The Spectacle Blog

Norman Geras, R.I.P.

By on 10.18.13 | 8:51PM

Professor Norman Geras passed away today after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 70.

Born in Rhodesia, Geras came to Britain in the early 1960s and spent nearly four decades teaching politics at the University of Manchester.

Ironically, Geras became better known following his retirement in 2003. That year he began a blog simply called Normblog which has amongst the first blogs on the Internet to gather a significant following. Despite his illness, Geras wrote prolifically until earlier this month. Whatever one's persuasion, I believe we owe a debt of gratitude to Geras' pioneering work in the blogosphere.

Although an adherent of Marxism, Geras did not hesitate to challenge left-wing orthodoxy as he did when he supported the War in Iraq (although by October 2006 he admitted that he was wrong to do so).

In 2006, Geras was the principal author of the Euston Manifesto. The manifesto stood for democracy, human rights and solidarity with people seeking to live in freedom and against anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment amongst the Left as well as against apologism for totalitarian regimes and Islamist extremism. It was, amongst other things, an effort to make "common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not."

Alas, the Euston Manifesto was doomed from the start as it did not attract a significant following in left-wing circles. So long as the Left is defined by its opposition to all things American and Israeli rather than supporting democracy and human rights any future efforts will also end in failure. Nevertheless, it was noble effort on the part of Geras.

Chances are we probably will not see another Euston Manifesto nor, for that matter, another Norman Geras. As Ben Cohen writes in Tablet, "Through his unfailing insight and disarming honesty, Norm was unique. And now that he is gone, it is safe to say that we will not see his like again." If that is case then, no, there can't be a decent Left.

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