British people in 23rd June 2016 referendum have voted to leave European Union (EU). It is a reflection of deepening economic crisis in the imperialist countries and growing disenchantment of the people in developed capitalist countries with political establishment. Response of the Govts. of developed capitalist countries to the explosion of financial economic crisis in 2008 has only increased the gulf between rich and poor. Govts. have rescued the corporate while burden of the crisis has been placed on the shoulders of the common people whose conditions have deteriorated since then. While profligacy of the rich has been rewarded austerity has been imposed on the common people. In a number of European countries unemployment is high and even in the countries like UK where it is not so, the new jobs created are low paid and casual or part-time in nature. On the other hand there has been cut is social security and there is increasing privatization of health services and education putting a lot of strain on the common people. College fees have skyrocketed. Loan burden on the people has increased sharply. World financial economic crisis continues though its effects vary in different countries. It has made the world economy and economy of imperialist countries very unstable.
In this context, people are rising in the capitalist countries against established parties of the ruling bourgeoisie whose notorious two party system which works like tweedledum and tweedledee. In Britain too, the explosion of anger against political establishment was palpable. Leave vote gained majority while the leadership of both main parties, Conservative and Labour, had campaigned for remaining in EU. While leadership of the campaign to leave EU consisted mainly of the Conservative Party and the section that left it to form UK Independence Party, half of the labour voters are also estimated to have voted to leave EU despite Labour Party leadership pitching in for remaining in EU. Campaign to leave EU painted horrific picture of migrants flooding UK, Remain campaign banked on their propaganda of adverse effect of Brexit on British economy. Regarding migrants while refugees from the countries which have been victims of imperialist aggression have dominated the propaganda, real concern has been migrants from East European countries which have become members of the EU. While British bourgeois rulers have all the sympathy with these countries but only to the extent they oppose Russia, any way this sympathy does not extend to welcoming them home.
In brief, the vote can be taken to be a manifestation of the anger of the people against the political establishment. Sanders’ campaign in USA has also been fed by the similar anger. More importantly, people’s rejection of established parties is quite obvious in Spain, Italy and several other European countries. And this is so despite Syriza of Greece which had won elections on the platform of not compromising on bailout package, betraying its election pledge to surrender before the troika of IMF, EU and European Central Bank. People’s anger is real. However, this anger has yet not reached the stage of discarding this decadent system. It is concentrated on charting a new course within this system. But the established ruling class parties are wedded to implementing neoliberal economic policies and hence this anger is mainly directed against neoliberal economic policies.
The ongoing crisis and resultant anger of the people has undermined the social democracy in European countries which has been an instrument of class peace between capitalists and workers. On the one hand people’s struggles have burst forth against the impact of the Govt. policies on their lives, and on the other rightist forces of the ruling classes have been strengthened. Neo-nazi, anti-immigrant groups have become strong in a number of European countries. Ruling bourgeois parties have not been confronting these gangs, rather they are implementing policies against immigrant workers and refugees in the name of keeping these neo-nazi groups in check. This only shows that these gangs are linked to ruling bourgeois parties and draw their sustenance from them.
While British Prime Minister Cameron had promised to hold this referendum to prevent split in conservative voters in the last elections, it became a channel of expression of anger of despair of the people. Now some of the ruling class politicians are criticizing the very decision to hold the referendum saying people should have no say in such vital decisions, their choice should be strictly regulated. Earlier, the ruling politicians of Europe had refused to respect the verdict of the people of Greece.
While impact of the Brexit on economy of the UK will unfold over the years, impact in two spheres may unfold in the short term. Scotland had held a referendum on secession in recent past and in this election in which independence lost narrowly, Scotland has strongly voted in favour of EU. Brexit may give another opportunity to Scotland voters to exercise their choice in the changed circumstances. “Union” may be truncated not only in Europe but also in United Kingdom.
Another important impact of Brexit would be on relations with Russia. Britain had been a strong voice in EU pitching for escalation of contradiction with Russia. It has also been bridgehead of US influence in Europe though US has other influences as well. East European countries that mostly stand for sharper reaction to Russia may have now to reckon with different European dispensation. The “New Europe” which had sided with Bush-Blair war against Iraq may have to accommodate with ‘Old Europe” more clearly dominated by Germany and France which had opposed that war. It may become increasingly difficult for US imperialism to mobilize European Union against Russia. There is already a mood in Germany and some other countries to dilute sanctions which were imposed against Russia after her making Crimea a Russian territory. German Foreign Minister has also criticized recent military exercises in Poland as provocative. EU without Britain may be more amenable to deal with Russia. This aspect may have importance in the current multipolar world.
European Union has been a project of European big bourgeoisie for bigger say in the international affairs besides making European markets their preserve. This project has been a long term dream of European big capital but has been torpedoed by the contradictions among the big bourgeoisies of European countries. These contradictions have again come to the fore. The extent of cascading effect of Brexit will become clear in near future, the contradictions among big bourgeois groups are bound to grow.
Prime Minister Cameron has announced his decision to quit. There may be more changes in the ruling and main opposition parties. However, anger of the common people which manifested in this vote is not going away.
New Democracy News Service
June 24, 2016