The Leave / Brexit vote in the referendum came in the end as a surprise, a narrow win for Remain was expected. This may be because the core Leave vote was in the run-down white working class communities of the now desolate English and Welsh industrial zones. A population trapped in conditions of long-term unemployment and poverty who no one really pays much attention to anymore.
Some on the left have seized on the makeup of this core vote to suggest that there was some progressive element to the Brexit vote despite the campaign being led by racist hatemongers and wealthy US-oriented neoliberals. Mostly that’s a mixture of wishful thinking and post hoc justification for having called for a Leave vote in the first place, but it is true that a section of the working class, C2DEs in marketing speak, voted to Leave in close to a 2:1 ratio. Is the class composition of that vote enough to automatically make it progressive regardless of content? And what does it tell us that a section of the radical left seems to think the answer to that question is yes, that it is enough to be anti-establishment?
1. The Brexit vote for the UK to leave the European Union demonstrates that even weak parliamentary democracy is incompatible with escalating neoliberal inequality. In the UK as elsewhere a tiny segment of the population have taken a larger and larger share of total wealth in the last decades. Particularly under austerity almost everyone else has seen their share of the wealth they produce decline massively.
2. The Remain campaign was headed up by the political class of the neoliberal establishment and backed by model neo liberal corporations like Ryanair. But because the anger against rising inequality was successfully diverted through scapegoating already marginalized people, in particular migrants, the Leave campaign was also lead by wealthy elitist bigots whose variant of neoliberalism looks to the former colonies and the US rather than Europe.
ANARCHISM AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY
1. Anarchists are generally hostile to decision making mechanisms that demand people put their faith in others to make decisions on their behalf without mandate or recall. We favour systems of direct democracy where the people either discuss and vote on an issue directly, or delegate other people to meet up for such discussions but these delegates are both mandated and recallable.
2. However, we insist that even a perfect democracy has no right to oppress a minority. There can be no democratic mandate for racism, sexism or homophobia.