Brexit, EU, Europe, latest, UK
Comments 8

Your vote is crucial because it won’t count


As the  polls taken by now indicate, the UK public is almost evenly split between those in favour of staying in the EU and those who want Britain to leave: 51% to 49%.   While we await for the final official results of this referendum, here’s Jonathan Cook’s blogpost about what your vote, if you are in the UK, will mean.

Here is a prediction about the outcome of today’s UK referendum on leaving the European Union. Even in the unlikely event that the remain camp loses, the UK will still not Brexit. Europe’s neoliberal elite will not agree to release its grip on a major western nation. A solution will be found to keep the UK in the union, whatever British voters decide. Which is one very good reason to vote Brexit, as I’ll explain in a minute.

It has been hard to find much commentary, even in the most liberal corners of the corporate media, making a progressive case for exit. Instead Britain has been bogged down in an ugly immigration debate. But Counterpunch has published an article by Joseph Richardson that covers much of the important ground for leftwingers.

He reminds us that the neoliberal imperatives of the EU were starkly on display recently in the crushing of Greece, despite its people’s efforts to resist self-immolation through the imposition of hyper-austerity policies. As western economies continue to suffer in the self-destructive pursuit of endless and impossible growth, the EU’s role as a heavy – bullying, intimidating and roughing up member states and their publics – will become ever more evident as weaker members struggle to keep up their payments to a gangster elite.

The neoliberalism enforced by the EU is not some unfortunate experiment we can reform, or even reverse, at some distant point in the future. It is hurling us towards a climate precipice that will soon make human life impossible on the planet.

Richardson also rebuts claims that the EU has been the post-war bulwark against militarism and regional conflict. As he points out, peace in Europe is the legacy of its leading nations’ declining global clout in the post-war period, the rapid transfer of power to the US, and Washington’s need for a quiet market in Europe for its goods.

The cost, on the other hand, has been decades of a dangerous arms race and nuclear stand-off, first with the Soviet Union and now with Russia, in which the EU has been deeply implicated – through its subservient position inside a US-dominated Nato.

Europe has also continued, as a US client super-state, to actively participate in resource-grabs in developing nations like Libya and Iraq. Quite contrary to the myth of a peaceful Europe, huge sums are invested by member states in the arms trade at home and in fuelling and sustaining conflicts in other regions, such as in Syria.

An immigration debate ought to be at the centre of campaigning about the EU, just not in the way it is being presented in this campaign. The migrants trying to pour into Europe are refugees from EU and US policies – a global economic policy that is making poorer parts of the planet increasingly uninhabitable, and a foreign policy that stokes ethnic and sectarian divisions and provides the arms needed to ensure yet more bloodshed.

Without the EU, the imperial role of the US would be far more obvious. The EU’s entirely undeserved nice-guy image, despite its mostly lock-step alliance with Washington on international affairs, shields the US from proper scrutiny.

At home, the fundamental question facing anyone who considers him or herself of the left is the same it was when a similar referendum was conducted in 1975, as Richardson explains:

Unlike the MPs campaigning for remain today, politicians like [Tony] Benn understood that the lack of democracy at the heart of the EU was not an oversight on the part of its founders, but an essential component of a project which sought to supplant national governments with a supranational authority divorced from the concerns of ordinary people. So long as power was vested in national assemblies, these institutions, however imperfect, were at least answerable to their voters, but once power over economic policy was ceded to bureaucrats then the business elites which effectively governed Europe were easily able to overcome popular resistance to their policies by dispensing with the need for elections.

In short, the EU cannot be reformed by Britain staying in because the union’s very structures are designed to accrete power for the few without accountability to the many.

The EU is one of the key trans-national institutions, along with others like the IMF and World Bank, whose role is to claw back on behalf of the US the social democratic gains made by many European publics after the Second World War. After all, were leftwing politics to be seen as a viable or even preferable alternative to US neoliberalism, then European national publics might demand the right to take back governance of their countries – and Washington’s global dominance would be at an end.

Even though I believe we are too far down this path for a leave vote to actually result in the chosen outcome, it does not mean an exit vote is pointless. Testing structures designed to negate expressions of popular will – like trying to bend the bars of the prison cell you find yourself in – has an educational role. We cannot fight for our freedoms until we start to understand how truly unfree we have become.

UPDATE:

There is a criticism of this article on social media I find deeply troubling – and an indication that people aren’t really thinking about the key issue.

It is this: that by making the case I have here, I am giving succour to the far-right. It is vital, these people say, to remain in the EU to prevent the rise of the fascists.

Let’s set aside the anti-democratic assumption behind this criticism: that I should keep quiet and not make arguments that might inflame the “masses” into taking decisions that will be harmful to them.

