Is Brexit The Beginning Of The End For Neoliberalism?


As with almost everything the discussions surrounding the Brexit are organizing themselves into the typical ‘left vs. right’ pattern that pollutes much of our political discourse. While it is easy to paint the ‘Leave’ voters as driven purely by nationalist xenophobia and general anti-European sentiment, it is just as easy to scrutinize the ‘Remain’ voters as being too ideologically fixed in their longing for greater levels of international cooperation, causing them to overlook the folly of trying to manufacture international unity with a nebula of non-elected bureaucratic entities whose binding decisions often benefit economic elites while demanding sacrifices for the greater good from the underclasses.

And who decided Democracy by proxy was a good idea anyway? The idea that extra-governmental bodies should be in place to ‘reign in’ the excesses of national sovereignty is not an idea I oppose on principle. I do oppose, however, the notion that the best way to accomplish that goal is through bureaucratic complexity rather than citizen participation.

The European Union as it exists today represents an expansion of authoritarian, anti-democratic structures rather than the antidote to such structures that it should aspire towards being. While some see the EU has being a strong body working toward the interests of the underclasses, what it truly represents is a union of the corporate elite, working at all times to further the financialization of economies, enforce measures that harm human beings, such as austerity and make business more palatable for large corporations across the European continent through neoliberal trade policies and restrictions on more democratic expressions of power such as collective bargaining rights of workers.

As Enrico Tortolano writes:

The consolidation of the EU treaties and judicial rulings into the European Constitution—renamed the Lisbon Treaty—meant even the concept of a Social Chapter was the stuff of Alice in Wonderland. EU member states that have been ‘bailed out’—the bailout funds actually went to French and German banks—by the troika have suffered the biggest fall in collective bargaining rights in the world. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) collective bargaining rights have fallen by an average of 21% across the ten EU countries hardest hit by the economic crisis, and have fallen by a massive 63% in Romania and 45% in Greece. The anti-trade union laws and polices passed and implemented in the UK are actually just regional versions of the articles laid down in the Lisbon Treaty. The message is clear: the EU is no place for trade unionists.

The lie of globalization is in the conceit that the globalizing is being done for the benefit of everyone and not just those who stand to directly benefit. The Neoliberal project is at its heart the idea that globalizing markets for the benefit of corporate entities is inherently good. There is passing concern given to the fundamental needs and rights of the global citizenry, but they do not weigh at all on the decision-making process. Rather, it is assumed that the benefits of globalization will ‘trickle down’ to the underclasses, the precariat. In this sense we can refer to Neoliberalism contemptibly as ‘trickle down globalization.’

I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to grovel for things that are supposed to ‘trickle down’ to me.

A real internationalism is forged via solidarity between workers, the underclasses, the precariat. In their ideological quest for international unity, too many on the left fall back on appeals to authoritarian, centralized structures such as the European Union. Such centralized authoritarian structures naturally have the tendency to fall into the pattern of collusion with powerful corporate entities. Those on the left who are willing to look past this fundamental flaw in the interest of the ideologically rigid desire for international unity I refer to as the ‘authoritarian left.’ These are the same people who in the United States will support the authoritarian, corporate-entrenched Democratic Party despite its flaws because of a fixed ideological commitment to a number of the party’s positions, most dealing with identity politics and other social wedge issues.

Solutions to our problems are going to come from among us, not in unaccessible board rooms filled with bureaucrats and business people. Via communication and organization, the worldwide underclasses can defeat the authoritarian clans that control the world via war, financial manipulation, and restraints on individual rights. Slavery to their hierarchical power structures may seem like an easy road to victory, but it’s a dead end. The elites who run the world are not going to build us a path to their destruction. It’s up to us.



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Rob Cotton

Nomadic scribe. Anarcho-phenomenologist.

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