No militancy from left

Despite one recent poll showing a rise in support for the monarchy, republicanism is still a significant trend within British political discourse. However, it is usually refracted through the prism of bourgeois liberalism and is thus timid in its methods and aims. For example, The Guardian prefers to wait to end the monarchy until the death of Elizabeth II, establishing a safe, presidential republic. As well as the 'usual suspects' like The Guardian, others like The Mirror and The Sun have recently expressed in their editorial columns 'soft' republican views, or else given space to known republican columnists. It is this soft, bourgeois republicanism that is currently able to set the agenda for those wishing to dispense with the monarchy. Unfortunately, the economistic left is both unwilling and unable to challenge the hegemony of this section of the establishment. The paucity of coverage of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons's death in the pages of the left press is thus sadly unsurprising. By far the worst offender was The Socialist, the paper of Peter Taaffe's Socialist Party in England and Wales. Its April 5 issue contained a tiny (and distinctly unamusing) 'satirical' piece authored by 'Sir Quentin Grovel' pretending to lament the demise of "Her Majesty the Queen Mother". But when it came to analysis, there was nothing to be found in the pages of The Socialist. Tommy Sheridan's Scottish Socialist Party fared a little better - but not much. Comrade Sheridan refused to attend the special session of the Scottish parliament called to hear endless eulogies to Bowes-Lyon, instead choosing to visit a detention centre for asylum-seekers. He used his regular column in Scottish Socialist Voice to defend his decision, dismissing the nine days of 'official' mourning as "complete nonsense" (April 12). Comrade Sheridan is, of course, committed to republicanism and, to his credit, is not afraid of espousing it openly. He argues: "In a modern democracy no unelected family should have authority over anyone." Quite right. But comrade Sheridan's short piece, while high on anti-monarchist sentiment, is short on answers. Where is the recognition of the need for a mass revolutionary republicanism to sweep away the "deference to the royal institution" that serves the system of capital so faithfully? At least he chose to write about it - editor Alan McCombes did not see fit to commission anybody else to do so. Socialist Worker noted that, "The establishment is uneasy about what the response to the queen mother's death will be" (April 6), but stopped short of asking itself the obvious question: what is the source of this unease? And when it came to giving a lead to, and hardening, republican sentiment, it was found wanting. Indeed when attempts have been made to commit the Socialist Alliance to an active campaigning stance against the monarchy the Socialist Workers Party have been at the forefront of efforts to block them. In December 2000 the CPGB proposed a resolution, to the steering committee of the London Socialist Alliance, calling for a "militant campaign for the immediate abolition of the monarchy". It was unanimously passed. Two months later, at the February 2001 Liaison Committee meeting, the SWP joined forces with comrade Dave Packer of the International Socialist Group to strike the word 'militant' out of the resolution. A year later, at the first national council meeting of the alliance, economistic timidity once again got the better of our SWP comrades. The CPGB proposed a motion calling for a republican campaign against the jubilee. The SWP, led by John Rees, opposed it. Despite this the motion was passed. People before profit, the SA general election manifesto, contains a clear commitment to "abolish the monarchy, the House of Lords, the Privy Council and crown powers" (p17). We must start to take that commitment seriously and begin by building anti-jubilee events across the country, culminating in a series of nationally organised events. Beyond that we need a programme that gives a voice to democratic and republican Britain. Fight to ensure that the present incumbent goes down in history as Elizabeth the last. James Mallory