Britain in turmoil: let us rise to the challenge

In the 1930s, Leon Trotsky wrote that the ruling class were tobogganing towards disaster with their eyes closed. This seems to be an accurate description of the situation in Britain today. Tobogganing towards a no-deal Brexit, the ruling class has lost control of events.

“Angry times beget angry political parties,” states the Financial Times. “For now, the prime minister’s party is defined by rage. This is conservatism, not with a smile but a snarl.”

The Tory Party has been taken over by Boris Johnson and his Brexiteer gang. They are hellbent on heading for the rocks, no matter the consequences. They believe that out of the ashes will emerge a stronger Britain, echoing Trump’s promise to make America great again.

Their Brexit La-La Land will be a kind of ‘Singapore-on-sea’, where regulations are slashed and the crack of the employers’ whip is even louder. But this is a Johnsonite dream.

Even the bosses’ union, the CBI, is deeply alarmed. In a scathing response, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, stated: “The key issue for businesses — large and small — right now is not scrapping regulations, but getting a Brexit deal that sees off the economic turmoil of a no deal scenario.”

Constitutional crisis

For short-term political gain, the Johnson clique has thrown everything into the air and undermined the pillars of upper-class rule.

Johnson dragged in the Queen – a key part of the establishment – to prorogue Parliament, embroiling the usually aloof monarch in the dirty business of Westminster politics.

Boris bombshell Westminster Image Socialist AppealFor short-term political gain, Johnson has undermined the pillars of upper-class rule / Image: Socialist Appeal

The ruling class has deliberately kept the monarchy out of such shenanigans, retaining the Royal prerogatives as a reserve weapon to be used in times of crisis – for example, under a future Corbyn government.

Alarmingly for them, a spotlight has been shone on the real role of the monarchy and its anti-democratic powers. The same is true of the unelected Supreme Court, which was forced to declare the decision to suspend Parliament unlawful.

Britain’s Trump

Johnson has a plan. Whether he can “get Brexit done” or not, he is determined to fight a “Parliament versus the People” general election. He hopes to replicate Trump’s victory by appealing to the anger that exists in society.

The menacing tone he has adopted in Parliament is not aimed at MPs but at the disenchanted outside. There will be much vitriol and recrimination in the most polarised election in 100 years. This is Trumpery without Trump.

Part of this strategy is to eliminate the Brexit Party by becoming the Brexit Party. Johnson is aiming his rhetoric at the 52% who voted to Leave – above all the working-class Labour voters in the north. In doing so, he is attempting to dress himself up as an anti-establishment figure.

This anti-establishment rhetoric was clearly displayed by Geoffrey Cox, the Tory attorney general, when he denounced parliament as a “dead parliament” that should no longer sit. Amid howls of protest, he stated: “It has no moral right to sit…this parliament is a disgrace…they could vote to dissolve, but they are too cowardly.”

Again, these words were not addressed to parliamentarians, but to the masses outside who detest Parliament as a gravy-train.

Status quo

In contrast, the liberals inside and outside of Parliament, wringing their hands at the threat to “democracy”, are viewed as part of the status quo; as part of the hated establishment.

Labour’s right wing are part of this gaggle, with their zealous support for the establishment. They are champions of the ‘rule of law’ – as if the law is above the class struggle. The Labour movement throughout its history has had a proud record in opposing class laws. “Better to break the law than break the poor,” stated the rebel councillors of Poplar and Liverpool.

They are obsessed with ‘provocative’ language; with Johnson referring to “betrayal”, “surrender”, and so on.

Instead of such meekness, Labour should go on the offensive. It is Johnson who is “surrendering” to the billionaire spivs, hedge funds and speculators – the class he represents. And it is Johnson who is “betraying” the homeless, the unemployed and the poorest in society. It was Nye Bevan who called the Tories “vermin”, defenders of privilege and wealth – and they are.

For a socialist Labour government!

We cannot predict exactly what steps Johnson will take next. There is even talk of violence on the streets if Brexit is not delivered on 31 October, with the government using such incidents to circumvent the Benn Act, allowing ministers to suspend the Acts of Parliament due to a ‘state of emergency’.

Johnson has thrown down the gauntlet to Labour. In response, Labour must come out fighting. Labour should break off any talks with other parties, including the ‘moderate’ Tories. Instead, everything must be done to force a general election.

John McDonnell conference Image Socialist AppealOnly a bold socialist programme can offer a fighting way forward / Image: Socialist Appeal

Corbyn’s speech at Labour conference was a rallying call, which cut across the attempt to make the party a Remain Party. It was a foretaste of the left-wing manifesto that will be produced.

The Tories have already begun their general election campaign, claiming to be “the people’s party”. They are offering sham policies, with fake promises of a higher living wage and extra spending on hospitals. But it is the Tories who have presided over the biggest fall in real wages since the Napoleonic Wars!

Labour must hold mass rallies up-and-down the country to clearly demonstrate that ours is a movement that represents the 99 percent, not the 1 percent. We must campaign on class issues and socialist policies. We must do away with this rotten capitalist system, not patch it up. Millions are angry and crying out for fundamental change. Only a bold socialist programme can offer a fighting way forward.

Originally published 4 October in Socialist Appeal |