Why voting Leave can be an anti-racist, leftist act

Alberto Torres is a third year BSc Political Economy student at King’s College London. He is also a political campaigner, a libertarian socialist, and a students’ union representative.



The polls have started and this piece may do little to switch anyone’s sides but more of us have to voice something different to the racist, grey men in suits-type EU referendum debate. Of course, it has not been easy to take a stance under such terms and with very little platform for the progressive politics side to be heard. This piece pays some tribute to the fact the latter is so much lacking. Having said that, it is important to remind ourselves that true political change occurs outside the ballot box and that is where our political involvement should be focused. In any case, if you haven’t voted, I hope you can give the following points some serious thought regardless of whether you are for IN or OUT.

1. In spite of misperceptions, most if not all the arguments for both leave and remain circulating are staunchly and disgustingly nationalistic. Yet when it comes to priorities, there is no doubt it is the people in the global south are still the most affected by these types of decisions. Colonialism never ended, it simply changed shape. As such our decisions have the biggest impact on the global majority of this world. This is the people we should be thinking of first when we vote. Our heart should be with them and the planet before anything else. It is on this matter that I believe we are better off fighting regimes locally than at the meta-centralised level. Furthermore, it is a matter of morality not to vote with an institution that has done so much harm to millions of starving farmers across the world through frameworks such as the EU common agricultural policy, that is racist in constitution (free movement for the Europeans but total borders, racism and victimisation for the people from the 90%+ of the world they colonised), and to the human catastrophe they are doing even closer to us in Greece.

2. A lot of people don’t realise this is not a vote about being European or being with Europe. It is a vote about under what institutional frameworks and power hierarchies we are going to choose to be ruled. Yes disgusting and that’s why we shouldn’t judge each other decisions – this choice is rigged from the start. With IN you are voting with Goldman Sachs, David Cameron, the whole financier class and the liberal racists (the worse amongst them), with OUT you are voting with UKIP, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and Rupert Murdoch. Both frameworks are equally neoliberal, racist, imperialistic and similarly undemocratic. The question is then under what framework we have more chances to fight back and succeed. I.e. where are we more likely to win concessions for us the workers, students, society, migrants & refugees, and to push for progressive policies. The EU is a fight distanced from us, in obscure committees, without clear people to be blamed, and with much more financing and power. The more centralised power gets, the harder it gets to challenge it. We need to think about the long term oppressive and impoverishing consequences that result from the EU. Even if the UK was to benefit economically in any sense – how can we be so selfish to ignore how this is done at the expense of the underdevelopment of Greece, Italy, Spain and the very working classes of Europe?

3. Lastly, a historical mistake I have learnt from readings and involvement in politics is the irrational impulse of people to sacrifice the long term for some short term petty gain or simply avoid a short term pain. The current Hilary-Trump elections, the 2014 UK elections, the London elections and now the EU referendum are all clear examples of this. The result of “playing safe”, “the lesser of two evils”, the “short-term over the long-term”, is always the same old status quo – a slow continuous deterioration of the lives of the most vulnerable that we don’t notice like frogs in boiling water. We need to be brave, stand up where our hearts lie, and more than anything, move beyond the ballot box when it comes to fighting for our rights and beliefs. People say we need to stay in because with the Tories we’re just going to get the stick (as if we weren’t getting it now). Yes the Tories are in now, but we also have Jeremy Corbyn and he is a real possibility. Corbyn will not be able to do the things we stand for if we are in, no chance – just look at Syriza or Podemos. But he will if we are out and may encourage oppressed countries such as Greece and Spain to leave as well. This would create a real alternative to dictatorial, technocrat imposing, imperialistic fortress Europe. Moreover, the Tories and the racists will not go away even if we stay in, yet we can still beat them even if we are out. We underestimate how weak and divided the right in this country is, and leave is the perfect opportunity to build a wedge that will break it to allow us to build an alternative based on international solidarity, worker’s rights, and social justice.

For these and more reasons, for our solidarity with the people of Greece, for our sympathy with the starving farmers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, for our commitment to a world free of colonialism and superpower domination, stand up with the global majority. Let’s stand together to fight against racism and build a real alternative to meta-centralised, imperialist power politics. No to the EU, vote #Leave.


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