Why the Leave victory is a great outcome

The class struggle is back! Who would have thought. After years of being told by the likes of John Major and then Tony Blair that “the class war is over” (Blair) and the we now all live in “the classless society” (Major) the working class has fought back, albeit under the motivation of the looney, populist Right rather than a progressive left, who remain a voice for capital. Remember when we were told that the Left-Right continuum was irrelevant now in this global world where nation states had given way to grand communities (like the EU) and that, in this new post-modern world, we could all be entrepreneurs (meaning we sell our labour to a capitalist!). And now we know that class never went away. It might have been hi-jacked by the Right but it is there – and it is powerful. Planet Earth to British Labour – do something about it or wither away and make way for a progressive new organised working class movement.

Before the referendum last Thursday I wrote two blogs. One in February 2016 – If I was in Britain I would not want to be in the EU. and one last Wednesday – Britain should exit the European Union.

The first argued along economic lines, the second traced the history of the original accession and showed how the British government lied to the people about the decision to enter the EEC.

Both blogs – as the titles suggest – would have put me in the Leave camp if I was a British voter. I am not a racist nor am I uneducated.

On Friday morning (Australian time), as it became obvious that the Leave vote would win, I tweeted that it “Looks like it will be a great result for UK. Now British labour has to abandon its neoliberalism & provide people with a progressive future”.

I was met with immediate hostility by so-called progressives tweeting that I was “delusional” and that “you don’t know the UK very well, do you?” and that I was a “billy goat” (meaning stupid).

More nasty E-mails followed as the ‘progressive liberal elites’ interrupted their consumption of their cafe lattes and croissants to tell me that the hoy polloi outside of London didn’t have sufficient education to understand what they were doing or they were just mindless racists.

The Remain progressives, were by implication, full of knowledge and wisdom and non-racist.

I wonder how many of these ‘liberal elite’ types with good incomes and stable jobs had opened their well-appointed London homes to the migrants!

But, at any rate, I was told, categorically, in non-elite language, it seems, that anyone who feared for their jobs and opposed a flood of non-unionised workers who would work below minimum wages coming into their local labour markets, were despicable racists who should not be able to vote on these important issues.


Then who should vote?

Certainly not the hoi polloi, it seems.

According to the Oxford University educated Guardian journalist and well-known supporter of Tony Blair, Martin Kettle “the verdict on referendums should be a ruthless one. Never again”.

In his ‘post vote’ article (June 23, 2016) – If referendums are the answer, we’re asking the wrong question – we read that “Referendums have insinuated themselves into our politics in the last half-century” as well as “a lot of the other unwelcome aspects of modern Britain”.

He claims that “The referendum has conferred less legitimacy on politics”.

I liked John Pilger’s view on that.

In his Counterpunch article (June 24, 2016) – A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe – he talks about how:

A nineteenth century contempt for countries and peoples, depending on their degree of colonial usefulness, remains a centrepiece of modern “globalisation”, with its perverse socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor: its freedom for capital and denial of freedom to labour; its perfidious politicians and politicised civil servants.

All this has now come hometo Europe, enriching the likes of Tony Blair and impoverishing and disempowering millions. On 23 June, the British said no more.

He argues that the:

The most effective propagandists of the “European ideal” have not been the far right, but an insufferably patrician class for whom metropolitan London is the United Kingdom. Its leading members see themselves as liberal, enlightened, cultivated tribunes of the 21st century zeitgeist, even “cool”. What they really are is a bourgeoisie with insatiable consumerist tastes and ancient instincts of their own superiority. In their house paper, the Guardian, they have gloated, day after day, at those who would even consider the EU profoundly undemocratic, a source of social injustice and a virulent extremism known as “neoliberalism”.

The responses of some of the Blairites in the past few days has been similar to the reaction to my initial tweet, celebrating the power of the people, no matter how educated or connected they might be to vote and upset the elites.

John Pilger writes:

On the morning after the vote, a BBC radio reporter welcomed politicians to his studio as old chums. “Well,” he said to “Lord” Peter Mandelson, the disgraced architect of Blairism, “why do these people want it so badly?” The “these people” are the majority of Britons.

The wealthy war criminal Tony Blair remains a hero of the Mandelson “European” class, though few will say so these days.

If you have read Mandelson’s 1996 book (with Roger Liddle) – The Blair Revolution: can new Labour deliver? – you will know that they claimed that the economic engine of Britain was the large multinational companies, the arms industry and the “pre-eminence of the City of London”.

Liddle admitted in a retrospective on the book, published by the policy-network, that New Labour was highly successful and “built on the cumulative foundations of those which precede them and, as such, a large and significant section of the Thatcherite settlement we inherited in office was incorporated into our framework for governance.”

The cosy world of these elites, masquerading as ‘progressives’ stood back and supported a construct (the EU) that trampled over the democratic wishes of the people of Greece.

Syriza, who Pilger constructs as being the “products of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, groomed in the fakery and political treachery of post-modernism” were vehicles in perpetuating the elite desire to repress the wider population.

For the progressives that tweeted and wrote to me over the last few days who claim that the “EU is not neo-liberal” in outlook, I wonder if they have read the relevant treaties that govern the EU and the attached protocols that drive the whole operations of the outfit.

The Stability and Growth Pact and the subsequent changes (two-pack, six-pack, fiscal compact) are all root-and-branch neo-liberal constructs.

These constructs dominate economic policy making within the EU (even if Britain was exempt from them). They are used to crucify Greece, and allow unemployment in Spain to persist above 20 per cent indefinitely, to name just a few examples.

I reported the other day how the latest convergence report had used the three Member States that were deflating the most (as a result of failed economies) as their benchmark “best-performing Member States”.

The locked-in austerity mindset where nations that are failing badly in economic terms are held out as the benchmark to assess the economic credentials of other states is the hallmark of the neo-liberalism nightmare that has been inflicted on the world by these ‘elites’ over the last three decades.

Please read my blog – The European Commission and ECB outdo themselves in their quest for absurdity – for more discussion on this point.

I also read several social media posts by so-called ‘progressives’ claiming that membership of the EU didn’t compromise the sovereignty of the British Parliament – a conclusion that is clearly contradicted by the facts.

The – European Court of Justice – which has jurisdiction over all EU laws with no right of appeal, compromises any claim that Britain has to sovereignty.

Under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the ECJ determines whether a Member State has fulfilled its obligations under EU law.

Sovereign democratic nations, in my view, have a constitution that establishes a rule of law through the parliamentary system and is enforced by a separate judiciary, such as the High Court of Australia.

However, a significant body of British law and rules (estimated to be around 62 per cent when EU regulations are included in addition to Acts and Statutory Instruments – Source) are the outcome of membership of the EU and therefore come under the ambit of the ECJ.

So to say Britain’s parliamentary sovereignty is not impinged by its EU membership is incorrect.

But let me be absolutely clear. The problem with Britain is not its membership of the EU.

Getting rid of the EU membership was a necessary but not sufficient condition in order to expunge the problem which is neo-liberalism..

Some observations I have picked up over the last few years about the UK that I think had a significant bearing on the outcome of the Referendum.

In May 2015, Eurofound (the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) released its – Recent developments in the distribution of wages in Europe – report which concluded:

1. “The UK is remarkable for its polarisation” in wages.

2. “The Gini index for wages in the EU as a whole is 0.346 (for full-time equivalent wages measured in PPS), while the comparable measure for the US is around 0.4, and in the UK, the most unequal EU country, it is 0.404.”

3. After 2008, wage inequality has increased substantially across the EU, but “was to a large extent driven by developments in the UK”.

4. “UK wage inequality grew very rapidly after 2008.”

OECD data shows that since 1985 overall income inequality (not just confined to wages) has increased dramatically in the UK and the OECD concluded that the “low wage growth” has put “lower-income households at risk of poverty”.

It shows that all the tax and benefit policy changes since 2010 have had a “negative impact on household disposable income”.

When you put the rising inequality together with the suppression of disposable income growth, you know that the burden has been pushed onto the lower income earners and benefit recipients.

These trends run contrary to the aspirations for a fair society that British people continually report in surveys.

Past British Social Attitudes surveys reveal that “95 per cent of the public agrees “in a fair society every person should have an equal opportunity to get ahead” (Source).

In 2013, the YouGov – The Anglo-US Divide on Equality – survey reported that 78 per cent of British respondents said that “Ensuring that rich and poor children have the same chances to get ahead – Should be the government’s job”.

