I’ve been reticent about posting my reaction to the result in the last tumultuous days simply out of self-preservation – like so many other people, my anxiety, anger and stress have been sky high, so I withdrew from online in an attempt to manage my symptoms better and avoid the vicious bullying and name-calling until I could at least get my head together. But the times are calling…
Like many other people I can’t delude myself and celebrate the leave vote as a victory for the left and working class just yet. Yes millions of workers (and middle class people) voted to leave as an anti-establishment protest against the unbearable economic and social conditions – BUT and this is the massive, gargantuan BUT – that understandable rage has been driven and distorted by the most base racism, nationalism and in no way represents a coherent left-wing, united working class rejection of the E.U. and austerity and the capitalist economic system as a whole. Racists everywhere have been boosted by this result and now think they can say whatever hate filled xenophobic abuse they like to anyone who isn’t a so-called British national. Whilst it is true that the majority of the working class voted leave ( the AB group backed Remain by 57% to 43%, while the poorer C2DE category was almost two-thirds in favour of quitting, voting Out by 64% to 36% according to the Daily Mirror quoting ‘Lord’ Ashcroft of all people), the working class are not some homogenous mass social and economic group. Young people were much more likely to vote remain as were communities where the majority of the population are not British born, including in Cardiff, which is a city with a large working class. Nor does it take into account the majority for leave in Scotland or the sectarian nature of the vote in Northern Ireland – two major topics that indicate the escalation of national conflict at risk here and needs proper analysis which I won’t do here).
My own experience is significant numbers of public sector workers – of all nationalities and skin colours – voted to remain not because they are ‘soft middle class liberals’ but because of a genuine and deep seated disgust at racism and xenophobia and REAL CONCERNS over job losses and the loss of E.U. funding to the poorest areas of Wales (which is around 90% of it). That’s why we can’t help feeling that our class have just voted for their own bullets – particularly whilst the left are totally ineffective ignored (particularly hard left ‘Lexiters’ such as the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party) and the far right are triumphant.
Working class and middle class leave voters – particularly the majority who did so for nationalist, anti-immigration reasons – are about to receive a rude shock. Nationalist right wing politicians are misdirecting your rage against the most vulnerable members of your own class and are escalating morally bankrupt divide and rule poison which destroys any potential united working class movement against the system. Farage, Johnston and Gove are ruthless Etonian ruling class politicians who – newsflash – support privatisation, austerity, the bankers and the mass immiseration of the working class. They are going to let us rot and destroy each other whilst the ruling class stay in charge. I don’t think it’s okay to sneer at working class leave voters as stupid and ignorant – the E.U. is a rotten, war mongering, anti-worker, elitist institution – but so is the British parliamentary system including the house of lords, so is the monarchy and this fantasy that Britain can return to its imperialist ‘hey day’ reveals a total ignorance of the real history of working class united struggle against racism, colonialism, imperialism and class exploitation. So whilst I don’t like to insult anyone, it has to be said that racism, bigotry and misplaced faith in Farage to save the NHS or whatever does unfortunately reveal your ignorance and that ignorance is threatening some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met – people who have fled the most appalling, traumatising conflicts in the world and / or are just trying to get a better life for themselves and their families – and I will NOT stand by and let that happen because I’m worried about challenging you. Sorry but now is the time that we must speak out – the far-right must be opposed and the left absolutely definitely now has to get its act together if there’s any hope for our class.
Not all of the leave voters did so far racist reasons, nor was it only white working class people who voted for it but the end result is that Farage and UKIP and the far-right across Europe are celebrating this as their victory, as some of us had tried to warn, and for lexiters to deny this is grossly irresponsible and represents abandoning non-British working class people – WHO ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AND ARE INSTEAD PART OF THE MOST OPPRESSED AND EXPLOITED OF THE CLASS – to an escalation of racist abuse, terror, turmoil and agonising uncertainty now over whether they can stay here. I can’t not do this; my conscience won’t allow it. I’m proud to be for real internationalism and solidarity and think our most important tasks ahead include organising to defend refugees, EU. and international ‘migrants’ (or people in my way of seeing things) and independent working class action, including strike action to protest austerity, cuts, racism and against the bosses – be they nationalist or E.U. bosses. The vote result has happened now and there’s’ no going back, I see no point in a re-run and what we urgently need is a labour movement that can get workers to reject nationalism and racism and instead advocate real European wide workers’ solidarity against the bosses and the politicians, no matter their flags.
The biggest responsibility for the fact that the far-right nationalists and their corporate allies in the mass media were able to distort and twist what could have been a class conscious, internationalist leave campaign lies with the long term strategic failures of the labour movement as a whole, going back decades. The long term betrayals of social democracy by sowing illusions in reforming capitalism, class compromise in the name of ‘partnership with the employers’ and supporting the national bourgeois against independent working class unity across borders, as well as the more recent specific betrayals of the trade unions and the Labour Party in the U.K. (and everwhere else of course) in failing to build a mass movement against the cuts and austerity has led to this desperate situation where working class people, rightly raging at the system, have mistakenly turned to the elitist, capitalist led far-right and this has been a long term process culminating in the absolute rabid and deeply frightening anti-immigrant mood popularly whipped up by short sighted and dangerous politicians from both the Tories AND Labour. We need to recognise this urgently if we are to turn the anger of the masses around from this dangerous racist and nationalist course to an actual international, socialist outlook. Our key responsibility now is to work out how we are to intervene and rebuild the left once more as a real mass movement of the working class around Europe and beyond.