The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Reaping as One Sows: Brexit Edition

European Union FlagSome polls are now showing majorities for Britain exiting the EU.

That this is surprising to many is surprising to me. The status quo has been failing the majority of British for going on 40 years now.

The EU is part of the status quo. A lot of people will vote against it.

The jobs have rushed in London and London is unaffordable, because the government refuses to create and enforce laws against absentee owners who neither live in nor rent their property. The financial collapse saw the banks made whole and the people slaughtered. Good jobs have been gushing out of England for two generations now.

Once more: Repeated failure causes people to despise whoever they consider to have been in charge during the repeated failures. Britain has been part of the EU for a long time.

This same dynamic is working for Trump and it worked for Sanders. It is why Corbyn is now Labour leader and not some Blairite, “New Labour” sort.

These are the early spasms. If things keep getting worse (and they will), there will be spasms of real violence.

I have no sympathy left for all this. Too many people on all sides failed and failed and failed. Too many people wanted to believe in absolute bullshit: “We can all pay less taxes and be greedy bastards and get rid of regulation and send our industry overseas and it will all work out wonderfully because the market fairy will always ensure we live in the best of all worlds.”

You have exactly what you or someone else fought for you to have. Nothing more. Your lords and masters cut deals with proles only when they have no choice. Cameron and Blairite Labour types want you to live a life of complete misery, because they believe you are useless wastes of space who are lazy and are the reason why Britain is in decline.

It’s all on the proles; it certainly isn’t on the people who have led Britain for the past 40 years, because they know they are the bestest, and brightest, and the hardest working, so it sure as hell couldn’t be them.

You are walking meat-sacks with no intrinsic worth to your masters. They will give you as little as they can get away with, and your suffering, or your death, means nothing to them. To look at how pathetic and worthless you are simply reinforces their knowledge of how wonderful they are.

These people regard you as their meat, if they think of you at all. You should think of them in the same way. Any MP or CEO or executive who has repeatedly worked against you is your enemy. And that is almost all of them.

Most politicians aren’t your friends. Their job is to fleece you for corporate masters. There are rare exceptions, like Corbyn, but they are exceptions and you can tell them in part by the relentless hatred the rest of the master class has for them. Men like Corbyn (and FDR in the day) are traitors to their own people, and they are treated like traitors.

So Brits may well leave the EU. Doubtless they will be punished, because leaving neo-liberal organizations must be met with pain, or other people might do the same. International organizations like the EU, IMF, and WTO are how the elites make sure that neo-liberalism continues, because their rules make it impossible to run non-neo-liberal economies.

A lot of this is ugly, of course. Because the left won’t lead, the front men are right-wing nativists and racists, who at least have the guts to fight.

In a sense, this is hopeful. Almost the entire establishment is for staying in the EU and a lot of British have just tuned them out. Not listening to the master-class’s lies is the fist step in being free.

So, I am not running around scared of Brexit. I don’t much care whether Britain stays or leaves. That puts me on the outside of the cultural left’s consensus, but so be it. Leaving the EU will make things worse for Britain, but it will also free Corbyn to do what is necessary if he wins. We will see how it plays out.

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  1. anonymous coward

    As the cultural left mostly has its head resolutely up its ass, you should have zero regrets at finding yourself on the outside of its moronic

  2. TRV

    The outcome is a wash for the Empire, I’d say. Remain legitimises the Washington Consensus, Brexit further damages Washington’s former rival Brussels.

  3. Dan Lynch

    Very well stated, Ian.

  4. Scotland may leave.

  5. Steeleweed

    “Those Leavers who chatter cavalierly of resiling from the (non-EU) European Convention of Human Rights should be aware that the Good Friday peace accords are anchored in that document, and if they do not understand why it matters that just 12pc of Ulster Catholics support Brexit, they are not listening to Sinn Fein.”

  6. EGrise

    I was interested to read the potential impact on Northern Ireland: UK leaves EU, UK is punished, jobless young hotheads in Ulster start trouble and won’t listen to Sinn Fein or anyone else.

