Wedding of mass distraction
Everyone from Ed Miliband to Johnny Rotten is looking forward to a "bit of flag-waving". Eddie Ford calls for a militant republican response
As all Weekly Worker readers were no doubt delighted to hear, William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor (prince William) and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton (‘Kate’) will be getting hitched on April 29 next year. Previously, there had been talk of a low-key or even “modest” wedding ceremony, so as to appropriately reflect the more austere times we live in - after all, everyone has to shoulder the load equally during this financial crisis. Accordingly, Windsor and Middleton have done their bit for the nation and gone for that more down-market venue - Westminster Abbey - in a service almost certainly conducted by the archbishop of Canterbury and which will possibly culminate with a concert in Hyde Park. Nothing special then.
Of course, Westminster Abbey has form when it comes to the celebration and glorification of monarchical power. So William I - that well known friend of the English masses - was crowned king there on Christmas Day in 1066 and in total 38 sovereigns have been crowned at the Abbey, which also hosted the weddings of the queen and her ghastly mother (not to mention Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997). The building has a usual capacity of about 2,000 people, but during the queen’s coronation extra tiers and galleries were installed to seat some 8,200. It has the official status of a ‘royal peculiar’, which means it falls directly under the jurisdiction of the sitting monarch rather than a bishop or diocese of the church.
Naturally, the happy couple opted to tie the knot at Westminster Abbey purely for our benefit - to give us ordinary folk something to remember in our dotage. Explaining their decision, Jamie Lowther-Pinkington, private secretary to William, said that they “wish everybody to be able to enjoy the day with them” - hence their wedding will be a “proper celebration for the nation and the realms”. For such an objective, as Lowther-Pilkington reminded us, Westminster Abbey was perfect due to its “staggering beauty” - while at the same time imparting a “feeling of intimacy” despite its cavernous size. William and Kate have always wanted a spring wedding, as Britain does spring so well, and - in the words of Lowther-Pinkington - are “very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best”, given that the “world will be watching”.
Patriotic sentiments echoed by David Cameron, needless to say. Speaking for the establishment as a whole, he declared that April 29 will be a “happy and momentous occasion” - perhaps the most “momentous” day the nation has seen since Diana Spencer married Prince Charles at St Paul’s Cathedral before a global TV audience of 750 million. Ed Miliband, it almost goes without saying, tweeted that the “whole country will be wishing them every happiness”. Another cheerleader for William and Kate was the erstwhile anarchist, Johnny Rotten, who not so long ago in his Sex Pistol days was lecturing us on how the “fascist regime” of the queen “made you a moron” and how “there is no future in England’s dreaming” - better dead than wed. Now, obviously taking a rest from advertising for Country Life butter, he informs us in the pages of The Sun that the royal couple are a “beautiful love story” and that “their whole romance is a lovely fairy tale” (November 18). Johnny, for one, is looking forward to the big day on April 29, as he loves a “bit of flag-waving” - he just hopes that the wedding will not be ruined by “all that dour Church of England socialism”, since he hates “pedestrian traditionalism”. Maybe better wed than red?
Though, having said that, Rotten - another national institution - does get closer to the truth of the matter when he tells Sun readers that the wedding “will do wonders for Britain” and will “become like an advertising campaign for the country”, helping to “put England back on the map”. Such a celebration, or ritual, is required to combat the “despondency looming over Britain just now”, thanks to the financial crisis; and “people need to open their eyes and see some good nature at work”. That is, April 29 will represent a morale boost for the country and the economy - or so the story goes. Hence in an article which accompanies the Johnny Rotten piece, we are informed that the royal wedding is “going to generate not thousands of pounds or millions of pounds, but billions” and “will put smiles on all our faces and money in our pockets” - given that the “pomp and ceremony is on tap: it’s what we do”. The queen’s gleaming carriages, the horses, the footmen, the cavalry officers are already there. Making the point even more explicit, the Sun headline for November 18 joyously proclaimed: “Thanks a billion, William - Kate wedding is huge economy boost.”
In that sense, from the viewpoint of the establishment, the timing of the announcement was so fortuitous, it could have been planned in advance by David Cameron and the Tory grandees - not that they would ever do such a thing, of course. With the country in desperate straits, facing potential civil unrest - even mad Marxist students trashing Tory Party HQ - what could be better than another WMD: a wedding of mass distraction? That way, they can peddle yet another royal romance to the population - the perfect love story, etc - on the basis that you can fool some of the people some of the time and, when it comes to royalty, you can fool most of the people most of the time. And maybe a bit more. Even tell them, Lord Young-style, that despite the “so-called recession” they have “never had it so good” - so start organising the street parties, lucky subjects.
Thus almost from the very second the royal wedding was announced, merchandise of every conceivable description - nothing is too tacky for such an event - was appearing on eBay: souvenir cups, mugs, saucers, plates, pots, jugs, salt shakers, posters, T-shirts, thimbles, engagement collections.... In the optimistic assessment of retail analysts Verdict, the royal wedding could bring in an extra £620 million to the UK economy next year - of which some £216 million would come from travel and tourism: engagement and wedding merchandise sales alone could “easily” top £44 million, while food and grocery retailers could cash in to the tune of £360 million, with consumers buying extra treats like champagne to “toast the happy couple”. Or, as the Mail put it more bluntly, thanks to the feel-good factor generated by the royal engagement-cum-wedding the “beleaguered” British economy could get a “significant” shot in the arm (November 17). In which case, it must be your patriotic duty to buy crap souvenirs - William and Kate tea towels anyone?
