16 April, 2024


Anything Lanka Can Learn From Brexit?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Cosmopolitan internationalism versus bleeding heart nativism: Anything Lanka can learn from Brexit?

The world can be examined along different axes, that is, employing different dimensions. Three are well established. The terminology ‘advanced countries’ and ‘developing countries’ (or less polite versions of the latter) has a huge following and has crept into everyday use. Living standards, economic development, politics, power and trade are the cornerstones of this discourse. A second dimension is culture in the broad sense (language, ethnicity and religion), both intra-national and international. The third is class, within a nation or region (“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the class struggle”) and global categories such as imperialism, globalization and the appeal to the “workers of the world (to) unite”.

Interestingly in recent times a fourth dimension has gained prominence – internationalism versus nativism. The former is heir to the eighteenth century Enlightenment – Marxists, even nationalist ones like Mao and Ho Chi Min to a large extent, belong here. Finance capital is global for acquisitive reasons, Pope Francis for spiritual ones, so is the EU. Let me use EI (Enlightenment Internationalism) collectively for this lot notwithstanding class and ideological divides. An example of this consanguinity is the UK’s pro-EU (anti-Brexit) melange of financers, big bourgeoisie, cosmopolitan, professional, multi-lingual elites and some two-thirds of the working class.

The antithesis of EI, Nativist Nationalism (Nativism), consists of strands of nationalism from the rational and pragmatic to the xenophobic, and embraces unabashed adherents of sovereignty. The borderline between EI and Nativism is sometimes blurred. For example the celebration of pluralism belongs to both; the portion of the English working class that ignored Labour Party advice and voted to leave the EU is an aberration, and so on. On other occasions there is no blurring, the difference is clear-cut. Scientists are firm that their epistemology and methodology are unified and global; science is an international enlightenment paradigm. Clowns argue that there is one science that is Judeo-Christian; another is indigenous (as though the laws of physics morph at passport control). Scientists and clowns belong on different planets.

An unambiguous Nativist cross-class, cross-ideological political example is the Brexit Leave Camp which brought together the gentry in provincial England (the bedrock Tory vote) and the “give us our country back, let’s get out of the EU” UKIP petty bourgeoisie. The ethics that binds them, despite disparate class characters, is a ‘We are British first, European only second’ identity and emotion.

There are indeed grounds for Europeans – and the poorer the more justified – being fed-up with the EU. Yes the single market is a source of economic strength for industrial and financial capital, not only industrial Germany, the financial pinnacle in the City of London and energetic Poland, but for weaker economies as well. Class-wise, crumbs from the rich man’s affluent table fall on the floor for lower orders to lick. Inequality of wealth and income too is not as grotesque in Europe the United States. Notwithstanding all this, austerity, privation, poor housing, unemployment and neediness in the midst of displays of wealth have incited an anti-EU backlash. Even Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged lukewarm stance on European unity I think is a reflection of this widespread perception of the EU as a bosses’ club.

The bigger factor in the Nativist revolt in UK, France, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden is political. Immigration inflames the gentry, petty bourgeois and jobless worker. Free movement and settlement of people within the EU has opened the door to three million EU migrants in the UK, and many into Germany, France and other parts of Western Europe. Another political grouse is that European elite and Brussels bureaucrats are, it is alleged, attempting to dispense with individual states and forge a single EW-wide supra-state.

If we tie all these threads together the manifest fact is that people have lost faith in political and business establishments, governing elites and political parties of all hues across Europe, America and much of the rest of the world. The ‘system’ is perceived as a club run by political elites who lord it over millions but ignore them and ice the cake for big capital. The hubris of the rich, the political elite and the bureaucracy is detested by the citizenry. Now there are demands for referenda to quit the EU or exit the Euro elsewhere, and if they succeed, loathing of Brussels’ bureaucrats will be no small reason. The demand that people from the Brexiters, the radical left (Bernie Sanders, Spain’s Podemos, Corbyn, or Greece’s Syriza), the European new-right, and the Trump mobs, are all making is a change of the ‘system’ from a top-down project run by global capital and elites into a polity responsive to people’s will. It manifests itself as Nativist ideology when driven by the new-right and as a forward thrust of EI ideals when led by the left.

