Brexit demonstrates the Left’s failure on Race issues

Mohamad Tabbaa suggested to me that it would be a good idea to write something on the problems of the white left’s reaction to #Brexit and their failure to take seriously the racism on which the leave vote very much relied. We were particularly troubled by remarks by staples of the Australian left, John Pilger and Jeff Sparrow. So, unsurprisingly perhaps, not many outlets wanted to publish us. Sajjeling did though and I’m very grateful. The article has been shared more than 1,000 on Facebook and I am particularly honoured that it was shared by Media Diversified. Read the article on Sajjeling.

I am also linking to this brave video made by Ash Sarkar for Novaramedia in which she interviewed people in the London borough of Barking about the referendum: ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Brexit.’

In an article on race and British cultural studies, Roxy Harris noted that the field’s founders – E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams – ignored “the place of black and brown British subjects in the national polity”. Thompson’s classic 1968 study, The Making of the English Working Class, for example, while covering “topics such as the liberty of ‘the free-born Englishman’” was silent about “the part played by the Empire, the slaves, plantations, the East India Company and so on”.

These great theorists of British society were race-blind.

But it seems that little has been learned from this partial and parochial view of British social and economic history, especially in the writings of a small but vocal group from what we will refer to as “the white Left”.

Since last Friday’s #Brexit vote, where a referendum was held in the UK to determine whether Britain would exit the European Union (EU), Australian writers John Pilger and Jeff Sparrow wrote in New Matilda and Overland respectively that the vote to leave the EU was a knife in the back of neoliberalism (Pilger) and testimony to the success of participatory democracy (Sparrow).


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