Two funerals and the red republicans

In what is obviously a carefully organised attempt to regain ground lost by the Windsors' cold-hearted attitude to the death of Diana and mass indifference to the forthcoming jubilee, the media has devoted hours of TV broadcasts and acres of newsprint to the rituals surrounding the death of Elizabeth Windsor the elder. Why the death of a gin-soaked, racist parasite is more worthy of reporting than that of pensioners killed by poverty we are not told. There is something about it all which is absurd - the pomp and circumstance, the mumbling of the clergy, the soldiers clad in Waterloo uniforms discharging Great War vintage guns, the deferential crowd with its cast of chirpy Cockneys. This is not reality. It is historical pageant and soap opera; it is mythology and ideology - false consciousness, ideology necessary to the upkeep of the status quo and keeping workers in their proper place. Despite the media full of images of brave subjects greeting their heroic queen, when Elizabeth first visited the bombed out East End she was jeered. While she enjoyed bomb-proof shelters, east Londoners led by communists had to fight their way into the protection afforded by deep tube stations. While millions struggled on meagre wartime rations, she continued to sup and swill. It says much that many were better fed during the war than they had been during the hungry 30s. Many young evacuees saw the countryside for the first time. A century before, in 1837, the remains of William IV en route to their final resting place were booed by the masses. Like many of today's royals William, the uncle of queen Victoria, seemed to have lost the plot. To his ministers he was a joke. His carriage was mobbed by protesters against Peel's new police. To the radicals of his day he was Mr Guelph, a reactionary whose plan to defeat the Reform Bill, which aimed to extend the franchise to the new industrial working class, came unstuck. The first year of his short reign - 1830 - had seen revolution in France, Belgium and Poland. In the manufacturing towns there were strikes, while in the countryside impoverished farm labourers expressed their discontent by smashing machines and burning ricks. Landlords were sent threatening letters over the name of 'Captain Swing'. Rioters were hanged and labourers in Tolpuddle who tried to form a union were transported. The new Poor Law, which herded paupers into prison-like workhouses, was bitterly resisted. In support of the Reform Bill political unions were formed. Originally organisations bringing together middle and working class radicals, they took on an increasingly independent working class aspect. In Bristol and Nottingham, where the castle went up in flames, riots broke out. Radicals - amongst them a young George Harney - hawked the unstamped press, declaring the duty to be an unjust tax on knowledge. This was the period of the rise of Chartism - the world's first working class party. Elizabeth's century was no less turbulent. The October Revolution, the mutinies at the end of both world wars, the Indian and Irish struggles for independence, the formation of the Communist Party, which led the opposition to George V's jubilee, the General Strike, the hunger marches and the anti-fascist struggles of the 30s, again communist-led; the demonstrations against the Vietnam war, the fight against racism and the National Front, the anti-poll tax riots, the miners' strikes - these were events which, if only momentarily, must have troubled Elizabeth, as well as the establishment of which she was an integral part. Like the Chartists of the 1830s we must pay our last respects by organising against the monarchy and the capitalism system whose figurehead it is and struggle to open the road to a communist world. Terry Liddle * Movement Against the Monarchy