Though in the context of the Brexit debate I have focussed on the West so far, the EI versus Nativism dichotomy is global, it is universal. One example will do before I turn my attention to Lanka. Daesh (Islamic State) and similar jihadist movements though the most potent and widespread terrorist enterprises history has ever known and despite their global reach, are narrowly sectarian and ideologically constricted. They are clear examples of what I have termed ideological Nativism.

There are those in Lanka who believe (obviously they won’t articulate it openly) that: “If we want to lynch ‘our’ Tamils what bloody business of foreign human rights busybodies is it?” The point is not the morality or otherwise of the sentiments; the point here is that I am locating this mind-set at one extreme of my Nativism versus EI dichotomy. I said a few paragraphs ago that people in many countries have lost faith in political and business establishments, governing elites and political parties of all hues. Lankan Nativism however is not anti-establishment since for the three generations the state itself has affiliated itself with such sentiments and in 1958 and 1983 dipped its own hand in blood. The spurning of the establishment I spoke of is for this reason somewhat skewed in contemporary Lanka.

We did have three anti-establishment movements in the past, two have mellowed and one has been erased. From the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s the LSSP-CP did represent an anti-establishment EI trend to which the appellation Marxism-Leninism with or without the further qualifier ‘revolutionary’ is applied. The second burst was the JVP, twice, and the second occasion, the 1989-90 punchi-aanduva, was the only time in our post-independence history that the state was brought to its knees. The third of course is the battle hardened Tamil nationalism of the LTTE. None of these are now relevant as anti-establishment forces in the way the term is used in this essay. The first has wilted, the second domesticated and the third expunged. Again I am not moralising whether these movements and their transformations are good or not, merely recording the prevailing political landscape.

Lanka fortunately is at least momentarily in atypical distemper unlike much of the West, the Middle East and Africa, and portions of South and Central America where primitive movements are rising. The crazies mobilising around Trump or the European far-right do not use physical violence or terrorism but the damage to the country in question, or the world at large that these forces could do if invested with state power is large. A looney with his finger on the nuclear button in Washington is Armageddon. Lanka’s loonies are, for now at least on the side-lines.

My theme today is that globally, during the last generation at first gradually and more swiftly in the last decade, the nature of contradiction and conflict has morphed. Traditional modes of engagement have been supplemented by a contradiction between modernist internationalism and nativist nationalism and the emergence of powerful new players – jihdism (and its miniscule relative Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism) and Western manifestations of an intrinsically analogous phenomenon in Trump and the European new-right.

Let’s do a little thought experiment to illustrate how deep the change is. Imagine that fresh elections are called in the UK in a few months; conjecture that the main contenders in England are the Conservatives under a traditional leader, UKIP led by Nigel Farage and a left-leaning Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn; this assumes he has cleared the Augean Stables of conspirators and moved the party to the left reflecting Bernie Saunders’ programme in America. Here is my hypothesis, assuming that the traditional party, the Tories, win the largest number of seats, which is the most pro-traditional assumption one can make, I hypothesise that UKIP and a left Labour Party, will between them, collect more popular votes than the Tories despite their parliamentary majority or plurality; say 40% poll to traditionalists and 60% to UKIP and Labour between them. If you can grant this as a plausible scenario then I have won the case I have been arguing in this easy, viz. the global political landscape has changed remarkably.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1

    I doubt if Lanka can learn anything from BREXIT,except that the political class., in the ( using your own terminology) advanced countries, are no different to any other countries. The BREXIT campaign was full of deceit lies and back stabbing. Resulting in the PM resigning the UKIP leader hanging his political shoes and the Labour leader hanging on by a thread, for the time. The major BREXIT campaigners stabbing one another.

    The more pertinent question what is the economic and political impact of BREXIT on Lanka.
    The GBP crashed that will have impact on foreign exchange earnings. The tourist industry will feel the pinch so will the exports.

    Racism and the rise of the far right in Europe and in USA if Trump win may see more Sri Lankan expatriates returning home fur their retirement

  • 1

    Tiger Eelaam PM , Mr Rudrakumaran expresses his displeasure at the Srilankan Prez’s “no Foreigners in War Crime Trials” statement..

    Brex Foreign Minister Mr Hugo Swire reaffirms Mr Rudrakumara’s displeasure in the Westminster Parliament, where the Yahapalana PM tells his prayers.

    Hugo goes even further to warn the Yahapalana Prez that International War Crime Trial is a must.

