The jubilee is like extra strong cheap cider. It’ll take your mind off things very quickly but by god you’ll feel bad when you come to your senses. So if you are necking undiluted Brit propaganda this weekend, drink responsibly.
My favourite jubilee story is the one that all this fawning over blue blood will put us in the red. Okay, that WAS my favourite jubilee story, though it’s been recently eclipsed by the idea of a BNP Vajazzle (‘Her Majazzle’ anyone?).
There’s a tendency to say “none of this matters”. Or at least it matters no more than any of the raft of light entertainment that keeps the whole show bubbling along (‘No likey – no lighty‘). This is just a holiday with cupcakes. Everyone getting hammered amongst the bunting isn’t really acquiescing to feudalism, they just want a break. And anyway, you can’t really HATE Lizzie, you’ve never even heard her be herself. This is a ‘biscuit tin monarchy’, so don’t fight it.
There’s various theories about what’s going on here.
Glen Newy suggests it’s a reaction against political failure: “As politicians sink ever deeper in public esteem, so the queen rises. Over the coming weekend the country’s usually scabrous public sphere will turn, as it did when Diana croaked, as deferential as Zimbabwe’s.” David Hare has written that the monarchy is the last part of British society not yet privatised, and we cling on to it pining for the simplicity of the 1950s (‘the monarch floats above the stink during a national carnival of disillusionment ‘).
While Laurie Penny writing on the ‘Royal Wedding’ last year pinned it down as essentially ‘Twee aesthetic nostalgia for a fantasy of “lost Britishness” . Penny hit the spot arguing that: “There is something monstrous in this fetishisation of wartime austerity and imperial pride – but there is something tragic there, too. There is a sense that the future is closing down, while Britain’s glorious past shines ever brighter.”
So why shouldn’t we aim to remove the monarch whilst we’re breaking up the British State with independence? Patrick Harvie says the Greens will campaign for just that (and good on them), and Edinburgh Eye has quizzed Bella on the SNP position. As our most articulate republican points out: “The monarch we are supposed to celebrate this odd weekend has no claim to the throne of Scotland. She is not, and has never been, my queen. I hereby pull down the entire edifice of the British state. For fun, you understand. For the Jubilee.”
Bella believes in a republic, and will argue extensively and campaign exhaustively for one. But the independence referendum is about 1707 not 1603. Once we have sovereignty - all else falls into place. This is about a new democratic order. Change the structure and the whole thing will split open like a piñata. In other words we need democracy, real power, in order to make real change. Tethering the referendum to Betty Brandenberg is a fools game.
Myths, relics and blind populism remain powerful motivators. Choose your ground.
Of all the arguments in favour of the monarchy the idea that she – it – somehow defends our democracy is not just the oddest, but the most offensive. Only in Britain could the idea of fetishising feudalism be equated with democracy. In fact the monarchy secures not just landed privilege but justifies the whole system.
As Lenins Tomb put it: “The monarchy still functions as the guarantor of a caste within the ruling class, which any good bourgeois wants admittance to – give an old chief executive an OBE, and he will consider himself to have truly lived. It still bestows social distinction – more than that, it upholds and perpetuates the superstitious belief in distinction, in meritorious ‘honour’ as well as ‘honour’ by birthright. Its systems of ranking still structure hierarchies within the state, notably the police, the navy, the air force, and the army. It is still the major patron of ‘Britishness’, the myth of a temporally continuous and organically whole national culture.”
But it’s important to realise how much that ‘whole national culture’ is dependent on Balmoral, the Castle of Mey, the ‘Prince of Wales’ and all of the associated trappings to present the Queen of England as an icon of Britishness. Without a UK, there will not be anarchy, but democracy, and there’s no place for a monarch in a new Scottish democracy.
By Mike Small