The Jubilee has come and gone. India and Pakistan stood on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Suicide bombers were launching attacks in Israel. Belfast was aflame with sectarian conflict. But on the streets of London and other British cities, millions of people were cheerfully participating in street parties in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The Jubilee came just in time for our long-suffering House of Windsor. The Diana incident and other public scandals, dirty tricks and back-stabbing within the British royal family over the last decade had badly tarnished the standing of the Monarchy in the eyes of the British public. The popularity of the royal family was at an all-time low. The public outpouring of grief at the death of Princess Diana, and the cold aloof attitude of the Royals, showed them up as an isolated caste, divorced from reality. It revealed them as they really are - a cold-hearted, privileged and parasitical elite.
People were beginning to ask awkward questions about the purpose and role of the monarchy - an institution that, while defending the interests of the rich and powerful - carefully fostered the illusion of standing "above" politics. The British monarchy, an important reserve weapon of the ruling class, was badly damaged by these events. Something had to be done.
Since then, everything has been done to refurbish their image and repackage the British monarchy. Tony Blair, their unofficial self-appointed adviser, urged them to clean up their act and, where possible, try to appear more "human" and more in touch with the people. Strenuous efforts were made to win public sympathy over the death of the Queen Mother, but with little or no effect.
As in the case of Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister who died shortly before, about the only good things the obituary writers could find to say about her is that she was "full of fun" and had "enjoyed life to the full" - facts that very few people could dispute, but which gave little cause for admiration or enthusiasm. After all, having a great deal of fun and enjoying life (a common feature with rich people everywhere, despite stories put about to the contrary) provide no real justification for the continuation of this reactionary survival of feudalism. The defenders of the monarchy were forced to resort to other tactics.
Then they were presented with the occasion of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. No effort or expense was spared to make this event a popular success. The May public holiday was moved to June and an extra day off was granted to all Her Majesty's subjects - accept, that is, if you happened to work for public transport and utilities, the major retail monopolies, such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, and many others…
With consummate skill, the Palace officials made use of the patriotic mood whipped up by the World Cup to their own advantage. People would be flying the flag anyway (for the England team, that is, not for the Queen!), so why not get on the bandwagon, while the going is good? Nobody knows how many goals the English team will score. But at least Buckingham Palace could score a sly one at the nation's expense, while no-one was looking!
The Jubilee was given the full "soap opera" treatment, with saturation coverage on the TV and in the rest of the media. To attract the crowds, millions of pounds were spent on providing free public concerts and a pageant through the capital, complete with the £28 million solid-gold Royal coach and horses. It was just like "bread and circuses" in Roman times!
Although there was a full turn-out by the usual mob of upper class hooray-Humphries and monarchists (apparently council staff cleared up 50,000 empty bottles of champagne afterwards) most of the ordinary people came for the free entertainment:
"I can't believe we are doing this," said Alison Dawkins from Manchester. "We came along for the concert - I really only wanted to see Tom Jones and Rod Stewart."
Of course, only the privileged few were allowed to lunch at the London Guildhall with the Royal parasites, with the catering staff, no doubt, employed on the minimum wage. "Not everyone has been able to benefit from the growth of wealth and prosperity," stated Her Majesty, no doubt thinking compassionately about the staff - as her remarks certainly did not apply to the hand-picked audience, who were positively dripping with wealth.
Clearly sharing the everyday experience of millions of her wedded subjects, she remarked: "The Duke of Edinburgh has made an invaluable contribution to my life over the last 50 years, as he has to so many charities and organisations [sic]."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Carey, chimed in with his praise of the Good and the Great. "The range of our continuing celebrations tells us that, unlike so much in the modern world, this relationship between Sovereign and people has grown stronger and deeper within the passage of time," stated Carey. Ever eager to bring the Almighty into the proceedings, he twittered on: "Yours was a vocation you did not seek - it was a task to which you were anointed." He continued: "An abiding commitment to faithful service does not make life simple. Indeed, there comes with it a recognition that none of us is immune from suffering."
Hegel once pointed out that it is often said that kings are unhappy on their thrones, and added that this is said so that we should be satisfied that they, and not we, are sitting on them. Yes, the Royals are all truly suffering. Suffering from excess of privilege. Suffering from too much wealth. Suffering from those huge palaces. Suffering from all that luxury.
Then the logical conclusion is quite clear: Should we not take urgent steps to relieve them of all this suffering by abolishing the monarchy, expropriating its wealth and handing it back to the people from which it was robbed in the first place?
How to suffer - in style
Her Majesty went on: "I hope these celebrations will remind us of our shared heritage." And what shared heritage is that? The British monarchy's privileged position was built up through centuries of ruthless robbery, plunder, and violence against the British people. In this way, the Royal Family has accumulated billions of pounds in treasures, property and stocks and shares.
Their fortune is kept secret, and exempt from public scrutiny. Until very recently, it was also exempt from taxation. But this much has emerged: that the royals cost the British taxpayer £60 million a year, making it the most expensive monarchy in the world. By comparison, the seven remaining monarchies in Europe, taken together, do not cost as much.
The yellow press is constantly harping on about social security "scroungers", people who draw social security benefits while earning money on the side. But on the subject of the biggest social security scroungers in the land, not a word is said. The Queen and the other royal parasites take millions of pounds from the taxpayer, yet her private fortune is immense.
Since nobody has access to the facts, the exact figures are a matter of conjecture. Thirty years ago (in 1971) someone calculated that the Queen's private fortune was between £50 and £100 million. The Palace issued a denial, saying that the real figure was less than £50 million. Let us concede this - though it is probably untrue. Considering that for the first 40 years of her reign the Queen paid no tax whatever, if we say that in 1971 her private fortune stood at a mere £30 million and had been invested, competent economists have estimated that her present fortune today would not be less than £1.6 billion.
This is hotly denied by the Palace, which claims that the Queen's private fortune is "considerably less than £100 million". Even if she had had the worst possible investment advice (which is hardly likely), such a figure is utterly impossible. However, what the Palace Mandarins probably mean is that most of Her majesty's money is neatly tied up in all kinds of trusts, where it cannot be detected. When asked how much money lies in the royal trusts, the Palace answers with a deafening silence.
The Queen has now agreed to pay tax - like all other honest citizens. But there are some glaring exceptions to this rule. For instance, the Queen pays no inheritance tax. When Prince Charles (or whoever) finally gets his hands on the loot, not a penny will go to the Exchequer. However, this is not true of the other royal offspring. But they need not worry too much. Whereas workers and middle-class people who leave even a modest sum to their children are forced to pay tax, the rich get round this by putting their loot in trusts - which is just what our beloved sovereign has done.
Yet another trick (which amounts to a barefaced fraud) is to deliberately confuse the Queen's public and private roles to get more money from the public. Last Spring she travelled to Balmoral - her private residence in Scotland - presumably to take a break from the strains of everyday life. Naturally she travelled by plane. The return flight to and from London cost £21,250. This was just one flight, and was naturally paid for by the taxpayer.
The royal palaces are another swindle. Windsor palace is supposed to belong to the Queen. But when a fire broke out costing £10 million, it was the taxpayer who was asked to foot the bill. In order to prevent a public scandal, the royals decided to open up Buckingham palace to the public (for a modest entrance fee). The upkeep of Buckingham palace - the biggest council house in Britain - is paid for out of taxes. Yet even after the cost of repairing Windsor palace had all been paid, the Queen still hung onto the receipts of the entrance fees for Buckingham palace. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given for this most royal scam.
There is no space to go into the way in which the other royal parasites live off the state. Let us confine ourselves to one example. The youngest of the Queen's sons - Prince Edward - who, together with his charming wife Sophie, has recently been embroiled in a series of business scandals - lives in one of the royal residences, for which he pays the princely sum of - £67 per week! Bearing in mind the sumptuous character of the place, this is the cheapest rent in all Britain. It would not be at all bad if some of this "heritage" was shared with the homeless people who live on the streets of London and other British cities in this glorious Jubilee year.
Monarchy and democracy
Britain is supposed to be a democracy, and this is indeed one of the favourite words of Tony Blair. But we have yet to hear a coherent explanation of why, in a democracy, the supreme leader is selected by an accident of birth and not the ballot box. In this supposed democracy, the supreme ruler and the second chamber are still unelected after years of talk of reform. Moreover, the Queen is above all laws and subject to no legal restraint. There is no parliamentary control where the finances of the royal family are concerned.
The only parliamentary committee that has the right to ask questions about this most delicate matter is the Public Accounts Committee, and they are lucky if they get any answers. About the Queen's private fortune they can get no information whatsoever. The Civil List - that is, the money the British public pays every year to the monarchy out of the generosity of its heart - is scrutinised once every ten years (to see whether she needs any more) - and then only by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The present incumbents of these offices are even less likely to question the monarchy's wealth and power than their Conservative counterparts. The right-wing labour leaders are always more servile before the monarchy, big business and the Establishment than anyone else. They are hypnotised in the presence of wealth and power, like a rabbit before a weasel.
Prime Minister Blair, even more than previous Labour leaders, is addicted to bowing and scraping before Royalty. Having appointed himself unofficial adviser to the Queen, he assures us that the secret of Her Majesty's success was not reserved for "kings or queens, presidents or prime ministers, the famous and celebrated." He added: "This quality is the very best of British character. When we find it, we recognise it immediately." He was clearly thinking of himself.
Tony Blair may or may not represent the very best of British character, but he is certainly presiding over an unprecedented spectacle of national decay. In a Britain where the gulf between rich and poor has never been greater, where the trains crash and the hospitals are crawling with cockroaches and germs, where young people sleep rough in the doorways of the smart stores of the West End, where we have the worse record of literacy in Europe, where we work the longest hours in Europe and a Labour government is refusing to accept the EU's legal maximum working week of 48 hours, Mr Blair has stumbled on the solution: the Monarchy. "You unify our nation, Ma'am, because you symbolise, powerfully, true patriotism."
Despite this "true patriotism", Blair failed to point out that the Royal Family deeply admired Hitler and Mussolini before the war, and that the Queen's uncle, the former Edward VIII by whose abdication her father became king was well known for his Nazi sympathies and was suspected by the British intelligence services of being pro-Hitler even during the second world war. However, this is understandable, since most of the British ruling class held similar views before 1939.
No stranger to servile bowing and scraping before the rich and powerful - on this occasion, Blair outdid himself. "The outpouring of affection over these past weeks has not been out of deference alone. It has been towards you as a person, as a human being." For sheer, nauseating unctuousness, this takes some beating!
It is frankly a scandal that a so-called labour leader should crawl on all fours before an institution that is radically opposed to the labour movement and all that it stands for. The monarchy in Britain has always been a rallying point for reaction. It is the nerve-centre of the Establishment, the aristocracy, the rich and powerful - the deadliest enemies of the working class, democracy and progress.
The attempts of Blair to create the spectre of a "people's" monarchy would be amusing if they did not have such serious implications for the future. Queen Victoria pulled down the blinds of her railway carriage when she passed through the industrial Black Country. The present monarch is no different, despite all the efforts to present her in a different light. Isolated behind the high walls of Buckingham palace, the Royals have no contact with the lives of their subjects, and even less interest in them. They are surrounded by people like themselves: aristocrats, landowners, rich businessmen and the like.
The regime inside the Palace is pure feudalism. There is a strict hierarchy of servants, all run by a Mandarin-like bureaucracy. In the past, there were 40 different wage scales, making a total of 120 different pay grades. Now this has been "modernised" into a mere 80 pay grades, from the high Mandarins to the lowliest cleaners. To give you an idea of how the Palace treats its "menials", we have the following little detail from a former Palace employee. The Palace has a large number of very expensive carpets. The lower servants are not allowed to walk in the middle of these carpets, but must tread carefully on the margins thereof!
The palace servants are not allowed to express any sort of criticism or question the regime in any way. They have no rights whatsoever. When one of them was dismissed and the Transport and General Workers' Union attempted to take the case before a labour tribunal, it was told that this was impossible because the Queen, being above the law, could not be sued.