74 per cent said that it “Should be the government’s job” to “Making sure that every family has a decent basic minimum income”.

And even 52 per cent said it “Should be the government’s job” for “Redistributing from the better-off to the less well-off, right across the income range”.

However, the report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published on August 28, 2014 – Elitist Britain – provided a chilling reminder of ‘who runs Britain’ from the perspective of their educational backgrounds and networks and how contrary the reality is to aspiration.

It found that the “relationship between incomes of parents and children is stronger in Great Britain than in many other countries”.

Child poverty is much higher in the UK (and getting worse) than in many other EU nations.

In the “UK, those from high income backgrounds are far more likely to have high income as adults”.

The Report studied “Who has the top jobs in Britain?” by background, school etc

They concluded that the results of their research:

… found elitism so stark that it could be called ‘Social Engineering’ …

71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of Permanent Secretaries, 53 per cent of senior diplomats, 50 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 45 per cent of public body chairs, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists, 36 per cent of the Cabinet, 35 per cent of the national rugby team, 33 per cent of MPs, 33 per cent of the England cricket team, 26 per cent of BBC executives and 22 per cent of the Shadow Cabinet attended independent schools – compared to 7 per cent of the public as a whole.

And these elites were dominated by those who had “attended Oxbridge – compared to less than 1 per cent of the public as a whole.”

The Report concluded that the “risks are ‘group think’ and a lack of understanding of those with different backgrounds” and the “narrow elite suggests serious limits on adult social mobility” and “The sheer scale of the dominance of certain backgrounds raises questions about the degree to which the make- up of the elite reflects merit”.

The decades of neo-liberalism have thus created a growing proportion of British citizens who are divorced from any of the gains in prosperity that have been made over this period. That is what the inequality data tells us.

That is what the Leave vote tells us.

Where has British Labour been in representing a voice against this elite domination? Absent – lunching with the City!

Remember the classic 2005 – Speech – by the Gordon Brown to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The better, and in my opinion the correct, modern model of regulation – the risk based approach – is based on trust in the responsible company, the engaged employee and the educated consumer, leading government to focus its attention where it should: no inspection without justification, no form filling without justification, and no information requirements without justification, not just a light touch but a limited touch.

The new model of regulation can be applied not just to regulation of environment, health and safety and social standards but is being applied to other areas vital to the success of British business: to the regulation of financial services and indeed to the administration of tax. And more than that, we should not only apply the concept of risk to the enforcement of regulation, but also to the design and indeed to the decision as to whether to regulate at all.

In bed with the city elites who were busily screwing over the workers and the unemployed.

The 2015 British Social Attitudes survey – is interesting because it presents a more nuanced view of UKIP supporters and the likely influence of UKIP on the exit vote.

We learn that:

Many people in Britain can, indeed, be characterised as ‘Eurosceptic’ in that they either want Britain to leave the EU (24%) or else to see the powers of the EU reduced (38%). However, Euroscepticism has been widespread since the late 1990s and while it appears to have increased further during the early life of the Coalition it has, if anything, declined slightly since 2012 … The rise of UKIP reflects a long- standing mood on Europe rather than the development of a new one.

The rise of UKIP was associated with the decision by Britain (under John Major) to sign the disastrous Maastricht Treaty, which barely passed through the British Parliament after a major rebellion from with the Conservative ranks.

It gained political ground as the British Labour Party became more pro-Europe under John Smith and abandoned its promise to withdraw from the EU if elected.

At the 1983 national election, British Labour leader Micheal Foot promised to exit within the next 5 years if elected. They did not unseat Margaret Thatcher.

After Tony Blair took office he promised in 2004 to hold a referendum to ratify the European Constitution Treaty. He didn’t hold it. He repeated the promise in 2005 but never fulfilled it.

Blair, whose reputation is in tatters following his behaviour over Iraq, was never a champion of the workers anyway.

Remember the famous 1983-84 case – Nethermere (St Neots) Ltd v Gardiner – who other than Tony Blair “acted for the employers” against low-paid and “vulnerable” female sewing workers in an unfair dismissal case. Fortunately, the bosses lost the case! But Tony continued his elitist ways once in power as Prime Minister.

When the Treaty of Lisbon was bulldozed through by the elites in Brussels, British Labour still under the Blairite domination, claimed that the Treaty was not the same document as the EU Constitution and therefore they didn’t need to honour any promise to hold a referendum. The UK ratified the Treaty in 2008 with no referendum being held.

In 2014, failed Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to countenance a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

UKIP was busily gaining supporters (by 2013 they were running at 10 per cent support in the Opinion Polls) and the British conservatives were proposing an In/Out referendum.

UKIP were increasingly appealing to workers who felt disenfranchised by the neo-liberal machine and the elitist manner in which the EU conducts its operations.

The EU was seen as a harbinger for corporate control and excess, as a defender of the out-of-control banksters and related crooks in the financial sector, and, increasingly, an enemy of the ordinary worker.

Its treatment of Greece is stark. It has overseen elevated levels of mass unemployment now for 8 years and is deliberatey seen to be following policies that entrench that state while the elites in the financial sectors get bailed out and escape with immunity from their failures.

The latest British Social Attitudes survey concluded that:

in spite of the party’s apparent ability to attract votes from those who voted Conservative at the 2010 general election, UKIP’s support base cannot simply be characterised as ‘right wing’. It is true that UKIP supporters are both Eurosceptic and generally tough in their attitudes to immigrants. They are also relatively more socially conservative in their attitudes to crime and punishment as well as relationships – although those UKIP supporters who agree that same sex couples should have the right to marry (48%) now outnumber those who disagree (31%). But at the same time, UKIP supporters express a level of concern about the degree of economic inequality in British society that puts them on the left on that issue … Thus UKIP appears to have been successful in bringing together a group of voters who are not only anti-Europe and socially conservative in outlook (including not least in their attitudes to immigration), but who are also concerned about economic inequality and at the same time are deeply suspicious of government.

From the outside (not living in the UK), it is clear that UKIP has been providing a voice for views that British Labour would have traditionally provided before it became neo-liberal in its economic slant.

British Labour abandoned its heartland in the 1970s when it adopted austerity and deliberately used unemployment as a policy tool to fight inflation, which it made its priority.

My series – Demise of the Left – which is still being written, provides the whole sordid historical tracking of British Labour’s abandonment of its commitment to full employment and its advocacy for what we now call neo-liberalism.

That is why British Labour resoundingly lost the last national election despite the appalling economic management of the Tories and it is, in part, why the Leave vote won.

British Labour spineless reluctance to voice a progressive line not only allowed the immigration overtones to run rife in the lead up to the Referendum vote last week but also gave credibility to UKIP and other conservative forces, such that people are now calling the Leave vote a right wing coup.

So it should be clear that the EU is not the problem but part of the problem.

I liked George Monbiot’s column (April 15, 2016) – Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.

He notes that this orthodoxy that has infested the world over the last 3 to 4 decades “sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations”.


The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

A range of pathologies then accompany the disenfranchisement that occurs as the ‘train’ runs faster but leaves an increasing number of the passengers behind on the station.

Monbiot lists the “epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia”.

He notes that “neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world”.

Frederick von Hayek, who loathed anything to do with government intervention spawned the views of Milton Friedman. Von Hayek admitted when Pinochet trampled over democracy in Chile in 1973 that:

… my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism

The freedom that neo-liberalism espouses is a “freedom to suppress wages … the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments … freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.”

This abandonment of concern for the interests of the majority is behind the Brexit vote.

As George Monbiot assesses:

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era … than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

The Brexit Referendum finally gave workers a meaningful binary choice – In or Out – whereas general elections these days are a choice between neo-liberal Tories or neo-liberal Labour, that is, no choice at all.

The rejection of neo-liberalism could thus be expressed through this binary choice for the first time in many years.

The workers have been kidded along by the neo-liberal elites including those so-called progressives who persuaded themselves that all would benefit from the deregulation and welfare attacks, when in fact, they could see in the data as they sipped their lattes that while they might be doing okay, a growing number of fellow citizens were being left behind.

The great Polish economist Michał Kalecki (1990, page 284) observed that:

There are certain ‘workers’ friends’ who try to persuade the working class to abandon the fight for wages in its own interest, of course. The usual argument used for this purpose is that the increase of wages causes unemployment, and thus is detrimental to the working class as a whole.”

