Of course I was pleased by the outcome of the Brexit vote. I’m quite unable to assess the economic implications, but I’m pretty sure that from the political point of view, the EU is a monster, and any blow delivered to it is a Good Thing.

Naturally, all of my liberal, and most of my Lefty, friends think otherwise. This puzzles me a bit.

Partly, I suppose, it’s just knee-jerk anti-Rightism. Undoubtedly many of the Brit exitees were ‘conservatives’, in one sense of the word or another; many, no doubt, motivated, entirely or in part, by racism or bigotry or anti-immigration sentiment(*). And libs and lefties are no more immune than anybody else to the intellectual error of reversing the sign: I’m against whatever the other team is for, and vice versa.

But then perhaps I’m doing the same thing. It’s clear that our rulers are very much in favor of these big unelected transnational economic constructs, and in general push for a borderless world, subject to no sovereignty or inspection but their own, for them; and a world full of barbed-wire fences, checkpoints, walled-off austerity camps (like Greece) and panoptic surveillance, for us. TPP, NAFTA, EU: same story, over and over.

So am I just reversing the sign on the oligarchs’ grand strategy, and assuming anything that’s good for them is bad for us? Of course, there is a case to be made that in this instance it really is a zero-sum game; that they live by exploiting us, and the better they live, the more we’ll be exploited.

Still, perhaps there are things they like that really are neutral, or even beneficial, even to us. Standard railway gauge, stuff like that.

Then of course there’s a venerable Marxist idea that the bourgeoisie’s triumphal disruption of national boundaries and national consciousness paves the way for a corresponding self-emancipation and universalizing self-realization by the proles. It’s a glorious vision – the locus classicus of course is Marx’s wonderful, soul-stirring preamble to the Manifesto – and I do wish it would happen, but it seems to be taking its time.

Meanwhile the oligarchs stride from triumph to triumph, and each time one of their seven-league boots touches the ground, millions of us are crushed under it.

Perhaps I’m taking the short view here, but until the universal proletariat an und für sich awakes from its long slumber in mere potentiality, I am strongly inclined to applaud any sabot that happens to fall into the juggernaut’s machinery, no matter whose foot it came from.

If nothing else, it shows that our masters are not omnipotent.


(*) They’re not the same thing; but that’s a topic for another post.

9 thoughts on “Brexit-exit-koax-koax

  1. Well, it looks like the U.K. will, in fact, exit the E.U. Now the situation is fractally complex. So don’t take my analysis as last word. But. Look at the bare metal from my angle. Germany owns the E.U. (or leases it from the U.S.). That means the U.K. breaks with Germany. This the Germans cannot afford.

    Now, the U.K. has its own nuclear weapons. Germany is not allowed to have them. However, Germany manufactures the nuclear bombs that France owns. Therefor, Germany does indeed have plenty of them.

    So maybe Germany retaliates economically against the U.K.? Then… Nuclear war between the U.K. and Germany? WW3 starts in this strange way?

  2. As a leftist pro-Brexit brit, i found this to be the perfect comment on yesterday’s results. Yes, none of us (non-economists) can really predict the longterm outcome for Britain’s economy, and the practical results may not be so transcendental after all. But as Tariq Ali and others have pointed out:

    //The EU is irreversibly committed to privatisation, welfare cuts, low wages and the erosion of trade union rights. This is why the dominant forces of British capitalism and the majority of the political elite are in favour of staying in the EU. The EU is irrevocably committed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and other new trade deals, which represent the greatest transfer of power to capital that we have seen in a generation.

    Claims that the free movement of labour within the EU is a barrier to xenophobia are false. But without labour rights and an alternative to austerity, migrants will be prey to hostile xenophobic forces with or without the Schengen agreement. And, even more seriously, “Fortress Europe” ensures that those outside the EU cartel of nations are subject to vicious discrimination if they are lucky, and drowning in the Mediterranean if they are not.//

    Seriously, how anyone who considers themselves left-wing can have such a romantic idea about this profoundly authoritarian institution is a mystery to me.

    • “Seriously, how anyone who considers themselves left-wing can have such a romantic idea about this profoundly authoritarian institution is a mystery to me.”

