Dave (the editor)
We reposted this piece from Lisa Mckenzie yesterday and some people are not at all happy with us: ‘We don’t exist to them, do we?’: Why working-class people voted for Brexit. What follows is an attempt to explain why we’re fed up with the continuing demonisation of working class communities since the EU referendum back in 2016.
While we now admit that the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) has its flaws, our time as activists with them between 2003 and 2009 taught us some very valuable lessons. They were learnt when we went door knocking in the Stanford East & Corringham Town ward in Thurrock in the early stages of building the support I needed to stand as a candidate in the local elections in both 2007 and 2008.
One of those lessons was that the vast majority of people are apolitical and will only think about politics when it’s coming close to an election. That’s because a) they simply want to get on with their lives and b) even back in 2007, the sense that politicians weren’t speaking for the interests of working class people was palpable. Because the majority of people we spoke to were generally apolitical, it was difficult to pin them down on the political spectrum. That made canvassing an interesting, challenging and rewarding experience.
Another lesson was learning to listen to people’s concerns. Sure, we heard opinions we disagreed with but we heard them out before engaging in a debate. Giving people a chance to express their views in full gained us the respect we needed to engage and challenge them as we saw fit. Okay, we did meet a few outright bigots. When that happened, we politely terminated the conversation as soon as we could. For obvious security reasons and to not fall foul of electoral rules, we didn’t engage in full scale slanging matches on people’s doorsteps. What we did do was make a mental note of who and where the bigots were for future reference…
So, bearing in mind the above, when many working class people of all colours, creeds and origins voted for Brexit, it was for a wide and complex variety of reasons. Sure, there was a racist element among them but in our view, that was a minority of those voting to leave. As has been said by many commentators, it was a shout of anger from those working class communities that have been thrown under the bus by de-industrialisation and the brutality of austerity. It was from people who felt they had nothing more to lose so, why not shake up the status quo?
This is why we and the people we can truly call our comrades reject the demonisation by the liberal metropolitan set of those of our class who voted for Brexit. We also reject the condemnation of those who see our engaging with Brexit supporters in our class as pandering to bigotry and racism. What do these liberals expect us to do – walk away from our class and work to their agenda instead? Well guess who’s going to gleefully fill that gap – the likes of Gerard Batten and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. ‘Tommy Robinson’) that’s who!
For the record, when we encounter potentially reactionary assumptions in any of the areas we operate or have some influence in, we deal with them: A few thoughts on neighbourhood community halls. We dealt with this issue in as nuanced as way as possible in a bid to move towards some kind of solution and to avoid exacerbating tensions. Finger wagging and self righteous condemnation would have lost us support and gifted an open goal to those reactionary elements lurking in the shadows where we operate. There’s no set formula for dealing with situations like this – it’s always down to the protagonists involved, the specifics of the locality, the demographics and last but by no means least, our security considerations.
There are only a few of us so the influence we have is limited to two estates and a tower block in Basildon. Even that has us stretched at times but we carry on because we recognise that radical change can only come about by building from the grassroots upwards in our communities. Our approach has been developed from years of experience. We recognise that what we do at the grassroots is just one of the many strands of activity needed to bring about radical change. It is however, the base that will support those other strands. All we ask is that those of us across the country slogging our guts out on the estates get a bit of credit for what we do instead of condemnation from virtue signalling so called radical activists.