Boris Johnson is in a swirl of scandal. Between his reported comments about lockdown and to businessmen, and his questionable spending of public money, it’s not been a week of building back better for Boris.
Frustratingly and unsurprisingly, the bourgeois political sphere has yet again proven itself unable to cut to the heart of the matter. The media is asking a lot of questions, but none of them the right ones. The Labour Party and Scottish National Party have cited the ministerial code, arguing that Johnson is in breach of its values of honesty. You would struggle to find someone in Britain who would consider honesty a trait of any politician.
Dominic Cummings, former Number 10 Chief of Staff, has surmised that Boris has fallen “so far below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”. What these positions ignore, quite consciously, is that Johnson’s corruption is not an exception, but the state functioning as intended.
Bourgeois Death Cult
Anonymous sources have stated that last October Boris Johnson, faced with a decision about a second lockdown or not, said that he’d rather see “bodies piled up in their thousands” than enact a third lockdown, whilst begrudgingly accepting a second at that time.
This comment is not being interrogated in terms of its content. The press is focused on whether he did or didn’t say it, and yet multiple sources have confirmed he did; the only two people that have publicly denied it happening are Johnson himself and Michael Gove. Numerous (understandably) anonymous sources were enough confirmation for multiple outlets including the BBC and ITV to run the story. And yet the media are more interested in doggedly pursuing an admission than reckoning with the comment itself. This fits: if the media is able to force Johnson to admit to something, it appears as if the media is consequential and able to establish justice. Media’s potential victory in the form of an admission matters more to their class than justice itself.
Johnson would rather “let bodies pile high in their thousands” than have another lockdown. This comment shows clearly where state priorities lie. Lockdown poses a risk to business, to capital’s dependency on labour and profit; that is what it means to Johnson and capitalists. That prospect is worse for Johnson than people dying. He cannot even use the common but false argument that the wellbeing of us working people depends on a healthy economy, because the phrase itself draws a distinction between the two; between the well-being of us on one hand, and the well-being of the economy of the other. He has drawn a line and pledged himself to one side of it. If you doubt this, ask yourself: under what scenario would a capitalist government care more for us than for its economy? A global pandemic that has killed 3 million people certainly wasn’t enough, or they would have closed schools and workplaces in a lockdown that would have stopped the virus at the root a year ago.
The fact that Johnson favours the needs of capital over life is so evident that it hardly seems worth pointing out. But we must: he has overseen a project of blatant eugenics against the disabled, elderly and other communities made-vulnerable. If you ever doubted that, look no further than him demanding more deaths instead of losing profit. Johnson’s quote that he wants to see us dead before capitalism suffers should be plastered across stickers and banners between now and the day that our justice reaches him.
But there is also subtlety occurring in this alleged statement of Johnson’s. We must recognise that Johnson might be attempting to appease the anti-lockdown movement, which held a rally last weekend in Central London. Increasingly fascistic due to its abject belief in facilitating mass death, this movement might think more kindly of Johnson for the implied deep hesitance he held to enact lockdowns. Occupying a broad-right spectrum contingency, including amongst his backbenchers, Johnson might well have considered this particular leak beneficial in the long run. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a leak has been intentional.
Additionally, his pondering of a third lockdown and the choice he might have to make about deaths or no deaths then implies that so far, bodies have not been piling high, and that people have not been dying. In years to come, Johnson will argue that he triumphed over COVID-19, and the millions of people who have suffered and died in this country and across the world will be washed away. It is the task of the living to never allow that erasure.
Dicey Relations and Poor Tastes
If that wasn’t enough, the BBC reported last week that Johnson had assured Britain’s richest businessman James Dyson “I will fix it”, after the billionaire raised concerns that his employees would have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic. Downing Street sources accused Dominic Cummings — formerly Johnson’s closest aide — of leaking the correspondence. Cummings has denied this, leading to the headlines addressing the who’s who of leaks, and the spat between Cummings and Johnson, rather than the leaked content itself.
