Thursday, April 13, 2006

I so wanted to like this manifesto

Bill Barr has been pumping the Euston Manifesto, a document by a bunch of very smart progressives in the UK.

At first, I was very enthused. I am predisposed toward kindness to anything that comes from the UK in the first place, and I was very happy with what I read at first.

I agree with them so much on so many things. It is indeed time to quit whining about how we got into the war in Iraq and focus on doing as much good as we can there. I agree that the Baathists are some nasty folks and to pull the troops now leave them in control is to do a disservice to human rights worldwide. I agree that treating women like crap and punishing people of the wrong religion is not a cultural choice, it is just wrong. I agree that America is flawed, but it takes some pretty severe intellectual laziness to ignore the flaws of other places to make America seem so much worse.

But as a good UU, I read the lyrics of the hymn very carefully before I sing it.

I won't be singing this one.

Here are the main points I disagree with:

1. "Democracy for everybody! Right now!" I do think that democracy is the EVENTUAL best solution for everybody. But if China becomes a Democracy right now, it will turn into post-Soviet Russia, except even less equipped to feed people. For an even simpler example, look at Pakistan. If there were a free election today, human rights would go back to the stone age. Witness the difficulty they are having right now with getting a government in Iraq that both represents the people and lets women have rights.

2. Trade unions are the Bee's Knees for everybody Trade unions, like all bureaucracies, eventually stop being about their members and start to further their own interests. I'm not saying they haven't done good things, but when the Unions have had the power to bring a company to its knees, they have often been corrupted by it. (Note also how a few years ago Northwests' mechanics utterly fucked themselves over by going to a union that promised them better stuff. The union's "no concessions" platform ended up in a strike. Had the other workers gone along with a sympathy strike, Northwest would have gone bankrupt and everyone would have been screwed. So they didn't. And with all the airlines that HAVE gone bankrupt, it was pretty simple for Northwest to hire a staff of scabs, in fact they had done so before the strike began. Now that we're out of the "broken kneecaps" phase of unions, the "have a bunch of scabs already on the payroll" plan worked fine for Northwest and thus the union utterly screwed its members and got every one of them canned.) In an increasingly global and interdependant world, I question how effective labor unions can be without seriously fucking over some other people. The recent transit strikes, where the evening news featured lots of people going "They make more than I do! And their health insurance is BETTER! Why the hell do they have to strike and keep ME from a day's pay!" seem pretty representative. People do not seem to get angry at the administration for denying workers benefits they themselves don't have. They get angry at the workers, who by refusing to do their jobs over nickles and dimes really mess with other people's lives.

3. Globalization (when it means the spread of corporations) is so bad, we should keep people from choosing it I find the idea that people should be protected from their desire to self-determine and globalize oh so patronizing. There are abusive elements to the way some big companies behave, but in the end, nobody forces people to take a job we see as crappy that helps them feed their families. As far as I can tell, many liberals have completely romanticized what living life without modern conveniences is like. Witness Pakistan, where people CAN leave the refugee camps and return to their cute little villages but are in huge numbers refusing to because the refugee camps, shantytowns though they are, have clean water, schools and medical care.

4. Anyone who is Anti-Zionist is an anti-semite Uh, no.


who owes TheCSO much credit for this peice as we talked it over together at great length.


Bill Baar said...

Hey thanks for picking up on this...

I disagree strongly on 1 and 4.

People can make a good argument for 1, and many do including yourself here.. but my point would be there is noting liberal or progressive about the postions. It's a deeply conservative view.

As for 4, I think there is an ugly strain of anti semtism growning among the left. I hear and see things I though unimaginable e.g. a UU with a webpage showing the drive behind the Iraq war as a Jewish prayer shawl; click on it and an Israeli flag appeared.... or check the fellow who called the Euston Manifesto signers hebes.

Not to mention the smash the jewish state at the SF anti war demo.

Engage is a good site to track leftish anti semitism.

Also Nick Cohen's column on you won't believe the anti semitism abou to hit you. It's a shock when it hits you.

Globalization and Trade Unions... I agree with you on your Globalization points... I'm not certain they're in conflict with the manifesto... I think a stronger Interanational Trade Union movement allowed operate in free in democratic countries together with free trade the best solution...

But this all deserves more discussion and I'm pressed but hopefully this whole manifesto is going to spur more talk among the left... the good in it in my opinion far out weighs any flaws.

Thanks again for picking up on it.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't say that anyone who's an anti-Zionist is an anti-semite. It says that some people "conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of 'anti-Zionism'". Not the same thing at all. It's "some anti-Zionists are anti-semites", not "all anti-Zionists are anti-semites".