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.
On the 31st May, the Irish people will be asked to vote in a referendum on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, commonly known as the Fiscal Compact Treaty. The YES side in the campaign argue that this is necessary in order to maintain stability across the EU, and the NO side argue that this treaty represents an enshrinement and continuation of the austerity we have faced since 2008. However, both sides, either through ignorance, cynicism or malice, portray the limitations of people's agency and power as the ticking of a box on a piece of paper.
As the flames from the latest round of rioting in Greece die down, the incapacity of the mainstream media to tell the story of the current Eurozone crisis leaves us as much in the dark as before the Molotov’s lit up the nightly news.
The Workers Solidarity Movement is calling for a No vote in the Lisbon referendum. It is a treaty for the rich, people in Ireland can do a lot better than a choice between the clowns in the Dáil or those in Brussels.
We oppose the EU's policies of privatisation, militarisation and attacks on workers' conditions but don’t insult people’s intelligence by saying that our current society in Ireland with its severe recession, diabolical public services and corruption is anything better. The major lack of democracy in our lives is not between us and the EU but between the Irish government and us.
The upcoming Lisbon vote is one of the rare occasions that the people get a direct say. But it’s only a very limited say. We get to choose between either a gombeen republic or an embryonic European state, neither of which makes for an exciting prospect.
Whichever way the vote goes, there is no indication that either a yes or a no vote will substantially alter the exclusion of the public from major public decisions. That requires a rethinking of the kind of society we want.
The problem is not the treaty alone but the EU as an institution.We call on people to Vote No to Lisbon but also to organise to take more control of our lives and to build real democracy in our communities and our workplaces.
A closer look at Declan Ganley's "Libertas" campaign - the figures behind it and their motivations.
On Sunday April 20th, Libertas announced that Ulick McEvaddy was "joining the No To Lisbon Campaign" and publicised the event with a photo-opportunity of the two 'entrepreneurs' in front of the Libertas Campaign bus . McEvaddy is the first member of the Irish business and political elite to join the Libertas campaign since it emerged under the stewardship of Declan Ganley.
Lisbon - So What’s It All About Then?
Over recent months, there’s been endless talk about the Lisbon Treaty. Most political parties advise us that we’ll be embarrassed and economically ruined if we don’t vote ‘Yes’. Groups advocating a ‘No’ vote tell us that we will lose our democracy and sovereignty if we do vote ‘Yes’.
Throughout the world, public services have been under attack for the past twenty years. Forming a central plank of the capitalist globalisation agenda, ‘privatisation’ and ‘competition’ are the seemingly unchallenged dogma of modern capitalism. The levels of privatisation which have taken place worldwide are absolutely mindblowing. During the 1990s alone over $900 billion worth of public assets were transferred into private hands. Globally this agenda is pushed by the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The basic theory by which these bodies operate is that all decisions should be made on the basis of profitability alone.
The Workers Solidarity Movement position paper on Capitalist Globalisation and Imperialism, as ammended at July 2004 National Conference