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Thursday 19 May 2016

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Paul Mason's EU referendum defeatism answered by TUSC in Guardian letter

The left-wing commentator Paul Mason had a very disappointing article in Tuesday's edition of The Guardian (There is a left-wing case for Brexit - but we can't let Boris Johnson turn Britain into a neo-liberal fantasy island, G2, 17 May).

It started so well. The EU, wrote Paul, "provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime.

"It has an executive so powerful it could crush the left-wing government of Greece; a legislature so weak that it cannot effectively determine laws or control its own civil service. A judiciary that, in the Laval and Viking judgments, subordinated workers' right to strike to an employer's right to do business freely". What trade unionist or socialist could disagree with that?

Paul continues. The European Central Bank "is committed, by treaty, to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. State aid to stricken industries is prohibited. The austerity we deride in Britain as a political choice is, in fact, written into the EU treaty as a non-negotiable obligation. So are the economic principles of the Thatcher era".

And then a key argument, it would be assumed, for a Leave vote on June 23rd. "A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law".

But no, Paul Mason then draws the conclusion that, because Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are dominating the campaign in the media for Leave, "I have refused to campaign for Brexit, and may even abstain on the day".

A chance to vote out the Tories

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national chairperson, Dave Nellist, wrote to The Guardian in response. "Having explained how undemocratic and big business orientated the EU is - in effect, Thatcherism on a continental scale - Paul backs down and asks us to accept all that, because exit threatens a change of Tory leader. As if the marginal difference between David Cameron and Boris Johnson, in the context of all Paul has identified, is in any way fundamental.

Dave Nellist's letter continues. The Tories were "elected with only 24% support [of the total electorate]. A government that is, in reality, weak and divided - maintained in office not by its own strength, but the weakness of the opposition, particularly at the top of the trade unions.

"A leave vote would topple David Cameron and further exacerbate the divisions inside the Tory party, not heal them. It could provide a perfect opportunity for Labour to demand not a mere change in prime minister, but an immediate general election to choose a new government!

"I campaigned in the past against the EU alongside labour movement giants like Tony Benn and Bob Crow, and I'm proud that TUSC is carrying on that struggle today, whilst faint hearts fall by the wayside".

The link to Dave's letter and some other responses to Paul Mason's article are at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/17/a-closer-look-at-the-leftwing-case-for-brexit