Date: Tue, 9 Sep 97 08:29:37 CDT
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: British Monarchy Is In Trouble

British Monarchy Is In Trouble

Editorial, Militant, Vol.61 no.31, 15 September 1997

The British state machine has gone into overdrive, orchestrating a massive political campaign to draw millions of people into mourning the death of Diana Spencer. The big-business media is hourly encouraging people to queue outside the palace in which she lived. The route of the funeral procession is discussed constantly. Campaigning over the referenda on devolution for Scotland and Wales has been suspended until after the funeral. Sporting and cultural events are being forced to cancel or become the target of attacks in the press. Big business is helping to get maximum attendance in the funeral by closing down shops and other operations during the procession. A national minute of silence is being called by the press.

What's behind all this? The British rulers face a problem with the monarchy—the institution they rely on to keep their United Kingdom together. This imperialist state is cracking a bit, as the devolution referenda in Scotland and Wales and the renewed talks on Northern Ireland's future demonstrate. The hoopla around Princess Diana is part of a losing battle to shore up the crown.

As economic and social crises deepen in a capitalist state that takes the form of a constitutional monarchy, the crowned head of state becomes more important, not less, as an institution that can speak for the entire nation. In a bourgeois republic without a monarchy, the president often assumes Bonapartist powers and authority under such conditions. But in a constitutional monarchy, remnants of feudalism preserved by the bourgeoisie with few intrinsic vested powers—the crown and the unelected House of Lords—grow rather than diminish in their importance for maintaining stability amid the increasing brutality of capitalist life and rule.

In addition to the prospect of local parliaments being elected in Scotland and Wales sometime soon, and negotiations with Sinn Fein over whether British rule will continue in the six northern Irish counties, the ruling class in Australia is gearing up to shed the Queen as its head of state.

The bourgeoisie in the United Kingdom has begun to divide. The new British prime minister, Anthony Blair, has been speaking for some time for those who think they have to present some answer to growing nationalist agitation in Scotland, which is itself a product of widening regional disparities and inequalities exacerbated by the capitalist crisis. That's why Blair's Labour Party felt pressure to make similar proposals concerning Wales, where the economic and social devastation is even greater than in Scotland due to the rapid decline of the coal industry.

The now deposed Conservative politician John Major, on the other hand, argues that devolution in Scotland and Wales will lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.

If you add to this the unstoppable fight for Irish freedom in Belfast, Derry, and elsewhere in Ireland and the historic decline of the British pound, you can understand the strains that are pressing on the seams of the United Kingdom. Its historic forced retreat from acting as an effective world power continues. The demise of the crown—this reactionary feudal institution—comes along the way. There is nothing in this for working people to feel sad about.