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Friday, 27 April 2018

Jewish Voice for Labour Surrenders to Wes Streeting’s White Parliamentary Lynch Mob

Abandoning Marc Wadsworth to the Zionist witch-hunt and the lies of Ruth Smeeth is both shameful and counter-productive

Wes Streeting and the all-White group of MPs accompanies Smeeth

When Jewish Voice for Labour was formed last summer I welcomed it whilst warning of the dangers of not having clear politics, strategy or direction. I opposed not only its two tiers of membership – Jewish and non-Jewish – but its refusal to squarely support the Palestinians’ fight for justice and the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees.

Although most JVL members are opposed to Zionism there is a belief that some things are best left unsaid.  The group is also unclear as to whether its main purpose is as some kind of Jewish cultural formation or whether it is primarily a political organisation.

Opposition to the anti-Semitism witch hunt or the affiliation and privileged status of the Jewish Labour Movement was not mentioned in its founding statement.  Nor does it say anything about about the racist nature of the Israeli state. I wrote a number of articles warning of the consequences of not being clear or honest such as Timidity is not a Strategy, and Jewish Voice for Labour & the Politics of Self-Indulgence - Nothing to say on Palestine or Zionism. 

For the past few weeks we have had a relaunch of the anti-Semitism campaign.  There is no doubt that this is intended both to damage the chances of Labour in the local elections and also to act as a prelude to the removal of Corbyn himself.
The Zionist demonstration was an anti-Labour hate fest with far-Right racist Zionists dominating - according to the mythology Labour is full of Jew haters.  A number of those present work with fascist groups yet these are never called out.  Jonathan Arkush himself has spoken to rallies of the openly fascist JDL
The campaign began with the affair of the mural and then an absurd ‘anti-racist’ demonstration on March 26th outside Parliament by about 500 Zionists.  It is probably the first and last ‘anti-racist’ demonstration which the DUP and Norman Tebbit attend!  To its credit the JVL organised a counter-demonstration but as the attacks have mounted JVL have gone quiet.

This week another of the ‘anti-Semitism’ victims, Marc Wadsworth, was up before Maggi Cosins and the National Kangaroo Court.  To date both Cyril Chilson and me have been expelled.  The allegations by Ruth Smeeth MP that she was subject to anti-Semitic comments at the Chakrabarti press conference by Marc are a complete lie as can be seen in the video.  Nothing was said that was remotely anti-Semitic.
Chris Williamson MP is one of the few Labour MPs to stand up against the McCarthyism of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement
Smeeth is used to lying as a profession. She was a paid worker for the Israeli propagandist organisation BICOM, before becoming an MP, see: Former Israel lobby spin doctor aims for seat in UK parliament
Last week Wes Streeting, a right-wing anti-Corbyn MP appealed to MPs to form a posse which would accompany Smeeth to the venue where she would give her perjured evidence.  Streeting stated that Smeeth was

giving evidence against Mark Wadsworth – the guy who abused her at the antisemitism inquiry launch – and we expect there to be a protest outside against her. 
Marc, as anyone who watched the recent BBC programmes The Murder that Changed a Nation on the Stephen Lawrence murder, would know, played an integral role in the campaign.  Marc has been one of Britain’s best known Black anti-racists.  It is a scandal that he has been suspended for nearly 2 years because of allegations by a supporter of the world’s only Apartheid state, Israel. 

It is also scandalous that JVL took a decision not to support the lobby of Marc’s hearing. JVL didn’t want to be seen to oppose Streeting’s all-white group of right-wing MPs.  In essence they took fright. This is sheer political cowardice.  It is also the road to disaster.  JVL seem to believe that if they are good boys and girls then Jeremy will look kindly on them and rearrange the now postponed meeting he was going to have with Jewish groups.  This is an utter illusion.   Despite this a few individual JVL members came along, including Glynn Secker.

