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You are here: Platypus /Back to Enlightenment values: An interview with Brendan O’Neill

Back to Enlightenment values: An interview with Brendan O’Neill

Chris Mansour

Platypus Review 103 | February 2018

On November 2, 2017, Chris Mansour interviewed Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked! and a panelist on a conversation that took place the night before entitled Is the Left Eating Itself?, part of an international discussion linked to Spiked!’s Unsafe Space Tour, which aimed to tackle issues such as campus culture, free speech, and Title IX. A recording of the conversation can be found at <https://archive.org/details/RMONeill>. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

Chris Mansour: What was the original impetus for starting the entire Unsafe Space Tour?

Brendan O’Neill: We wanted to genuinely engage with people in the US who are generating intelligent, thoughtful debates historicizing and politicizing the undermining of the freedom of speech and the growth of a new kind of petty authoritarianism, in particular, an identity politics tyranny among young leftists. We wanted to depart from the pantomime we have seen on campus in recent years where a ridiculous alt-right figure will speak and scream at feminists for being censorious, and feminists will scream back that he is a fascist. It is all heat, no light. Neither side believes in it very much. We want to turn this into a discussion about how we arrived here, historically speaking, and where we might go next.

CM: What are your reflections on last night’s event, Is the Left Eating Itself? Two strains emerged in the conversation: On one hand, Laura Kipnis and Angus Johnston defended administrative apparatuses in restricting the speech of fascists and far right organizations on university campuses, and, on the other hand, you and Bret Weinstein presented yourselves as “first amendment absolutists,” upholding Enlightenment notions of debating in public. Could you speak to this?

BON: There was more disagreement than I anticipated. I was incredibly surprised and disappointed by Kipnis in particular. She was sucked into the Kafkaesque rabbit hole of freedom of speech regarding sex on campus with that insane Title IX investigation.[i] While she angled her comments on the problem of absolute free speech, she still argued for the restriction of speech on campus for certain people such as Nazis, neo-fascists, and white supremacists. This was revealing. She was effectively saying she does not approve of the allies on the right she made since she has become known as an intellectual who stood up to crazy students. One of the most worrying tendencies among sensible American and British leftists, even radicals, is that they avoid discussing free speech because it is misunderstood as a concern of the right. They are desperate not to be called right-wing, as if that is the worst thing that could ever happen.

I continue to raise Enlightenment values because they are under attack. The Left, including the radical left, needs to recognize the founding values of the Left itself. The people who sat on the left side of the Revolutionary French National Assembly held values of reason, freedom, and progress. We need to go back and recover them. The recent tendency of the Left has been to disregard these values as unrealizable in a capitalist society. This is not a convincing argument anymore. It is not the case that our society is failing to come good on those values for everyone, which would have been our criticism 25, 30, or 40 years ago. The problem now is that our society simply does not believe in those values. These values are still radical hundreds of years later because if you defend freedom of speech, due process, or reason over emotion on campus, you will be shouted down.

CM: Proletarian socialists of the 19th and 20th centuries argued that these values would not be realized without a socialist party, through which Enlightenment values could be both taken up and fulfilled in socialism. Without such an organization, we are reckoning with the undermining of these values in capitalism and the social contradictions this system produces. How does returning to the radical character and origins of the Enlightenment facilitate their fulfilment and implementation when the radical left lacks leadership and is in disarray?

BON: I say this as somebody who believes that the Left was the highpoint of human politics thus far: The Left is finished as a social force. We are witnessing the death throes of it. It is a zombie idea, a zombie institution. It failed, it did not work. It never lived up to its promise and every place in which it was tried, it was neither good nor convincing enough. Consequently, over time, it is dying. We should let it die.

When I say the Left must recover these values, I am not saying that we need to resuscitate the Left. I do not think we need to build a new socialist party. We need to explore the question of how these values came to be so demeaned and recognize why this death is such an important and worrying development. Then we can think of new language, ideas, and institutions through which we can defend those values and seek to expand them.

