A major crack has appeared in the
the neoliberal order that has
dominated the world's economy since the end of World War II is now
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy:
We now know that Great Britain, itself an amalgam of older nations, is divided.
This vote was a stunning rejection of Great Britain's political establishment.
"Leave" prevailed despite opposition from all three major political parties.
Voters rejected all of them.
The question now is, who will lead it going
These elites are apparently more out of
touch with the citizens of the industrialized world than at any time
in modern memory.
This was a revolt of working class
Britons who have seen their postwar prosperity erode around them and
their social contract eviscerated by the corporate and financial
This worldwide turn toward fear of the
Other is globalization's shadow self.
That's not to say that there wasn't a legitimate left-wing case to be made for leaving the European Union.
The "Left Leave" movement, or #Lexit, had its own advocates.
But this near-victory wasn't won with leftist arguments about resisting the global oligarchy.
The left was too divided to make that case clearly or forcefully. It was largely won by stirring up bigotry against immigrants, cloaked in flimsy arguments about excessive regulation.
Legitimate economic grievances were channeled into nationalist hostility.
Many "Leave" voters felt powerless, that they no longer had much of a say in their own destinies. They weren't wrong...
The European Union was largely a creation of transnational financial forces driven by a self-serving neoliberal ideology of "free" markets, privatization, and corporate economic governance.
But, even at its worst, the EU is a symptom and not a cause.
Great Britain's citizens haven't been losing control over their fate to the EU. They've been losing it because their own country's leaders - as well as those of most other Western democracies - are increasingly in thrall to corporate and financial interests.
The British people have lost more sovereignty to trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP (meaning the TTIP) then they could have ever surrendered to the European Union.
Their democratic rights are trampled daily, not by faceless EU bureaucrats, but by the powerful financial interests that dominate their politics and their economy.
Low Information Voters
This vote won't help the middle class.
British workers will no longer be guaranteed the worker rights that come with EU membership. British corporations will be less regulated, which means more environmental damage and more mistreatment of employees and customers.
They will not, in the words of William Blake,
Most "Leave" voters probably don't know that, because the media failed them too.
Instead of being given a balanced understanding of EU membership's advantages and disadvantages, the British people were fed a constant diet of terror fears and trivial anti-government anecdotes meant to reinforce the notion that EU was needlessly and absurdly bureaucratic.
As Martin Fletcher explains, Boris Johnson played a key role in degrading the performance of Britain's corporate press back in his days as a journalist. Other outlets were all to eager to mimic his anti-government and anti-Europe stereotypes.
the next Prime Minister as British voters opt for Brexit.
(Photo: PA wire)
And now? It's as if Sean Hannity's deceptive sensationalism had made him a top presidential prospect.
Johnson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage played the same role in the Leave campaign that Donald Trump is playing in US politics. Like Trump, they have used economic fears to stoke the anti-immigrant fear and hatred that is their real stock in trade.
Their slogan might just as well have been "Make England Great Again."
The campaign's fearmongering and hate has already claimed a victim in Jo Cox, the Labor MP who was violently martyred by a white British racist. Tellingly, her murder was not described as an act of terrorism, which it clearly was.
The decision to restrict the "terrorist" label to Muslims, in Great Britain as in the United States, feeds precisely the kind of hatred that fuels movements like these.
Great Britain's immigrant population grew by 4.5 million under EU membership. But in a just economy, that would lead to growth for the existing middle class. Britain's immigrants didn't wound that country's middle class.
They're scapegoats for rising inequality and the punishing austerity of the conservative regime.
What happens next...?
Markets are already reacting, retrenching in anticipation of new trade barriers and political uncertainty.
Before the voting, estimates of a Leave vote's effect on Britain's economy ranged from "negative" to outright "calamitous." The outcome will probably fall somewhere between the two.
Scotland may once again pursue independence so that it can rejoin Europe.
Sinn Fein is calling again for the reunification of Ireland. Suddenly anything seems possible. There are already calls for a similar referendum in France. British workers are likely to be worse off without EU protections, especially if the far right prevails in future elections as the result of this vote.
Trade deals will need to be negotiated between Britain and the EU, along with the terms of separation. Judging by its behavior toward Greece, Germany prefers to punish any nation impertinent enough to try guiding its own economic destiny.
These negotiations won't be pleasant.
The New Resistance
The current order is unstable. The uprising has begun.
But who will lead it...?
All over the world there are Boris Johnsons and Nigel Farages poised to capitalize on the chaos.
Hungary is already building a Trump-like wall, in fact, a barb-wired fence meant to keep Syrian refugees out of the country and Jobbik out of political power.
There is also also a growing democratic counterforce, poised to resist both the global elites and the nationalist bigots.
In the US it has been seen in both the Occupy movement and, more recently, in the newly resurgent left inspired by Bernie Sanders' campaign.
The global financial order is fracturing. But will it fall? It's powerful and well organized.
Even if it does, what will replace it:
That's the goal of economist Yanis Varoufakis, among others.
Varoufakis confronted the EU's economic leadership directly when he negotiated with them as Greece's first Finance Minister under Syriza. They prevailed, and Varoufakis is now a private citizen.
The Greeks chose economic autonomy when they voted for Syriza. They didn't get it. The British aren't likely to get what they want from this vote either. No matter what happens, British citizens will still be in thrall to corporate financial forces - forces that can rewrite the rules they go along.
Greece's fate has been a cautionary tale for the world, a powerful illustration of the need for worldwide coordinated resistance to today's economic and political elites.
We can vote. But without economic autonomy, we aren't truly free.
In the months and years to come, the people of Great Britain are likely to learn the truth:
The question is, what do we do now...?