“There’s no use trying,” asserts Alice during her adventures in Wonderland. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven't had much practice,” replies the White Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Like Lewis Carroll’s paradoxical Queen, the Tories have been getting plenty of practice in believing impossible things lately, with those hoping to succeed Boris Johnson lining up to make all manner of absurd promises.
There will be no shortage of jam tomorrow, it seems. Broad tax cuts alongside increased military spending and a ‘levelling up’ agenda; the hardest of Brexits, without any consequences for big business; and a swathe of deregulation to ‘Make Britain Great Again’: all of this, and more, we are told, awaits the country under the next Tory administration.
The serious strategists of capital are pulling their hair out at the sight of this veritable Mad Hatters Tea Party – officially known as the Conservative leadership contest.
Like Alice, the ‘sensible people’ who dare to highlight the contradictions are ridiculed for their simplistic idiocy; lambasted for being ‘traitors’ to the cause.
Aping his former US counterpart Donald Trump, deposed emperor Johnson has even warned of a ‘deep state’ plot to thwart the will of the people and reverse Britain’s departure from the EU.
Rishi Sunak, the libertarian ex-chancellor, has been denounced as a ‘socialist’. Liz Truss, once a self-professed Remainer, is now the most zealous champion of Brexit. All of the unhinged candidates for the top Tory job, meanwhile, have presented themselves as the genuine representatives of traditional ‘Conservative values’.
Such is the logic in the Through-the-Looking-Glass world of the Tory Party.
Swept into power with an 80-strong majority by demagogically promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’, Boris Johnson was able to loosely tie together a disparate coalition of conflicting factions within the Tory Party.
But as the crisis of British capitalism deepens, the party’s fabric has increasingly been torn apart. And now, with the king dead, the various opposing camps are at each other’s throats as they seek to claim the throne.
So destructive did the fratricidal infighting become, that the third in a series of televised leadership debates was cancelled, with Tory grandees concerned about the potential for a complete meltdown, following the vicious debacle witnessed in the first two official sparring matches.
Indeed, like the final contestants in Squid Game, those surviving the initial stages of the contest are emerging not strengthened, but bruised and battered.
Whoever might win in the short term, therefore, in the long run, the whole party loses.
The establishment is looking aghast at this astonishing spectacle.
The Conservative and Unionist Party, to give it its proper title, was once the envy of ruling classes across the world; the most successful and stable bourgeois party on the planet.
Now, however, the decline and decay of British capitalism finds its reflection in the degeneracy of its primary political representatives. No longer do these ladies and gentlemen think in terms of ‘centuries and continents’, as Leon Trotsky once remarked. Instead, these myopic careerists cannot see further than their own noses.
Rishi Sunak – the tax-dodging multimillionaire ex-banker – is clearly the preferred choice of the ruling class. The City of London poster boy has attempted to be the ‘reasonable’ voice amidst a deafening cacophony of Brexiteer belligerence, ‘war on woke’ hysteria, climate change scepticism, and Thatcherite cosplay.
With all this gushing over tax cuts and the free-market, you'd be forgiven for thinking the Iron Lady herself had risen from the dead to take the helm of the Tories' sinking ship. It's time to sweep out these scumbags with socialist struggle!— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) July 21, 2022
Read more: https://t.co/3DprgIlxfQ pic.twitter.com/57UTkVRLV7
Indeed, all of these reprobates have evoked the spirit of Margaret Thatcher – painting themselves as the true inheritors of the infamous, arch-reactionary Tory prime minister – as they seek to be the latest occupant of 10 Downing Street.
One is reminded, in this respect, of Karl Marx’s words in the 18th Brumaire:
“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionising themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.”
Those looking to emulate the Iron Lady, however, should remember what precedes this quotation, however – “that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice…the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
In contrast to his rivals, Rishi Sunak has tried to strike a more moderate chord on questions such as the economy, Europe, and the war in Ukraine, as he undertakes a delicate balancing act, hoping to appeal to both big business, on one side, and the rabid Tory ranks, on the other.
On fiscal matters, for example, the former chancellor and free-market fanatic has defended his previous actions at the Treasury, whilst decrying the idea of tax cuts during an inflationary crisis as reckless and irresponsible.
His internal opponents, in turn, have accused Sunak of wanting to ‘betray’ Brexit; of seeking a softer line with Brussels and Moscow; of having stabbed Boris in the back; and – as already mentioned – of being a ‘socialist’.
Listening to his deranged critics, you’d imagine that the Tories were about to elect their very own Jeremy Corbyn.
Facing off against Rishi Sunak will be Liz Truss, who has opportunistically used her position as foreign secretary to build up a reputation as the most bellicose warrior against both Vladimir Putin and the EU.
Throughout her campaign, Truss has primarily aimed her pitch at the rank-and-file membership of the Conservative Party – the 160,000-or-so ‘swivel-eyed loons’ who will make the final decision regarding who becomes the next Tory leader.
The views of this ‘hang-em, flog-em’ brigade are sharply at odds with the interests of British capitalism. Lest we forget, the last time this selectorate was given a choice, they went for Boris ‘f*ck business’ Johnson – possibly the most corrupt, self-seeking, egotistical PM this country has ever seen.
The outgoing PM may have bowed out of his final parliamentary appearance as leader with the words ‘hasta la vista, baby’. But with Truss favoured to win the vote amongst Conservative members, the prospect of ‘continuity Boris’ clearly awaits the Tory Party and the British ruling class. And with this, the fate of further turmoil and instability; of yet more scandal and crisis.
As the ancient Greek proverb says: ‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.’ And those likely to take the helm of the sinking ship that is British capitalism are very mad indeed.
Faced with this alarming perspective, the ruling class may opt to shift their weight behind Starmer’s Labour. After all, unlike the various Tory leadership hopefuls, ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer has consistently made clear his unswerving servility to the establishment.
But whoever resides in Number 10, the same looming catastrophe awaits.
The UK economy is heading towards ‘stagflation’, with prices soaring and growth spluttering. The Union is being tugged apart by centrifugal forces, with the national question on the agenda in Scotland and the North of Ireland. And a social explosion is brewing, as the costs of fuel and food rise even faster than air temperatures.
Most importantly, the working class is on the move. Rail strikes have breathed confidence through the whole trade union movement, inspiring postal workers, bus drivers, and even barristers to follow suit.
Similarly, public sector workers in the civil service, education, NHS, and local government are also likely to see votes in favour of strike action, following the government’s latest pathetic pay offer.
The next Tory leader, set to be announced on 5 September, will therefore assume office in the midst of the most turbulent chapter in Britain’s history.
They should be faced with an immediate challenge from the labour movement, in the form of mass coordinated action across the unions, including a one-day public sector strike, in order to force a general election.
Whoever wields the knife, under capitalism, the same cuts and crises are coming. Workers and youth must therefore mobilise to sweep out all these scumbags, and fight for a bold socialist alternative to this entire rotten system.