Socialist Worker

After EU vote and Cameron goes: unite to shape revolt against establishment

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2509

David Cameron resigns

David Cameron resigns


This article is available to download and print as an A4 leaflet

David Cameron has resigned, and the Leave vote in the EU referendum has hurled the Tory party, and the British and European establishments, into a profound crisis.

Cameron’s desperate referendum gamble has failed, his party is split in half.

The pound and share prices are falling and the “masters of the universe” have felt the sting of rejection.

Despite Remain having the support of the Tories, Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Sinn Fein, practically every bosses’ and international finance body, thousands of “top executives” and the leaders of dozens of states including the US, more than half of those voting backed Leave.

It is time for everyone on the left and all anti-racists, however they voted, to unite and fight against austerity, the destruction of public services, the attacks on refugees, Islamophobia and the fascists who created the conditions for the murder of Jo Cox.

The politicians, the rich and the powerful who are so used to getting their own way have suffered a massive reverse.

Revolt

Just as in so many other parts of the world, there is a revolt going on against the people at the top of society. It can be dragged left or right. It is our job to shape it.

The right will try to use the Leave vote to deepen racism. This is a danger, but it is far from inevitable.

It is a lie that the millions of workers who voted Leave are all racists. The mainstream Leave campaign was headed by racists and horrible right wing forces, but a large part of the Leave vote was very different.

One poll taken just before the vote showed that the majority of Leave voters thought that immigration had a good impact or no impact or the areas where they lived. And a fifth thought immigration was positive for Britain as a whole.

Another poll found that a third of Labour voters at the 2015 general election, and a third of Green voters were going to back Leave.

There are deep pools of bitterness and frustration everywhere across Britain.

The Leave vote was for many a rejection of the undemocratic, corporate-controlled EU and the political elites in Britain. This revolt against the rich and powerful must be built on.

Democracy

It is a tragedy that Labour did not back Leave. If it had done so it would have transformed the debate to be far more about democracy, breaking from austerity and resisting corporate control than about racism.

Instead, by campaigning alongside the Tories for Remain, some Labour MPs have cut themselves off from substantial sections of workers.

During the campaign several leading figures in the Labour Party from Tom Watson and Ed Balls to John McDonnell and Len McCluskey called into question the existing right of EU citizens to come to Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t do this. He should now call openly for actions against austerity and racism, and demand that the trade union leaders do the same. This is the best chance of forcing the general election that he says Labour is ready for.

Socialist Worker campaigned for an anti-racist, anti-austerity and socialist Leave vote. We are pleased that Leave has won. We know that the #Lexit Left Leave campaign we were part of had only a marginal effect.

But we were able to make sure there was an anti-capitalist Leave voice that did not pander to racism.

Racism

We recognise that a substantial section of those who voted Remain did so because they felt it was the best way to push back the racism of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

Others were persuaded that the EU stands for workers’ rights and that a Leave vote would strengthen vile right-wing forces.

We didn’t agree, but it’s crucial that everyone on the left unites to bring down the Tories and to fight racism.

We must come together in the battles against racism, Islamophobia and in support of refugees, build for the march on the Tory conference in Birmingham on 2 October, back the teachers’ strikes in England and all the other strikes, defend the NHS, combat environmental degradation and fracking and much more.

We must not let the Tories recover, and have to fight to make sure this crisis ends with the right shattered and the anti-racist left stronger.

At a time of crisis it is actions we need, not just statements. The more strikes and protests and occupations there are, the better will be the outcome of this Leave vote.

We say Tories out, austerity out, migrants in, general election now!

Join the protest at Downing Street, London, 6pm tonight, ⋅ Tories Out! Call a General Election ⋅ No to Austerity ⋅ Migrants Welcome Here Called by Lexit—the Left Leave Campaign

Was the Leave vote about racism?

The official Remain and Leave campaigns and the right wing media ramped up racism against migrants and dragged the debate to the right. But the majority of working class people are not racists.

Working class areas voted for Leave in large numbers, but the idea that Leave was a racist vote by the “white working class” just doesn’t add up.

The three towns outside of London where the “White British” population is a minority produced large Leave votes.

In Luton 45 percent of the population is “White British”—it voted Leave by 56.5 percent on a 66.2 percent turnout.

Similarly in Slough 34.52 percent of the population is “White British”—people there also voted Leave by 54 percent on a 62.1 percent turnout.

Meanwhile in Leicester 45 percent of population are “White British”, and 48.9 percent voted for Leave on a 65 percent turnout.

People in London backed Remain more strongly, but Leave still had strong support among working class people in the capital.

Multicultural

In Newham 47 percent of people voted Leave. The east London borough is one of the poorest and most multicultural boroughs in London, with only 17 percent of the population being “White British”.

Further out in Barking and Dagenham people voted for Leave by 62.4 percent. Again only some 49.46 percent of the population is “White British”.

That’s not to deny that racism is a real problem in society or that immigration has been the key issue for some people, particularly Leave supporters.

But polling shows a contradictory picture. When asked in the abstract some 42 percent of people said immigration had a negative impact on Britain.

But some 51 percent of the total and 47 percent of Remain supporters said immigration had no impact on them personally. Those saying immigration had no impact on them personally was even higher among Leave supporters, at 52 percent.

This resilience is significant considering not a day passes without a politician or a newspaper making some racist statement and demonising migrants.

Many working class people have voted to give the establishment a kicking, while many also accept some reactionary ideas around immigration.

But that’s partly because no one has put an anti-racist argument on immigration to them.

We must unite against austerity and racism and fight together, not abandon working class voters to the racists.


Build on defianceagainst the elite

Leading Labour MP Diane Abbott said the vote was not a rejection of immigration but “foremost a roar of a defiance against the Westminster elite”.

That roar has echoed around Europe.

In Greece the EU’s austerity has hammered workers. Socialist Stelios Michaelidis told Socialist Worker, “I’ve just been campaigning in my local town hall, hospital and tax office. Everybody is celebrating the British referendum result.”

Labour left group Momentum issued a statement saying, “Much of this vote reflected anger in communities which have experienced many years of industrial decline with the subsequent loss of secure employment.

“Many such working class communities have been utterly neglected for years by those in power.”

It called on Labour to “clearly demonstrate how it will improve lives through policies that will increase wages, tackle the housing crisis, and give people a greater say at work and in their communities.”

Failure to do so would boost “the populist right, who blame immigrants, not the powerful for the problems in our country”.

Union leaders have vowed to defend workers’ rights. They must be held to their word.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the first priority now is to protect jobs and defend the living standards of working people.”

Stock markets have already plunged and politicians claim this has to mean cuts.

But O’Grady added, “Working people must not pay the price for the decision to leave the EU.”

Right wing Leave campaigners claimed the money saved on the EU would be spent on the NHS. They never meant it and are trying to back out of it.

But Dave Prentis, general secretary of the biggest NHS union Unison, said, “We will be working in the coming weeks and months to hold the Leave campaigners to the promises they’ve made—that there will be more money for the NHS, and that our rights at work will remain intact.”

This article is available to download and print as an A4 leaflet


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