Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Things are changing. A major crack has appeared in the edifice of globalization, and the neoliberal order that has dominated the world's economy since the end of World War II is now in danger.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, by any means. But poisonous weeds are just as likely as green shoots to grow up through those cracks. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: Those who make constructive evolution impossible may be making destructive devolution inevitable.
We now know that Great Britain, itself an amalgam of older nations, is divided. England and Wales voted to leave Europe, while Scotland, Northern Ireland, and ethnically diverse London voted to remain.
This vote was a stunning rejection of Great Britain's political establishment. "Leave" prevailed despite opposition from all three major political parties. Prime Minister David Cameron, who will now step down, called on voters to "Remain." So did socialist Jeremy Corbin, the most left-wing Labor leader in a generation. Barack Obama crossed the Atlantic to stand beside Cameron and offer his support.
Voters rejected all of them.
The uprising has begun. The question now is, who will lead it going forward?
Globalism's Shadow Self
The world's financial and political elites must now face the fact that resistance to their economic order, which has shaped the world since the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, is a major phenomenon. These elites are apparently more out of touch with the citizens of the industrialized world than at any time in modern memory.
Make no mistake: The "Leave" vote was a rejection of globalization, at least as it's currently structured. This was a revolt of working class Britons who have seen their postwar prosperity erode around them and their social contract eviscerated by the corporate and financial oligarchy.
But it was also the sign of a darker and more sinister worldwide phenomenon: the resurgence of global nativism and xenophobia. This worldwide turn toward fear of the Other is globalization's shadow self.
Revolt of the Powerless
That's not to say that there wasn't a legitimate left-wing case to be made for leaving the European Union. The "Left Leave" movement, or #Lexit, had its own advocates. "Why cling to this reactionary institution?" asked one.
But this near-victory wasn't won with leftist arguments about resisting the global oligarchy. The left was too divided to make that case clearly or forcefully. It was largely won by stirring up bigotry against immigrants, cloaked in flimsy arguments about excessive regulation. Legitimate economic grievances were channeled into nationalist hostility.
Many "Leave" voters felt powerless, that they no longer had much of a say in their own destinies. They weren't wrong. The European Union was largely a creation of transnational financial forces driven by a self-serving neoliberal ideology of "free" markets, privatization, and corporate economic governance.
But, even at its worst, the EU is a symptom and not a cause. Great Britain's citizens haven't been losing control over their fate to the EU. They've been losing it because their own country's leaders -- as well as those of most other Western democracies -- are increasingly in thrall to corporate and financial interests.