Brexit: the revolt of the losers

The dominant neoliberal economy sorts people into winners and losers.  Brexit is a revolt of the losers.

The winners are the credentialed professionals, the cosmopolitan, the affluent.  The losers are the uncredentialed, the provincial, the working class.

Losers are revolting across the Western world, from the USA to Poland, and their revolt mostly takes the form of nationalism.

The reason the revolt takes the form of nationalism is that the world’s most important international institutions—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank—are under the control of a global financial elite that does not represent their interests.

17149339-Abstract-word-cloud-for-Neoliberalism-with-related-tags-and-terms-Stock-PhotoI don’t fully understand the decision-making process in the European Union, but looking at its web site, my impression is that public debate is not a part of it.

The only vehicles for exercising democratic control, at the present moment in history, is through democratic national governments.  I am in favor of international cooperation, and I don’t know how I would have voted on Brexit if I had been British, but I certainly can understand Britons who don’t want to be at the mercy of foreign bureaucrats and the London governmental, banking and intellectual elite.

Democratic nationalism is the only form that democracy can take until there is a radical restructuring of international institutions.  Without a strong progressive democratic movement, the only alternative to neo-liberal globalization is right-wing anti-democratic populism as represented by Donald Trump, the United Kingdom Independence Party, Marine le Pen’s National Front in France, Greece’s Golden Dawn and others.

The losers are not just workers who lack jobs, good wages and economic security.  They also are cultural conservatives who see their communities, values and traditions subject to “creative destruction” and “disruption” by cosmopolitan elites.

Some traditionalists have ugly racial and religious prejudices, which is bad, but no worse than the contempt for democracy and common life by some elitist intellectuals.

What I’d like to see are successful progressive populist movements, such as the Bernie Sanders movement in the USA, the Jeremy Corbyn movement in the UK, Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece.

The ultimate goal of such movements should be the dismantling of international organizations that work against the public interest, and control of global corporations with the power to disrupt local communities and individual lives.

If self-described liberals and progressives ignore the people left behind, the anti-liberal nationalists surely won’t.


The Most Important Election of Your Life (Is Not This Year) by John Feffer for TomDispatch.  An keen analysis of parallel trends in European and American politics.

Rule Britannia! On Brexit, The Immigrant and Geezer Votes, and … Donald J. Trump by John Derbyshite for VDare.  John Derbyshire is not one of my kindred spirits, but he provides an interesting breakdown of the Brexit vote by region, ethnic group and demographic characteristics.  You have to scroll down to get to it.

Britain’s EU Problem is a London Problem by Peter Mandler for Dissent.

Leave Won Because It Has a Better Story by Ian Welsh.


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6 Responses to “Brexit: the revolt of the losers”

  1. 61chrissterry Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.


  2. finolamoss Says:

    The huge advantage that all the losers have is that they, by far, are in the majority and the winners can’t win without them.


  3. Vincent Says:

    You’re obviously not suggesting that seventeen million losers voted for Brexit. Nor could you be suggesting that sixteen million winners voted to Remain. I gather your point is to discuss the “neo-liberal economy”, but this is not a term we’re familiar with in Britain and when I look it up I find a single line in Wikipedia in relation to Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister.

    Also very few Brits would call themselves nationalists, or the kind of person to be seduced by Trump. Nigel Farage is disliked by the majority, but was the most fervent tub-thumper for Brexit. Almost everybody hopes he’ll keep quiet now that his job is done.

    As for “the London governmental, banking and intellectual elite” being at their mercy is not an idea I’ve heard in any context. Londoners hate property prices being so high because of foreign buyers, but on the other hand depend on London as a financial centre for their role as an invisible export.

    I’m intrigued by your apparent support for Jeremy Corbyn, who’s today suffered a vote of no cofidence by his Parliamentary Labour Party (170 votes against, 40 for) yet has refused to resign his leadership. Without broad support from Labour MPs he would have to depend on anti-democratic antics to have any influence.

    Furthermore, many of the links you’ve provided offer tendentious views which I believe don’t represent a balanced picture of why people voted on this matter. To put it simply, people only voted because the government offered them a referendum, which it did for its own reasons and miscalculated. The voters cannot be blamed for anything at all, whichever box they put their X into. And I think if Remain had won, very few would have questioned the outcome, however passionate for Leaving. And as you see, opinion is almost equally divided. It also cuts across traditional party lines.

    Having raised these issues as points of fact more than of opinion, I do actually like much of what you say—mainly the parts which don’t try to analyse Brexit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philebersole Says:

      I think the purpose of an economic system should be to enable people to work together for mutual benefit (not necessarily equal benefit).

      A neoliberal economic system sorts people into winners and losers according to some economic criteria, rewards the winners and punishes the losers. I question not just the criteria, but the sorting process.

      I wrote a blog post on this which you may or may not be interested in.

      It seems to me that just as the well-being of American working people is at the mercy of the Wall Street and Washington elite, the well-being of British working people is at the mercy of the London financial and political elite.

      I admire Jeremy Corbin as an opponent of neoliberalism, and as a rebel against New Labour, which I see as a counterpart to the neoliberal New Democrats here in the USA.


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