The Internationalist Rally held in Paris on May 28th, 2016, in advance of the UK referendum on leaving or staying in the European Union, made a statement to the labour movement in Britain. They said “We support the British Workers who will vote to leave the European Union in the 23 June referendum”.
Who were they attending the Rally? 1,200 workers, activists and youth from across Europe were there and additional support from others unable to be there personally such as medical staff working in refugee camps and witnessing first hand those holed up by EU policy after fleeing life-threatening conditions in Syria and elsewhere. Was the Brexit they requested that portrayed relentlessly by the British media and advanced by the likes of Theresa May and Boris Johnson? The 17,000,000+ UK citizens who voted to leave are supposedly part of a huge surge rightwards, racist, xenophobic, far right extremists.
The report on the Paris Rally simply does not resemble that view in any way. Steve Hedley, a delegate from the British transport union, the RMT, started by paying tribute to “French workers who are conducting a magnificent strike movement at the moment.” Two years on and Paris is still in the grip of action in defiance of the staunchly pro-European President, Macron, who has been putting through EU-backed legislation favouring the big corporations over those whose labour is necessary to create their huge and ever-growing wealth and power in the first place. WE need to salute and support these workers and those in other countries of Europe oppressed by EU diktat pressing for unending privatisation and austerity. In short the “neoliberal” agenda advocated by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and followed by Pinochet in Chile, championed by Reagan, Thatcher, and others (including Blairite Labour) has to be culled.
The second point Steve Hedley made in his address to the Paris rally was that “we really did not know that so many people across France and Europe support Britain leaving the European Union”. This remains unknown and unreported.Those who voted for and won the UK referendum include many (who knows how many who voted “Leave”) who reacted to the massive cuts in funding to what we used to call “essential” services and the handing over to private providers at the same time slashing pay and conditions of those working in care, health and other areas of the once public sector.
The 2016 Referendum decided in far of Britain leaving the EU although considerable resistance remains throughout the mainstream press, EU supporters and regrettably politicians. The Westminster system of lobbying, revolving doors etc. ensures that it is not only MPs’ constituents who put pressure on them. While the electorate supply their votes the system allows largesse and privilege and access to all members elected into power. It appears resistance is low irrespective of party and political persuasion.
The problem is that while Brexit perspectives are polarised but each view is not communicated. As Hedley remarked views of Europeans about Brexit are unknown. President Macron once opined that had French citizens had the opportunity of a referendum it was possible they would have voted for France to leave the EU. Macron, a centrist in the mould of Thatcher and Blair according to some observers, won power when many feared that votes for condidates on the left would allow the far right into power.
At the same time does anyone know for certain how many of the 17 million plus UK citizens who voted for Britain to leave the EU supported UKIP, the Tory right. UKIP may account for around 4 million if we judge from votes they received in elections leaving 13 million unaccounted for. Many have protested in programmes such as Any Questions, when the public are given an opportunity speak to a wider audience, that they did not vote for racist or xenophobic reasons. Their concerns were to do with austerity, privatisation of “essential” services and issues around cuts to pay, pensions etc. affecting working people and those who depended on state support for health reasons etc. The many who felt the increase in injustice with access to the public systems of health, education, legal services and so on were withdrawn. The perspectives of UKIP, the Tory right and others played on immigration as a major reason for such problems clearly had its intended effect on many voters. The understanding that globalistation and a “neoliberal” agenda was at play was not made obvious.
The International Monetary Fund, one of the dominant institutions operating alongside the EU and international governments printed an article entitled “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” In doing so they went as far as acknowledging its provenance!
“Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardising durable expansion
Milton Friedman in 1982 hailed Chile as an ‘economic miracle.’ Nearly a decade earlier Chile had turned to policies that have since been widely emulated across the globe. The neoliberal agenda – label used more by critics than by architects of the policies -rests on two main planks. The first is increased competition – achieved through deregulation and the opening up of domestic markets, to foreign competition. The second is a smaller role for the state, achieved through privatisation and the limits on the ability of governments to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt.”
What is puzzling is why so much of the press across the political spectrum continues to tacitly support those operating the neoliberal agenda. The Guardian for example has published a series of articles highly critical of its spread and effects on all of us: “Neoliberalism: The idea that swallowed the world”.; “Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us”. and “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems”.
The neoliberal agenda emanating from the Chicago School and Milton Friedman has had vastly wider effects than in the economic sphere. Doctrines such as “shock and awe” have been practiced both economically and militarily. Pinochet himself came to power following the assassination of Allende following the “shock and awe” attack. What followed is well known, but what is behind it is told in some detail by Naomi Klein in “The Shock Doctrine”.