    Yahapalan PM Batalanda Ranil must be angry and fuming at the Prez,

    It must be hurting him even more that he has to please EU and the new Brexit as well, as they are separate now..

    Because the Prez squeezes Batalanda’s balls, every time his mate Managala Samere barracks for Rudrakumarnan and the Bedouin Prince.

    • 4

      KASmaalam KA Sumanasekera

      “Tiger Eelaam PM , Mr Rudrakumaran expresses his displeasure at the Srilankan Prez’s “no Foreigners in War Crime Trials” statement..”

      My friend the Old Codger tells me the Sinhala/Buddhists state need Rudrakumaran to give some credence to their paranoia than Tamils ever benefit from him.

      My friend also asked me as to why KASmaalam continued to remind him when almost all Tamil Diasporians have forgotten him, his “government”, his constitution, his “national flag” ………………………….

      It seems you are the only one who is providing him with oxygen of publicity.

      I do not understand. Is it to do with free malt?

      • 0

        Dear Native,

        “All most all Tami Diasporean’s have forgotten him”.

        Are you serious.

        Who then voted in their hundreds of thousands to pick Senator Brian, Senator Boyle , Senator Skandaraja and a whole host of others to give the undisputed Tiger eelaam PM, a Senate bigger than the one in the United States.

        They can’t be just the Estate Tamils, your Vellala CM is lobbying to help get their own Up Country Eelaam..

        • 1

          K.A. S.,
          You are an exaggerator of the lie.
          (only a deputy)
          The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 4 September 2012.
          South Asia (excluding Pakistan)
          Hugo (junior) speaks like a diplomat for both sides and is satisfied with the status quo of existing governments Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

          The overall leader is: The head of the FCO is the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly abbreviated to “Foreign Secretary” (currently The Rt Hon. Phillip Hammond, MP).

          The Rt Hon. Baroness Anelay of St Johns, DBE, PC, FRSA Minister of State Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh; Central Asia; Human Rights; UN, International Organisations and ICC; All of FCO business in the Lords.

          The Rt Hon. Hugo Swire, MP Minister of State Far East and South East Asia; India and Nepal; Latin America (including: Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba); Falklands; Australasia and Pacific; Commonwealth.

  • 3

    Prof. Kumar David

    RE:Anything Lanka Can Learn From Brexit?

    Yes. Do not join India or China.

    Learn from Norway. They refused to join in a referendum in 1974. That was the right decisions with 54% against and 46% for. They have an Average IQ of 100 and they decided wisely, given the fact that they only had a population of only 4 million then.

    • 5


      “Yes. Do not join India or China.”

      It is not a matter of choice for the Lankies when Hindians believe Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of Akhand Bharat (Greater Hindia).

      • 1

        Native Vedda

        “It is not a matter of choice for the Lankies when Hindians believe Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of Akhand Bharat (Greater Hindia).”

        Hindians have been dreaming for the last 2500 years, but the Land of Native Veddah Aethho will be the Land occupoeid by the para from Hindia, the Para-Sinhala, the Para-Tamils etc.

        Isn’t that good enough for the Hindians?

  • 1

    Not so much Anything Lanka Can Learn From Brexit? but what can Brexit learn from Lanka. Here is a chance for the politicians of Sri Lanka to tell the Brits how to really do things.

    Anecdotal evidence points to a rise in racist activity in the UK, mostly of “fuck off home” type. In our Sri Lanka it was (with political blessing) get out the electoral register, get the matches, and let us pay house calls. That certainly caused an exodus. Whether Britain/Europe will ever allow their growing band of evildoers the licence to go down that route, only time will tell.

    Meanwhile, expect quite a few expatriate Sri Lankans to suddenly rediscover the joys of our island in the sun.

    • 0

      “”Anecdotal evidence points to a rise in racist activity in the UK, mostly of “fuck off home” type.””

      1.7 million want their jobs back not `political party` wrangling. anyway the leader of Tory campaign Theresa May will not permit cross border free immigration unlike her brexit contestant.she cleared it with richard branson too. She is a very strong character who has listened and acted except she was to stay.
      This is the person of interest for the islanders. Lord Price Minister of Trade and Investment (NBA basketballer and Industrial management)

  • 1

    The recently concluded elections in Australia too seem to confirm your conclusion. Both the Liberals and the Labour Party have pledged to ‘co-operate’ in the national interest!
    Sengodan. M

    • 0

      what did not happen at england has occurred down under.
      Labour will buckle under its own pressure unlike Tory.
      If Trump wins there will be there be an election Australia??

