In ancient days, Roman emperors were assumed to possess divine powers to justify their immense wealth and the power of life and death that they wielded over their subjects and slaves. In feudal times, warrior kings were praised in song for the numbers they had killed or for the occasional acts of mercy and charity that demonstrated supposed Christian merit. These days we’ve been deluged with four days of commercialised festivities in honour of the Queen whose only claim to fame has been to remain on the throne for the past 60 years.
Though a thousand or so “republicans” managed to hold a spirited demonstration against the jubilee pageant in central London on Sunday, there’s been nothing to compare to the backlash that took place during the Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977 when thousands sported “stuff the jubilee” badges and punk rockers hurled abuse at the Royal Family on the air-waves.
The Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, have led the pack in sycophantic praise of the monarchy and the only sour note was struck by the Archbishop of Canterbury who raised concern about financial greed and environmental recklessness during his otherwise innocuous Jubilee Thanksgiving sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The monarchy is draped in bogus patriotism and myths largely of its own creation. Children used to be taught about the reigns of kings from the Norman Conquest in 1066 as if there was a timeless chain to the current monarch. The Civil War, the trial and execution of the king and the short-lived republic led by Oliver Cromwell that followed is portrayed as a brief interruption to a benevolent institution which exists, so we are led to believe, simply to serve the people and its elected institutions.
In fact the current monarchy only goes back to the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 which established the sovereignty of the bourgeois parliament of landowners and capitalists.
But the main myth of the monarchy is that the Queen, who is after-all, the hereditary Head of State, has no power. Apart from the reserve powers of the royal prerogative over parliament, the armed forces and the civil service it is simply absurd to believe that the House of Windsor, one of the richest families in the world, has no power or influence in Britain today.
In fact, the monarchy is a central pillar of the ruling class and the bourgeois “democracy” they uphold. The monarchy embodies the principle of hereditary power and wealth that justifies the immense wealth of the other great landowners and the inherited wealth of the oligarchs who control the financial, media and industrial empires of capitalism in Britain.
The Queen is not the symbol of the British “nation” or the supposed unity of the English, Scottish and Welsh peoples that bourgeois propaganda would have us believe. The monarch is simply the pinnacle of the bourgeois state.
These are the people who robbed and looted Africa and Asia in the 19th century to build an Empire on which “the sun never set”, killing and enslaving millions on their way; the kind who lived in luxury and ease in their grand houses while British workers slaved in their factories for pennies and died broken and destitute in the slums of our great cities; the people who sent millions to their deaths in the First World War to preserve and increase their fortunes.
They are the ruling class; the big capitalists, the bankers, the industrialists and big landowners who really run this country. They are still with us. They pull the strings.
They fear and loathe organised labour because they know that the entire wealth of the world comes from workers in the factories and peasants in the fields.
But it is working people who will eventually sweep them away to build a genuine people’s democracy where there will be no more landowners, no more capitalists and no more kings.