When Norman Geras launched Normblog in 2003, the medium that came to be known as ‘blogging’ was still in its infancy. Over the course of a decade, Normblog became one of the top-tier blogs, attracting thousands of readers to its daily posts. Meticulously constructed arguments about politics and international affairs were accompanied by musings on literature, cricket and jazz, profiles of fellow bloggers, and occasional, deeply personal reflections about work, life and the family he loved. Sadly, the flow of words stopped with Geras’s untimely death in October
Norman Geras's work on the subject of Karl Marx's antisemitism involved significant dissent from the Marxist tradition in which he located himself, precisely because unvarnished honesty prevented him from glossing over the many troubling ideas and notions that, simply, are there. His Normblog demonstrated how Geras, as a Marxist, took on the shibboleths of the postmodern left, and in particular the relativism whose malign influence he had noted when writing his book on Marx's conception of human nature. 'The principle of self-emancipation', wrote Geras in 1971, 'is central, not incidental, to historical materialism.' This book shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' play an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history. It explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies as well as then theses on utopia. The book also reviews a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Karl Marx, i.e. whether Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice, and the controversy that has fuelled its growth, and distinguishes three meanings (personal, intellectual and socio-political) of 'being a Marxist'. It discusses the significance of the Euston Manifesto, antisemitism on the left anti-Jewish stereotypes, and Marxism before the Holocaust. The book concludes with insights into the 9/11 incident, the principle of humanitarian intervention and international law for military intervention.
’s acute awareness of where these shifts were headed on the political left – the moral relativism that brooked no difference between the Ba’athist tyranny in Iraq and the democratic republic that is the United States, an increasing stench of antisemitism, a growing tendency to turn to conspiracy theories as a means of explanation – led him, during the last decade of his life, to dedicate more of his time and energy to blogging, alongside his academic endeavours.
When Normblog launched, on 28 July 2003, it did so with a bang: posts on Iraq, on other bloggers, quotations
(This article was originally published on ‘Normblog’, 27 August 2013)
The signs are now clear that Washington * and other Western powers, † including Britain, are considering military action against Syria on account of the regime’s apparent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. ‡ Would such action be justified? In the debate about this at least three types of issue are centrally involved: (1) whether there is a basis in international law for military intervention; (2) whether it is likely to do any good; and (3) whether it might be merited in
(This article was first published on ‘Normblog’, 13 May 2009)
I’ve never understood the inclination of certain Marxists, as well as others who admire aspects of Marx’s work, to deny the antisemitic material there is in his essay On the Jewish Question. Michael Ezra cites the work in a post at the blog “Harry’s Place” discussing whether Marx was an anti-Semite. Michael refers also to an opinion of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s to the effect that Marx expressed views there that ‘were part of the classic repertoire of antisemitism’. This is plainly and undeniably so
(This article was first published on ‘Normblog’, 29 July 2003 * )
I want to say something about support for democratic values and basic human rights. We on the left just have it in our bloodstream, do we not, that we are committed to democratic values. And while, for reasons I can’t go into here, there are some on the left a bit more reserved about using the language of basic human rights, nonetheless for many of us it was this moral reality, and more especially its negation, that played a part in drawing us in: to protest and work against a world in which
interests, from Manchester, around whom a constellation of writers, academics, artists, activists and eccentrics moved in conversation and friendly contention. Everyone spoke in a lexicon with which I was at least familiar. Their concerns were among my own. It was a kind of meeting place where intellectuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and genres and disciplines were introduced and sometimes profiled and interviewed. Reading Normblog always meant learning something, and it was what I imagined it must have been like, hearing the reassuring sound of far-off voices
must always be allied to a truthful realism. We need to know what we are up against.
(This article was first published on ‘Normblog’, 24 March 2010)
An article by Mark Mazower for the journal World Affairs may seem, at first, to strike an odd note. It characterizes the concept of humanitarian intervention as ‘dying if not dead’ and links this judgement with the hypothesis of a ‘new era of pragmatism ... in the making’ that sounds as though it might have the author’s approval. For me there is a jarring element in that coupling. Humanitarian intervention is an option that is available when the assumed protections of state sovereignty have
(This text, outlining the principles for a democratic, anti-authoritarian left-wing politics, was first published online in 2006, garnering support from liberal, socialist and progressive thinkers in Europe and the United States. Geras was the principal author, with input from Damian Counsell, Alan Johnson and Shalom Lappin. See http://eustonmanifesto.org/the-eustonmanifesto/ and http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2006/04/the_euston_mani.html .)
We are democrats and progressives.
We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us