by Kolby LaMarche
Nigel Farage, a charismatic right-wing character in British politics and former member of the European Parliament, once spearheaded the campaign for Britain’s exit from the EU with unwavering determination and fervour.
Brexit, as it came to be known, ushered in a deeply divided landscape, where two distinct and increasingly divergent perspectives took root. Remain or leave.
Farage largely represented the ‘leave’ campaign, alongside Boris Johnson and other long-time anti-EU conservatives. Their rhetoric consisted of strong nationalist sentiment, promising to hand control over immigration, agriculture, and the economy back to the UK. Truly, this was a proposed rebirth of Britain as a sovereign nation-state.
Despite the Leave campaign being run almost entirely by right-wing figureheads, nearly 30% of Labour Party voters – that is those on the left – voted with Farage to leave the EU.
Britons of all stripes understood a very important fact: the National Health Service, social housing, strong public transportation, and so on, were not conjured up by the EU. In fact, their beloved social progress was a product of their own nation-state.
The UK had resoundingly rejected neoliberal thought in favour of jump-starting the repoliticization of national decision-making.
In his reflection on the Brexit revolution, German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck imaged creating a nation-state where citizens could seek refuge:
in democratic protection, popular rule, local autonomy, collective goods and egalitarian freedom.
This vision, which I wholeheartedly support, stands in direct contrast to – as I mentioned before – the quasi-fascist, isolationist, and right-wing nationalist movements of today. The left has a duty, in my mind, to meet the energy of the ‘America First’ movement; and to propose constructive opposition.
In America, we stand at the edge of a precipice.
Nationalism once heralded the rise of left-wing social movements, particularly those that emphasized economic class issues. Unfortunately, poverty, the cost of living, and wealth inequality have continued to widen. However, in recent decades, the American left has shifted its focus away from economic justice.
Instead, left-wing mainstream political thought in our country has obstructed every avenue to achieving progress. Through cleaving the population on factors such as race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and more, we have undermined the potential catalysts for unifying change.
I contend that a more comprehensive approach to addressing societal issues is required, one that transcends the confining effect that identity politics holds and seeks to foster genuine unity and progress. This, I believe, should manifest as a reinvigorated, progressive vision of nationalism.
A progressive nationalism firmly rooted in economic justice and the eradication of poverty represents a singular force. It would signify a nation where the prosperity and well-being of every citizen – regardless of race, gender, and so on – is paramount.
This brand of nationalism recognizes that a thriving economy should serve the common good, and not be solely measured by the stock market. Rather, we should emphasise the health of our rural-living population, our farmers, families, and veterans.
It’s a call to action for policies that bring the industry back to America, open access to quality education and healthcare, and bolster opportunities for economic advancement all through the arm of the nation-state.
And though, under this approach, we must reevaluate our membership in various international agreements, our global branding, and where we send our monies, we may still maintain activity on the global stage.
As Professor William Mitchell and writer Thomas Fazi outlined in their book Reclaiming the State — from which I draw some inspiration — a future of mutual balance where we can:
[construct] a new international(ist) world order, based on interdependent but independent and sovereign states.
As I mentioned in Part I, this is the only viable electoral path for the left. We must rise to the challenge of right-wing nationalism. Our task is to organize and not guide the country with divisive ideologies that deliberately seek to pin us against one another.
Burning Sky is dedicated to providing critique and commentary on the issues of the day from an unapologetic perspective, fueling change in the heart of Vermont. Authored by Kolby LaMarche every Saturday.