    Exhilarating times indeed.

  7. Bill Hicks

    Any leftist worthy of the name should welcome any and all decentralization. Not only should Great Britain leave the EU, Scotland should reconsider independence. Smaller independent entities make it easier for people to hold their so called “leaders” accountable for failing them (witness: Iceland). They also increase the number of independent voices in the international arena, making likely there will be additional countries who will object to America’s hegemony over the planet.

  8. markfromireland

    @ Stirling Newberry June 13, 2016

    If the vote goes for Britain exiting and that vote is a result of an English and Welsh majority in favour of leaving, current SNP policy is that Scotland would not only attempt to leave the UK but would attempt to remain or join the EU.

    All sorts of interesting issues about successsor states and their relationship to the EU arise and for obvious reasons the topic is being followed with great interest by the Spanish government.

    Another two exit candidates should the UK vote to leave are Denmark and Sweden in both countries support for leaving the EU is high. I don’t know what the situation is in Finland.

  9. Some Guy

    Well said Bill.

    Everything you say is exactly the reason the elites are always and everywhere in favour of centralization.

    I’d be shocked if the leave vote wins – fear tactics always seem to work in these cases. but maybe that will change some day and if they do leave – I don’t think they will be worse off as Ian says, nor do I think they will be particularly punished if they leave (not through any benevolence from the elites mind you – but from fear of splintering things any more – England is too big to kick out of the club IMO), but I guess we’ll see.

  10. Giacomo

    Which way do you think they will punish the UK?
    The UK is a net importer. It provides the exporter countries the demand they so badly need. Punishing the UK may well hurt the exporters even more.

    Corbyn may mean well, but he’s a good example of the left failure. His economics conceptual framework is neoclassical. He’s for a balanced budget.
    It looks like he (or his economics references) understand the UK balance of payment problems. Their solution is not to discuss the free trade dogma nor to try and rebuild the UK manufacturing. Their solution is austerity.
    He looks like the next Tsipras. Good to intercept and defuse dissent.

  11. V. Arnold

    The big issues for me are personal sovereignty and state sovereignty. Inside the U.S. one has neither; but now, England has the chance to regain its state sovereignty. What’s not to like about that?
    Greece gave up everything except austerity; must be positively vile living under the IMF Fascisti.
    According to PCR, the EU is a CIA construct designed to keep all Of Europe under the thumb of the U.S., so far so good, eh?
    Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

  12. The EU is an institution with an interest in institutional survival. No one can be seen to be getting a better deal outside the institution than inside it. Anyone who votes for Brexit must not do so under the certainty that the narrow economic incentives are on the the UK’s side in the divorce negotiations. The EU as an institution has proven more than once that it will leave a narrowly-economic gain “on the table”, so to speak, in the pursuit of extending its institutional power.

    Like Ian, I think in the larger picture, the Brexit question is a “wash” — people are starting to notice that Corbyn isn’t taking one side or another on this but actually sitting it out. Politically, it’s essentially the opening move of a more open internal conflict in the Tory party, so it seems quite prudent to me in terms of narrow political mechanics.

    However, it’s true that some of the EU restraints are good things that tame some of the worse instincts of British politics. The real question is whether you think the British left can take advantage of the political chaos of a Leave vote. I’m not so sure.

  13. Hugh

    “Too many people on all sides failed and failed and failed.”

    Depends on how you define failure. They certainly failed us, but not themselves. The rich got richer, a lot, lot, obscenely lot richer. Blair did their bidding and is now filthy rich. Hill and Bill did their bidding. They got rich, got a billion dollar influence peddling machine/charitable foundation, and Hill has a good chance at the Presidency with even more prospects for loot in the future. Good times!, just not for all, or even most.

  14. Some Guy

    It seems a given that if the polls keep tracking towards exit, the powers that be will unleash a mighty collapse to the U.K. stock exchange in order to stampede the horses. Should make for an interesting week or so to come – no wonder Soros is coming out of retirement!

