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Fight fragile national unity with class unity

This article is over 1 years, 7 months old
Instead of national unity we need fighting class unity, in the form of united and escalating strikes and big street protests
Issue 2822
Around 60 exuberant strikers in red hi-vis jackets and with red Unite union flags in unity

Workers must return to struggle to overcome cross-class unity (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Support for aspects of the monarchy and acceptance of endless ceremonies for the queen’s death reaches out quite wide. An estimated two million people are planning to queue up and pay their respects to the dead queen at Westminster Hall, according to the Metropolitan Police.

A source from Whitehall told the Times newspaper, “It will be like the Notting Hill carnival every day. It will be on a first-come, first‑served basis.” Leaving aside the ludicrous comparison, this could be dispiriting for socialists. Are people so easily pulled into acceptance of such reactionary institutions?

For some, the royals provide a degree of escapism in an alienated world. The twists and turns of their lives, births, deaths and divorces all play out like a long‑running soap. In the reign of queen Elizabeth, this was helped by a rebranding to make them more “relatable.”

But although support is broad, it is also fragile and limited. There will be very few people who watch the queen’s funeral and as a result think it is legitimate for the energy companies to ratchet up fuel bills. There won’t be many who see the week-long television coverage and conclude it’s proper for wages to be cut. Or for the Met to escape from the killing of Chris Kaba.

Many will see the contrast between the limitless cash for the royal flummery while mass poverty stalks the lives of millions. Others will tire quickly from vast parts of ordinary life being shut down. The mourning period has been coerced by soft and hard methods. Without the instantaneous media deluge and cancelling of opposition voices, the level of king-worship would be much less.

If the people at the top were really confident, they wouldn’t sanction the arrest of people who hold up anti-royal protest signs. This also suggests that the sense of a lull in class struggle and the outbreak of “national unity” will be temporary. But that depends on how union leaders and others react. 

Calling off strikes around the time of the mourning ceremonies was a bad move that broke momentum. It will be disastrous if there isn’t a quick return to strikes, and if that action isn’t at a higher level. Those who oppose the monarchy should not feel defensive. It’s right to put forward arguments against the reign of kings and queens and oppose any retreat from strikes and protests.

And it’s right to reject the rotten nature of the royals—both individually and collectively. There’s nothing wrong, for example, with highlighting prince Andrew’s crimes. Instead of national unity we need fighting class unity, in the form of united and escalating strikes and big street protests.

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