STEVE SWEENEY won’t be marking the Queen’s 90th birthday this weekend – why would we want to celebrate someone who is the symbol of opulence and greed and the idle rich?
THIS weekend sees celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday, with street parties being held across the country.
At the school my children attend, they are being encouraged to participate in the celebrations and wear red, white and blue in an uncritical tribute to the monarch on becoming a nonagenerian.
Being a committed republican, I was reminded of when I faced a similar situation in 2012 with the jubilee.
Back then the children were coming home with what seemed like an endless flow of pro-monarchy propaganda. This piece is adapted from something I wrote back then.
In the weeks and months preceeding the jubilee we were subjected to a barrage of pro-monarchy, patriotic propaganda seeping from every possible source.
The television and newspapers were full of stories about the impending diamond jubilee of Mrs Elizabeth Windsor, crowbarring in references to it at every opportunity.
Schools were teaching children uncritical support for the royals and the patriotism that goes along with it and children would come back home with tales of “our Queen,” plus drawings and paintings of the monarch and home-made flags to wave in celebration.
At that time I lived in Huntingdonshire — birthplace of Oliver Cromwell, constituency of John Major.
It’s an area with radical roots not just regarding the English Revolution, but also other uprisings against the monarchy and the ruling elite — the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, for example, continued with uprisings for two days after the murder of one of its principal leaders, Wat Tyler.
It was one of the “Swing Counties” which rose in 1830 demanding higher wages in “pauperised” rural areas and in the 1840s Chartist leaders were known to have held well-attended meetings in the town.
I found it depressing that an area with such a rich tradition of dissent seemed to embrace the jubilee so willingly.
In some of the smaller rural surrounding villages it was almost as if you were passing through a BNP rally judging by the number of flags and associated bunting.
The further away from the towns that you travelled, the larger and more kitsch the displays seemed.
Where I lived in St Ives, there was even a jubilee celebration in the town centre, right under the statue of Oliver Cromwell.
I pondered then, as now, as to whether I was just being miserable and if the jubilee and flag-waving hysteria was merely harmless fun.
Possibly in part I was and for many it was harmless fun, but I just wished that the media would at least attempt to give some kind of balanced view. This was unlikely, however.
At the time, our local newspaper, the Cambridge News, published a story it deemed as newsworthy — that two Labour councillors dared to tweet mild opposition to the jubilee.
Their website was quickly filled with comments calling for them to be sacked by people who found their comments “disrespectful,” claiming that the Queen embodies “freedom that our fathers and grandfathers fought for,” a somewhat superficial and bizarre understanding of history and an ironic idea of freedom that seemingly doesn’t extend to freedom of speech.
Then comments from myself and others denouncing the system of monarchy and the royal family disappeared from the website.
Dissenting views seemed to be airbrushed from view to give the impression that everybody loves the Queen and was united in celebration. Schools then and now were almost fawning in their reverence for the royals with children being given projects such as making a crown, painting pictures of the Queen and similar.
The Queen and the royal family were promoted as somehow virtuous and children given the false impression that they have to be liked.
At my stepson’s school they were singing God Save the Queen (unfortunately not with the second line “the fascist regime” or “she ain’t no human being”).
Flag-making and waving was promoted. I found this particularly unsavoury given my stepson’s Indian heritage and the role of the monarchy and the Raj — the Amritsar Massacre immediately springs to mind, just one of the many crimes committed under the “Butcher’s Apron.”
But what is the system being celebrated? The monarchy has a blood-drenched and anti-democratic history.
This extends to the present royals in places such as Bahrain, where at the time of the jubilee, those who were fighting for democracy against tyrannical rule were being killed. While children here came home with commemorative coins, home-made flags and paintings, the children of Bahrain were coming home in body bags.
In Saudi Arabia the monarchy presides over an autocratic regime which denies basic democratic rights and oppresses the people, often by brutal and violent means.
The monarchs from these countries were invited to celebrate the jubilee along with those of Kuwait and Swaziland and others.
So by celebrating the royal family, what is being supported is the system that kills, tortures and represses.
One that lives a lavish lifestyle of self-enrichment while its “subjects” endure widespread poverty and starvation.
It is a system of feudal backwardness that is an offence to those who believe in democracy.
It is a celebration of a system that is one of deference and of people “knowing their place.”
And if people think that the Queen and British royals are different, remember that their power has been wielded more than once in our lifetime — for example, in 1975 the Queen removed the Australian premier Gough Whitlam via her representative, the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr.
If a similar situation arose in Britain, with the election of a radical Corbyn-led Labour government that was bringing about far-reaching reforms, for example, then we can be sure that there would be no hesitation in using the powers that the monarchy has to install a government of its choosing.
We don’t have to look too far back in history to find support for fascism and meetings with Hitler from members of the royal family.
And why is it that because I don’t support the 90th birthday celebrations or the royals, then it is me that is the one that is being offensive? It is the system of privilege and deference that is offensive.
For centuries the royal family has stood in the way of democracy and progress, killing and maiming those who dare to stand up for themselves and fight for basic human rights.
Why celebrate someone who, as the comedian Jon Richardson said: “You will never meet and who couldn’t give a shit if you died tomorrow.”
In an age of austerity, where people are losing their jobs and seeing services closed down, where families struggle to make ends meet and pay the bills, why would we want to celebrate someone who is the symbol of opulence and greed and the idle rich?
The royals cost us a fortune — we pay for their lavish existence. They are the biggest benefit scroungers in history. And for those who say that they bring in millions through tourism, do you really think that people would stop coming to see Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle if we no longer had a royal family?
Places like Stratford upon Avon wouldn’t attract people? Well, guess which country is the most visited in the world? It’s France, and we know what they did with their royal family.
Needless to say I won’t be joining the celebrations this weekend. I will be collecting aid ahead of next Saturday’s Convoy to Calais. I am a citizen not a subject. Vive le Republic.