To make us feel even better, Cameron has declared that April 29 will be marked by a public holiday - and, since the extra holiday will fall in the same week as Easter Monday, millions of workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have a three-day week. Lucky, lucky them. Bread and circuses for all. Scotland is naturally expected to follow Westminster’s lead, but as the wedding date falls six days before the Holyrood elections on May 5 - and 28 working days, including public holidays, are required according to convention between dissolving parliament and polling day - the Scottish parliament could be dissolved a day earlier than expected, presumably as part of the Scottish National Party’s glorious road to national independence (or national socialism, if you are a left nationalist).
However, not everyone is so happy with the timing of the royal wedding - as May 5 2011 is also when the referendum is going to be held on whether to scrap ‘first past the post’ in favour of the alternative vote system, along with the English local elections as well. Super Thursday indeed. Some ‘yes’ campaigners fear that the inevitable blanket coverage of the royal nuptials will effectively scupper the pro-reform message. One exasperated senior Liberal Democrat told The Daily Telegraph that this clash of dates would “demolish any chance of having a full national debate on the issues”, thus leading to a Tory victory on May 5 and the retention of the anti-democratic FPTP status quo (November 23). Of course, Cameron said he was “very content” with the date of the wedding and Nick Clegg too was reported to be “relaxed” about the matter, innocently remarking that it was “one day that should be entirely separate from politics”. But he might not be so “relaxed” if he happens to lose the referendum, seeing how one of his key arguments for entering the coalition government was David Cameron’s ready agreement to hold a referendum on voting reform. If so, Clegg’s credibility, both within and outside the Liberal Democrats, could well receive yet another damaging blow - maybe even a fatal one.
There are critics of the wedding. There is an old saying that fools rush in where angels fear to tread - only on this occasion it was an Anglican suffragan bishop, Peter Broadbent of Willesden. Like many others, he vented his displeasure on Facebook and outed himself as a republican - calling the royal couple “shallow celebrities” who would be “set up to fail by the gutter press”, giving their marriage a mere seven years at the most. Warming to his theme, the good bishop denounced the entire royal family as a bunch of “philanderers” - a charge not without merit historically - and boldly stated that the monarchy was institutionally “corrupt and sexist”, in between disparaging references to prince Charles and princess Diana for being “big ears” and the “porcelain doll” respectively (of course, Kate Middleton dolls are now available from various retail outlets). Dead on cue, Conservative MP Nicholas Soames described Broadbent’s comments as “extremely rude” and “not what one expects from a bishop”, while - showing its commitment to free speech and democracy - a panicked Church of England “indefinitely suspended” Broadbent from public ministry.
Well, we in the CPGB think that the troublesome priest has more than a point. Royalty is sold to the British people in an utterly cynical way, particularly when it comes to supposed romances and weddings. So, when Jamie Lowther-Pinkington tells us that he has “never seen two happier people” than the royal couple - apparently they are “on cloud nine” - then alarm bells should start to ring except for the terminally naive. After all, these were exactly the same sort of words used about that other “happy” royal pair - Charles and Diana, which we know (in depressingly exhaustive detail) to have been a cruel fraud perpetrated against the ‘people’s princess’. As it turned out, Charles had been having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles for the entire time he had been with Diana Spencer - including their wedding night, by all accounts - hence the famous remark that there had always been “three in this marriage”. The plain fact of the matter is that Charles viewed Lady Di purely as a respectable breeding machine, a virgin with no embarrassing past or old boyfriends threatening at any time to come out of the woodwork. Love and affection were deemed superfluous, Diana, the real human being, was sacrificed, as all that mattered was selling the big lie of a Ruritanian romance. Surely you would have to possess a heart of stone not to find that immoral.
Therefore communists certainly do not have a “curmudgeonly world view”, nor are we a “grumpy, envious, lot” - whatever Lord Archer might think of royal wedding critics. Quite the reverse. In fact, contrary to popular mythology - based upon a complete misreading of the 1848 Communist manifesto, amongst other things - communists are not opposed to marriage as a principle, of two people coming together in a loving union. Indeed, we think it is a splendid thing and positively encourage it. Rather our objection to the proposed wedding is quite simple - as revolutionary democrats, we object to the very institution of monarchy, not to this or that personality or particular royal. We are for a democratic republic. Which logically means that we think weddings should be an entirely private affair, regardless of whether you are William Windsor, Kate Middleton ... or that nice couple on the dole next door.
But, of course, the reality is that the wedding due on April 29 will be a noisy state affair - a vulgar promotion and advert for the British monarchy and everything it stands for, costing the taxpayer millions (the ceremony alone will set the treasury back £30 million). Hence it is more than legitimate for democrats, socialists and communists to stage various protests against the royal marriage - we should not just shrug our shoulders and leave it up to them on the day in the spirit of ‘fair play’. Communists fight for no more royal weddings - let us make sure April 29 will be the last one ever. By establishing a republic we will be doing William Windsor and Kate Middleton an inestimable favour, liberating them from the unnatural and alienated life that comes with the monarchy and allowing them - at long last - to be normal, free, rounded human beings.
Our republicanism is militant and revolutionary. As opposed to the passive republicanism we have come to expect from the likes of George Galloway and the economistic left in general - yes, it would be a nice idea, of course, but we are not going to do or say anything about it: no republicanism please, we’re British. By contrast, the CPGB call for a democratic republic, so foolishly dismissed by some on the left as a ‘diversion’ from the struggle for socialism, is part and parcel of the struggle to democratise all of society - from top to bottom. We are opposed to aristocracy and elitism in all its forms - whether in the workplace, trade union, school, university, parliament or even, for that matter, amongst the left, with its self-perpetuating central committees and preening leaderships.
A thoroughgoing and extreme democracy is the only form socialism can take - as the 20th century taught us in the most brutal way possible in the shape of the negative lessons provided by wretched tyrants like JV Stalin and Mao Zedong.