Saturday, 28 March 2015

King Richard, long lost, forever found

Kevin Spacey as Shakespeare's Richard
as the poem by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has it, rather beautifully. I do believe the finding of Richard in 2012 was providential. It is so unlikely that the redevelopment (and destruction) which happened on the site in Leicester, most recently a council car park, over 500 years managed to do no worse than cut off the feet of King Richard's skeleton (we think that is why the feet are missing). It was so unlikely that the remains would be found, when there was so little evidence to go on that the likelihood of the remains ever being found was pooh-poohed even by ardent Ricardians over the years. But found they were, by a melange of scientific rigour, evidence, and personal intuition. And it is only now that it is possible for DNA evidence to establish that the bones are Richard's. And only now that the identified descendants are here to act as confirmation - because none of them has children, and the mitochondrial DNA line dies (it appears) with them. Although, Benedict Cumberbatch is apparently a descendant too, but his DNA has not so far as I know been sampled. He read the Carol Ann Duffy poem quite beautifully at the reinterment ceremony.

I went to Leicester for King Richard. Once it was clear - and I will not bore you with the various opinions, lawsuits and other controversies on the subject which have emerged since the discovery of the remains in 2012 - that Richard's remains would be buried in Leicester, near where he was killed, and very near the site of his hasty burial by the Franciscans at Grey Friars in Leicester, I knew I would not want to miss this occasion. Me, and many thousands of others. The Leicester city and Leicester Cathedral authorities have counted those who were there, but by no means all of them. They did not count the retired Caribbean widow who lives in Surrey and who took the the train to Leicester on impulse on Wednesday. She was too late to file past the coffin, as by the time she got there they were closing the Cathedral to prepare for the reinterment ceremony on Thursday. But she was there, and wept as she told me her late husband would have loved to be there. They did not count the Polish family from Nottingham who turned up for the light and firework display on Friday evening - the parents thought the children would enjoy it and that it would be good for their education about English history. There must have been many many others.

This week I have spent a LOT of time queueing at the Cathedral. But I didn't mind. And neither did anyone else, from what I saw. It was a very English queue - no one pushed in, there were stewards with not that much to do - although far from everyone was English. I heard American and Australian voices in quite some numbers, and on Friday while waiting (barely two hours this time) to see the finished tomb, got talking with some Canadians. I met an American playwright named Nance Crawford who grew up and still lives in Hollywood and has written a book in verse about King Richard (I bought it, natch). I met another American lady, age about 70, called Maggie Thorne, who wore a baseball cap to the Bosworth battlefield and who said "Richard has been my king since 1976". There were white roses everywhere. The wooden coffin looked small and lonely last Sunday as it was brought into Leicester by black horses. Thirty-five thousand people, including me, lined the streets to see it pass. We all die alone, even if we are remembered by multitudes.

Why were the events of the past week so important? There have been carpers and nitpickers. Polly Toynbee, inevitably, in the Filth, said it was ludicrous to pay tribute to Richard, because he was a king. Some tosser, writing in some rag or other, called Richard a "psychopathic killer". Jon Snow did himself no favours when he called the church services "mumbo-jumbo", to the disapproval of a Hindu gentleman to whom he addressed those words. There have been those who objected to the church services (most of them) being Anglican, because Richard was a Catholic. My view is that if Richard had had a burial with due dignity and honour in 1485 it would have been in a Catholic church, because that was what there was in England at the time, and after all no one makes a fuss now about any royal grave pre Henry VIII being in an Anglican church, as they now are. One otherwise sensible historical blogger referred in passing to  "Protestant" rites. No. The Church of England is not a Protestant church.

But ordinary people, in huge numbers, came spontaneously to pay tribute, and many more who were not present posted their feelings on line. This was a moment in the history of England. The last English king, and the last king of England to die in battle on English soil - and no one disputes Richard's bravery - and the first to be DNA tested. Plantagenet is not, as some think, a French name, but an English one, derived from the Latin for the native English plant broom - Planta Genista. It was Richard's ancestor Geoffrey of Anjou who adopted the name. It works as well in English as in French. An important moment, and one the ordinary people of England and more understood better than those writing in the Guardian and its ilk who claim to speak for them. The lost king, who is now found. He has had a media profile that almost no other king has had, thanks to Shakespeare, who was hired as a propagandist against him by the Tudor usurpers (100 years later, why did they still think it necessary?) but whose spin ultimately failed as the truth began to come out.