The argument that these values are impossible under capitalism and will only be fulfilled by revolution is used by radicals as an excuse that allows them to wallow in the comfort of this impossibility at a time when the prospects of revolution are virtually zero. It is a deflection from the true battle of our moment: The bourgeoisie has lost faith in itself and its founding values. The role of radicals in such a period is to help the bourgeoisie recover a sense of itself, because in losing faith in its founding values everyone suffers as a result. So long as these bourgeois values are still under attack, this is the task of anyone who is serious about liberating mankind from poverty and tyranny.

CM: Could you say more about your claim that the Left is in its death throes now? Do you think that the death of the Left is a recent phenomenon or do you think it stretches back further into the 19th or 20th centuries?

BON: It has been a long time coming. The end of the Cold War in 1989–1990 was the final nail on the coffin. The aspiration to be Left, or to have an alternative society to capitalism, collapsed. But it goes back further than that. You can also trace it to the shift from the Old Left towards the New Left in the 1950s and 1960s. In essence, this was a move away from questions of the working class, power, economy, growth, and production towards issues of consumerism, advertising, culture, and how these impact people’s views of themselves. Out of this emerged the whole sense that people are not really in control of their lives and are battered victims and so on. It really goes goes back further than that to the early 20th century. The growth of social democratic movements was, effectively, a left-wing gloss on the desire of respectable sections of society to suppress the more revolutionary instincts of the working classes. And, of course, the defeat of various revolutions in Europe.

The evidence of the death of the Left is all around us. You can see it by the fact that on campus being left-wing means having blue hair and thinking a man can become a woman by having an operation. This is what they believe makes them Marxists. I have met people who say “I am a radical Marxist and, therefore, you should call me by my preferred gender pronoun.” As if that has anything to do with being left-wing or Marxist. It is completely perverse. You can also see it with the Corbynistas who believe it is Marxist to have piecemeal nationalization, which is not a radical proposal by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that these prim and posh middle-class people flirt with the idea of being Marxist is a testament to the death of the Left. Marxism is now just a meme, it is just a word, it is just a fashion because it has been utterly hollowed out of its revolutionary and disruptive potential. The fact that there are new groups on campus, and elsewhere, calling themselves Marxists is the proof of the death of Marxism and not the opposite.

CM: What would you say about existing Left organizations—such as anarchists, Maoists or Trotskyists—that are beyond the campus cultural politics?

BON: I feel sorry for them. They need to call their day. They are exhausted. They are zombie movements, zombie organizations. They are using 20th century or, in some cases, 19th century language to try and negotiate the 21st century, which is comparable to travelling from southern England to northern England by only speaking Mongolian. This language does not work. These ideas do not work. They are trying to force a square into a circle. It becomes a form of nostalgia, a comfort blanket, and a form of moral distinction: You can distinguish yourself from the false consciousness of mass society, people who watch the Kardashians, read the tabloid newspapers, or who like crappy pop music. Consequently they are delusional in much of what they do, since it is less the case that they want to engage with the masses of society but, rather, that they want to despair of them.

CM: Would you say that the ideas of the Left and Marxism today amount to taste communities rather than having political purchase in 2017?

BON: It is both. The Corbynistas have turned Marx into a meme. They make memes—“seizing the memes of production.” Which is funny, right? But it is also tragic because they are not joking. They really think a meme with a picture of Marx and a quote from Corbyn is Marxism. Partially, it has become a posture or garb to signal your intelligence. But it is also that these are exhausted ideas.

That is not to say that the attitude of Marxism is exhausted. I have always appreciated the idea of Marxism as an approach to society. Marxism might not be the right word. I mean the critical approach that is appreciative of the role of humanity throughout history, is very sensitive to social and historical developments, and is keen to understand them in the historical trajectory of struggle. That approach to understanding the world is very positive. But the idea that the answers to the problems we face today will be found in the Communist Manifesto[ii] or Capital[iii] or anything else: That is a fantasy. That is how Marxism turns into a religion, and that is never what it was intended to be.

