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The UK Votes to Leave the EU: Draw the Appropriate Conclusions

The UK Votes to Leave the EU: Draw the Appropriate Conclusions

By Dennis Loo (6/24/16)

As almost everyone who reads or listens to the news knows, the UK voted yesterday to leave the European Union (EU). The pound is taking a pounding. PM John Cameron was caught by surprise, thinking when he scheduled this referendum on the EU that he wouldn’t face a populist revolt.

All across the world political elites see their neoliberalist policies increasingly unpopular as the injustice and unfairness of them become clearer and clearer to anyone outside the top 5% income and asset bracket of the people. It’s even clear to those inside the top tier, but most of them are happy about it rather than alarmed.

If you consider Trump’s popularity and you add in Bernie Sanders’ falling short of beating Hillary Clinton by only some 1.5 million primary voters in total, you have two candidates, one the GOP’s putative nominee, the other an almost nominee, but both of them only nominally affiliated with their respective parties.

Assuming the GOP’s fractured leadership fails to block Trump at the GOP Convention, we will have two official nominees who both have higher unfavorability ratings than anyone who has ever run for the American Presidency.

The right-wing with its anti-immigration et al platforms have been the primary beneficiaries so far of this turn against the establishment, but scapegoating immigrants, minorities, and women for the system’s economic policies is superficial, simplistic, and false. The problem is neoliberalism and it in turn is the logical result of the “triumph” of capitalism and imperialism.

As I wrote in the Preface to Globalization and the Demolition of Society:

Since the 1980s, political systems across the globe have been undergoing relentless and radical restructuring. This tectonic shift in the nature and role of politics in people’s lives has been and is being carried out under the signboard of installing market forces and unrestrained individualism as the director for all matters personal and public.

Reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ depiction of extraterrestrial aliens invading the US in his classic The War of the Worlds, no arena has been spared from this full-scale assault. The proponents for free market fundamentalism bring with them not only concrete programs that they are fervently and meticulously inserting into place but an entire army of philosophers of privatization who hector us from every media outlet conceivable, generating a drumbeat of scorn for any who object. “There is no alternative, this is the panacea,” this army’s foot soldiers and generals tell us; nowhere and nothing is immune from their demand that they must take over and take charge. The acolytes of the invisible hand are visible everywhere we look.

This book refuses and refutes these invaders’ agenda. Using market forces and individualism as the organizers for economic and political affairs is a recipe for ever-expanding inequities and the shredding of the social fabric, leading inevitably to myriad disasters on the individual, regional, and global level. It will not do to attempt to mildly modify this invasion, gesturing and gesticulating at the margins. The response to this assault that is occurring on every conceivable level requires an equally comprehensive retort, an alternative vision for our society. (p. xi)

As the Hoover Institute’s Thomas Sowell notes:

The 20th Century looked for many decades as if it were going to be the century of collectivism . . . . Anyone who would have predicted the reversal of this trend . . . would have been considered mad just a dozen years ago.

Innumerable factors led to [the reversal of the rise of collectivism], not the least of which was the bitter experience of seeing ‘rational planning’ degenerate into economic chaos and Utopian dreams turned into police-state nightmares. Still, it takes a vision to beat a vision . . . . An alternative vision had to become viable before the reversal of the collectivist tide could begin with Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States. That vision came from many sources, but if one point in time could mark the beginning of the intellectual turning of the tide which made later political changes possible, it was the publication of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek . . . . (GDS, p. 45, ft. 14)

The Yeats’ "Second Coming" poem says this well, the center cannot hold.

I heard a portion of Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday as she talked about addressing the ever-widening inequality gap and how if elected she would get corporate heads to work with unions and employees and how entrepreneurs are creating jobs. Wall Street is sophisticated enough to know she is only saying these things for public consumption: no truer neoliberal warrior will you find then Hillary. Get a partnership between CEOs and workers? That’s like getting two fighters in the ring to “work together” for a win-win: what benefits corporations hurt workers.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Obama’s behavior during the pinnacle of anger at the bankers:

In his book Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011), the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind told a remarkable story from March of 2009. Three months into Obama’s presidency, popular rage at Wall Street was intense and the leading financial institutions were weak and on the defensive. The nation’s financial elite had driven the nation and world’s economy into an epic meltdown in the period since Silverstein’s essay was published – and millions knew it. Having ridden into office partly on a wave of popular anger at the financial “elite’s” staggering malfeasance, BTO called a meeting of the nation’s top thirteen financial executives at the White House. The banking titans came into the meeting full of dread only to leave pleased to learn that the new president was in their camp. For instead of standing up for those who had been harmed most by the crisis – workers, minorities, and the poor – Obama sided unequivocally with those who had caused the meltdown.

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama said. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help…I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.”

For the banking elite, who had destroyed untold millions of jobs, there was, as Suskind puts it, “Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said ‘I welcome their hate,’Obama was saying ‘How can I help?’” As one leading banker told Suskind, “The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t –he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob” (emphasis added)

Obama’s shielding the bankers from the people’s justified anger gave wind to the sails of those who spun popular dissatisfaction and economic grievances to the Tea Party’s inception.

Draw the appropriate conclusions: the establishment cannot and will not turn these trends around. Even if they wanted to do it they couldn’t. So they pretend and make promises to make America winners again or to do it altogether. All of them are lying. It’s the system stupid. Those who run this system are not the ones who make the system what it is: the authorities merely personify the logic of the system. They can only and will only carry out that system to its logical ends: profits over social needs, money over planetary viability. The system cannot offer most people a future or a present. If you want to solution, realize that the system cannot resolve the problems it itself creates. It must be overthrown

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12