Autopsy on a Lost Referendum

Autopsy on a Lost Referendum
by Sean Gabb
(27th May 2016)

Though we have nearly four weeks yet of campaigning, I find it hard to believe that the European Referendum will end in other than a crushing defeat for the Leave Campaign. For many on our side, this will be the end of their hopes. They have spent twenty five years – sometimes forty – connecting everything bad in this country with membership of the European Union, and pressing for a referendum. They now have their referendum. It will be lost. Age alone will give many of them nowhere to go. Some will pass the rest of their lives complaining that the vote was rigged. Most will drift away into confused silence. My own view is that the Referendum was always a mistaken strategy, and that its loss will bring an end to one of the less valuable chapters in the history of our movement.

The failure of the Leave Campaign can in part be blamed on the personalities involved. They are generally chancers and incompetents. If there is some reason to believe they were bought off in advance, nothing involving Boris Johnson was bound to end other than in defeat. I have always thought him a sinister buffoon. The only reason he became and stayed Mayor of London was that he was running against Ken Livingstone. Even I might have voted for him. Everything else achieved in his life has been the effect of sucking up to the right people. I have barely anything good to say about Michael Gove, and nothing good about Michael Howard or the others whose faces I see in my occasional skim of the BBC website.

In part, though, the failure is structural. The Leave Campaign has no plan for how to leave and what to do afterwards. It has none because none of the many plans on offer has general support. The Remain side can unite round a clear and simple message: we are better off in the European Union. The Leave side is a loose coalition with nothing in common beyond wanting to leave the European Union. Do we repeal the European Communities Act, scrap virtually all the regulations from Brussels and elsewhere, and practise unilateral free trade? Or do we disengage using the treaty mechanism, and then keep most of the regulations? Or do we try for a Keynesian siege economy? There is no agreement. If the Leave Campaign were to speak in details, it would disintegrate. The alternative, of being torn apart by the Remain side, is ruinous though preferable. So long as the campaign remains in being, something might turn up before polling day.

But I return to the matter of personality. Every so often, I see an opinion article that speaks about a “freewheeling, buccaneering” Britain outside the European Union. I think this is meant to be an appeal to some fading memory of Francis Drake or Robert Clive. I know – and so does everyone else – that it simply looks forward to having London as a giant offshore casino, with a few warehousing jobs on minimum wage for the rest of us. Mainstream conservatism in this country has morphed into support of a soft money corporatism designed to suck wealth upwards. In terms of what it offers ordinary people, it is no better than European social democracy – and may be worse.

The truth is that the European Union is a nuisance. It hides political accountability and raises business costs. At almost no point, however, does it touch on the real problem we face, which is dispossession of our identity and freedom. It has given us neither Balkanisation nor a police state. Leaving would not in itself undo what has been done to us since 1979 or before. The same ruling class would be in place. This might no longer be able to hide behind the fig leaf of international agreements. On the other hand, it would no longer be obliged to keep in step with a cartel of other ruling classes, not all of them equally malevolent in every respect.

The ultimate cause of all the problems we face is not a few Directives that may or may not exist about the curvature of bananas. It is that we no longer see ourselves as a distinctive people, able and willing to hold onto our ancestral homeland and our ancestral ways. Membership if the European Union is one symptom of this collective failure. So is multiculturalism. So is our cultural prostration before America. So is the degeneracy of our rulers, and the immiserisation of our working classes. These symptoms cannot be addressed before the cause is addressed.

So, how to address the cause? Let us rule out a rich man willing to lavish money on us. The money would not come to us, but be grabbed by the usual suspects and spent on cocaine and whores in the usual manner. The rich man would almost certainly be a fool, more focussed on speaking in the Albert Hall than on doing something useful. And I doubt there are any rich men on our side – certainly none likely to make even a third rate Donald Trump. What I suggest instead is a growth of self-sufficient communities of interest.

We need to form closer bonds with each other than the commonalities of outlook that have brought us together. Because state and corporate employments are increasingly closed to us, we are forced to consider self-employment. This gives us the moral advantage of independence. This being said, the self-employed flourish best not as isolated individuals, competing in some anonymous market, but as members of tight networks. We need to do business with each other, and to help each other. In every respect where it can be given, we must give regular preference to each other. We should employ builders and window cleaners who share our outlook. We should expect preference in the sale of our own talents from those who share our outlook. We need our own schools and institutions of learning and research, our own orders of distinction and merit. We need standards by which to discipline the unworthy, or purge them from our communities, and to prevent infiltration. We need to show indifference to smears from the ruling class media, and discretion and flexibility enough to shelter us from its direct invasions.

