Tue May 21, 2024
May 21, 2024

Elizabeth II, a symbol of a declining imperialist power, is dead

Elizabeth II, UK’s Queen since 1952, has died at Balmoral aged 96, after reigning for 70 years.

By Alejandro Iturbe

Most of the world’s media pay tribute to her as an international figure who seemed eternal, in a world that in the course of her reign saw profound changes and the rise and fall of many other figures. In that changing context, Elizabeth II seemed to be always there. For example, an American multimedia network states: “With her, a 70-year reign that spanned generations and made her a beacon of stability is ended”[1].

At the same time, the world’s surviving monarchies and their parasitic way of life have something of a cinematic or TV spectacle that seems to hold a great fascination for many ordinary people: an escape from their hard-working ordinary lives struggling for survival. It is no coincidence that Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first ceremony of its kind to be televised and that The Crown is one of Netflix’s most successful series.

What are the real content and meaning of her life? Britain is a constitutional monarchy: whoever wears the crown “reigns but does not rule.” That is, the king or queen is basically a symbol, a symbolic representation of the British Empire. National and international politics are made elsewhere (by the Prime Minister and Parliament). This situation is expressed in the British anthem, whose first stanza says “God save the Queen” (now to be changed to “God save the King”) and calls for “long live our noble queen” and to “defend our laws.”

It is a rather expensive symbol, by the way, as the royal family has at its disposal a large number of palaces and other properties, luxurious cars, service staff, domestic and security personnel, paid food and travel, etc. In 2019, the monarchy was estimated to have cost the British people more than 90 million sterling pounds (up 40% from the previous year)[2].

This means that Elizabeth II and her family lived and live a parasitic and luxurious life in a veritable “bell jar”, far away from the everyday problems of ordinary people. This does not prevent, of course, the occurrence of envy and jealousy, situations of infidelity, and marital break-ups… which seem to bring them closer to the reality of any family and can generate empathy. This is a false image because these situations occur inside this “bell jar.” Suffice it to say, for example, that Elizabeth II never attended school and was educated at home by private tutors.

We have said that the British monarchy has no real political power and that it subsists basically as a symbol of the British Empire which became, until the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the strongest imperialism in the world, based on the bloody domination of a large part of the world. But in the 20th century, it was to undergo a process of decline in the face of the rapid rise of the young American imperialism, and would also be challenged by German and Japanese imperialisms, which sought to “re-discuss” the looting of the world.

In this international context, the British imperialist bourgeoisie had to make important choices: would it challenge the growing hegemony of the US and enter into an alliance with Hitler or would it ally itself with the US, moving into a complementary role in the world and carrying out an orderly retreat? It was a debate that raged through much of the 1930s and, in the end, the policy proposed by Conservative leader Winston Churchill – allying with the US – prevailed.

The royal family was no stranger to these debates. Elizabeth II’s uncle (Edward VIII) was publicly sympathetic to Nazism and had a brief reign in 1936 when he was forced to resign over a love scandal. He was succeeded by the late Queen’s father (George IV), clearly aligned with Churchill’s policy, which accepted American hegemony and stood behind it.

For example, the British Empire left the burden of the war against Japan in the Asia-Pacific and the central role on the Western European front against Germany to the US. After the Second World War, in its ‘orderly withdrawal’ plan, it granted independence to most of the countries that had previously been part of the empire (sometimes forced by national strife, sometimes more quietly). From a longer-term perspective, it dismantled much of British industry and shifted the country’s axis of capitalist accumulation towards finance. In particular, as a bridge to investments in China and India. This reconversion of the economic model hit British workers and their families hard.

It is no coincidence that as early as 1977, the British punk band Sex Pistols recorded the well-known song God Save the Queen as an expression of the anger of the unemployed working-class youth. It calls the monarchy “fascist” and says that “there is no future” for the British youth. As decades ago with the mining strikes, today the British workers continue to fight hard against the attacks of their governments and bourgeoisie.

While the monarchy is a symbol of the British Empire, it is not an innocent symbol. On the one hand, it is the heir of kings and queens who bloodily built that Empire over many peoples of the world. Even in the decline of that Empire, Elizabeth II endorsed and supported all the imperialist policies of the various British governments during her reign.

Suffice it to name just three of them: the repression of Northern Ireland; the Falklands (Malvinas) war against Argentina (in which her son Andrew enlisted as an Air Force pilot and received the blessing of Pope John Paul II); and the US-led invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, but with British imperialism as its main collaborator. In their hands, there are inherited blood shed by peoples all over the world.

We want to finish repeating the feeling we have already expressed at the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. The imperialist media paid tribute to him and shed tears for Queen Elizabeth II. We repudiate her ill-fated role in history as a symbol of bloody British imperialism. We do not shed a single tear for her death. On the contrary, as one poet said, “These are not the dead we mourn.”


[1] https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2022/09/09/ultimas-noticias-salud-reina-isabel-orix/

[2] How much it costs to maintain the UK monarchy is revealed; expenses are rising | Class Magazine

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