CM: This echoes your earlier comment about forming new institutions to salvage old political ideas and forms. It is not simply a matter of semantics, since the early Marxists, such as Rosa Luxemburg, and contemporary left groups share the same language—for example the idea of the “vanguard party”—but when sectarians groups use that language today it does not ring true. How much significance do old political forms and ideas have in transformed times, or do you suggest discarding them altogether to reimagine something totally new?

BON: When Rosa Luxemburg was defending the idea of the vanguard party, that was in a revolutionary time. Europe was in revolt. Without that, consequently, the vanguard party is not a party leading the furious throng of people who are educating themselves, desiring to take power, and agitating for greater pay, comfort, or freedom. That does not exist. In an unrevolutionary moment, the vanguard party becomes a matter of looking down upon ordinary people and wondering, “When the hell are they gonna get revolutionary? What is wrong with them?” That is why many radicals in America and Europe are drawn to foreign zones. They are always looking for evidence of revolution around the world. They love to go on political holidays to Cuba and get excited over current affairs in Venezuela because they are frustrated and disappointed with ordinary people in their society. They come to actually loathe people to a certain extent. Those parties and organizational formats have been done and dusted for a long long time. Anyone attempting to form a Marxist party today would be making a grave mistake because that is not where politics is, and that is not where politics will ever be again. The sooner we recognize that, then the sooner we can start thinking about new ideas and possibly new institutions through which we can pursue the radical improvement of human life. I do not know what form that would take. I simply know the working classes have different ideas from 100 years ago, and they are hated more by the Left than by the bourgeoisie. To create a Marxist, Trotskyist, or Maoist party today would be surreal.

CM: You suggested that we need to salvage Enlightenment values such as autonomy and free will. These values were formed in a period before the crisis of modern society brought on by industrial capitalism, which is the historical development that Marxists sought to critique and advance politically in order to overcome it. How do you make sense of the crisis of these values historically, and how would you suggest we build a revolutionary moment by revisiting these values? Is there an advantage to circumventing their crisis in industrial production?

BON: A historical understanding of where these values come from and the failure to act on them is long and complicated. In various phases of the American, French, or English Revolution, they either flourished or were undermined and proved elusive for most people. A historical understanding may be important, but I cannot overstate how important it is to defend these values.

The idea of individual autonomy has priority. You cannot have revolutionary or left-wing politics unless you have the idea of the individual. I make this point to Corbynistas. They support policies such as restricting the amount of money people can spend gambling and restricting the advertising of junk food so that children do not pressure their parents into buying it. In a draft manifesto[iv] for the general election, the Corbynistas proposed discouraging the black and gay community from smoking. I keep saying if you do not trust people to decide whether or not to smoke, if you do not trust them to decide how much they should spend on a gambling machine, if you do not trust them to decide what to feed their children, do not dare tell me that you trust them to have a revolution or to organize or transform society to be freer and wealthier. This is the issue.

From the period of the New Left onwards, the Left developed the idea that there is a profound contradiction between individualism and collectivism: Reaganism and Thatcherism appear to be about the individual, and social democracy and radicalism appear to be about the collective. That is an utterly false dichotomy. It is simply obvious that strong individuals who have earned freedom, self-respect, and democracy in a revolutionary process are more likely to contribute in a strong collective movement or entity. And in turn, that collectivism would feed their individualism in the sense that individuals would want to take responsibility for society, the people they live with, and the people they are doing politics with. Without a defense of the autonomous human subject, without the defense of the idea of free will—that we are capable of making choices and seizing autonomy—without that building block of the individual, you will never have any form of revolutionary politics.