The purpose of the witch-hunt is not to expel Jackie, Marc or myself.  It is either to remove or neuter Corbyn.  Far from abstaining from support those of us fighting the witch hunt JVL should be in the forefront of the fight.  Whilst the Zionists are on the rampage JVL decided to do nothing.
Originally Free Speech on Israel, which consists of many of the same people as JVL, was set up because of the weaponisation of anti-Semitism.  It would appear that they have given up on free speech.  Likewise the Jewish Socialists Group, which worked alongside Black anti-racist activists like Marc, have kept quiet over the witchhunt and appear to have given up on socialism and Jewish Voice for Labour seem to have lost their voice altogether.

However Labour Against the Witch-hunt went ahead with the protest despite Corbyn’s office contacting Marc and asking him to call off the protest.  Quite rightly Marc refused.  The idea that keeping quiet and saying nothing will aid Jeremy Corbyn is absurd.  The purpose of the witch-hunt and the false accusations of anti-Semitism is to remove Corbyn.  Jackie, Marc and me are simply collateral damage. Saying nothing will strengthen not weaken the Right.
President JONATHAN ARKUSH, BOD - addressing rally Grosvenor SQ. July '16 where JDL openly wore KAHANE shirts. 
Far from abstaining from protests we should be redoubling our efforts to reselect creatures like Streeting, Smeeth, Berger and Ryan.  The Right will not give up and appeasing them is likely to destroy the Corbyn project and the prospect of him becoming Prime Minister.  It is time that people realise and understand that the goal of Streeting, John Mann and co. is to prevent Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. 

Last June’s General election was a set back for them which is why we have seen the false anti-Semitism campaign being stepped up.

When Streeting and his 20 white racists reached Church House, the venue where the Kangaroo Court was sitting, it was they who felt intimidated and Streeting could be seen bleating about how terrible it was that people had exercised their right to free speech.

It is excellent that Chris Williamson MP, despite the pressures on him, not least by people like Barry Gardiner, refused to be cowed and gave evidence in support of Marc Wadsworth.  Clive Lewis MP has also given Marc his support.  The decision of the JVL leaves friendly MPs in an even more exposed position.  We had 70 people on the demonstration as it was but with the support of JVL and FSOI we could have had even more.

We have a situation where the representatives of the Israeli state – Labour Friends of Israel and the JLM, the ‘sister party’  of the openly racist Israeli Labour Party, operate openly inside the Labour Party. 
The Israeli Labour Party, of which the JLM is the British representatives, is an anti-socialist racist party that supports the deportation of non-Jewish African refugees from Israel
In May 2012, the ILP’s previous leader Isaac Herzog wrote an opinion piece arguing that Eritreans in Israel didn’t deserve protection as refugees. Today it openly supports Netanyahu’s attempts to deport Israel’s 40,000 Black African refugees for the crime of being Black and not Jewish.

Last week the new leader of the Israeli Labour Party, Avi Gabbay issued a letter cutting his links with Jeremy Corbyn because of ‘anti-Semitism’. The ILP’s previous leader Herzog declared that his nightmare was waking up to find that Israel had a Palestinian Prime Minister and 61 Palestinian Members of Israel’s Knesset.  Herzog also spoke about the false impression that the ILP were ‘Arab Lovers’.

 Gabbay has gone one better.  He declared that he would not join a coalition with members of the Joint List, the representatives of Palestinian citizens of Israel. An Palestinian party has never been part of a government in Israel. It is an unwritten Zionist convention that Arab parties do not take part in the government of a Jewish state.  

In conjunction with Labour’s Right, supporters of Israel and the Zionist movement have waged an ongoing campaign of destabilisation. The pretext is ‘Anti-Semitism’. The hollowness of this campaign is shown by the demands of Jonathans Arkush and Goldstein of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council. 
The Zionists accuse Livingstone of 'antisemitism' for saying that Hitler supported Zionism - above is an extract from Zionist historian David Cesarani's book which says exactly the same!
Top of the ‘anti-Semites’ Arkush and Goldstein want expelled from Labour are Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone.  In the Evening Standard they wrote that they wanted expelled the ‘serial offenders Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker.’  

