Exit, Stage Right

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 1:17 pm by George Smith

Having just read “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” by Owen Jones, I’d expect the Brexit vote to break along class and perceived class lines. Older, northern England, shafted by the Tories and New Labour for exit. Everyone else for staying.

Many exceptions, too, like this rationalization, part of old vs. young in a piece yesterday from the New York Times, plus worries about a plunging economy:

“Louise said she understood the pressures that immigration placed on schools and hospitals. But leaving the European Union worried her, she said, because it risked wrecking the economy and making it hard for young people to secure employment. It took her eight months to find work as a barista, she said.”

This is all through “Chavs,” the updated edition which I have, dating from 2012.

As in the US, government policies, in the UK, starting with Thatcher, made the British economy lethal for millions of its workers. “Chavs” explains the result in terms of the UK not being able to generate sufficient jobs, period. Those that exist pay very poorly.

If it takes eight months to find work as a barista, it seems to me the underlying problem of simply finding even subsistence work is so severe that it won’t be affected by either staying or leaving.

And the argument left out of the anecdotaly New York Times piece, which I did not know, is that a number of Tories vigorously support Brexit because a vote for leaving the E.U. will allow them to apply even more pressure to the working class.

A columnist describes it at the Guardian:

“But, all over Britain, people have fallen for the scam. In the Brexit referendum, we’ve seen what happens when working-class culture gets hijacked – and when the party that is supposed to be defending working people just cannot find the language or the offer to separate a fake revolt from a real one. In many working-class communities, people are getting ready to vote leave not just as a way of telling the neoliberal elite to get stuffed. They also want to discomfort the metropolitan, liberal, university-educated salariat for good measure…

“I want to have one last go at convincing you that leaving now, under these conditions, would be a disaster. First, let’s recognise the problem. For people in the working classes, wages are at rock bottom. Their employers treat them like dirt. Their high streets are lined with empty shops. Their grownup kids cannot afford to buy a home. Class sizes at school are too high. NHS waiting times are too long …

“But a Brexit led by Ukip and the Tory right will not make any of these things better: it will make them worse. Take a look at the people leading the Brexit movement. Nigel Farage, Neil Hamilton, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove. They have fought all their lives for one objective: to give more power to employers and less to workers. Many leading Brexiters are on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. They revelled in the destruction of the working-class communities and cultures capable of staging real revolt.”

Achingly familiar, is it not?

From Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Thomas Frank, to get to Donald Trump, as well, and his appeal, obviously he has focused a lot of his attention on these trade deals, on NAFTA and the Pacific trade partnership. What about the appeal of Trump to working-class voters? Is that real or not, from what you can tell?

THOMAS FRANK: Well, it’s real, but it’s—I mean, it’s shrinking fast. I mean, this guy is—this guy is a gold-plated buffoon, you know? What we have to—what we have to consider here with Donald Trump is we have to understand that what’s happening with Donald Trump, this is not—you know, there’s all sorts of different ways of describing it, but what we’re really seeing here is a reaction to—I mean, you know, to inequality. This is what it looks like when vast parts of America are—you know, when the economy has basically dried up and blown away. You know, this is what deindustrialization—at the end of the day, this is what it looks like, when, you know, Democrats go around celebrating this wonderful new information economy that we’re in. And by the way, they’re doing it today on The New York Times op-ed page; they do it all the time. They celebrate that. And the other side of the coin is that, you know, the middle class is shrinking. Wages never go anywhere. You know, the percentage of the gross national product that is—that goes to labor these days is the lowest it has ever been since World War II. You know, look, for a lot of people, the promise of American life is over. It’s gone.

And this is only going to get worse under a Hillary Clinton presidency. And, well, it would get much, much worse under a Donald Trump presidency. But what I’m getting at here is that this phenomenon, inequality, is going to get worse. All the problems that we’re looking at today, our economic problems, are going to—are going to get worse. And four years from now, you’re going to have another Trump.