That became the mantra of British Labour. It has to change.

[Reference: Kalecki, M. (1990) Collected Works, Volume 1, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.]

So why did I think it was great news?

First, it represents a major rejection of the neo-liberal policy structures that are now commonplace. They no longer have legitimacy and the vote shows that ordinary people ultimately have more power than the elites, who are now scampering around trying to work out how their cosy world can be restored.

This doesn’t mean that the ordinary voter on the Leave side knows what the alternative is or understands Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) or anything else.

It means they have rejected the mainstream.

Second, if carried through, the exit will unambiguously restore British sovereignty and frees it from the austerity-obsessed neo-liberal European Commission and Council. It will no longer be subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice.

The constitutional validity of British legislation, motivated and introduced by an elected British government rather than the unelected technocracy that is the European Commission, will be scrutinised by British institutions (the High Court etc). Which is how a democracy with separation of powers should operate.

Third, the opportunities by the British polity to depoliticise poor decisions which harm the interests of ordinary people by appealing to the external forces beyond their control have been reduced.

British politicians of all flavours will have to take more responsibility for their legislation and policy choices, which is progress on the current state where they can avoid such responsibility by blaming things on Brussels.

Fourth, the choice will not free Britain from neo-liberalism but it does bring the debate back into focus – voter face to face with the British politicians.

There are no guarantees that the decision to leave the European Union will lead to good outcomes, by which I mean help those who have been disenfranchised by the neo-liberal system.

There are scenarios that would lead to the conclusion that exactly the opposite might occur. Indeed, UKIP has every right to claim it ‘won’ and to further pursue its racist plans.

And the right-wing Tories who have always hated Europe might push for even greater ‘competition’ and cuts to government spending and services, which would further undermine the fortunes of the weak and precarious.

Bosses might push for further cuts to wages and conditions.

So why was I happy to see the Leave vote win?

Michał Kalecki also at some point said that in a crisis there are opportunities for both the Right and the Left.

The exit campaign was dominated by those on the Right that could see the potential of giving voice to the disenfranchised outside of the London elites.

British Labour leadership was largely absent throughout – not knowing which way to turn and allowing the Pro-European (neo-liberal) Left elements within the Party to dominate its public viewpoint. It lost its traditional constituents along the way.

The point is that British Labour now has to change drastically and reject its neo-liberal leanings or face extinction.

If it doesn’t show leadership and present a truly progressive alternative to the neo-liberal orthodoxy then the anger will continue and it is possible that the right will dominate.

It is clear that further austerity will be rejected because it is a manifestation of the same sentiments that led to the anti-EU vote.

Brexit vote is a rejection of New Labour as much as it is a rejection of Tory-style neo-liberalism.

I don’t believe all the catastrophe stories that Europe will shut Britain out despite the churlish and childish responses from the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, who presumably, in between drinks, told the German ARD television news that Britain should get the f.*k out of the EU as soon as possible and that it would not be an “not an amicable divorce”.

So much for respect for democracy.

Former British Labour MP Bryan Gould wrote in his article (June 26, 2016) – Their Hysterical Reaction Tells Us Why The Remainers Lost – that:

… the Labour leadership missed the chance to place itself at the head of that majority who were fed up with the obvious, serious and growing deficiencies of the EU as a model for European integration. Instead, Jeremy Corbyn – through timidity rather than conviction – placed himself on the losing side and missed the chance to exploit the unavoidable blow to the authority of the Tory government that the Brexit decision represents.

Now British Labour has to emerge with leadership to bring back the disenfranchised into a progressive policy agenda. They have to once and for all reject the Blairite corruption of the Party and expunge those who still hold those views.

If they cannot do that then a new Party has to form.

Such a Party has to spearhead a renewed education campaign to ensure that the Leave vote frustration becomes an informed rather than visceral rejection of neo-liberalism.

It has to demonstrate, through leadership, that full employment is possible and announce a Job Guarantee, to ensure that all workers have a job and wage security.

It has to argue the case that the nation state, which issues its own currency, has all the capacity it needs to ensure a decent paying job that allows workers to be socially included is possible.

It has to prioritise first-class public education, health care, transport etc and if necessary nationalise the railway system again, the energy sector, and protect the NHS.

All these progressive policy initiatives would have been prevented while retaining membership of the European Union.

It has to eschew the neo-liberal myths that it has to impose austerity to avoid running out of money.

Every young kid in school should be taught that the British government can never run out of money, is not subject to the whims of the private bond markets if it does not choose to be, and is never unable to ensure there is enough work for all.


Bryan Gould notes the hysteria from the losers after the Leave victory:

It did not seem to occur to …[those who claimed it was the “equivalent of the Visigoths’ sacking of Rome”] … that the decision to leave the EU was the product of a vote in which a majority of his fellow-citizens had simply, as part of their democratic right, acted on a view, or views, on a subject of interest to the whole community, that were just as valid as, but different from, his own. The barbarians whom he castigated were not invaders from elsewhere; they were Britons like him, enjoying the same right as he had to consider the issues and express a view. It is what is called democracy.

Bryan Gould also discusses the neo-liberal Groupthink in action that promoted the Remain campaign where:

The fury and hatred aroused by the discovery that there was actually a majority that disagreed with those who thought that they alone were capable of reaching the right and proper decision – and the vitriol with which those sentiments are expressed – provides us with an insight into the mentality of many of those who simply could not believe that any view other than theirs was possible.

When I tweeted it was a ‘great outcome’ I didn’t say that good would come out of it. I also didn’t suggest that it would be a short-term recovery of prosperity or that the workers would benefit.

I was referring to the fact that class struggle now has a clearer focus within the British political debate. There is now a dynamic for a truly progressive leadership to emerge and bring the disenfranchised along with them and wipe out the neo-liberal hydra once and for all.

That is why the Brexit vote is excellent. British politics is now in chaos. How it sorts itself out will determine what the outcome leads to.

But progressive leadership now has space to challenge the orthodoxy. That is a great outcome.

It might take time to emerge and crystallise. But class struggle does not yield instant rewards.

But I see the Brexit choice as one of those monumental outcomes similar to the OPEC oil crises in the early 1970s that change the course of history. I do not need to remind anyone that the Monetarists exploited the OPEC chaos to capture undeserved credibility and pursue the neo-liberal agenda.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2016 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 61 Comments

  1. Bill, who is this quote in your story attributable to:

    ..The freedom that neo-liberalism espouses is a “freedom to suppress wages … the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments … freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.”


  2. Not only “class struggle” is back but something more serious and dangerous – the old daemons of Prussian domination teamed up with the Napoleonic dreams of building a universal European empire, frozen since battle of Borodino. Polish state-owned TV station has published (in English) a leaked proposal of the super-state consisting of Germany and France. The document is called “A strong Europe in a world of uncertainties” and has been signed by foreign ministers of mentioned above states. The super-state would have an army, secret service (“A European Security Compact”) and a kind of fiscal organ (an “European Monetary Fund” ). According to Polish media an ultimatum has been presented to the countries of V4 (Poland, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia) to join the revamped federal organisation or else…

    This may lead to converting Central, Eastern and Southern Europe into a kind of Middle East, a playground where the Holy Empire of German Nation Mk 2, Russia, the US and everyone else are pulling strings and creating the usual mess. Greece has already become a scarecrow, Ukraine has already been thrown under bus, who is going to be next?

  3. Reading your post I was preparing to write a long reply, but really there is no need because you have given a very fair summary. The essence of my reply was precisely this:

    I see the Brexit choice as one of those monumental outcomes similar to the OPEC oil crises in the early 1970s that change the course of history. I do not need to remind anyone that the Monetarists exploited the OPEC chaos to capture undeserved credibility and pursue the neo-liberal agenda.

  4. “I also read several social media posts by so-called ‘progressives’ claiming that membership of the EU didn’t compromise the sovereignty of the British Parliament – a conclusion that is clearly contradicted by the facts.”

    That’s because you’re not thinking like a member of the Regressive Left.

    In their mindset a man in a straitjacket is ‘free’, because there exists the remote possibility at some undetermined point in the future that the straitjacket may come off.

    Orwell would by either gobsmacked or thoroughly bemused by this relentless sophistry.

  5. “He claims that ‘The referendum has conferred less legitimacy on politics’.”

