Brexit and the Return of the Nation State

By Christopher J.V. Loughlin (June 26, 2016)

On 23rd June 2016 the United Kingdom voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union (EU); the electorate spoke and a British exit from the EU is the result, or ‘Brexit’. This has caused shockwaves, politically and economically, in a result few predicted. Within hours of the result, the British Prime Minister David Cameron stated his intention to step down in October. The pound has taken a battering on currency markets: at 10.30pm (GMT) on the 23rd June it was strong against other currencies, but by 10am(GMT) on Friday 24th June it was taking a hammering and recovered slightly by the end of trading. Further, British stocks and shares were hit hard on Friday as well, forcing the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, to step in stating, ‘the Bank will not hesitate to take additional measures as required as those markets adjust and the UK economy moves forward.’ Across Europe neo-liberal elites have responded to the British result with dismay and derision. This decision will have an impact regionally, on the continent and globally for years to come and Britain will, more than likely, experience a recession as a result. But after over 40 years of membership of the EU and its forerunner (the European Economic Community, which Britain joined in 1973), why did Britain vote to leave? Is this the triumph of the hard-right as many have claimed? Or, alternatively, is it the return of the nation-state in an era of globalisation?

The referendum result was exceptionally close, just 1,269,501 votes separated the two sides (or, to view it another way, less than the entire population of Northern Ireland was the difference between Brexit and continued EU membership). Further, there are a number of clear demarcation lines on how people voted: first, a regional and urban-rural split; second, class and socio-economic division; third, a generational divide. The regions of the UK state voted differently. For example, east, west, north and south of England and Wales all endorsed leaving the EU, whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed remain. This regional difference was also expressed in an urban-rural split: the cities of England, London, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Manchester and Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire all voted to remain. It seems that those who felt they had gained from the EU or had something to gain, voted remain; whereas those that felt little benefit from it voted to leave. This division, between haves and have-nots, reflects the harsh class divisions felt across the UK. For example, socio-economic indicators were a reliable indication of how an area would vote: areas with higher numbers of degree-level inhabitants voted remain, whilst areas with a lower socio-economic status were much more likely to vote leave. This feeling of having lost out, in the past, present or on future prospects, helps to explain why so-called “experts” were consistently ignored by the electorate (a position of some justification when the “experts” spectacularly failed and called a remain victory on Thursday evening, shortly after polling closed). The vote for Brexit represents, to some extent, the return of working-class people into British political debate, no longer will it be possible to treat the people with contempt á la Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and other neo-liberal elites. Last, there was a clear generational divide in voting patterns. The higher the median age, the more likely an area was to vote leave. According to a YouGov poll, nearly ¾’s of young people backed remain and there has been a heartfelt despair expressed by many young people at the result. It seems that it was amongst the youngest that the claim that the EU delivered benefits to the people was given the most credence. But what are the ramifications of this result?

The Brexit referendum was rancorous, bitter, bad-tempered and, unfortunately, contributed to the murder of a Labour MP, Jo Cox. Her death was certainly contributed to by the vicious and hyperbolic campaign waged by both remain and leave during the referendum. Verbal abuse, physical attack, scape-goating and denunciation were all common-currency. Speaking personally, it took all my self-discipline to actually go and vote on the 23rd June. I felt so disgusted at the actions of each side in the referendum. The future of the British state, British politics and the European project now hang in the balance. Within the Labour Party, for example, there is a renewed Blairite offensive on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The Blairite’s are blaming Corbyn for the refusal of English and Welsh working-class people to endorse the EU. Referenda could now occur which threaten to break up the UK state itself, specifically in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, which narrowly voted to remain a part of the UK state in 2014, the Scottish National Party leader, Nichola Sturgeon, has already clearly stated she will press for a new referendum in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, a referendum could also now be held on the reunification of the island with the Republic of Ireland. Yet the political situation is exceptionally fluid. Just like in Northern Ireland a few months ago, across Britain now to the Janus Gates have opened. This is tied to the return of the nation-state form in an era of globalisation. What we need now is a bold, audacious and vibrant New Left across these islands. There are clear dangers in the situation, such as how the media is portraying the vote as a victory for the hard right, but also opportunities. Given the explicit class divides opened by the vote, there is a clear necessity for a Labour government on a socialist programme. The time for clear socialist struggle is here and the revolt of the masses in Britain has begun.

