The Europhile Left loses the plot

Regular readers will know that I have delved into social psychology in the last decade or so as a way of educating myself on why ideas survive when their logical consistency is lacking and their empirical content is zero. I have gained a good understanding of this phenomenon by exploring the literature on patterned group behaviour and the work by Irving Janis in the early 1970s on Groupthink. While I usually demonstrate instances of this destructive group behaviour on the part of the Right, it is also clear that that the Europhile Left is riddled with the problem. To the point of not even valuing debate anymore. At the weekend (April 29, 2018), the excellent Jacobin magazine published an Op Ed piece by myself and Thomas Fazi – Why the Left Should Embrace Brexit – which considered the Brexit issue and provided an up-to-date (with the data) case against the on-going hysteria that Britain is about to fall off some massive cliff as a result of its democratically-arrived at decision to exit the neoliberal contrivance that the European Union has become. The article was rather moderate in fact and considered the on-going failure of the apocalyptic arguments that have been introduced against Brexit, both before and after the Referendum. But the social media response (negative) has been at elevated levels of hysteria. Inane claims. Groupthink in action. And it is why the progressive cause is such a push over by the organised Right.

I hinted at our Jacobin argument in this recent blog post – The facts suggest Britain is not as reliant on EU as the Remain camp claim (April 16, 2018) – and if you want some facts that blog post has them as does the Jacobin article, which built on the blog post. The facts are presented at a reasoned level of detail.

The social media response to the Jacobin article has been beyond amazing. Remember this is magazine (and its on-line counterpart) describes itself as (Source):

… a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.

It is not likely that right-wingers (at least in one meaning of that term) would read Jacobin.

It is apparent from the response that there is, what I would call a ‘right-wing’ element on the Left though – in the sense that many commentators on the article – struggling to offer just a few words within the limits of their hysteria – have recommended Jacobin editors “delete” the article (‘burn the books’) or accused the editors of being “asleep” when they published our work.

One character wrote on Jacobin’s Facebook page that our article was “inchoate drivel” with no further input. He obviously had his English dictionary open next to him and wanted us to be impressed by his appearance of being very literate.

Another commentator said that he could “guarantee the authors of this are american”, while another said we obviously didn’t care about jobs (“The far left Lexiters care little about jobs”), obviously not aware of any of my work over the last 30 or more years.

Another dismissed the article as “clickbait for the progressively minded”. Nothing further added. Good work there.

Someone else opined that “This really is too silly. Were the jacobin grownups asleep when this was published?”, while another enquired about the health of Jacobin (“are u ok?”).

Another said it was just a case of the “The idiot left strikes again” – strong argument that. Another just wanted the Nazi option, “Delete this” – a modern version of ‘burn the books’.

Some social media expert invoked a deity “Oh god – I may need to “unfollow” Jacobin” – which probably wouldn’t bother them one bit. The IQ of its readership would increase.

Someone else said we were just providing “fuel for nationalists” as if the EU and the Eurozone hasn’t already done that.

Some other commentator, clearly totally on top of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) not!, tried to be funny by claiming that we would be supporting “Calexit” (California leaving the US).

And so as to demonstrate that they can engage with sophisticated argument, another commentator provided the following comment – “what bullshit”. That depth of engagement probably required all of the intellectual facilities that were available to that person.

I stopped reading the feedback given the level of sophistication was above what my pitiful, Brexit-supporting brain could reasonably be expected to comprehend.

I am glad I decline to have a Facebook account. The Twitter responses were also hysterical.

This prompted the European editor of Jacobin, who did a lot of great editorial work on our article (Thanks to him for a very professional job) issuing the following Tweet (April 29, 2018):

Yes it is bizarre that the anti-Brexit Left do not even want a debate. They just called on Jacobin editors to “delete it”. Why? Because evidence and well-argued points challenge their Pro-European hysteria.

And the nonsense reached a very moral low-point where honesty disappeared and meagre venal bile ruled when a commentator accused us of “siding with … [the] … murderer” of British Labour MP Jo Cox.

The European Editor of Jacobin @ronanburtenshaw has provided a solid wall against this bile today.

Here is a snippet from his Twitter account. Plaudits to him!

And:

While my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – accused the Right of being trapped in Groupthink, a concept that was introduced into the literature by the work of Irving Janis in 1972, the hysteria displayed in the last few days by the ‘Left’ is symptomatic of a group that is captured in this same destructive dynamic.

