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Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain - Marx Studies - Marx - On Boris

Writing about Louis Bonaparte when the “second Bonaparte rose to power”, Marx wrote ironically of his mass support:

Historical tradition had nourished among the French peasants the superstition that a man named Napoleon would return in the fullness of time bringing them all that their hearts could desire. Lo, there came one giving himself out as this Messiah. He bore the name of Napoleon, and, by the terms of the Code Napoléon, la recherche de la paternité est interdite. After twenty years’ vagabondage and a number of preposterous adventures, this man becomes Emperor of the French. The prophecy has brought its own fulfilment. The nephew’s fixed idea has been realized because it coincides with the fixed idea of the peasant class, the majority of the French nation.

Worse, those peasants who most enthusiastically backed the new man were the most conservative and hidebound!

The Bonaparte dynasty does not represent the revolutionary peasant, but the conservative peasant. It does not represent those among the peasantry who wish to escape from the narrow conditions of their farming life; it represents those who wish to perpetuate and consolidate these conditions. It does not represent that part of the rural population which, instinct with energy, wishes to join forces with the townsfolk for the overthrow of the old order. On the contrary, it represents those who, hidebound in their conservatism, are resolute champions of the old order, and who look to the ghost of the Napoleonic Empire to save and to favour themselves and their petty farms. It does not represent the enlightenment of the peasants, but their superstition; not their judgement, but their prejudices; not their future, but their past...

When, after “years of vagabondage” and “preposterous adventures” Boris Johnson arrived at his destined place, Prime Minister, he was backed by the zealots of the Brexit cult. As for what exactly Brexit meant, when asked, many would echo slogans about Making Britain Great Again, taking back control of immigration, and sending foreigners home. That ideology harks back to a mythical ‘golden age’, perhaps to a time when Britannia ruled the waves, with an empire on which the sun never set.

Little Englanders imagine that by cutting off ties with Europe they will be able to establish new free trade deals. And no doubt their new Messiah will show his ability to walk on water, as proof that he is in fact the Chosen One, and so can easily deliver Brexit. Nothing short of this will satisfy the superstition of those true believers!

It’s a pity that all the energy, enthusiasm and passion of the Brexiteers and the ‘Remoaners’ has not been harnessed to a better cause, a unifying cause, a liberating, emancipation movement. Instead, the working class of these islands have let themselves be drawn into a divisive cult by the vapid rhetoric of demagogues, and whether Britain leaves the EU or not, the working class will still be slaving for wages, always dreading unemployment.

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