Laws in English. A Bible in English. The precursor of legal aid. The abolition of benevolences. In less than two years on the throne, and having to deal with rebellion and plotting in that time, to say nothing of losing his beloved wife and son, and thus leaving no heir. I'll defy most rulers to do as much. This is the best-known portrait of Richard, though it is from long after his death, and is thought to be a copy of a now-lost portrait made during his lifetime.

I went to Bosworth. It is a Leicestershire field. It looks like this now. There would have been no trees or hedges in Richard's time.


Bosworth, edge of the battlefield




The tomb made for Richard is of Swaledale stone (from Yorkshire), and is so designed, with a deep cross-shaped cut, that the light of the rising sun will make a glowing cross when it strikes the tomb through the stained glass window. Remember what happened to the winter of our discontent? Made glorious summer by this sun of York? Yes, Shakespeare had the words, all right. I came to Richard first through Shakespeare, at the age of fourteen.
Rest in peace, King Richard

Leicester City Council (Leicester became a city, and St. Martin's Church a cathedral, in 1927) did not put a foot wrong. Thank you Leicester for your welcome, and for the dignity and honour you have given King Richard. Thank you too for not trying to appropriate, or even comment on, his reign, his political base, anything he did, but for doing the right thing and giving him the honourable resting place he deserves. Thank you Leicester Cathedral for your commemoration of him. Thank you for using the theme of defeat (for after all Richard was defeated in battle at Bosworth in 1485, and that is how the usurper Henry Tudor got the throne) and death, in what your preachers said this past week about Richard. Many of us are defeated in life, or at the end of it. And all of us die. And that makes us all the same, at the end, king, or priest, or commoner. Rest in peace King Richard. I consider myself blessed to have been in Leicester this week. Loyaulte me lie (Loyalty Binds Me, Richard's personal motto). 

This is how Leicester ended the week - with thousands of lights, and fireworks from the Cathedral roof.






Friday, 27 March 2015

rubbish about Richard

People who know me know that I am a Ricardian, namely someone who thinks King Richard III has been unfairly maligned over the centuries. I am in Leicester this week for what is being called locally The Return of the King. Wrongly, because this is where he was killed. It is beginning to look as though we have got our king back. More on this to come, but in the meantime here are some intelligent remarks.

https://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

fisking the Salter

well, he should keep quiet about things that don't concern him if he doesn't like it. Now he has instructed His Master's Voice, aka the Reading Evening Post, to publish the following. A little light fisking is, I think, in order.

the body language is hilarious
 
Former Reading West MP Martin Salter has launched an attack on his successor Alok Sharma for being a “party political clone”. Pots and kettles, anyone?
The former Labour MP, who stepped down and then tried to un-step-down when he realised the seat was not necessarily lost for Labour despite his having spent most of his time in Reading East while an MP before the last General Election in 2010 in which Conservative Alok Sharma won the seat, has written to his former constituents what, all 70K plus of them? with a second-class stamp at - oh, you do the math. The Angling Trust must be paying him better than their website indicates if he's got around 40K to spend on postage saying: “I fought long and hard for my constituents and you recognised that with your support at three General Elections for which I’m profoundly grateful.
“I had hoped that my Conservative successor, Alok Sharma, would do as he promised and put local people before his party interests and his own career.
“Sadly, he has turned out to be a big disappointment and has spent five years toeing the party line so he can occupy a minor role in government as a bag carrier for a junior minister. Pots and kettles, again. At least Alok Sharma has kept the job. When Salter got his first taste of life as a ministerial bag-carrier, he lasted five weeks before being sacked
Reading West deserves better than this and I know that Vicky Victoria Groulef, a business woman who seems to be a sound candidate. She ought to stop having her picture taken with Salter if she knows what's good for her will be an MP that puts you and your families first and who will fight day and night for the best deal for her constituency irrespective of party politics.” She won't, you know, for the simple reason that she would be deselected if she did

