Brexit and British politics since 2015

Since the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, a main focus in my writing has been on British politics. This has been prompted by horror at the advance of neoliberal authoritarian populism in Britain (the Brexiteer wing of the Conservative Party, the Leave vote in the referendum, the Conservative landslide win in the 2019 general election, the Johnson government), but also by excitement and optimism generated by the extraordinary dominance of a socialist left in the Labour Party during 2015-19 under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (development of a left social-democratic programme unique in Europe, a surge in support for the programme in the election campaign of 2017). In this writing I have used a Marxist approach to understanding economic history and geography, the nature of capital in Britain, and popular consciousness, ideologies and knowledge. I have written on four overlapping aspects of this story:-

1. Why people voted Leave in the referendum. The roots of racism and xenophobia, and of anti-state feeling, in daily life under neoliberalism. I rejects the view that this was simply historic racist-imperialist ideology, and that it was wholly irrational. Views of Brexit also entered strongly into the 2019 election result. (1 academic paper)

2. Why Labour lost the 2019 election. Voters’ views on Brexit, 1, were a major factor here. But also important were the history of the Labour Party in the previous 40 years, changes to economic-social life under neoliberalism and popular (mis)understanding of tax policy. (1 academic paper)

3. The support or ambivalence of sections of capital operating in Britain for Brexit. It is generally thought that business was wholly opposed to Brexit and has used lobbying and propaganda to oppose it. I argue, to the contrary, that major sections of capital operating in or through Britain lobbied for Brexit and funded the Leave campaign, that other sections of capital had ambiguous interests, and that other capitals adapted successfully to Brexit (one academic article, two shorter pieces).

4. These five years of British politics have brought home to me how weak is the popular understanding of macro- and meso-economics and fiscal policy. I have written two (as yet unpublished) articles on economic understanding in the EU referendum, and understanding of Labour’s economic policy, respectively. This misunderstanding is generally understood as being due to lack of economics education, media misinformation and politicians’ lies. I argue, to the contrary, that it needs to be understood through the Marxist theory of value and reification of social relations, and through examining people’s life worlds.