Abolish the monarchy
James Stuart notes that the death of a royal has provoked a wave of apathy
Margaret Rose Windsor, aka Princess Margaret, died last Saturday, but popular mourning did not mark her passing. Instead there was a wave of apathy - the result of two main factors. One, indifference towards her personality. Two, the unpopularity -indeed hostility - felt by a large minority of the population, towards the monarchy as an institution. So why - especially in golden jubilee year - is the left not taking a lead in the fight to abolish the monarchy?
The younger sister of the UK's present queen was never going to develop as anything like a rounded, socially adjusted individual. Margaret Windsor's early years were spent as the pampered younger daughter of a super-rich, second-rung royal couple. Her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (as she is now titled), insisted on tutors for her daughters Elizabeth and Margaret instead of even the restricted social milieu of a private school; she was adamant that their education should only be sufficient to turn them into breeding stock and prepare them for a suitable marriage into another - related - European royal family. In 1936, events took a dramatic turn, however, when Elizabeth's and Margaret's parents were thrust into the role of king and queen, with only a month's notice, after George Windsor's older brother Edward - the so-called 'Nazi king' - suddenly abdicated the throne in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.
The real scandal of course was that Simpson was not only a 'commoner' and an American - bad enough - but was also a divorcee. Next to being unmasked as a practising satanist - and Bolshevik - it could not have been worse. Civil list money and the status inferred by heredity won out. As soon as Margaret was placed in the position of sister to the monarch-to-be, her life became even more circumscribed and even more isolated from the real world. Her official role was always to play second fiddle. Nonetheless, both sisters had thoroughly imbibed their duties as royal personages, to the extent that Margaret - unlike her uncle - felt she had to forgo her lover in the early 1950s, royal equerry group captain Peter Townsend DFC DSO. Any kind of self-respecting human being would have rebelled - not Margaret Rose. Here in her compliance, her twisted sense of duty, we find the source of the establishment's regard for this essentially empty, self-obsessed royal parasite. The more honest journalists cannot deny the truth through: "She was tied into the role of being a supporting member of the royal cast, with the mixture of privilege and restriction that this demanded, the occasional tedium relieved by the opportunity for glamorous travel or to take a small part in national affairs" (Hugo Vickers The Independent February 11). On one level we can mock the pathos. But the lives of the royals in their secluded eyries are just as alienated as those of the queen's subjects. What is more, bereft of all normal social interaction, they produce the fractured personalities so evident at the top of the UK constitutional tree.
The monarchy inflicts enormous psychological damage on members of the royal family as individuals, crippling them as social beings. You could end up talking to plants or even imagining yourself to be a tampon. Many commentators recall how Margaret Windsor tried to kick over the traces in the 1950s and 1960s, when she was in her 20s and 30s, with allegedly 'fast' (ie, disreputable) friends, including leading figures in the arts, and lots of drinking. Yes, she had an aimless, self-indulgent and pointless life. Much like Diana Windsor, who in more recent times unintentionally helped expose the royal family's dysfunctional nature - there by undermining years of courtiers' and politicians' work in presenting it as a cosy, 'normal' family. Far more important than the psychological effect on its personages, of course, is the monarchy's centrality to the UK constitutional arrangement. Despite the unpalatable fact - for royalists - that under the present incumbent the royal mystique has started to look distinctly tawdry, the monarchy still has a crucial role to play in bolstering the rule of capital. Make no mistake: the head of state can still exert a great deal of political power, retaining the legally-enshrined right to stay legislation and fail to endorse elected parliamentary representatives.
What with Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee celebrations in the offing, we can expect to be bombarded with screeds of material in print and seemingly endless hours of television programming telling us how lucky we are to be subjects of her majesty rather than citizens of some awful republic. Would you really want Richard Branson or Brian Souter as your elected president? Of course, this misses the point in more than one way, and quite deliberately so. After all, why have a head of state at all, whether elected or hereditary?
The Socialist Alliance must prioritise the democratic demand for the abolition of the monarchy, along with the whole system of 'checks and balances'. That means removing the House of Lords or whatever half-baked substitute Blair et al are cooking up to retain the blocking power vested in a second chamber. The whole constitutional monarchy system is used by 21st century British capital as a means to ensure that democratic advance, let alone revolutionary democratic advance, is to be obstructed at every turn. The fight to remove these constitutional fetters will strengthen and deepen the democracy for which we must struggle in order to win the liberation of humanity. The working class must master the highest constitutional matters, as with every question in society, if it is to gain hegemony of that struggle and become the ruling class. The society we seek will abolish the abominations, personal and social, that capitalism perpetuates at all levels and in all classes.