Instead, the Left, by treating individualism as an evil, proffers a politics of correcting, helping, or reeducating damaged individuals. It has convinced itself that people are fragile, weak, and unsure how to negotiate life and, therefore, need a bureaucratic scaffolding built on top of every aspect of their lives. The abandonment of individual autonomy has given rise to a deeply unpleasant paternalism.

The idea of individual autonomy, which comes from Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?,” is an argument against the nanny state. Kant’s description of guardians resembles life today: I have a pastor who thinks for me, a book telling me how to eat, health experts telling me how to live. All I want to do is strike out, dare to know, and use my reason. We need to restate this today.

Christopher Hill, a left-wing historian, in 1972 wrote a book about the English Civil War called The World Turned Upside Down. That is what happened in that ten year period from 1642 to 1651, when there was a war between parliamentarians and monarchists. The world was turned upside down because every single idea in society, every single institution, was called into question. Religion, the church, the rights of priests and kings were all called into question. You had people on street corners handing out leaflets and they were in pubs trying to convince others to kill the king. Today we use the term bourgeois as an insult or a problem. We forget this was more radical than anything that came after it in terms of the break that it represented. We need to recall and recover the radicalism the bourgeoisie foisted upon the world, which was incredibly dangerous and important.

You cannot have a revolution that is led or peopled by individuals who cannot be trusted with whether or not to give their children hamburgers. It is not possible.

CM: Could you share how you originally came to declare yourself as a Marxist? Perhaps speak to your early involvement in the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) and Living Marxism. What has led you to defend bourgeois ideals to the end of conditioning a relevant Marxism in the future?

BON: Around 1993, I joined the Revolutionary Communist Party, a fairly small group in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s. I would have been 18 or 19. I had been reading left-wing writers, such as Trotsky and Lenin, and I had this fairly juvenile idea that I was a radical. I was looking for an organization to join. The radical left in Britain at that period was just depressing. They even looked depressing since they did not dress particularly well. And they were intellectually quite bovine since they did not take ideas seriously at all. They were only interested in action, action, action! Any protest that blew up, they would line up behind it, uncritically, get over excited about it. They were chasing the coattails of any blip in society. It was lazy and boring.

I found the RCP far more intriguing. It was a group that dressed well, which impressed me. It was, also, a daring, trusting, and deeply intellectual project. We read and hotly discussed Marx, Trotsky, Lukacs, Rubin, Mattick. We read, talked, marched, drank, made friends, and had a great time, most of the time. Their magazine, Living Marxism, was incredibly professional. All of that made be consider taking myself and other people much more seriously. I always laugh when people say the RCP was a cult: It was the precise opposite; it was a group of people with strong beliefs but also one which loved debate and engagement. Some people now think that any organisation built on belief or commitment is a cult because they cannot conceive of commitment to anything beyond themselves and their Twitterfeed.

The key dividing line between the RCP and the whole of the Left in Britain was over the question of the state. The RCP always questioned the idea of the state as the solution to the problems facing society. The rest of the Left at that point, including the radical left, but obviously the Labour Party, increasingly saw the state as the solution, as the only real agent of change in society, as the institution that should tame capitalism, and assist poor people, govern everyday life and police interactions between different communities. The view of the RCP was that it was only because the Left is now so out of touch with ordinary and working class people that it finds itself moving closer into the bosom of the state. The RCP continually argued for the importance of free, critical thinking, wariness of officialdom, trust in the intellectual and political capabilities of the populace, greater organizational independence in workplaces rather than any kind of reliance on the bureaucratic labourist machine, and of course profound criticism of the Stalinist project in the East with its baleful impact on people’s individual and collective lives.

The Left’s self-entanglement with the state is the most depressing political story of the 20th century. The RCP did its part to argue that ordinary people are capable of governing their own lives and not trusting or asking the state to look after us, whatever the vagaries of capitalism might be.

