The long-awaited death of the Queen on 8th September 2022 has unleashed a wave of
The long-awaited death of the Queen on 8th September 2022 has unleashed a wave of performative mourning in Britain and elsewhere in the world. This is led, as ever, by the royal family’s personal PR firm: the British Broadcasting Corporation. It has been disheartening to see the level of whitewashing and revisionism encapsulated in so many of the tributes to the woman, though it has not been unexpected. More disheartening still is the display being put on by several of Britain’s former colonies, countries where people fought and died for independence from the British state. We have the Republic of India lowering their flags at half-mast - a country where Elizabeth II was never even Queen. Meanwhile, in Kenya, four days of national mourning have been declared - a country where she was Queen, during the Churchill government’s genocidal campaign against the Kenyan people. It appears elements in the periphery have retained their subservience to the British Crown, that the Queen’s cult of personality has transcended Britain’s borders.
In Britain itself we are being subjected to 17 days of national mourning by Elizabeth’s son, the newly appointed King Charles. The continuity of the monarchy has been maintained while a large portion of this country’s working class are suddenly finding themselves struggling to make ends meet, facing the cancellation of many events, and unsure whether their workplaces will be forced to close. And this is all against the background of a dual energy crisis and cost of living crisis, which are both being thoroughly ignored now that a very elderly person has ‘unexpectedly’ died. Even in death Queen Elizabeth II’s pageantry comes at the expense of the working class, and even in death the BBC is there to cover for her. Of course her family will have no such worries about energy costs, as we provide them £2.5 million to heat their multiple royal palaces. But of course saying any of this is very ‘disrespectful’ since now ‘isn’t the correct time’. The right-wing has been very quick to remind anyone with left-wing convictions of this when we question this grand global obeisance of the Queen, partake in irreverent ‘memeing’, or else counter their obnoxiousness with our own displays of celebration at her demise. Many of these reminders have been targeted at those of us who are descended from those the British colonised, those of us aware of our history and very rightly pointing out the Queen’s role in Britain’s colonial past.
It would have been expected that anyone calling themselves a socialist would have not needed much convincing that the Queen was a bad person. The woman was an aristocrat, a symbol of elitism and privilege with landed wealth that she guarded jealously and who extracted massive amounts of money from this country without performing any actual labour. But too many ‘socialists’ seem to have fallen for the ‘charitable grandmother’ persona crafted by herself and the state. This includes the followers of Jeremy Corbyn, who for some reason believe that he or the Labour Party were anti-monarchy, and were appalled at his posting of a tweet reinforcing the Queen's propagandistic persona and pushing the 'world mourns' narrative. The servility of the trade union movement has been equally disgusting, especially when it looked as though we were on the cusp of a new moment of trade unionism. The TUC cancelled their conference. The RMT and CWU cancelled their strikes. Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT who had previously described James Connolly as his hero, wrote a personal message of condolence to the Queen. ‘Socialists’ such as these denounce those on the left that do not revere the Queen, getting an opportunity to take aim at the ‘extremists’ who are the supposed reason we never win in bourgeois elections. This event has drawn a very clear line between those ‘socialists’ who seek to appease the ruling classes, perform for their ‘respectability politics’, and those who retain their strong convictions without shame, those who know someone’s death does not wipe away their crimes. It also demonstrates once again the lack of empathy by bourgeois socialism for those who have suffered under colonialism.
We could continue from here by listing the Queen’s crimes, by discussing her influence over parliament or by discussing her hoarding of wealth and its source or by discussing her use of taxpayer money for the heating of her palaces or the legal fees of her paedophile son. However, it is arguably more important to assert that the Queen’s status of ‘enemy’ of our movement and of the international proletariat is not merely as an individual. Her own personal wealth notwithstanding, it's important we view her as part of a collective, as one of the most prominent figures among the British ruling classes and a willing participant in the exploitation and oppression of humanity. The Queen was the head of the British aristocratic class. The Queen represented the interests of that class first and foremost and now that task falls to her son, her successor. Much like any billionaire philanthropist, the Queen’s charity work was self-serving, a means to distract from the extreme privilege she enjoyed and as a hobby for her day-to-day activities as well as help craft the persona around her as someone who was performing ‘service’ to Britain as well as sharing that public goodwill with the rest of the aristocratic class.
