Elizabeth the Last

Her majesty's jubilee tour of the antipodes is not going too well at all. In New Zealand Elizabeth Windsor was snubbed by Helen Clark, the Labour prime minister, who just happened to be overseas at the time of her arrival. In Australia she has stepped into a constitutional minefield: Peter Hollingworth, the governor-general, is under intense pressure to resign over his response to child-abuse incidents which he knew about as Anglican archbishop of Brisbane. New Zealand is supposedly one of the more 'loyal' Commonwealth countries: no uppity republican movement there - or is one about to emerge? As well as giving the queen the cold shoulder, Clark actually declared that New Zealand would inevitably become a republic. Though she added the caveat that "no-one was too exercised" about this at present. The indigenous people of New Zealand call Ms Windsor Kotuku, the Maori word for 'white heron'. This seems a poetic and very generous endearment until you know just what this means. "Kotuku: White heron. A rarely seen but highly spectacular bird that visits New Zealand shorelines. A rare visitor." It is not lost on the people that the monarch is a part-time head of state, as far as her overseas subjects are concerned. They manage to do all right without her for most of the time. However, communists and revolutionary socialists in New Zealand should not bow down before bourgeois inevitabilism, as they have so far in Australia and Britain. They must make sure that a republic is won through a movement led by the working class, not brought from on high by the bourgeoisie in their own nationalist interests. The situation in Australia is much more serious. The governor-general, the official representative of the British monarch - now appointed by the Austrailian prime minister - is even more unpopular than the former incumbent, John Kerr, was, immediately after he sacked the Whitlam Labor government in 1975. Seventy percent of Australians believe Hollingworth should resign or be fired. The queen's man in Canberra has denied covering up for child-abusing priests in his previous job. He has confirmed that he knew of the predatory activities of his charges and claimed that everything was dealt with appropriately at the time. Victims of abuse have been making statements to the press. Buckingham Palace was forced to issue a statement saying that the matter was a domestic issue "of which the queen was aware". The prime minister, John Howard, however, is backing his appointee. The issue threatens to re-ignite the republican debate which has lain dormant since the failed referendum in 1999 proposing an executive president, or 'elected monarch', to replace the queen. Not only should Hollingworth go, but workers in Australia should be demanding the convening of a constitutional assembly elected by proportional representation with full powers to completely rewrite the constitution on a democratic, republican basis. We believe that our comrades in Australia would be well advised to argue strongly against any kind of presidential system and not only for the abolition of the monarchy but also the second chamber of parliament and the federal system which allows reactionary minorities - Queensland and Tasmania - to overrule the majority. For a democratic centralist republic. The failure of the government to immediately sack a governor-general mired in allegations around clerical sex abuse points to a deeper moral malaise among ruling circles in Australia. The current conservative Liberal-National coalition government was returned to power in December last year largely on the back of a putridly chauvinist anti-asylum-seeker campaign. Readers may remember the stand-off last October between a Norwegian ship, the Tampa, and Australian naval vessels off the north-west coast. The Tampa had picked up hundreds of Afghan refugees in troubled waters and was trying to offload them on the nearest shores in Australia - in accordance with international law. The Howard government refused to take the refugees and made the absurd claim that the refugees had thrown their children overboard. The government provided film footage of figures in the ocean as 'evidence'. The furore over the incident was whipped up into a nasty asylum-seeker bash by the reactionaries running the Australian government. The Labor opposition was mute on the matter and Howard was returned to office. After the election it emerged that Peter Reith, the then defence minister, and Phillip Ruddock, the arch-reactionary immigration minister, knew all along that the story was false, as did senior civil servants in the prime minister's department and cabinet office. John Howard pretends he knew nothing about it, that his senior cabinet colleagues and civil servants just did not bother telling either him or the PM's principal private secretary that the story was poppycock. That Howard has been revealed as a bare-faced liar and is now backing the disgraced governor-general shows the complete degradation of public life in Australia. The Labor Party is an opposition in name alone. Communists and revolutionary socialists should be using the opportunity to channel the public's disgust at the governor-general and at the disgraceful lying over the 'children overboard' scandal into a general political opposition to the government and its constitutional monarchy system. Howard must go, Hollingworth must go, the monarchy must go. Of course, the monarchy's problems in 'the dominions' should be taken advantage of by republicans in Britain. We are just beginning to see the propaganda onslaught unleashed by the government, the monarchy and the BBC for the upcoming jubilee events. Republicans must organise counter-events and celebrate the core of opinion dedicated to a republican, democratic and federal Britain. We must ensure that her majesty will soon be known as Elizabeth the Last. Marcus Ström