Socialise Struggle now on Twitter

It was inevitable. We needed a way to engage with other media, to promote what deserves to be promoted, to bring it into other conversations, and to be part of the infrastructure that connects storyteller and active listener – in short, to be the media. And I was looking for a way to do this outside of the usual full blog post-length format. For two reasons: (1) I can’t write up something for every interesting thing I read – writing takes time and for people or groups who don’t exploit (“employ”) loads of minions time is always a scarcity; and (2) we need something less ME-ish – this is a hang-up from the traditional corporate media that competes for audiences but the way to a radically democratic and emancipatory media is not to intensify the clamouring of ME-isms, but to shut up when somebody else says something better than you can, or from a position of different oppression-privilege to you. Shutting up and instead amplifying the voice of comrades – this is what building a WEdia instead of a MEdia is about.

To date, socialisestruggle has had a number of vehicles for this. Book reviews are a good way to share some of the lessons I take from the books I read with the wider community. And at the same time, promoting some important books that you might not otherwise have heard of and hopefully giving some struggling authors a bit of visibility. Then, the statements and communiques section involves direct unedited and unanalysed dissemination of communiques from people involved in struggle. This is something that there needs to be more of, and actually doing this has really helped me listen more directly to groups in the thick of it rather than the misrepresentations of them in media. Which is a harder habit to break than it sounds. The establishment media and even alternative media have a knack for getting you to listen to those who write the news rather than the groups making the world that the news is supposed to report on. And it is unsettling how easily the dominant frames from these news media enter your subconscious, even when trying to read critically. But I digress. Then there was another section on this blog, Posts of the month, where I would post compilations of the best articles I had read on other blogs. This was experimental more than anything, and after some time I found it doesn’t really work. While I like promoting the writings of other blogs out there, and taking stock of how things are playing out in the world, the process is just time-consuming and a month is such a long timeframe that it is a challenge to remember what different articles are all about and by that stage who is really interested in reading about what happened 20 days ago? So, this series sort of dropped off the socialisestruggle agenda and instead we are, reluctantly plunging into the Twitter world (if they will have us – the account was locked three minutes after setting up for suspicious activity, seems to be working again but for how long?) . And the Posts of the month -type function (sharing other sites’ good writings) is being replaced by the Twitter presence – but in a more timely manner.

The emphasis is on reluctantly, because I find it a fairly unsatisfactory solution. The world of social media is largely a corporate owned and controlled world which has marketed itself as and profited from an image of emancipation – both against the traditional top-down media and as a resource for anti-dictator movements. For a good few years this image was peddled by the PR machines of said companies, uncritical brave new world liberal commentators and often by naive leftists (e.g. Paul Mason). And it was resisted in an unimaginative way by the traditional media (of which their cries of ‘post truth politics’ and ‘fake news’ are just the latest shallow and dishonest strategies to save themselves) (yes dishonest. Can you really remember a time when the media didn’t lie to you in order to manipulate you? No neither can I. The post-truth accusation itself is post-truth. Does that make it meta-post-truth, or just post-truth negated, since it cancelled itself out? Confusing. Better just to ignore the whole thing. It is a meaningless red herring false flag, it’s been added to the site’s banned propaganda terms and that’s the last you will hear of it from me), some equally uncritical but nostalgic liberal commentators, and by some of the orthodox left. So in that kind of landscape it was hard for a long time to articulate some kind of understanding of a world we were learning to live in without falling into the narratives of either the starry-eyed brave new world types or of the reactionaries. But over the years a more accurate picture is beginning to emerge. This is thanks on the one hand to activists sitting down and drawing out lessons from their own experiences of the limits of social media, and on the other hand because of exposés about how the rich and powerful are using it for their own ends.

