As Elizabeth Windsor’s Golden Jubilee approaches, Mary Ward argues why all democrats should be republicans
If, like me, you view the events of the coming Jubilee with a mixture of revulsion and anger, then you may well be assuming that the republican left has gone to sleep or all been deported such has been the lack of activity from our side. The palace spin-doctors have done what they always do and couched the event in such reasonable and philanthropic terms that only mad extremists could possibly have room for complaint.
The Labour Party left (what remains of it) has been warned to be at best mildly supportive at worst silent. The media looks forward to a photo bonanza while we in the SSP can look forward to a conference battle on whether or not we, as an anti monarchy party, should just close our eyes and hope the Jubilee goes away or whether we actually organise democratic events in opposition to the parasitic rule of the unelected monarch and her family.
Anachronistic pulling power
The appeal of the monarchy and its continued support from members of the working class can appear on the surface to be one of life’s great conundrums. Why does this anachronism have the pulling power it does and why do we as republicans need to redouble our efforts to smash it out of existence. Surely we would be better off ignoring it and allow people to enjoy the romance and soap opera that the royal family acts out on a daily basis?
The House of Windsor has done what successive successful dynasties have done before it. In the face of democratic demands or republican revulsion, it has adapted to survive.
This is not a new phenomenon, since the time of George III and his fears of a republican uprising in the wake of the American and French revolutions, our royal millstones have to one degree or another been successful in staving off republican revolt by conceding reforms and by matching the popular mood.
Charitable donations and royal patronage although no more than insulting crumbs, have meant that our royals have become associated with good causes. The deification of the Queen Mother and the perceived wisdom of the Queen are illusions that are hard to shatter. These women appear part of a bygone age, which conveys, in the establishment’s eyes, all that was and is great about Britain. They have endured and that in itself is a powerful symbol. Revolutionary ideas are seen as mere flights of fancy in the face of this perpetual symbol of capitalism’s legitimacy and stability. Royal scandals involving sex and or drugs have been portrayed as endearing showing how in touch our royals are with the problems of modern society – just an ordinary family with extra-ordinary wealth and unelected power!
The question of the power of the constitutional monarchy is often subject of debate. Does the royal prerogative and the other vestiges of feudalism have any real bearing on the lives of the majority of people in the so-called United Kingdom?
Monarchy bolsters modern capitalism
Sadly the answer is yes. The monarchy, the House of Lords and the hereditary landlords who control much of the Scottish countryside are living examples of the structures, which bolster modern capitalism. They are more than icons; they are an integral part of the system, which perpetuates the drive for profit over the provision of human need. They are part of the trappings designed to keep us in our place and to prevent us challenging the status quo. They provide us with a voyeuristic escape into a world where pomp and ceremony is combined with dirty deeds between the sheets. Charles choosing to shag Camilla over Diana provided as much speculation as who shot Phil Mitchell – only with posh accents.
Thus we have ready-made diversions from the crucial question; how can we be a democracy and yet continue with a monarchy, an unelected second chamber and a plethora of lairds who demand the doffing of the cap.
While on the one hand the monarchy is there to perpetuate the current system, it also highlights this fundamental contradiction. It cannot nor must not be ignored; it must be abolished through a popular movement from below.
This Jubilee provides communists with the opportunity to expose the contradictions within the state in which we live. It provides the left generally with the possibility of raising democratic and republican demands within a context that people will understand and relate to.
When the government demands street parties to show our
thanks and appreciation of 50 years of Elizabethan rule, we must respond with street carnivals of republicanism demanding the abolition of the crown and all its paraphernalia in favour of democracy. The bourgeoisie have no response to the democratic question; it is unanswerable. They fall back on tradition, myth and ultimately on the class system they represent.
Fight for democratic rights
We republicans have a tradition which is rich and worth celebrating. Those brave comrades who fought resolutely for democratic rights have had a resonance, which has caused monarchs to tremble. So much so that republicans from Thomas Paine to George Harney to James Connolly are still condemned by the establishment.
There is also a powerful weapon in MP’s or MSP’s refusing to take the oath of allegiance. This is a debate within the SSP, which must continue. There is a real danger that the SSP is prepared to sacrifice much in pursuit of parliamentary numbers. Next it will be parliamentary respectability and the idea of a combat party will be diluted beyond recognition. The SSP could take the lead as a republican party in more than just name. We are not suggesting that we use the refusal to take the oath in any way as a gesture but as part of a republican campaign, which would ultimately demand our comrades, take their seats without taking the oath. This requires a long-term republican strategy, which the SSP does not have. It is too immersed in reformism.
The best republican propaganda we can use in the coming year is in organising working class people around the political demand to abolish all hereditary privilege. We must be imaginative in this. We should ask for this year’s James Connolly march in Edinburgh to highlight this democratic struggle. We must work with other republicans to organise a people’s festival in Glasgow Green and we must meet the Royal Tour with inventive forms of protest. We undoubtedly have right on our side. The leaders of the left in Scotland must show what
colours they are attached to; no red white and blue but red all the way through.