By now it could not be clearer. Rather than usher in a more progressive Britain, freed from the shackles of that nasty, undemocratic EU in Brussels, Brexit has merely served to give licence to racism and unleashed precisely the carnival of reaction that many feared and warned that it would.
This story carried in The Independent makes sober reading. It reveals a spike in racially and religiously motivated hate crimes in the wake of the EU referendum, involving
- Gangs prowling the streets demanding passers-by prove they can speak English
- Swastikas in Armagh, Sheffield, Plymouth, Leicester, London and Glasgow.
- Assaults, arson attacks and dog excrement being thrown at doors or shoved through letter boxes.
- Toddlers being racially abused alongside their mothers, with children involved as either victims or perpetrators in 14 per cent of incidents.
- A man in Glasgow ripping off a girl’s headscarf and telling her “Trash like you better start obeying the white man.”
- Comparisons with 1930s Nazi Germany and a crowd striding through a London street chanting: “First we’ll get the Poles out, then the gays!”
With the collapse of the centre ground as a consequence of the economic crisis and austerity, it is the far right rather than the left that is winning the battle of ideas, emphatically illustrated by Brexit – a political campaign driven by the ugly politics of anti immigration and underpinned by xenophobia, racism, and the reaffirmation of a white supremacist British identity in reaction to multiculturalism.
Those on the left who campaigned for and supported Brexit did so having imbibed and surrendered to the far right on the issue of immigration and the free movement of labour, which is a symptom of the free movement of capital and the gross inequality between states that is a by-product of neoliberalism.
The worse illiterate is the political illiterate, Brecht reminds us, and this political illiteracy has never been more in evidence than when it comes to the pro-Brexit left. Providing progressive and left cover for white supremacy counts as many things, but socialism is most assuredly not one of them.
British society does not and never has had a problem with immigration. Instead it has had a longstanding problem with the maldistribution of wealth and resources, and a cultural problem with racism, reflective of the apotheosis of its colonial past and the cultural values incubated thereby.
Rather than a victory for the left, Brexit has revealed the willingness of its left-supporting adherents to throw migrants and minorities under the bus in order to appease the most base, tribal, and regressive instincts of a working class which in large swathes of the country has been persuaded that migrants and minorities rather than Thatcherism and the inequality it has entrenched is responsible for their plight.
They should hang their heads in shame.