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Boris Johnson, Agent of Chaos

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Agent of ChaosPoliticians’ fictional namesakes aren’t hard to come by: as well as George Osborne in Vanity Fair, there’s a one-legged vagabond called Tony Blair in Uncle Rutherford’s Nieces: A Story for Girls (1869), and in David Cameron’s Adventures (1950), the eponymous hero is kidnapped in Aberdeen and sent to work on a plantation in Virginia. In Agent of Chaos by Norman Spinrad (1967), Boris Johnson is the unlikely leader of the Democratic League, an interplanetary resistance movement fighting against the totalitarian regime of the Hegemony, which has turned the entire solar system into a surveillance state. Their political efforts are hampered by his bumbling nature. ‘Boris Johnson was quite willing to babble on – and did so at every opportunity – but the man was a fool.’

Meanwhile, the shadowy Brotherhood of Assassins is both disrupting the efforts of the Democratic League and undermining the Hegemony, for reasons that are initially hard to fathom. It transpires, however, that disorder is an end in itself: the Brotherhood reveres Chaos. Johnson eventually sees the light; previously motivated only by a desire to overthrow the Hegemony, he now realises what real freedom means.

According to the foreword in a 1978 reprint, ‘Agent of Chaos is extremely popular with convicts’ and ‘certain sectors of the radical political left’. But the novel’s libertarian anarchism seems more in tune these days with the mainstream political right. In 1999, Spinrad said: ‘I’m an anarchist – but I’m a syndicalist. You have to have organised anarchy, because otherwise it doesn’t work.’ The real Boris Johnson has said his ideal form of government would be a ‘rules-based anarchy’.

When the mayor of London announced he would be standing for parliament in 2015, City A.M. ran a comment piece headlined: ‘Return of the freedom fighter’. But will he ever be prime minister? ‘A most peculiar psychology,’ Vladimir Khustov, the leader of the Hegemony, says after a failed assassination attempt by the Democratic League. ‘A man who believes what he wants to believe. It was all a trap, Mr Boris Johnson, and you walked right into it.’

Comments

  1. Ally says:

    An interesting find. Picking up on one thing though – Whatever the convolutions of revolutionary syndicalism one hundred years ago, its producer focus is surely at some distance (perhaps light years in this context) from any proprietor focus libertarianism of the mainstream political right.

    • Simon Wood says:

      Oh dear, the chaos has started. We have just spend a delightful weekend in Margate where Nigel Farage will attempt to stand for UKIP in Thanet and maybe stir it up against incomers like Tracey Emin’s father and the cockney Turner, both a case of art illuminating life.

    • Locus says:

      Yes, that was striking. An LRB contributor without a clue what anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism are. Clearly confident of his own cleverness, though. And no one in the magazine noticed. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe a straw in the wind.

  2. araminta says:

    I sent Boris a copy of this book back when he was still mp for Henley, his reply said “I haven’t laughed so much in ages’.


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