Now, I am not suggesting withdrawal and quietism, even if that might be the result for some of us. The purpose is to create communities with institutions of outreach and proselytism, and a cultural revival and style of life that makes us worth listening to. It is not an unprecedented strategy. It has, with necessary variations, been followed by every group of outsiders who survived and flourished and had eventual influence. I think of Christians in the second and third centuries, or Jews in twentieth century England, or Moslems at the moment in England. These are all examples from which we can learn.

How long before these communities can grow into a network of communities able to have a measurable influence on our national life? I have no idea. But I do insist that, had this been our strategy in 1992, some difference might now have been made. Instead – and, so far as I have been alive and active in this time, I do not exclude myself from the blame – we have spent a quarter of a century variously whining about the Maastricht Treaty and helping rich men grow still richer by arguing for the transfer of state monopolies into their hands. It is simply unfortunate if we must begin a strategy that might work somewhat later than we should have. But nothing can be achieved otherwise. The sooner we begin, the better it will be.

So let us get the Referendum over and done with. Let it go 60:40, or 75:25, or only 55:45. Even let it be narrowly “won” – it will make no difference. What we badly need is to stop fighting what time has shown to be the wrong battle. We must stop mistaking symptoms for causes. There is no with-a-bound-he-was-free option. Voting will not save us. If we are to save our country, we must start with ourselves.



  1. The referendum is being skewed by the most mendacious propaganda. But I think non-EU migration is the real thing to concentrate on, and one that UKIP should take up. It is an issue that membership of the EU can’t stop us from addressing.

    • Unlikely. As I keep saying, but no one listens, UKIP says that it wants even more immigration from outside the EU. Furthermore, after the referendum, UKIP is set to become a “direct democracy” party. It is due an identity crisis from which it will not recover.

      • I think UKIP is just being tactical so as to avoid being labelled ‘racist’. IMO, they’re pretty hardcore paleolibertarians at their core; Farage, Woolfe and Nuttall, certainly so and, back when he was in the party, Bloom, too. However, they are dealing with an electorate where even proposing a French or Dutch (NOT American) style insurance system for healthcare is lambasted as some intolerable affront to the idol of the NHS.

        The huge mistake the Leave side has made – which makes me wonder if they are in fact controlled opposition – is to sideline Farage/UKIP. In practice, UKIP have stated based on current migration levels, they would severely curtail all migration under a points-based system to allow Britain to absorb the level of migration it has had over the past decade or so. UKIP got this referendum, they have been arguing these points far more vociferously and broadly than the Leave campaign, and know how to position the issue so as to resonate with the public, and yet the Leave campaign comes across as a collection of sterile conservative has-beens pushing rather vague economic arguments for leaving.

        I am not as pessimistic as Sean on the whole referendum. I think the polls are flawed and deliberately used to mislead, as last year’s election revealed. However, they may be effective in a FPTP system but the referendum is not going to be FPTP, so unless we’re talking about people who literally receive their opinions from the media, there is a better chance that they will just be so much pissing in the wind.

        I disagree with the article that the EU is not a key issue; it absolutely is. Although our attitude toward statism and lack of alternative civic institutions is a big issue, the EU is gradually becoming a super-state, and will continue usurping more powers for itself and allowing our government to hide behind it, passing themselves off as unable to do anything but comply. Tax harmonisation policies being contemplated within the EU, in particular, are a great cause of concern for those who see value in competition between member-states in this area.

        • The last I heard of Mr Nuttall, he was calling for a new “super VAT” rate of 25% on “luxury” goods and trying to appeal to Labour voters with the promise of more state handouts.

          And the last I heard from Farage, apart from his assurance that his bus had the best drinks cabinet in the country, was that there should be a new tariff on steel imports to protect the obsolete Port Talbot steelworks from foreign competition.

          I am not sure how any of that that is consistent with their being “hardcore paleolibertarians”.

          As for the future, based on its internal contradictions and and the inability of Farage to lead a practical national party, it seems to me that UKIP will just continue its decline into complete irrelevance.

