A pub on the Euston Road in London was the venue for a document that has caused quite a stir in political circles in Britain and the United States.
The document, called the Euston Manifesto, was drawn up in a series of meetings at O'Neill's, opposite the British Library and not far from Euston station.
It is set for a public launch on 25 May (not at the pub), but it has already been published and extensively discussed on the internet, where it had its origins.
It was drafted by a veteran left-wing academic, Norman Geras, professor emeritus in politics at Manchester University. Geras runs his own blogsite called normblog.
"We wanted to declare support for values that are being compromised," he told me.
"We did not want a socialist document but one which would appeal to others who are liberal and democrats.
"For example, it is quite regular to read about terrorism that 'Yes, putting bombs on buses is bad, but you need to understand it'.
"The word 'understand' has two meanings. It means to explain and to condone - and that 'but' often tends to condone the act."
And then there's a lot of blah-blah about whether the Euston group should be ashamed of the support of neo-cons like Bill Kristol, and predictable rejoinders from the New Statesman and the Guardian. Never mind, go read the article anyway.
Here's why the Euston Manifesto matters. There are many matters of governance on which reasonable people can reasonably disagree - Great Society vs. Small Government, and so on. But these conversations can only take place when there is common ground and a set of shared values and interests. By isolating itself in a shrill, nihilistic orgy of radicalism, the Left not only sabotages itself; it also deprives the greater society of the benefit of a constructive critique.
Whether or not you agree with the social/economic program of the Euston Manifesto, remember that it is an important step toward the renewal of true debate in the Western world - an all-important, intellectual "commons" that seems very much in danger these days.
Cross-posted at Dreams Into Lightning - TypePad.