This coalition between aristocracy and bourgeoisie is at the foundation of the British Empire, from the chartering of the Muscovy Company in 1555 by Mary I to the present age of neo-colonialism. Though the waning of aristocratic power throughout this period was significant, the aristocracy has remained as a junior partner to bourgeoisie. The monarch in their role as de facto leader of their class has thus played a significant role in British Imperial history. The monarch and their family are symbols of power and prestige, the mysticism surrounding their image has often been levied by the Imperialists to consolidate power over colonies. The term ‘figurehead’ is often used to describe the British monarch and absolve them of responsibility, but a figurehead is still a very powerful position, especially in the case of the monarch. When people believe in the Crown, in the office, when people view it as sacred and an inherent social good, they are more likely to show deference to the monarchy as well as the institutions that share in her prestige such as Her Majesty’s Government and the Empire the monarch rules. This was especially true of Victoria, the so-called ‘Empress of India’, The imperialists crafted an image of her benevolent rule over the British-controlled Periphery: civilising the ‘savages’ and ‘liberating’ us from our supposed backwardness. This is the role Elizabeth II inherited, though the make-up of Empire had changed when she took the crown. The rise of local nationalist and socialist movements was helping stir-up animosity against direct imperial rule and encouraging the British to pursue a tactic of controlled decolonisation. In theory, within their former colonies they would help create nominally independent states, controlled by the national bourgeoisie, and could therefore protect British business interests and keep these countries aligned with the West in the face of the growing international communist revolution. As the Queen-to-be, Elizabeth II would tour the colonies encouraging them to retain their ties with Britain. She would remain Head of State for many of the colonies after their independence, maintaining their link to Westminster. She and her family would continue to go on tours of these countries as well, encouraging their loyalty, maintaining her image as their sovereign and obedience to the British elites that she represented. And the excessive shows of condolence by the current leaders of these countries speak volumes about the strength of her cult of personality.
The true extent of the monarchy's wealth is hidden, prevented from public scrutiny by law. What we know for sure is that the monarchy's wealth is gained from exploitation at home and from past colonialism and present neo-colonialism abroad. The Crown Jewels, such as the Koh-I-Noor Diamond and Great Star of Africa, are the greatest representation of royal wealth drawn from colonial exploitation. In Britain itself, royal wealth is extracted through landlordism in the Crown Estates and the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and that landlordism is not insubstantial. The Crown Estate is one of the largest property holdings in Britain. Together it's estimated that the Crown Estate and the two Duchies are worth £17 Billion. It is also known that she has heavy investments in many firms though the specifics remain hidden from the public along with the true extent of her wealth, hoarded away in off-shore accounts such as in the British Overseas Territory and tax haven of the Cayman Islands. The Queen ensured she’d be made exempt from laws which would expose her wealth, though estimates place her total wealth at £72.5 Billion. The monarchy has a stabilising influence on British capitalist society. The monarchy caps the whole British class system, sitting atop it as both a feudal hangover from the past and the present-day capitalist class.
The outpouring of apparent grief for the dead Queen has not been matched by that for Chris Kaba. That there can be identification with a wealthy aristocrat and capitalist is disturbing, and indicates the inherent white supremacism and British nationalism that Elizabeth II represented. As part of this grotesque spectacle, we have witnessed a crackdown on Republican dissent. Protesters criticising the monarchy or Prince Andrew have faced arrest and charges, and a woman holding a blank sheet of paper in Edinburgh was stalked home by police. As more come to question the legitimacy of the Monarchy and its colonial legacy, we should expect to see much more of this especially in light of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act passed in England. We need to be there building links, ready to stand in solidarity with them. Instead of cancelling events and showing servility because it’s the 'done thing', instead of displays of respectability politics, we need revolutionary politics. We need to be educating, agitating and organising amongst the working class building a movement to challenge the monarchy, racial capitalism and imperialism. The death of the Queen has led to an upsurge in Republican feeling in the formerly colonized, now neo-colonized, Caribbean. Countries such as Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda are considering following the example of Barbados. What we need now is the dismantling of the Commonwealth – the neo-colonial continuation of the British Empire by another name – and we need reparations for the crimes committed by the British government, the monarchy and both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, all of which were the under the de jure leadership of Elizabeth II and now Charles III.
The Queen was undoubtedly an enemy of the people, an enemy of humanity as all aristocrats are, as all monarchs are, as all billionaires are. She served her own class interests and actively worked against the interests of the proletariat. She was of course a single cog in a much larger machine of exploitation and oppression, but her visage was used to represent that machine. The Queen was the embodiment of the privilege and parasitism of the ruling elite and everything all of us on the revolutionary left stand against. And now she’s dead. We must encourage a cessation of this sycophantic mourning and attack the shield of reverence that protects the royal family from productive criticism. As Connolly once stated: “a people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom.”