  15. Field Marshall McLuhan

    At this point it’s pretty clear that the EU is dying, crushed by the greed and brutality of the Brussels clique and the moneyed interests they serve. Better for Britain to get out now while there is still time to manage and mitigate the damage, rather than wait for the crisis that will blow it all to bits.

  16. V. Arnold

    Field Marshall McLuhan

    Yeh, I pretty much agree with your POV; but I think the Brits haven’t the guts to do it!
    Sovereignty is little understood by those who chose to for go it…

  17. TRV

    At this point it’s pretty clear that the EU is dying, crushed by the greed and brutality of the Brussels clique and the moneyed interests they serve.

    All the better for their masters, the Washington clique and the moneyed interests they serve.

    Not much poetic justice in being forced to dig your own grave.

  18. gf

    Just because they vote for an exit does not mean it will happen.

  19. markfromireland

    @ Field Marshall McLuhan June 15, 2016

    Wishful thinking and an abject refusal to even begin to face reality isn’t actually a good foundation for successful political action. The reason why there’s a high and rising level of support in the UK for a British exit from the EU is not because the EU is weak and getting weaker but because it is strong and getting stronger.

    It’s strong because it’s a remarkably successful set of institutions. You may not either remember or care about the pathetic condition of the British economy when they joined what was then called the EEC but I do remember it – they were at that point the third poorest member to join. Only Ireland and Greece (an associate member since the 1960s) being poorer. Successive UK governments were dependent on handouts from the IMF and were at the IMF’s beck and call in much the same way as Greece is today. That’s not the case today.

    The EU is not dying – desperately in need of reform yes, dying no. It’s been expanding for forty years and is still expanding. That’s the problem from the Brexiteer point of view. Much of the impetus for the Brexit movement comes from the fact that contrary to your half-witted and entirely contrafactual assertion that the EU is dying that it is in fact expanding both in terms of states joining and in terms of it acquiring more and more power.

    Both from the left and the right the recognition that it is encroaching into areas of governance such as military cooperation, a common foreign policy, a common policing policy and more, all of which are areas from which it was previously excluded is what’s driving the impetus for Brexit.

    That’s what “an ever closer union means” you idiotic buffoon less and less local sovereignty and more and more transferred sovereignty. It’s the “ever closer union” that the Brexiteers as they style themselves want to avoid which is why many of them are making the argument that they can keep the economic aspects of membership and just jetison the bits they don’t like.

  20. Ian Welsh

    The EU had positive economic effects, no question.

    However, that is no longer the case for multiple countries.

    As for its strength, yes, it’s clearly strong. It can enforce vastly unpopular policies on national units.

    If one doesn’t want to be ruled from Brussels, one should get out, especially as the early moves to create a joint (really German commanded) military are underway.

    Soon getting out may require a civil war and most nations would lose that war.

    I frankly think France should leave as well, the EU is no longer working for them, either.

    Let Germany have its little Empire of subsidiary states, but France shouldn’t be one of them.

    Meanwhile NATO is putting more troops in the Baltic states and moving on with missile defense.

    We are in a pre-war, pre-revolutionary world.

    Enjoy the fin de siecle.

  21. Sally

    You’re the buffoon if you think The EU is not dying. In 1973 when we went in to it the 9 counties accounted for about 36% of world trade. Today the Union may have grown in terms of numbers of countries to 28, but it’s share of global trade is down to just 17% of global trade. The Euro is a disaster with huge unemployment in the poorer southern countries. 50% unemployment for the under 25. The Banking system is ready to blow. Italian and Spanish banks are in deep do do. Greece is becoming a basket case. Many of these countries need to devalue and not be pegged to the German economy.

    The UK is one of the biggest contributors to the EC in terms of money. Without our contribution more will have to come from the Germans and The northern counrties to keep the thing afloat. Tha will play very badly in those countries.

