Paul Mason, enemy of democracy
“Postcapitalism” author and former Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason is a truly nasty piece of work. For proof, one need only look at his latest sickening column in the Guardian, in which he diligently catalogues all of the European Union’s faults and inherent anti-democratic tendencies before going on to say that he can’t possibly support Brexit when the Tories are in charge, because doing so might mean that some awful right-wing people get to implement policies democratically chosen by the British electorate.
Mason begins well enough, albeit with a predictably left-wing slant:
The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear. The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it 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 leftwing 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 do business freely.
Its 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. A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law.
And the situation is getting worse. Europe’s leaders still do not know whether they will let Greece go bankrupt in June; they still have no workable plan to distribute the refugees Germany accepted last summer, and having signed a morally bankrupt deal with Turkey to return the refugees, there is now the prospect of that deal’s collapse. That means, if the reported demand by an unnamed Belgian minister to “push back or sink” migrant boats in the Aegean is activated, the hands of every citizen of the EU will be metaphorically on the tiller of the ship that does it. You may argue that Britain treats migrants just as badly. The difference is that in Britain I can replace the government, whereas in the EU, I cannot.
This is fair and accurate criticism of the EU. Mason rightly senses the unaccountable nature of the supranational government in Brussels, and hones in on the key point – that the EU is antidemocratic because we have absolutely no way of removing its leaders if we wish to do so.
Unfortunately, it then quickly begins to go off the rails, as Mason’s snarling anti-democratic authoritarian streak surges to the foreground:
Now here’s the practical reason to ignore it. In two words: Boris Johnson. The conservative right could have conducted the leave campaign on the issues of democracy, rule of law and UK sovereignty, leaving the economics to the outcome of a subsequent election. Instead, Johnson and the Tory right are seeking a mandate via the referendum for a return to full-blown Thatcherism: less employment regulation, lower wages, fewer constraints on business. If Britain votes Brexit, then Johnson and Gove stand ready to seize control of the Tory party and turn Britain into a neoliberal fantasy island.
They will have two years in which to shape the post-Brexit economy. Worse, the Tories will be free to use the sudden disappearance of our rights as EU citizens to reshape the UK’s de facto constitution. The man who destroyed state control of education and the man who shovelled acres of free land into the hands of London developers will get to determine the new balance of power between the citizen and the state. So even for those who support the leftwing case for Brexit, it is sensible to argue: not now. The time to confront Europe over a leftwing agenda is when you have a Labour government, and the EU is resisting it.
Waah, waah, waah. In other words, Paul Mason fully appreciates that the European Union is hopelessly undemocratic and utterly unreformable, but he refuses to either campaign or vote for Brexit because reclaiming democracy for Britain might mean that we then go on to do the “wrong” thing with our new-found freedom.
Britain’s parliamentary system of government is not a shocking new reality. Our present system of mini “elected dictatorships” spanning the length of a parliamentary term is how Britain has always been governed in living memory. And unfortunately for Paul Mason, our electoral system produced a Conservative majority government one year ago. You can argue that most people did not vote for the Conservative Party. True. But if we don’t like the system by which our governments are chosen, it is within our power to change it. Indeed we had just such an opportunity back in 2011, and decided to stick with the status quo.
So when Paul Mason frets that a Brexit under the Tories might lead to two years of “neoliberal fantasy” government, what he actually means is that Britain might be led by the government which we only recently elected together. He is fretting that an anti-democratic impediment to Conservative rule in the form of Brussels might be removed, and that the government might then seek to fulfil its manifesto outside the constraint of the EU’s political union. He is effectively presenting democracy as the scary thing to be avoided, and the European Union as the “least worst option”, one step better than democratically chosen conservative government.
Mason then goes on to make it worse:
All this suggests that those of us who want Brexit in order to reimpose democracy, promote social justice and subordinate companies to the rule of law should bide our time.
And there’s the problem, right there. Paul Mason doesn’t support an eventual Brexit because he believes in democracy or the importance of British sovereignty. He wants Brexit only as a means to imposing his own radical left-wing policies and “social justice” values on the country. When the people look likely to support these concepts at the ballot box, he chafes at the democratic impediments thrown up by the European Union barring their implementation. But when the people spurn his left wing fantasyland and choose a conservative government, suddenly Brussels becomes his best friend, his bulwark against the people he views as “closet Nazis”.
Behold the face of the Mason/Corbynite Left. This is a movement which, to their credit, has no natural love for the European Union, often seeing it for what it is, but who have shamefully taught themselves to accept Britain’s EU membership as the price which must be paid in order to successfully “lock out” conservative viewpoints and policies.
This is a movement chock full of people who love nothing more than to prance around screeching about how wonderfully tolerant and accepting they are, right up until the moment they encounter somebody with a different political philosophy, at which point any previous lip service paid to the importance of democracy or even free speech goes straight out the window.
It’s hard to say which is worse – the fact that Paul Mason harbours these seething anti-democratic sentiments in the first place, or the fact that he is so shameless that he openly admits his desire to thwart the general election result by forming a temporary alliance with the hated European Union, swinging around to support Brexit only when the prospect of giving democracy back to Britain seems likely to deliver the kind of government he wants.
One thing is for certain, though – Paul Mason is no man of the people, and no friend at all of democracy.
Top Image: Guardian
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