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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

We have a long way to go

SOLEMN music. Sombre reports. Strikes suspended and TUC conference postponed. Crowds outside Buckingham Palace and massive numbers of people queuing to walk past the coffin of the Queen in Westminster Hall.

The cult of the monarchy begins at school and continues in an endless stream of reports in the media about the comings and goings of the royals. The monarch’s face is on the stamps, coins and English bank-notes. The antics of the princes and even those of their pets are considered mainstream news, so the pageantry that surrounds the death of the longest reigning monarch in British history should not surprise us.

What is perhaps more remarkable is general acceptance of the myths surrounding the monarchy that are used to justify bourgeois society as a whole. We are told, for instance, that the monarchy goes back some 1,200 years. But this monarchy only goes back to the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.

We are told that the monarch is an eternal symbol of national unity when its origins were quite divisive at the time as far as the Catholic community was concerned.

Some even say that the monarch serves some sort of divine purpose regardless of the fact that the Crown was the gift to the House of Orange in 1688 by the Westminster parliament, whose power to pick and choose monarchs was last exerted when it forced Edward VIII to abdicate in 1936.

We are told that although the Crown is the traditional guarantee of our unwritten bourgeois constitution the monarchy has no powers at all these days. But although the reserve powers of the monarch, heavily curtailed by the 1689 Bill of Rights and later Parliamentary reforms, are essentially those of the ruling class as a whole, it is ludicrous to suggest that one of the richest families in the world has no power or influence in the country.

The Crown, like the House of Lords, ultimately represents the interests of all the other great landowners by upholding the principle of inherited wealth. As such, it remains the pivot of the capitalist class as a whole.

Support for the monarchy on the street has dropped in recent years. In 2012, 73 per cent supported the institution. This year the same polling company reported that support for monarchy was down to 62 per cent. But all the mainstream parliamentary parties, apart from the Greens, support the monarchy and there’s no serious republican campaign within the labour movement.

A handful of Labour MPs claim to be republicans but none of them call for the end of the monarchy in any serious way. On ‘Levellers’ Day’ they turn up to honour the three Leveller mutineers who were shot at Burford Church on Cromwell’s orders. But commemorations of the epic days of the English Revolution and the Republic of England are left to the history buffs of the Cromwell Association and the doughty re-enactors of the English Civil War societies.

New technology has allowed some capitalist enterprises to rise to become monopolies and giant global powers. The state machine has been reinforced along with this rise. Alongside this, there has been a relentless ideological campaign to popularise capitalism, using religion, praising the monarchy and making the armed forces part of the coercive legal system.

At the same time the bourgeoisie have taken advantage of the divisions in the labour movement. Reformism, which means limiting working class struggle to gaining improvements within the capitalist system, remains the dominant theoretical trend within the working class. Sadly, we still have a long way to go…