Jackie Walker is a Black-Jewish socialist and long standing anti-racist.  Ken Livingstone pioneered anti-racism in local government.  It is clear beyond doubt that their ‘crimes’ aren’t anti-Semitism or hatred of Jews but support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism.  Not only is Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone under attack but so is Chris Williamson MP. In the Jewish News of 19th March Arkush says regarding Chris speaking alongside Jackie that:
Sadly, this is the kind of behaviour we have come to expect from Chris Williamson. We called for him to be sacked last year from the shadow cabinet over outrageous comments labelling claims of antisemitism in Labour ‘a dirty lowdown trick’.

Ivor Caplin, Southern organiser for the Jewish Labour Movement, a Junior Defence Minister under Blair and a war criminal in his own right went even further:  Mr Williamson has decided to take a leaf out of Ken Livingstone’s book... If he can’t stop, he needs to go.”

Arkush is a right-wing Tory, who welcomed Donald Trump to power despite the anti-Semitism of his campaign.  According to Dana Milbank in the Washington Post Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody. See Trump Rolls Out Anti-Semitic Closing Ad for an analysis.  That however does not disturb Arkush because these anti-Semites are also pro-Israel.

Of course if you claim that the Zionist anti-Semitism claims are false or weaponised then that too is anti-Semitic!  However in the same breath they tell us that Zionism is a part of Jewish identity and to oppose the ‘Jewish’ state is anti-Semitic.  Or in the words of the Jewish Chronicle’s Editor Stephen Pollard Jeremy Corbyn made ‘the odd assertion that anti-Zionism is not antisemitic’.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Crucifixion of Marc Wadsworth - Nailed by the Lies of Ruth Smeeth

Black anti-racism activist is on Trial for Antiracism

Channel 4 News - Cyril Chilson and Tony Greenstein interviewed

A lively and well attended lobby
To George Osborne and the Tory press we were a 'mob'
If there was any justice in the Labour Party the person facing a two day disciplinary hearing would not be Marc Wadsworth but Ruth Smeeth.  The filmed evidence of her departure in ‘tears’ (can you see them?) from the Chakrabarti Report press conference demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing said that was at all anti-Semitic.  Marc called out Smeeth’s relations with The Telegraph and complained at the lack of Black voices at the press conference.

Yet Wes Streeting MP could claim today that ‘ I’m afraid it does say something about the culture that we’re up against that a Jewish MP going to give evidence against someone who has abused her is greeted by a protest outside’.   Streeting is a good example of the whole of the false anti-Semitism crewe.  He assumed that Marc is guilty as charged, yet the whole purpose of a hearing – even before the rigged jury of Maggi Cousins and the National Kangaroo Committee – is to inquire into whether the allegations are proven or not. 
Liar-in-chief Smeeth accompanied by Lord Dubbs

The fact that Smeeth is Jewish is irrelevant. The fact is that compared to Marc she is highly privileged.

Labour Against the Witchhunt held a lobby of the hearing at Church House, Westminster today  from 9.30 onwards.  About 20 MPs including the usual anti-Corbyn suspects – Streeting, Frank Field, Margaret Hodge, Jesse Philips and Peter Kyle escorted Smeeth to the venue.  There they were met with over 70 demonstrators.

It was no doubt something of a surprise to see that Marc had so many friends.  Streeting looked most unhappy.  What Streeting didn’t appreciate is that Marc is an anti-racist of longstanding. Marc was heavily involved in the Stephen Lawrence Defence Campaign and was interviewed as part of the BBC 3 part documentary shown last week on the Stephen Lawrence murder.  Smeeth on the other hand has had no involvement in anti-racist work being a former employee of BICOM, the main propaganda arm for Israel, the world’s only apartheid state, in Britain. 

