Yesterday we have seen some Yellow Wests in the City of London. This gives us the opportunity to address some thoughts to the British People, concerning the UK and the EU.
Ever since the Great People’s Vote Day on October 14, 2018, which saw 700,000 people gather in London, people in the UK are no longer content with the fate they voted for in the summer of 2016.
Many are calling for a new vote, and they have taken the streets now. The pollsters and journalists are sure, a vote would turn out differently now. The proponents of staying in the EU would win.
Many leftists in Germany would not like to see this as they perceive Britain as a social brake and governor of the capitalist US in Europe, with whom we can not secure workers‘ rights and with whom we can’t tame financial capitalism.
At the moment, however, we see that this does not really work without the British. More and more right-wing and neo-liberal governments are preventing this. And this is why the right does not like the return or the remaining of the UK in the EU: they would prefer the EU to break apart and the nation states fall back to pre-World War II levels ,
We know about the consequences of this thinking: Europe fell behind the US and became politically almost meaningless. The UK is a permanent member of the UN security council and has its Commonwealth, but in fact, it is a vassal of the US and whatever the US administration decides, the UK has to go along.
Wherever we want to act independently in Europe today, we see the negative consequences of nationalism of yesteryear and worry about the new nationalism, which is mainly due to the increasing social inequality and reinforced by politicians like Donald Trump.
We can only overcome this split together. We would be very happy if the United Kingdom will stay in the EU. But not as a conservative country that looks only for its own interests („I want my money back!“), but as a progressive and creative partner of a stronger community than we currently have. In Germany we could trust on the United Kingdom in many things, we value its policy because of its straightforwardness and a robust kind of fairness. In foreign policy terms, the UK is too much focused on the US, but that is precisely why Europe must be able to make an offer to the UK, not the other way around. We can not live in this world without strong partnerships, and as the EU has not been a strong foreign policy player in peace and social reconciliation with the rest of the world, we could not complain that the UK was playing it safe and orienting to his traditional ally, who ensured in two world wars that Britain did not become the victim of German hegemonic claims to power.
We did not care so much about Theresa May negotiating a poor or somewhat less poor Brexit deal with the EU. We never went to Brexit, why should we evaluate every detail of a Brexit agreement that is not in our favor?
Of course, we do not want a hard Brexit, because we believe that the British deserve to stay close to Europe. But we also do not want to be negotiated until the new status is barely distinguishable from the previous one. We think, it must also be noticeable that the British made a directional decision when they voted to leave the EU. We also feel a bit guilty because we believe that German policy may have contributed the two percent that eventually led to the resignation. One should not blame everyone, but the suspicion is obvious that the chaos in Central Europe did not please the British. Incidentally, a situation that has not been resolved to this day, but that is often swept under the table – and we also understand that this continental style of politics, this continental state of mind is not the British way to appreciate a clear message and work on practical solutions.
Nevertheless, we want to be partners and we want the British to get a second chance to think about their membership in the EU. We do not even know if the Yellow West seen in London are all pro-European, in France they are not all. By far not. But the conservative British government has socially humiliated people in ways they apparently could not imagine because the majority of Britons believe in capitalism. Of course, as the majority of Germans do, albeit in a different tone – more oriented towards social compromise, towards social balance, right to education and worker’s rights . Unfortunately, all this is not in the good condition, in which it was a few decades ago. But in the UK, growing inequality has not been stopped by targeting Brexit.
On the contrary. That is the difference to France, a core country of the EU, where the EU is partly blamed now for the abuses around. People think this is apparent in the person of Emmanuel Macron, who is known for using the EU to develop his neoliberal regime. No one who thinks socially and calls himself a humanist can have an interest in the success of Emmanuel Macron. The protest in France has been sparked by his policy, but also by his lofty nature, which announces that he does not understand the people and does not want to understand. He more and more seems to find pleasure in being the Marie Antoinette of today: „If they have no bread, they should eat cake.“ No question, there are parallels to the way the British government behaves towards the people in the country.
Therefore, regardless of their attitude towards the EU, the yellow vests could become a comprehensive social movement that can give us all something. We in Germeny, we are not as fast as the French when it comes to standing up for our rights, we are not as self-confident as the British when it comes to their interests, that’s why there is still no strong protest in Germany with yellow vests.