The original reference by the way is Irving L. Janis, Victims of Groupthink (New York: Houghton Mifflin).

Irving Janis identified communities of scholars working within a dominant culture, which provides its members which a sense of belonging and joint purpose but also renders them oblivious and hostile to new and superior ways of thinking.

The ‘communities’ do not have to be of ‘scholars’ or within the academy. All groups are susceptible to Groupthink were their decision-making deteriorates due to what Irving Janis said was the force of “group pressure” leading a decline in “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”.

Irving Janis wrote:

I use the term groupthink as a quick and easy way to refer to the mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive ingroup that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action …

requires each member to avoid raising controversial issues …

Note, this patterned behaviour “tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action”.

The group dynamics becomes a sort of ‘mob-rule’ that maintains discipline within paradigms. Conformity is required if one wishes to remain within the group and benefit from it personally.

Applying that sort of ‘mob-rule’ behaviour to the social media response to our Jacobin article would give a high concordance.

As would an application of the eight “symptoms” that Irving Janis says define Groupthink:

1. An illusion of invulnerability.
2. A collective rationalisation.
3. The belief in inherent morality.
4. The capacity to hold stereotyped views of out-groups
5. Direct pressure on dissenters.
6. The capacity to self-censorship.
7. The illusion of unanimity.
8. Self-appointed mind guards.

Groupthink becomes apparent to the outside world when there is a crisis or in Janis’s words a ‘fiasco’.

The 8 symptoms are clearly identifiable in the way the Europhile Left tend to respond to any proposal that offers an alternative to their vision of a grand European democracy, delivering progressive outcomes to a fully-engaged (politically) citizenship.

If one dares mention Brexit, the sort of repulsion that the Jacobin article has generated follows quickly.

That is Groupthink. It is ugly. But it is, moreover, a sign that the ‘group’ has lost (or is losing) touch with the facts.

You get a sense how everything that is negative in the UK at present has a ‘Brexit’ label attached to it.

For example, on the jobs front, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee released a report (March 1, 2018) – The impact of Brexit on the automotive sector 0 which the press called a “detailed inquiry into the UK’s car industry” (Source).

The Report is 36 pages long, which would hardly suggest a ‘detailed’ study of a very complex sector.

The local press (in the North East of England) reported the release of the study with dramatic headlines (March 1, 2018) – 7,000 Nissan workers could lose their jobs if Theresa May gets Brexit wrong and elaborated:

A detailed inquiry into the UK’s car industry has concluded it could be destroyed by a ‘no-deal’ Brexit … Even quitting the European Union with a trade deal in place can only hurt rather than help the automotive sector, which directly or indirectly employs 900,000 people across the UK.

The findings from the cross-party House of Commons Business Committee reveals the threat to 7,000 jobs at Nissan’s car plant in Sunderland, as well as thousands of others in the carmaker’s supply chain.

The article went on for several paragraphs with dire warnings about trade deals and quoted a Labour politician on the Committee as saying “There is no credible argument to suggest there are advantages to be gained from Brexit for the UK car industry”

I should add that the politician quoted – one Rachel Reeves – Labour member for Leeds West is an enthusiastic member of – Progress – which is the New Labour organisation established to support Tony Blair’s atrocious period as Labour leader and Prime Minister.

It pushes out a monthly magazine that is about as ‘progressive’ as you would expect from a ‘Genghis Khan Weekly’

She is also deeply opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and made a large song and dance when refusing to serve on his front bench when he became leader on September 12, 2015.

As one commentator noted (humourously) – “not that she had been asked, which speaks volumes” (Source).

In 2015, as the “shadow work and pensions secretary” (before Corbyn was elected) she reflected on the role of the British Labour Party (Source):

We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.

Understandably, this caused a furore.

Owen Jones tweeted in response (March 17, 2015) “So when I meet unemployed youngsters, I tell them Labour doesn’t want to represent them?”

She had previously said that “Labour would be tougher than the Conservatives when it came to cutting the benefits bill.”

Blairite … what would you expect.

She was also outed in 2017 for sending a “secret email to only some Leeds West members, asking them to support a move to rig the selection of delegates to Labour’s 2017 annual Conference – for the specific purpose of preventing future left-wing leadership candidates.” (Source)

And she is in the Remain camp and wrote (September 19, 2016) just after the Referendum vote about a visit to a worksite two days before the vote:

I knew in my heart at lunchtime on the day of that visit that we’d lost the referendum. My head had told me – the economist – that we would win because the consequences of leaving were a risk voters wouldn’t take. But, by Friday morning, we knew the Leave campaign’s emotional message was stronger than the rational arguments of the Remain campaign.

So the put down. Brexit was emotional not rational. The economic arguments put by the Remain camp were rational and sensible – that sort of line that the Remainers pump out.

Our Jacobin article tackled that question head on. The right-wing Left didn’t like it one bit.

But back to the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Report which actually notes in “Chapter 6 Certainty and transition” that:

… the continuing uncertainty is affecting investment decisions, which will have a long-term impact on jobs in the sector … The drop in demand has contributed to the reduction of work in some plants, such as the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port, and the JLR plant at Halewood, where Brexit uncertainty was cited by the company as a contributory factor.

But – back in the real world:

… it is in our view likely that sales have been more affected by the move against diesel vehicles on environmental grounds and the uncertainty around the pace of the transition to electric vehicles.

Why didn’t the press report on that. The article cited above didn’t mention the diesel issue which is killing the British car industry and reflects poor management decisions in the past.

The data is clear.

The UK organisation – Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) – obviously tailoring their name to benefit from the popularity of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) (American readers – this is a joke! within a joke!) released Car Registrations data for March 2018 – which I reproduce their summary table:

Diesel in in free fall due to environmental concerns and new environmental regulations (including taxes).

In terms of brands, Nissan was down 33.51 per cent in the year to March 2018 and Jaguar was down 29.98 per cent, and Land Rover was down 26.09 per cent.

The job losses that have started to occur as a result of the decline in diesel demand was clearly pointed out (to their credit) in the Financial Times stories – Nissan to lay off hundreds of workers from UK plant (April 20, 2018) and Jaguar Land Rover blames diesel slide for loss of 1,000 jobs (April 14, 2018).

The FT notes that “The UK’s car industry is heavily exposed to diesel technology, with more than 1m engines and 725,000 diesel cars made in Britain last year”.

A spokesperson for Nissan UK clearly noted that:

This is not related to Brexit. In time we expect volumes to increase as we prepare to launch the next generation Juke, Qashqai and X-Trail, all being built at NMUK.

None of the social media heroes attacking Jacobin and Thomas and I thought to address any of the issues raised.

They did not engage with our demonstrated point that the economic models that the British government and other institutions have used to generate dire Brexit meltdown scenarios are deeply flawed, embedded with neoliberal biases and so inaccurate that they are not worth considering.

None of them thought the unbelievable forecasting errors from the HM Treasury exercise in May 2016 (just before the Referendum), where they claimed that by now the UK would have a GDP between 3.6 and 6 percent lower and the number of people unemployed would rise by as much as 820,00 were an issue.

We also showed that the data from British industry over the past two years had generated the strongest growth since the late 1990 despite claims that the Brexit ‘uncertainty’ would see British output collapsing by now.

The social media heroes didn’t think it worth engaging with that reality. It would be too challenging for their case.

None of them addressed the detailed analysis we presented of Britain’s fortunes (or not) since the Single Market was introduced in 1992.

None of them responded to literature we cited which show that “here is no evidence that joining the EU improved the rate of economic growth in the UK”.

And so on.

Apparently, a right-wing corporatist system (the EU), which has deliberately created a situation where millions of people have lost their jobs and many are heading into poverty, which has wiped out the hard-earned savings of many families, which has denied hundreds of thousands of its youth a future, which has transferred billions of euros in the hands of the banksters at the expense of pensions, public services, wages growth, etc, is preferred by this lot.

And finally, the political vision that the social media heroes portray is so depressing that we might as well all give up.

In my original articles on Brexit – just before and after the Referendum (see below) – I noted that leaving the European Union might be a disaster for Britain, if the Tories use it to further their neoliberal agenda, not that membership of the EU stopped them in that regard.

But, significantly, I considered the victorious vote to Leave to be a crucial first step in reasserting a progressive political agenda for Britain free of the corporatist, neoliberal shackles that come with EU membership.

The challenge for British Labour was to grasp that ‘space’ and really distance itself from Blair’s horrible New Labour years and do something truly progressive.

The comments in recent days after our Jacobin article was published suggest that the British Left and its Europhile allies have no vision of a progressive future and no confidence that British Labour can deliver a significant change in the political narrative and outcomes.

That is depressing.

They would rather be cosseted in the right-wing corporatist system of the EU than take a chance on their own political future.

Meanwhile, they soothe themselves with nonsense about restoring democracy in Europe (and Britain) through grand pan-international arrangements that haven’t a hope in hell of delivering anything other than the occasional talkfest and tweets announcing that ‘reform’ is just around the corner.

Here are some of the many blog posts I have written about Brexit. The first two were written immmediately before and after the Referendum.

A well-known ‘progressive’ tweeted after my second post, in the immediate aftermath of the Leave victory, that I was delusional. That seems polite compared to what has transpired in the last few days after our Jacobin article was published.

1. Britain should exit the European Union (June 22, 2016).

2. Why the Leave victory is a great outcome (June 27, 2016).

3. Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation (July 13, 2016).

4. Mayday! Mayday! The skies were meant to fall in … what happened? (August 24, 2016).

5. Oh poor Britain – overrun by chlorinated chickens, hapless without the EU (February 1, 2018).

Conclusion

I think the response from Jacobin’s European editor is very telling.

The reactions to a fairly sober piece from us on why the claims about Brexit to date have been far fetched and why Reclaiming the State is a crucial element in a restatement of a progressive agenda for Britain and elsewhere are frankly unbelievable.

And they summarise in hundreds of limited character Tweets and short Facebook comments just how lost the Europhile Left has become.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    23 Responses to The Europhile Left loses the plot

    1. MrShigemitsu says:

      Dear Bill, re: the one liner insults below your Jacobin article:

      Please do not underestimate the prevalence and vociferousness of paid ‘trolls’.

      My ex-neighbour here in the UK was the PR and Marketing Director of a multinational corporation, with responsibility, among many other areas, for the overlooking of their Social Media dept. A group of employees were sat at computers all day long tasked with scouring the web for any mention of their company, and responding to any posts that were negative about it.

      Each computer had a Dashboard, with all the main social media outlets easily visible and available for comment, potentially with multiple sock-puppeting accounts to create the illusion of a horde of supportive individuals.

      “So did they just pretend to be ordinary members of the public?” I asked my neighbour with carefully curated innocence. “Absolutely!” replied my neighbour with a cheeky wink and a knowing grin.

      Now if a company, whose only business is effectively just the selling of goods can get up to this kind of shenanigans as a matter of course, then any large organisation can do the same.

      It sometimes helps to remember that the paid employees and unpaid interns working in the Social Media depts of corporations, political parties, PR companies, national and supra-national organisations, charities, so-called think tanks, lobbyists and NGOs do not just sit there all day staring out of the window!

      Multiple and regular one-liner insults and drive-by devaluations, with no time or trouble ever taken to offer reasoned of informed critique are a hallmark of these sock-puppet commentators; it could well be a couple of people working in the SM dept of the EU’s PR organisation – and once word gets around the SM depts of any and all interested parties can easily join in the pathetic mud slinging.

      The time when someone smarter and better informed destroys your argument with reason and evidence is the time to worry!!

      Non illegitimus carborundum!

    2. Neil Wilson says:

      The Regressive Left are going to have to be overcome in the same way as the Right. They have nothing to say to ordinary people.

    3. Mike Ellwood says:

      I’m grateful to Bill for having written this article for (among other things) making me aware of the Jacobin magazine. Just been reading on its website an interesting article on Tony Benn (of course, a mentor to Jeremy Corbyn). I’m sure that if anyone had explained MMT to Benn he would have got it right away. Maybe he got it anyway, instinctively, even if he might have used slightly different language. Benn was of course famously and consistently anti EEC/EU.

    4. syzygysue says:

      The irony is that heroes of the Corbyn supporting left are Tony Benn, Bob Crow and Dennis Skinner… all of whom opposed membership of the EU. In contrast, the vast majority of the LP membership reject Blair and Mandelson who made membership of the EU such a central aspect of the New Labour Project. As you say, it is group think and cognitive dissonance of a high order.

      At a recent public meeting, in the SE England and organised by the LP ( the speaker was the europhile Anthony Barnett of Open Democracy), there were only two of the one hundred audience who had voted Leave. I said that EU rules would prevent implementation of large parts of the LP manifesto and asked what structures/mechanisms were there, that were available to create reform in the EU. He blustered that I was concerned about sovereignty or some such… and was warmly applauded. But after the meeting, he apologised for snubbing me(?) and said that it was because I had lobbed him such a difficult question. It was astonishing that he had no real ideas about how to answer such a fundamental question. As you say, it is just group think and cognitive dissonance.

    5. Lizette says:

      Well, I think it is better to say that the left has left nowaday’s!

      On the matter of groupthink, here in the Netherlands the movie “De achtste dag (The Eighth Day)” from director Yan Ting Yuen just came out. Based on the rescue operation of FORTIS / ABN AMRO. European leaders from then take us to the seven most exciting days of 2008. They also look at things now and if it is really going as well as we think? Can we go to bed quietly? That is still the question, says Bos and Trichet. “One of the biggest reasons for the crisis was the high debt. Now they are even higher than in 2008. The risks of a major crisis are perhaps even greater than before 2008. ”

      At first sight the trailer looked great, https://www.filmvandaag.nl/film/103535-de-achtste-dag, so I went. Well, it does not get exiting anywhere, and of course, it is packed full of lies and hidden messages. I really don’t know what these filmmakers really wanted to tell besides the neoliberal narrative, it certainly documents the neoliberal groupthink very well. Trichet even says at a certain point that the democratic process is a threath to our financial wellbeing in which he referred to rejected TARP in which you could not let the public decide what was good for them. :O

      The most interesting thing is the politics between Belgium, the Netherlands and France, in that Trichet and Lagarde are from France working at the ECB. Trichet even claims that he was the only one having all the information. Also, several of them stated that we, not them of course, katalysed this behaviour of the banks because all we ever wanted was consume more, save more, have higher returns, more dividends etc. And of course, all our savings would be wiped out if they didn’t rescue the bank, they never mention that my mortgage would have been also. Althus, we, not them, have brought this crisis on ourselves.

      For me, it was the first time that I was consciously aware by the fact that they are attacking our democratic state and processes. And finance is the way to get there!

    6. Kristjan says:

      Thank you Bill.

    7. Jake says:

      Yes they have lost the plot.it was an excellent article.

    8. GrkStav says:

      “But after the meeting, he apologised for snubbing me(?) and said that it was because I had lobbed him such a difficult question”

      When did this sort of response become OK, acceptable, let alone de rigueur, for folks on the alleged, self-proclaimed “Left”?

      Bluster and misdirection as the go-to response to a difficult question to which one is unprepared and ill-equipped to provide a sensible answer is “primitive infantilism” (to use Gramsci’s phraseology).

    9. cs says:

      I once saw the EU as some kind of restraining, more social democratic force, tempering the “red in tooth and claw” Thatcherite tendencies of UK capitalism.

      Now I have since come to my senses. Mostly thanks to Bill. But also because I think Brexit will coincide with Corbyn’s election and some real progressive change could take place without the neo-liberal constraints of the EU.

    10. Robert says:

      Having engaged in one or two verbal jousting-matches with that self-appointed crusader for the cause of the progressive left (and devout “remainer”!) Richard Murphy before being banned from his blog (allright, I was being deliberately provocative because I got sick of his overweening arrogance and pontifications), I heartily agree with everything Bill writes in his article (and his others concerning the europhile Left’s groupthink concerning Brexit).

      At the same time I continue to be completely unable to comprehend it as a phenomenon: the closest parallel to it I can think of is the behaviour ascribed to ostriches. (A much-maligned species compared with the europhile Left). Why is it that reasonably intelligent (presumably), politically more than averagely active and informed, people show themselves incapable of seeing what is staring them in the face? Were it not for Bill’s and Thomas Fazi’s books and articles they could claim (not very convincingly) not to be aware of what is wrong with the EU, but when they are told in so many words with plenty of supporting arguments and figures their only reaction is to stick their heads in the sand – collectively.

      And they demean themselves, abandon all self-respect – that’s what really perplexes me. The disgusting slur about Jo Cox says it all. Think about it:- anyone (all of us, for a start) critical of the EU and in favour of Britain leaving it is putting themselves on the same side as Jo Cox’s murderer, and deserving of – what, I wonder? Being flogged? having their tongue cut out? Where does such incitement to senseless hatred end?

      It’s very, very worrying.

    11. JT says:

      I was initially excited when Jacobin came online, but I have run across right-wing content published there on more than one occasion. Its readership undoubtedly contains many confused neoliberals, the same types of people who consider themselves “progressive” but religiously read The Economist because it’s what they think smart people are supposed to do. This is a real problem on “the left.” Although, I’m not even sure there is a “left” to speak of anywhere in the West, given the pervasiveness of neoliberal conditioning. The “left” such as it is exists today does not understand that neoliberalism is a political choice and not a law of nature. It doesn’t even think about it. And, not thinking about it, it cannot even begin to serve the interests of working people. It doesn’t even know that there is any divide between labor and capital to begin with! This is why the American working class delivered the presidency to Trump. He was at least an unknown who said some things that sounded good to working people.

      So while I applaud Jacobin for publishing Bill’s pieces–and I think he should continue to try to publish there–it’s not exactly surprising to me that its readership would have this reaction. Still, there is only one direction to go: onward. It’s up to us to disrupt the extensive conditioning of the public by the right.

    12. Mike Ellwood says:

      @JT is perhaps Counterpunch better? I notice that there is a new Michael Hudson article there:
      “Bronze Age Redux: On Debt, Clean Slates and What the Ancients Have to Teach U”.

    13. John Lawless says:

      With regard to the claim that the Remain vote was based on reason and the Leave vote on emotion, my extensive research (consisting of talking to my Remain voting and supposedly left-leaning friends!) suggests a different story.
      I reckon the two commonest reasons for voting Remain were (1) the idea the EU is some sort of Big Hug Club working together for the good of humanity (spoiler alert: the facts say otherwise) and (2) a mixture of I’m-Alright-Jackery and fear of change (AKA conservatism).

    14. Robert says:

      @John Lawless

      Just so.

      And just to add one observation:- I have yet to see one comment from any remain supporter which was *not* an unalloyed expression of pure emotion. The tweets cited by Bill seem to me to typify not just the remainers’ worst, most elemental, response but in fact the totality of it. And it’s been that way from day 1, in my experience. A shocking abandonment of reasoned, civilised, discourse by people who should know better.

    15. Dear Bill,

      I agree that both camps, the Brexit and the Remain one, are increasingly losing the plot. I also agree that the EU, at least as it stands, is deeply undemocratic and it promotes a dystopia of a regime ruled by technocrats. governing unchecked. However, having read your latest book “Reclaiming the State,” as well as numerous of your blog posts I’d like to post two questions.

      1. Why do you think that a Brexit Britain will be any more democratic or not simply a smaller entity pursuing exactly the same goals with similar policies? Isn’t the current “technocratic” and deeply undemocratic EU model based on the teaching of the US/UK neoliberal cabal of the 80s?

      2. Why are you and and Thomas Fazi certain that a fight to democratise the European Union is a priori lost and therefore futile?

      Thank you,

      Petros Diveris

      Manchester, UK

    16. GH says:

      Thanks for this Bill. I wonder if you should also add your ‘Demise of the Left’ tag to this article, as I think that’s what we’re witnessing here.

      I regularly see on-line comments from ‘left wing’ EU-philes describing how ‘worried’ they are that the poor and uneducated people that voted leave will lose all their most basic rights when (if) the UK leaves the EU. I put the word ‘worried’ in inverted commas as I often get the feeling they actually relish the idea of seeing the dissenters suffer (they usually seem to round off the comment with a mention of turkeys and Christmas or some such). I had always assumed they meant the (appalling) Conservative government would be the ones stripping people of their rights. Well, it seems some of these concerned ‘progressives’ actual want to mete out the punishment themselves. This Wednesday, the Guardian published an opinion piece, the author** of which was very concerned about what they see as recent failures of democracy (I’ll leave you to guess which ‘failures’ they were referring to). Their suggested cure is that people should have to earn the right to vote by passing a test of their knowledge. Goodness knows who would be deciding what the ‘right’ answers should be. (Q1: Should a responsible government always try to run a balanced budget? Answer Yes or No. Remember, only those who give the correct answer will earn the right to vote).

      **Wiki – “worked for two years at the World Bank and eight years at Goldman Sachs”

    17. Neil Wilson says:

      “I regularly see on-line comments from ‘left wing’ EU-philes describing how ‘worried’ they are that the poor and uneducated people that voted leave will lose all their most basic rights ”

      There are two observations from that

      (i) The Guardian class sees the majority of the population as a bunch of donkeys in a donkey sanctuary that need looking after. How can the poor dears ever survive on their own without the nice Guardian class to handing out the handouts.

      (ii) They are projecting. What they are really scared about is losing their privileged position and having to pay more for their asparagus.

      Hence the rise amongst the chattering classes in support for an epistocracy rather than a democracy.

      Of course that is from people who self identify as wise, without any objective measure of that characteristic. As ever the Guardian is read by those who think they should run the country – the very definition of aristocrats. And what they really want is their own aristocracy.

    18. Petros Diveris says:

      I quite like the way you put your self on separate plane by grouping the stupid left who are grouping the naive remainers. Good work, carry on.

    19. Some Guy says:

      @Petros Diveris:

      Good questions, here are my answers, hope Bill & you don’t mind:

      1. Why do you think that a Brexit Britain will be any more democratic or not simply a smaller entity pursuing exactly the same goals with similar policies?

      Corbyn, and the fact of Brexit itself. The British polity is healthier than the continent’s:
      Britain had a referendum. The government obeyed the results.
      Greece had a referendum, much more decisive. The government spit on the results the next day.

      Isn’t the current “technocratic” and deeply undemocratic EU model based on the teaching of the US/UK neoliberal cabal of the 80s?
      No, not at all. It is homegrown, continental, mainly French. Trace it back far enough and these are people who want to undo the French Revolution. And as Alain Parguez, who has done the tracing, comments, it’s worse than feudalism, because that had obligation of the nobles to the people, at least in theory.
      2. Why are you and and Thomas Fazi certain that a fight to democratise the European Union is a priori lost and therefore futile?
      Democratizing the EU by changing its institutionalized financial-fascist structures embodied in EU constitutional law is an enormous task. It would require amending the treaties and getting unanimous consent from many countries. One country can simply leave by itself.

      And a country that had the self-possession to do that would with near certainty simply decide to have a robust, booming economy, and then it would. These are all rich countries. People misunderestimate how hard it is for the financial fascist forces to keep them down, all of them down, all at once, all the time. They’re reduced to using only one weapon, albeit their most powerful one by far: Lies.

      But once one breaks free, the game is up.

    20. Lawrence says:

      I think it’s simple, really. The left hates Brexit because its most vocal supporters during the referendum campaign were members of the British far-right. In the minds of leftists, therefore, anyone who supports Brexit is a racist, right winger of the same type who supports Trump. Period. So of course your article got the response it did. It didn’t surprise me in the least.

    21. Petros Diveris says:

      This is an absurd comment, full of sweeping and unproductive if not stupid generalisations. The left doesn’t “hate” Brexit, certainly not because bigotry was a main driving force behind the vote. Some people on the left side of the spectrum might hate, as much as some people on the right do, but your statement is plain bobbins. I am, on the very left side of the spectrum, I understand both arguments and hate no one. I am just not convinced that the main reasons behind Brexit will ever be achieved. Namely closing the door to immigration* (who’s going to work in an octogenarian society) and sovereignty. When giving the wrong answer to the wrong question do not expect other things to come right out of it by accident, we know from the 20s that it doesn’t work like that. The entire political spectrum in this country, including the reluctant Brexiteer Mr. Corbyn, think and claim that we pay for the NHS and education by taxing. That we need to save to spend, something that Brexit supporting Labour members are keen to avoid discussing. When people believe such nonsense you can wave goodbye to sovereignty. Even more so when said sovereignty is handled and “defended” by the likes of Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg. Wish you good luck in your new left- and hate- free world. Don’t forget to turn the lights off.


      * No, I am personally NOT against immigration. I am just here to point at the fallacy.

    22. Wilfrid Whattam says:

      Hello Bill

      I have yet to see a meaningful presentation of the case for Remain. Therefore I suggested to Richard Murphy (in response to a post about the case for the job guarantee, and the exellent video of Fadhel Kaboub) that he make it out, and engage in dialogue with you. His answer, eventually (after I pointed out your Jacobin article and extensive discussion in ‘Reclaiming the State’ – because he seemed to believe that your beef was only against the Euro) was that the case was obvious ( how convenient is such intellectual vacuity) and that I would think economic meltdown a win! He has a tepid line in insults! As I now live in New Zealand, I guess I may be spared the meltdown. Sadly here, Jacinda Adern seems to believe a Budgetary Responsibility ( no more than 23 percent of GDP) commitment is sensible – at least in public.

      I thoroughly enjoy your blog and amazed how you pack in so much scholarly evidence.

    23. Martin Freedman says:

      Bill

      Why on earth did you bother to write a post on a few numpty facebook commentators and ignore SWL’s higher profile numpty response to your article? If the latter was not worth doing, why bother with the former?

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