      • 0

        We have to wait for the results of election to the Senate.
        Sengodan. M

  • 2

    Yes……. Do not permit others to chart our Course or else,

    In order to make UK subservient to the EU, over the years, EU got ALL THE MAJOR British Industries re-located to other European Nations thereby destroying the British Industry in Brittain.
    Thereby made Brittain politicians run to the UN to get approval what they need to do. What is the position of the British Farmer, the fishing Industry?….. Answer to all these was BREXIT of course.

    What products are Brittish today ???????????????? CADUBURY CHOCOLATES?
    Its sad… all the Industry gone at the behest of the EU.
    IS THE EU WORKING IN UNISON WITH THE PRIORY SION ??????? Ultimate aim Pope is a the King (Pope & King) over seeing EU ?????????????????

    No wonder, Tony Blair had to display the old Colonial power by hanging onto the coat-tail of the Americans and cause the unthinkable Human Right devastation to Iraq to display Brittish powers.

    Indirectly, EU brought the Brittain to its knees. Like Tonly Blair who made money after throwing in the towel of Premiership so was DAVID CAMERON getting ready to go places and make money for himself by his attempt to keep Brittain within the EU.


    Will that Mon-Ky Moon appoint the Darussman Committe to investigate Tony Blair’s decision to wage war on Iraq sans the UN mandate??


    • 1

      “…all the Industry gone at the behest of the EU.”

      what an idiotic statement

      since the BREXIT major multinational companies are putting their investments on hold.
      Even in the labour heartland, who voted for BREXIT, small independent companies are pulling their plug

    • 1

      thondamanny ,

      what is all that gundu manni for?

      Unlike your culture David Cameron is a resolute man who kept his promise even before time- Scottish Referendum,Brexit Referendum both once in a lifetime issues.
      Your culture is vulture eaten packed with loads of lies from president to no problem lanka.

      They are not perfect but exhibit the noble human endeavour to moving away from the brutish behaviour.

      why do you speak their language like the 105 other nations? language has much to do with culture where is your dictionary??

  • 2

    further lessons from BREXIT

    direct democracy does not always work.Major decisions like these should be taken by the parliament and not left to the people.
    The BREXITIERS voted with their heart.The morning after the night before the country was is a state of shock. No one expected the outcome. Even leading BREXIT campaigners were soft peddling except of course Nigel Farage

    Take a lead from David Cameron. He did the noble thing by resigning as the PM. will Sri Lankan politicians do the same?

    • 3

      Cultural Difference runs at the crust of it all.
      Asking for Spirit of Reasonableness from Rustic President who did not resign in 100 days or utter the word Tamil??

      Albert Camus writes,
      “Men express themselves in harmony with their land.
      And superiority, as far as culture is concerned,
      lies in this harmony and nothing else.
      There are no higher or lower cultures.
      There are cultures that are more or less true.”
      The goal should be to emulate the truest, noblest aspects of every culture and try to learn about each culture’s people.

  • 0

    Brexit referendum was a classic case of paying and getting s—— in u no where.

    Yes, it was an election promise. But who keeps election promises these days?

    So what does Sri Lanka have to learn from this referendum?

    1- For heaven’s sake, don’t try to keep election promises unless you don’t mind getting s—— in the a—. Not that politicians in SL need that advice.

    2- Referendums are spoil sports. They are classic cases of Ali Madivata Harak. (Oh My God! Cattle – as if elephants are not enough). No I don’t mean the inmates of our supreme institution – the parliament of Diyawanna Oya. It is just a famous Sinhala saying.

    What it means, in this case, is that elections are enough. Don’t try to give unnecessary importance to the voter by offering them referendums. They may go away with the idea that People are actually Supreme.

    3- Our equivalent of EU, ITCA is a stinker. It is worse than Ikka (hiccups). I can tell you that from personal experience. Recently I had a non stop bout of Ikka for a month and believe me, it was not fun. I was even considering jumping from the WTC building to stop it. Finally the doctors here diagnosed it correctly and I got the right medicine. Avoid referendums like Ikka.

