FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Brexit: Establishment Freak Out

by

shutterstock_442671520

The “masters of the universe” are shocked and displeased. Increasing numbers of voters are registering their anger, most recently by voting for Brexit in Great Britain. But many who voted for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump during the recent US primary season were motivated by similar frustrations. And before that, there was Occupy Wall Street, los Indignados in Spain, Syriza in Greece, and other massive protests elsewhere in Europe as well. The reason is simple.

For over thirty years center right and center left political parties and establishment politicians have presided over massive changes in how the global economy functions which empower multinational corporations and a privileged minority at the expense of the vast majority, while creating unprecedented waves of refugees fleeing humanitarian disasters in the Mideast, Mexico, and Central America.

All while the mainstream media and establishment intellectuals pontificate about why these changes were both inevitable and for the good — when the truth is they are neither. More and more people are fed up, and tuning out establishment messengers, while new voices on both the right and left battle over leadership of a growing and disparate army of discontents. What can we say about the most recent manifestation in Great Britain?

There are two major forces driving discontent: Deteriorating economic prospects for greeneconmajorities, and challenges to traditional cultural hierarchies. The left plays on the former while the right plays on the latter. The right has a coherent program regarding the latter with broad appeal among older ethnic majorities: Re-segregation and restoration of white skin privileges. But the right has no coherent economic program besides blaming ethnic “others.”

The left has a coherent critique of neoliberal economics, and offers some useful alternatives: Stop catering to finance and subject it to competent regulation. Stop pointless fiscal austerity and provide needed fiscal stimulus. And stop dismantling, and rebuild the welfare state. Moreover, this program has broad appeal among the discontented.

But the left has not been able to compete successfully with the right regarding the second source of discontent. If progressive groups campaign for a principled defense of multiculturalism and protecting immigrant rights, they win support from ethnic minorities and some among the young, but they alienate older, majoritarian communities in economic distress. Moreover, the dilemma for the left is even worse. Because the truth is that until a left economic program is won and firmly in place, principled multiculturalism and defense of immigrant rights does further aggravate the economic distress of disadvantaged, majoritarian populations.

It is comical to watch the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic panic over short-run economic damage due to market “over reaction,” because any danger of this is due to their own negligence. Only because the establishment has hitched our economic destinies to the whims of financial markets is there any need to worry that Brexit might trigger yet another global meltdown. Only because the establishment failed to implement prudent, financial regulation in the seven years since the last financial crisis crashed the global economy is there any danger today. Only because the Cameron government and the European Commission responded to the Great Recession with counterproductive fiscal austerity is a return to deeper recession in Europe quite probable. But we can be sure of one thing: All negative economic trends will now be blamed on Brexit and the populist “mob” who brought it on, rather than on the establishment’s neoliberal policies which are actually responsible.

But I suspect the political ramifications of the Brexit vote will be far greater than any economic consequences. Brexit will put more wind into reactionary political sails in France, the Netherlands, and Eastern Europe. But let me comment on two potentially positive political ramifications.

(1) Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. I will not be surprised if we soon have a second vote on independence in Scotland which passes. Scotts clearly prefer the EU to the UK now that they must choose one or the other. Moreover, there are strong progressive forces in Scotland strongly allied with the independence movement there. Progressives in Scotland were disappointed that independence was narrowly defeated two years ago. I think they may now get their wish, and support for progressive economic reforms in Scotland will no longer be thwarted by Westminster. I will also not be surprised if Northern Ireland now moves to leave the UK and finally become part of the Republic of Ireland, and thereby become not only a member of the EU but the EZ as well. That is 1000 years of bloody history in the British Isles which may actually be resolved in a sensible, progressive, and remarkably peaceful way!

(2) Brexit is a blow to the leadership of the EZ, EC, and ECB resisting demands for a change in course. Just as it will be seized on by reactionary political parties, left forces will put it to good use. It may be too late for Syriza in Greece. But Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany, and the coalition for change in the EU people like Yanis Varafoukis are trying to mobilize will cite the Brexit vote as a sign of what will eventually become of the EU if there is not a major change in course. This does not solve the dilemma progressive forces in EU member countries face: Should they stay and fight for meaningful reform within the EU? Or should they fight to leave because this EU will never become other than a neoliberal straightjacket? But in either case, Brexit is a blow to the powers that be in Brussels, and adds wind to the sails of progressive forces within the EU as well as reactionary forces, no matter what political strategy progressive forces opt for.

Robin Hahnel taught in the economics department at American University in Washington DC from 1976 to 2008, where he is now Professor Emeritus. He is best known as a radical economist and co-creator of a post-capitalist economic model known as “participatory economics.” In addition to a dozen book chapters and more than three dozen articles in academic journals, he has published ten books including Quiet Revolution in Welfare Economics and The Political Economy of Participatory Economics with Princeton University Press, Economic Justice and Democracy with Routledge, and most recently Green Economics: Confronting the Ecological Crisis with M.E. Sharpe.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail