These bloody people!
Republican socialists and
recent marriage of Charles Windsor and Camilla Parker-Bowles was no ordinary
wedding. Like all royal marriages, including Charles’s first wedding, it is a
major political event to demonstrate the unity of the ruling class and the
loyalty of a happy and grateful nation. Yet the circumstances in which this one
took place indicate that all is not well with the Windsor dynasty nor is its
position totally secure.
The sub-text is
about the crisis of the royal succession. Is Charles is fit to be king? Will
making Camilla into the future queen undermine the whole royal mumbo jumbo? This
is so sensitive that she is now only duchess of Cornwall and not princess of
Wales. She has promised not to annoy the country by being no more than the
future king’s consort.
This is nonsense.
A queen is of course the wife of the king. But it shows how sensitive and
vulnerable they feel to public opinion and how they try to manipulate us. They
think we are stupid and won’t see through their little games. We can see the
controversy in letters pages of the popular press. N. Burgess from Stoke, in the
Mirror, speaks for many of her majesty’s subjects when he writes “they
have made a mockery of the monarchy and no amount of spin will convince me
recent YouGov survey found that 58% thought the Prince of Wales should
relinquish his right to the throne and a Mori poll found only 40% supported
Charles to be the next king. Not surprisingly the foreign press go to the heart
of the matter more quickly than many of our own sycophantic editors. Spain’s
El Pais described it as “the most threatening event which the British crown
has had to bear in the last hundred years” The Los Angeles’ Times was
more optimistic seeing the wedding as “an important act of tidying up for the
oft troubled monarchy”.
The words “oft
troubled” and “threatening event” confirm what a few socialists have been
pointing out. The British monarchy is stuck in a period of crisis. Try as they
might they cannot clamber out of it. This wedding is only the latest of many
debacles since the truth about Charles’ fairy tale marriage to Diane Spencer
emerged. Then Windsor Castle burned down, the queen had her “annus horribulis”
and something mysterious happened to the other Mrs Windsor in that tunnel in
in a 21st century capitalist democracy is that we are not allowed to elect our
head of state but it is expected that we “approve” them and “support” them. What
happens if we don’t? Charles will automatically become king, but he still has to
conduct the longest ever ‘election’ campaign where his every move and utterance
is scrutinised by the press.
presidents do you know with servants that squeeze out their tooth paste? What
has gone wrong with official secrecy? It was designed to prevent us hearing
about this stuff. A constitutional monarchy cannot survive on the basis of
freedom of information and full public scrutiny. The notorious British disease
of state secrecy has its roots in the fact that our state is built around the
maintaining and disguising the secrets of monarchy. The more we know about
monarchy the less we like it. But we still have very little idea of where they
have got their money stashed.
divided the nation. Not the best recommendation for the top job. He already
displays the fatal characteristics of every last king. No wonder his mother is
worried. No wonder sections of the ruling class are thinking out loud about
whether they can jump a generation. Yet as Charles has been thwarted at every
turn he has become more determined to have his way and meddle in matters of
state. There is hardly a government minister who has not had some advice or some
lobbying from the prince.
Behind the scenes
Camilla, the only women who really understands him, has been encouraging her
man. Sue Carroll (Mirror 11 April 2005) says that together Charles and
Camilla are a formidable force fused by steely determination to have the own way
regardless”. This is why some people like C. Cunningham have come to see
“Camilla and Charles are the most selfish, spoilt, self seeking, self centred
arrogant pair.” C. A. Lee describes them as “a crowd of greedy selfish misfits”
We can see the
concerns of the royalists. James Whittaker writing in the Mirror
describes himself as an ardent but critical royalist. Like the queen he has
reservations about the newly married couple. His worry is “how will they be
accepted by the people over whom Charles is destined to reign; whether they have
a positive place in our affections, our dynasty and our constitution. The path
forward will not be easy for them or us”.
Paul Burrell, an
ardent royalist and former butler to the queen and later Diana Spencer, now
comments on royal affairs. He thinks the “the queen is like the nation. She is
happy for Charles yet struggling to accept Camilla. The prospect of Queen
Camilla will spread republicanism like cancer”. He explains that “we (royalists)
want a people who revere our monarchy, who believe positively in it.” Difficult
The monarchy is
more than just the symbol of the state. It is our official national religion.