In addition, we have a special case: Only in Germany there are so-called leftists strolling around, we like to call them „Scheinlinke“ (fake feftists), mobbing against the yellow wests, because some nationalists are among them.
But for us and above all there is a movement from bottom to top and we do not want to be split. In Britain, the term may not be so common, but it’s class versus class, not the diversity-left against nationalist-rightwing.
We owe the works of Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, who lived in his London Exile and he was able to publish Marx there in an era without press freedom in Germany. We do not want to forget that. British liberalism and freedom of expression has enabled us to progress, proving that only a pan-European spirit of enlightenment and struggle against the excesses of capitalism can advance us and prevent us from going backwards.
There must be a spirit that forces our politicians to be at the people’s service and prvent them from turning into precarious work slaves of the feudalistic platform economy. We believe that the British people have been duped by their own politicians, such as Boris Johnson, regarding the pros and cons of Brexit. Who has been exposed to fraud and realizes that this is the fact, must not be left alone.
He must get a chance to do it better – just as Germany got the chance after the Second World War to become a free and democratic country, to which the British and Americans had a decisive part. The dimensions may not be quite comparable, but even the British now make a directional decision that determines their fate for many decades. Because of new insights, they need to be able to decide again, what their destiny should be. Certainly, the strange Mr. Trump played a role in making the British rethink, even though he tries to split Europe and is very kind to Mrs. May. But we think, to many Britons with their reassuringly rational mindset, this person is not trustworthy.
Thousands of yellow vests are now on their way in London and we wish them every success, because whatever they are, whatever people associate with a yellow west, it’s a symbol for an European movement and it’s a social movement.
Whether it drives to the right, that is now up to the politicians: If they continue ignoring the needs of the people, it can happen that right-wing forces prevail more and more in this movement. But if politics recognizes the signs of our times and does not allow us to be driven out of our workers‘ rights and our homes because we can no longer pay the rents, then there is hope for a good end and for the signal yellow to become the color of a new deal for the many, not for the few.
At the moment we see the yellow vests as being taking to the streets against the policies of welfare cuts and saving money instead of investing in education and infrastructure that prevail throughout Europe. In Germany, the government has been making small gifts for some time, so perhaps it is still so quiet with us because of these gimmicks, not only because we use to be very faithful to the state. But these little gifts, we notice more and more, are eaten up by „rent madness“ („Mietenwahnsinn“), which is the new slogan against gentrification und galloping rent increase.
However, there is no big social movement in Germany that could use the momentum of the yellow vests and mobilize many people. Basically that should be the left movement „Standing Up“ („Aufstehen“), but so far we do not see a convincing close alliance. Rather, some gritty people of the left (or those who think of themselves as left-wing or try to fool others by claiming they are on the left side) are mocking when a leading initiator of „Standing Up“ demonstratively shows off with a yellow vest. Indeed, this shows how deep neoliberalism has divided us. This must warn us of false promises and false ideas – of nationalist ideas, but also of globalist ideas that divide working people into many small groups and want to set those groups against each other.
We firmly believe that we should better fight with the British than without them against the social decline of the majority in almost all EU countries, but they must be willing to accept this fight as a european and global fight, and not as a vehicle that benefits their national interests alone.
After all, there are no longer any outstanding national interests that can beat international solidarity or which are more important than the recognition that we can only work together against the power of a financial system that is struggling with difficulties made by itself. As a way out it wants to bring people back to the bondages of the 19th century – with a posh digital look suggesting personal freedom, of course. Against this fake promise of freedom without limits and without any security we have to fight together.
British industrial capitalism was a symbol of this extreme form of bondage, but British democracy set an example for almost all the other democracies in the world, it’s stability and ability to balance the very diverse interests that always existed in the upper-class-dominated UK is still a role model for any democracy. Today we need a strong country like the United Kingdom to make Europe a success. What we do not want is that it sees itself as a defender of a hypocritical system that doesn’t fit for a better tomorrw.
We certainly have the fear that this will happen again, but we have to take this risk if we want to revive Europe as a force of peace and progress. But nothing else should it be and can it be but a power of peace and progress. You agree? Welcome back, Britains.
© 2019 Der Wahlberliner, Thomas Hocke