    If the UK votes to leave I predict that within 2 years you will have referendums in Denmark, Sweeden, and Holland. And even in France if the far right win the general election next year. The German leader is increasing hated as she carries out her orders from Washington to flood Germany with refugees from Washingons wars in Syria, and Iraq. If the UK votes to stay it will be a disater for the Labour Party. Immigration will continue into the poorer parts of the UK taking jobs and bringing down wages for those who have jobs. Labour will lose another 1 million votes at the next election in their northern heartlands. The customers for products are in the East now. That is where the growth is, and It has its old Comemwealth countries that speak English. Trading with India, who speak English, Australia, Canada, Africa. The UK exports more outside of the EU than into Europe.

  22. MFI is mostly right.

    The EU is not dying. You can’t call an institution that even the Greeks, after all this, won’t leave — dying. The motives of Brexiters matter here. They aren’t Brexiting to give Jeremy Corbyn an unshackled Prime Ministership.

    That doesn’t mean that the EU in its present form is a force for good. But that doesn’t mean that leaving the EU will make the world better. Not even for France. For once, this is one place where cui bono is the main thing to ask.

  23. Hugh

    Revolutions are always impossible until they happen. The USSR was never going to break up until it did. Ditto the EU/EZ.

    The UK is 5th largest national economy in the world. Its GDP in 2015 was $2.85 trillion compared with Germany’s $3.36 trillion and France’s $2.42 trillion.

    The construction of Europe was always predicated on good economic times and few external stressors. The good times have been gone for several years now, and the external stressor of a tidal wave of immigrants that could last decades is only just beginning. Keynes said that markets could stay irrational for longer than he could stay solvent, but ultimately things which are unsustainable do fall apart. The question is not so much if but when.

    As I have written so many times, the EZ is not sustainable. It has 6 fatal flaws:

    1. The lack of a fair and democratic fiscal and debt union
    2. A weak, and capricious, central bank interested only in defending an increasingly indefensible status quo
    3. An insolvent and predatory banking sector
    4. Europe internal mercantilist trading patterns
    5. Thoroughly corrupt political classes
    6. A ruling kleptocratic class of the rich

  24. EmilianoZ

    European countries like France have the same politico/demographic problems as the US, even worse. The young French probably want the break up of the euro, just like the young USians want Bernie. But the old French want the status quo just like the old USians voted for the $Hill. The euro will probably perdure until the system stops working for the old too.

  25. Some Guy

    If there’s one leftist argument I find completely contemptible it is the argument that the U.K. should stay in the E.U. because the E.U. government is more left wing than the U.K. government would be / is.

    Surely, if the sad fate of Greece teaches us anything, it is the utter folly of conceding the battle in your own polity and appealing to some higher unaccountable power to enforce the rules you want on your countrymen over their democratically expressed wishes.

    I see the same problem in the U.S., over a long period of time, where the constant recourse to the federal government to override what states want has built up a toxic legacy over time that no doubt has contributed to the current dismal state of affairs there.

    This takes its most extreme form in cases such as the recent instance where the left cheered as multinational corporations forced Indiana to back down from its ‘religious freedom law’. Did I support that law? No – but was it worse than living in a world where multinational corporations veto laws they don’t like via widespread boycotts and the left cheers them on – not in my opinion.

    If you want the U.K. to be more left wing, that battle has to be fought in the U.K. Otherwise you end up like Greece, bankrupted, strip-mined and humiliated by the E.U. because not enough Greeks have the confidence in their fellow citizens to be willing to manage their own affairs and take the consequences.

  26. Synoia

    Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

    Hmmm…a conundrum expressed elsewhere in life I believe.

    Brexit is a Divorce. In a poor marriage.

    Mark for Ireland: Britain was a poor country in the early 70s, because it had spent itself into debt (under onerous repayment conditions) to fight in 1914 and 1939, an, in addition, had some of the worst labor relations in the world.

    In those days, I missed the answer to the question “What did the management do to worker to make them so bolshie?” Probably because I never saw the question asked.

    I suspect British Management’s treatment of British worker was on a par with British Management’s treatment of the Irish, which you discuss with such ardor.

    I had such a discussion with people from Northern and Southern Ireland, who became firm friends after I admitted the British had a sordid history in Ireland, however, I personally, did none of it.