Originally Published at Red Notes from the North.

These Are the Rebels I’ve Been Looking For

By Chris Crass (June 17, 2016)

To all the members of the rebel alliance against the empire of white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy, I love you.

When I was a teenager at an anti-war protest, a right wing jackadoodle got in my face and called me a “pinko, commie, insert homophobic word, n word loving, Jew loving, insert racist word for Latino/a – loving, insert racist word for Arabs and Muslims – loving, insert misogynistic word”.

And in that moment I thought, “Yes, he just made me a list of all the kinds of people I need to search out and join with – people of color, Leftists, women, LGBTQ, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, unionists, men who don’t conform to patriarchal masculinity, and all the people who love them. These are my people, this is the rebel alliance I have been looking for. And together we will make collective liberation vibrant and real.”

Our pain, our grieving, our outrage, our depression, our tender humanity, this is our capacity to feel the world and the people we love. This is also our capacity to radically transform the world for justice, equity and liberation for all.

I love you and am so thankful to have joined with you all to make another world possible.

I Remember That We Will Win

By Chris Crass (June 16, 2016)

I remember the hurt of feeling my male friends pull their hand out of mine, as we walked in public. And I remember why they did, as people yelled homophobic slurs and gave us looks of disgust.

I remember how much anger, threats of violence, and slurs, my public, beautiful, defiant, high school love, for my dear Mike generated.

I remember the first hundred times I kissed boys and said yes to my heart and my joy.

I remember holding hands in public when I was scared, but wanted love and liberation to be stronger.

I remember the first time I met an out Gay man, and me and my high school friends, instantly felt community and friendship. And I remember when he told us that his church, in Whittier, CA, had just received a bomb threat, along with the usual hate mail they received (mostly from supposed other “Christians”).

I remember our crew of young people instantly saying, “If you want, we will stand in front of your church next Sunday and show our solidarity against homophobic hate.” I remember the all too familiar mix of fear and pride as we stood there, vitriol spitting from the faces of homophobes. I remember how each person driving by who smiled, gave a thumbs up, honked their horn in support, helped me feel a little more free, a little more powerful, a little more clear that the more we all worked for queer liberation, the more we would win.

I remember when our multiracial coalition in Orange Country, CA, working for Ethnic Studies, strained when the LGBTQ club received hate mail, and some of us in our group that was part of the coalition, publicly stood in solidarity, declared that some of us were queer too, and put forward that liberation also means queer liberation. I remember the fear of thinking I may have lost friends (which I did), that I may no longer be welcomed (and with some, no longer was), and I remember the Latino leader of the coalition, one of my mentors, leaving his group because of their homophobia and sexism, and forming a new Latina/o group that embraced queer liberation and feminism. I remember the women leaders of the Black Student Union coming out in support of the LGBTQ club as well.

I remember meeting with leaders of the LGBTQ club who were scared, but also defiant, despite the small size of their public membership, and I asked one of the leaders to write something for the underground newspaper that I edited, and she said yes. I remember being so nervous when I was handing out copies of that issue, in 1994, that featured a powerful denouncing of homophobia and articulation of LBGTQ equality and freedom, and I remember when long time supporters handed it back to me in disgust, as well as people I hadn’t seen asking for copies to help distribute.

I remember standing with my community, when homophones with baseball bats came to bring violence to our outdoor revolutionary dance party and we stood together chanting “no violence” and broke their confident stride and sent them back.

I remember when the first time a boy I was kissing told me he was gay, and soon afterwards he broke open the closet and came out to everyone, and expanded what was possible for all of us.

I remember the first time I was walking in the Castro in San Francisco and saw men everywhere holding hands and being publicly affectionate with other men, and no one yelled at them, and I felt, in my heart and soul, that another world was possible.

I remember that the South African anti-apartheid movement said, “Revolution is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” and I commit to rituals of remembering that everyday, beautiful, defiant, sometimes scared, people have come out, lived full queer lives, have created powerful justice movements for liberation and have continued to make another world possible. I remember the courage and the radiance of LGBTQ people, everywhere, living and loving, in defiance of the nightmare of heterosexism, the nightmare of homophobia in institutions and individual acts, and I look to nourish that courage and radiance in my family, in my community, in my life.

I will remember ‪#‎Orlando and the lives of so many beautiful people taken from this world by the hatred and violence of homophobia, homophobia fueled and given cover by anti-Trans and anti-queer legislation and all who support such legislation.

