The Political Notes Column from the December 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
King or Queen?
What progress to report in the historic (well it started in 1918) Labour Party struggle to abolish the British monarchy? Currently in the vanguard is Michael English, MP for Nottingham West, who greeted the news that the Princess of Wales will next June add to the clutch of regal parasites with the threat to draft a parliamentary Bill.
A Bill, the royals might tremblingly ask, to dispossess the House of Windsor, demolish the royal palaces, dismiss the regiments of flunkeys? Well actually, no; what English has in mind is a Bill to give women of the blood royal equal rights of succession to men of that same blood. “We should declare,” said this heroic revolutionary from the Nottinghamshire coalfields, “that the eldest child, irrespective of sex, inherits the throne, not merely the eldest son.”
If this ever becomes law. Princess Anne will be second in line for the throne, after Prince Charles. This is likely to lose English votes among scarred newshounds who have been abused by the gentle princess, usually after she has fallen off a horse.
English has yet to explain why British workers, whose struggle for existence under capitalism grows daily harsher, should be concerned about who is entitled to wear the biggest crown on their heads and about whether, under the longest robe, there is a female or a male body.
The royal family — apart from the fact that in their own right they are exceedingly rich members of the British capitalist class — are figureheads of the class society of capitalism. In their very persons they represent the privilege and superiority of one class in imposing exploitation and degradation on the other.
People who set out to modify this particular aspect of property society — or even to abolish it while retaining capitalism with its class privileges — are wasting their energies. Of course Labour MPs would not agree. All too often, after a lifetime of bolstering the class divided, privilege ridden, inhumane social system of capitalism they get their reward and end up in the House of Lords where, at selected times of the year, they can ape the royalty they once swore to abolish.
Words, words, words . . .
One year ago the unemployment figure stood at 2¼ million and Margaret Thatcher made a statement. “We knew it would be a long, hard slog,” she wrote in the January 1981 issue of Conservative News, “What can we look forward to in 1981? It will be another hard year.”
Well that is one promise the Tories have kept, although it was not very difficult for them since every year under capitalism is hard for the working class. Then what about the problem in communication there seemed to be at the time, between Thatcher and her Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, who assured all the viewers on independent television that the recession would end in 1981?
With unemployment now above 3 million, and still rising, here is Thatcher making another statement:
This government has created conditions in which out of recession can come renewed confidence. It is in the coming year that our confidence will be rewarded.
Tory constituency workers, who have the job of persuading voters that unemployment is really prosperity, that falling living standards are really progress, might well wonder if the Prime Minister is quite well. Are we to look forward, at every year’s end, to a parcel of Thatcher fantasy, gift wrapped? To further promises to make yet more promises? Will it ever end?
No great power is needed to perceive that words do not solve the crises of capitalism; that as the words flow the prospects for the working class, who vote to keep the system in being, do not improve. The evidence has never been clearer, or more compelling; the interests of the working class demand that they reject the threats and the promises (often they are the same thing) of political leaders and instead, in conscious action, take their future into their own hands.
Until they do, we can look forward more words. And enough, as Harold Macmillan once said, is enough.
I spy, you spy . . .
The exposure of yet another spy for the Russians in high places adds fuel to the fears of those people who see the British Intelligence Service as being as full of holes as a piece of Gruyère cheese. The latest in the line, Leo Long, admits that there were many others, as yet unrevealed, also at it, all recruited by Anthony Blunt during their time as pretentious, self-deluded Cambridge undergraduates.
Long left the university a thoroughly convinced supporter of the Communist Party — which meant that this self-styled intellectual would support any atrocity, tell any lie, suppress any fact, if he thought it was in the interests of the Russian ruling class to do so.
It was while he was at the War Office that Long actually began passing secret information, through Blunt, to the Russians. This was largely taken from the reports of Allied spies in German-occupied Europe and included details of troop movements.
All this was happening during the war, when Russia and Britain — or rather the ruling class of those countries — were allies. This raises the question of why one ally needs to spy on another — why one ally needs to keep secrets from another. Why weren’t they both helping each other as much as possible — with men, materials, intelligence — in the common struggle for what, we were told, was democracy?
Of course it was not like that. The war was not about freedom. The unity of the Allies was fragile and temporary, against the greater, more immediate threat of German capitalism. All of them knew that when that had been settled the conflict of interests which always operates between capitalism’s states would re-emerge between them. During the war, that conflict was kept under wraps but it was still there and was still carried on.
So there is no need for surprise in the affair of Leo Long. It is more evidence to expose the fact that capitalism cannot be a society of united interests, that it can only exist deep in its own divisive cynicism.