Commenting on the hapless Tsarist monarchy on the eve of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky quoted an ancient Greek proverb: “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
The same could be said of Boris Johnson and his Tory government today. These degenerate representatives of capitalism seem quite mad indeed.
This was strikingly demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech to UK business leaders at the recent annual conference of the CBI, the bosses’ union.
Johnson took to the stage to outline his ‘ambitious strategy’ to level up the country and fight the climate crisis. What happened next was a meandering ramble that lasted for 25 minutes, complete with impressions of a car and musings on Peppa Pig.
At one point in the speech, the Tory leader even cited Lenin, highlighting his own plans for a ‘green industrial revolution’, to be carried out via the electrification of the country.
Far from being a revolutionary, however, Johnson is an apt representative of capitalism: corrupt and senile; unable to solve the problems facing society; and incapable of planning even a half-hour speech.
Many have compared Boris’ car crash at Monday’s CBI event to Theresa May’s infamous keynote address at the 2017 Tory Party conference, which saw the stage backdrop collapse around the former-PM, as she was being handed a P45 slip from a prankster in the audience
As with that episode, it is clear that the current scandals, sleaze, and incompetence plaguing the Tory Party are far more than a blip on the radar. Rather, the degeneracy and madness of the Tories is a reflection of the crisis-ridden capitalist system, and of the rotten establishment that defends it.
Between ruminations on the wonders of Peppa Pig World, one of the big announcements of Johnson’s CBI speech was the government’s plans to invest in high-speed rail networks in the Midlands and the North.
The pledge to ‘level up’ has been one of Boris’ buzzwords since he led the Conservatives to a landslide victory in the general election two years ago. The reality, however, is that ‘levelling up’ is just another false promise peddled by the Tory Prime Minister.
Built up as the “biggest ever public investment in Britain’s rail network”, the recently-announced ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ is part of the government’s scheme to level up the North. But what is now being proposed is in fact a watered-down version of a far more ambitious plan outlined by the Tories during the 2019 election.
Like all good conmen, Johnson has declared black to be white. Unpopular terms such as ‘austerity’ and ‘cuts’ have been transformed into more palatable phrases such as ‘value for money’ and ‘consideration of a wider range of options’.
The original proposal of running HS2 from London to Manchester via Birmingham will remain. But plans for investment in the eastern leg of the new rail network, which would have run up to Leeds, and for the northern extension to Bradford, have either been heavily cut or scrapped entirely.
Of course, it will be the working class that suffers as a result of this. Bradford, along with many northern cities, suffer from poor transport connections, meaning longer commutes into work and across the country.
There is a prevailing feeling in these areas of having been left behind, as the bulk of jobs and investment are centred around London. So much for the government’s promise to build a Northern Powerhouse.
CBI director general Tony Danker, not someone who could be accused of socialist sympathies, asserted that ‘levelling up’ could not be left to the free market. This should be clarified: ‘levelling up’ cannot be left to capitalism!
Under capitalism, large-scale projects such as HS2 cannot help but be plagued by mismanagement, corruption, and cut-corners – all in the cause of maximising the bosses’ profits.
The only way to level up the North – and the country as a whole – is to nationalise the private rail companies, the major construction firms, the big banks, and other important infrastructure, as part of a socialist economic plan, under workers’ control and management.
Only on this basis can investment be planned in order to cater to the actual needs of society, rather than to line the pockets of the fat cats and profiteering parasites.
Austerity isn’t over
Despite Boris and the Tories’ claims to the opposite, austerity isn’t over. And the cuts will only worsen as the crisis of capitalism intensifies and deepens.
Tensions are heightening within the Tory Party, as this stark reality dawns on MPs.
Responding to the government’s latest announcement regarding rail investment, Robbie Moore, one of the 2019 intake of Red Wall Conservative MPs, stated that he was bitterly disappointed that his region had been “left completely shortchanged”.
“We need to do much, much more,” the Keighley MP told ministers.
There has also been vocal opposition in recent days from Tory MPs such as Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) and Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough).
Huw Merriman, who chairs the House of Commons transport select committee, suggested that the Prime Minister was “selling perpetual sunlight and then leaving it to others to explain the arrival of moonlight”. This is an appropriate description of the Tory leader, a true snake-oil salesman.
But it’s not just outspoken Conservative backbenchers who are angry at the Prime Minister. Business leaders in the audience at the CBI conference were clearly not impressed by Boris’ recent speech, nor by the policies outlined within it. Even the Murdoch press ridiculed Johnson’s performance.
The recklessness of Johnson’s Tory Party, meanwhile, stands in stark contrast to Keir Starmer’s own speech to the CBI, with establishment mouthpieces praising the Labour leader for his assurances that the party is “back in business”.
From Boris’ ‘f**k business’ remarks in relation to big business’ Brexit concerns; to the recent confrontations with the EU over trade; to the never-ending torrent of corruption: The serious strategists of capital are growing increasingly exasperated by the maverick, untrustworthy Tory leader, who is clearly more worried about protecting his own interests than those of British capitalism.
The ruling class is looking for a safe pair of hands that can guide British capitalism through the storms and stresses it faces. But Monday’s conference has made it abundantly clear to all that those hands do not belong to Johnson.
Government of crisis
Johnson’s disastrous CBI speech comes off the back of a long chain of scandals and sleaze that have rocked the Tory government, sparked by Boris’ blunder in response to the Patterson affair.
These recent events – amongst others – have demonstrated that, despite its huge majority, this is a government of crises and splits.
As capitalism descends ever-deeper into crisis, the only thing that establishment politicians can offer the working class is austerity, attacks, and counter-reforms. This is the real driving force behind these latest cuts.
Boris ‘shopping trolley’ Johnson’s calamitous display in front of the country’s capitalist class is therefore no mere accident. Rather, it is an expression of the outright bankruptcy of both the Tory Party and the system it represents.
The corruption and incompetence of the Tories is a byproduct of the overall degeneracy of capitalism itself. The senile and decrepit capitalist system has exactly the political representatives it deserves.
Throw out this rotten system
As long as this decaying system continues to limp on, politicians of the calibre of Boris Johnson and co. will be the rule, rather than the exception. In the face of capitalism’s crises, all that such figures can suggest is to look towards the “endless creativity” of an animated pig.
The broken promises and sleaze of the Tories are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is to come. The only future that capitalism can offer is one of more austerity and corruption.
Only when the commanding heights of the economy are brought under public ownership and democratic workers’ control, on the basis of a socialist plan of production, can we truly level up – not just in Britain, but across the world.