The question that is being avoided is this: why are far-right movements becoming so prominent in Europe? There’s a very strong argument to be made that the (justified) sense among European publics of politicians, both local and EU ones, no longer being accountable to them is fuelling frustration and anger. People are unhappy at being ruled by unelected elites and being economically pillaged by faceless corporations. This has led to a new radicalism in politics, on both the left and the right. It is a battle where everything is still to play for.

However, history suggests that politicians of the far-right excel in exploiting emotions of popular anger and resentment for their own ends.

The EU is not about to become a bastion of working class rights. It is going to continue imposing a global neoliberal order that victimises the working class and increasingly the middle class too.

Staying in the EU is going to increase the frustrations of the 99 per cent, and make them even more open to the scapegoating strategies employed by the far-right. Leaving the EU may or may not make the far-right stronger, depending on how well the left responds to the challenge (the signs so far are not good). But what should not be doubted is that staying in will only accelerate the rise of the fascists.

 

8 Comments

  1. Well, we won this round. What will parliament do now?
    A true conspiracy theorist would say they got the result they wanted. LOL.
    But it’s a chance, I’m looking forward to some positive changes in our system of government now. I hope this referendum has demonstrated to people just how they can be manipulated.

    I know I’ve learned a few things.

    Like

  2. Seamus Padraig says

    “It is this: that by making the case I have here, I am giving succour to the far-right. It is vital, these people say, to remain in the EU to prevent the rise of the fascists.”

    It is the EU that is fascist–we who are fighting it are the anti-fascists. Mussolini once succinctly defined fascism as “the merger of state and corporate power”. That is precisely what the EU really is: a fascist state-corporatism that masquerades as a ‘social Europe’ or some grand ‘beacon of democracy’. This time, the Nazis have disguised themselves as their own opposite, and they have traded in the spiffy uniforms and riding boots for Gucci loafers! But brainwashed liberals don’t (or don’t want to) realize that.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Jen says

      I would add also that far-right groups like Right Sector in Ukraine and similar groups act as enforcers for the EU. The leaders of these groups get a “green light” signal from the elites (in the form of passive condoning of actions) and hire or encourage people to carry out acts of violence or vandalism to achieve certain ends. These people, thuggish as they are, become convenient patsies and scapegoats for collective punishment and are thrown into jails while the criminals behind them escape scrutiny and judgement.

      Incidentally as I speak (type?), there is news that Right Sector has opened branches in Toronto (Canada) and in Burlington in Massachusetts state.
      http://pennyforyourthoughts2.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/right-sector-canada.html
      http://www.datalog.co.uk/browse/detail.php/CompanyNumber/CA9004963/CompanyName/RIGHT+SECTOR

      To all Canadian and American readers here, please do what you can to get Right Sector out of your countries (as a non-profit organisation eligible for deductible gift recipient status), even if in only small ways.

      Like

  3. Nerevar says

    I am not sure about any strong causality between the Union stay/leave and the far-right (what an euphemism) rise. Rising the frustration level is leading to rising the fascists, no doubts. But is the Union the main source of the frustration of ordinary people? Really?

    Good luck to all British people, today.

    Like

    • The EU has a policy that it refuses to negotiate on – free movement of labour. Some conflate this with freedom of movement which it is not. In order to keep workers in their place, the EU encourages the less well off countries to send workers to higher waged areas. This does not bestow free movement of labour to those in the better off areas. Quite the opposite in fact. They are doomed to watching their incomes and working rights diminish. Adjoining this are the incompatible religious and ethnic practices of the migrants. They do not in the main integrate well into the host nations, preferring instead to gather in self imposed ghettos.
      This causes the local population to worry. They are not inherently racist or xenophobic but as their living standards are sapped away they blame the obvious candidates – the migrants.
      That it is the disastrous EU policy to blame is not mentioned or permitted in the MSM, as can be seen by the libellous comments made by guardian btl posters and journalists alike.

      They are unwilling to listen to truth or reason. Political correctness demands that race or ethnic background play no part in politics.

      How then do we discuss these issues?
      Answer is, we can’t, at least not in msm.

      I am not and have never been a racist. I count among my friends many different nationalities, Iranian, Brazilian, American, Japanese, Chinese, Polish etc.
      But if I get mugged by someone of a different race, it is apparently racist to mention that fact.

      My hope is that this referendum, despite the obviousness of the fixed result, will ignite similar feeling amongst other Europeans, leading to the downfall of the EU.

      This appears to be the only way we can fight US hegemony and perhaps prevent the forthcoming nuclear exchange between Russian and nato.

      Liked by 1 person

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