientating and calls into question my whole political belief system . . .”. I can’t say the Euston Manifesto has had quite this effect on me, but progressives, whatever they call themselves, or each other, cannot afford to ignore it.

Here is the full reply, with Martin's comments to me embedded within.
Hi Martin!
So the first posting to genuinely engage with the argument (and the only one I have responded to so far) comes from a neo-con. This is what is so depressing for those of us on the Left trying to move the debate forward.
How do you think it feels for me? I'm of the right, yet I find that this avowedly and unashamedly Leftist manifesto is far more in accordance with my beliefs and values than anything I've seen from my own side.

I mean, Norm is an open Marxist, for goodness' sake! It's not so much depressing as disorientating, and calls into question my whole political belief system, everything I "know" about the Left that obviously isn't exactly true after all.
I think the war in Iraq was a catastrophe, (in human terms of course) but also because it has fragmented the Left.
There are those on the Right who would think this fragmentation is no bad thing, it's a desirable outcome.

After careful thought, I agree with them, but not for the reasons they give. They see it as an "Us" vs "Them" situation, Our Team vs Their Team, and an inter-tribal or sporting competition.

The Right has already split, you see. Broadly, there are Neo- and Paleo-con factions, we don't have the appearance of monolithic solidarity that has characterised the Left in the past, and that has given it such political power, but at such a terrible cost.

Note that I say "appearance" - I know that there's nothing on the Right that could compare with the "robust debate" between Trots vs Maoists vs Neo-Healeyites etc that are kept behind party doors. Or that happens at every UK Labour Party Conference.

The point is, we've managed to confine the KKKers, the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Fundies into their own little room, like crazy Uncle Jim who's in Broadmoor since he murdered ten people with an axe. Yes, there are embarrassments like Rush Limbaugh, Gerry Faldwell et al, but no-one, not even on the Left, could seriously suggest they were "Mainstream". At least, not yet - it's a constant battle we have to keep the Crazy Right safely pushed back into the Asylum. Not having a credible, sane opposition to compare them with makes that much harder.

I see their counterparts on the Lunar Left actually feted, and called heroes "speaking truth to power". And no one dare say that the Emperor Has No Clothes, because that would be criticism of the Left and and give ammunition to people like me. As if it was a zero-sum game, a team sport.

And it's not just confined to the Left. We should have had our noses rubbed in to dozens, hundreds of actual errors of judgment and execution, our occasional incompetence should have revealed and used to embarrass us so we cleaned up our own act. But instead, most MSM has, frankly "made stuff up" that was sexy and sensationalist and that fit a preconceived party line. Often we did good things, that were distorted and used against us, while our true screw-ups didn't see light of day. Why not? Because we didn't want to give ammunition to our enemies by
drawing attention to them.

The Left needs to separate the Moonbats from the Sane majority. If that means fragmentation, so be it. It can be healthy, a gain, not a loss.

And we on the Right need the Euston Manifesto at least as much as the Left does.
I feel strongly that means matter and that the neo-con solution to Iraq was wrongheaded.
Ah, but consider the alternative. Yes, too bad we screwed up what happened afterwards, though not as badly as some would make out (see
Chrenkhoff et alia), it's still far short of what we should have done.

But that's another issue, worthy of a different debate, and shouldn't be a distraction for either Right or Left. No doubt it will be used as one though, by reactionaries in both camps.
But the issues the Euston manifesto raises about universal human values are (by definition) fundamenatal and the Left writes it off at its peril.
As does the Right.

From a previous article
"Some of the Euston Manifesto items are less important than others, and arguably could have been omitted, or left to a subsidiary document, a "recommended methods" rather than "goals" one.

I'm personally not convinced that a "2-state solution" will ever be viable, and if things improve so much that it is, then it may not be necessary, with Palestinian self-determination and a secure Jewish Homeland both possibly provided for by the same state. But taking it as it's most basic, that "Israel has the right to exist", then yes, I'm for it.

I have minor quibbles. And I'm loath to adopt the word "progressive" to my own beliefs, for that label has been tainted irredeemably in my eyes.
Nonetheless, I have fewer quibbles with this manifesto than I have with the various brands of neo-conservatism that I admire, and in the main, follow. It remedies all of the fatal flaws that have made me unable to see myself as in any way connected to the Left.

I still think this is more NeoCon than Leftist, but no matter what you call it, I'm for it. I urge anyone to read the text in full, and to adopt most, if not all, of the principles espoused in it into whatever your platform your political party adopts. Especially the bits about how none of us is infallible, and how we should not let the partisan labels of Left or Right get in the way of our common goals.

I've signed up, anyway. I could do no other."

All the best, and I never in my born days thought I'd be writing to the
political editor of the New Statesman. Probably the second most
surprising thing to happen to me in the last 12 months.


I wasn't quite game to tell him what the most surprising one was.

No comments: