Friday, June 24, 2016

Owen Jones on BREXIT - Grieve now if you must – but prepare for the great challenges ahead

while much of the blame must be attributed to Cameron, far greater social forces are at play. From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders, from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain, from the Austrian far-right to the rise of the Scottish independence movement, this is an era of seething resentment against elites. That frustration is spilling out in all sorts of directions: new left movements, civic nationalism, anti-immigrant populism.

Britain has voted to leave the European Union: here is a statement that continues to shock leavers and remainers alike. Earlier this month I wrote that “unless a working-class Britain that feels betrayed by the political elite can be persuaded, then Britain will vote to leave the European Union in less than two weeks”. And this – perhaps the most dramatic event in Britain since the war – was, above all else, a working-class revolt. It may not have been the working-class revolt against the political establishment that many of us favoured, but it is undeniable that this result was achieved off the back of furious, alienated working-class votes.

Scotland Leader Pushes For A Second Independence Vote After EU Referendum
Irish nationalist leaders called for a poll on leaving the United Kingdom and uniting with Ireland.


Britain is an intensely divided nation. Many of the communities that voted most decisively for leave were the same communities that have suffered the greatest battering under successive governments. The government’s Project Fear relied on threats of economic turmoil. But these are communities that have been defined by economic turmoil and insecurity for a generation. Threats that you will lose everything mean little if you already feel you have little to lose. These threats may well have deepened the resolve of many leavers, rather than undermined it. A Conservative prime minister lined up corporate titans and the US president to warn them not to do something: they responded with the biggest up-yours in modern British history.

This was not a vote on the undeniable lack of accountability and transparency of the 
European Union. Above all else, it was about immigration, which has become the prism through which millions of people see everyday problems: the lack of affordable housing; the lack of secure jobs; stagnating living standards; strained public services. Young remainers living in major urban centres tend to feel limited hostility towards immigration; it could hardly be more different for older working-class leavers in many northern cities and smaller towns. Indeed, the generational gap is critical to understanding this result. The growing chasm between the generations has only been deepened.

Asking Labour voters to flock to back a flawed status quo endorsed by a Conservative prime minister was always going to be a tough ask. Most of them did, but not enough to compensate for the leave flood. And now what? Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against its will, and the demands for another independence referendum will be difficult to resist. Sinn Féin is calling for a border poll. 

Economic turmoil beckons: the debate is how significant and protracted it will be. A new, more rightwing Conservative administration seems inevitable: it will undoubtedly pursue a new election, hopefully when Labour is in as divided and chaotic a state as possible. Campaigns to defend threatened workers’ rights and the NHS will be more important than ever. The EU will be consumed with panic about its very existence. These are inevitable political realities to confront.

As for David Cameron. He called a referendum not because he thought it was in the national interest, but because it was useful to manage internal Conservative divisions. The referendum was inevitably framed as a struggle between two Conservative factions. Ironically, Cameron winning the last election was his downfall. If he had won just a handful fewer seats and failed to secure a majority – as he expected – he may not have had to honour his referendum pledge. In a matter of months, he went from suggesting he could support British withdrawal from the EU to warning of economic Armageddon if the country did so. It looked preposterous. He spent years suggesting immigration was a huge problem that needed to be massively reduced, and failed to do so, breeding further contempt and fury.

But while much of the blame must be attributed to Cameron, far greater social forces are at play. From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders, from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain, from the Austrian far-right to the rise of the Scottish independence movement, this is an era of seething resentment against elites. That frustration is spilling out in all sorts of directions: new left movements, civic nationalism, anti-immigrant populism.

Many of the nearly half of the British people who voted remain now feel scared and angry, ready to lash out at their fellow citizens. But this will make things worse. Many of the leavers already felt marginalised, ignored and hated. The contempt – and sometimes snobbery – now being shown about leavers on social media was already felt by these communities, and contributed to this verdict. Millions of Britons feel that a metropolitan elite rules the roost which not only doesn’t understand their values and lives, but actively hates them. If Britain is to have a future, this escalating culture war has to be stopped. The people of Britain have spoken. That is democracy, and we now have to make the country’s verdict work.

If the left has a future in Britain, it must confront its own cultural and political disconnect with the lives and communities of working-class people. It must prepare for how it responds to a renewed offensive by an ascendant Tory right. On the continent, movements championing a more democratic and just Europe are more important than ever. None of this is easy – but it is necessary. Grieve now if you must, but prepare for the great challenges ahead.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/24/eu-referendum-working-class-revolt-grieve?CMP=share_btn_fb

An interesting comment:

‘Many of the nearly half of the British people who voted remain now feel scared and angry"

It goes far deeper than that Owen. I'm fairly sure that in your heart you know the overt debate on Europe was largely a chimera. We haven't ever lost sovereignty, we are better off economically in a single market, the EU has been an important stabilising force in Europe, and leaving will not tackle immigration. Almost all of the issues that have driven deeply ill informed, marginalised working class people to vote "leave" have little to do with Europe and everything to do with a 35 year right wing project to dismantle the post WW2 liberal democratic settlement.

I don't hesitate to describe the main political players in the leave campaign as "extreme right". more importantly I have no doubt their prime motivation for leaving is to pave the way to a neo-liberal capitalist, UK, modelled on the wildest wet dream ambitions of US style libertarian capitalism. The US right has long complained that Europe is "too liberal", code for: "we want all cash flows in public services as investment vehicles for the vast amount of capital we've stolen from the world at large". Strip the UK of EU rules that uphold the European liberal democratic consensus and see how much worse things will get for working class outers, and all the rest of us too.

Almost all the ills the working classes are experiencing spring from Thatcher's neo-liberal capitalist project. Globalisation has exported their jobs to low wage economies, ideological austerity has stripped quality of life to the bone, especially in the north. Thatcher's project tacitly recognises that consumerist growth based capitalism has run its course and in many way the agenda of the very rich has been to asset strip their own countries in order to consolidate their own relative wealth as insulation against the inevitable catastrophic crash. Deflecting the blame for the consequences of these policies on to the EU is well executed distraction...

...sheer genius to to use the same trick to shoe horn in a far right wing Tory administration led by Johnson. Working class people have been duped - again. I agree that some remainers have been arrogant - but it is difficult for anyone with a decent grasp of the issues surrounding Europe to not feel a degree of frustration. Watching a large group of people who've been crapped on for decades being duped into voting for something that almost entirely in the interests of the people doing the crapping is not easy, especially when they are "your people", and, that for many, the prime motivater is anger directed at immigrants who are in exactly the same boat as they are.

Then there's the position of millions of individuals who committed their future to a life in other EU countries, (I've always been too poor to own a house in the UK but we bought a ruin in France and rebuilt it - its everything we own - it's probably worthless right now) - who knows what's going to happen to them? One thing is for sure - most will have woken up with gut churning anxiety this morning.

You are right -Cameron is culpable, he took a course that's putting the UK and Europe in real danger. If he has any decency he will acknowledge this farce of a referendum is not legally binding and do everything in his power to prevent Article 50 from being invoked, Corbyn must do the same.

I'm not angry with the working class revolt because it's not any such thing - this is a right wing coup - the window the working classes had on the issues has been owned by the right for 30 years. Their fury and resentment is justified - but it's directed in the wrong places. On the other hand, I'm more than afraid, I'm sick with anxiety and slightly terrified.

This is a nightmare. We're already seeing the "it's our turn next" comments from Marine Le Pen. This is a moment when the left need to turn around and fight. Populist votes are the tools of demagogues, referenda are deeply anti democratic. We have to fight to not allow uninformed choices to be empowered by informed choices - you are pinning your hopes on left wing victories in Europe - I'm pinning mine on fighting to resist Brexit with every fibre of my being