The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Manifesto of the Third Camp

No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny
- Hanna Arendt

Anthony McIntyre • 11 August 2006

We live in a perilous world. The current Israeli war of terror against the civilian population of Lebanon indicates just how perilous. Israeli aggression and its associated war crimes would not be possible in the absence of US militarism. The US invasion of Iraq has made the world even more dangerous than it was prior to the 9/11 attacks on America.

Competing with US militarism for world hegemony is political Islam. Lacking the muscle of the US does not inhibit this totalitarian strain in its violent intent. In some regions political Islam has attained state power, as in Iran, where it inflicts its vile belief system on society.

World peace is under constant siege from these two expansionist forces. The US seeks to extend its military hegemony throughout the globe. Political Islam seeks to extend its totalitarian ideology over the same ground. This will always lead to competition between the two and increase the threat to those not of their hue. Those opposed to such expansionism must devise strategies for a specific expansionism of their own.

Expansionism per se is not the problem. What is being expanded is. A democratic counter expansionism that seeks to extend universal human rights to every corner of the globe is hardly expansionism in the standard negative sense. It is rights rather than power driven. Its advocates are sometimes accused of fundamentalism; taking up fundamentalist positions on human rights, free speech and secularism. This is an inversion of the truth. Human rights, a commitment to free speech, opposition to the imposition of the great idea, the right to dissent from that idea - all of these are what defundamentalise human society and make it safer.

In seeking to devise no grand definitive belief system in which all must acquiesce, the principles of democracy, human rights, individual liberty, secularism and free speech do not constitute a meta-narrative which seeks to impose itself on global society. They simply permit a framework which every human being can avail of. If people choose not to that is a matter of individual conscience. But the individual alone has to be free to make the choice and must never be subject to the diktat of another on such matters. If a person does not wish to exercise the right to free speech, sexual freedom, political liberty, freedom from religion, free enquiry, fair enough. They have a right to desist. But that is where their right ends. They cannot deny another access to that right. People can believe what they want but should never be compelled to believe something. Democratic expansionism, unlike fundamentalism does not compel people to believe, merely to respect the right of others to hold a different belief. Moreover, no person can be tortured; no person can be raped; no person can be enslaved - regardless of what beliefs they hold. These are inviolable and non-negotiable rights, not adhered to by the forces of US militarism and political Islam.

The dominant global cleavage of our time is between the forces for democracy and those determined to curb freedom. In this epic struggle the US is not positioned on one side and the forces of Islamic totalitarianism on the other. The US has for long backed totalitarian regimes throughout the world. Its current backing of Israel in the Middle East belies the Neoconservative paradigm of extending democracy across the globe. US militarism and political Islam are the twin poles of terror that lay global siege to a democratic ethos.

For these reasons it is a worthwhile exercise for those interested in extending and deepening democracy to give their support to the manifesto of the Third Camp. It poses an honest, intellectual and ethical challenge to the twin poles of terror. Through no choice of its own it is part of a zero sum game which goes with the turf. It battles against US and Islamic authoritarian expansionism with a democratic expansionism of its own. Where it goes forward the twin poles of terror must pull back. Where it cedes ground the twin poles of terror will advance and viciously contest the space vacated by democracy, posing a major threat to world peace in the course of doing so. Democracy must do its utmost to hold the ground it takes in order to offset the calamitous outcome that beckons.

The Third Camp manifesto rejects in equal measure the suicide bombers of political Islam and the infanticide bombers of US militarism. It defends the liberties and rights that citizens in Western societies have gained and enjoy and which should be extended to all citizens of the globe. These are currently under sustained attack. If US militarism succeeds with its internal programmes dissent and opposition will enter an ice age in the West. Secular totalitarianism is not any more preferable than religious totalitarianism.

Ashraf Ismail has pointed out how the current war in Lebanon and the associated criticism by Israel of Iran has in fact served to 'greatly enhance Iran's prestige in the region … While the Arab states look like traitors, Iran looks like a champion of the most celebrated of all Muslim causes.' This mirrors the encroachments on the civil liberties in the West and is devastating for human progress. Progressives in Iran must be supported in their efforts to unmask the hideousness that lies beneath this veil of the new Muslim champion.

