That’s it, some Brits chose to leave the European Union. To those who thought history was over, a majority of the UK voters just proved them wrong.
Brexit is a class vote
Unfortunately, this Brexit is to a great extent a far-right Brexit, xenophobic and, somewhat paradoxically, economically liberal: The EU is thought to be an open door for migrants and a machine producing tons of rules impeding freedom. It is also a class Brexit, or so it seems for England at least: the working class and a part of the middle class from the countryside and the old industrial basins against the financial bourgeoisie and the educated middle class of the urban centres. However, a generational narrative is served as the main dish since yesterday: the elderly for exit, the youth for remain. No one seems to know the participation rate of each category though: Youth abstention was expected to be substantial before the vote. Ironically, this Brexit is quite in line with the EU far-right immigration policies, implemented with the help of the Turkish far-right that guns down migrants trying to cross the border with Syria.
Discussions for the Brexit will be tough: European leaders must discourage any exit attempt from their own people. They will make the Brits pay the price. There Is No Alternative to the EU in its current form: Greece was the first to pay the price for its disrespect, UK – or England if Ireland reunifies and Scotland leaves – will be the next on the list. This will only benefit far-right parties in England and elsewhere in Europe. Those who will lead the talks and those who want revenge against the UK for the Brexit may need to look backwards: The last time a great European country was humiliated, neither for Europe nor for the world did it end up very well.
Disciplining the European workers
Since its creation, the EU has been an incredible tool for disciplining the European workers through generalized competition amongst them, thanks to free capital flows and downward social and fiscal harmonisation across European countries. From this standpoint, the EU is not a peace initiative: It is a class initiative. This class Brexit may then be comprehended as a rejection of this Europe, even though it is a far-right rejection.
The European Union is not Europe
We should refrain from any EU fetishism. The EU is not the good, the EU is not the general interest. The EU is not Europe. The EU is one possible institutional expression of Europe, which reflects the balance of power between European workers and European capital. The EU won’t change until the balance of power that underlies it is changed.
Through imposing “free and fair competition” as a model of society, the EU is killing Europe as a social and political project. If the reasons and the arguments were each time different, citizens have always voted against the EU when they had the opportunity to do so. Maybe then the problem isn’t so much on the side of the citizens-who-understand-nothing-to-the-European-project than it is on the side of the EU and of the governments that make it what it is?
Fighting back: Disciplining European capital
However, the Brexit offers an opportunity to fight back for a new Europe. The European bourgeoisie needs the EU, which serves its class interests. The Brexit is therefore a tool to impose a new agenda: if European capital doesn’t make substantial social and economic concessions to the European workers, the EU will break down, destroyed by rising far-right parties that thrive on generalized competition amongst European workers, on growing inequalities and precariousness.
Disciplining European capital and rebuilding intra-European class solidarities requires powerful European lefts. Lefts able to dictate the debate on the European (re)construction; lefts able to delineate an alternative, progressive and credible project. It requires European lefts that do not fear – if needed – to exit the EU to reverse the balance of power, European lefts that do not concur with EU fetishism.
Out of a reactionary Brexit, the European lefts can make a progressive weapon unrivalled in the history of the European (re)construction. Of course, this requires not to leave the leadership to the current European leaders who built Europe as it is now and who claim to rebuild it since yesterday. With their leadership, we know what kind of Europe to expect. We can be sure, of course, that Brexit won’t be an incentive for European leaders to leave room for European citizens in the (re)construction. We’ll need to take it out of their hands. The European Union may die, long live Europe.