Shifting Democracy: The Brexit Referendum

6f. The Brexit Referendum

Since the Brexit referendum/farce is an example of direct participatory democracy in action, its worth investigating. Yvette Cooper analyses how we voted in Brexit:

The cities voted in. Industrial towns voted out. Digital growth areas like the M4 corridor or the University towns voted in. The Tory shires and the Labour coalfields voted out. Scotland voted in. England and Wales voted out. The young voted in. Older votes chose out. Graduates in. Working-class communities out.

Those who saw globalisation as an opportunity voted in. Those who felt globalisation was a threat and didn’t trust ‘the system’ to make it better voted out … Communities who didn’t believe the Remain Campaign’s arguments about risk because they didn’t feel they had much more to lose. People who said they didn’t believe experts, because too often experts have let them down …

A Tory prime minister could not persuade them. Because a Tory government has let them down. But Labour had nothing to say that could convince them either. They weren’t convinced by staying in Europe because they couldn’t see how they benefited.

We are here without a plan because politics has failed. Because our political process just couldn’t deal with the difficult issues so they got worse. Because too many of our politicians couldn’t work out how to solve problems so they made false promise or just walked away. Because too many towns feel they have no future. Because immigration seemed too hard to solve. Because the EU seemed too hard to reform. Because inequality is still rising and it seemed too hard to stop. Because we weren’t prepared to take action to sort out housing. Because trust collapsed. And with every layer of failure, politics just made it worse.”

The Brexit referendum in the UK is itself an example of participatory democracy. In spite of its false dichotomy, to be either ‘in or out’ of Europe, 72% of us voted directly on an issue. The outcome proved that the Parliamentary system of representation is not working – it is not even remotely in touch with the people. It was a result they didn’t expect that resulted in a prime minister resigning. But this completely unconclusive ‘public vote’ was a blow for the concept of direct democracy as well because it was so poorly organised and undertaken.

According to the Brexit referendum vote we were either ‘in or out’ of the European Union. The reality, even with a ‘hard Brexit’ is years of negotiation that defines our relationship with Europe, clearly not black or white but many shades and colours. Similarly our government of whatever shade is presented as either left or right – we are seriously limiting our options as to what is possible by voting for a government who only exist in black or white. There are many shades and many colours.

The Brexit vote that surprised everybody was little more than a plea to end the interminable intervention of intrusive government in every aspect of our lives, telling us what we can and can’t do, can and can’t eat, where we can and can’t go, what we should and shouldn’t think. It is a call for the end of being ineptly governed by people who are wholly out of touch with their electorate. It’s beyond time to get rid of politicians entirely, they are only getting worse!

From an article, ‘We Need a Revolution’ by Martin Winiecki

In the United States, the anger and hatred that has long been boiling in millions of people has now found its political outlet. Trump’s success has been unprecedented and overwhelming. His simple message resonates in large parts of the American society, in people who have long felt betrayed, abused and disenfranchised by an alienated ‘establishment.’ Trump wins against all reasoning of decency because he recklessly breaks what his supporters most despise: ‘political correctness.’ He understands how to play the emotional piano of the masses; he’s the ultimate caricature of a society teeming with universal corruption and sexual perversion.

The rise of fascism always seems to hit the world by surprise. Yet what we are now witnessing has not begun with Trump, just as German fascism had not begun with Hitler. Wherever people are prohibited to express their basic emotional and energetic drives, wherever they grow up and live in conditions of fear, mistrust and violence, the danger of fascism looms. Suppressed life energy dams up and turns into constant aggression. When the container of the bourgeois order crumbles, when people lose their jobs, voices and prospects – as it has gradually happened in this era of expanding corporate dominance – and the state no longer succeeds in controlling violence, the monstrous force of bottled-up emotions breaks free. Once they have a strong paternal authority telling them whom to blame, declaring them to be a collective that will now exact revenge, people get together in wild exaltation. Finally they have a channel and they develop a threatening force.

We must not despise or ridicule these people, but understand how they have gotten into the desperate state they are in. Thereby fascism is no longer a thing of ‘the others’; it’s something that concerns us all. The psychoanalyst Dieter Duhm writes,

“Latent fascism is present everywhere; it is the cancer of humanity… It develops in the subconscious of our human relationships. In the emotional substrata of a misguided civilization lie the horrible powers that led to Nazi Germany and which currently lead to very similar atrocities in many countries on Earth.”

People call for boycotting companies who employ refugees from Muslim countries and threaten the people running them. Attacks on people of colour, other religions and political ideologies have steeply increased. People no longer see any prospect for the future. They no longer have anything in this world they can believe in. Unable of loving, retaliation is what gives them strength. Similar explosions of hatred are occurring all over the world. When we witness what political prisoners in Turkey (neglected by our Western leaders) or the civilians trapped inside the besieged cities of Aleppo and Mosul are now facing, we know that this global culture has come to a turning point.

Yet the aggression now explicitly exploding among white lower-class Americans is only a miniature version of the ruthless warfare systematically orchestrated by this country’s elites for many decades. War is an essential component of our entire economic system – one without which this system would instantaneously collapse. While ‘decent’ Americans show themselves outraged about Trump, their candidate for President has her blueprints ready for expanding military interventionism around the world. Democratic Ex-President Obama has already bombed seven Islamic countries and ordered the drone assassination of thousands of innocent children and women abroad, but he is considered ‘moderate’ in terms of warfare compared to Hillary Clinton. In the current escalation with Russia and China there no longer seems to be any limit. We mustn’t be surprised by what is now erupting inside America. Similar to how it was in the late Roman Empire, the American Empire is entering a phase of self-destruction as it is being eaten up by the very violence it has used to establish itself in the first place. And with it goes the entire capitalist world order this country has essentially shaped.

Trump is nothing other than a mirror for the world to look into, a call to awaken before it’s too late. It is silly to blame the mirror for what you see in it. Trump is not the enemy; he is merely the symptom of a culture worshipping power, violence and greed. If you are afraid of Trump, what you are actually afraid of is this culture and its socio-economic system. Stopping fascism isn’t achieved through ideological battles; it is rather a matter of building a new and humane culture. This is nothing short of a global revolution. A revolution from bottom up, on all levels of society.

We need a revolution that establishes new foundations for human life on Earth, new foundations for our coexistence with each other and nature. A revolution that allows us to remember the sacredness of life and of all living beings. We need a revolution for solidarity and trust; “a revolution,” as Dieter Duhm says, “whose victory will create no losers because it will achieve a state that benefits all.”

…This new revolution will not be achieved by shifting political power from one party to another, but by establishing forms of coexistence which allow the human being to liberate himself from all disguises and reconnect in trust. Every fascist will transform into a loving person, every terrorist into a caretaker for life, if he or she can find home in a community that allows closed hearts to open again. This is not a matter of therapy, but of the social, sexual, ethical and economic structures we live in. Building a movement based on communities of trust would not only be a genuine alternative to the fascist threat emerging everywhere; it may also set the foundations for the new global culture we as humanity need in order to have a future worth living on this planet.”

I have come to understand that we first of all need something like a revolution of consciousness and a profound transformation of our social systems if we want to avert short-term regression into the primitive authoritarianism with which we are now threatened, as well as long-term ecological meltdown. I agree with him that this revolution is not simply a matter of changing our political or economic system; the solution has to be primarily spiritual and secondarily political.”

Russell Brand


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