CM: How would the people, which is a relatively nebulous term, actually organize themselves to become self-sufficient in that way? Could you speak more to the RCP’s critique of the state: Was it only a critique of the bourgeois state, or did it also critique the old models that leftists and Marxists had for approaching or overcoming the state?

BON: Marxists and radicals will often use the old radical idea of seizing the state in order to move on to a new kind of society as a way of justifying their support for the state today. It is used to justify the expansion of the welfare state, for example, or to justify the expansion of the state into certain areas of political life. That is a profound misreading of what those early radical Marxists were saying, which was that out of necessity and by regret you might need to seize these means in order to effectively defeat the old class and move onto something else. What those people wanted was the withering away of the state. Leftists do not call for that now. In fact, particularly now, in the 80s and 90s there might have been some discomfort among the Left in what they were doing in relation to the state, but now it is uncritical and unquestioned. They think the state is people’s best bet. And they want to grow the State and expand it into ever more areas of people’s lives. They think the welfare state is wonderful. You never see a demonstration, as you would have 30 or 40 years ago, maybe even longer, where people would be on the streets demanding full employment. The only concern that gets Corbynistas out on the streets is when there is a Tory attack on the welfare state. Then they are out there defending the welfare state, which is effectively defending the institutionalization of unemployment and poverty. I find that deeply alarming.

The question of the State as a temporary necessity at some point in the future after the revolution is too much of a fantasy. I cannot even handle thinking about that. All I know is that in this society, the state is largely a destructive force. It is doing far too much of what it should not be doing, which is offering an apology for poverty and unemployment through the expansion of the welfare state and policing ever more areas of our lives. And it is not doing enough for what it probably should be doing which is investing in research, production, growth, new areas of technology, and so on. The state is completely topsy turvy. Too much governing of people and families and communities and not enough ignition of creative destruction and new forms of investment that might actually move us on from the recession we currently find ourselves in. The state is a failure across the board. I find it terrifying and deeply depressing that the Left thinks the state is the solution to anything.

CM: Historically the state has been expected to act as a custodian for capitalist crises. If the state were to be laissez-faire and invest into civil society, economic development, and growth, would this not lead to another crisis? How do you suggest transforming the conditions that require the state to correct crises of capitalism?

BON: Leftists and radicals just need to get over their attachment to the state in all areas of life. The example I always give is in Britain in the 1980s. Huge numbers of people lost their jobs. The mines were shut down. People in the manufacturing side of industry suffered. The reason for this was that in the mid-70s the government introduced Incapacity Benefit, which was a fund for people vaguely incapable of work. It was not for the physically disabled or crippled or mentally ill. It could apply to circumstantial failings. In the 80s the number of people in Britain receiving Incapacity Benefit grew exponentially. The program began with 100,000 individual beneficiaries, but by the end of the decade there were 1,000,000. This sums up how sinister the state is. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. Instead of honestly confronting unemployment and the failure of capitalist society, the state, aided and abetted by the Left, particularly the public sector left, promoted this idea of incapacity. That is disgraceful and depraved and anti-human.

Radicals and working class movements made this point in Britain in the early 20th century when we had very early forms of the welfare state, which, however, was not institutionalized until the post-war period. They argued that it would facilitate unemployment rather than provide jobs to individuals, allowing them to develop self-respect, self-control, great wealth and prosperity, and a sense of individual and community strength.

Whenever I hear a left-winger, particularly radical left-wingers, on the streets defending the welfare state I want to shake them by the scruff of their neck. Everyone agrees if someone is incredibly poor and cannot feed themselves that society ought to help them. That is a civilized thing to do. But the creation of this vast, byzantine bureaucratic institution, which now governs, feeds, and looks after millions of people including millions of unemployed people, is not something the Left should support by any stretch of the imagination.