Holding first and foremost that each person is a citizen of the world the Third Camp offers a vision of globality rather than nationality. Despots and tyrants should not be allowed to shelter under the self-serving cover of nations or the equally pseudo philosophy of cultural relativism where they can practice barbarism unhindered.

In signing any manifesto there is always an element of compromise. Democracy makes the world diverse. Democratic sentiments coming together create a synergy that holds because of their differences rather than in spite of them. Many shades of opinion make up the Third Camp Manifesto. To expect that it goes as far as we would all wish is neither realistic nor democratic. Iran for example should be expelled from the International community. But it is not alone. Israel too should face a similar fate. But the Manifesto while not arguing for Israeli expulsion does not prohibit those who sign it from campaigning for such an outcome or equally stringent measures. This much is evident from the Third Camp call made by Asqar Karimi for the government of Israel to be indicted for war crimes.

Furthermore, there are practical as well as ethical reasons for seeking the expulsion of Iran. The country because of the belligerence of its clerical ruling class has upped the stakes in a nuclear environment. If it persists in pursuing the nuclear option, there is a likelihood that it will be militarily attacked by the US or Israel. Were the country populated only by Mullahs and Muftis, such attacks would generate little opposition. As Salman Rushdie says when tyrants fall only hypocrites grieve. But there is strong opposition in Iran to the totalitarian theocracy. There are innocent men, women and children who must be protected from any war their leaders and the US/Israeli axis contrive to create. Having Iran banned from the international community is one way of bringing pressure to its theocratic leadership to desist from its pursuit of the nuclear option; an alternative to its population being subjected to a military attack by the US and Israel. The world has witnessed already what such a cruel alliance can inflict on the innocent. Its war on children must never be allowed to become extended to Iran.

Nuclear disarmament is a noble goal for humanity to strive for. It is a difficult task. In a world where nuclear power has for many come to equate with sovereignty all nations are tempted to steal a march on others. It is grossly unfair that the US should be in possession of a nuclear armoury and Iran not. But it would be more unjust to the people of the world if that disequilibrium was to be addressed through allowing Iran such weapons also. More weapons of mass destruction rather than fewer are not the way ahead. No nation should acquire them. Those who have them should be pushed back. When was any problem ever solved by increasing its size?

That there is a need for a Third Camp Manifesto is self evident. Marx said we face either socialism or barbarism. Those traditionally looked upon as being the dykes through which the tides of barbarism shall not flow, the Left, have been reduced in both quantity and quality. Radical ideas have been placed in the hands of the incompetent authoritarians of the Irrelevant Left whose hatred of democracy and devotion to centralism have long been repellent. Its radical soullessness, in part occasioned by its abandonment of core universal values in deference to cultural relativism, has led it to a racist embracing of reactionary theocrats.

Solid radical ideas have acquired the appearance of the ridiculous by sheer dint of their association with the Irrelevant Left. Its fantasy fighters from its make believe revolution prance along a stage like characters from The Life of Brian or Citizen Smith, reinforcing a view in the public mind this is the sum total of Left politics. If the Irrelevant Left did not exist the security agencies of both US militarism and political Islam would have created it. British intelligence agencies long ago dismissed it as a pond of quacking ducks. They perform an indispensable service, albeit largely unintentional, for such agencies in dissuading people from embracing left ideas. They have failed to inspire sufficient confidence as a way out of the dead end politics where the sects alone thrive but never move out of. Like flies around a dead carcass, the sects are busy but that is the height of it. They need the carcass of the Left experiment to feed upon, not a living Left project which might actually achieve something.

The effort to prise radical ideas from the corrosive grip of the Irrelevant Left has exhausted many activists. How many young people have we seen end up on the political scrap heap after even the briefest of flirtations with the cretinous commissars? The incessant position taking and sect like fissions have forced other activists to look elsewhere. In their haste they have leaped into lending their name to ventures such as the Euston Manifesto. Can Oliver Kamm's case for a Left neo-conservatism really leave democratic socialists with anything but a bad taste in their mouths?

The Third Camp Manifesto is far from perfect. We should be thankful for that small mercy. Those who insist on perfection and impose their perfectionist narrative on the world in order to achieve it are invariably the harbingers of disaster. The Manifesto is an experiment in democratic expansionism. And what else can democracy do but expand?




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