Rabbi Michael Lerner - The vote by a majority in the UK to exit from the European Union (Britain exiting, now called Brexit) is actually a cry of pain by the working people of Britain, and a reflection of the growing pain that will shape the social and political lives of our world in the coming decades till that pain is fully addressed. Unfortunately, the media and the ruling elites refuse to take responsibility for the global mess they’ve been making. Instead they seek to put the blame on a sudden surge of ultra nationalism and hatred of immigrants. But this is a distorted picture that seeks to blame working people’s fears on their own reactionary ideologies, and misses the way the ruling elites of the society, the !% of richest people and their millions of allies in the upper levels of banks and corporations, media, academia, law, government and politics, who have developed a neo-liberal economic strategy that has resulted in massive loss of jobs and a triumph of the values of materialism and selfishness in daily life, are actually now trying to blame everyone else for the global mess they have made.
Martin Winiecki - The news of Brexit triggered shock waves around the globe, with many people wondering how could the Brits make such a foolish choice. But actually there is good reason why many people in Europe hold the EU in low esteem.
The European Union has alienated countless millions of workers and ordinary people all over the continent; for many “EU” has become the very synonym of a hostile “establishment.” While it began as a progressive project for freedom and solidarity among the peoples of Europe, committed to never again repeat the terrible wars of the 20th century and authentically humane initiatives, the EU has developed into an anti-democratic, neo-liberal technocracy with ever decreasing legitimacy and benefit for the people. Preaching noble values of human rights, social democracy and peace, the rulers of the EU have led a scrupulous austerity regime, gradually expanding precarious work conditions for millions. The wide gap between its social rhetoric on the one hand and the implementation of free market policies on the other, gave many people the feeling of being constantly betrayed by an anonymous superstructure, which they cannot participate in or reach out to.
In their blind obedience to the orders from Washington and the corporate world, European leaders have endlessly fooled their people. Whether it is about secretly handing the last remaining democratic powers over to multinationals and abolishing fundamental environmental, consumer and workers rights, as it is prepared to do in the TTIP negotiations, or about ruining their own countries’ trade by installing economic sanctions against Russia, or about participating in the extremely dangerous deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe – there hardly seems to be any demand from the US government, which EU and European leaders would not fulfill, however devastating its consequences for Europe may be.
Capitalist globalization has corroded the social fabric of societies around the world, destroyed solidarity among people and established an anonymous hyper-individualized climate of fierce competition, loneliness and struggle for survival. People are left without any positive prospect for the future, feel constantly cheated on by something or someone that they cannot even precisely name – and immense anger ensues in people’s hearts. People thus readily buy in to the xenophobic propaganda telling who to blame for this situation.
The Brexit vote was in big part the expression of a nationalistic reaction to the alienation of neoliberalism. As they spread fear and tried to make immigrants responsible for the economic failures of the Europe that the EU has shaped, the powerful capitalist class (what in the US they call the 1%) provided the foundation for right-wing nationalists to present themselves as “populists” caring about the well-being of those hurt by economic globalization. These right-wing rabble-rousers divert peoples’ attention from the obvious injustice of the economic system. Thereby they turn the genuinely revolutionary potential of people’s anti-establishment sentiment into the most reactionary direction.
Jeffrey Sachs Project Syndicate = At its core, Brexit reflects a pervasive phenomenon in the high-income world: rising support for populist parties campaigning for a clampdown on immigration. Roughly half the population in Europe and the United States, generally working-class voters, believes that immigration is out of control, posing a threat to public order and cultural norms....
So what should be done? I would suggest several measures, both to reduce the risks of catastrophic feedback loops in the short term and to maximize the benefits of reform in the long term.
First, stop the refugee surge by ending the Syrian war immediately. This can be accomplished by ending the CIA-Saudi alliance to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, thereby enabling Assad (with Russian and Iranian backing) to defeat the Islamic State and stabilize Syria (with a similar approach in neighboring Iraq). America’s addiction to regime change (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria) is the deep cause of Europe’s refugee crisis. End the addiction, and the recent refugees could return home.
Second, stop NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and Georgia. The new Cold War with Russia is another US-contrived blunder with plenty of European naiveté attached. Closing the door on NATO expansion would make it possible to ease tensions and normalize relations with Russia, stabilize Ukraine, and restore focus on the European economy and the European project.
Third, don’t punish Britain. Instead, police national and EU borders to stop illegal migrants. This is not xenophobia, racism, or fanaticism. It is common sense that countries with the world’s most generous social-welfare provisions (Western Europe) must say no to millions (indeed hundreds of millions) of would-be migrants. The same is true for the US.
Fourth, restore a sense of fairness and opportunity for the disaffected working class and those whose livelihoods have been undermined by financial crises and the outsourcing of jobs. This means following the social-democratic ethos of pursuing ample social spending for health, education, training, apprenticeships, and family support, financed by taxing the rich and closing tax havens, which are gutting public revenues and exacerbating economic injustice. It also means finally giving Greece debt relief, thereby ending the long-running eurozone crisis.
Fifth, focus resources, including additional aid, on economic development, rather than war, in low-income countries. Uncontrolled migration from today’s poor and conflict-ridden regions will become overwhelming, regardless of migration policies, if climate change, extreme poverty, and lack of skills and education undermine the development potential of Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
All of this underscores the need to shift from a strategy of war to one of sustainable development, especially by the US and Europe. Walls and fences won’t stop millions of migrants fleeing violence, extreme poverty, hunger, disease, droughts, floods, and other ills. Only global cooperation can do that.