The courage of conviction: why a tactical ‘remain’ vote makes no sense

Counterfire (May 19, 2016)

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica points out the glaring contradictions in Paul Mason’s argument to boycott the EU referendum.

European flags outside the European Parliament. Photo: Wikipedia
European flags outside the European Parliament. Photo: Wikipedia

In his Guardian column, Paul Mason made a principled case for Brexit, only to argue that it should be ignored at the forthcoming referendum on pragmatic grounds. Mason contends that Brexit now would leave Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, two neoliberal fundamentalists, best placed to profit from the political fallout.

But he provides no evidence for this argument – and indeed the substance of his argument runs against his conclusions. It may be the case that the dominant official voice in the ‘leave’ campaign, just as in the ‘remain’ campaign, is a neoliberal one. Whether that reflects why voters are leaning to leave or remain is not obvious.

But it is fair to assume working class people across Europe tend to be sceptical of the European Union. Since the left does not articulate a progressive case for exit, however, the space is left open for other forces to articulate anger against the establishment. Far right forces like the National Front in France pick up support where the Communist Party used to, before it became an appendage to the social liberal Socialist Party.

Instead of leaving the field open to two neoliberal camps, as Mason appears to suggest, the left has to act. And it should start from Mason’s ‘principled’ rather than ‘pragmatic’ arguments. For, unlike Mason, the main party of the left in Britain is actively arguing to stay. This can only weaken it if it is faced with implementing a progressive agenda – just like Syriza was.

To read the whole article, click here.

By Vladimir Unkovski-Korica

Vladimir Unkovski-Korica is an editor at LeftEast and a member of Marks21 in Serbia and Counterfire in the United Kingdom. He is Lecturer in Central and East European Studies at the University of Glasgow. His first book was entitled “The Economic Struggle for Power in Tito’s Yugoslavia: From World War II to Non-Alignment” (IB Tauris, 2016).