Why the British Said No to Europe by John Pilger

NATO protest Strasbourg 4-4-09

Image by Jos van Zetten via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

by John Pilger
johnpilger.com, June 25, 2016
June 27, 2016

The majority vote by Britons to leave the European Union was an act of raw democracy. Millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied, intimidated and dismissed with open contempt by their presumed betters in the major parties, the leaders of the business and banking oligarchy and the media.

This was, in great part, a vote by those angered and demoralised by the sheer arrogance of the apologists for the “remain” campaign and the dismemberment of a socially just civil life in Britain. The last bastion of the historic reforms of 1945, the National Health Service, has been so subverted by Tory and Labour-supported privateers it is fighting for its life.

A forewarning came when the Treasurer, George Osborne, the embodiment of both Britain’s ancient regime and the banking mafia in Europe, threatened to cut £30 billion from public services if people voted the wrong way; it was blackmail on a shocking scale.

Immigration was exploited in the campaign with consummate cynicism, not only by populist politicians from the lunar right, but by Labour politicians drawing on their own venerable tradition of promoting and nurturing racism, a symptom of corruption not at the bottom but at the top. The reason millions of refugees have fled the Middle East – first Iraq, now Syria – are the invasions and imperial mayhem of Britain, the United States, France, the European Union and Nato. Before that, there was the wilful destruction of Yugoslavia. Before that, there was the theft of Palestine and the imposition of Israel.

The pith helmets may have long gone, but the blood has never dried. A nineteenth century contempt for countries and peoples, depending on their degree of colonial usefulness, remains a centrepiece of modern “globalisation”, with its perverse socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor: its freedom for capital and denial of freedom to labour; its perfidious politicians and politicised civil servants.

All this has now come home to Europe, enriching the likes of Tony Blair and impoverishing and disempowering millions. On 23 June, the British said no more.

The most effective propagandists of the “European ideal” have not been the far right, but an insufferably patrician class for whom metropolitan London is the United Kingdom. Its leading members see themselves as liberal, enlightened, cultivated tribunes of the 21st century zeitgeist, even “cool”. What they really are is a bourgeoisie with insatiable consumerist tastes and ancient instincts of their own superiority. In their house paper, the Guardian, they have gloated, day after day, at those who would even consider the EU profoundly undemocratic, a source of social injustice and a virulent extremism known as “neoliberalism”.

The aim of this extremism is to install a permanent, capitalist theocracy that ensures a two-thirds society, with the majority divided and indebted, managed by a corporate class, and a permanent working poor. In Britain today, 63 per cent of poor children grow up in families where one member is working. For them, the trap has closed. More than 600,000 residents of Britain’s second city, Greater Manchester, are, reports a study, “experiencing the effects of extreme poverty” and 1.6 million are slipping into penury.

Little of this social catastrophe is acknowledged in the bourgeois controlled media, notably the Oxbridge dominated BBC. During the referendum campaign, almost no insightful analysis was allowed to intrude upon the clichéd hysteria about “leaving Europe”, as if Britain was about to be towed in hostile currents somewhere north of Iceland.

On the morning after the vote, a BBC radio reporter welcomed politicians to his studio as old chums. “Well,” he said to “Lord” Peter Mandelson, the disgraced architect of Blairism, “why do these people want it so badly?” The “these people” are the majority of Britons.

The wealthy war criminal Tony Blair remains a hero of the Mandelson “European” class, though few will say so these days. The Guardian once described Blair as “mystical” and has been true to his “project” of rapacious war. The day after the vote, the columnist Martin Kettle offered a Brechtian solution to the misuse of democracy by the masses. “Now surely we can agree referendums are bad for Britain”, said the headline over his full-page piece. The “we” was unexplained but understood – just as “these people” is understood. “The referendum has conferred less legitimacy on politics, not more,” wrote Kettle. ” … the verdict on referendums should be a ruthless one. Never again.”

The kind of ruthlessness Kettle longs for is found in Greece, a country now airbrushed. There, they had a referendum and the result was ignored. Like the Labour Party in Britain, the leaders of the Syriza government in Athens are the products of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, groomed in the fakery and political treachery of post-modernism. The Greek people courageously used the referendum to demand their government sought “better terms” with a venal status quo in Brussels that was crushing the life out of their country. They were betrayed, as the British would have been betrayed.

