The death of the British Queen

Photo: Newstalk

The death of the British Queen is a significant political event.  The wall-to-wall television blitzkrieg; the solemn sermons from the press and the many homilies from politicians and statesmen across the world make any other judgement impossible.  Yet many in the British labour movement and left pretend that this is first and foremost a personal tragedy for the 96 year-old woman who died and her family, requiring the cancelling of strikes and paying of their respects to the family.

Take this from the following site:

‘Now is the moment for quiet republicanism. Respect for the person of Elizabeth II, respect for the grieving family and the millions who mourn.’

To which I commented:

‘I don’t think you have anything to worry about Andrew – the media is not going to be banging any republican drums. I don’t see the requirement to join them.

But what exactly does ‘respecting the person’ mean? This is ALL about respecting her as the Queen; that is, a loathsome, feudal relic designed to keep the plebs in their place. As the Queen she deserves no respect.

Lots of old ladies died yesterday but their person will receive no media gushing.

As for the grieving family! The living feudal relic that continues to represent all the worst slavish attitudes inculcated into the working class. Charlie, Andrew etc! Which one of those deserves any respect?

As for the millions who mourn; what they need is some education in their class interests, not sympathy for their ruling class they never knew and who wouldn’t let them darken their door. Some people are in the gutter but looking at the stars. Mourning these royal parasites is looking down the drain.

Today the NHS put out a statement saying lots of communications will stop, which one must assume includes lots of training of staff. This is not something to keep quiet about.’

Boffy made a similar comment, including on the same site as above:

‘I am at a loss to understand how people who never knew the Queen can claim she was a “decent” person. How do you know? Lots of people thought Jimmy Saville was a “decent” person with all of his charity work, his OBE from the Queen, and so on. What we do know is that the Monarchy itself is a thoroughly indecent institution that is an affront to all civilised society, and so its hard to see how anyone who is prepared to occupy that position, and so defend it, support it, and ensure its continuance can be said themselves to be “decent”. A decent person would refuse to occupy the position to begin with!’

In Ireland the Northern nationalist paper asserted on its front page that the queen was ‘A friend of Ireland’.  So, the commander-in -chief of the British Army, which arrested and incarcerated hundreds without trial; that went on to torture a number of them; which murdered 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry in 1972, and which ran loyalist sectarian death squads, providing weapons, intelligence and personnel, this person was a friend of Ireland? 

Perhaps the Ireland that wants stable capitalist rule and that despises rebellion of any kind, but not the Ireland of ordinary working class people.

I don’t recall this friend of Ireland renounce the actions of her army or condemn its brutality and murder.  Did she ever forswear this Army’s oath of loyalty?

The Irish President, along with the Irish State’s Foreign Minister, praised her public service, as if in all her public engagements it was she who bent the knee and curtsied, rather than acknowledging the purpose of these ‘public duties’ being to spread deference to inherited authority and privilege as far and wide as possible.

Both the President and Tánaiste noted the “complex and often difficult history” between the two countries and that “Ireland has had a complex and deeply troubled relationship with the British monarchy over many centuries’; but they are not so impolitic as to actually say what this history was or what exactly the nature of the relationship between the two countries has been.

Instead, we are to recall the visit of the British Queen to Ireland in 2011 and her laying of a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance that pays tribute to those who rose up against British rule in 1916.  We are again reminded that she said: ‘To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.’ The classic subterfuge of ambiguity – we are all to blame so that no one is to blame, for whatever it was that we can’t be blamed for.

For all the rhetoric of reconciliation what mattered was that this ‘complex history’ was precisely that: in the past, history.  The problems of the past have been solved, time to move on, and leave the past by everyone ignoring what it actually was.

One Irish historian has noted an archive from 1979 looking at a possible visit to Britain by the Irish President, and a remark by a civil servant at the British Foreign Office that noted the queen’s “alleged dislike of the Irish”.  As the historian points out ‘a longer report about the queen’s supposed personal attitudes was withheld from the released file.’

Did she have a personal antipathy towards the Irish? Who cares?  It’s not about her personal qualities, whatever they were.  It’s about her role at the pinnacle of a viciously violent Empire abroad and a thoroughly rotten polity at home.  This is what she represented and the current media and political campaign around her death is to legitimise this on behalf of what’s left of Britain’s foreign footprint and all the inequality, poverty and suffering at home. We are to be united through our heart-felt mourning for the loss of our sovereign.