It is that kind of uncritical, unquestioning attachment to the state, even when it’s being explicitly destructive of individual potential and social solidarity. It not only undermines individual autonomy, it rips apart social solidarity. This is because the more individuals and families are encouraged to look to the state for assistance in times of need, the less likely they are to look to their neighbors or their community or their families and the less likely those social bonds will form. It destroys individual autonomy, destroys social bonds. It presents the failings of capitalism as the failings of individuals, and it has no solution to creating more wealth and creating more jobs. Anyone who supports that loses the right to call themselves left-wing.

CM: If the state were to disappear would people still be atomized since they would not have a binding organizational force bringing them together? How do you envision people’s autonomy in a world without the welfare state?

BON: I am often asked this. Without the welfare state how would people feed themselves? I want to turn the question around: What terrible things are happening now as a consequence of the existence of the welfare state? There is a long list. Near the top of that list is the way in which the state attempts to portray the failures of modern bourgeois society to provide gainful employment for all people as just an accident, or possibly even individuals’ faults. It trivializes unemployment. It is pulling the wool over people’s eyes. If you look at opinion polls in Britain, the people who are most pro-welfare state are the middle classes. The people most critical of the welfare state are working class people and the poor. It is fascinating because what we have created in Britain, and other Western nations, is a modern day feudalistic racket where millions of middle class people are employed in and get their sense of moral purpose from looking after millions of poorer people. It is a destructive form of social organization. I would prefer it if the middle class did something productive rather than constantly lecturing or looking after the little people. And I prefer that working class and poor people have far more independence in their lives.

My argument is not that we should wipe aside the welfare state—it is too entrenched, it runs too deeply in our lives, and that means its destruction would cause instant hardship. But we must start a rigorous critique of it with an eye for moving away from it. The point is not that removing the welfare state will magically bring people together and renew their autonomy and sense of solidarity; it is simply to recognise how much the march of welfarism contributes to the diminution of both individual autonomy and social solidarity. It is no accident that the welfare state rises as both capitalism loses confidence in itself and as the Left starts to corrode in the post-war period—the welfare state is the great and terrible compromise that offset the worst impacts on life under capitalism in return for our acquiescence to life in this society and our refusal to ask difficult questions about it. The welfare state promises to look after us, but it does so by decommissioning our self-drive and cutting us off from our fellow man. My view is that struggle is preferable to this, especially among younger generations, because it is through struggling to make a better life that you discover yourself and develop bonds with other people who can help you out. In supplanting the struggle for autonomy with the comfort of survival, the welfare state stymies human endeavour and human bonding. It is destructive of the radical left project and of basic human yearning; it never ceases to amaze me that the Left loves the welfare state.

The state has to exist in some format because of the society we live in, in terms of basic functioning of everyday life. I certainly think it should be rolled back. And, if you say that people think you are a Reaganite. Even while we invite it to do certain functions, such as the creative destruction of zombie business and the investment in new forms of technology, we should still continue to be critical of it. It is the cavalier lack of criticism which is troubling.

CM: Your critique of the national welfare state in Britain reflects your critique of the EU as an overreaching technocratic entity that became an obstacle to sovereignty in various European nations. Since you have taken a pro-Brexit stance, how do you envision a future for Britain and Europe that would actually allow greater autonomy among citizens of the world?

BON: Brexit is the best thing to happen in Western politics in a generation for two reasons. First, the EU needs to be destroyed because it is anti-democratic, neoliberal, anti-working class, and racist. It has forced unelected governments on Italy and Greece, it has overridden democratic votes on Holland, France, and Ireland, it is currently trying to override Brexit, which is the largest democratic vote in British history. It elevates the needs of the European Central Bank and the European capitalist class above any working classes, particularly the Greek and Spanish working classes, which have plunged into poverty. It is removing Spain’s economic independence and forced them to push through austerity measures. It was also tyrannical in Ireland when the Troika basically forced wage cuts and so on. It destroys the working classes and their living standards. It has an explicitly racist two-tier migration policy: It constantly celebrates the freedom of movement it grants to people who live in the EU, who are predominantly white people, and yet at the same time, it is ever more enforcing barbaric measures on its Mediterranean coast to prevent any black people from Africa from getting near the continent. In fact, it is even paying African dictators to keep their people out, to force them into staying where they do not want to stay. I find it horrifying that anyone who calls themselves left-wing would support that.

