The winds of Britain

The cult of monarchy and workers' strikes

20 Settembre 2022

«The king conquers all: he lets his subjects kiss him». This is how an emotional Gianni Riotta, leading journalist for La Repubblica, described the royal procession of Charles III through cheering throngs. A description of fact? Rather, an enchanted representation. One that dominates the popular national narrative on all the networks around the death of the queen and the succession.

Every principle of reality fades into the imagery of legend.

The reality is that of a centuries-old monarchical caste, marked by courtly luxury, the most ostentatious social parasitism, family brawls, displayed or hushed, the hereditary passage of £15 billion as the family’s untouchable patrimony. The legacy of blood and horror that runs through the history of the British empire to the most diverse latitudes of the world, in Africa, in Asia, and everywhere else.

The legend is that of a “friend of the people” monarchy, at the service of the people, above political disputes. Not a word — staying just with recent history — about the repression of the Irish nation, the praise to Thatcher’s cavalry sent against the miners, the colonial war over the Malvinas Islands, everything the British monarchy defended and covered up to protect its own bourgeoisie.

Because the celebration of an icon deliberately transcends the earthly dimension. The death of the queen and the advent of the new king rise to a mystical dimension, beyond time and space.
God save the queen”, “God save the king” portray the king and queen as emissaries of the divine will, in the tradition of absolutism. It is the celebration of earthly authority as an appendage of a higher authority, thus removed by definition from the will of the people, reduced to an anonymous mass the subjects. Perhaps applauding, but subjects.

«One man is a king only because other men stand in the relation of subjects to him. They, on the contrary, imagine that they are subjects because he is the king» in the magnificent words of Karl Marx. Nothing could be more appropriate, and not only for Britain.

Except that trouble begins when subservience is mixed with new feelings. In Britain these days there is not only the commotion over the queen. There are also workers’ strikes against the high cost of living, for big wage increases. Dockers, truckers, railway workers, urban transport workers, Amazon workers, teachers, nurses, postal workers, bank clerks… Tens of thousands of workers have crossed arms, stopped working, as they have not done for half a century. We don’t know how many of them shed tears for Elizabeth. We do know that they all challenge Mary Truss’s new Thatcherite government.

The English bourgeoisie has long lived off the traumatic effect of the defeat of the great miners’ strike of 1984-'85. But the generation demoralized by that event is now mostly retired. And a new generation of workers is emerging that does not seem willing to carry the cross any longer. To give it an anti-capitalist — and also, consequently, anti-monarchist — political consciousness is the task of revolutionary Marxists in Britain.

Workers' Communist Party (PCL)