Brexit campaigners won by dividing, not uniting, the British working class. Peter Hallward teaches philosophy at Kingston University, and is the author of a forthcoming book entitled The Will of the People and the Struggle for Popular Sovereignty.This essay first appeared in Jacobin.
There’s been a lot of talk, the last few days, about the need to respect “the sovereign will of the British people.” A simple question was asked, a simple answer was recorded.
Like the main party leaders on both sides of the referendum, most commentators on the Left seem to agree with Owen Jones, that whatever happens there can be no argument for “reversing the expressed democratic will of the British people — what is done is done.”
The people have spoken. Don’t the basic principles of democracy require that our government now simply do what we’ve told it to do?
In a new article for the Guardian, political theorist Peter Hallward traces the genesis and continuing success of the anti-austerity student demonstrations in Quebec, urging organizers worldwide to take up the same model.
Hallward attributes the rapid growth of the demonstrations to the students' ability not only to articulate an immediate aim--stopping tuition hikes--but also to situate that aim within a larger pushback against heightening neoliberal attacks on public programs. CLASSE, the radical student coalition spearheading the protests, has ballooned in numbers to a membership of over 100,000, and now claims to represent 70% of striking students. CLASSE has called for the unconditional abolition of tuition fees, to be phased out over several years and compensated by a bank tax, at a time of record bank profits.
The hardline roots of the student protests have ensured the creation of a "practical, militant community of interest" that has organized the single biggest act of civil disobedience that Canada has ever seen. The result of months of careful preparation and hundreds of general assemblies, these massive student strikes have become too strong to contain, showing signs of radiating out to other parts of Canada--and, Hallward hopes, the rest of the world. "After a couple memorable springs," he concludes, "it's time to prepare for a momentous autumn."
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.