Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter
July 2, 2016
This issue: Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, and Contempt for Democracy
Brexit, the British vote to leave the European Union, has thrown the political elites into turmoil and confusion. The referendum was supposed to be a safe political manoeuvre, a way to produce an appearance of democratic legitimacy for the profoundly undemocratic structures of the EU. The gambit turned out to be a spectacular miscalculation, as millions of people turned out to express their opposition to a state of affairs that is leaving the majority worse off while enriching a small minority.
What the result will be is not clear. For one thing, it is far from certain that Britain will actually end up leaving the European Union. Ruling elites in Europe and elsewhere have a long history of ignoring referendum results which displease them. Last summer’s referendum in Greece, in which the Greek people voted overwhelmingly to reject the terms dictated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, is a case in point. Within a few days, the EU, representing the interests of the banks whose Greek loans were at risk, compelled the Greek government to submit to terms that were even worse than those rejected in the referendum. Greece’s Syriza government capitulated utterly, and became the enforcer of the agenda of austerity and looting which it had been elected to oppose. Those who feel tempted to believe the claim that the European Union represents a form of international co-operation from which all benefit might want to consider the case of Greece, and of other countries who have been forced to shred their social infrastructure and sell off their assets to enrich investors and bankers.
A constant theme in elite reaction to the Brexit referendum, expressed especially through the mainstream media, has been a visceral contempt for democracy. Ordinary working people are portrayed as stupid and reactionary, incapable of understanding how wonderful the European Union project is. Again and again, one hears the comment that the great unwashed should not be allowed to vote on issues which they are incapable of understanding. This reaction is not new: ruling classes for centuries have loathed democracy, which is seen as an existential threat to the wealth and privileges of the elite.
The attitudes of the elite have been mirrored on parts of the liberal left as well. The racist rhetoric emanating from the xenophobic UKIP party is seen as reflecting the attitudes of everyone who voted to leave the EU. Never mind that UKIP commands 12% of the vote, whereas 52% voted to leave. Everyone who voted to leave, according to some commentators, must automatically be a racist. The liberal left shares this attitude with the mainstream elite: neither of them is capable of seeing, let alone offering solutions for, the economic devastation caused by neoliberal institutions such as the EU and the various ‘free trade’ agreements, and neither of them cares about the working class.
In Britain, the referendum results have also provided a pretext for the Labour hierarchy to try to remove Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist who unexpectedly captured the leadership of the party nine months ago in another instance of democracy producing the ‘wrong’ result. A majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (the MPs) are still holdovers from the Tony Blair era, known for their support of the war in Iraq, the intervention in Libya, and their willingness to vote for anti-labour legislation introduced by the Conservative government of David Cameron. These MPs have been desperately looking for an opportunity to get rid of Corbyn, and thought the referendum results would provide an opportunity. Corbyn, however, has reacted to their vote of no confidence by informing them that he was elected by the membership, not the MPs, and that he has no intention of resigning. In this battle, Corbyn represents not only the left-wing majority of the Labour members who elected them, but the hopes of people in other countries who see him as an inspiration and an example to follow.
This issue of Other Voices features a variety of articles and resources analyzing these and related issues.
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Why the British Said No to Europe
The majority vote by Britons to leave the European Union, says John Pilger, was an act of raw democracy. Millions of ordinary people refused to be bullied, intimidated and dismissed with open contempt by their presumed betters in the major parties, the leaders of the business and banking oligarchy and the media. This was, in great part, a vote by those angered by the sheer arrogance of the apologists for the "remain" campaign and the dismemberment of a socially just civil life in Britain.
A nineteenth-century contempt for countries and peoples, depending on their degree of colonial usefulness, remains a centrepiece of modern "globalisation", with its perverse socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor: its freedom for capital and denial of freedom to labour; its perfidious politicians and politicised civil servants. Read more
This vote was about far more than immigration
The vote to leave the EU was fuelled by class divisions, argues Alastair Stephens. The media and the establishment are spinning the referendum result as a huge mistake by the ignorant masses who are motivated by parochialism and xenophobia. This is a gross distortion. It is clear that millions of working class people, including the majority in Labour's heartlands, voted to leave. Was this all driven by racism? Certainly immigration is what much of the media and in particular the press has gone on about. But working class people have many valid reasons to vote Leave. Read more
Brexit and the new hostility to participatory democracy
The reaction to Brexit illustrates the desperate need for the Left to return to first principles. For, as the result broke on social media, a remarkable number of progressives directed their anger not at anti-immigrant demagogues and opportunist politicians but against the voters themselves and the very idea of a referendum in which they might express their will. It's merely the most recent illustration of a growing estrangement from democracy, not only on the Right but also on the Left.