    People vote in emotional manner in any referendum. A lot of them, probably the majority, doesn’t know what they are voting for, and that’s dangerous.

    If people had done some research and insightful thinking, the Leave vote would have won with more then 52%. But “better togheter” is a very appealing emotional campaign.

    I do agree that referendums are a bad way of exercising democracy, and that they confer less legitimacy on politics…

  6. George Osborne in this speech this morning: “…and reduced the deficit which is projected to fall to 3%…” as if that is a good thing. Nothing will change, I fear.

    What we need is a much bigger deficit by way of a reduction in taxation (one commentator – I forget who – suggested lowering VAT from 20% to 17.5%). I’m not sure JG is necessary when there are around 1 million unemployed and 750,000 vacancies. That said I do realise that the 1 million figure is likely to be a fudge.

    I am interested that you quote Bryan Gould who also published a pamphlet on behalf of the Fabian Society, “Productive Purpose – Investment, competitiveness and the new economics” in which he clearly understands (nearly) how the monetary system works. He is an ex-politician, a shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who returned to his native New Zealand and has recently apparently resurfaced. I wonder if he aims to return to British political life? One hopes so.

    Unfortunately I am as pessimistic as ever. The knives are out for Corbyn and the Labour leadership smell a General Election, so they need an electable (neoliberal) leader. The one advantage the Labour party has is that the general membership have a huge say in who is leader – unlike the Tories. I’m not sure even McDonald will survive.

    As I write there will be Machiavellian plans being hatched to keep the UK within the single market. That will entail continued supremacy of the ECJ, adherence to Article 125 and free movement of people.

  7. Bill thank you for your amazing analyse i am always enjoying reading it

  8. Dear Bill

    In a country like the UK, a genuinely populist party, that is, a party which serves the interests of the poorest 4 quintiles, would have the following platform:

    1 – hostility to neoliberalism and support for the welfare state
    2 – rejection of globalism
    3 – opposition to immigration
    4 – advocacy of macroeconomic policies that favor full employment rather than low inflation

    There is no such party in the UK. Only UKIP is really opposed to immigration, but it is extremely neoliberal.

    Opposition to immigration should not be confused with hostility to immigrants. Immigrants are simply banal human beings who change their country because they are guided by self-interest or family interest. Opposition to immigration is justified because it is not in the interest of the majority. The beneficiaries of immigration are nearly always the propertied classes and the high-income earners.

    Regards. James

  9. Dear espghia (at 2016/06/27 at 7.25 pm)

    It came from the Monbiot article. In general if I don’t attribute it means the quote came from the last article I have cited.

    best wishes

  10. An excellent analysis Bill – thank you.

    The ‘Leave’ result is a wonderful opportunity to reshape politics in the UK. All the balls are in the air – who will catch them? There are 17m+ Britons who are clearly ‘pissed off’ after 40 years of neoliberalism. Now is the time to harness those feelings by the offer of a positive political programme which has at its prime goal ‘full employment’ as opposed to neoliberalism’s ‘balanced budgets’.

    Unfortunately, UK’s Labour MPs seem to believe that it is more important to move those Titanic’s chairs around rather than contribute to a positive plan of action.

  11. espghia, The quote is from George Monbiot’s Neoliberalism article – see link in bill’s post.

  12. I voted out because I might not ever get another chance to vote
    against the EU BUT the context is worrying.
    There is a strand of populism on the pro eu side one which appeals
    to progressive natures ,International cooperation acommunity of shared
    and enlightened values.Even Corbyn supporting new members of the Labour Party
    are strongly pro Eu my son explains his labour supporting peers as seeing pro Eu
    as being as much as their identity as socialistic.So you have a generally Metropolitan vehemently pro Eu set of labour supporters as well as a significant majority of all labour voters (a vast majority
    of members) which supported remain and are bitterly upset by the vote .The nationalistic
    xenophobic UKIP ,capture working class rightly resentful labour supporters,but they
    have already captured all the votes of those that used to vote NF and BNP .If the political
    elite manage to keep us in the EU or stitch up an alternative free movement of labour deal
    then UKIP would naturally win more labour votes.If not Scotland and their progressively
    minded Mp’s may well not be their to oppose richter wing governments.
    A cut and run Boris led government could redraw boundaries as labour split and cement
    even worse governance for the foreseeable blaming economic malaise on the collapsing EU.
    EU economic mismanagement ingeneral threatens a resurgent far right which as history
    shows is a threat to democracy and peace.
    There are very reasonable fears attached to the collapse of the EU in response to migration.

  13. What now,should we push for single market and free movement of people.

    There is a lot of anxiety,a lot of us have continental friends colleagues who we are worried will be deported and likewise family living abroad who we don’t want to see their life’s abruptly changed by a new political situation.

  14. “For the progressives that tweeted and wrote to me over the last few days who claim that the “EU is not neo-liberal”
    I wonder if these “progressive” neo-liberals are so confused that they think they are progressives. Is this some sort of Stockholm Syndrome where people live under neoliberalism so long that they begin to think that they are progressives? Have people also forgotten what democracy is? When we only have a choice between neo-liberal left and neo-liberal right then the only democracy there is comes from referendums.

  15. I have basically suggested this and it has been ignored in comments to Simon Wren Lewis, who has the Shadow Chancellor’s ear:


    Unfortunately he has ignored it. I similar asked him if he would send some MMT articles to McDonnell but he gave a BS reply.

    On his post:

    “However the EU can still be helpful. The calls we saw from many (but notably not from Merkel) for a quick implementation of Article 50 are not. I also think they are misconceived from the EU’s own perspective, which is to discourage calls for similar referenda in other countries. The best discouragement is to focus on the current chaos in the UK, and to hope that the UK eventually comes to its senses and overturns by some means the referendum result.

    Whichever route is taken, a big problem is pretext. How do you justify asking the electorate to overturn their earlier verdict? It may be true that many now wish to change their mind, but no one likes the feeling that they are being told they made the wrong choice. A deteriorating economy will help, but I still think you need something more concrete. Suggestions welcome.”

    WTF? The EU vote means freedom from State Aid rules (government can nationalise what they like without paying “compensation” aka free money), means we can repeal the TTIP trade deal if we sign it (can’t inside the EU) and means the UK does not have to accept freedom of movement. These are *major advantages* from a left wing perspective.

    On that latter point – 88% of current EU immigrants would fail the tests to obtain a work visa!


    “Overall, therefore, most EU-born workers-like most workers of all origins-are not in jobs that meet the criteria for Tier 2 visas. Because EU workers are underrepresented in high-paying graduate jobs, a lower share of those who are already living in the UK are working in jobs that meet the occupation and salary thresholds described in this report, compared to the average across the UK labour market. In 2015, 19% of people born in EU countries and working as employees in the UK were in a skilled job earning more than £20,000. Many of these people had been living in the UK for several years and thus may have different skills and experience compared to people who are newly arriving. They have also had longer to enter skilled employment. The share of newly arriving EU born workers who had arrived in the UK in 2010 or afterwards and who were in graduate jobs earning £20,000 or more was lower, at 12%.”

    The EU “studies” all get the null hypothesis wrong and don’t seperate out those who would get a Visa from those who wouldn’t.

    How can left wing people support this? Permanent open borders, the TTIP trade deal allowing corporates to sue governments and “state aid” rules.

  16. Ultimately austerity and mass migration are unsustainable but the articulation
    of a xenophobic response is already underway while the progressive economic response
    has little audience.Much of its potential audience rally around internationalist ideals
    to counter the reactionary threat.

  17. Thanks for this great post. But somehow I don’t think Brexit is still a certainty. It can happen, but there are powerful factions which are against it. They might find a reason not to do it.

    They are already sending trial balloons on rejecting the public wish.

    1. A Labour MP explicitly said Parliament should reject referendum result.

    2. There are reports that Ireland and Scotland,which both voted for remain, have veto over invoking Article 50.

    3. Underestimation of EU elites and their British counterparts about their contempt for democracy. They have a long history of rejection of referendum results that go against their wishes. It was Juncker who said “There is no democratic choice against European treaties”. These people are messianic and like all messianic types are a danger to everyone who crosses them.

    4. They are fully capable of punishing people deliberately for voting the wrong way. And then may call another referendum to get the result they want.

    I think they might find some reason not to invoke article 50. Or may only do it with lots of loopholes.