The most prominent of these is the example of targetted ads, used in particular in the Brexit referendum and in the election in the US in 2016 and for which a new round of scandal broke into the mainstream this year. It turns out that while the PR machines of social media corporations were pushing the dictator-toppling angle, they were simultaneously selling data on our behaviours in order to send us ultra-targetted and manipulative ads. In this way, the new media corporations are no different from the old ones: their primary income streams come not from selling ‘content’ to ‘users’, but from selling audiences to advertisers. In this sense, they don’t produce ‘news’ or ‘entertainment’ or what have you, they produce viewership (maybe it should be updated to ‘usership’), whether large or specialised niche pickings.

And the beauty of corporate owned social media platforms such as facebook is that all this targetting was exempt from public debate because the only people who saw those ads were the targeted. So while the mainstream media talk about anti-immigrant sentiment as the key factor deciding the Brexit referendum because of UKIP’s ‘breaking point’ campaign poster depicting lines of brown people, in reality we have no idea what kinds of discourses tipped the balance because the ads employed are obscured from the public domain (leaving aside for the moment the fact that voters are not just outcomes of advertising). As long as differential access can be bought and sold, the rich will continue to try to use it to control us.

The flip side of this is that corporate-owned social media platforms can place restrictions on how certain types of content, possibly from certain types of profiles, can circulate. And again, because you see your posts from the perspective of your account, such restrictions are mostly undetectable. The ‘Shadow ban‘ on twitter is probably the most well known example, but I’m sure there are other mechanisms at work on that and other platforms that we just don’t know about and are powerless to do anything about. Can’t really call it our media then.

Then, let’s not forget the biggest winner in all this after the likes of facebook, twitter etc: uber, deliveroo, air bnb, etc, not to mention more traditionally structured companies who also benefit indirectly from the generalised lowering of labour standards and organising capacity brought about by what has come to be known as the gig economy. As people started to lose jobs following the 2008 economic crash, instinctive and creative ways were developed so people could continue to make ends meet, in what became known as the ‘sharing economy’ or ‘solidarity economy’. These kinds of practices involved to a greater or lesser degree informally connecting production and consumption and cutting out the biggest liability – formal middle-man institutions designed to funnel wealth out of the system towards Capital and the state. And then companies like those mentioned above parachuted themselves into this middle-man space, privatised the networks and practices that people themselves had created, and then, even worse, pressurised governments to recognise as law (or just to simply ignore and tolerate) and normalise what were and are effectively informal survival-level labour conditions for coping with an emergency. A far cry from the emancipation and empowerment that web 2.0 was supposedly ushering in.

So, with all this kind of corporate ownership and control, is it possible to challenge dominant narratives? I remember back in 2011 talking to a mate of mine, definitely not an activist, about the protests in North Africa, which had just spread from Tunisia to Egypt. He was super enthusiastic about the potential of the internet (as it was still known then) to unmask and disarm illegitimate repression wherever it is found in the world. “… because now, if the police beat a guy this can be filmed and then posted and then people everywhere will see it and see that the police are out of line. And then they can do something about it”. Leaving aside our differences on what he imagined illegitimate repression and being out of line were, and leaving aside for the moment the ‘they can do something about it’ part of the equation (returned to below), my answer on whether social media is an effective tool in terms of correcting misrepresentation in the mainstream media is … Yes and No. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, and I can’t figure out any further why the fuck it works sometimes and others not. The best analysis I have read on this is from the middle of a review of Paul Mason’s Why it’s kicking off everywhere:

It’s easy to lose sight of the potential impact this network effect allows and the way it has already transformed the potential for communication. As an example, I was part of the Shell to Sea media group that broke the story almost a year ago in April 2011 when women campaigners who had just been arrested accidentally recorded the arresting police joking about threatening to rape them as an interrogation technique. State media initially refused to broadcast the recording, but using Facebook and Twitter the recording we put online was listened to by 70,000 people in the first 12 hours, which spurred the state media into finally broadcasting it.