The second reason is because it was one of the first acts of mass public defiance in years. I cannot explain to you what the atmosphere was like. Every single figure of authority, 80% of the MPs, around 75% of the business class, every global institution, the White House the UN, the cultural elite, the celebrities, the liberal media—everyone with any power—were on their knees begging us to vote remain, pleading with us to keep the EU together. And 17.4 million people said, “No. Fuck you, we’re going to do something different.” That to me represents democracy in action. And this brings us back to to the question of why we are defending bourgeois values. Brexit demonstrates to us why we have to defend something like bourgeois democracy because even within that narrow field, which we all agree is not enough, you can still deliver one of the greatest body blows to the 21st century capitalist class. This is what the people of Britain did. That is what is cherishing. It was a great blow against technocracy. The Left needs to recognize that.

The final nail in the coffin of the Left is its failure to recognize the progressive radical impetus behind Brexit. The Left has written off Brexit as a neo-fascist cry, xenophobia, or little Britianism. The Western elites have turned their own crisis because we defied them in voting for Brexit and because ordinary people voted Trump when the entire media was pleading for Hillary. The only way technocratic Western elites can make sense of that is by arguing that the people have gone crazy, are turning fascistic, are post-truth, have low information, support the rule of demagogues, and are demonstrating that democracy might be a bad idea. To its lasting, historic, mortifying shame, the Left has accepted the elite’s presentation of what is going on. The Left has bought into the bourgeoisie’s attack on the demos. That is probably the gravest error the Left has made in years.

CM: How will the working class make good on the potential you see expressed by their defiance given the current lack of Left leadership?

BON: That remains to be seen. It is admirable that the people who voted Brexit stick to it, despite the indignation of the political elite and the Left. I cannot work out where this resolve comes from. They have an ability to refuse to listen to the fear mongering, to block out this constant daily demonization and libel against them, and to maintain an individual and community sense of themselves. That is genuinely worth celebrating. I do not know what society will look like after Brexit. I simply know that people who defied the establishment, defied the European elites, defied a capitalist class that has been destroying the European working class over the past 10 years, are sticking by the stand they made. There is no leadership to it. But wherever that is coming from we need to tap into it. That could be the beginning of a new politics.

CM: So you understand this as a potential new beginning and a good final nail in the coffin to what you see as a pseudo-left?

BON: I hope it is a nail in the coffin of technocracy and those people who spent the last few decades freezing politics and the great questions of history: power, sovereignty, class, nationhood, and democracy. The EU is like a lid on all those bubbling questions of history. In blowing that lid off, we have hopefully unfrozen those great unresolved questions of why bourgeois values cannot become good on. All those questions that the EU explicitly desired to suppress by rendering politics into a managerial activity done by experts are now potentially returned to the public realm. That is incredibly exciting. It is a great opportunity for radicals, whatever side of the spectrum they come from, and for rethinking politics. As to where it will go, I have no idea. But that is another thing I think is exciting. |P

Transcribed by Chris Mansour

[i] Kipnis, Laura. “My Title IX Inquisition.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 29, 2015. https://www.chronicle.com/article/My-Title-IX-Inquisition/230489.

[ii] Marx, Karl. “The Communist Manifesto.” In Collected Works, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 477–519. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1959.

[iii] Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Translated by Ben Fowkes. Vol. 1. Aylesbury: Penguin Books, 1982.

[iv] Rawlinson, Kevin. “Corbyn’s Leaked Draft Manifesto: What Labour Would Do.” The Guardian, May 11, 2017. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/11/leaker-draft-manifesto-jeremy-corbyn-labour-trident.

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