Lenin once remarked about Britain that: “Here, more than anywhere else, the bourgeoisie are used to governing and know how to govern.”
If he was alive today, he would have fallen off his chair laughing at the sight of this dysfunctional, crisis-ridden Tory government, which has completely lost the plot.
Rishi Sunak’s administration is on the ropes, battered by economic turmoil and a series of political scandals. Deputy PM Dominic Raab has been accused of bullying. Outgoing Tory Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi is embroiled in tax-dodging allegations. Conservative backbenchers are in a mutinous mood. And the spectre of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss haunts Number 10.
Of course, there are stark differences between when Lenin wrote and today. At that time, Britain was a major world power. Now, in the words of former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers, “the UK is behaving a bit like an emerging market turning itself into a submerging market” – all ruled over by a tarnished monarchy and a gaggle of misfits.
This reflects and demonstrates the decline of British capitalism – a demise that has rapidly accelerated in recent times.
Instead of investing in industry, the capitalists, looking for short-term profits, put their money abroad and in speculation. To hell with the future! Get rich today! This was their motto.
Now the ruling class is tobogganing towards disaster with their eyes closed, dragging the rest of us down with them.
Don’t you hate it when you “carelessly” forget about a few million in profits on your tax return? We’ve all been there!
Zahawi’s tax scandal comes as no surprise. The Tories & the establishment are packed with crooks and swindlers. It’s high time we toppled this corrupt system! pic.twitter.com/886XmgIiYS
— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) January 28, 2023
Them and us
Britain has rightly been described as the ‘sick man of Europe’. But even this aphorism is behind the times. It is forecast that the UK economy, already in recession, will now shrink more than even sanction-hit Russia in the year ahead. Britain has become a basket case.
“Just about everything that could go wrong has,” concluded Martin Wolf, the chief economist at the Financial Times.
While the rich get richer, the rest of us are getting poorer. The oil and gas corporations have announced record profits. Their fat-cat shareholders are billions of pounds richer, simply from owning a stake in these parasitic monopolies.
Shell, for example, has reported annual profits of £32 billion for 2022. This is double the previous year’s figure, and the highest in the company’s 115-year history. Similarly, BP made a total of £23 billion in profit last year.
Fossil fuel giant Shell reported annual profits of £32 billion for 2022, the highest in their 115 year history. And their friends at BP are close behind. Meanwhile, millions of workers are footing the bill for a crisis they didn’t cause. We say: expropriate the bosses’ wealth! pic.twitter.com/tk2dvoUYKf
— Socialist Appeal (@socialist_app) February 8, 2023
At the same time, energy bosses are no doubt laughing at the millions of low-paid workers who are struggling to pay their bills: the nurses, ambulance workers, cleaners, care workers, bin workers, and many, many others.
There are many horror stories circulating of how the working class in Britain is being affected by this crisis, especially in terms of their health.
Many of these accounts are being carried in the international press, by journalists puzzled by the collapse in living standards in Britain, which is supposed to be a rich country.
The following is from the front page of a recent edition of the New York Times, from 30 January:
“When her two sons ask for snacks she can no longer afford, Aislinn Corey, a preschool (nursery) teacher in London, lays down a blanket on the floor and plays ‘the picnic game.’ She takes an orange or an apple collected from her preschool’s food bank and slices it in thirds to be shared.
“‘We do it as an activity,’ she said. ‘So they don’t know that mummy is struggling.’
“She says dinners are often reduced to ‘pasta pasta pasta’, and she sometimes skips the meal entirely so there is more food for her children.”
This is what life is like for millions of working-class families in Britain. And things are getting worse, not better, as prices keep on rising. This April, households will see their energy bills jump by hundreds of pounds, as the fossil fuel giants rake in bumper profits.
Crisis of capitalism
This crisis is not only affecting the working class, however, but the middle classes also.
One Tory grandee, Lord Andrew Tyrie, was recently forced to recognise that “we have a widespread public dissatisfaction with capitalism”. He even talked of a “crisis of capitalism” – all from the mouth of a Conservative peer!
Tyrie went on: “People feel alienated, they feel they live in a rip-off economy and it’s run for others, not them. These attitudes run deep into the middle classes, who are the new vulnerable.” This is astonishing stuff from a representative of the establishment.
In the past, the middle classes were the mainstay of British capitalism and the Tory Party. But now they are increasingly being ruined. Accompanying this, we are seeing strikes among ‘professionals’ and layers of workers who have never taken action before. This includes nurses, lawyers, and head teachers.
There is panic amongst the serious strategists of capital, as demonstrated by the warnings of this Tory lord. But there is nothing they can do about it.
Yes, capitalism is in crisis – a deep crisis. The crisis of British capitalism is particularly acute. But the representatives of the ruling class are impotent, and are simply fiddling while Rome burns.
We are entering revolutionary times in Britain, the likes of which we have not seen for a century.
As Lenin explained, revolution comes onto the agenda when there is a complete impasse in society. It arises when the working class cannot live in the old way, and when the ruling class cannot govern and reign as before.
The Labour and trade union leaders, however, including the ‘lefts’, have no perspective of changing society. As a result, in the absence of revolutionary leadership, this will be a protracted crisis, drawn out over the next decade or so. But the longer the moment of reckoning is delayed, the more convulsive it will be.
The present Conservative government is in its death agony. This explains the permacrisis on Downing Street, with a seemingly endless torrent of scandals and sleaze. And no amount of cabinet reshuffles will help to heal the festering wound inside the Tory Party.
The ruling class will seek to hand the poisoned chalice over to Starmer and the right-wing Labour leaders. In turn, the working class will gain a lesson in right-wing reformism.
Starmer and the Blairites are loyal servants of capitalism. In cricketing terms, they are the establishment’s ‘second eleven’; its B-team. They will act little differently from the Tories.
The Labour leader has stated that he’s “against austerity”. But Labour is “going to inherit a really bad situation”, he continued. “We’re going to have to be fiscally disciplined.”
In other words, there will be more austerity. The working class will be made to pay for the crisis.
Capitalism today cannot afford reforms, only counter-reforms. Given the explosive anger in the working class, and the dire economic situation, the next Labour government will be a government of crisis from day one.
As Lenin explained, there is no way out for the working class on the basis of capitalism. These words are more true today than ever before.
We will, of course, fight for every reform, every wage increase, every concession. At the end of the day, however, the only real solution to our problems is to take control of the economy into our hands.
This means fighting for a revolutionary programme, based upon the nationalisation of the banks and the giant monopolies that dominate the economy. There should be no compensation for these parasites.
Only then can we plan the economy, under workers’ control and management, and use society’s immense resources for the benefit of all.
Such a programme would inspire workers everywhere, providing a stepping stone to a socialist Europe and a World Federation of Socialist States.
Without this, in the words of Lenin, “capitalism is horror without end”.