An article I’d written explaining what had happened was shared by over 2,000 people on Facebook in the same period. Close on 20,000 people read it in the first 48 hours. This genuinely new development in communications allows any one individual with something to say but without access to the mainstream media to communicate relatively easily with vast numbers of people. This happens because hundreds or thousands of other people make the small and low commitment decision to click ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ on an item in their feed and thus recommend it to their friends. Compare this to a pre-internet situation where we would have had to not only print 20,000 copies of an article up, but had to find 100’s of people willing to distribute them and get the leaflets into 20,000 individual sets of hands. This was only possible for large organisations or those with the financial resources to pay for such distribution; today the equivalent effect is potentially available to anyone with computer access.

[…]

Mason argues that Twitter has also greatly undermined the old anchorman structure of the news where a very, very few well known news figures got to interpret, spin and twist the news for everyone. This of course still happens from Fox News to Newsnight, but now such stories and those putting them out can be challenged on Twitter. The status of anchors in the industry no longer protects them from criticism because their critics are no longer journalists worried about the impact making powerful enemies might have on their future careers.

Again, in the example of the police ‘rape tape’ we were able to use twitter to bombard the state media Twitter accounts with questions as to why they had not yet broadcast the recording. These postings would have been visible to other journalists as well as the general public, not only resulting in a public shaming in front of colleagues, but also undermining the credibility of the broadcaster with a section of the general public, causing cumulative damage to the ability of state media to perform its primary function.

These processes are powerful but, at least as yet, they are no substitute for the automatic reach the mainstream media maintains. In the case of the Garda ‘rape tape’ the state was able to recover much if not all of the credibility lost through a cleverly worded and highly misleading report which was uncritically covered by the mainstream media and successfully created the false impression that the original story was suspect. We continued to provide often highly detailed corrections to these reports but despite the use of the same internet mechanisms & resources these never achieved a fraction of the circulation the original recordings received.

Sometimes the fish bites and sometimes it doesn’t. But stories of the times it does bite become famous and are heavily referenced by starry-eyed proponents of the brave-new-world narrative, while the times it doesn’t bite are known only to those media activists who have no option but to sit down and start again.

In some respects one of the definite gains of social media is found in its potential for developing class/race/gender/etc consciousness. When it comes to things like #me too, what is important is not whether these things are ‘true’ as some traditional media critics harp on about. Instead it is the potential for people to see their own specific circumstances (sexual harassment, domestic violence, or ‘low-level’ male aggression) as something that others also experience as part of a broader system of oppression. As put on a blog post about #YesAllWomen,

Women who may never have considered the connection between the microagressions we suffer, misogyny, and patriarchal society read and participated in those tweets. They are seeing the connections between the unwanted hand on your arse in a nightclub that other men condone, and the man who murders a woman because she says she’s pregnant, dumps her body in a barrel and flies to New York to try and get busy with his ex-girlfriend. And between the man who calls a woman a slut for rejecting him on OK Cupid, and the man who decides to shoot women because they rejected him in a forum outside of the internet. There is a broad spectrum of violence against women, and if others make those connections, while happening to “blow off steam” at the same time, that is a very useful thing in terms of naming the problem of misogyny in order to address it.

Or, as we say on this blog, ‘to recognise your struggle in the struggle of others’.

That said, the shift from indymedia to personal blogs and facebook accounts has done some damage to the communities that were required to run alternative media back in the day. As Indymedia London wrote in their closing down post in 2012, the initial creation of the indymedia networks was a gamechanger in terms of giving direct access to posting to ordinary people, which is the spirit that subsequently fuelled the later turn to blogs and facebook profiles, only replacing the collectivity of ‘we-ism’ with the egotism of an endless series of ‘me-isms’. I remember years ago in London we had what were known as ‘Free information networks’ (or FINs as we used to call them), where you would pool info on all sorts of events in the activist world onto an A4 sheet, photocopy it and then start handing them out and leaving piles of them at squats or bars. It wasn’t much work but doing it really felt part part of something, which you don’t get with liking or retweeting.