The British establishment will now utilise her death to strengthen the increasingly transparent rottenness and corruption of the monarchy.  We already have a new king, a new head of state with all the prerogatives that have been and still are hidden from us, and a new commander-in-chief of the armed forces. We are drowned in sanctimonious and maudlin commentary that dishonestly demands grief for a media construct most of us never knew. 

That, we have been reminded, was one of her great qualities – that she kept her role and views secret.  We do not need to impute them to damn the monarchy and say that this should be the last queen and there should now be no king.

Some on the left, like liberals who defend democratic rights until they are attacked, want to proclaim their republicanism at a more opportune time.  They are not so much boxing clever as taking their gloves off and leaving the ring.  There are indeed, at times like this, intelligent ways of getting your message across but this requires a message in the first place, not surfing the wave of sycophantic rubbish with claims that it’s all just a personal tragedy.

5 thoughts on “The death of the British Queen

  1. About 35 years ago, when I was self-employed, I did a lot of work with someone I’d been at teacher training college with, who had opened a small computer shop. He was a Liberal, but we became friends, and took our kids to visit him and his partner at their home on Keele University campus, where she worked as a lecturer.

    I remember on one such occasion, he telling me about his Mother. It must have been on, perhaps, the occasion that the Queen Mother had choked on a fish bone or something. His Mother, he said, had sent her a Get Well Soon card, and he had asked her, “Why on Earth did you do that?”. “Well,” she replied, “She is such a nice woman.”

    “How do you know?”, he enquired. “You don’t know her, but even if she is, when Mrs ?, was ill a while ago, you didn’t send her a card, and she’s your neighbour who you have known for years?”

    So, clearly even some Liberals seem to be more consistent democrats, and have more backbone than what now passes for large sections of the Left. Of course, one prominent former Liberal (and apparently SWP member) Liz Truss, was also a fervent republican, and called for the abolition of the monarchy, before such things got in the way of furthering her career as a Tory MP. Did, the Queen ask if she was still a republican I wonder, before Trussed kissed her ring. Indeed, its interesting to note the difference in the media response to Truss, and her past, compared to its attitude to that of Corbyn and McDonnell. There will be no probing questions by them about her past SWP membership, her republicanism and so on, by hat media in the run up to the next General Election, as there was of Corbyn and McDonald, and Abbott, and so on.

    Truss of course, can be gushing in her recantation of those previous views, as she knows exactly which electoral constituency she is appealing to, and the same applies to Starmer, who has travelled an identical course into reactionary nationalism and populism, from his days as a so called Pabloite Trotskyist to Blue Labour jingo. Corbyn, McDonnel and co. made the mistake of trying to reconcile their past ideas with their present opportunism, and ended up looking stupid and dissembling, and the same applies with those like Coatesy who are doing the same thing now. But, that is a necessary consequence of that same opportunism, and social chauvinism/imperialism that characterises that section of the Left, and which ties it to your recent posts on Ukraine.

    It is social chauvinism/imperialism that is evolving into social cretinism, as they descend to an even lower level than that of consistent liberals and democrats, as a consequence of their opportunism, and Schachtmanite “practical politics”. It is a Left that is becoming beyond the pale, and bringing closer the day when a cleaning of the Augean stables will be required, in order to build a healthy socialist movement.

    • The legacy of working class defeats and more recent political fractures have exposed the weakness of a lot of Left groups. Many have now advocated politics they can’t stand over and which they refuse to learn from when they are obvious mistakes. This inevitably results in an increasing divorce from reality and encourages them to search for a relevance and ‘practical’ policy through opportunist politics. Their understanding of Marxism appears to preclude this being a guide to practical proposals to offer workers and the working class movement.

      Their mistakes include support for extreme lockdowns during Covid, which more limited ones than they wanted still contributed to economic dislocation when they ended, and which the Chinese state is now implementing, involving mass incarceration of millions in a stupid pursuit of zero Covid.

      It includes for some, support for Brexit that has encouraged reaction in both the Tories and Labour Party and has damaged the living standards of British workers. All the rubbish about how the EU necessarily imposes limits on state ownership have been exposed while their own preferred British capitalist state has lagged behind such statist ‘solutions’.

