Comments on Brexit and Class

Following thoughts from what I posted last, what’s evident to me is the sheer difficulty of mapping class politics accurately onto Brexit. While there is quite an easy picture that’s been drawn, one that presents us with a working class “Brexit Heartland” in the north, it’s worth bearing in mind the multiple reasons we have to be deeply suspicious of this, not least the common appeals to what’s become called the “traditional” working class demographic. Of course, as figures like Ash Sarkar have accurately pointed out, despite the “metropolitan elite” that some have pointed to being at the heart of the remain vote, there are many living in metropolitan areas who are anything but elite, many from immigrant backgrounds who reside in council estates and high-rises. On top of this we must add the precarity of city existence that really intrudes now on any sense that anyone living in London is within some kind of luxury bubble. I don’t mean this to suggest that, as some people have suggested “class doesn’t exist” [to suggest that is simply absurd on quite a basic level, who would believe that we have somehow already transitioned into some classless society?] but that when it comes to what motivates remain/leave in the trashfire of Brexit really doesn’t project neatly on top of it in the way that would be required to see it as a direct parallel of class conflict.

To be more accurate, I would add that the concept of “class” must be expanded. It can no longer be held to mean merely a white male worker, some gruff northern chap who works in a factory, an outdated archetype that no longer has much bearing on post-fordist labour, and actively excludes consideration of black or immigrant working class communities. In many ways we can speak not just of class consciousness, but as Fisher suggested of subordinate group consciousness, in this way approaching a more intersectional analysis of how capital captures groups into a system of oppression and moving away from the risk of adopting a kind of reactionary, nationalist reading of class which fundamentally goes against the aims of emancipatory politics on an international scale.

It all comes to this; Brexit cannot simply be seen as a vehicle for class. It is an ideological tool, one that was employed for reactionary ends but could [and perhaps must at this stage] be taken as a hint towards collective desire for change. What Farage and his lackeys have successfully intimated in their audience is this desire for change, and in their vision this becomes a reactionary change, a move away from the future, towards a fascist-golden age scenario… your situation is bad, things used to be better, here we can return to that! From this it can most successfully be taken as a call to galvanize left politics, to offer something Brexit can’t; the future.

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