By Jake Wilde
2016 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Euston Manifesto, an inspirational piece of work that captured the minds and views of a previously neglected section of the left. Norman Geras was the driving force behind Euston and, ten years on, it remains an important reference point. The moment when a line in the sand was drawn and a voice previously unspoken was heard.
The Euston Manifesto was how I first found my political home. I’d drifted around the left for a decade or so, never comfortable with what I think of now as very British definitions of the left-wing spectrum. Even in my first spell at university at the end of the 80s the differences on the left were rudimentary; centre left or far left, pro-EU or anti-EU. And that was it. If you were centre left then the expectation was that you were pro-American, but only in the context of a choice between the US and the collapsing Soviet empire. Support for the US in this sense wasn’t to be regarded as a positive one, but rather reluctantly given and with a haughty sneer.
The far left, both amongst the staff and the students, sought comfort in the certain knowledge that the fall of socialism wasn’t really the fall of socialism because, of course, it wasn’t really socialism. The millions of people in Eastern Europe demanding democracy and capitalism had been fooled by a combination of false socialism from their leaders and lies about the true nature of the evil West they so admired. In other words the same patronising crap the far left always trot out when people reject socialism.
A few years later I returned to start a long, difficult, part-time MA in International Security. My tutor was Colin S. Gray, then recently of the Reagan administration. You know that moment when someone says things that you’ve never heard anybody else say, but you know that’s exactly what you think? That. That’s what happened. And then the same thing happened when I first read the Euston Manifesto. Euston encapsulated not just what but how I thought more than anything I’d ever read before. I hope it did the same for a lot of people partly because nobody likes admitting they were still a bit lost in their 30s.
And that was how I discovered the work of Norman Geras, his books and his towering online presence – Normblog. To coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Euston Manifesto Ben Cohen and Eve Gerrard are bringing together an anthology of Norm’s writing, to publish in 2016, with the provisional title “What’s There is There”.
One of the sections of the book will be a selection of Normblog entries. While this is probably the most fun part of the project, it’s also the most labour intensive, in part because of the low-grade technology (you can’t search it directly, for example.) Given that there are thousands of entries on there, help is needed to plough through it and decide which posts to include. While some of these will be about politics it’s also important to include some of the interviews he did with other bloggers, some of the football stuff, some of the humorous stuff, the literature reviews, the observations upon life that cannot be easily categorised as ‘politics’. So what we’re looking for is the 10 posts which best represent the blog and its character.
Let us know your favourites, the entries that linger longest in your memory, the ones that still speak to you today, and the ones that mean something special to you, whatever the subject. You can choose as many or as few as you want. Don’t feel under any constraint other than the inevitable deadline which, in this case, is Friday 15 January.
Use our Twitter timeline to have discussions, to tell us your stories, to tell us your memories. And please, spread the word far and wide over this festive period so that as many as possible can take some time to indulge in the writings that made Normblog the innovative, essential starting point for so many people’s day.
I think it would be good to have one of his pieces on the burqa/niqab, partly because quite a few of those who agreed with him on much would disagree with him on this issue. This is just one example http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/05/a-hitch-in-the-argument-on-the-burqa.html
I loved him for loving Emmy Lou Harris and most of his country music choices. His politics obviously are the main thing but his musical tastes showed a real rounded human being, a mensch.
No doubt politics should have pride of place, but cricket should definitely get a look in (although perhaps not to much Austraian triumphalism).
I don’t know if this is too late – but my most memorable is a personal one – “A Pair of Jacks”
Norm’s father and my father were veterans of the 2nd world war – and served together in the same tank squadron in Italy. After demobilization they lost contact with each other – only to reconnect 60 years later because I read his blog.
After Norm published the above story on his blog, the BBC called him up to ask if they could film and report on the reunion of these two old veterans – but Jack Geras did not want any intruders.
Martin Ferera (son of the other Jack)
This probably too late, but here are 10 posts that strike me as particularly good. Obviously there are many others:
‘Too much self’ (on Will Self on sport): http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2013/07/too-much-self.html
‘Me, the people’ (on Priyamvad Gopal):
‘Bedtime stories of… violence against women’ (on Priyamvad Gopal): http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2010/08/bedtime-stories-of-violence-against-women.html
‘Liberty and the minor disruption of being blown up’ (on Simon Jenkins): http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2008/12/libert.html
‘Simon Jenkins on our benighted ways’:
‘My Australia’ (Australian cricket):
‘Bave Pilger’ (on the odd use of the word ‘brave’):
‘Occupy the playpen’ (on Simon Critchley):
‘The Eagleton has landed’ (on Eagleton on universities):
‘Jack Geras at 100’: