As the results of the British referendum on remaining in the European Union rolled in, and the victory of “Brexit” became apparent, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage summarized its meaning:
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom!
”This, if the predictions now are right, this will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people.
”We have fought against the multinationals, we have fought against the big merchant banks, we have fought against big politics, we have fought against lies, corruption and deceit.
”And today honesty, decency and belief in nation, I think now is going to win.
”And we will have done it without having to fight, without a single bullet …”
As ordinary British people celebrated, the London elite – and their international comrades – reacted with fury. The ignorant masses – whom, they rather stupidly claimed, were Googling “What is the EU” after voting to rid themselves of it – were “racist,” “reactionary,” and – of course – “isolationist” Know-Nothings who had thrown away a glorious future for an “uncertain” although supposedly much “darker” withdrawal into “Little England.”
There has been much discussion in these circles about who’s to “blame” for the Brexit vote – the assumption being, naturally, that it’s a Bad Thing, a disaster for which someone must take responsibility. The best of these head-scratchers comes courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, who writes:
“The decision by UK voters to leave the EU to leave the EU is such a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that – for once – their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. Media reaction to the Brexit vote falls into two general categories: (1) earnest, candid attempts to understand what motivated voters to make this choice, even if that means indicting one’s own establishment circles, and (2) petulant, self-serving, simple-minded attacks on disobedient pro-leave voters for being primitive, xenophobic bigots (and stupid to boot), all to evade any reckoning with their own responsibility. Virtually every reaction that falls into the former category emphasizes the profound failures of western establishment factions; these institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object.”
You’ll note that this is all about the self-described “elites,” and their alleged failure to educate the inchoate insensate proles, who don’t know what’s good for them. After all, don’t British fishermen realize that EU rules forbidding them to fish in British waters for all but 90 days a year are for the Good of Humanity? And why don’t they get it that pizza ovens must be kept at a certain temperature Because Of The Children?
Greenwald gets it at least in part: elite journalists, he rightly says, naturally sympathize with the status quo, since they are instrumental in framing and justifying it. Yet what he doesn’t get is the most important part of what has happened and will continue to happen, much to the Establishment’s consternation: for ordinary people in the English-speaking world and beyond, national sovereignty isn’t an archaic remnant of a bygone era, it’s something they assume is a rational and desirable part of life. They are patriotic not because they want to elevate themselves above everyone else but because they have a sense of place. Unlike the transnational jet-setters of the political class, they see themselves as citizens of Britain, France, the United States – not “citizens of the world.”
This is why the European project – initiated by a gaggle of Marxist intellectuals and the Central Intelligence Agency in the wake of World War II – has never taken hold. As Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California, “There is no there there.” “Europe” isn’t really a place, it’s a floating abstraction, with no common language, history, or real meaning aside from being a geographical convenience. There is no real “European” patriotism except in the editorial boardrooms of the Guardian and the bought-and-paid-for mobs in Ukraine that drove a democratically elected President from office.
The European Union is a political construct meant to complement the NATO military alliance: as an institution it was created and continues to function for the sole purpose of keeping Russia out of the European continent. And now that it has been repudiated in Britain, the globalists of the West are nervous that NATO itself may be coming apart – as indeed it is. With the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee calling it “obsolete,” and its mounting costs – borne, of course, by the US – a drain on an increasingly squeezed economy, this pillar of US hegemony is cracking at its very foundations. And that has the War Party scared.
Which is why the elite backlash against Brexit is taking on such a viciously antidemocratic tone: British Labor MP David Lammy is outright calling for Parliament to defy the electorate and nullify the referendum. A largely faked petition calling for a second vote is being promoted by the Remainers. And former International Monetary Fund chief economist Kenneth Rogoff reflects elite opinion by averring that “The idea that somehow any decision reached anytime by majority rule is necessarily ‘democratic’ is a perversion of the term.” Now that the people have rejected Rogoff and his claque of economic planers, “It’s time to rethink the rules of the game.”
This makes perfect sense: after all, the EU bureaucracy is an unelected oligarchy, and so it stands to reason that its partisans should employ undemocratic means to preserve it. These people are inveterate authoritarians, and their battle to impose a socialist United States of Europe on the unwilling masses naturally utilizes the same means that the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics deployed against the peoples of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It’s the same chorus singing the same old song.
I would not be in the least surprised if the David Lammys have their way and a second referendum is called, or the first is simply nullified: Britain, as I have said in the past, is today a profoundly authoritarian state in spite of its glorious classical liberal heritage.
Such a move would simply put the globalists in an even worse position than they are now, but it’s no use telling them that: these, after all, are the same people who launched the Iraq war and learned nothing from the disaster that is still unfolding.
The globalists never imagined that their carefully constructed campaign to erase national boundaries would meet with such opposition – a global rebellion against globalism. They’ve been caught off guard, and it’s glorious to witness their panic and fear as the peasants with pitchforks demolish their tyrannical abstractions one after the other. That rebellion is spreading to every corner of the world, and most importantly it is rising up right here in the United States. The British people have declared for “Britain First,” and what the “elites” fear most of all is that the victory of America First can’t be far behind.
One final point needs to be made: the more "understanding" anti-Brexiters on the left blame the vote results on the way the elite have overlooked the suffering of the poor downtrodden proles outside of London who supposedly have been trampled on by "neoliberalism" (i.e. capitalism), while the pro-EU yuppies are living on Easy Street. This framing of the issue in purely economic terms is typical of Marxists and other leftists, but in this case it makes no sense.
Prime Minister David Cameron and the rest of the pro-EU camp openly threatened pensioners – the electoral core of the Brexiters – with draconian cuts if Brexit succeeded. Yet the pensioners overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU in spite of this – because some things are more important than money. The left – and the ostensibly "free market" right – see ordinary people as little more than economic constructs without spiritual, non-material interests that might possibly trump their stomachs. The belief that the "proles" are little more than eating machines is yet another measure of the elite’s contempt for those they consider beneath them.
However, it turns out that, for ordinary British citizens, there are values higher than a full stomach, namely: love of country, national sovereignty, and the traditional culture in which they were born. The victory of Brexit shows that they will fight to preserve it.
Scheduling note: Just to remind you: I’m on “vacation,” which means I’m on a weekly rather than thrice-weekly schedule with this column. Next column is out on July 4th, after which I’ll be back to three times a week. I put scare quotes around “vacation” because my time is being spent editing Murray Rothbard’s unpublished book manuscript on libertarian strategy for publication – a grueling albeit in its own way quite enjoyable task.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.