Of course, the monarch maintains contact with the working people of Britain through her periodic interviews with Labour leaders like Tony Blair, who, since he is graciously permitted to walk on the middle of Her Majesty's carpets, sees no reason to complain.
The monarchy - a danger to the Labour movement
Blair studiously avoided mentioning the fact that this year's festivities totally lacked the grassroots "spontaneity" of the Silver Jubilee, 25 years ago, when there were about 12,000 street parties - compared with only about 4,000 this time around. The enthusiasm for the monarchy that has been whipped up by the media in recent weeks is at best superficial. The mood now is quite different to 1972 and even more distant from that of 1952.
True, many people joined in the festivities. And why shouldn't they? The life of the working class is hard enough, so when the opportunity presents itself to have a party, why not take advantage of it? The response would doubtless have been even more enthusiastic - and certainly more spontaneous - if England won the World Cup…
There are other reasons why people participate in such things. Capitalism - especially over the last 20 years in which the "cult of the market" has prevailed - has created a mean, egotistical, cold and hard-hearted society. The individual is enjoined to grab, push and kick his or her way to supposed "success", and to hell with everyone else. The lack of elementary human solidarity, the general sense of alienation, where people are isolated from each other, has created a monstrous world of insecurity and fear.
Although people do not realise it, there exists a powerful psychological need for human solidarity. This was expressed in the past by the labour movement - and will be in the future also. It can be seen in any strike or mass demonstration, as we saw recently in Italy. On another level it can be seen in the mass enthusiasm over football. People cease to be isolated, atomised individuals, and begin to belong to something bigger than themselves.
After 20 years of market reaction, the tide is beginning to turn. The values and morality of existing society are being called into question. People are no longer prepared to accept the status quo.
The strategists of Capital are well aware of the danger. In Britain, the reason the capitalist class was prepared to spend millions on maintaining the monarchy was explained long ago by Walter Bagehot in his classic work The English Constitution. The masses, who have unfortunately conquered the right to vote, do not understand politics, he explained. They need powerful symbols to believe in. The monarchy must be used as a kind of show to instil in the masses a sense of awe and obedience.
It is not at all true, as most people think, that the British monarchy is powerless. The Queen has very important reserve powers that can be used in a national emergency to suspend a legally elected parliament and rule through the Privy Council. The army swears an oath of loyalty, not to the elected government, but to the Queen. Every law must be signed by the Queen. What happens if the Queen refuses to sign, for example, a law that abolishes the monarchy, or nationalises the banks and big monopolies?
This has never happened - so far. But that is because no elected government has attempted to carry through a fundamental transformation of society. What will happen in the event of the election of a Left Labour government in the future? The possibility exists in "democratic" Britain of a legal coup d'etat. The experience of the Allende government in Chile is a terrible warning to the working class of what can happen in Britain and other countries.
In the 17th century the revolutionary English bourgeoisie waged a civil war against the monarchy in order to carry out a revolution. Today, although Oliver Cromwell's statue still stands outside the Houses of Parliament, the British bourgeois would prefer to forget their revolutionary past. They have long ago made their peace with the monarchy, which is now the cornerstone of their class rule.
As always, the Labour leaders represent all that is most backward, ignorant and reactionary in society. As a matter of fact, there has been a sea change in the social attitudes of the British working class over the past 50 years. At the time of the coronation, there was a general attitude of deference towards the monarchy. This was a survival of the old servile attitude of the masses in Britain towards their "social betters". The psychology of the lackey - the product of Britain's prosperous imperial past - has now largely disappeared, except in the Labour leaders.
Particularly among the youth, there is a new attitude of defiance and self-assertiveness. Sometimes this expresses itself in negative ways, as in football hooliganism and other anti-social acts. But sooner or later it will acquire a revolutionary content. This is what the ruling class fear most of all.
In the stormy period that is now opening up in Britain and internationally, the psychology of the masses will be completely transformed. They will understand the need to transform society from top to bottom. When that moment comes, barriers like the monarchy and the House of Lords will be swept aside with ease. In place of the fig-leaf of formal democracy that conceals the dictatorship of the banks and monopolies, the majority will rule society in a workers' democracy, the first giant step towards a socialist Britain and a socialist world.