Golden Jubilee frippery

Charlie Kimber of the Socialist Workers Party used an interesting word during my debate with him at the Welsh Socialist Alliance's day school on May 26 in Cardiff - 'frippery', defined as "unimportant considerations, trifles, trivia", according to my dictionary. When he came out with this comrade Kimber was in the midst of a very effective demolition job of petty Welsh nationalism, feebly articulated in the round-table by Cymru Goch's Tim Richards. He referred generally to the tawdry carnival of the jubilee celebrations, but this characterisation was more specific - the institution of monarchy itself was "frippery", said comrade Kimber: some ostentatious adornment at the head of the British state. The jubilee festivities reach a high point this weekend with the concerts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. In one, Ozzy Osbourne will join the likes Paul McCartney, Queen (no relation), Eric Clapton, S Club 7, Blue and Elton John in a concert with something for all the family - apart from the music lovers, that is. Bizarrely, it is mooted that the queen herself will be present for some of the gig - although whether she will build real bridges with her people by playing 'air guitar' during Clapton's 'Leila' is more doubtful. Millions will welcome the extra holidays on Monday and Tuesday, but they come at a price. The British population - republican and monarchist alike - will be swamped in pro-royalty, pro-Brit chauvinist gloop. Unless something disastrous happens - like Ozzy having a flashback to his more feral days and biting the head off a corgi - these jubilee celebrations will be judged a qualified success by the strategists that advise the royal family. Certainly, the institution has recovered a lot of the ground it lost at the time of the death of Diana. The distant, formally correct response of 'the firm' contrasted starkly with the spontaneous outpouring of grief - and anger - from below. From the cold, austere matriarch of those dramatic days, the pivotal figure of the queen has been recast as a warm 'every-mum' - no mean feat given the sour raw material of her personality. The media manipulators have been helped by the timely deaths of the queen's mother and sister. Royalist 'sleepers' in the general population were activated and a certain degree of public sympathy has swung behind the woman as an individual, not simply a monarch - less a case of 'Gawd bless you, ma'am'; more 'Ah, poor thing "¦' The left must take its share of the blame for the rehabilitation of the monarchy, however. As evidenced by comrade Kimber's unfortunate choice of words, republicanism is regarded at best as a side issue, a diversion from the main job of the class struggle. The fight to abolish the monarchy is reduced to 'here's-my-bum-queen-mum' anarcho-clowning or the eminently safe bourgeois republicanism of The Guardian. To a certain extent it is true that there is more indifference in wider society to the royalty. Despite the palpable relief of senior courtiers that interest has picked up since the beginning of the year, there will be nothing like the outpouring of popular pro-monarchy sentiment we had to endure during the silver jubilee in 1977. However, it would be profoundly wrong to see this as a sort of creeping republicanism, a dawning realisation of the 'anachronistic' nature of the monarchy in a modern society. This would spectacularly miss the point. An indifference to the monarchy is no more a 'vote' for the left than the mass electoral abstention we have seen in many poor working class constituencies. If anything, it reflects a passively cynical acceptance of the world as presently organised, a lack of any critical engagement - or hope of change - in the way the mass of ordinary people are ruled over. The left has failed to understand this. Thus, May's Workers Power features a reasonable article explaining to us that the British monarchy is "not just an expensive relic of a former age", that in fact it wields enormous power at the centre of a monarchical system of government. Disappointingly, however, the last paragraph of the piece flatly states that despite this, the "the demand for abolishing the monarchy has no special mobilising potential in Britain today". True, there is a pronounced lack of politics amongst wide swathes of the population, but this is something that communists should use every opportunity to challenge and change, not meekly note. The problem is the politics of the left itself, of course. While comrade Kimber presented an erudite and convincing case against Welsh nationalism, what were his practical solutions? He told the meeting that he stood for the self-determination of the Welsh people - I was told later that this was in truth an "abstract slogan", even if formally correct. In fact, the 'abstraction' is introduced by the economistic prejudices of the left. As I pointed out in the WSA debate, proclaiming this democratic right for the Scottish or Welsh people is one thing, but what use is that if under the UK constitutional monarchy state they have no means of actually exercising it? Standing for self-determination in practice must mean the demand to abolish the monarchy, to overturn the acts of union. But that would be to dabble in the realm of the constitutional arrangements of the state - 'bourgeois', not proper 'working class' politics, according the narrow economistic template of the left. I hope readers manage to avoid the worst of the royalist bilge over the next few days and, if the whole spectacle moves you to righteous proletarian fury, feel free to vent your anti-monarchist fury by sending a cheque to support the Summer Offensive appeal of the Communist Party, the consistently militant republican trend in the workers' movement. Mark Fischer Swindon Anti-monarchy opposition Last Saturday, May 25, over 100 people came to hear four bands in an anti-jubilee concert in Swindon. This was a lively event that has had a lot of coverage in the local rag: three half-page articles in all, clearly identifying opposition to the monarchy with the Socialist Alliance. There were stalls from Greenpeace, Swindon Animal Concern, the Anti-Nazi-League and the GMB union. Andy Newman