BREXIT (and champagne)

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The vote of Thursday, June 23, is a major historic moment. It is also a great moment for democracy. In voting 51,9% in favor of an exit from the European Union, the British voters have given the world, and to your humble servant to boot, a lesson in democracy, and they have probably changed our future.

 

A lesson in democracy

The lesson in democracy is primordial and it is acting itself out at different levels. One must here greet the decision of the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to let diverging opinions express themselves, be it within the Conservative party or within the government. As well as to salute the maturity of the British voters who, legitimately shocked by the tragedy of Labour MP Jo Cox, did not let themselves be overwhelmed by emotion and maintained their position in favour of an exit from the EU.

Of course, all was not perfect during this campaign. Some have gone over the top on both sides, and there were lies such as those of George Osborne[1], the Minister of Finances, and those of the patented catastrophists from Brussels. Media coverage was biased in favour of the “remain” option, but less so than would have been the case if such a vote took place in France [2]. One could see the financial circles waging a hysterical campaign for the UK to stay in the European Union. But we could also see that the voters were not letting themselves be overly impressed by the arguments of money and authority poured out in the medias. The success of the “leave” option in this referendum can be compared to the similar success of the « no » at the occasion of the referendum on the project of a European Constitution Treaty in France in 2005. In both cases, a popular and working class electorate rose against the self-proclaimed « elites » and the press which is at their bidding. And the new leader of the Labour Party, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, has been disavowed by a significant part of his electorate. Both this referendums bear witness to the vitality of democratic sentiment on both sides of the Channel. The British referendum moreover turns out to be a mortification for the President of the United States, who had made the trip to Great Britain some weeks ago to invite the voters to remain in the European Union, revealing the true nature of the EU.

As a last element in this lesson of democracy, David Cameron has declared that he was keen on the decision of the British people being respected, and that the judicial procedure allowing the United Kingdom to leave the European Union would be initiated. Here, too, there is a sharp contrast with the French political elites who knew no respite in implementing a decision which had been broadly rejected by the voters.

 

Return of the Nations and a denial of reality

This lesson in democracy will have important consequences in the future. Not so much financial ones. The turmoil on the financial markets will last a few days, then it will calm down, once the operators will realize that this vote will certainly not interrupt the flow of goods, nor production. Norway and Switzerland are not part of the EU and are none the worse for it, if one is to believe economic statistics. The most important consequences will of course be political.

We must remember that this vote is the first in which a member country of the EU and, before that, of the European Economic Community, which was then called the Common Market, is taking the democratic decision to part with these institutions. As a precedent, but also through its possible imitation effect, the impact of this decision will be considerable. Already, one can see that in other countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark or France, this vote has put ideas in the heads of the various Eurosceptic parties. Beyond, the victory of the so-called « populists » at the Italian municipal elections, the M5S of Beppe Grillo, or the failure on the knife’s edge of the FPÖ candidate at the presidential election in Austria (a result against which a recourse in annulment has been initiated) show that there is indeed a form of revolt brewing against the European Union. This could be seen in the study realized by the Pew Research Center, where opinions unfavorable to the EU are winning over favorable ones in 4 countries: Spain, Greece, France and the United Kingdom [3].

The British vote is not coming by chance and it will serve as a tribute to the extent of the denial of reality of the Europeist elites that this vote should come as such a great surprise. The politics of denial being as they are, one must not expect a serious questioning of the options of European policies by the very same who have implemented them. It is probable therefore that we will be witnessing, in the coming weeks, some one-upmanship in these politics. But facts are hard-headed: any commitment to more “federalism,” or to more “supra-national” options will translate into greater resistance from the peoples. One must hope that the latter will be consulted quickly, for barring that, this resistance could take on violent forms.

This British vote contains within itself the condemnation of one form of European project. Logic and good sense would dictate that it should be acted upon, and that one should revert to forms which are more respectful of sovereignty, and therefore of democracy, within the framework of the nations which constitute Europe.

 

Importance and dead-ends for the « left » in the fight for sovereignty.

There remains one last lesson to be drawn. The victory of the “leave” option has been possible in Great Britain only because one part of the Labour electorate has, as already mentioned, voted against the instructions given by the direction of the party. This leads us to two remarks. The first about the degree of blindness in the directions of the social-democratic parties which refuse to admit that the concrete consequences of the European Union are negative for the working classes. European rulings were the Trojan horse for deregulation and for the financialization of national economies. To persist today in pretending to change the EU from the inside, and in holding the formulaic discourse about a « social Europe » is tantamount to a lie, lined with a strategical dead-end. This lie must be denounced unremittingly if we want one day to see the left extirpate itself from this dead-end into which it has trapped itself.

The second remark is about the importance, for the success of any vote that can be qualified as « sovereignist, » of an electorate traditionally situated at the left. This electorate can commit itself only through specific political mediations. In Great-Britain, the comities « Labour for Leave » have been determining in the final success of the « Leave ». One can deduct from this the importance of autonomous forms of organization structuring the electorate to the left, in order for sovereignist options to be expressed through them.

[1] https://russeurope.hypotheses.org/5030

[2] https://russeurope.hypotheses.org/5022

[3] http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/06/07/euroskepticism-beyond-brexit/

 


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s’est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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