Smeeth is a also former Israel lobby spin doctor who, after entering the UK’s parliament in 2015, continued to be funded by two leading figures from her former employer, BICOM – the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. 
The latest official register of financial interests for members of Parliament shows that Smeeth continues to be funded by the Israel lobby.
Last year, as Asa Winstanley observed, she registered an in-kind donation worth more than $7,000 from Trevor Chinn, a member of BICOM’s executive committee.

2009 diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks revealed that Smeeth was a source the US embassy considered it should “strictly protect.” [See Asa Winstanley, Labour Israel lobbyist deletes anti-Semitic “conspiracy” claims]

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph in 2011, Smeeth admitted to being at a meeting with the US embassy but said: “I have no recollection of saying what has been attributed to me. I would not consider myself to be a source for the US government.”

Smeeth gave evidence today at Marc’s hearing.  By all accounts she is not a very good liar.  She claimed that she was wearing a Star of David around her neck, though Marc would not have been able to see it, if it was there, because of his own poor sight.
David Collier - a worried Zionist and friend of fascists

Jeremy Corbyn’s office in a typical act of cowardice contacted Marc to ask that the demonstration outside the hearing be called off.  Presumably they wanted Marc to walk in alone whilst the Right mobilised.  Jeremy has known Marc for at least 20 years and knows full well that he is not an anti-Semite.  It is shameful how Jeremy has thrown Marc and others to the wolves in order to appease the Labour Right not realizing that the target of the anti-Semitism campaign is not Jackie, Marc or myself but Corbyn himself.
The original lies of Ruth Smeeth which she later deleted from her web site

This whole fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign has been manufactured over the past few weeks with one purpose in mind – to damage Labour’s chances in the local elections.  That was why Luciana Berger dug up a 6 year old Facebook comment by Corbyn concerning a long erased Mural.  Unfortunately some on the Left who should know better, like Jon Lansman and Richard Seymour, have falled for the Rights decoy tactics as these ex-leftists pronounce that there must be something in the bogus anti-Semitism claims.

We are faced with an incremental campaign to get rid of Corbyn. It was strange watching the Channel 4 footage above and seeing right-wing Tory, Jonathan Arkush, of the Board of Deputies proclaiming that Labour should not tolerate Ken Livingstone.  The same man who welcomed Trump and his anti-Semitic entourage without any murmur or protest.

Smeeth accompanied by right wing loudmouth Jess Phillips and millionairess Margaret Hodge
Our lobby lasted from 9.30-1.00.  It was lively and good humoured and just after 1,00 Marc came out to meet a media scrum.  Labour Against the Witchhunt is the only organisation to consistently oppose a witch hunt whose principla aim is to remove Corbyn’s leadership.

Tony Greenstein

See Asa Winstanley’s
Frank Field amongst other Labour right-wingers

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Overlooked Ida B. Wells – One of the First Black Journalists

I first intended to publish this article from the New York Times on international women’s day about a largely unknown Black journalist.  However it is as appropriate now as it was then.  I apologise if people find the graphic disturbing however it is important that people understand the nature of racism in the United States until recently.  When we contrast this with the false and fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign in the Labour Party then people should be rightly angry.

Tony Greenstein


Ida B. Wells, one of the nation’s most influential investigative reporters, in 1920. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

It was not all that unusual when, in 1892, a mob dragged Thomas Moss out of a Memphis jail in his pyjamas and shot him to death over a feud that began with a game of marbles. But his lynching changed history because of its effect on one of the nation’s most influential journalists, who was also the godmother of his first child: Ida B. Wells.
“It is with no pleasure that I have dipped my hands in the corruption here exposed,” Wells wrote in 1892 in the introduction to “Southern Horrors,” one of her seminal works about lynching, “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.”

Wells is considered by historians to have been the most famous black woman in the United States during her lifetime, even as she was dogged by prejudice, a disease infecting Americans from coast to coast.
She pioneered reporting techniques that remain central tenets of modern journalism. And as a former slave who stood less than five feet tall, she took on structural racism more than half a century before her strategies were repurposed, often without crediting her, during the 1960s civil rights movement.

