Anush Kapadia podaja izvrstno razlago vzrokov, ki so pripeljali do Brexita in zaradi katerih se z Brexitom zadeva ne bo končala. Gre za razplamtevajoč razredni boj med “delavci” in “elito”, ki se je potuhnil, dokler je bilo dovolj gospodarske rasti in dosegljivih potrošniških dobrin. Ko je vudu zadolževanja gospodinjstev eksplodiral v finančni krizi in ko se je rast ustavila, je nezadovoljstvo potlačenih in z globalizacijo ponižanih “delavcev” na zahodu izbruhnilo v spontan upor, ki ga ni mogoče več kontrolirati. Paradoksalno je le to, da bodo demokratične procese razplamtelega razrednega boja in institucije demokracije izkoristili populisti in nacionalisti ter stvari samo še poslabšali – tudi in predvsem za “delavski razred” – in demokracijo suspendirali. Razplamteli razredni boj bo neminovno zapeljal v veliko katastrofo, ki jo bo izzval sedanji odziv elite s “kaznovanjem Britanije” ter z nadaljnim rezanjem socialne države. Situacija je skorajda identična s tisto izpred 8 in pol desetletij, ki je naplavila fašizem, nacizem in imperializem ter drugo svetovno vojno.
The reality is more prosaic. These elites, fearing a leftward slide of their own working classes, were convinced to share some of the spoils of capitalism in the interest of maintaining their own hegemony and maintaining the social peace. Workers of the West took the deal, gaining the welfare state and steady employment in return. Nationalism served as a useful framing device for what was, at base, an inter-class alliance, one that survived as long as the economy delivered the goodies.
In the course of this arrangement, something called “economic growth” became a common-sense, desirable thing. Yet, the obsession with growth on the part of those already rich, something we now appreciate as potentially world-ending, has a straightforward political root. In the absence of unceasing growth, the commitment to deliver more goodies to working people could only be make good through redistribution. If the pie isn’t growing, the only way you can give a majority the larger slice you promised is by giving someone else a smaller one. And growth started to hit the rails in the 1970s with oil shocks, labour unrest, and general economic maturity after decades of postwar prosperity. Elites were faced with a stark choice: redistribute, or find another source of growth, quick.
The solution they found was given the rosy name of “globalization.” Moving the manufacturing sector, which tended to be powerfully unionized, overseas to “emerging markets” with authoritarian control over their own working people was the solution. It was the elites of the world who united. Those of East Asia benefited from access to lucrative Western markets and created their own growth miracles, while Western elites were able to discipline their working populations with the threat of outsourcing, even while restarting the growth engine through the delivery of cheaper-made goods and the import of well-behaved immigrants grateful for a chance to work in the West. New technology and a new geopolitics of oil assisted this new global arrangement.
This was always a fudge. Western elites were just “buying time,” to quote German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck. The myth of a flexible labour force able to be retrained into the burgeoning service sector was just that: a myth. The legacy of postwar industrialism is a working class with no work; once proud industrial cities now turned to rust dot the north of England and the American midwest. The fix worked so long as capitalism delivered the goodies, first with cheaper goods, then with public debt, and most-recently with private debt that was delivered on a scale so far unimaginable thanks to developments in financial engineering and planet-sized pools of saving streaming in from East Asian growth.
The Crisis of 2007 brought the latest fix to an end. Without the ability to pump out debt to a majority with chronically stagnant wages, Western elites could no longer deliver the goods to rustbelt populations. So convinced of their stranglehold on the polity, elites badly miscalculated the post-crisis clean-up by having the government bail out the banks – and then paying for the resulting ballooning in the deficit by slashing an already-bare-bones welfare state. They crashed the economy and made working people pay for it. The mask had slipped. The national pact now turned sour.
The elite-run press wail at the death of reasonable discourse, the failure of experts to convince the public with technocratic arguments, the perfidy of opportunists who weaponize peoples’ misery with sheer lies. Yet the simple truth is that reasoned arguments never held the political order together; this was always a liberal myth. The order held together because it delivered the consumerist goodies. And it could only continue to deliver by means of increasingly-fragile fudges. These are now over.
People want a new order in which a sense of belonging and a sense of security, nationalism and economics, go together. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this democratic desire. At base, this is what this vote is about. The British people are of course not alone in this search. In searching for a vision in which nations can be economically strong in a connected world, some opportunists will pair up with genuinely racist elements to make political capital. But to see this as merely the resurgence of some archaic, parochial, provincial populism is to miss the wood for the trees.
The saddest irony of this vote, however, is that although the underlying impulse is a democratic one, the result will be anything but. Eurocrats will want to punish the UK in order to make an example of it, while British elites themselves will now double down on the slash-and-burn of the welfare state in the name of boosting the economy. Unchecked by the remnants of European social democracy and with the Labour party in shambles, the right-wing of the Tory party will sense that it has the field to itself. The resulting economic pain will of course only further incense those already angry. With the nationalist card now played, the stage is set for old-fashioned class war in one country.
Vir: Anush Kapadia, NDTV