On the morning after the vote, a BBC radio reporter welcomed politicians to his studio as old chums. “Well,” he said to “Lord” Peter Mandelson, the disgraced architect of Blairism, “why do these people want it so badly?” The “these people” are the majority of Britons.
Doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook in the wake of the #Brexit vote are various renditions of one of Winston Churchill’s two famous buzz-phrases regarding “democracy”, namely “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
The irony of “progressives” and “liberals” quoting the wisdom of an arch-conservative imperialist in support of their contempt for the working classes would be delicious if it weren’t so indicative of the state of liberal democracy in the western world.
The same people who wag their fingers and cry “oppression! human rights abusers!” regarding the non-democratic governments of Asia and Africa are quick to distance themselves from democracy when the elites they identify with are the ones being accused of “oppression”.
As the Arab Spring in Egypt demonstrated with utter clarity, when democracy produces a result that liberals cannot tolerate, democracy dies under the wheels of tanks, and liberals cheer as soldiers mow down “those people” who had the temerity to vote their preference. The EU actually opened negotiations to expand “free trade” with the Sisi government regardless of documented problems with child labor, a military coup and 800 dead Egyptian citizens who protested the coup.
That is the measure of the EU and its commitment to workers’ and human rights.
The “perfect storm” of the racist xenophobia of the Trump campaign in the US and the racist xenophobia of the Brexit campaign in the UK has given “progressives” the perfect opportunity to express their moral superiority to and their contempt for the working classes in both countries.
Of course, this fascinating concatenation of events also let’s us see “progressives” in all their hypocritical glory. They will cheer Clinton and justify whatever bombing campaign she orders against whatever group of “brown people” she decides need a dose of Democracy, Freedom and the American Way. They will cheer and gloat when the neoliberal elites of Britain and the EU find a way to overturn the vote for Brexit, because it really looks like they will.
They will wave their placards when the TIPP deal finally goes public and pretend that they haven’t provided massive support for the very neoliberal programs that are presently sewing up control of two thirds of the world’s economic activity so that the white elites of the global north can maintain their position astride the globalized masses.
Undemocratic elites in countries like Vietnam have recognized how this works. You just have to find a way to please the “progressive” demands that the US and EU use to maintain dominance in these “trade” negotiations. They have been welcomed into the TPP, which is the Asian chapter of Europe’s and America’s way around the BRICs in the WTO.
Vietnamese people cannot vote. They go to jail for speaking their minds. They are gassed and beaten when they protest the poisoning of their environment by capitalist industry. But Vietnam is celebrated as a leader in the gay rights field in Asia because they have lifted the ban on same-sex marriage.
The split between the class politics of the traditional democratic-socialist left and the identity politics of the so-called “progressives” has never been clearer.