    [Bill edited out link to article he does not wish to promote – with ads – for context the following is a summary of the article provide by Ajit]

    She only concentrates on Rightwing arguments for Leave. There is not even a pretense of engaging with left wing case for Leave. There is not a word about the undemocratic, anti democratic, unaccountable record of EU elites & it’s architecture with built in deflation & unemployment tendencies.

    She talks about Leave campaign using lies but no such critique of Remain camp which indulged in extra ordinary fear mongering, threats & even blackmail to force the vote in it’s favour.

    These are the people who will cheer when establishment factions find a reason to ignore this referendum result.

  18. I regret the outcome of the Brexit vote and I respectfully disagree, Bill. A couple of points:

    1. The ECJ’s jurisdiction and the (alleged) 62% of the British legislation are not arguments for the UK’s loss of sovereignty. The ECJ’s rulings are binding as a result of the EC Act 1972 of the UK Parliament. Same for EU regulations. EU directives are part of the UK law due to transposition into the domestic law by acts of the sovereign UK Parliament. If the UK Parliament enacts legislation contrary to the EU law (regardless of source), it will retain validity and effect on UK territory even if the UK is in breach of the EU law. How is that impinging on the UK’s sovereignty?

    2. UK is not in the Eurozone and it was not under the obligation to pursue austerity policies as a matter of EU law.

    3. MMT is not the measure of all things.

  19. It’s a good result, Bill. Anything to get to hear the voice of the marginalised is worth it. By voting they made their voices heard. It was well expressed by John Harris in the Guardian, quoting a resident in Manchester;
    “If you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money you vote out” Sums it up perfectly
    Your colleague, Steve Keen is also a Brexit fan;
    However, it’s got a way to go. It’s not set in stone and could easily be reversed;
    Serious firepower lined up to thwart it;

  20. This outcome only would be good were the UK to have some sane politicians and policies in place. This is a very remote case right now, in fact current government in the UK is neoliberal on steroids.

    There is no hope with the current trend and this Brexit thing means nothing unless a new political movement that challenges neoliberalism grows fast.

    The chances of this happening right now are close to zero (in fact is more likely Corbyn will be challenged, and the Vichy “left” will throw themselves in the hands of neoliberals be them nationals or from the EU).

  21. Stating that 17 millions voted against neoliberalism on Thursday seems, at best, like wishfull thinking and just about as ridiculous as claiming that all leave voters are racist.
    That’s the main problem with referendums, they oversimplify complex issues into binary questions. The outcome is untelligible and ultimately hijacked shamelessly.

    The UK has for the most part of their short lived membership been more neoliberal than the EU when they weren’t influencing the European neoliberal policies. Even if they cut all their ties with the EU, the UK will need radical changes to their political structure to achieve just one parliament with a non neoliberal mandate. Not saying it’s impossible but thinking Brexit is the first inch toward that miles away goal is very optimistic.

  22. Another great sociological post! – I also couldn’t agree more with you and Pilger. I shared your post in ten facebook groups today. Here is a comment I made on my fb page today – about the way our media controlls and reduces the public mind and political imagination making it very difficult to argue for other true progressive politics:

    “The limits of my language are the limits of my world” Wittgenstein

    Did you ever consider how small our terrible mainstream media, bad economists, un-imaginative sociologists etc. make our (vision of the) world? While the world is actually much bigger and could be much, much, much – more enlightened and – better. In our tiny media etc. produced conception of reality there are no choices for better politics and a better world. We are basically only presented with small variations of TINA. And that is THE greatest lie.”

    – Here are some other similar links (like yours and Pilger’s)

    First Richard Werner (praised by Keen on his facebook page, where he regularly submits his tweets as facebook updates: “() I have studied such issues for several decades. I have also recently tested, using advanced quantitative techniques, the question of the size of impact on GDP from entry to or exit from the EU or the eurozone. The conclusion is that this makes no difference to economic growth, and everyone who claims the opposite is not guided by the facts.” https://professorwerner.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/eu-basics-your-guide-to-the-uk-referendum-on-eu-membership/

    Steve Keen had these comments on his fb page to the tweets in the link below: “I know they do Geoff. And 30 years of Neoliberalism has bred that intolerance, as it has done in Australia too.” + “I could be so on the politics Geoff but I supported ‪#‎Brexit‬ for reasons of rejecting EU Neoliberalism, & I still do.” https://twitter.com/g_m_hodgson/status/747314600173961216

    Peter Koenig: BREXIT – A New Dimension – New Hope for Europe http://www.globalresearch.ca/brexit-a-new-dimension-new-hope-for-europe/5532897#st_refDomain=www.facebook.com&st_refQuery=/

    “Post-Referendum reflections – it’s time to protect people against utopian neoliberalism”
    Jeremy Smith http://www.primeeconomics.org/articles/kg40w4751qz972asq9o93n6i3amga0

    Steve Keen on where to go next: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevekeen/2016/06/27/what-next-after-brexit/#65b58e3146f8

    A longer tweet on how the referendum might not be respected by the politicians. https://twitter.com/gavinsblog/status/746855093186732032

    “Brexit – Why things will get worse and what’s coming next” http://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/brexit-things-will-get-worse-whats-coming-next/


    #Brexit is a referendum on Thatcher as much as any government IMO @ProfSteveKeen https://twitter.com/chrizap/status/747308289638072320

    “In this Brexit vote, the poor turned on an elite who ignored them”
    Ian Jack https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/brexit-vote-poor-elite?CMP=share_btn_tw


  23. Mark Blyth had some very hard hitting words on the Brexit, which he explains as the consequence of decades of condescending ‘technocratic’ neoliberalism in this interview, where he says that everyone has his own version of ‘Trumpism’ these days (this is a short version 4 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwK0jeJ8wxg

    Inspired by Blyth I posted the following on ‘Trumpism’ today: “When the establishment open the borders for immigrants to come in and put pressure on workers payments; make international ‘trade deals’ that only cost millions of workers their jobs; and cut away as much as they can on the welfare state and benefits etc.

    All combining to an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, you don’t need to be a sociologist to understand, why very many people in fear and years of grown political panic look for the one thing, they hope, they might be able to influence: immigration. – But the politicians, that made the whole situation and the (-ir) media call the people racists and fear them… If Trump had been only a bit more clever, he might’ve owned the coming US election.”

    – An article related to this: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2016/06/24-prri-survey-white-working-class-immigration-galston

    Corey Robin has this analysis on Trump’s chances yesterday. http://coreyrobin.com/2016/06/26/clinton-opens-double-digit-lead-in-national-poll/

  24. “That said I do realise that the 1 million figure is likely to be a fudge.”

    It is. The real figure is 3.8 million wanting work and 1.2 million short of work.

    You need a Job Guarantee for macro stabilisation, solving the matching problem (which is why there are 750,000 vacancies and still 3.8 million on the queue), and to halt the race to the bottom.

    The Job Guarantee is a vital part of the auto-stabiliser system that allows fiscal policy to work effectively.

  25. “How is that impinging on the UK’s sovereignty?”

    See I’ve seen that argument so many times it’s unreal. How deep has the magic mirror splinters penetrated hearts and eyes to get such a distorted view?

  26. The long-term goal for thinking people must be the emergence of a united and socialist European federation, as part of a democratic and prosperous world socialist federation. Is that long-term dream more easily attainable with Britain in or out of the EU? I don’t know the answer, and the question is now irrelevant. Events are suddenly moving very quickly and unpredictably, with the neo-liberals wasting no time in attacking Mr. Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Mr. Corbyn can win this fight by an informed call to the Labour Party base to squelch the scheming of the Blairites. In that case, the leadership of a pan-European struggle against austerity and inequality could fall on his shoulders, regardless of Britain’s technical relationship to the EU. Or he could just waffle and fail his date with destiny, and we will be one step closer to a disintegration of Europe into competing xenophobic national blocs. Do Mr. Corbyn and his advisers understand MMT? Do they understand that there is very definitely an alternative that is worth fighting for?

  27. Technically Labour could and should be the clear winner of Brexit, if they even remotely had some resemblance of Labour/social-democrats of the 20th century. Pilger portray them spot on, “an insufferably patrician class” “a bourgeoisie with /…/ ancient instincts of their own superiority”.

