On Wednesday 14 May 2020, Boris Johnson lied twice during PMQs. The government advised until 12 March that it was unlikely that people would get Coronavirus in care homes, which the PM denied. Forty per cent of the deaths so far in Britain have been in care homes. The leader of the opposition then quoted a Daily Torygraph article stating that non-tested patients were ‘actively ceded’ into the care home population, which Johnson again denied. He stated that there was a system of testing people going into care homes – a lie as this system was not operative until 15 April. This followed a rapid government climb down from Dominic Cummings allegedly claiming that lock-down should not be too strict and “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. Indeed, the government initially favoured a policy of herd immunity, without a vaccine, until they were advised by statisticians that 250,000 people would die in the first wave. Johnson pulled back from the abyss, but it now appears he was motivated by fear of the political consequences not out of any humanitarian concern. The British government’s chaotic and incoherent attempt to ease the lock-down on Monday have been portrayed by even reprobates like Piers Morgan as an incompetent shambles, but there may be a far darker logic. The statistics demonstrate that the unskilled working-class and black and ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately during this crisis. The government appears to have surreptitiously resurrected herd immunity and are content to sacrifice the herd of coloured plebs on the altar of economic recovery.
Behind the façade of a liberal rights-based society, large sections of the British elite have only contempt for the herd. The Right attempt to fuse a conservative constitutional tradition with economic liberalism. Through rebranding the party with a tree, hugging huskies and hoodies and talking up about the Big Society (while he decimated the welfare state), David “Call Me Dave, We’re all in this together” Cameron used public relations to recalibrate the Tories. Brexit and the 2008 economic crisis have stripped away the veneer and the woolly liberalism has evaporated to be replaced by an austere authoritarian nationalism. While the elite spoke the language of liberalism and paid lip service to the charade of democracy – the last decade has witnessed the deliberate hollowing out of society. For the same kleptocrats who set out to destroy the welfare state to stand applauding nurses every Thursday speaks to the cavernous cynicism within politics. The coronavirus has lifted the veil on reality, exposing those who rule Britain and the image behind it is not Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill, but Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Marxist Left have long since proclaimed that the choice is between Socialism or Barbarism – this is manifest today. The economist Richard Wolff worked out that Jeff Bezos had $160 billion and that at a conservative estimate he earned $22 million a day from investments on existing wealth. The argument for a wealth tax is self-explanatory. Yet, the choice facing society in the wake of this crisis appears to be ever steeper austerity or even steeper austerity. This runs parallel to a populist racism and free-market jingoism which pitted the mythical ‘people’ against parliament and used the language of war to get Brexit done and usher in a five-year rein of misanthropy. But here is the rub – Cummings, Farage, Johnson and their ilk hate the ‘people’. Like Christopher Lee resurrecting in a 1960’s Hammer Horror film, Enoch Powell’s virulent brand of free market capitalism and racist nationalism once again stalks the land. Many commentators lament Powell’s racism but point to his political conservatism and economic liberalism as the admirable traits of a keen intellect. The same admirers refuse to acknowledge that the liberal and racist are flip sides of the same capitalist coin – a social system that rides on negation. Yet Powell merely represents a prominent figure within a dark tradition, even if the allegations of satanic sex abuse are false.
Nietzsche viewed knowledge as a mere appendage to power, calling history ‘a gruesome dominion of nonsense and accident’. For Nietzsche transcendence arrives through self-awareness and the pitiless dominion of the Übermensch. The fact that the Nazis misrepresented some of his thought hardly disqualifies him as the intellectual progenitor of fascism. By proclaiming that God is dead and we have killed him, he advocates that a chosen few may become gods. Nietzsche became the true voice of the developing bourgeois world. His insight was fundamentally radical in that he nihilistically tore down the veneer of European morality, rejected the developing socialism of the newly emerging industrial working class and laid the social process bare as the amoral narcissistic cannibalism it truly represented. Yet, while Marx posited historical materialism as the means to comprehend and then transcend this stage of human society, Nietzsche promoted only power and the void, dying a demented vegetable due to syphilitic insanity. His materialism reduced humanity to basic animal functions, where in reason is a necessary but limited aspect of ‘herd consciousness’. The Übermensch requires no reason – he commands and acts. The implications are clear ‘the misery of the laboriously living masses must be further intensified in order to enable a number of Olympian people to produce the world of art’. The Will to Power denies a right to existence to the majority of humanity. Yet Nietzsche’s thought paralleled English contemporaries such as Carlyle and flowed through the public discourse in Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood.
