Brexit appears to be a big win for the xenophobic, racist right.
The returns are still coming in, and there is much debate on who backed what and why, who said what to whom, and so on. But preliminary data tells us that the biggest forces behind the Brexit campaign, and the people crowing about it the loudest, with exceptions, are on the far right, and they used strong appeals to racism, xenophobia, even homophobia to get what they wanted. The available data also shows a huge generational divide, with younger Britons overwhelmingly supporting bremain, and older Britons going for brexit:
HOW AGES VOTED
18-24: 75% Remain
25-49: 56% Remain
50-64: 44% Remain
65+: 39% Remain#EUref
— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 23, 2016
Age breakdown on Brexit polls tells underlying story. Older generation voted for a future the younger don't want: pic.twitter.com/kMPECqQF6u
— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) June 24, 2016
Kevin Drum of Brexit Wins had this to say:
I don't have any personal axe to grind on Brexit. Except for one: I am sick and tired of watching folks like Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and others appeal to the worst racial instincts of our species, only to be shushed by folks telling me that it's not really racism driving their popularity. It's economic angst. It's regular folks tired of being spurned by out-of-touch elites. It's a natural anxiety over rapid cultural change.
Maybe it's all those things. But at its core, it's the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them—all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we've seen in decades. It's loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I'd ever see in my lifetime. But that's where we are.
Gary Younge of the Guardian adds this:
Britain is no more sovereign today than it was yesterday. We will leave the EU but remain within the neoliberal system. Left to the mercy of the markets we are arguably now less capable of directing our affairs than we were. We are not independent. We are simply isolated . . .
And then he gets down to the nitty gritty:
When you dehumanise immigrants, using vile imagery and language, scapegoating them for a nation’s ills and targeting them as job-stealing interlopers, you stoke prejudice and foment hatred.
The chutzpah with which the Tory right – the very people who had pioneered austerity, damaging jobs, services and communities – blamed immigrants for the lack of resources was breathtaking. The mendacity with which a section of the press fanned those flames was nauseating. The pusillanimity of the remain campaign’s failure to counter these claims was indefensible.
Not everyone, or even most, of the people who voted leave were driven by racism. But the leave campaign imbued racists with a confidence they have not enjoyed for many decades and poured arsenic into the water supply of our national conversation.
In this atmosphere of racial animus and class contempt, political dislocation and electoral opportunism, the space for the arguments we need to have about immigration, democracy, and austerity simply did not exist. Our politics failed us. And since it is our politics only we can fix it.
From where I sit, across the Pond from the Brits, I see this as yet one more example of a disorganized and weakened left, unable to prevent the vicious rise and success of the racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant right. I see that failure primarily coming down to the center left's deal with the devil -- the devil being the right's own lust for austerity, neoliberalism and neoconservative. But most importantly, the devil's lust for capitalism itself, which a good bit of the left once rightfully rejected, while a much smaller portion of it does today.
To me, the absence of a vibrant anticapitalist left, one that offers a much better way for all human beings and the earth itself, a completely different way for people to support themselves, make their own way in the world, regain full autonomy, freedom and control over their own destinies, rather than being forever dependent upon crumbs from capitalists, or government, or charities of one sort or another -- this is where things have gone terribly off the rails. The only answer to the forever despicable, unconscionable ideology of the right is for the center left to end its deal with the devil, embrace its brothers and sisters further to its left, and together, become the champions of the people, truly, without hesitation, apology or regret.
In short, a unified, aggressive, fired up left needs to give everyone obvious and palpable, easily understood reasons not to succumb to right-wing con artists like Trump, Le Pen and Johnson. It needs to show that cooperative, democratic, egalitarian economies are light years better than capitalism, which is anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian to its core.