Brexit is causing the political classes to experience an existential crisis. In such febrile times, we feel some perspective is needed. This piece from the latest edition of Rebel City offers that.
Death by a thousand cuts for social housing and the NHS; more and more homeless on the street. Working for shit wages on the days they give you work – if you crawl up the boss’s arse with sufficient enthusiasm.
What’s a referendum where we got to choose whether we want to be screwed inside or outside the EU got to do with anything?
Both sides lied like crazy. Both sides pretended to be doing it for us. Leave won.
Cue for the economists, bankers and businessmen to bring out doomsday scenarios (once it was obvious their prediction that a Leave vote would precipitate a currency crash proved wrong): The financial sector will flee; food will rot in the fields without cheap migrant labour; business and the service sector will fail without the skilled migrant workers they don’t have to train. Cue for an outpouring of chatterati vitriol against the racist proles who’d crapped on their parade. Wealthy Remainers were worried they might lose their Latino cleaners, Polish builders, and other cheap workers that support their lifestyle. Lots of people who voted Leave hoped they’d end up with a job. Even if you know it’s not immigrants but bosses who cause low wages, you might still think your best chance of a job is to get rid of the competitors.
And, contrary to Remainer mythology, Leave wasn’t all about immigrants. Some people- Right and Left, anti- and pro-immigrant -took Leave propaganda about “taking our country back from the EU bureaucrats” seriously. Some think it is the only way Corbynism could be possible.
The rise of the “far-right” is blamed on Brexit. That’s rubbish. After years of thousands of refugees drowning, the clamour rose to a crescendo with Merkel’s brief opening of the German border a year before the Referendum. The rise of the far-right came on the back of the Left’s global surrender to the power of big business- whether in the UK, mainland Europe, the US, Turkey, India or wherever. And it came long before Brexit.
Many people have pinned their hopes on a radical Labour government. It’s worth remembering that the supposedly radical Labour government of 1945 sent conscript troops into the Surrey Docks within a week of taking office to break a ten week-old dockers’ ‘go-slow’. They repeatedly sent in troops against rebellious workers throughout their time in office. Maybe Corbyn won’t use troops against strikers, but he’s already told Labour Councils to implement “legal” (i.e. austerity) budgets and put a Blairite Remainer in charge of his EU strategy. This alongside the strategy of turning grassroots campaigns into tools of the Labour party.
Whether Right or Left, what governments are really terrified of is ordinary people refusing to be conned by the promises of politicians and taking action for themselves. Because the one thing that has a chance of getting us what we want (not what they tell us we should have) is by deciding what it is and fighting for it together.