    Have you considered that British Workers were treated in the same manner as the Irish by the same set of British Management (The British Ruling Class)?

    But, I digress. The British have been asked to express an opinion of their 1975 decision to join the EU (The Common Market), an edifice which was based on trade and a customs union, not on a European government. I believe the current phrase which describe that is “bait and switch.”

    I see the same forces at work in the evolution of the EU in CETA, TPP, TTIP and TISA, which appear to eviscerate Sovereignty in favor of US Hegemony, and wonder if the alternative to those so called trade treaties is not local Sovereignty; for example Brexit.

    Thus Brexit appears as a potential start to say to neo-liberal forces: No!

  27. markfromireland

    @ Sally June 15, 2016

    What I find absolutely remarkable about people like you Sally is your dimwittedness, your stupidity, and your determination to alienate your allies by rushing in bellowing your talking points without first taking the elementary precaution of checking whether they’re allied to you or not.

    If you’d bothered your worthless and lazy arse to check you’d have discovered that I’ve repeatedly said I’m for a British exit – and that such an exit would probably soon be followed by a Swedish and Danish one.

    All of that is distinct from refuting the idiotic half baked American shite spouted by “Field Marshall McLuhan”. In common with the rest of his ilk “Field Marshall McLuhan” will do nothing for you other than stab you in the back when convenient. That’s what American liberals are for, they provide stalking horses and kite flyers (and backstabbers) for the American establishment that’s what they do that’s all they do.

    In your eagerness to rush in where angels fear to tread (that’s a polite way of calling you a fool by invoking a proverb) you haven’t managed to address one of the points I made. So I’ll make the main one again I’ll even highlight it for you in the probably vain hope that doing so will aid your comprehension:

    The EU is a remarkably successful set of institutions. It’s grown from the narrowly focussed original European Coal and Steel Community to a transnational set of institutions which is making a bid to take over the three key areas of sovereignty from its members:

    Law enforcement and the administration of justice.
    Foreign policy.

    Far from contracting it’s expanding with a waiting list of new members.

    It is the fact of this institutional success the expansion both of its functions and its membership that is the most compelling argument for the UK to leave the EU.

    By the way to pretend that the UK is one of the largest contributors to the EU budget is false (as even the Daily Telegraph has been forced to admit) the largest cash contributors are:


    With the UK in fourth place.

    All your other points are points that I’ve made here and other places. May I with absolutely no respect for you whatsoever suggest that you grow the fuck up and learn how to read.

  28. Tom W Harris

    So there!

  29. markfromireland


    Your soft-soaping would work better if it were based in fact. I have never not even once discussed Irish history on the net either with you or with anyone else. As you’ve raised the topic I’ll simply point out that the British establishment’s abominable treatment of the Irish people was done so with the often vociferously expressed support of the British working classes.

    I’ll also point out that many among the more militant wing of Irish republicanism see Brexit as a wonderful opportunity. A disastrously weakened UK will be in a poor position to defend the decaying Unionist society from invigorated Republican militants determined to stick it to the Unionists once and for all. (Not that there’ll be all that many Unionists to stick it to – one very likely consequence of Brexit will be that the current flight from Northern Ireland of Unionist youth will escalate from a steady flow to a flood). The government of the Republic, there is no such country as “Southern Ireland”, will not be in position to do much to hinder a resurgent militant republican movement they’ll be too busy trying to cope with the economic fallout for Ireland of Brexit.

    Yes much of the UK sovereign debt was a result of the two world wars. But that component of the debt was being paid down, it was shrinking, not by much but it was shrinking. The real problem was the disastrous adoption of a cheap food policy. This cheap food policy coupled with both comparative and absolute industrial decline and the concommitant loss of export revenues was the real reason why from the sixties on British sovereign debt was rising and was rapidly becoming utterly unsustainable.

    I’m on record as supporting a British exit from the EU amongst other reasons for the ones I’ve give above to soft Sally.

    The reasons for supporting a British exit are entirely distinct from the EU’s original function which was to tie France and Germany so closely together that it would be impossible for them to devastate the continent by going to war with each other.

