Britain has entered a convulsive period. The decline of British capitalism in the past was disguised by the world upswing. In this period of downswing, all the rottenness is being exposed.
It is clear that Boris Johnson and his government are doomed. It is not a question of if, but when. Johnson could stumble on for a period, but the end is inevitable.
Mighty have fallen
How the mighty have fallen. The Tory Prime Minister is now welcomed far more in Ukraine and India – in fact anywhere rather than back home, where his standing has collapsed.
Downing Street is bouncing from one shambles to the next, with botched attempts to protect the PM from investigations into ‘partygate’, and Tory staffers at Westminster unable to hold rebellious backbenchers in line.
Having attempted to kick the issue into the long grass, Johnson now faces three separate inquiries: from the Commons privileges committee, the Metropolitan Police, and high-ranking civil servant Sue Gray. The results of any-and-all of these could provoke a fresh wave of revulsion and revolt.
Johnson’s usual bluff and bluster, so effective in the past, no longer cuts it. “Conservative MPs are wearying of this apparently never-ending and corrosive saga,” remarked the Financial Times recently.
The crises and conflicts inside the Tory Party will only intensify as more fines are issued. Knives will continue to be sharpened in the days and weeks ahead. Johnson’s MPs could eventually decide to go for him following a predicted drubbing in the upcoming local elections on 5 May.
“We are now in a realm where we have to support a lawbreaker,” said one Tory MP. “And because of that he has got to go.”
Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons defence committee, meanwhile, told the BBC: “It’s now when, not if, a vote of confidence takes place.”
Fuel on the fire
What a dramatic change for Johnson. Just over two years ago, the Tory leader was boasting how his majority of 80 was the biggest since the days of Margaret Thatcher. There was even talk that a Conservative government could preside in office for the coming decade, or even longer. Everything appeared assured.
But this euphoria was superficial. All the while, the crisis of British capitalism was deepening, compounded by Brexit and the pandemic. The Johnson government’s reckless actions simply added fuel to the fire.
Boris Johnson is a maverick, only interested in himself. He has limited vision or understanding. Furthermore, he has surrounded himself with similar characters. How far the fortunes of British capitalism have sunk.
We have a government of ignoramuses, oblivious to the dire problems facing them and their system.
The problems of Brexit are simply brushed aside as ‘opportunities’. The Northern Ireland Protocol is to be torn up, whatever the consequences. Promises of ‘levelling up’ have evaporated. All they need to do is keep kicking the can down the road and all will be well!
The whole thing is breathtaking. No wonder the serious strategists of capital are pulling their hair out. What frightens them is that the actions of Johnson are bringing the whole of parliamentary democracy into disrepute.
Public trust in the pillars of the establishment is plummeting. “Johnson’s contempt for the rules is dragging down his party and, more important, faith in the system,” explained Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times.
A poll conducted by Compassion in Politics, for example, revealed that 47% of people have lost trust in politicians. Amongst young people, the feeling is much higher.
Of course, the emergence of such a rotten, crisis-ridden government is no accident. It is a product of the decline and degeneration of British capitalism and its representatives. As Leon Trotsky was fond of quoting: “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
Johnson was not the choice of big business for Tory leader. He was simply the worst of a series of bad options. He reflects the rabid base of the Conservative Party; the reactionary rabble who get to choose the leader. He was the man to ‘get Brexit done’.
Without any real official ‘Opposition’, Johnson has been able to get away with a great deal. Now, however, the chickens are coming home to roost.
The lies, scandals, and corruption surrounding the Prime Minister have caused irreversible damage. The fines over Number 10’s illicit lockdown gatherings have proved a tipping point. The Tory government is now very much on the rocks.
This is another sign that we are in a turbulent period of sudden and sharp changes.
Liars, cheats, and crooks
The idea of the prime minister being caught lying is not really the point. Deceit and lying are fundamental qualities of the British establishment; a way of life for the ruling class and its representatives – especially in the four walls of the “most exclusive club in the world”.
Lying, falsehood, and evasion are the stock-in-trade of bourgeois parliamentarism. According to Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle, parliamentary cant is the art “whereby a man speaks openly what he does not mean”.
Trotsky remarked that this art-form has been carried to extraordinary heights – or depths – in the case of ‘democratic’ Britain.
Boris is simply an extreme case of this hypocrisy, cynicism, and subterfuge; the most acute expression of a deep-seated malaise.
Crisis of capitalism
Such sleaze and scandals are just the froth atop the deeper political, social, and economic crises facing Britain. Politics, stated Lenin, is concentrated economics.
The cost-of-living crisis is affecting millions, and is set to intensify as inflation bites. This is not only affecting the working class, but also the middle class – including traditional Tory supporters. This is creating colossal ferment throughout society.
As former housing secretary Robert Jenrick warned: “I think we have to brace ourselves for the greatest impact on living standards that any of us have known in our lifetimes.” This will produce a massive backlash.
As a result of this calamity, the Tories are facing a disaster. But even if Conservative MPs get rid of Johnson, who have they got to replace him? After all, City of London golden boy Rishi Sunak is now also embroiled in this cesspit of corruption.
There will therefore be no escape for Johnson and the Tories. Instead, they will continue to be thrown from pillar to post as the global crisis of capitalism magnifies, and the class struggle sharpens – not only in Britain, but internationally.
Forces of Marxism
Marxists are not worshippers of the accomplished fact. Rather than being drawn in by every twist and turn in the situation, we need to analyse the processes and contradictions beneath the surface, in order to see where things are heading.
Back in 2019, after the Tories’ landslide election victory, ours was the only voice that predicted the present crisis, explaining the underlying forces that would lead to Johnson’s eventual plight.
As we highlighted at the time: “Far from being ‘strong and stable’...Boris Johnson’s parliamentary majority has dynamite built into its foundations.” And now this combustible cocktail is ready to detonate.
Leon Trotsky emphasised, in this respect, that Marxist theory and ideas offer “the advantage of foresight over astonishment”. This is the greatest weapon that we hold.
We must arm ourselves with these ideas; prepare for the explosive events that are coming – on the industrial front, across society, and on the streets – as workers and youth move into action; and build the forces of Marxism with a sense of urgency.