First it was the sight of leftist organizations and middle class liberals marching in “peace” parades alongside Islamic thugs calling for the murder of apostates. Then there were the formerly progressive gazettes like The Nation and The Guardian championing corpse-mutilating theocrats like Muqtada al-Sadr and the suicide bombing “resistance” in Iraq. And the coup de grace: London’s Labor party mayor Ken Livingstone graciously welcoming Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a cleric who called for the murder of gays and Jews. Amidst this moral and ideological muddle, a group of graying British Marxists and ex-Communists huddled together in a London pub in May of 2005 and began crafting a manifesto for the 21st century left. Enough was enough.
For nearly a year the group – made up of bloggers like “Harry Hatchet” from Harry’s Place, and leftist academics like the Marxist political philosopher Norman Geras and the Democratiya editor Alan Johnson – met regularly to debate the past and future of progressive politics. In April 2006, the group unveiled a common statement of principles called the Euston Manifesto, named after the scruffy area where they assembled, and published it in the New Statesman and the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog. The manifesto was a seemingly uncontroversial document aiming to reassert classic liberal values: democracy over dictatorship, freedom of speech over censorship, and the need to advocate for the oppressed and the impoverished.