April 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
In June 1911, when George Wettin was crowned, the Socialist Standard carried an article with the title “King Capital’s Coronation”. This article was reproduced in the September 1964 anniversary issue of the Standard and so is still obtainable. A Socialist classic and a masterpiece of erudition, wit and irony. In about eighteen hundred words it takes in every facet of Socialist education. History, economics, parasitism, exploitation, class-struggle. It explains why the capitalist class preserve an obsolete and costly monarchy. An institution whose origins stretch back to barbarism, whose rituals and incantations are at once primitive and ludicrous and whose great wealth has been built up on centuries of plunder, piracy and wholesale murder. That the monarchy survived the onslaught of such an article is a tribute to the control exercised by the capitalist propaganda machine over the thinking of the working class. Working on the theory that meaningful education begins with class-consciousness, we think the article would have an electrifying effect if reproduced in the Times and Guardian education supplements.
Here we are sixty-six years later and the workers still dragging their feet. After twenty five years as the royal mascot of British capitalism, what can be said about Elizabeth? She has been all over the world as the commercial representative and prestige symbol of the ruling class, visited hundreds of places, travelled scores of thousands of miles and been received by all the heads-of-state and civil “dignitaries” on earth, and yet has probably never uttered a word in public, apart from casual conversation, that was her own. Apart from the obligatory built-in grin, what accomplishments does she need? Riding side-saddle for the trooping of the colour ceremony must be quite arduous, but who could not memorize a line like “I name this ship ‘Servitude’ may god bless her and all who sail in her”? (Swinging the bottle of champagne is not like driving home the rivets.) With every advantage money can buy, she needs proficiency at nothing. In terms of social usefulness, the girl in the typing pool or the woman who cleans lavatories makes a far greater contribution. Yet it is such useful members of society who denigrate themselves by lining the gutters to wave and cheer as she passes. She is regarded as some great White Mother whose grin protects us from evil and stimulates “our” trade. It is argued that if we did not have a monarch we would have a president and that might even be worse. This of course is an argument for scrapping both, not for maintaining either. The working class will only be prepared to get rid of the trappings, when they have come to reject the private-property relationships of capitalism which require these elevated nonentities.
The twenty-five years since 1952 have seen the world in a state of unprecedented turmoil. Untold millions have died from starvation while vast surpluses of unsaleable food have been systematically destroyed. Millions more have perished in wars. The Korean war was raging when Elizabeth was crowned, and was supported by her Labour and Tory ministers of state. These same ministers have tested and built up the British arsenal of nuclear weapons, for “her” armed forces. But she just reads their speeches; all this has nothing to do with her.
Whilst old people after a working life dependent on wages, producing wealth for sale and profit, live in deprivation and often die for the want of life's simplest needs of food and warmth, she represents every excess of conspicuous consumption. The exploitation of countless millions in this country and throughout the world is the foundation upon which rests the grotesque accumulation of wealth belonging to the class of socially useless people, whose cover-up is the monarchy. The queen’s cloistered existence hidden from reality makes a mockery of stricken humanity. Even public toilets have to be disguised when she passes. Yet, despite the squalor of the Walworth Road and Brixton, and many more such slum areas, at the time of the Coronation one could hardly see the slums for bunting. Even the kerbstones were painted red, white, and blue. This was the message the parasite class wanted. This made it all worth their while. Bread and circuses. Now there will be more beakers and mugs — always plenty of those — and sundry souvenirs to make profitable business and remind the workers how lucky they are.
The women’s magazines conjure up a phoney sense of delight as if they were treating some small children to their first Punch and Judy show. The television and radio put on special programmes which help project the illusion that something important has happened. The press, servile and sycophantic as ever, carries more stories and pictures than usual, which is no easy task. The Guardian on 7th February published a eulogy by the Poet Laureate, which is reminiscent of the grovelling non-sense that Pravda used to print about Stalin. In his day, William Morris turned down the job of Poet Laureate; as a Socialist he would not lend himself to such humbug. When it is understood, that no less a luminary (and there are no lesser luminaries) than Mary Wilson had a poem read at the Albert Hall at the same do which launched the above mentioned epic, and that she has been hinted at as a possible future Laureate, perhaps the ruling class and their mascot are more up against it than we realize.