On Friday, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was asked by the BBC if he would pay tribute to the departed Cameron, his comrade in the “remain” campaign. Corbyn fulsomely praised Cameron’s “dignity” and noted his backing for gay marriage and his apology to the Irish families of the dead of Bloody Sunday. He said nothing about Cameron’s divisiveness, his brutal austerity policies, his lies about “protecting” the Health Service. Neither did he remind people of the war mongering of the Cameron government: the dispatch of British special forces to Libya and British bomb aimers to Saudi Arabia and, above all, the beckoning of world war three.

In the week of the referendum vote, no British politician and, to my knowledge, no journalist referred to Vladimir Putin’s speech in St. Petersburg commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941. The Soviet victory – at a cost of 27 million Soviet lives and the majority of all German forces – won the Second World War.

Putin likened the current frenzied build up of Nato troops and war material on Russia’s western borders to the Third Reich’s Operation Barbarossa. Nato’s exercises in Poland were the biggest since the Nazi invasion; Operation Anaconda had simulated an attack on Russia, presumably with nuclear weapons. On the eve of the referendum, the quisling secretary-general of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, warned Britons they would be endangering “peace and security” if they voted to leave the EU. The millions who ignored him and Cameron, Osborne, Corbyn, Obama and the man who runs the Bank of England may, just may, have struck a blow for real peace and democracy in Europe.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

see also:

The fallacy, and the failure of reformism By William Bowles

The blame game By William Bowles

Aprés la Deluge By William Bowles

Brexit As Working Class Rebellion Against Free Trade by Jack Rasmus

from the archives:

Michael Hudson: How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote

The Tory Chickens Come Home To Roost by William Bowles

Exiting the EU by William Bowles

NATO’s Anakonda: A Beast That Preys on Its Own? by Finian Cunningham

Silencing the United States as It Prepares for War by John Pilger

John Pilger: The Threat of World War Three

A World War Has Begun by John Pilger

14 thoughts on “Why the British Said No to Europe by John Pilger

  1. Pingback: John Pilger: Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa and the Plight of the Working Class – Dandelion Salad

  2. A belated reply to this, but the real reason for the ‘Brexit’ vote was that there was never a referendum on ‘Brentry’ back in 1991 or early 1992, so the longer a referendum was deferred the more likely a ‘Leave’ vote became as the generation denied a say for so long (myself among them) decided to kick back. Not what the political establishment had hoped for. P.S. 7th February marks the 25th anniversary of John Major signing the Treaty of European Union, the root cause of the problem.

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  10. The central issue in Europe, as I understand it, is that German engineering quality and manufacturing automation are putting everyone else out of business. England has survived from its role in financial services, but the Brexit vote will probably allow Frankfurt to steal that plum.

    The industrialized world was happy to export its poverty to the third world for the last 50 years. While it is satisfying to cry “greed” of the “overlords”, so do the jihadists speak of the West as a whole. Happy to live in luxury unknown to our predecessors, we ignored the plight of our brothers overseas, and now find ourselves unable to escape their fate. If we would have brought them along in our success, the twin pressures of automation and low overseas wages wouldn’t be pinching us so hard now.

  11. I firmly argue that the European Union is a democratic institution, when one pays attention to what is being said in their meetings and looks at the projects they support. The EU is not NATO>
    People may see Greece as airbrushed but the opposition government that came to power – that would Syriza – did nothing, nothing for the people of Greece, not even one teeny time job making project. And when the EU offered Syriza that met the demands of Syriza – still Syriza turned it down. Read the primary documents!! The prime minister (Syriza) has followed the business party in Greece (New Democracy) like a puppy with a tail between his legs. The prime minister has not honored one promise or has done the opposite of what he said he would do. The EU is not picking on poor Greece; please stop making Greece out to be a victim. Opposition parties here as in other countries often continue to be opposition parties even when they come to power. Unfortunately. And if you want to talk about the fascism of the average Syriza member of supporter – all I can say is that there is plenty to talk about. (ex. you are with us or against us and if you are against us you are slime, etc. but they are not very intimidating just make for a bad atmosphere as they try to intimidate anyone who can have an adult conversation about policy.

  12. A poignant and insightful piece from John Pilger, but…

    This is really all about means and ends; the binary referendum furnished the seismic means. Regrettably, the ends are not yet in sight; as it is one thing to shake an obsolete structure, quite another to have the architectural plans in hand for its replacement.

    Besides, as Paul Craig Roberts makes so abundantly clear, the real problem isn’t actually in Europe itself, but emanates directly from the Euro Group’s ‘handlers’ ~ back in the USA.

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