Forever slaves

Sam Metcalf reports from Nottinghamshire SA

A disappointingly small number of comrades gathered in Nottingham last week for a meeting that was part of a week-long republican celebration in the city to coincide with the jubilee. It seems comrades from various local groups who welcomed the chance to debate the monarchy only sent along token representatives - indeed, the Socialist Workers Party, who were vehemently opposed to the meeting taking place at all, sent the largest contingent. It must have come as something of a shock to some SWP comrades present to hear some of the points put forward by comrade Marcus Ström of the CPGB and Socialist Alliance national executive. His argument was that the monarchical system is integral to the way the state oppresses us. No self-determination for Scotland and Wales, an unelected second chamber, denial of the sovereignty of the people, the royal prerogative, etc. Comrades from the SWP argued that, really, the monarchy - by which they appear to mean Elizabeth Windsor and not much else - was a side show that would be taken care of as a by-product of the fight for socialism. In the meantime there were more pressing matters, such as the India/Pakistan crisis, and the housing of refugees at a local air base. Once we had dealt with these issues, then we could turn to "peripheral" demands such as the abolition of the monarchy. As comrade Ström pointed out, that is the way to ensure that workers remain a slave class. Counterposing constitutional issues to other questions, or dismissing them, is, of course, crass economism: ie downplaying the fight for democracy. For example, would the SWP counterpose fighting the far right BNP to defending Mark Serwotka? Would they dismiss the murder of Stephen Lawrence because many more are dying each day in Palestine? While of course we are the best fighters for trade union-type demands, we must constantly aim to raise workers' sights to the level of constitutional - ie, class - politics so that they question the way we are ruled. How else can we ever hope to become a ruling class? But for the SWP even the big questions of war and peace are frequently viewed through an economistic prism - how they impact on workers' conditions (welfare, not warfare). One unaffiliated comrade pointed out that, had the Nazis been successful in World War II, then the whole of the royal family would have come out in support of Hitler's army, and that, these days, they seem to forget their German links. Whilst without doubt some royals were fascist sympathisers in the 30s (as were substantial sections of the ruling class), the comrade seemed to imply, 'They're not even English'! But the point remains that, as long as the monarchy retains support, however passive, among large swathes of workers, it has the potential to be used in the most dangerous of ways. The rest of the meeting was taken up on local issues. We decided that we would leaflet the Bingham area - the place where refugees are to be housed. Comrade Sulma from the SWP made a heartfelt appeal for some form of national bulletin or paper that, in her words, she could show people on the street and say, "Look - this is who we are and what we stand for". One hopes her fellow SWPers will take note.