Owen Jones, at the end of Chavs, writes (remember, this is 2012):

It would be tempting to make all sorts of doom-laden, apocalyptic predictions about what will happen if such a [global labor movement] fails to get off the ground, and warn darkly of riots and revolutions. The reality is just downright depressing. The working class will remain weak and voice-less. They will still be the butt of jokes at middle-class dinner parties, detested in angry right-wing newspaper columns, and ridiculed in TV sitcoms. Entire communities will remain without secure, well-paid work, and the people that comprise them will continue to be demonized for it. Living standards will go on stagnating and declining, even while the richest rake it in like never before. Ever fewer working-class people will bother to vote. Right-wing populism will tap into growing disillusionment and fury at the manner in which working-class people have become so despised. Mainstream politicians will continue to focus their energies on satisfying the demands of a small, wealthy elite, while growing ever more indifferent to the needs of an increasingly apathetic working class…

At its heart, the demonization of the working class is the flagrant triumphal ism of the rich who, no longer challenged by those below them, instead point and laugh at them.

Join any conversation with members of the Democratic Party and nine times out of ten, right now you’ll hear the same mockery and total dismissal of those supporting Donald Trump.

Much of the HRC campaign will be devoted to eye-rolling at the demagogue and his followers. The message, plain as the nose on your face: Look how pathetic and unfit for anything they are.


  1. anon said,

    June 23, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Just checked the Guardian’s website (~22:15 USA east coast time on 23 June 2016), they are posting Brexit voting results as they come, currently about 50-49 in favor of leaving, but with only about 120 of 382 voting districts (or whatever they call them over there) that have finished counting.
    One of the other major headlines was that the Pound Sterling (TM) was dropping in value against other currencies, probably on some level brought on merely by having this vote.
    Can’t disagree about the other points made here. There’s been a massive bait-and-switch going on, first against the working class and then against the middle class, probably since Nixon.

  2. George Smith said,

    June 23, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Yep, it’s over. Leave won by at least a million votes. NY Times headline: British Stun World.

    Will have a bit more to say tomorrow.

  3. Christoph Hechl said,

    June 24, 2016 at 8:00 am

    British parliament is not bound by this vote. The members are at least two thirds in favor of “stay”. I don’t see them out yet, some idiotic excuse probably like “i did it for the commonwealth” will be used to appologize for ignoring the voters will.
    But i bet some hefty profits have been made tonight by traders with short calls.

  4. George Smith said,

    June 24, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Interesting because it’s one extended sneer at right wing revolt by a guy I used to see regularly on MSNBC, the progressive left network that’s seen most of its shows tank except for Rachel Maddow.


    “Nationalism is a unifying force that exploits the resentment of economic and demographic upheaval. It is much easier to blame shadowy foreign powers and immigrants than it is to help older workers adapt to new skills in new industries.,” he writes.

    It’s quite correct. What he doesn’t add is that the governments in power, from Cameron in England to Obama in the United States, as well as the example of Clintonism, do nothing at all to help “older workers,” or even young ones “adapt to new skills in new industries.”

    Other than “go back to school” they offer nothing. For decades it’s been, you’re on your own. If you don’t rise it’s because of your bad choices, or lack of talent, or you went to the wrong schools, or not enough schools, or some variation/combination on that.

    The sense of betrayal by and distrust of the elites is so rampant, it doesn’t matter who says it. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts,” said Michael Gove, the Oxford-educated justice secretary, who also compared pro-EU economists to Nazi scientists.

    The economy of England destroyed or maimed millions of lives, just as it has here.

    And there’s been a vacuum in leadership. The top had no problem with the wreckage of not just the underclass, but expanding into the middle class. The vacuum is being filled by all the forces this guy, Richard Wolffe, complains about when not just emitting a barrage of insults concerning character and intelligence.

    If Remain had won he’d still have been writing a column today, one not substantially different. It just would have been an extended victory sneer.