Brexit: which side are you on?

by Christopher James Stone


The following story could be a parable for our times.

It’s about Eshu, an African trickster god who is always quick to exploit the limitations of the human mind.

The story goes that there were two friends who had sworn eternal allegiance to each other. Eshu heard about them and thought, “we’ll see about that.”

One day the friends were working in two fields on either side of a road, when Eshu passed between them.

He had on a hat which was white on one side, and black on the other, and he stopped, briefly, to wave a greeting.

Later, when the men were taking lunch, one of them said, “did you see the stranger wearing a white hat earlier?”

His friend said, “yes I saw him, but he was wearing a black hat, not a white one.”

I think you can guess the rest. The two friends fell to arguing, and eventually to fighting, over whether the stranger had on a white or a black hat; so much so that they were in danger of killing each other.

It took another intervention from Eshu, who showed them the hat, for them to see that they were both right, and both wrong at the same time.

This is how I view the Brexit debate. Both sides are right and wrong at the same time.

For instance, on the remain side it’s popular to present those who voted leave as bigoted and stupid. All the racists are leave voters, they say. But while it’s true that all the overt racists are on the leave side, remain too has its share of bigotry. In this case the bigotry is directed against a leave-voting working class who they perceive as inherently racist.

Remember Gordon Brown being caught on mic after an exchange with Labour supporter Gillian Duffy? He called her bigoted because she referred to Eastern Europeans “flocking” into the country.

The failure on Gordon Brown’s part, as well as on the remain side in general, is the dismissal of people’s very real concerns over immigration as mere bigotry. Gillian Duffy was making a point borne out of her own experience in the community in which she lived. To have that dismissed as bigotry is itself a form of bigotry.

Meanwhile, many on the leave side have bought into the rhetoric about a no deal Brexit.

There’s no such thing as a no deal Brexit. We either have a deal with the EU, or we have a deal with the US. If we choose a deal with the US (which is what Rees-Mogg and his crew are after really) then we can kiss the NHS goodbye, as everything in our welfare state will be up for grabs by American corporations.

We would become the new Greece off the coast of Northern France, a failed state with every last vestige of our sovereignty up for sale, while the ruling elites park their fabulous wealth in tax havens around the world.

The truth is, the problem has almost nothing to do with the EU. It’s the crisis of late capitalism, which the whole world is experiencing. Capitalism can no longer generate the profits it used to. In order to keep the value of stocks high it is now consuming the means of existence itself.

Austerity – whether plied by the EU or by our own Eton-educated elites – is the wrong answer to the wrong question.

What we need is a return to the social democracy of the post-war years, which brought unprecedented wealth to the whole nation.

Leave or remain, we need a Labour government.



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From The Whitstable Gazette 05/09/19

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