The Marxist view of the monarchy

On 9 September 2015 Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history. As this date approached, newspapers and programmes on the telly joyously compared Elizabeth’s reign to the reign of Queen Victoria.

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To celebrate this anniversary we were asked by the editors of the Wessex Scene, the student newspaper at the University of Southampton, to write an article explaining why the general feelings of the younger generation towards this feudal relic are not so benevolent.

“What is the view of a Marxist on the monarchy?” we were asked.

The Monarchy is a feudal hangover and the secret anti-democratic and authoritarian weapon of capitalism, dressed like an old lady. It is an integral part of the Establishment, and there is no need to read Owen Jones book to know that.

It is clear reactionary institution and socialists should fight for its abolition. We should fight for a socialist republic.

Most of the monarchies were swept away following the revolutions that transformed Europe in the wake of the industrial revolution. The emerging power of the merchants and bankers, the capitalist class, began a struggle (in some countries such as France a deadly struggle) for political power.

During the French revolution the emerging bourgeoisie superseded the decaying French monarchy, which had become a hindrance to the expansion of their interests. With their old ideas about God-given privilege and disdain for mercantile money-making, monarchies were in complete contrast to the new thinking of that era. Although the bourgeois revolution took few centuries to develop, eventually capitalism triumphed.

In Britain the monarchy held on, even after the long war waged against it. After 10 years of a republic,which is astonishingly excluded from most school texts, the monarchy was resurrected in a zombiefied form.

The bourgeoisie decided that it could actually be useful to keep those lovely stuffed animals that decorate Buckingham Palace today. Meanwhile as a token of good will they filled their royal pets’ pockets with profits robbed from the workers they exploited.

Today the Queen is worth £340 million, undoubtedly making her one of the 1%. But with a plus. Constitutionally the Queen is the ultimate political authority. Constitutionally whoever wants to form a government has to wait for a phone call from Buckingham Palace. In the armed forces soldiers swear allegiance, not to their country, nor the people, but to the monarch. She used this vestigial power to endorse the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

You can find plenty of examples where royal power is used by the ruling economic and political elites to effectively manipulate democratic processes.

After all the monarchy is by definition uninterested in democracy and by necessity against any change in the status quo. It is a powerful friend to have for the ruling class. For those who want to change society, it is a powerful enemy.

Moreover the monarchy is used to give strength to the idea of national unity and exploited as national heritage. Millions of people in the Commonwealth are her subjects, and millions of pounds are made from tourists coming to the UK to glimpse the royal gold and ivory stolen from Africa.

As socialists we struggle for a a world without classes and exploitation. A world where the strength comes from the unity of the working class. Where the cultural heritage is our collective history; of those who have fought to give us the right to vote, to strike, to express our opinion, to be citizens and not “subjects”.

Let’s clear away the relics of past priviledge and exploitation.

End capitalism and its puppets: the monarchy.

Down with the monarchy, forward to socialism!

by Beatrice Papapietro, Southampton Marxists