Why the Euston group offers a new direction for the left: A disparate set of left-wing thinkers meeting in a London pub has reopened an essential debate on the nature of democracy (Will Hutton, April 23, 2006, The Observer)
To be on the left is to be both temperamentally inclined to dissent and to be passionate about your own utopia, which can never be achieved. Condemned to disappointment, you rage at the world, your party and your leader.
Relative peace comes when the right is in power and the left temporarily sinks its differences before the greater enemy. But to survive in office, the left leader must keep utopian factionalism at bay and that means making your followers understand hard realities and tough trade-offs and selling them the ones you make yourself.
Until Iraq, Blair had been pretty effective in squaring away his various critics, but the war has overwhelmed him. Almost every strand of left utopianism has been offended, from human-rights activists to anti-American imperialists, internationalists to straightforward peaceniks. And with Iraq now on the edge of civil war, their every fear and warning has been amply validated. With no strand in the left ready to utter a word in his support, the Prime Minister has had zero leverage to fight back. Down and down he has gone in the eyes of his left-wing critics.
Which is why a small meeting of disillusioned leftist journalists, university lecturers and passionate bloggers in a London pub last year is proving a potentially important political event. Two or three internet bloggers have been arguing strongly for some months that whether it was for or against the Iraq invasion, Western liberal opinion must now stand united behind the attempt to create and entrench the panoply of democratic and human rights in Iraq and be against the religious fundamentalism propelling it down.
Western liberalism has been making a fundamental mistake in claiming that, because they spring from a war so many of us opposed, the anti-Enlightenment jihadists and insurgents are somehow Bush and Blair’s responsibility. The right course now is to construct an Iraqi democracy which means backing the hated Blair and Bush.
Note the core problem that Mr. Hutton and the most good-intentioned members of the Decent Left can’t overcome: they accept the notion that you can be a liberal in good standing but oppose replacing a genocidal tyrant like Saddam with a parliamentary democracy on principle. They want to sleep with Evil but wake up virginal in the morning.