Its ceremonies and rituals confirm our subservience to this secular divinity. It
is has to be something we believe in. It is a matter of faith not science. Yet
clearly it is a religion in decline. We are moving step by step to towards a
crisis which will either revive monarchy or bring it to the end of the road. But
political crises are resolved by human agency. In class society that means
political action by a definite class, which comes to consider the constitutional
monarchy a barrier to its rule.
“constitutional monarchy” is not a reference to the queen but the system of
government. This is the means by which the capitalist class governs the country
through institutions that unite the “constitution” and “monarchy”. The monarch
clearly has an important but limited constitutional role. Its value is
ideological and helps to distract attention from the constitution itself.
Nevertheless the crown has a pivot position is tying the system together - the
knot that ties the robbers bundle.
constitution is a set of laws, customs and traditions, which place real power in
the hands of the Prime Minister and the state bureaucracy (crown powers). It
renders parliament an impotent bystander. This has been called an “elected
dictatorship”. The relationship of bureaucracy to parliament was satirised so
effectively in the 1980s in the TV programme “Yes Minister”. The Blair
government has concentrated and centralised even more power into its own hands.
Now we face a growing crisis of democracy.
Clare Short MP, a
Cabinet Minister at the start of the Iraq war, draws out some important
political lessons. She says “the mistakes on Iraq and support for the US war on
terror” are the most spectacular and serious manifestations of a deep
malfunction in the British political system and in British constitutional
arrangements. Under the Thatcher government but much more seriously under the
Blair government, the checks and balances of the British government system have
broken down”. (Clare Short – “An honourable deception?” p277 Free Press 2004)
Short goes on to
claim that “the errors we are making over Iraq and other recent initiatives
flow…from the style and organisation of our government”. In her resignation
speech she explains that “the problem is the centralisation of power into the
hands of the Prime Minister and an increasingly small number of advisors who
make decisions in private without proper discussion” (see cover)
of this is that parliamentary majorities are taken for granted. Parliament is
downgraded and ignored, the power of the Prime Minister is enhanced and the
Cabinet sidelined”.(p278) She concludes that the system of government is
seriously flawed, “leading to increasingly poor policy initiatives being rammed
through Parliament, which is straining and abusing party loyalty and undermining
the people’s respect for our political system.” (see cover)
The Iraq war
raised the question of the failure of democracy to new heights. The war did not
cause the failure or bankruptcy of the political-constitutional system. But the
question of war put the system of government under closer public scrutiny. When
two million march in protest, the failure of democracy and manipulation of
public opinion is brought under the spotlight. The government was caught out
lying and manipulating the people. The long term consequences of this are yet to
About a hundred
and fifty years ago Walter Bagehot wrote a classic account of the British
constitution. He divided it into the “efficient” and “dignified” parts. The
latter included the monarchy and House of Lords whose role was to divert popular
attention from the way the system really worked. All this dressing up and
parading around in funny clothes and silly hats was to keep the masses
distracted and in awe, before the power of the state.
The same is played
out today. The left think the monarchy is for fooling the masses and do not see
it is fooling them. The left is convinced that it is such a lot of feudal tosh
that it can be safely ignored. But this distracts us from really examining how
political power is used. It has distracted us from making a positive case for a
democratic secular republic. It has reduced the politics of the left to childish
puerile anti-monarchism which has much in common with anarchism.
republicans are not be distracted by the monarchy. Its irrelevance is not a
reason to ignore it. On the contrary it is the reason to get rid of it more
quickly. If your house is full of rotten old rubbish, the best way to ignore it
is to chuck it all out. Then the problem is dispensed with. The more quickly we
do that the more quickly society can move on and take the next steps forward.
not about Charlie, his mum, or his wife. It is about fighting for a genuinely
democratic system of government. It is wrong therefore to think of a democratic
secular republic as if it were a constitutional monarchy without an hereditary
monarch. There is much more fundamental change required than simply getting rid
of the crown. Democratic republicanism is fundamentally about the transfer of
power to the people. This is not handed down from “above”. It must be taken
“from below”. The people become the republic through struggle, mobilisation and
self organisation. It means in effect a popular democratic revolution. This is
what the left has forgotten in seeing the constitutional monarchy as no more
than feudal remnants.