And speaking of liking or retweeting being insufficient, another detrimental impact social media has had is that it has killed in many places the capacity (and sometimes even the awareness of the need for) plane old fashioned organising. Social media has made pervasive the idea that you can make an event on facebook and BANG, unstoppable revolution started. (although to be fair, this is not such a new thing; I remember seeing critical mass dublin dying before my eyes because people thought they could just post it on the Indymedia calender and no need for any further work). Although this is maybe one of the most parroted myths pushed by the corporate PR machines, anyone who has tried it will quickly realise there is more to it than that – either that or lapse into a ‘I tried but people obviously don’t care enough’ righteousness. Building a movement is not about the numbers (a hang-up from traditional politics) but about how new people can take part and shape the development of that movement. Which involves hard work – movement-building and organising shouldn’t be confused with marketing and advertising. If you do then you will end up with a campaign that is as effective in changing the world as buying a product or voting for a party.

So, with all those reservations why was it again that we are venturing into the twitter sphere? Oh yes, because it is unavoidable. Definitely not my favourite of reasons when making a decision as to how best to further the autonomist revolution. But there we are. I’m just looking forward to when everybody is on Mastodon (an open source replica of twitter which can federate to twitter – meaning Mastodon accounts can follow Twitter accounts but not vice versa) and the twittershphere resembles an ageing out-of-touch population talking to themselves oblivious to conversations taking place not on their turf and in denial about the declining influence they hold with the world outside their bubble.

See you on the streets

Oh, sorry, I forgot. Follow us on Twitter etc etc @socialisestrug1.

Best of July 2016

 

2016_07_Turkish demonstrators beat soldiers
Anti-coup demonstrators beat captured soliders, most of whom were young conscripts who had no idea what they were taking part in. Shows the masculinist character of what Erdongan described as saviours of democracy, and of the kind of fascist state and auxiliary society he is trying to mould. Image shared from the Guardian.

July was the month of violence and terrorism across germany, france, the usa, and a failed coup and nationalist backlash in Turkey. Although the levels of violence was still far less than in Iraq, Nigeria, or Somalia this month (not to mention Syria) the white media still focussed on dangers in the safest parts of the world. And when they weren’t talking about terrorism they were talking about leadership contests in the anglo-centric centres of the universe, all under the shadow of predictably senseless discussion on Brexit. Among some of the exceptions from within the empires are some interesting pieces on groups trying to tackle post-referendum racism, (see also a piece by the Wretched of the Earth Collective on how to practice anti-racist solidarity, previously linked to on this blog) a discussion thread critically exposing the shamelessness of the anti-democratic elite of the britain’s Labour party, plus some guidelines for how members can try to win back the organisation and turn it into a member-based party (although a structure based on direct democracy and instantly-recallable delegates is still beyond the horizon). And actually, some good points are made in this other post arguing how the time spent by activists reclaiming the Labour party might be better spent on extra-parliamentary organising.

2016_07_Trident protest
Demonstrators against nuclear submarines, stationed off Scotland. Image shared from catholic universe.

By far the best piece I read this month was a journal entry by a trans woman who has chosen not to undergo surgery and presents as male. Touches on all sorts of complexities of feminism in relation to trans* perspectives. Although it was published earlier in the year, it seems to have only been noticed recently. A similar post in response/inspired by it is also worth a read.

Elsewhere, a discussion of teachers’ unionising and strategising against neoliberalisation and racism and inequality, looking at recent examples in Mexico, usa and uk. A report of the Social ecology gathering in Lyon, outlining what an anti-capitalist, libertarian municipalist social ecology vision could look like, written by Janet Biehl, former partner, collaborator and current biogropher of Murray Bookchin. A sad enough piece about the decline of the Nordic model in Denmark over the course of the last 30 years and the embracal instead of neoliberalism. And pointers to some good movies that are probably worth a look at: recommendations selected from among films screening at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival in ireland.