      To which we might well say:

      God save our gracious Queen!
      Long live our noble Queen!
      God save the Queen!
      Send her victorious,
      Happy and glorious,
      Long to reign over us:
      God save the Queen!

      From the perspective of the British working class, the call for Brexit is a call upon the British state to keep to its previous compact with the workers for what can be presented as a fair, national deal. (Incidentally, the British left has the same approach to economic and political problems) Widespread complaints such as this may work to some extent, shifting the balance of the government’s policy tactics. For example, the collapse of Tata Steel Europe’s UK operations in the lead up to this troublesome EU referendum led to some government measures to delay the inevitable. However, the game is up. Whether Britain leaves the EU or not, capitalist companies will not turn their back on the world market and the relevant calculations. Neither will the UK government pretend in its policies that there is no capitalist crisis to deal with.
      Above all, the British working class cannot explain to itself why the British ruling class has broken its previous agreement to deliver national welfare, and why it has turned its back on its natural supporters in favour of seeking better profits in international market dealings. That is why its anger is real and solid, although its political economy remains crap because it cannot understand why what used to work before does not work now. Simply belonging to a rich, imperialist country does not mean that you necessarily get a decent share of the rich pickings.

  3. moon of alabama insists the vote will be thwarted.

    in any case, the response of “the markets” to this perhaps only symbolic exercise of democracy is pretty telling ain’t it?

  4. My impression is Brexit was sort of rolled out as a distraction. Using the EU as a scapegoat for problems which in the UK’s case are homegrown or originate in Washington, not Brussels. Which isn’t to say the EU isn’t terrible. But the timing may not be great, with Corbyn gaining momentum and whatnot. Now the focus is on this and nothing else.

    It is also notable, though I’m not sure what the significance is, that by far the loudest Leave supporters on my FB are rich libertarians. I think in many elite circles NGOs are preferred to governments when it comes to globalization efforts. The problem with governments is the rubes tend to start demanding accountability. The EU is clearly moribund, and breaking off the UK provides an early experiment in a more libertarian approach.

  5. They will talk about it for a while and then the issue will be quietly dropped on the grounds that voters were lied to/TINA/millennial unicorns denied future/no one really meant it.

    Already there are “Bregret” stories all over the place. I hope the bright young intern that came up with that word gets a nice raise.

  6. i’m with cuarto mundo and tariq ali (and john pilger, afshin rattansi, miket whitney, et al.) really disappointed in corbyn, tho. i’m like the guy with the lantern looking for a principled politician. faint hope.

  7. As a prole, I’m ambivalent about the nation-state. The nation-state projects of the modern West weren’t exactly our idea. It is true that most of them started out as aristocratic or bourgeois projects, and that these states were never intended to benefit the proletariat.

    However, as proles we can still say that these nation-states are ours, because our class paid for them. A lot of work, a lot of our life, is tied up in these things. After a lot of mucking about, we finally even got some of them to work not too badly, from our point of view.

    The globalist bourgeoisie are just doing what the bourgeois class have always done everywhere–expropriating what others have worked for.

    It doesn’t matter whether the nation-state is a net advantage to the prole, nor does it matter whether the proletariat theoretically ought to like nation-states. The point is, we proles paid for this nation-state stuff, and it is NOT up to the bourgeoisie to dismantle or dispose of this stuff.

    Now in a broader historical perspective, in terms of how the world’s proletariat comes to exercise political power in a world with a globalized economy, I think it is worth considering how political Reaction works in the dialectic of progress.

    I think of something like the Magna Carta. The Charter wasn’t put together by people who had universal human rights in mind. Instead, the Charter was a reactionary affair, of barons and bishops trying to preserve their old privileges in the face of a centralizer. The Charter failed to prevent the consolidation or royal power in the long run, but it did alter the legal, social and political character of the English kingdom.

    In the context of today’s globalization, I think it is right for the proletariat in the various nation-states of the world to insist on the preservation of their nation-states, and to attempt recapture of nation-state institutions. We proles did not create these nation-states, but damn it we should keep them until we are quite certain that future global insitutions are ready to protect the interests of our class.

    Briefly, the proles need to drag the globalists over to a new Runnymede, and tell them what’s what.

Leave a Reply