It’s Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond Jubilee, the sun looks set to shine, and Britons have been given two days holiday – so who’s complaining? Up and down the country, our government officials, from the petty to the powerful, have been encouraging workers to ‘forget politics’, ‘forget their troubles’, hang out the union jack bunting (and Tim Henman hasn’t even won Wimbledon!), and re-create the ‘post war’, feel-good spirit with street and garden parties. OOOh! Who’s coming down to Greenwich to see the regatta?
But Britain is a ‘parliamentary democracy’, right? Didn’t Cromwell – God’s Englishman – cut off King Charles’ head in the English Civil war, winning the bourgeois revolution, like 400 years ago?
And why does it always seem to be “jam-tomorrow”, repossess your house, austerity for we, while the blinged-out Windsors pocket millions in land subsidies and live the conspicuous high life? So what’s it all about, and who’s really celebrating?
Forget the jubilee, join the revolution!
Queen and country?
We want Freedom!
The present fawning coverage of the Queen’s diamond jubilee is but the latest example of an increasingly fever-pitched barrage of pro-royalist propaganda throughout the British media.
In one obsequious article written last year, the Guardian’s Dominic Sandbrook breathlessly noted that “the … striking thing [about the royal wedding was] … the almost total absence of anti-monarchical sentiment”. But as one online commenter put it: “How would we know? The only sentiment allowed to be expressed in the media was pro-monarchical.”
Despite the impression given by the media, however, opinion polls tell us that around 20 percent of Britons would like to abolish the monarchy. And since poor people aren’t generally polled, this is bound to be a gross underestimate.
At a time of savage cuts in services and benefits, with rising unemployment and increasing levels of overcrowded and slum housing, the sight of the Windsors in clothes and jewellery costing millions and paid for by the taxpayer is not calculated to endear them to those who are branded scroungers by the media while living hand-to-mouth and suffering the brunt of the economic crisis.
Moreover, while most of us are forced to pay extortionate rates of council tax for occupying postage-stamp-sized plots of land, the royals, like other big landowners, are quietly pocketing massive agricultural subsidies.
Who are they and what do they do?
Since the days of the English revolution, when Oliver Cromwell’s victorious government executed Charles I, no king or queen has exercised direct power in Britain. The ‘restoration’ of Charles II was not a reversal of that revolution, but rather the acceptance by the aristocracy that if it wanted to survive at all, it would have to do so on the capitalists’ terms.
These days, only a few archaic privileges and arcane rituals have been preserved for appearances’ sake. But while they may not be the venerated overlords of bygone days, today’s monarchy, with its mysterious ‘ancient rituals’ and much-discussed family tree, is a valuable weapon in the capitalist rulers’ arsenal.
We are taught to see the history of the nation and the history of the royal family as being the same, and to feel a superstitious awe towards the hereditary holders of the country’s highest office. How often are we told that ‘our’ Queen has so much more ‘dignity’, ‘grace’ etc than any mere elected head of state could ever have?
All our lives, we have all been learning carefully-selected ‘facts’ about her and her family to help us ‘identify’ with them. The idea is that, no matter how angry we might become with other representatives of bourgeois rule – governments, police, judiciary etc – we will continue to believe that the Queen and the armed forces are somehow above politics and there to ‘serve all the people’.
Which explains the strong and very visible connection between the royals and the forces. And the non-stop guff about the Queen’s ‘unifying’ presence in our lives.
And while she may not exercise power for herself, the Queen does have a real role to play on behalf of her class. It is not merely symbolic that a new prime minister has to ask the Queen for permission to form a government – that is the ruling class’s veto in case of an unacceptable election result. As is the Queen’s power to call a state of emergency and mobilise the armed forces. And she would not hesitate to use these powers if her class deemed it necessary.
So much for the daydreams of those who imagine that we could bring socialism to Britain through an elected majority in parliament!
The advantage of having a long-serving head of state is felt by the ruling class most particularly in times of crisis, as now. As society is becoming more and more fractured, relentless royalist propaganda is aimed at persuading us to forget about exploiters and exploited and buy into the myth of ‘one Britain’. When the Queen and her family ‘go amongst the people’, they, like Eton-boys Cameron and Osborne, are asking us to believe that we are ‘all in it together’.
Capitalism must go
For all the insidious role that they play in helping to maintain capitalist rule, though, it is not the royals alone who are the problem, but the capitalist system that they represent. After all, the Queen may live off our backs in a direct and obvious way, but we should never forget that all big businesses are leeching off the blood and sweat of others, and that all the super-rich of Britain vie with each other in tax avoidance scams.
She may be a particularly blatant example, but the monarch is just one of many capitalist parasites whose obscene wealth needs to be seized and used for the common good if we are to escape from the downward spiral of imperialist war and economic crisis.
As communists, we wish to see the end of the monarchy not because we have some burning desire to replace it with an elected man in a suit while the whole rotten system of bloodthirsty warmongering and ruthless exploitation remains intact, but because we are opposed to anything that perpetuates ordinary people’s faith in the status quo or helps to whitewash the crimes of the ruling class.
Moreover, we hold to the simple belief that for one person or family to own wealth running into the billions of pounds while millions starve and millions more go without homes, jobs, basic health care, education, and security in old age – is nothing short of a moral outrage. And that doesn’t just go for the Queen, but for the whole class of privileged multibillionaires whom she serves and helps to keep in place.
The Queen is not ‘ours’, but theirs. She is of and for that tiny handful of ruthless exploiters who keep the world’s people in poverty and servitude, and we must not be fooled by sentimental hogwash into imagining that she has any interest in seeing our children taken care of. If we want a fitting future for them, we must do away with privileged exploiters of every kind.
It is time to leave behind the blood-stained red, white and blue of our decadent, parasitic, imperial rulers and join the rising workers and peasants of the world under the red banner of the people’s hammer and sickle!