2016_07_Derry antifascists
Demo in solidarity anti-fascist prisoners in Russia, staged at Free Derry Corner. Image shared from wsm.ie.

 

 

 

Five ways to practise anti-racist solidarity in Brexit Britain – Statement by Wretched of the Earth Collective

The media have predictably ignored the implications of the Brexit vote. Instead of looking at the increase in racist attacks and the morale boost given to the militant extreme right, they instead focus on non-issues of party leaders (in UK and in EU), and speculation about investors’ dictats. The wretched of the earth collective instead offer this guide on how to counter the militancy of the right and practice anti-racist solidarity. Apprpriate at this particular moment, but also good advice for the rest of the time and in all countries. Shared from the New Internationalist.

 

30.06.16-nigel-farage-brexit-590x393.jpg [Related Image]
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage poses during a media launch for an EU referendum poster in London. The poster was widely criticized as promoting xenophobia during the campaign. © REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A lot of people on the Left have woken up to the uncomfortable reality that racism exists in Britain. So what can you do about it? asks the Wretched of the Earth collective.

In the days since the Brexit vote was announced, it seems Britain’s white liberal Left have suddenly become aware of an uncomfortable truth for the first time: racism. And most notably, its prevalence. From shouts of ‘solidarity to my friends who feel less safe in Britain overnight’ to ‘so it seems it’s now okay to openly be racist on the streets’, many are presenting this well-established phenomenon as a genuinely new discovery.

So where have they been in the last few years when racism – both from the state and on the streets – has increased in Britain? From the introduction of prevent duty across educational institutions to ‘Go home’ vans targeting black and brown communities; from the rise of the English Defence League and Britain First to the vastly disproportionate use of police stop-and-search powers in black communities; from the increasing use of immigration detention centres across the country to the growth in violent islamophobic attacks – and even brutal murders – on our streets… Let’s be honest: has there ever been a time when black and brown people have been safe in this country? It is clear that violent racism and xenophobia have increased since the referendum result was announced. Various police forces up and down the country are investigating numerous reports and MPs are raising questions in the House of Commons. It’s only a matter of time before reports galore are thrown our way outlining this increase in attacks.

RELATED: Stop Brexit-fuelled racism and campaign lies by Vanessa Baird

White people seem to think that there is a small, fringe group of racists in Britain, but the reality is much more uncomfortable and implicates a large part of the white population in more and less direct ways. There are different forms of racism, from microaggressions in the workplace, to violence on the streets, to government policy targeted directly at black and brown bodies, all of which contribute to a racist society. We can, however, change this together, starting by undertaking acts of allyship with those experiencing the current spike in this country’s long history of racist scapegoating. Get informed on where racism and xenophobia come from and learn how to dispel the numerous myths regularly doled out by the mainstream media. Listen to people when they open up about their experiences of racism and xenophobia and don’t be dismissive of people’s feelings and fears. Saying things like ‘it wasn’t about race or nationality’, or ‘you’re being overly sensitive’, or ‘it’s a class issue, not a race issue’, only reinforces your privileged position by denying the very real feelings and experiences that others have to face.

RELATED: Busting the myth that ‘economic migrants are a drain on rich world economies’ by Dinyar Godrej

Moving on from awareness to action, here are some practical things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing increased discrimination, hate and violence in post-Brexit Britain:

  1. Call out racism in your workplace, your family or on the street. See a colleague facing discrimination? Ask them how you can best support them and do it. Racist uncle spewing a load of nonsense at the dinner table? Make sure you know what’s what and call him out on it or even call him in. Witness racism on the bus? Intervene. If someone is in distress on the street, it only takes one person to stand up and say something for others to follow. Acknowledging and calling out racism on social media is great, but calling it out in person is even more important.
  2. Visibilize solidarity. Whether through ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs in your window, or by brandalizing a bus advert, we can all take steps to use the spaces we share to make anti-racism explicit. We know that messages of hate in headlines or graffiti all contribute to feelings of insecurity and fear in communities of colour. Messages that challenge these manifestations of hate are a simple way to offer a reminder that there are allies in every community in this country willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with those most affected, to challenge racism in all its forms. They are a simple reminder that we are not alone.
  3. Intervene in a Stop and Search. Black people are 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people in Britain. When those getting searched don’t know their rights, police have been known to abuse the system beyond its inherent racism. Print a copy of this document which outlines your rights under stop-and-search powers and keep it handy, in a purse or wallet. Get familiar with it. If you see a person of colour being stopped and searched, you can pass it on to them and be there to explain it, if they ask. If the person being searched consents, you can also legally film the police on your phone, to help hold them accountable. A watchful eye can be a powerful form of solidarity.
  4. Call an airline to challenge a deportation flight. When a deportation is underway, the incredible folks at Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) will shout about it as loud as they can and get as many people as possible to bombard the phone lines of complicit airlines to stop them doing the state’s dirty work. Airlines are waking up to the fact that it simply isn’t worth the hassle to support the government with deportations. Constant pressure on them can lead to a halt in airlines helping with deportations altogether, and can help keep individual people and families from being forced out of the country in the meantime. Sign up to updates from MFJ and follow them on social media to keep an eye out for callouts. (And when you’re ready to go a step further, join an MFJ action outside of a detention centre.)
  5. Help stop immigration raids in your community. Keep an eye on the @AntiRaids Twitter feed. Form a local group. Put up posters in your area explaining what rights people have if they are approached by immigration officers. Physically get in the way of the van. There are many possible steps, but most of them are based on forming a small local group that can be contacted when support is needed, as well as helping inform others of their rights. This is a practical, direct form of action that can prevent racially targeted arrests and deportations, and for which a bit of white (and other forms of) privilege can be incredibly influential on the officers carrying out the raids. Here is all you need to get started.

We’ve named a few of the things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing racism and toward dismantling white supremacy in this country, but they are only starting points. Don’t wait around for something to happen to speak up. In whatever places and groups you find yourself in, be vocal about who is welcome here and what attitudes aren’t. Silence is violence and allyship is not something to be done in secret. Together, our voices and actions can overcome the chorus of hate.

Wretched of The Earth is a collective of over a dozen grassroots Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups, individuals and allies acting in solidarity with oppressed communities in the Global South and Indigenous North. Twitter: @WretchedOTEarth Facebook: wotearth Email: wote@riseup.net

The EU is awful – But I still would ask UK-based leftists to vote against leaving

One of the many voices clammoring to be heard about the Brexit referendum in June. First of all, let me say that this post is not addressed to UK ‘people’. As in, I’m not appealling to UK ‘interests’ or trying to argue that the UK would be better or worse in or out of the EU. How can a group of 60 million people have a common interest and be uniformly better or worse off with a single decision? And let me say secondly that this is also not a defense of EU – you don’t need to convince me of how undemocratic and right-wing the whole institution is. Instead this is aimed at progressives, activists and general lefties who have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the UK should remain part of the EU.

Far be it from me to tell people how to vote, but I saw a video recently on Novara arguing for the left to vote for Brexit, which gives me a bit of concern that some parts of the UK left might fall into the trap of thinking in an us-versus-them logic when the real need is for solidarity. In a nutshell, the video gives four reasons for a Brexit vote, which amount to:

  1. the EU is undemocratic and is aggressively eroding democracy in Member States

  2. Laws and treaties such as TTIP will make socialist changes illegal

  3. the EU forces countries from the global south to accept free trade deals and open their weak markets to the brute force of western competition

  4. it has replaced internal national borders with massive external borders.

All this criticism is entirely accurate, but my question would be is the UK any better on any of these counts? Any debate about Brexit that only looks at one side and not the other is only half the story. What happened to all the debate about the nature of the UK state that was thrown up by the Scotland referendum last year?

