Brexit: A watershed moment

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By Louis E A Moyston

The outcome of the 2019 elections in Great Britain is instructive regarding the nature of contemporary British and global politics. The case of the victory of the Tories, dubbing its Government as the “peoples” government, is quite a turnaround in the history of modern UK politics. The results of the elections were clear signs of the definition of the post-Cold War politics; Brexit “fatigue”; the grave consequences of privatisation and de-industrialisation in UK; and also an important lesson concerning current American politics.

Of course, the complex issue of European nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiments in England, and also the issue of internal party coherency were associated with the defeat of the Labour Party by Conservatives. The process of de-industrialisation and some consequences of the application of the new technology at the workplace have contributed to the failure of politics, and this disenchantment with politics had fed the Brexit fatigue. There may well be lessons for Jamaica between those lines and spaces.

The 2019 Great Britain elections offer important lessons on nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe, and also how internal problems of the Labour Party and party error in modernisation led to its huge defeat. There were the major issues concerning the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and his strange style of politics. His resolve and firmness to have a second referendum on Brexit going into the election was a very bad decision. In response to modernisation the party embarked on a policy to attract youth voters by sacking of many experienced leaders for young and inexperienced activists. The charge of anti-Semitism against Labour was a significant election issue led by Tory support groups and the media, but it must be noted that English racism and nationalism asserted its power against the Labour Party — the latter charge is similar to the Republicans against the Democratic Party in the US, in terms of the party that Africans, Muslims, and Asians, by and large, seek membership and give support. Labour’s indecisiveness regarding Brexit, and its inability to muster wider alliances with other progressive forces, was no match for Boris Johnson’s bold and decisive plan.

The “prosperity” associated with the market and privatisation is ephemeral, and that the process in England — coupled with de-industrialisation — contributed to serious economic crisis that led to grave and severe social dislocations in Britain. The Labour Party, its trade union, and mass organisations have not adjusted well to the new technological frontier and de-industrialisation, and how they influenced contemporary politics. The new technologies continue to erode democratic institutions — as the printing press led to the collapse of the Roman Empire and to the birth of Protestantism, the Internet will lead to the profound political transformation by giving direct access to citizens at the local level. It should be remembered that the maturation of the age of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries contributed to massive transformation of politics in England, including the passage of laws to put an end to the African slave trade.

The result of the 2019 elections in Great Britain not only serves as a defining moment in time for the UK, but also a turning point of what is happening in the Eurocentric world, meaning continental Europe and the US, and Canada to a lesser extent, in the 2019 elections. Generally speaking, white supremacy is on the rise in Europe and the Eurocentric world composing a feature of post-Cold War politics characterised by the declining western civilisation and the rise of nationalism and culture, along with the gathering of peoples with similar historical and cultural background. The voting along nationalist line was crystal clear in Northern Ireland and Scotland English nationalism, and to a lesser extent Welsh nationalism. The ending of the Cold War, and the division of the world into ideological camps and political networks, has yielded to basic propensity to find meaning and identity in cultural commonality in blood, in religion, heritage, and birthright. This view posits that peoples and countries “with similar cultures are coming together”.

Winston Churchill was big on European Union (EU) after the Second World War, but the modern-day British leaders and people were never that really enthusiastic about the EU; for example, the pound was not displaced by the euro. In 2019 the Empire struck back in the age of the resurrection and rise of nationalism in Europe with Brexit. The resurgence of blood, culture, and heritage politics in Europe coincided with the movement of refugees and immigrants to Europe and America from the South — the setting poverty propelling those from Africa — and the wars and the instabilities in the Middle East sending hundreds of thousands packing for Europe. Similarly to the US, immigrants in England were blamed for the poor state of social and economic conditions. In the case of America, the Donald Trump Administration denied entry into that country to people and immigrants from selected Muslim countries, and the president closed the border to the south of the country to the mass migration of primarily Central Americans and Mexicans. His message was very clear, he was protecting the country’s economy and culture and also keeping it safe from drugs and crime. Regarding the current trend in America, Trump’s Eurocentric thrust, his arrogance, feeling of superiority, his self-declaration as “the anointed one”, coupled with Boris Johnson’s declaration in his opening statement in Parliament for the reclamation of “our national destiny”, these are clear acts of the manipulation of symbols presenting clear signals of their resurgent hubristic forces and practices of solipsism. There is a view that in order to stop the decline of western civilization, the West should stop interfering in other countries domestic affairs and “come home to its own moral disarray and begin setting its own house in order. Its relative decline vis-à-vis the rising civilisations of China and Japan is bound to increase; and unless we (the West) reassert pride in our core values, teach them to our children, and halt the slide in crime, hedonism and the queasy moral relativism”. The racist thrust and anti-immigrant push in England and the US will prove to be their Achilles heel in their domestic spheres and also in the global society, hence leading to the decline of the Anglo-Saxon global hegemony.(Reprinted from the Jamaica Observer; Louis E A Moyston, PhD, is a university lecturer).

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