And I remember how much much I love you, freedom fighters, members of the rebel alliance against the empire of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and I remember that we will win.

You Lied to Us

By Phoenix Calida (June 15, 2016)

Final thoughts on the Pulse shooting-

Something has been bothering me, and I couldn’t land on it until just now.

I realize it was the lie. That’s what’s hurting the most right now.

The lie from the bigots in their own closet. The bigots who are out. The bigots who pretended they weren’t bigots at all.
all of you lied to all of us.

The loud church goers that threaten hell.
The people who stare on the streets when we hold hands.
The people who laugh when we’re called names.
The ones who stand on the floor of government buildings screaming about freedom of religion while pushing ideas to make us subhuman.
The ones who won’t make us wedding cakes or dj our events.
The ones who call child services when we adopt because we are a “danger to children”
The ones who threaten to shoot us if we’re in the wrong bathroom.
The ones who dead name.
The ones who spit on us in the streets.
The ones who won’t hire us.
The one who secretly fantasize about us, but beat us as punishment for their sins.
The ones who call us slurs and try to make us cry.
The ones who threaten rape to correct our behavior.
The ones who call us unnatural abominations.
The ones who leave their own children on the streets for being born this way.
The ones who swear we choose this life for attention.
The ones who don’t understand why we can’t just hide it.
The ones who think we need be locked away because it’s a mental illness.
The ones who think we have an agenda to convert the youth.
The ones who think they can beat and pray the gay away.
The ones who love to remind us we’ll never pass.
The ones who “have gay friends” but don’t support gay rights.

The ones who say “keep it away from me”

You f*cking lied to me. To us.

Because we did keep it away. We kept in a dimly lit club, away from your sensitive eyes. We pay to hold hands and kiss on dance floors inside buildings where we won’t be seen. We sing with our friends under flashing lights that obscure clear vision. We create relationships in secret. In the dark. In a club designated for freaks like us. In a designated safe space where we could just live, and you didn’t have to look at us and be disgusted.

From the outside, you couldn’t see what we are doing.

We did as we were told.

We kept it away from you.

But you murdered us anyway.

You never meant what you said. You don’t want us to merely “keep it away” from you. This isn’t about your physical proximity to women kissing or men holding hands. When you said “keep it away from us” you didn’t mean act straight while on the bus with you, you meant keep it in another realm of existence.

“Keep it away from us” means we aren’t entitled to share the same planet with you. I know that now, but saying “I just don’t wanna see a bunch of queers” doesn’t fully encompass your vitriol. I didn’t fully understand that a few days ago.

We hid in a dark club because of you, because you said that was enough. And you lied. Being in the dark wasn’t enough. Because a club isn’t as dark as a morgue. Or a coffin. Or a freshly dug grave.

And there’s where you’ve wanted us all along.

On Orlando: A Letter from a Gay Friend

By Mark Naison (June 14, 2016)

I just received this letter from a former student living in Brazil who came out shortly after he graduated.. I needed to share it here because of its powerful message:

Hey Doc, I wanted to reach out to you about what happened in Orlando. I’ve been shaken by this in a way that I’m having a hard time putting to words.

As someone who has always known the dangers of living in a world that is often hostile to gay people, I’ve always tried to tell myself that the best of people will inevitably prevail. Yesterday, I was wrong.

Gay bars and gay clubs are where men and women who are rejected from every other place in society go to. They have always been a place where no matter how bad someone felt about themselves, there were others who probably felt the same way. When most institutions turn their back, gay clubs are often the one place that, with all their shortcomings, accept gay people explicitly for who they are. The one place where you can express that purest of emotion without the fear of harm or judgment. Something as simple as a hug or a kiss.

This was an attack on a vulnerable community and if I’m drawing any strength from this, it’s been from the outpouring of support from around the world. From Muslim brothers and sisters who have denounced this act and have lined up to donate blood. From our President who affirmed the dignity of the LGBTQ community and from my friends near and far.

The gay community will not be broken by this because perhaps more than most communities, gay people know full well what hate can lead to. I believe that the best of America will emerge in the aftermath of what happened not because I think so but because I must.

Thanks for listening Doc. I just needed to share that with someone and I know you’ll take my words to heart as you do for all those you stand up for and defend.

Unrelenting love,


(Feature image by Jere Keys under Creative Commons)