Mr Salter went on: “When I stepped down as MP five years ago, I had hoped my Conservative successor would continue the tradition hollow laugh of putting the people of Reading West before the wishes of the party whips which Mr Salter did not do, voting precisely as the whips instructed him to do on Iraq, which was not to vote at all. Yep, a noble tradition of abstention and cowardice. Don't go there Victoria

Mr Salter still lives in Reading West, was a Reading Borough councillor and deputy leader of the council before becoming an MP, and currently works for the Angling Trust as campaigns co-ordinator. gushes the Post. How about coming up with a reason for publishing this muck produced by a nobody and a has-been, or better still, investigating who paid for the 70,000 letters we are informed have been sent to people in Reading West?

update: the Reading Chronicle says (so it must be true), the following:

Martin Salter, Reading West MP from 1997 to 2010, launched the scathing attack in a letter which is to be sent out to all 73,000 constituents.

So, tell us, who's paying for this bilious self-serving pyramid of piffle to be mailed on behalf of a clapped-out former politician whose career ended in ignominious failure? Huh?

anyone notice there's an election coming? it's time to kick a teacher

aaaand here we go again! It's election time, so I thought I would cast an eye into the pit of darkness that is Reading, UK. Well, a pit of darkness politically, anyway, otherwise it's an OK town, and one I was pleased to live in for 21 years, still the longest I have lived anywhere. My children went to the excellent E.P. Collier primary school there, and went on to the comprehensive school north of the Thames called Highdown. I thought the school was OK, but neither of them did. My older one had left by the time Tim Royle took over as head. He was excellent in my view, and I was very pleased to be able to introduce him to the then Education Secretary David Blunkett back at the end of the 1990s. Later (I do not say the two events are connected) Tim Royle became a national leader in education, and the school improved a lot under his leadership. Well, there were those who did not like that, and Tim Royle found himself accused of fraud. Fortunately the charges were thrown out, but the darkness remains. Tim Royle was not the first head teacher of that school to be pushed out and accused of misdeeds. When that happens (a previous head this happened to, Alan Furley, is now dead, and the things that were said at his funeral (I was there) would make your hair curl) there is dark muttering in Reading Labour Party (a number of teachers are Labour Party members, and one former Highdown teacher, Jan Gavin, is a councillor) from those who claim to know all about What Has Really Been Going On. You'd think, wouldn't you, that if councillors had real concerns about what was happening at a school they would investigate and try and do something about it, in the interests of the pupils and of education in the town? No, it doesn't work like that. So, only a few people at the heart of Reading Labour Party know why two head teachers have been variously attacked, dismissed, and dragged through the courts on trivial and trumped-up charges. I think they should tell us.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo - more bellendery

Some bloke called Des Freedman, who apparently is professor of media and communications at Goldsmiths College (yes I know) starts off a piece on openDemocracy like this (hat-tip Anthony Posner):

"The horrific killing of ten journalists and two policemen in Paris on Wednesday has been widely described in the mainstream media as a ‘murderous attack on Western freedoms’, notably freedom of expression and the right to satirise. In response, some bloggers have insisted that the ‘attack had nothing to do with free speech’ but was simply part of the ongoing war between Western governments and jihadists.
The reality is that the killers did single out journalists and timed their attack to coincide with the weekly editorial meeting at Charlie Hebdo in order to secure maximum impact. The cartoonists now join the growing number of journalists killed ‘in the line of duty’. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that over 1100 journalists have been killed in the last twenty years (with 60 killed in 2014 alone). They include not simply the high-profile murders of reporters by Isil in Syria but also cases like the 16 Palestinian journalists killed by the Israeli army in Gaza together with the 16 reporters killed by US military fire in Iraq. Strangely enough, these latter killings do not seem to have generated the same claims from leading commentators that they constituted a ‘murderous attack on Western freedoms’. Yet the fact remains that it is an outrage – whatever the identity of the assailant or the victim – that a single journalist should have lost their life simply for covering or commenting on a conflict."
Sigh. Yes, the Charlie Hebdo killings were indeed a "murderous attack on Western freedoms", because that is how they were described, by their perpetrators and by those who laud them for it. Does Prof Freedman know better than the killers did what they had in mind? (He also forgets to mention the Jews killed in Paris the same week for being Jews, but hey, that's a whole other story, n'est-ce pas?) The killings of the Palestinian journalists and the reporters in Iraq have not been so described, because that is not what they were. How could the US military, or the Israeli army, have been setting out to "attack Western freedoms"? What nonsense. Intellectual dishonesty, or rank stupidity, I am not sure which. Both, probably. Journalists who are brave enough to go to war zones to report quite often do get killed, not usually (though sometimes) by people who want them dead for being journalists. But hey, let's not let the facts get in the way. Those who thought killing the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and their colleagues was just fine think this. The message is fairly clear. Or are these just brown-skin people who need to be told what to think by London "academics"? (Picture nocompulsion.com)

