The launch of a left-wing campaign for Britain to leave the European Union this June is welcome — indeed overdue.
The domination of the airwaves and the mass media by reactionary zealots such as Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove has understandably associated the exit cause with the political right.
Working people with doubts about whether the vast and opaque institution headquartered in Brussels does them any good may not give voice to their fears in case this gives the impression that they are xenophobic or anti-immigrant.
Others may simply vote to remain because they cannot stomach the idea of being on the same side as the most famous Outers — although when the Remain cause’s cheerleaders include David Cameron, George Osborne and Goldman Sachs neither side can claim a monopoly on nastiness.
Opposition to the EU began on the left. The Morning Star was the only national daily to campaign for an Exit vote in 1975.
We campaigned in that referendum alongside Tony Benn, a friend and columnist of this newspaper for many years.
It has become fashionable for media columnists to portray “Bennite” resistance to Brussels as rooted in an out-of-date and simplistic rejection of the “capitalist club” that is the EU.
Actually it was, and is, about democracy. “If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system,” as Benn famously remarked.
After the humiliation forced on the people of Greece for attempting to elect a government that would carry out socialist policies, not even the EU’s biggest fans have much luck arguing it is democratic. Instead they talk of a “democratic deficit” that could be addressed in a reformed EU.
But the “democratic deficit” is not an accident, but an integral part of the way the institution has been designed.
EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker makes no bones about it: “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”
These treaties, with their bans on state aid to industry, their restrictions on public ownership and their insistence on the unregulated movement of capital around the bloc, are unashamedly neoliberal.
Anybody who supports the election of a Corbyn government with a mandate to end austerity, extend public ownership, redistribute wealth and restructure our economy in the interests of working people needs to explain how this agenda can be implemented in the framework of an EU that bans so much of it.
As for David Miliband’s absurd claim this week that being part of the EU has helped Britain build the “rules-based international order,” perhaps the man who had to apologise to Parliament over Britain’s role in the US’s extraordinary rendition scandal should put a sock in it.
Few countries have done more to undermine the “rules-based international order” than one that invaded Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and more recently wilfully misinterpreted a UN resolution to bomb Libya into the Stone Age.
Nor can an EU which backed the violent seizure of power in Ukraine in 2014 claim to be in favour of a rules-based international order, unless the rules in question are those of the Stability and Growth Pact straitjacket and the bailouts that have imposed deregulation, unemployment and privatisation on countries from Ireland to Greece.
None of the groups calling for a Remain vote have tackled these concerns. It will be the role of Lexit to demand answers — and to expose the ugly reality of the European project.