    4- Referendums are Yes/No mechanisms. How do you expect a Yes/No answer for such a complicated issue when even a simple thing such as tying the knot cannot be answered Yes/No. Yeah I know, they say 99.9% of the time ‘Yes I Do’. But there are so many grey areas. You will know what I mean if you know ‘fuzzy logic’.

    5- If after all the advice I have given you want to go for a referendum on some stupid thing, follow this modus operandi. Hold a referendum to see whether they care to have a referendum. If the result is YES forget about it. If NO then too, you just forget about it.

  • 0

    Brexit was just an election promise to get votes from voters in a bankrupt country.

    Brexit won’t britain better.

    It is just “kabelen lipta vetuna” tupe thing.

    Sri lanka needs to learn. Answer for that is Tamils always hang onto sinking ships.

  • 1

    The effect of Brexit win is yet to be seen. Lanka has not much to learn. Britain can learn from Lankan experience – pandering to lower instincts has immediate rewards but loss in the long term.

    Brexit was staged to exploit peoples’ fears but expected to lose. David Cameron thought that he could consolidate his position through a defeat of Brexit. Boris Johnson thought that a DEFEAT will lay the foundation to challenge David. Nigel Farage thought that he can work himself into Tory party and leadership through a DEFEAT of Brexit. They were disappointed with Brexit. During early count Brexit was heading towards defeat Farage expressed disappointment. This was wishful thinking and a Freudian slip. Boris quit straightway after Brexit. So Cameron won because Boris will not be PM and Boris won because Cameron got edged out.

    There is a Sri Lankan parallel here. In fifties the UNPer SWRD B wanted to be PM. No chance. He formed SLFP and came up with “Sinhala Only in 24 hours”. He had a landslide in 1956 but created the imbroglio we are in ever since. Demand for separation being one of the result. This must be noted by UK.

  • 4

    The lessons learnt from WW1 and WW2 was for Europe’s need to have a single military and single market to entice it.

    Brexit vote was for UK to regain governance, from gravy train EU.
    retain a single EU market and have a single military NATO.

    The majority of Sri Lankan politicians are corrupt so it’s time for breakaway and governance. Lanka cannot survive a European economic slap but the question is does it deserve anything better than corruption, crime, communism to place it on stage??

  • 2


    About Laws of physics morphing at border controls:

    When countries, carefully constructed over millennia, are suddenly subject to an onslaught of immigrants and/or refugees, a lot more gravitational force is used in all directions in desperate attempts to stabilize whole groups and quell individual internal passions of both sides.

    Otherwise, we would have to go back to the time of the nomads….become neo-nomads……and live like flower-power people, with marijuana to help us along e.g. young Brits on Greek beaches, sunbathing in the sun and doing all kinds of drugs, whilst their middle-aged parents are frantically looking for greater existentialism to substantiate their lives.

    Wonder what will a happen to little Egalitarian Sri Lanka of we opened up our borders like Kerry wants (notwithstanding 30 year old with our nearest neighbor aiding and abetting the terrorists).

    Ps. One day science will finally catch up with what you call indigenous clowns, and that will be one day of enlightenment.

    • 2

      ramona: “When countries, carefully constructed over millennia, are suddenly subject to an onslaught of immigrants and/or refugees……”
      Do you ever wonder as to how and why the refugees got created?

      ramona again: “Wonder what will a happen to little Egalitarian Sri Lanka of we opened up our borders like Kerry wants (notwithstanding 30 year old with our nearest neighbor aiding and abetting the terrorists)”
      It was India which had and has open borders to refugees. By the way who creates the refugees?
      By the way look up the meaning of “egalitarian”

      • 0

        Well, they shouldn’t have sent over terrorists to create refugees in the first place, isn’t it!

        • 4

          ha ha living off the whites!
          oppressor or oppressed. plantation worker gene would be refugee at the slightest opportunity at white only paradise.

  • 5

    not a single nobel prize, or olympic gold.
    All inside traders to con men Emil.
    Confident trickster socialist of asia unable to have quality of life without european funding.
    What Karl Marx couldn’t predict a socialist/commie thinks he knows.
    Only his british pension knows best.

    Brexit is as per Anglo Saxon plan not asian logicians 2 pence calamity.

    Cultures and geography differ vastly and there is nothing to learn.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.