Monday, 19 January 2015

how to be an apologist

yes, from Harry's Place - and add to it if you are in France that Charlie Hebdo wasn't very good anyway, and some of it was racist, and they were being offensive for the sake of it, and, and, and go a bit quiet when anyone mentions the Jews who were killed in Paris for being Jews, and then brighten up when you remember that it was a Muslim who rescued a lot of them.


Euston, we have a problem

Back in 2006 the late and much missed Norman Geras was instrumental in the drafting of what became known as the Euston Manifesto, a document, and a doctrine, I was proud to support at the time and remain so. Now, following the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, as part of which Jews were killed in Paris for being Jews, it seems good to republish. There was much Guardianista mockery at the time, but I have nothing to add.

The Euston Manifesto

For a Renewal of Progressive Politics

A. Preamble

We are democrats and progressives.
We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.
The present initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Internet, especially the "blogosphere". It is our perception, however, that this constituency is under-represented elsewhere — in much of the media and the other forums of contemporary political life.
The broad statement of principles that follows is a declaration of intent. It inaugurates a new Website, which will serve as a resource for the current of opinion it hopes to represent and the several foundation blogs and other sites that are behind this call for a progressive realignment.

B. Statement of principles

1 For democracy.
We are committed to democratic norms, procedures and structures — freedom of opinion and assembly, free elections, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, and the separation of state and religion. We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance, of those countries in which liberal, pluralist democracies have taken hold.
2 No apology for tyranny.
We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.
3 Human rights for all.
We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.
4 Equality.
We espouse a generally egalitarian politics. We look towards progress in relations between the sexes (until full gender equality is achieved), between different ethnic communities, between those of various religious affiliations and those of none, and between people of diverse sexual orientations — as well as towards broader social and economic equality all round. We leave open, as something on which there are differences of viewpoint amongst us, the question of the best economic forms of this broader equality, but we support the interests of working people everywhere and their right to organize in defence of those interests. Democratic trade unions are the bedrock organizations for the defence of workers' interests and are one of the most important forces for human rights, democracy-promotion and egalitarian internationalism. Labour rights are human rights. The universal adoption of the International Labour Organization Conventions — now routinely ignored by governments across the globe — is a priority for us. We are committed to the defence of the rights of children, and to protecting people from sexual slavery and all forms of institutionalized abuse.
5 Development for freedom.
We stand for global economic development-as-freedom and against structural economic oppression and environmental degradation. The current expansion of global markets and free trade must not be allowed to serve the narrow interests of a small corporate elite in the developed world and their associates in developing countries. The benefits of large-scale development through the expansion of global trade ought to be distributed as widely as possible in order to serve the social and economic interests of workers, farmers and consumers in all countries. Globalization must mean global social integration and a commitment to social justice. We support radical reform of the major institutions of global economic governance (World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank) to achieve these goals, and we support fair trade, more aid, debt cancellation and the campaign to Make Poverty History. Development can bring growth in life-expectancy and in the enjoyment of life, easing burdensome labour and shortening the working day. It can bring freedom to youth, possibilities of exploration to those of middle years, and security to old age. It enlarges horizons and the opportunities for travel, and helps make strangers into friends. Global development must be pursued in a manner consistent with environmentally sustainable growth.
6 Opposing anti-Americanism.
We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. This is not a case of seeing the US as a model society. We are aware of its problems and failings. But these are shared in some degree with all of the developed world. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name. Its peoples have produced a vibrant culture that is the pleasure, the source-book and the envy of millions. That US foreign policy has often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported regressive and authoritarian ones does not justify generalized prejudice against either the country or its people.
7 For a two-state solution.
We recognize the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There can be no reasonable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that subordinates or eliminates the legitimate rights and interests of one of the sides to the dispute.
