Friday, 9 September 2022

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Workers' Socialist Republic

As human beings, let alone as socialists, we should not revel in the death or suffering of another human being, or for that matter another creature. In the words of Terence, "Nothing human is alien to me.” Of course, most of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie do not think that way. They are, frequently, to be seen, at least, acquiescing in death and suffering of others, in pursuit of their own interests, and money making, and glorying in the death and suffering of their class enemies. It is a difference between their morals and ours. So, as human beings, let alone as socialists, we should not revel in the death of Elizabeth Windsor, but nor should we be drawn into all of the sanctimonious pomp, and hypocrisy, and demeaning sycophancy either. It is the death of an old woman, who had a far more privileged life than most. As Sraid Marx wrote in a recent comment,

But, of course, this was not just the death of any old woman, but of an old woman who, for 70 years, occupied a central position within the British state, as an organ of oppression over the British working-class, and, for more than a decade, still occupied a position as head of a colonial Empire that ruled over, and oppressed, millions of slaves in Africa, before they obtained political independence, via anti-colonial struggles waged, often bitterly, against that British state, over which Elizabeth Windsor presided, as titular head, and, indeed, according to the constitution, whose personal army it was.

And, the job of the monarch, and so of Elizabeth Windsor, during all that time was to defend the interests of the ruling class against the interests of workers, whatever it took, as head of its state.  An example of that was in 1975, when in Australia, the Queen's Representative, Governor General, Sir John Kerr, on the instructions of the Queen, dismissed the Labour Government of Gough Whitlam, and commissioned the right-wing Malcolm Fraser of the Liberal Party, as Prime Minister.  It was suggested that part of the reason had also been due to CIA involvement, and pressure on the British government.

But, that was merely a constitutional coup.  Former MI5 spy, Peter Wright, in his book "Spycatcher", sets out the details of what had been known for some time that in 1968, sections of the ruling class had considered an actual military coup agaisnt Harold Wilson's Labour government.  The chosen figurehead for such a coup was the Queen's cousin and close adviser, Lord Mountbatten.  A further such coup was discussed in Wilson's second term in office (1974-6).

Of course, no such coup occurred, but Wilson, was merely, a moderately progressive social-democrat, not a socialist.  He did, of course, stand down abruptly in 1976, and was replaced by the even more right-wing James Callaghan, whose anti-working class policies led to the Winter of Discontent, and prepared the way for Thatcher and 18 years of Tory misrule.  But, can anyone doubt that, had it been even a serious-left-wing, progressive social democrat government, say, something like that of Allende in Chile, that these would have been more than just the plans of a few dozen discontented members of the ruling class, and state, and that an actual coup would have been on the cards?  And, under those conditions, a significant factor becomes the fact that the armed forces answer directly to the Crown, not the government.  What then for the "decency" of the Queen?

So, much as the social pacifists, social chauvinists and social imperialists may wish to gloss over that fact, by their sycophantic talk about what a decent person the Queen was, as against the institution she inhabited, whose functions she performed, and which she defended for 70 years, it is simply not possible to do that. In the 1970's, we used to chant at the police “only doing me job”, as their massed ranks assembled against us, whilst they defended the fascists, or the bosses, by breaking up picket lines. We did so, because, rather like the excuse of the concentration camp guards, whenever questioned about their actions, the stock response was “I'm only doing my job”, as though it was possible to separate that job from them personally, however, amiable and decent they might otherwise have been.

The position of monarch is itself thoroughly indecent, and an insult to basic civilised society.  So, how can anyone who holds and accepts that position, who defends it, promotes it and so seeks its continuance themselves be "decent".  Any decent person would refuse it, and argue for its abolition.

Its a bit like saying that public executioner's are frequently jolly decent chaps, its just that their day job is to routinely kill people they do not know. So, when for example Andrew Coates tells us that he is still a republican and that he is opposed to the institution of the Monarchy, whilst imploring us to accept his claim that the Queen herself was a decent human being, it is impossible to take that claim seriously. It amounts to social pacifism, and social chauvinism and imperialism, seen amongst those sections of the Left, evolving into social cretinism.

It also stands in contrast to the position often encountered from such liberals when it comes to the work of artists of various kinds.  So, they frequently call for the boycotting of the performances of people like Giliad Atzmon, in response to their anti-Semitism.  Here, apparently, it is not possible to separate the job/art from the individual.

Even the revolutionary bourgeoisie, in England, in the 17th century, were able to recognise the impossibility of divorcing the position of monarch from the holder of that position.  They chopped off Charles Stuart's head.  The revolutionary French bourgeoisie did the same thing, when they decapitated Louis XVI, whose predecessor Louis Xiv, had made the position clear in his statement "L'etat, c'est moi" (I am the state).

And, the Bolsheviks knew that even had the Tsar been a "decent human being" - he wasn't he was a vile tyrant - and no matter how decent his children might have been, the reality was that, given half a chance, they would become the figure head and rallying point of all the forces of reaction in Russia, and beyond, who had no qualms about shooting, hanging and otherwise murdering vast numbers of Russian workers who were fighting for their liberation from them.  The reality is that these petty-bourgeois socialists are not only light years away from the Bolsheviks, but they are miles away even from the positions of the revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

When the police or soldiers use the excuse “I'm only doing my job”, its possible to have, at least, a small amount of sympathy for them. They are, frequently, economic conscripts into those jobs, and, for them, they are selling their labour-power as wage labour, the same as if they were selling it to any other employer. Of course, that is not the case either, which is why Marxists do not advocate trades unions for the police or armed forces, because, as the mailed fist, of the capitalist state, their labour-power is not used like that of any other wage labourer, but to directly suppress and oppress the working-class itself, and maintain in place the capitalist state, and, thereby the ruling class, whose state it is.

But, the occupier of the position of monarch is not, by any means, such an economic conscript. Far from it. We are often drowned in claims about what a good job the Queen did, how dedicated she was, and how hard working she was. Well, in that case, why not open up the job to applicants, and see what an avalanche of people put themselves forward for it? Indeed, on that kind of income, with the free houses, the foreign holidays to sunny climes and so on, I'd come out of retirement myself and apply for the job. Of course, I'd then take the several million pounds of income from the first year, and use that first year to campaign for the job itself to be scrapped, before abdicating! Now that would be a "decent" response.

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