      Now we have support for ‘Ukraine’, which has not stopped trumpeting the fact that it is fighting for western imperialism while western imperialism has never stopped declaring its support for and identity of interests with ‘Ukraine’. This is recognised by everybody except the pro-war left.

      Instead they declare their support for the ‘Ukrainian people’, as long as this does not mean those Ukrainians in the separated areas of the Donbas; and they get to declare as Ukrainian people who almost definitely do not want to be brought back into the Ukrainian state, as in Crimea. Just like imperialism only certain Ukrainians matter.

      Since lockdowns, Brexit and war sanctions have all contributed to the cost of living crisis it’s an accidental matter whether a particular leftist has contributed their support to one, two or all three of these causes. Those with sympathy for Modern Monetary Theory could add another.

      It’s no longer a matter of these people supporting the wrong solutions, like in Ireland where they propose nationalisation of an energy industry already under significant state control, but of them supporting the problems. When you do this long enough without learning anything you are without hope of changing, but since change is the one certainty, it will certainly be change for the worse.

      • I have posted the following twice now to Coatesy’s latest offering, linking the liberal pacifism of John Bright to the social pacifism of STWC, but on both occasions its disappeared without trace. No doubt just a “technical” issue.


        Linking Bright’s social pacifism with that of STWC is valid. However, you seem to have drawn the wrong conclusions from it. The Marxist conclusion drawn prior to WWI was that to stop war, it is not a question of having more war by one side to defeat the other (campism), which today is your position and that of social chauvinism and social imperialism, but is to have a war waged by the working class of each country against its own ruling class, even if that means the defeat of its own ruling class in that war. That is we choose the independent third camp of the proletariat against the ruling class of all countries. (Revolutionary Defeatism – The Main Enemy Is At Home)

        It is set out clearly by Trotsky In The Programme of Peace.

        “What is a programme of peace? From the viewpoint of the ruling classes or of the parties subservient to them, it is the totality of those demands, the realization of which must be ensured by the power of militarism. Hence, for the realization of Alilyukov’s “peace programme” Constantinople must he conquered by force of arms. Vandervelde’s “peace programme” requires the expulsion of the Germans from Belgium as an antecedent condition. From this standpoint the peace clauses merely draw the balance sheet of what has been achieved by force of arms. In other words, the peace programme is the war programme. But, that is how matters stood prior to the intervention of the third power, the Socialist International. For the revolutionary proletarian the peace programme does not mean the demands which national militarism must fulfil, but those demands which the international proletariat intends to impose by its revolutionary struggle against militarism of all countries. The more the world revolutionary movement unfolds the less do the peace questions depend on the purely military position of the belligerents, the less becomes the danger that peace conditions may be understood by the masses as war aims.”

        In it, he goes on to say why in the age of imperialism, the demands for national self-determination for small nations – always a bourgeois, liberal rather than a social demand – were utopian and reactionary, and on that basis argues that if a European state were created by the Kaiser’s army, socialists would not ague for it to be undone, and for nation states to be resurrected, but would be to demand its further rational development, by a European working class within that framework, removing remaining national barriers, and the privileges of the dominant nation, as part of a struggle not for bourgeois-democratic demands of nationalism, but for socialism.

        Its also why the Bolsheviks recognising that liberals were using the demand for national self-determination inappropriately, as you and the social-imperialists do today, to justify wars by already independent bourgeois states against other bourgeois states, as really meaning “Defence of the Fatherland”, changed their position from defence of the right to self-determination, to defence of the right to freely secede. The support of defence of such rights, as Lenin describes at length, never meant advocacy of such rights, which they opposed, seeking rather, the unity of workers across borders, even within the Tsarist Empire, not their separation.

        And, Trotsky also sets out why the demands of social pacifism are idealistic, utopian and reactionary elsewhere. Simply demanding “peace” as Bright and STWC do, separated from the question of who controls the state, is indeed utopian, and simply sows illusions in the nature of the class state. The position of social chauvinists/imperialists like you and Jim Denham that suggest that you can form a Popular Front with the capitalist state/NATO are, of course, even worse, and a direct betrayal of the principles of Marxism and of the working-class that has led to disaster time and again from the experience of such alliances with the KMT in 1927, to the experiences of the Spanish Popular Front in 1936, and many more.

