Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Euston, we have a problem...

Comrades and friends, I feel I ought to inform you that I have decided not to sign the Euston Manifesto. This was a really difficult decision, as you can imagine, and I had a 'long dark night of the soul' pondering it, during which I thought back to how impressed I had been by the size of the turnout of London's March for Freedom of Expression, which many of the Euston people had been busy building. I had read how a leading neo-conservative mandarin of the American Empire - William Kristol - had signed up as well - and well, I really thought there might well have been something in the Manifesto's commitment to building 'a new democratic progressive alliance'. But then my brain finally kicked in and I came to my senses.

It is not yet quite clear what sin the good people of Euston in central London must have committed to deserve being associated with the 'pro-war "Left"' or, as the signers of the Euston Manifesto call themselves, 'a new group' arguing for 'a new left'. If you regularly read blogs, you are doubtless bored rigid by now by these human loud hailers for Bush and Blair's war drive, these megaphones of the neo-conservative movement, the likes of 'Stormin' Norman Geras, Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, etc etc and those who praise them like Will Hutton does here. I still tend to call them the 'pro-war "Left"', and though there are former 'Leftists' among them, I really ought to start calling them by their proper name - 'the pro-war Right'.

Mike Marqusee has done quite a good job of hammering these liberal apologists for imperialism here - while I also recommend reading Lenin's Tomb on the Euston Manifesto as well as Maps on the pecularities of the pro-war Left. Lenin's Tomb noted the statement 'certainly mimics a certain strand of Fabian imperialism' - and while I have drawn attention to Fabian imperialism before on my blog, it is this I briefly want to explore in more detail.

You see, while the Euston Manifesto group claims to be creating something new, it is actually rehashing the ideas of a group around in Britain 100 years ago - the 'Empire Socialists' and more particularly the Coefficients Club, which was organised by the Fabian socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb (their 'partnership' is surely equal in intensity to the new 'partnership' of Geras and Cohen) and held dinners from 1902 -1908. It also included:

Leopold Stennett Amery (statesman and Conservative politician).
Richard Burdon Haldane, (Liberal politician, lawyer, and philosopher) Halford John Mackinder, (geographer and geopolitician).
Leopold Maxse, (editor, National Review)
Alfred Milner, (statesman and colonial administrator as Lord High Commissioner of South Africa).
Henry Newbolt, (author and poet)
Carlyon Bellairs, (naval commander and M.P.)
James Louis Garvin, (journalist and editor) -
William Pember Reeves, (New Zealand statesman, historian and poet)
Bertrand Russell, (philosopher, and mathematician)
Sir Clinton Edward Dawkins, businessman and civil servant.
Sir Edward Grey, Liberal politician
H. G. Wells, novelist.

There is a quite illuminating article about them here, in the [right wing] Journal for Libertarian Studies . Basically, the Fabians wanted a new world imperial order spreading out from a militarised and newly efficient British state that would spread universal suffrage internationally. While the bit about 'universal suffrage' was not accepted by the non-socialist members of the Coefficients Club, these conservative and liberals who attended saluted the idea of remilitarising British society as they felt British parliamentarism had gone soft. Lord Alfred Milner had been withdrawn from service as British High Commissioner in South Africa in 1905 when news about the concentration camps he was running in the Boer War became common knowledge. Milner joined the Coefficients Club on his return and was pleased to find others who wanted to make imperialism a mass popular national movement again. He even spoke of a 'noble socialism' that was not about class internationalism but about making the nation 'one body-politic'.

By 1908, the Coefficient Club's dream of creating a new party of social imperialism and national efficiency had been lost and the group dissolved. The Webbs had been snobs and dismissive of the new Labour Party (it was full of militant workers after all) but after Labour had revealed its uselessness to enact social reform when given a sniff of power they embraced it as the best party for progress. The Webbs enthusiasm for collectivism and state planning - socialism from above - famously led them to praise Mussolini and then Stalin - describing Stalinist Russia in the 1930s as a 'new civilisation' after declaring their hostility to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Still, the Webbs were right about one thing - when it comes to supporting British imperialism, the Labour Party were the way to go. The Euston Manifesto group in its condemnation of Respect and the Stop the War movement in Britain and their support for Tony Blair understand this very well. Their vision of imposing 'democracy' internationally from above through military action is a chilling totalitarian one, and their talk of 'new progressive politics' echoes Lord Alfred Milner's 'noble socialism', and Stalin's concentration camp universe. Still, the Coefficients Club of 'Empire Socialists' only lasted six years, and there are good reasons to think the demise of the Euston group of 'socialists for war' will be even more shortlived. To quote David Aaronovitch talking about something else in 2004: "I give 'em a year".

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At 4:27 am, Blogger Comandante Gringo said...

A short-lived demise?
Sounds positively ominous..!!

At 7:28 pm, Blogger SNAKE HUNTERS said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:50 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Pathetic Islamphobia in the service of US Power. Go and ply your racism elsewhere in future.

At 8:03 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir Edward Grey, Liberal politician

Also the foreign secretary at the start of WW1 - indeed, he had been pusing for action against Germany for years for supposedly humanitarian reasons. Might be an interesting object for further study.

Also, is it me or does Betrand Russel turn up everywhere?
That man had a hell of a lifespan.

At 11:21 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Thanks for the info on Grey.

Bertrand Russell did indeed have one hell of a lifespan, and most of the stuff he did was extremely admirable. Quite what he was doing hanging around with these imperialist scumbags I don't know.


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