8 Against racism.
For liberals and the Left, anti-racism is axiomatic. We oppose every form
of racist prejudice and behaviour: the anti-immigrant racism of the far Right; tribal and inter-ethnic racism; racism against people from Muslim countries and those descended from them, particularly under cover of the War on Terror. The recent resurgence of another, very old form of racism, anti-Semitism, is not yet properly acknowledged in left and liberal circles. Some exploit the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel, and conceal prejudice against the Jewish people behind the formula of "nti-Zionism". We oppose this type of racism too, as should go without saying.
9 United against terror.
We are opposed to all forms of terrorism. The deliberate targeting of civilians is a crime under international law and all recognized codes of warfare, and it cannot be justified by the argument that it is done in a cause that is just. Terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology is widespread today. It threatens democratic values and the lives and freedoms of people in many countries. This does not justify prejudice against Muslims, who are its main victims, and amongst whom are to be found some of its most courageous opponents. But, like all terrorism, it is a menace that has to be fought, and not excused.
10 A new internationalism.
We stand for an internationalist politics and the reform of international law — in the interests of global democratization and global development. Humanitarian intervention, when necessary, is not a matter of disregarding sovereignty, but of lodging this properly within the "common life"
of all peoples. If in some minimal sense a state protects the common life of its people (if it does not torture, murder and slaughter its own civilians, and meets their most basic needs of life), then its sovereignty is to be respected. But if the state itself violates this common life in appalling ways, its claim to sovereignty is forfeited and there is a duty upon the international community of intervention and rescue. Once a threshold of inhumanity has been crossed, there is a "responsibility to protect".
11 A critical openness.
Drawing the lesson of the disastrous history of left apologetics over the crimes of Stalinism and Maoism, as well as more recent exercises in the same vein (some of the reaction to the crimes of 9/11, the excuse-making for suicide-terrorism, the disgraceful alliances lately set up inside the "anti-war" movement with illiberal theocrats), we reject the notion that there are no opponents on the Left. We reject, similarly, the idea that there can be no opening to ideas and individuals to our right. Leftists who make common cause with, or excuses for, anti-democratic forces should be criticized in clear and forthright terms. Conversely, we pay attention to liberal and conservative voices and ideas if they contribute to strengthening democratic norms and practices and to the battle for human progress.
12 Historical truth.
In connecting to the original humanistic impulses of the movement for human progress, we emphasize the duty which genuine democrats must have to respect for the historical truth. Not only fascists, Holocaust-deniers and the like have tried to obscure the historical record. One of the tragedies of the Left is that its own reputation was massively compromised in this regard by the international Communist movement, and some have still not learned that lesson. Political honesty and straightforwardness are a primary obligation for us.
13 Freedom of ideas.
We uphold the traditional liberal freedom of ideas. It is more than ever necessary today to affirm that, within the usual constraints against defamation, libel and incitement to violence, people must be at liberty to criticize ideas — even whole bodies of ideas — to which others are committed. This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general. Respect for others does not entail remaining silent about their beliefs where these are judged to be wanting.
14 Open source.
As part of the free exchange of ideas and in the interests of encouraging joint intellectual endeavour, we support the open development of software and other creative works and oppose the patenting of genes, algorithms and facts of nature. We oppose the retrospective extension of intellectual property laws in the financial interests of corporate copyright holders.
The open source model is collective and competitive, collaborative and meritocratic. It is not a theoretical ideal, but a tested reality that has created common goods whose power and robustness have been proved over decades. Indeed, the best collegiate ideals of the scientific research community that gave rise to open source collaboration have served human progress for centuries.
15 A precious heritage.
We reject fear of modernity, fear of freedom, irrationalism, the subordination of women; and we 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. These inspirational ideas were made the inheritance of us all by the social-democratic, egalitarian, feminist and anti-colonial transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — by the pursuit of social justice, the provision of welfare, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men and women. None should be left out, none left behind. We are partisans of these values. 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.