The best way to defeat a newly emboldened Right is to undercut its claims to give voice to the silent majority. The racists across Europe hate democracy – many of them have lineages directly traceable back to the fascist era. They can only present themselves as tribunes of the people because so much of the Left now sees ordinary voters not as agents of history but as a problem to be managed. Read more
Brexit and the Diseased Liberal Mind
The enraged liberal reaction to the Brexit vote, says Jonathan Cook, is in full flood. The anger is pathological -- and helps to shed light on why a majority of Britons voted for leaving the European Union, just as earlier a majority of Labour party members voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Read more
The 'Brexit' referendum vote, split 52% to 48% in favour of leaving the European Union, has been exploited by the 'mainstream' media to launch yet another assault on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In this article, Medialens documents the hysterical anti-Corbyn onslaught by the media, and the extent to which lies and distortions have replaced any pretense of objectivity or honest reporting. Read more
Anatomy of a Propaganda Blitz
We live in a time when state-corporate interests are cooperating to produce propaganda blitzes intended to raise public support for the demonisation and destruction of establishment enemies. Two articles by Medialens examine five key components of this kind of propaganda campaign, and then look at how a recent propaganda blitz aimed at British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fits the pattern outlined. Read Part 1 and Part 2
“Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media.” The editors of MediaLens say that their project is a response based on their conviction that mainstream newspapers and broadcasters provide a profoundly distorted picture of our world. “We are convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests. The costs incurred as a result of this propaganda, in terms of human suffering and environmental degradation, are incalculable. In seeking to understand the basis and operation of this systematic distortion, we flatly reject all conspiracy theories and point instead to the inevitably corrupting effects of free market forces operating on and through media corporations seeking profit in a society dominated by corporate power.” Visit Medialens here
Democracy for the Few
By Michael Parenti
How does the U.S. political system work and for what purpose? What are the major forces shaping political life and how do they operate? Who governs in the United States? Who gets what, when, how, and why? Who pays and in what ways? These are the central questions investigated in this book. Michael Parenti makes the case that America is not a pluralistic democracy, but a plutocracy where an unelected wealthy capitalist class controls social and political institutions, which they use as tools to legitimize their rule and further their interests. Parenti argues that what makes a system democratic is not only its procedures, such as voting, but its social and economic structures. Read more
Farmland is becoming scarcer and more and more valuable. Every year we lose about 12 billion hectares of farmland through soil sealing. After the financial meltdown in 2008 the global financial capital discovered the profit potential of global farmland. Through land grabbing the rich of the world want to secure access to the world’s most important resources. Consequently, instead of farmers, profit is put before soil. If we don’t stop the raids, we will destroy our livelihood. See
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Leonard Peltier is a Native activist who has been in a U.S. prison since 1976, convicted of a crime – the killing of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge reservation – that he did not commit. Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner and has called for his immediate release. Peltier himself writes about his situation and the history of injustice against indigenous people in this article. Visit the website of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee here.
‘Lost’ New York police surveillance records found in the archives
Records detailing decades of police surveillance of radical groups, which the city had claimed were ‘lost,’ have been located by municipal archivists. The once-lost records comprise 520 boxes containing more than one million documents, evidence of massive decades-long spying and infiltration directed at groups such as the Puerto Rican activist group The Young Lords. Read more
When the climate comes for you
By Kamala Emanuel
“I wrote this poem after I read about people in Pakistan digging mass graves in advance of the forecast heatwave, so as to not be caught unprepared, as they were last year.” — Kamala Emanuel
Will you be ready when the climate comes for you?
July 2 – International
International Day of Co-operatives
An annual celebration of the co-operative movement observed on the first Saturday in July.
July 7 - 10 – Winnipeg
Winnipeg Folk Festival
A summer folk music festival held in Birds Hill Provincial Park, near Winnipeg.
July 8 - 10 – Antigonish
An annual music and cultural festival near Antigonish, dedicated to the promotion of sustainable living and environmental awareness.
July 14 - 18 – Massachusetts
People over Pipelines
A massive march and action against new gas pipelines in Massachusetts.
July 23 – Philadelphia
The People’s Convention
A grassroots attempt to reclaim our democracy by uniting behind a common policy framework, rather than a personality or party.
The Connexions Calendar is an online calendar that exists to advertise events that support social justice, democracy, human rights, ecology, and other causes. We invite you to use it to promote your events. Adding events to the Connexions Calendar is FREE. We'll give you a username and password which you use to log on. Use the contact form to arrange for a username and password. Read more →
July 2, 1809
Tecumseh organizes resistance
Alarmed by the growing encroachment of whites squatting on Native American lands, the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh issues a call to all indigenous peoples to unite and resist. By 1810, he has organized the Ohio Valley Confederacy, which unites Indians from the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Winnebago, Menominee, Ottawa, and Wyandotte nations. For several years, Tecumseh’s Indian Confederacy successfully delays further white settlement in the region.
July 2, 1839
Captive Africans on the Cuban slave ship Amistad, led by Joseph Cinquè (a Mende from what is now Sierra Leone), mutiny against their captors, kill the captain and the cook, and seize control of the schooner.
July 14, 1789
Storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille. Demonstrators in Paris attack the hated Bastille prison, symbol of royal authority in Paris, which is known to store a large quantity of arms and ammunition. A crowd numbering perhaps one thousand people surrounds the Bastille in the morning, demanding the surrender of the prison and the release of the arms stored inside. In the afternoon, negotiations break down and fighting begins. By late afternoon, the garrison surrenders and the people take possession. The successful insurrection becomes the flashpoint of the revolution that spreads across France.
The King, Louis XVI, meanwhile, has spent the day hunting, oblivious to events. He returns to Versailles towards evening, and writes a brief entry in his diary: “July 14: Nothing.”
Then a senior courtier, the Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, approaches him and tells him of the storming of the Bastille.
Shocked, the king exclaims: “Why – this is a revolt!”
“No, Sire.” La Rochefoucauld replies. “It is a revolution.”
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