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.