Nietzsche chose to sacrifice order to enterprise and let the Übermensch rip. This has underpinned the thinking of the Tory radical Right and found full-throated voice in Brexit’s empire 2.0 garbage. The problem with this ideology is that it is blind to the reality of social relations, relies crazily on will accompanied by the rejection of objective reality and if it gains enough traction or is exposed (as the miscreants who believe this rarely give full public expression to their inner beliefs) it might very well lead to a social revolutionary. This ideology appeals to the socially dysfunctional, sociopaths and misanthropes, or in other words large sections of the British ruling class and the Things who demonstrate enough intellect to burrow their way into becoming its intellectual champions. These creatures perceive in the Übermensch a pane of glass in which to view their own godly image and justify their privilege. If we really want to understand the elite, we need to acknowledge that class prejudice, a social system underpinned by unbridled greed and a warped public school system produce ready disciplines for this nihilism. Remember that the early Covid briefings claimed that behavioural psychologists suggested people couldn’t deal with lock-down or limit their appetites etc. In fact, with some small exceptions the general population’s response has been characterized by self-sacrifice, empathy and solidarity. Our political leaders didn’t think people could accomplish this because they thought everyone else was just like them.
In fact, the will to power is the negation of a humanity. Marx points to solidarity amongst species beings whose self-realisation comes in and through the similar self-realisation of others. The Marxist anthropology views consciousness or language as conditioned by production and collaboration as intrinsic to humanity. The history of every human society has been the history of class struggles, which, with a conflict between the forces and relations of production, generates historical change. In direct contrast to irrational Fascist muck, socialism correctly posits that individual self-determination only arrives through dependence on those who cared for us, taught us, worked, played and shared with us – the autonomous subject and Übermensch is a steaming heap of shit. In fact, the distinction between subject and object merges in objective material practice infused with consciousness. Those who seek the will to power will die with none of the elements of true humanity intact – they cannot will an end to the material objective reality of being a human being. The money fetish and wealth they accumulate will not accompany them to the grave and if they, like Powell, recant their early Nietzschean atheism then hell could not be hot enough for them. Unfortunately, their selfishness and brutality will immiserate and harm countless valuable human beings in the process.
As England (the Celtic fringe apparently possesses of modicum of greater regard for human life – including even Powell’s former associates in Ulster Unionism) rides a second wave of Corona deaths and leaves the European Union with no deal, it might be wise for many within its electorate to stop seeing Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as some sort of dishevelled decent bloke in-tune with the common man and begin viewing him as the personification of a privileged elite who defended the Masters of the Universe in the City of London from paying for their avarice after the 2008 crisis and, five years later, told an audience of bankers this:
“Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2% …” [Johnson departed from the text of his speech to ask whether anyone in his City audience had a low IQ]: “Over 16% anyone? Put up your hands.” He then resumed his speech to talk about the 2% who have an IQ above 130, telling the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank: “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.” (Guardian, 28 November 2013)
These excuses for human beings will not suffer from austerity, they will ride out the recession in a gated community or employ private security to shield them from the worst aspects of the approaching climate emergency. Had Britain chosen a different path they might now have a prime minister pledged to the public good and economic and social justice – they are left with fake populists, who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. There is a tendency to say that no good can come from telling those who voted for Johnson that they’re stupid, but stupidity is having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense. By supporting an elite that literally despises most of the population on the promise of sunny post-Brexit uplands the English people have left their country in the hands of a caste indifferent to human life and devoid of any objectives outside the acquisition and maintenance of power. Despite the efforts of Rupert Murdoch (another who will one day soon find out that there are no pockets in a shroud) the Tory’s pig’s ear is no silk purse, the lies and distractions must eventually flounder on the cold material objective reality of thousands let die in order to sate the will to power.