Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..

with 7 comments

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Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.

Don’t lump together Brexit and Trump.

Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.

There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.

It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.

And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.

Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.

There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.


Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.

But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.

Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.

It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.

It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.

There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.

But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.

It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.

Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.

It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit  was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”

It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.

It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe)  and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.

No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.

How Brexit  was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.

One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.

As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.

This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).

On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”

Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’[8]

Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.

In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.

Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.

Now, how exactly  is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others  that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?



7 Responses

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  1. On the “elite” question – I always find it interesting walking around town at election time and looking at the geographical distribution of party posters.

    Where I live, in the less-salubrious area of town, next to the two main council estates, you get the odd Labour poster but most don’t seem bother to vote at all – on the basis of conversations I’ve had with residents.

    Walk a kilometre to the west and you start to see flashes of purple. This is the sort of territory where people own their own homes and cars – nothing particularly fancy – but they live nothing like the precarious lives of many of my neighbours.

    Walk further towards the countryside and it all goes blue. 5-6 bedroom houses with nice landscaped gardens.

    Walk back east, towards the University, and it all goes red, with splashes of yellow and green – mainly academics and students, with decent educational backgrounds.

    I think the standard psychological profile of the purples (your hardcore Brexiter) is that they despise the urban poor (particularly those from migrant backgrounds struggling to build a new life) and passionately aspire to live like the blues. But the people they hate most are the well-educated, from any class background, who “sneer” at the vacuous materialism of their life ambitions. They are the real “elite” in the eyes of the purples – those that like reading books and aren’t interested in house prices or Top-Gear.

    alex ross

    February 23, 2017 at 5:02 pm

  2. I personally find it hard to think of most people even using the word “elite”.

    It just does not come naturally – perhaps in the USA where they talk about the “liberal elite”.

    There are also plenty of people in working class jobs who like reading books, thinking for themselves, and who are on the left, and….who voted Remain.

    It is patronising of the likes of the Brexit left to imagine that working class means some kind of more ‘authentic’ ‘real’ people, railing at the ‘elite’, who voted Leave to express their pent-up anger against the ‘establishment’ (another word I find hard to imagine people actually saying).

    There is a lot in what you say Alex about Kippers, their hard core supporters, and those who volubly vote for them.

    There is equally that so-called third who are xenophobic, from being anti ‘Brussels’ (a hate they never show about Westminster) to anti migrants.

    The idea that you can channel their ‘anger’ to whatever the SWP and those of its ilk dream of, is just that, an idea, not a reality.

    Andrew Coates

    February 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm

  3. WEll done, Coatesy, for once again debunking the “left”-Brexiteer’s nonsense claim that immigration was not the main driving force behind the Leave vote. They usually refer to the Ashcroft poll (or in the case of Socialist Worker, to unspecified “polls”), which put immigration second as the main reason cited by Leave voters, behind “The principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK” : but that’s just code for immigration, isn’t it!

    On this the Torygraph is a more honest and reliable guide than Socialist Worker or the Morning Star:

    Jim Denham

    February 23, 2017 at 9:24 pm

  4. Whatever happened to Stand up to UKIP?

    Is is now sit down and discuss with their supporters to “channel” their anger?

    Andrew Coates

    February 24, 2017 at 12:26 pm

  5. Well I’m a former underclass, ‘chavvy’ type who ended up getting a degree and voting Remain, and I absolutely share the contempt for the middle class left I’ve probably become a part of. The sanctimony, the lecturing of poor people about things they will never experience themselves, the virtue signalling, the armchair activism, the naive arrogance, the consumerist self-interest beneath a hypocritical pretence of being above such crass things, the pretence of being champions of the white poor they despise. Sneering at and excluding those who don’t understand the academic in-group language they use. Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, self-absorbed hypocrisy. There is a wider cultural gulf between these worlds than the middle class are willing to acknowledge.

    My frustration with the anti-intellectualism and proud ignorance of the people I grew up with is a whole other matter, but I do understand it, emotionally. It does FEEL like rebellion, even if ultimately it leaves you even more powerless. I believe it has roots in the tripartite system. A culture that developed among those labelled as failures and segregated off with the rest of the factory fodder, no social mobility for you, son.

    Labour DID abandon these people to court the middle classes, even if that’s hardly immigrants’ fault. Middle class lefties DO show open contempt for their lifestyles, food, clothing, speech, entertainment, and have done for years, while patting themselves on the back for their egalitarianism. They need to get off their high horses and acknowledge their role in perpetuating the divisions that led to this mess.

    In short: the metropolitan liberal elite exists, and people are right to have a grievance with it. This simplistic populism is not the way, but populism is always a response to something real.

    Tash C

    May 15, 2017 at 6:09 am

  6. I would recommend Winlow and Hall’s Rise of the Right, if you haven’t read it.

    People on the bottom end of a capitalist system that is fundamentally based on competition, who have a harder job meeting basic needs, are not all going to be models of virtuous compassion for all. They will tend towards looking after their own, and seeing newcomers as an economic threat. I know this from personal experience, and no of course it’s not everyone, before I’m accused of patronising my own people. But it is an entirely different culture to that of people who have always lived comfortable lives of cultural and economic capital. It’s easier to be unconditionally compassionate when you’ve never been expected to compete for scraps.

    Tash C

    May 15, 2017 at 6:27 am

  7. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. There is no fee, I’m simply trying tou add more content diversity for our community and I liked what you wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.


    Autumn Cote

    May 16, 2017 at 6:27 am

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