    Everything else was subsidiary to and in support of that one overriding goal and it’s been a success.

    There has not been a major war in Europe since 1945 that’s a success.

    There’s been a high price paid for that success and that price includes the continuous expansion of its membership and its institutions.

    However there are many who would say that that expansion is also a success. I can see their point it a success for those institutions my point is that that instituional success represents an abject defeat for the principle of representative government.

    My further point is that the social costs associated with EU membership are now so high that it’s a price no longer worth paying and that’s even allowing for the fact that when payments to the EU is divided by the number of people in the country that far from being a major contributor Britain sinks down the table to become only the eighth-biggest contributors to the EU. Each Dutch citizen for example remits four times as much to Brussels as their British countepart.

    The expansion of the EU institutions also represents an increasing corporatisation of governance – a very bad thing in my view and another reason to leave the EU. But any Briton who thinks that leaving the EU will stem the tide of corporatism in Britain is engaging in massive amounts of self-deception.

    I invite you to look at the way in which Boris Johnson has actively prostituted the welfare of London’s citizenry to property “developers” and foreign investors as an indication of what he and his fellows will do if Britain leaves.

    You might like to consider that among the economists supporting Brexit (see: ) is Patrick Minford (remember him?) Do you remember how the government to which he was a prominent advisor devastated British industry and infrastructure? He wants more of the same:

    Over time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly
    eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing
    and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us.

    Cited in Financial times here:

    original source here:

    Like most “free trade” proponents Minford and his fellows are perfectly happy that a tiny minority become very rich and are indifferent to the fact that the lives and livelihoods of the overwhelming majority of the citizenry will be devastated in creating the conditions under which this will take place. Minford is fully supportive of the current British government actively campaigning for TTIP – Cameron or his successor will rush to sign each and every agreement Washington proposes and he’ll be able to do so free of the hindrances imposed by needing to consult with other governments.

    To try to pretend that the very people ardently pushing “free trade” (American corporate hegemony ) will suddenly stop doing so is profoundly dishonest* on the contrary they’ll redouble their efforts.

    Leaving the EU that in common with the UK has been largely captured by neo-liberalism before it entangles itself further makes economic sense because it has the potential to create the conditions in the UK or whichever rump of it remains to rebuild a society that looks after its people and an economy that makes and exports things that people living in other countries want to buy.

    It makes geo-political sense because being tied to an increasingly assertive Germany is bad news for the UK.

    It makes local political sense because it provides the potential for the UK citizenry to overthrow the present British establishment which is inimical to their welfare but all of those are medium to long term factors. In the short term the result of a British exit will be massively increased suffering for the least well off and massively increased uncertainty and loss of opportunity coupled with a decline in quality of life for everyone except the very top sections of the British political, legal, and financial establishments.

    There’s no good solution to the British dilemma – Brexit is the least bad of the solutions on offer and there’s no guarantee that even if Brexit takes place that it will better the lot of the average British citizen. It’s a leap in the dark – a leap of faith and anyone who pretends otherwise is a fool a liar or both.


    *It’s as dishonest as the sort of British soi disant “liberal” who spent lucrative years in South Africa propping up the apartheid regime’s economy trying to pretend that they were doing anything other than actively supporting the racial, social, and political goals enunciated by Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.

  30. markfromireland

    For those interested in the deplorably dishonest way in which the debate has been conducted in the UK:

    This article in Business Insider raises some pertinent issues –
    The EU referendum is ridiculous and it should not be taking place

    The Financial Times’ Tim Hartford has a very good article on the use and misuse of statistics in political rhetoric and practice – How politicians poisoned statistics Tim Harford

    and finally Peter Oborne’s invaluable The Rise of Political Lying Paperback – 11 Apr 2005 warned more than 10 years ago about the way in which politics is increasingly conducted.

    If you’re interested in Statistics but have never got to grips with them Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics Reissue Edition remains as relevant and as easy to understand even by those with an aversion to mathematics as when it was first published in 1954. Read Huff and you’ll be well equipped to start disentangling fact from political mendacity.

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