    EU an institution that have outlawed Keynesianism and by constitutional law made neo-liberalism TINA. That is, they have outlawed any form of economic policies that could benefit the low payed working-class and the poor and disadvantaged. This is the ideological foundation that present day Labour/Social-democrats are fighting nail and tooth for. Talk of making change from within is just such a nonsense, they have refused every opportunity to do so the last 1/4 of a century.
    What goes for “left” in Europe is now days just a big con game. One could compare them too wives of the affluent how engage in “good” causes, in social work with the poor to get some meaning in their life. But No intention whatsoever to change the God “given” neoliberal social order.

    Maggie was right in her October 1990 statement in parliament; if you want change society democratically you can’t give away the power to do so.
    “Margaret Thatcher on Europe: ‘No! No! No!'” youtube
    “/…/ Suppose the labour-party want to give those things up, easily, perhaps thy would agree to a single currency, to total abolition of the pound sterling. Perhaps being totally incompetent with monetary matters they’d be only to delighted to hand over the full responsibility as they did to the IMF, to a central bank. The fact is they have no competence on money, no competence on the economy, so yes the Right Honourable Gentlemann would be glad to hand it all over, and what is the point in trying to get elected to Parliament, only to hand over your sterling, and hand over the powers of this House to Europe.”

    Sorry to say she was right, when right-wingers get in to governments they do deliver richly to their “base”, Labour/Social-democrats haven’t for at least the last 1/4 of a century, at best some crumbs to their “base”.

    So in the overall “European” perspective the choice for the European precariat is either hotch-potch Blut und Boden where you have an intrinsic value or neoliberal “utopia” where you only have the value the market is willing to grant you. And the so called Left & Right stands united behind the latter. Even in the feudal Estates of the realm every individual had an intrinsic worth and a right to exist, in the neoliberal “utopia” you only have a right to exist if you have a market value.
    One could notice in the Austrian presidential election that Norbert Hofer got 85 % of the Blue Collar vote.
    How hard can it be for the educated conceited leftist patrician class to get it. After all they claim them self to be so very “smart”.

    The EU punishment of the EU renegade will probably not happen, I have a suspicion that both the Juncker and Schulz will be quite reticent on the matter. Schäuble and the German government have already got in to gear to arrange the matter. Money talks bullshit walks, €~50 billion trade surplus yells loud, ~1/4 of German current account surplus is nothing to ignore for the export obsessed nation. That’s on par with what Germany have with no1 USA, France comes an distant third with about 30% of that. Of course Schäuble comes with smokescreens about the deal not have to be to favorable to UK to not give the wrong signals.
    And the 10 year took a dive made it cheaper to “borrow” for UK gov.

  28. It’s hard for me to view this outcome as a victory when so many don’t understand what it is they’ve won or lost. Neo liberal apologists can make an argument for racism and intolerance carrying the Brexit day, and there’s very little pushback.

  29. But the likely outcome to preserve single market access is going to be some kind of Norway-style deal, that will preserve free movement and subject us to most EU rules (including in Norway’s case the rules that forced it to part-privatise its postal service). If we don’t do that, our economy will surely crater, as it is already starting to.

    We could try and offset this by increases in government spending. However, it would be a downturn caused by restrictions would stopped us selling the things we know how to do to other countries, in return for the real goods and services we need. I think that would be tricky to solve?

    Also on free movement…the effects of immigration havn’t been all fun and games, but in getting rid of this we’re also getting rid of a huge amount of opportunity for work, study, collaborations etc. in 27 other countries. Yes, these opportunities don’t mean much to a lot of people, but I think it’s got to be worth finding a way to change that rather than deny them for everybody. This is why so many of the youngest voters, even those of the poor working class, voting in favour of the EU.

  30. I strongly disagree with the voices painting the outcome of the referendum as a disaster for the so-called “progressives”. First of all it is very likely that the real outcome will be again “muddling through”. As in Greece – people voted against austerity, they got even more austerity. This will further undermine trust in pseudo-democratic institutions which do not represent the real interests of the majority of people. These institutions need to be carefully dismantled. What do we keep these monkeys for? To keep telling everyone that there is no alternative? Just declare EU a mono-party state, erect a few statues of Mrs Merkel looking like Kim Il Sung (that would be easy) and all will be good forever.

    Secondly and I fully agree with the analysis in the main article this is truly the end of marriage of neoliberalism and so-called progressivism. The boil has been lanced. A single European socialist state under a socialist president Corbyn-Tsipras-Hollande ? (we can fuse their DNA, this is not difficult) This sounds to me (and I declare myself a non-right wing libertarian) as the essence of the new Soviet Union, a golden cage for the peoples. What if someone doesn’t want to make happy against his (/her/ add 58 remaining sexes here) will? People who think that the previous “post-modern” state of affairs was somehow “better” don’t understand that the tension and alienation were rising – the system was simply super-stable mainly because of brainwashing and spying on everyone. Now there is a fracture between a part of the ruling oligarchy in the UK and elsewhere. The game has begun. The overall situation is dangerous but could be much worse – the Americans are weakened so they won’t meddle much and there is enough “fuel” for discontent in Continental Europe to prevent the emergence of the new German super-state (the Fourth Reich – irrelevant whether socialist or not).

    People have to lose all the hope that the so-called liberal Western Democracy works. We are one step closer. Without this there is no hope that the self-regulating properties of the system will be restored. This sounds like dialectics but so what?People have to realise that almost all they read in the media about the economy and politics is a scam. Then and only then the ruling elites might consider giving up maybe 5% maybe 10% of power. This will be enough. This will bring us back to the situation from before 1970s. “Keep exploiting people but give them jobs.”

    Why won’t these sociopaths, the Western politicians and backing them plutocrats (including the “progressives”), just leave the people elsewhere alone? Why do they keep pushing? There is no need for democracy in Libya, Iraq or Syria. There is no need to teach the Chinese (or Polish) about the rule of the law. There is no need for a free-market system in India. There is no need for the European super-state or for the further inflow of foreign capital to Southern Europe. The only reason they failed to establish “democracy” (the same as in Iraq or Afghanistan) in Russia and China was that these countries had nukes. Why did they try elsewhere, leaving a trace of human blood smeared across the Earth and ruined the whole continents like Africa? Bill Clinton give an answer when asked about Monika Lewińska. “Because I could”. Now they may have to stop because the people have awoken and started mumbling incoherent things – but they are a bit more awake than before.

    But if from the mess something even worse than soon-to-be-seen persistent 20-25% unemployment rate (think about robots!) emerges? Well this is a risk. The whole thing may blow up creating a Donbass across Western Europe but if the tension kept rising for the next 20 years the final outcome could have been worse.

  31. ‘From the outside (not living in the UK), it is clear that UKIP has been providing a voice for views that British Labour would have traditionally provided before it became neo-liberal in its economic slant.’

    Well yes and..no. UKIP has manipulated alienated white British working class by giving them bogus explanations of the Housing Crisis pretending it was a matter of simple supply and demand and allowing that to feed the anti-immigrant argument rather than explaining the real roots of housing bubbles (going back to 1976 at least) were the abandonment of bank credit controls and a conscious decision o the part of banks to syphon the housing market as much as possible as profits from other sorts of lending to the productive economy became less lucrative.

    The impotence of Governments in this are became clearly manifest by Gordon Brown in 1997 when he said:

    ” ‘I will not allow house prices to get out of control and put at risk the sustainability of the recovery.'”

    The single UKIP MP, Duncan Carswell could be considered genuinely anti-neo-liberal but from the libertarian side. He advocates banking reform and is critical of rentier capitalism. He is one of the few in parliament who has more than a rudimentary grasp of monetary operations but hardly an MMTer!

  32. Reply to Nigel Hargreaves:

    “I am interested that you quote Bryan Gould who also published a pamphlet on behalf of the Fabian Society,…… I wonder if he aims to return to British political life? One hopes so.”

    Bryan Gould is 77 years old, so not likely.
    He could give Corbyn some sound advice though.

  33. http://www.fabians.org.uk/brexit-voters-not-the-left-behind/

    interesting link with self explanatory title and which conforms to my own experience. most Brexiters i know are pleased with things, are in secure public employment, and are certainly not left wing.

    Bill describes how the UK is the most unequal country in Europe, then says that by leaving we will be freed to become more equal like … other countries in Europe. I have a feeling Denmark will do better and continue to be more equal under the EU yoke than the (soon to be ex-) UK will under its new found freedom. Basically our neoliberals are more extreme and more incompetent than the EU neoliberals. And they are aided by wall to wall newspaper propaganda, and a pusillanimous BBC. So much for democracy.

