Take the EU referendum debate as an example. Anyone who mindlessly absorbs their political opinions fro the corporate mainstream media would probably end up believing that the EU debate is between anti-EU "common sense" right-wingers vs pro-EU "do-gooder" lefties.
The strange thing is that last time there was a referendum on membership of the European community, by far the most vocal opponents of EU membership were left-wingers like Tony Benn, while the right-wing fringe of the Tory party were the most vocal champions of the European project. This right-wing pro-European stance was exemplified by Margaret Thatcher's pro-European jumper (see picture above). This was at a time when Thatcher represented the extreme-right fringe of the Tory party, while most Tories were still of the "one nation Conservative" ilk; content with the prosperous post-war consensus that there should be a mix between state socialism and regulated capitalism. Meanwhile the left-wing of the Labour party provided by far the strongest opposition the the European project.
Nowadays the polarity of the EU debate has been completely switched. The figureheads of the anti-EU movement are people like Nigel Farage (who gets the votes of millions of working class people despite describing himself as "keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive"!) and Michael Gove (the arch-Thatcherite who oversaw the privatisation of thousands of English schools into the hands of unaccountable private pseudo-charities), while the more left-wing elements of the British political spectrum (Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru) are taking a more pro-European stance.
It's interesting to consider how this complete reversal of British political polarity has come about.
Back in the 1970s the right-wing fringe saw the European project as an excellent opportunity to push their extremist right-wing economic dogma onto the whole of Western Europe, and in many ways they were successful. Take the EU competition rules that prevent member states from renationalising public infrastructure (no matter how abysmally it is run by the private sector), the anti-democratic European Central Bank, the free movement of labour within Europe or the brutal socially and economically destructive austerity ideology forced on Greece. In many ways the EU has been an absolute triumph for right-wing economic fanaticism.
The problem for militant right-wing fanatics is that the EU is a collaborative project, so for every bit of fanatically right-wing economic dogma they've managed to force onto the entire European community, there's always some pesky left-wing and liberal rules too, like the Working Time Directive, environmental regulations, animal welfare laws, curbs on bankers' bonuses or assertions of the human rights of EU citizens.
The extreme-right fringe of the Tory party (and I include UKIP in that definition) have given up on the European project not because they haven't managed to force right-wing economic dogma onto the rest of Europe (because they undeniably have), but because the structure of the EU means that they're constrained from pushing the even more militant right-wing agenda they want in the UK.
If the Tories get to quit the EU and become the first country ever to tear up the European Convention on Human Rights, they'll be liberated to create the most extreme-right authoritarian government in Europe since the fall of fascism, and they'll do this without the slightest regard for the fact that their ideological figurehead (Margaret Thatcher) was one of the most vocal supporters of the European project back in the 1970s.
The situation for the left is perhaps even more bamboozling. The EU is clearly completely riddled with toxic right-wing economic dogma (look at the deliberate annihilation of the Greek economy to serve the interests of German and French banks and the circling pack of multinational vulture funds), yet it's absolutely clear to the left-wing parties that continued membership of the EU is far less bad than jumping out of the frying pan of the EU technocracy and into searing fire of unconstrained Tory economic insanity.
The best the left seem to be able to come up with is the idea that the EU is deeply flawed, but that the solution is to fix it from within, rather than to fire the ejector seat and land in a putrefying ocean of unconstrained Tory fanaticism.
There are signs of hope that the EU can be reformed from within (the rise of left-wing parties in Greece, Portugal and Spain), however the EU technocrats have demonstrated their abject fear of democratic socialism through their treatment of Greece and their insistence on continuation of their negotiations towards the TTIP corporate power grab, despite the fact that pretty much everyone in Europe who has actually heard of it thinks that it's an unspeakably awful idea to allow corporations to completely over-write sovereign democratic and judicial institutions with secretive unaccountable transnational corporate tribunals.
As far as I'm concerned, the EU stinks. However unconstrained Tory fanaticism stinks an awful lot more. I guess the debate boils down to whether you have more faith that the EU institutions can be shifted away from the promotion of fanatically right-wing economic dogma, or whether you think there is some way of stopping the even more fanatically right-wing Tories should they be handed absolute power through a vote for Brexit.
I think I've made it pretty clear in this article that I don't want to tell you how to vote. As far as I'm concerned it's a choice between a rock and a hard place. I just hope that my explanation of the complete polarity shift in the EU referendum debate since the last referendum gives you some idea that the majority of contemporary opinion on the subject is politically partisan rubbish (which is nothing less that you'd expect from the billionaire sociopaths who own most of the UK media).
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