        As Trotsky put it,

        “Where and when has an oppressed proletariat “controlled” the foreign policy of the bourgeoisie and the activities of its arm? How can it achieve this when the entire power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie? In order to lead the army, it is necessary to overthrow the bourgeoisie and seize power. There is no other road. But the new policy of the Communist International implies the renunciation of this only road.

        When a working class party proclaims that in the event of war it is prepared to “control” (i.e., to support) its national militarism and not to overthrow it, it transforms itself by this very thing into the domestic beast of capital. There is not the slightest ground for fearing such a party: it is not a revolutionary tiger but a trained donkey. It may be kept in starvation, flogged, spat upon it – it will nevertheless carry the cargo of patriotism. Perhaps only from time to time it will piteously bray: “For God’s sake, disarm the Fascist leagues.” In reply to its braying it will receive an additional blow of the whip. And deservingly so!”

        (An Open Letter To French Workers)

        That is a perfect description of the policy of the trained donkey that is the AWL with its subservience to the capitalist state and democratic imperialism, and of your own position too. That is the lesson that Marxists draw against both the social pacifism of Bright, and the STWC, but also against the even worse social chauvinism and social imperialism of those that have lined up with the camp of NATO imperialism – and likewise those that have lined up with Russian/Chinese imperialism, but I live in Britain, not Russia or China, and my prime responsibility is opposing my own ruling class – and who apologise for its actions and those of the corrupt, anti-working class regime in Ukraine, and its fascist allies, only “from time to time” “piteously braying” for those fascists to be disarmed. It is nothing other than “idiot anti-imperialism” on the basis of the policy of lesser-evilism and “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.

        The justifications given for supporting the corrupt and reactionary regime in Ukraine today, are exactly the same as those used by “idiot anti-imperialists” to justify supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, or the Iranian mullahs, and Iraqi jihadists, or indeed Galtieri in 1982. But, then some of those that adopt this position also used the same arguments to justify supporting the Libyan jihadists against Gaddafi in 2011, with such wonderful results. For them it appears that idiot anti-imperialism is fine, provided it is waged on behalf of their own chosen imperialism. And, these cretins have the nerve to talk about scabbing on the international working-class.

  2. It says a lot about Britain’s iron fist towards Ireland that the admission “With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.’ was greeted with Irish amazement and gratitude. First time anything similar had even been uttered.

    Yet as you sayit was “The classic subterfuge of ambiguity –” No apology, nothing about compensation for the past or that the future will be different.

    And indeed it hasn’t been.
    HM’s government carries on breaking international law with regards to legacy issues, the NIP, holding their soldiers to account for murders and massacres in their own territory of NI

  3. I don’t feel sad about the passing of the Queen neither do I feel angry about all of the puffed up media attention. I find it interesting to observe from a safe distance. The mythologizing is out in force, like the staple one of British television histories, that the Monarchy only lasted this long because it always stood with the common people against the feudal barons and greedy aristocrats who specialised in fleecing the land and population. Most of the media seems to have absorbed this myth of British Tory History. We sometime here little stories about commoners down on their luck and unable to get Justice writing letters to the Monarch, just one part version of the same story.

    The other story, not yet really a myth yet, is of the happy United Kingdom of diverse people. I couldn’t help notice during the recent Queens Jubilee and the same for today that the very large ethnic populations are generally absent from the pictures of street scenes on our televisions. The last time I looked, London the place where most of the reporting is coming from was only 41 percent white British and that was the census of 2011. There are a few token blacks and browns faces among the crowds but the vast majority look white skinned and seem to be from out of town. I guess the ethnic populations of Britain have longer memories about past colonialism than is publicly acknowledged.

    The other oddity is the curious reversion to some form of Christianity in the iconography of it all, this seems the most phoney part of it, politicians, celebrities and journalists all pretending that they have kept their ‘faith in the Lord’.

    Enoch Powell was fond of saying that with Conservatisms, the faculty of the Imagination justly ruled over the other great mental faculties of mankind, Intellect and a Free Will. Looking on it is easy to see why he thought as he did.

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