  34. People are like Bankers. Bankers are not bad. They are just people who have adapted well to the environment they did not create. They just adapted to it better than most. So a New Party must create new environments and people will adapt to it and make the best of it. Its one thing us humans are very good at, adapting to the environment we find ourselves in. Policy creates environment.
    The current Environment worldwide seems to be saying grab what you can as soon as you can. Pay for your own retirement, shelter,medical and death. Grab what you can for your family. You must look after yourself and your family first. Its everyone for themselves first. That’s the environment we live in now. If you have to move to a Country with a better environment then do that if you can. All for one and one for all is dead by Policy.
    The Hydra? Really! Send in the Hulk.

  35. You are going on like this was a 70/30 win. A margin of 51.9/48.1 is fragile and indicates a good deal more than class divisions. Among other things, it looks like a margin of error: are you so certain 650,000 people had their proper reading glasses on? And I note that Scotland so far has escaped the scorn heaped on the Londoners.

    It may well be “democracy in the raw” as John Pilger puts it, but I suspect it will prove to be indigestible. I’ll be surprised if it actually happens. And I will be the most surprised person on earth if it happens and anything hoped for in this blog entry comes to pass because of it. I’d like to see MMT widely discussed and accepted in public life, but I don’t see that this will do it. Let’s reconvene in 2 years and see where we are. Should be an interesting ride.

  36. It is know that some, marginal only, Leave votes were made in ignorance. Therefore the awareness of voters is diminished.
    Moreover the lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson has argued that the referendum is a guide; there is no obligation for Parliament to follow it, and it would require a lengthy change of legislation, by which time MPs can exercise their rights, under the Burkian convention, to act as a check on the popular wish. Leave is not fixed or certain and may, given the Constitution of the UK, not occur, or to be so diluted that only international lawyers understand it.

  37. There are so many erudite words like those of Prof. Mitchell being written by left wing intellectuals. They claim that the Brexit vote somehow supports their opinions regarding neoliberalism, austerity, mainstream economics, income inequality, etc.
    However, these shibboleths were largely irrelevant and had hardly any influence on the vote.

    The primary concern of Brexiteers was really very simple, namely excessive immigration into the UK. This was clearly emphasised by the poster:

    Zoom in, clear your mind, and read the text in the poster.

  38. @Harold Shand
    Robertson may well be right about the possible recourse open to the British Parliament but his position, imperiously blind as it is to the reasons for the result make him equally blind to the ramifications of such a move. The Labour Party in particular would be finished and the mood would become so febrile, with the elites perceived (rightly) having yet again dismissed popular will, that entire swathes of the former Labour heartland would turn UKip purple never to return.

  39. Proof as if it were needed that the EU is not only undemocratic but antidemocratic.

    Martin Schultz, President Of The European Parliament: “It Is Not The EU Philosophy That The Crowd Can Decide Its Fate”

  40. Dear Kingsley Lewis, Robert, Bruno and others

    If you think immigration was really the key issue then ask yourselves what would have happened if there was: (a) full employment; (b) real wages growth in line with productivity growth; (c) declining inequality (which accompanied the full employment era); (d) adequate social services for those who could not work for whatever reason; and (e) efficient public transport and health system.

    All of those characteristics have been largely abandoned in the neo-liberal era in one way or another.

    Immigration was not the concern it is now when the (a) to (e) were present in British society. The angst over immigration is a symptom of the failure of neo-liberalism not a cause in its own right.

    There are some outright racists in society at any time. But there are not 17 million. And racism has a habit of attenuating when times are good and people do not have fear of their livelihoods and housing.

    So Robert – I agree with Bruno about 0 per cent.

    best wishes

  41. (I can’t figure out how to do paragraph breaks on this site…)

    Given how effective immigration was as a scapegoat for all those other failings, though, I have my doubts that we are going to collectively come to our senses regarding neoliberalism. If anything the extremely poor level of public discourse in the lead up to the referendum has reduced my confidence in the ability of the public to see through lies and misinformation.

    And I’m not convinced that sovereignty makes a rejection of austerity any easier – already George Osborne is promising spending cuts and tax increases (https://twitter.com/SkyNewsBreak/status/747692674166194177), and countries who are not under the yoke of the EU (Australia?) don’t seem to have been able to cast off the neoliberal shackles as of yet.

    There is a lot more to the EU than the neoliberal agenda – things like environmental regulations and climate change / renewable energy commitments seem well suited to the collective undertaking that the EU framework allows for (the UK was already lagging behind EU standards in terms of air quality [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/10/brexit-would-increase-uks-air-pollution-crisis-say-experts], and might not implement the EU’s precautionary ban on neonicotinoids – indeed a typically neoliberal rejection of EU ‘red tape’ was a major talking point in the public debate). And agricultural subsidies, standardised consumer protection laws, and research funding do not seem to conform with the idea of the EU as a wholly neoliberal organisation. Ideally a well-run EU could help prevent a race to the bottom in safety, worker and consumer rights, environmental standards and such.

    It seems to me that, instead of rejecting neoliberalism and using our diplomatic efforts to shape the EU to our needs over the next decade, we are going to spend that time mired in endless diplomatic and trade negotiations, domestic law reform, and political uncertainty (which could develop in a positive or negative way) to end up in relatively the same place. All the while failing to address key issues related to our environment and economic system.

    I freely admit that I have little expertise in these areas, but I can’t seem to bring myself to share your optimism at this time. But as always I enjoy reading your thoughts.

  42. Bill,

    ‘If you think immigration was really the key issue .’

    It unfortunately became the key umbrella issue in the campaign and has been used by UKIP for years as a key issue. No-one talked about the other issues you mention, neither Left not Right. I agree that those are the underlying issues but they are not talked about seriously anywhere. Politicians of the so-called Left gave up explaining things to the public and being educative many years ago as you document.

  43. Bill,

    Thanks for your reply. Allow me a clarification, I DO agree that neoliberalism is the root cause of the outcome of the referendum. Take it out of the equation and a lot of the problems that led to a Leave vote would go away, there is no doubt about that.
    But that’s not the same as saying that the electorate consciously voted against neoliberalism. It’s the sentence “First, it represents a major rejection of the neo-liberal policy structures that are now commonplace.” that had me reaching my keyboard.
    Looking at the last general election results that are just 1 year old, so probably still relevant, even if we stretch our imagination to the point of not counting any of the Labour’s vote in the neoliberal camp, they still gathered a healthy 37% for the Tories, 12% for UKIP and 8% for the LibDem. That’s an outright majority for a neoliberal mandate and a whopping consensus if you add the Blairite element of Labour to the mix. That was even confirmed by a post-election poll which indicated that the public rejected anti-austerity measures (http://labourlist.org/2015/08/labour-lost-because-voters-believed-it-was-anti-austerity/) (*)
    That’s why I’d wary about equating the referendum result with a rejection of neoliberal policies; a rejection of the world that neoliberalism has created (if we consider a spineless political class as a by-product of neoliberalism), most certainly; an adhesion to the progressive framework that we imagine as an antidote to Thatchero-Blairism? Probably not yet.
    That’s also why I can’t resolve myself to take the Leave vote as good news (probably also influenced by the fact that I’m an EU migrant in the UK) although I don’t believe it’s all doom and gloom either.

    How this computes with the regular opinion polls indicating that the majority of the population want more banking regulation, support nationalising utility and transport organisations or want to keep the NHS public but also adhere to austerity and are at best ambivalent about zero hour contracts is anyone’s guess. Reframing those questions into a bigger coherent picture (e.g. within MMT ) would probably heal a lot of Labour’s wounds.

  44. Re. your question (June 28, 2016 at 19:18).
    If your economic factors (a) – (e) were really important one would have expected that the least prosperous areas would have voted against Brexit. This should have been especially so given the avalanche of warnings that Brexit would further harm the economy.

    However, in fact Brexit won convincingly in most of the least prosperous areas in England and Wales, outside London. Indeed, the “leave” majority was generally higher in the poorer areas!
    This strongly indicates that your factors (a) – (e) were unimportant relative to the widespread antipathy to accelerating immigration.
    Widespread antipathy to unrestricted immigration stems partly from social, community, housing, schooling, and health service concerns which may be beyond the comprehension of well-heeled cosmopolitan academics.

