Who represents the lower class?
When I heard the news yesterday I was shocked but also somehow excited. I always get a bit excited when there’s a referendum and people make the ‘wrong’ choice, and the establishment has to somehow deal with it. It’s not a democracy unless you have the power to make a bad choice.
For many however, the outcome signalled a failure of democracy. How could such an important decision be left up to the uneducated masses? I heard some propose an alternative form of government; one where all decisions are made by experts in their respective fields, so we can be sure we’re always making the ‘right’ decision.
But a lot of the times, the correctness of a decision is a matter of perspective. A matter of whose interests you are trying to protect. And this is where democracy shines, since it seeks to equally represent the interests of all people in a society.
So maybe, what happened yesterday in the UK wasn’t a failure of democracy, but a failure of representation. Who represents the 51% that voted to leave the EU? Since a large portion of them consists of the lower class, it should traditionally have been Labour. But has Labour successfully represented the interests of lower class people in recent years / decades? I would say no.
The absence of a strong, radical left creates a vacuum that is filled by the far right. We have seen it all over Europe and now, with Trump, it’s happening in America as well. As it happens, America is an extreme case of failure to represent with its two-party system, where a majority of people identify with neither one.
Even though, being an immigrant, I wasn’t allowed to vote in the referendum, I received an official pamphlet from the British government explaining why the UK should remain in the EU. All of the arguments boiled down to “it’s better for the economy”. Which begs the question, who profits from a good economy? Real wages have been steadily declining since the 1970’s.
It’s not the first time that economic “good common sense” has suffered a blow from a referendum in the EU. Maybe it’s time for Europe to take a hard look at what their policies of austerity actually means for the lower class, instead of arrogantly dismissing them as uneducated. Because when democracy is your biggest problem, something has gone terribly wrong.