C. Elaborations

We defend liberal and pluralist democracies against all who make light of the differences between them and totalitarian and other tyrannical regimes. But these democracies have their own deficits and shortcomings. The battle for the development of more democratic institutions and procedures, for further empowering those without influence, without a voice or with few political resources, is a permanent part of the agenda of the Left.
The social and economic foundations on which the liberal democracies have developed are marked by deep inequalities of wealth and income and the survival of unmerited privilege. In turn, global inequalities are a scandal to the moral conscience of humankind. Millions live in terrible poverty. Week in, week out, tens of thousands of people — children in particular — die from preventable illnesses. Inequalities of wealth, both as between individuals and between countries, distribute life chances in an arbitrary way.
These things are a standing indictment against the international community. We on the Left, in keeping with our own traditions, fight for justice and a decent life for everyone. In keeping with those same traditions, we have also to fight against powerful forces of totalitarian-style tyranny that are on the march again. Both battles have to be fought simultaneously. One should not be sacrificed for the other.
We repudiate the way of thinking according to which the events of September 11, 2001 were America's deserved comeuppance, or "understandable" in the light of legitimate grievances resulting from US foreign policy. What was done on that day was an act of mass murder, motivated by odious fundamentalist beliefs and redeemed by nothing whatsoever. No evasive formula can hide that.
The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change. We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Baathist regime in Iraq, and we recognize its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country's infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted — rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.
This opposes us not only to those on the Left who have actively spoken in support of the gangs of jihadist and Baathist thugs of the Iraqi so-called resistance, but also to others who manage to find a way of situating themselves between such forces and those trying to bring a new democratic life to the country. We have no truck, either, with the tendency to pay lip service to these ends, while devoting most of one's energy to criticism of political opponents at home (supposedly responsible for every difficulty in Iraq), and observing a tactful silence or near silence about the ugly forces of the Iraqi "insurgency". The many left opponents of regime change in Iraq who have been unable to understand the considerations that led others on the Left to support it, dishing out anathema and excommunication, more lately demanding apology or repentance, betray the democratic values they profess.
Vandalism against synagogues and Jewish graveyards and attacks on Jews themselves are on the increase in Europe. "Anti-Zionism" has now developed to a point where supposed organizations of the Left are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups. Amongst educated and affluent people are to be found individuals unembarrassed to claim that the Iraq war was fought on behalf of Jewish interests, or to make other "polite" and subtle allusions to the harmful effect of Jewish influence in international or national politics — remarks of a kind that for more than fifty years after the Holocaust no one would have been able to make without publicly disgracing themselves. We stand against all variants of such bigotry.
The violation of basic human rights standards at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and by the practice of "rendition", must be roundly condemned for what it is: a departure from universal principles, for the establishment of which the democratic countries themselves, and in particular the United States of America, bear the greater part of the historical credit. But we reject the double standards by which too many on the Left today treat as the worst violations of human rights those perpetrated by the democracies, while being either silent or more muted about infractions that outstrip these by far. This tendency has reached the point that officials speaking for Amnesty International, an organization which commands enormous, worldwide respect because of its invaluable work over several decades, can now make grotesque public comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag, can assert that the legislative measures taken by the US and other liberal democracies in the War on Terror constitute a greater attack on human rights principles and values than anything we have seen in the last 50 years, and be defended for doing so by certain left and liberal voices.

D. Conclusion

It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of liberal, egalitarian and internationalist outlook should now speak clearly. 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 values and goals which properly make up that agenda — the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression — are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.
Norman Geras [For legal purposes, this document is copyright Norman Geras 2006.]
Damian Counsell
Alan Johnson
Shalom Lappin
and 2844 others,