Again, the who’s who seems to matter more to the press than the substance. These messages were sent, and demonstrate exactly what Marxists have said about the state for as long as we have analysed it: that it is the institutional wing of the bourgeois, capitalist class, and that it serves capitalist interests above all. The only reason multiple parties and facets exist is for the bourgeois class to resolve their differences in how they rule over us.
A businessman can drop a prime minister a text and ask for at best consideration, and at worst illegal favour, for dealing with taxes.
This is not new. This is happening every day. There are no reasons why private texts are any worse than formal meetings, cheese and wine events or parliamentary hearings: in all these scenarios we see capitalists and their politicians meeting, communicating and swapping favours. Texts feel more sinister, but if our real contention is with favour being granted to capitalists? Well, we might just need to throw out the entire state and build a new one from scratch.
If this week wasn’t already enough of a headache for Boris, it turns out he’s had to spend a good deal of his time in office with John Lewis furnishings in Number 10. Imagine his suffering! The Prime Minister considered John Lewis, Theresa May’s brand of choice, to be too rough and ready for his delicate tastes, and therefore arranged for renovations up to £200,000.
Again, the media is focusing on the wrong thing. Their question is who footed the bill originally; whilst Boris has stated repeatedly that he ultimately ended up with the costs, it seems probable that the Conservative Party or a top Tory donor paid originally and was reimbursed by Johnson. It is of little interest to normal humans whether Tories paid the costs – they pay their membership fees and otherwise are probably spending money on their own decadent renovations. The point here is that Johnson is absurdly rich, and does not even comprehend that he has acted abnormally. There is the possibility that this was taxpayer money, but when has the government ever used that for anyone other than their own capitalist interests anyway?
Johnson has confirmed that he will have the final say on whether he broke etiquette, and whilst this is particularly blunt in its injustice, let us not pretend that any of his peers would do a better job. It is not just Johnson, but the entire apparatus of the state, media included, that is guilty. Daily Mail Journalist Sarah Vine said the prime minister “can’t be expected to live in a skip”, which embodies the absurd standards that these people have, considering 10 Downing Street with John Lewis furniture a “skip”. This isn’t about Johnson being a singularly nasty guy, and that if we replaced him with someone else with decency they’d behave better. You can be sure Keir has some gorgeous furniture in his office, just as Tony and Gordon did in their day. Indeed, Sir Keir cost the taxpayer £161k on a chauffeured car in his first 21 months as crown prosecutor, Bourgeois decadence is part of their lifestyle, whichever parliamentary party they’re in.
Something is Rotten
“Corruption” is often used in times like these, and suggests that something has gone horribly wrong. Labour has repeatedly referred to Johnson’s “sleaze”. The accurate word, however, is rot. Rot is inevitable, a natural decay and process of necrosis that all things go through that is built into the thing itself. Capitalist politicians are expected to serve businessmen above all. They are themselves bourgeois, shown by the fact that Boris can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for gold wallpaper. Nothing has gone wrong here; the system itself is wrong.
These are three stories in one week. How much more do we not hear about? What happens in the office of your MP, surely less scrutinised than the office of the Prime Minister? Why do we fool ourselves into thinking that anyone we vote for will ever change the fundamental mechanics of the capitalist state?
And fundamentally, how do we get justice? The fallout from these scandals is leading people to raise the possibility of Johnson’s resignation, and yet there is no discussion about who would support this and why, and whether it would change anything about our fundamentally rotten state. Labour’s pathetic “opposition” offers no meaningful avenue of accountability, and Tory MPs have no incentive to oust a leader who reflects their values and interests. Are we to entrust the “standards” of our society to Dominic Cummings of all people, who simply wishes to replace Johnson with a different Tory with the same interests?
How can you or I hold a prime minister to account, in a system where politicians of all bourgeois parties, the courts, the media and businesses have directly aligned interests? The answer is heavy, but simple: that we recognise what our interests are, and fight for them as determinedly as the capitalists fight for theirs. The answer is revolution.