  45. I think people are deluding themselves if they believe that a conservative government
    will voluntary give up the free movement of people and fundamentally betray their class
    interests .They want a docile grateful working class and a massive international reserve
    army of labour will not be surrendered lightly.I would not rule out that Boris voted
    remain in the privacy of the booth.
    The fudge is on with the Norway solution their next best choice to a second referendum.
    Of course this will inflame anti immigration sentiment but the backtracking will be spun
    in a deceptive web.
    But both in the Uk and across the EU the resentment of the working class will
    grow as austerity and mass migration coexist and there are no coherent anti
    austerity programmes but plenty of nationalist xenophobic movements.
    Make ‘insert nation of your birth’ great again will echo from Trump through Farage,
    Le Pen all the way across to Eastern Europe and many will fall for it.

  46. Bill, if there really were full employment, that would have led to even more immigration. You don’t have to be racist to realize insanity of trying solve unemployment problems of an area of half a billion people by moving them into one country. I mean, if that were the solution, why stop just at the EU level? There are plenty of people who would like a job outside EU too.

    Anyway, seems to me that what UKIP voters value most is unity. Ethnic unity being one part of it, socio-economic unity being another. They know that united people form communities that are free of tensions and people get along.

  47. I have also blogged, strongly praising the Brexit on John Quiggin’s blog. I have done so from my Marxian autonomist viewpoint. I have been heavily criticised there by centrists and moderate left thinkers. Criticism is fair enough but I have even been told by one commenter “why don’t you just send the immigrants to the gas chambers” implying of course that I am a fascist.* If one doesn’t agree with the power and wealth centralising neoliberal project this makes one a “fascist” apparently to some “liberal” thinkers.

    The main strikes against the EU and EMU are that they are undemocratic, neoliberal-capitalist in theory and practice and run policies counter to good macroeconomic and monetary/fiscal policy with respect to optimal currency area issues and other considerations surrounding “austerity”, stimulus and capacity underutilisation.

    * Footnote: To avoid any unintended implications let me state this. John Quiggin never abuses me in this or any manner. He tolerates my rather idiosyncratic Marxian autonomist viewpoint posts but rarely engages directly, as is his prerogative.

  48. @Sleeper – I stand corrected but when Juncker can say without blushing ‘There can be no democratic choice regarding the Treaties’, then satire or not, it’s scarily close to what you’d expect from the Eurocratic class.

  49. “It’s the sentence “First, it represents a major rejection of the neo-liberal policy structures that are now commonplace.” that had me reaching my keyboard”.
    The fact that Bill places this assertion first in order betrays its polemical character. Ex post facto, it puts on people’s actions just that construction which best advances the writer’s own predetermined political agenda. As a rhetorical device this is par for the course, but rhetoric doesn’t necessarily give a proposition any weight in a more nuanced evaluation such as Bruno’s IMO. Personally I continue to find Bruno’s argument the more persuasive, because less obviously loaded (and, for the removal of doubt, that in no way implies any sympathy with neoliberalism’s pernicious doctrines).

  50. “This strongly indicates that your factors (a) – (e) were unimportant relative to the widespread antipathy to accelerating immigration”.
    And this is given the strongest possible endorsement in Guardian reporter John Harris’s grassroots videos (shot immediately prior to the vote) in just such areas – to his own frank astonishment.
    “Widespread antipathy to unrestricted immigration stems partly from social, community, housing, schooling, and health service concerns which may be beyond the comprehension of well-heeled cosmopolitan academics”.
    Not only academics. It was beyond mine too! This might be explained by the fact that I, like Bill, do not live in England. Also, that I didn’t see Harris’s reports until after the vote – and I suspect Bill may not have seen them either when he wrote this blog.

  51. I had the pleasure of reading the article and comments.

    Congratulations good stuff here!

    My question:
    Why do not you consider a detail the BREXIT?
    What is relevant for the empire is make TTIP as Rome Treaty was. So in 20 years time we will a North Atlantic Political entity binding Canada, EUA and Europe guided without the present freedom by the empire.

  52. “The angst over immigration is a symptom of the failure of neo-liberalism not a cause in its own right”.
    In terms of ROOT cause, yes. But the point is that it was the symptoms that prompted the “leave” majorities in deprived communities. Root causes are for intellectuals to argue about.
    As others have pointed out, many (most?) of those voting “leave” have also internalised the neoliberal deficit-reduction, balanced-budget, “people’s QE” = Weimar hyperinflation mantras obedience to which is the cause of their own deprivation. Neoliberalism has, alas, not failed but triumphantly succeeded measured against its own aims.

  53. Where do I start.
    I have read this article and the one about Journalist’s lack of questioning “expert” statements, and I’m absolutely gobsmacked. I have always (until now) believed that the ABC was a bit ‘left of center’. I ‘m now starting to question my own beliefs. I’m an active member of the ALP here in Australia, believing in the original Labour values, but I can now see now neo-liberal they are becoming. That has to be changed.
    It is so invigorating (frightening!) to see the world through newly cleaned glasses. I shall follow your Blog a lot closer in future.

  54. It’s hardly a surprise to see “progressive” pundits sing the danger of BREXIT with its foul White workers. Those actors of “progressive” movements who get the spotlight (be they environmentalists who get quiet on immigration, feminists shilling the likes of Hillary Clinton, or Black victimology miners praising the Neoliberal Lord) are helpers to the Neoliberal whether they notice or not.

    You see bit celebrity Laurie Penny pen a screed on how she wants her “tolerant” and “multicultural” Britain back (which outside of prog speak means hanging around your majority White neighborhood that happens to have some magic negros and kebab stands), you see J.K. Rowling get triggered over BREXIT to the point of chimpingout on Twitter, you see who knows how many celebrities or “experts” spewing contempt for those foul waycis saxcis White workers, and you know what? They’re doing what comes to their positions.

  55. Well worth a read;


    There are some witty gems quoted in this article.

    “Larger than the Roman Empire, more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.” – Perry Anderson.

    “Delors’s description of the EU as an “unidentified political object”-neither a
    conventional state nor a mere cooperative arrangement between sovereign states.”

    “… the Union has been using chequebooks rather than swords as leverage. Nevertheless, the substance of its policies has been similar to many previous imperial exercises: export of laws, economic transactions, administrative systems, and social habits” – Zielonka

    There is also plenty of history and analysis to read through.

  56. “When I tweeted it was a ‘great outcome’ I didn’t say that good would come out of it. I also didn’t suggest that it would be a short-term recovery of prosperity or that the workers would benefit.

    I was referring to the fact that class struggle now has a clearer focus within the British political debate. There is now a dynamic for a truly progressive leadership to emerge and bring the disenfranchised along with them and wipe out the neo-liberal hydra once and for all.”

    So, let me understand this. Basically, what you advocated in this blog is chaos, just to see if the country eventually gets lucky by some random combination of political events. Cause, I don’t see (as of 2020) the British people being any more informed about the ills of Neoliberalism than they were at the time of the referendum, or the left organising around that new economic paradigm that’s going to save us.

    You just say that it would create space for a new progressive leadership. But I have to say, methinks that that should’ve been in the making before the Brexit nonsense started. If what one needs in order for new thinking to arise is dislocation, I think there was plenty of that before the right hit on the idea of “nationalising” Neoliberalism. As a EU citizen, I look at Windrush and shudder. But hey, the British had to have their meaningless tantrum. There is no progressive essence to the Brexit project, Lexiters are living in a fantasy of their own.

    But it’s typical of England, this. Kett’s Rebelion comes to mind. “Hey Kett! The masters are enclosing the common land!”. “I know, let’s all grab our pitchforks and put fire to Norwich”. Well, we know how it all ended. With Kett’s army being run by the army of the elite…aided by the common people of Norwich who were sick of the violence that had been visited on them.

    A mob, that really is what Brexiters are. People whose rights have been trampled but don’t possess an ounce of foresight or creativity between them, who end up trampling on the peace of others and hanged, the type of impulsive heroes who fail and make things worse.

    I had people on the left (I supported Corbyn by the way) giving me the Lexiters line and all I could see in the project was an opportunity for the Tories to entrench. I’d say to them, watch out, there is no clear alternative at this moment, if the idea comes from the right vote against it, even if it means staying as you are, you may end up making things worse for a lot of people.

    I’m not saying that you have to have every eventuality planned before you can move, but, for god’s sake, at least have some kind of discourse that points in the right direction and a voice that articulates it. But there wasn’t even that, Corbyn wasn’t it.

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