The Cooking the Books column from the August 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Commenting the day after the result of the vote for Brexit, Times Economics Editor Philip Aldrick wrote:
‘Working class Britons have treated this momentous referendum as a protest vote to register their anger with globalisation, immigration and elitism’.
He was using ‘working class’ in the occupational sense of manual and industrial workers whereas, in the economic sense, it refers to all obliged by economic necessity to try to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer for a wage or a salary. In other words, nearly everybody except for capitalists and other rich people, making up well over 90 percent of the population. Nearly half of these who took part in the referendum voted for things to remain as they are.
This said, many manual and industrial workers do seem to have voted for Brexit, and in many cases this will have been a protest vote against ‘globalisation, immigration and elitism.’ The leaders of the Leave campaign certainly angled for this, even if themselves members of the ‘elite’.
A case in point is Iain-Duncan Smith in a speech on 10 May when he said:
‘Leaving the EU provides a vital opportunity for us to be able to develop policies that will protect the people who often find themselves at the sharp end of global economic forces and technological change … Because the EU, despite its grand early intentions, has become a friend of the haves rather than the have-nots.’
Sounding as if he might be Bernie Sanders, he went on:
‘But if the EU is working for Germany, for banks, for big corporates and for the public affairs companies with large lobbying operations in Brussels, the EU isn’t working for over regulated small businesses and lower-paid and lower-skilled Britons’.
He praised one Remain leader for acknowledging that ‘wages will go up for many Britons if immigration is restricted’.
So, what was being promised was that, if Britain left the EU, measures would be taken to protect the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘lower-paid and lower-skilled’ workers. This from a man who until recently and for the six previous years had been the cabinet minister in charge of bashing ‘have-nots’ on benefits, making their life a misery as well as cutting their money.
This vote-catching manoeuvre seems to have worked enough to help the Leave vote get past the 50 percent mark. But those who fell for this and voted Leave to gain protection against the effects of globalisation are going to be cruelly disappointed. The members of the ‘elite’ who led the Leave campaign were just as much in favour of the free play of global market forces, of so-called ‘neo-liberalism’, as their counterparts in the Remain campaign. These ‘liberal leavers’, as they are now coming out as, never had any intention of protecting workers from the effects of globalisation or to raise the wages of the least skilled. They only wanted the votes of the victims of the closures of unprofitable coalmines, shipyards and steelworks.
But even if they had genuinely wanted to try to stand up to global market forces, they wouldn’t have been able to, at least not without undermining the competitiveness of British companies on world markets. The resulting loss of exports, and the economic and financial consequences of this, would sooner or later force them back into line.
The only way that Duncan-Smith’s ‘have-nots’ – and the rest of the working class – can protect themselves from the adverse effects of globalisation is to get together with their counterparts in other countries to replace global capitalism with global socialism where the Earth’s productive resources will have become the common heritage of all humanity.