          Whatever the future, though, I am quite sure that UKIP will not be leading the UK towards a conservative revival of any kind. Libertarians would be well advised to direct their energies elsewhere.

          • Easy to sit at a keyboard and castigate Fararge but never forget, he has formed a political party from nothing and, in 25 years, has taken it to a position where 3.8 million people vote for it.

            Now, how does your CV read?

          • I’ll repeat myself: “However, they are dealing with an electorate where even proposing a French or Dutch (NOT American) style insurance system for healthcare is lambasted as some intolerable affront to the idol of the NHS.”

  2. [quote]”My own view is that the Referendum was always a mistaken strategy, and that its loss will bring an end to one of the less valuable chapters in the history of our movement.”[unquote]

    I agree with this. I also fundamentally object to the use of referenda anyway. This country is supposed to be governed by Parliament, not by the corporate media or the mob. Parliament should make the decision, and if Parliament does not reflect the popular will in this regard, then other political parties like UKIP can and should raise their profile and enter Parliament.

    UKIP’s strategy should be that of a broad-based civically patriotic party with strong policies across the board, and with the aim of either capturing a majority in Parliament or effecting change as the leading minority party. The referendum strategy was always a trap because once the referendum is lost, that will be taken as an endorsement of EU membership – probably for good – and UKIP’s raison d’etre evaporates.

    Where I disagree is on the value of the referendum. Now that we have the referendum, whatever I might think about it philosophically or strategically, I fully intend to take advantage of this opportunity to vote LEAVE. As someone who used to support EU membership and the federal ‘idea of Europe’ (for reasons that changed over the years), I entirely understand your equivocation in the matter, but I think it’s a classic example of an intellectual over-thinking things. We all know this isn’t simple, however nobody with any sense is suggesting that a LEAVE outcome will be the end of this country’s problems, or even our membership of the EU.

    A vote to LEAVE would be the ‘end of the beginning’ and would set the scene for many years of negotiations and twists and turns as we gradually retreated, probably with a spell in EFTA. I doubt we will ever leave the EEA except under the terms of a strong bilateral treaty with the EU along the same lines as Switzerland. I still think Switzerland is a good model. They have bilateral access to the single market, but are not affiliated to the EEA, and they are also outside NATO. I realise Britain is not a land-locked country and has not history of strategic neutrality, so we’re a little bit different, but it’s still an example of a success story that could be emulated.

    • I will take the Referendum as a vote of confidence in the present order of things, and will vote to leave. But I don’t expect enough others will do the same.

      • Agreed on all the above but the big issue for UKIP is breaking into Parliament, because the FPTP is brutal unless it can generate significant momentum in specific counties. It is trying to do so, but time is not on its side. So the best alternative is to begin campaigning for some other form of voting system, but fundamentally time will run out either way, as Labour’s demographic time bomb gift to Britain is ticking ever more loudly.

  3. Sean, you are too pessimistic. The pollsters are wrong – indeed, they cannot even model the (what is essentially nationalist) sentiment of those who seek a national liberation from the interests and structures which now control our lives, because that sentiment exists outside the parameters of the modern liberal desiderata – something you will dispute, no doubt; but such it is.

    We are going to win on June 23rd. No thanks to Vote Leave, but that is what is going to happen. It is a only a beginning on a long, vivifying journey.

    Incidentally, within nationalism proper Larry Nunn (as Max Musson) has elucidated a not totally dissimilar communitarian vision to yours:

    … and, again, Larry is deeply pessimistic about the future of Europe’s peoples and the peerless social and cultural goods we have generated. He, of course, has already experienced a sundering of his political world when, after his 2009 election to the European Parliament, Griffin pulled down the BNP about himself. But the struggle of our people is the struggle for life itself – that is what it has become – and is not lost with a minor political party or, in your case, a minority political ideology. The struggle for life will intensify even as the threats to it solidify and grow. The great question for people like us is not how to make our personal preferences and ideas, whatever they may, regnant but how to guide that struggle, and make it the dominant intellectual, moral, and political force in the land.

  4. The referendum is lost because the PTB are determined that we should remain in the EUSSR. Whatever the wishes of those who vote, the result is a foregone conclusion. The postal vote racket and other electoral fiddles will ensure that they get the result they want. Elections in this country these days are corrupt from start to finish. If they changed anything they would likely be abolished. Welcome the Third World.

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