But anyway, in writing this I want to avoid getting caught in the trap of talking about this in terms of what is good for UK people, even if we are talking about the UK left. Like it or not, we are in a European crisis-management-regime, and the outcomes of the UK referendum will be felt by the left Europe-wide. In taking this broader viewpoint, there are a few points that Bastiani makes about EU democracy which, while completely correct, need to be looked at closer. There are effectively 3 ways that enfranchised european citizens can influence the content and personnel of EU institutions – a) the European Parliament elections; b) national elections, with elected governments appointing commissioners to the European Commission and sitting on the European Council and other committees; and c) through referenda. Aside from referenda, the other two mechanisms are completely flawed. As Bastiani says, the Parliament is indeed only a symbol. The real power sits with Commission and Council. Which brings up a contradiction: the public debates surrounding national elections are not usually Europe focussed, whereas the Parliament elections are the only time that european issues are publicly debated, all of which results in that the real EU power is ‘elected’ in a context of domestic-centred debate, while those elections which are conducted amid Europe-centred debate are to a body which has no power.

When it comes to referenda, though, these instruments do indeed have the potential for people to throw a spanner in the works of an otherwise unaccountable machinery moving in directions that diverge with popular will. Witness how the Dutch and French citizenry delayed the ratification of the EU constitution for 6 years until it was eventually renamed as the Lisbon Treaty, rejected by the Irish first time but then passed at the second asking. And it must be remembered that the elites succeeded in winning this second time of asking only because the referendum was characterised by a bullish Sarkozy who completely rejected the right of voters to vote NO, and where voters were in the grips of economic terrorism after their first rejection in 2008 was quickly rewarded with an assault on the country’s financial and banking sector. Considering all this, referenda are one instrument where populations can hold the institutions to account most effectively and directly. There should be a referendum in every member state on all major decisions. Critics would no doubt say this would render the EU unworkable, but if you ask me, I think if an institution cannot be held to democratic account then unworkable is the best way for it.

But there are are problems with referenda as an instrument, and this has a central bearing on the Brexit vote. Despite opening up debate on core EU issues before a vote, all that NO votes can do really is throw spanners in the works. The exact interpretation of the direction of that spanner can easily be manipulated or more often simply ignored. In the aftermath of both the Nice treaty rejection in Ireland in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 the establishment were quick to paint both rejections as a misunderstanding of the issues, and a narrow concern with Irish neutrality, along with various straw men that they burned with fanfare. In other words, they spinned it as ‘well they didn’t really reject it, and if they did reject it was only because of this one issue which happens to be inoffensive and we can get a declaration about it’. That happened twice, in a context in which all the establishment parties campaigned for yes votes and still WE couldn’t control the message of our own spanner. Now think about what would happen if left-wing voters brought about a NO vote in the Brexit referendum. Unlike the irish situations, in this case there are establishment parties, – conservative and far-right ones at that – campaigning against the EU and I can guarantee that they will be the ones claiming ownership and filling the spanner with a very right-wing meaning.

But this focus on formal democracy kind of leaves a lot of things off the table. If you are asking about how democratic the EU is, the very reform package is a testament to how non-democratic it is. An economically powerful country with a rightist government has blackmailed the union into conceeding reforms, after 5 years during which said government has been one of the stronger voices (though admittedly not the strongest) against granting any concessions to countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy and giving consent to blackmailing and economically terrorising them into implementing austerity meassures against the wishes of is people. That for me is the biggest reason why I ask UK left-wing voters to reject Brexit. After years of stiffling any leftward democratic expression, the right-wing UK government is now blackmailing the rest of the union for a rightward anti-democratic change. So, I ask that when you enage in discussing this referendum, please reject the ‘is this good for Britain?’ nationalist trap and instead stand in solidarity with Europe-wide activists who have been pushed around too long.