Wells was already a 30-year-old newspaper editor living in Memphis when she began her anti-lynching campaign, the work for which she is most famous. After Moss was killed, she set out on a reporting mission, crisscrossing the South over several months as she conducted eyewitness interviews and dug up records on dozens of similar cases.
Her goal was to question a stereotype that was often used to justify lynchings — that black men were rapists. Instead, she found that in two-thirds of mob murders, rape was never an accusation. And she often found evidence of what had actually been a consensual interracial relationship.

She published her findings in a series of fiery editorials in the newspaper she co-owned and edited, The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. The public, it turned out, was starved for her stories and devoured them voraciously. The Journalist, a mainstream trade publication that covered the media, named her “The Princess of the Press.”
Readers of her work were drawn in by her fine-tooth reporting methods and language that, even by today’s standards, was aberrantly bold.

Wells wrote about the victims of racist violence and organized economic boycotts long before the tactic was popularized.

“There has been no word equal to it in convincing power,” 

Frederick Douglass wrote to her in a letter that hatched their friendship. “I have spoken, but my word is feeble in comparison,” he added.

He was referring to writing like the kind that she published in The Free Speech in May 1892.

“Nobody in this section of the country believes the threadbare old lie that Negro men rape white women,” Wells wrote.

Instead, Wells saw lynching as a violent form of subjugation — “an excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized and ‘the nigger down,’ ” she wrote in a journal.
Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss., in 1862, less than a year before Emancipation. She grew up during Reconstruction, the period when black men, including her father, were able to vote, ushering black representatives into state legislatures across the South. One of eight siblings, she often tagged along to Bible school on her mother’s hip.

In 1878, her parents both died of yellow fever, along with one of her brothers; and at 16, she took on caring for the rest of her siblings. She supported them by working as a teacher after dropping out of high school and lying about her age. She finished her own education at night and on weekends.

Around the same time, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was largely nullified by the Supreme Court, reversing many of the advancements of Reconstruction. The anti-black sentiment that grew around her was ultimately codified into Jim Crow.
“It felt like a dramatic whiplash,” said Troy Duster, Wells’s grandson, who is a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University. “She cuts her teeth politically in this time of justice, justice, justice, and then injustice.”

Observing the changes around her, Wells decided to become a journalist during what was a golden era for black writers and editors. Her goal was to write about black people for black people, in a way that was accessible to those who, like her, were born the property of white owners and had much to defend.

Her articles were often reprinted abroad, as well as in the more than 200 black weeklies then in circulation in the United States.

Whenever possible, Wells named the victims of racist violence and told their stories. In her journals, she lamented that her subjects would have otherwise been forgotten by all “save the night wind, no memorial service to bemoan their sad and horrible fate.”

Wells also organized economic boycotts long before the tactic was popularized by other, mostly male, civil rights activists, who are often credited with its success.

In 1883, she was forced off a train car reserved for white women. She sued the railroad and lost on appeal before the Tennessee Supreme Court, after which she urged African-Americans to avoid the trains, and later, to leave the South entirely. She also travelled to Britain to rally her cause, encouraging the British to stop purchasing American cotton and angering many white Southern business owners.

Wells was as fierce in conversation as she was in her writing, which made it difficult for her to maintain close relationships, according to her family. She criticized people, including friends and allies, whom she saw as weak in their commitment to the causes she cared about.

“She didn’t suffer fools and she saw fools everywhere,” Duster, her grandson, said.

One exception was her husband and closest confidant, Ferdinand L. Barnett, a widower who was a lawyer and civil rights activist in Chicago. After they married in 1895, Barnett’s activism took a back seat to his wife’s career. Theirs was an atypically modern relationship: He cooked dinner for their children most nights, and he cared for them while she traveled to make speeches and organize.

Later in life, Wells fell from prominence as she was replaced by activists like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, who were more conservative in their tactics, and thus had more support from the white and black establishments. She helped to found prominent civil rights organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association of Colored Women, only to be edged out of their leadership.

During the final years of her life, living in Chicago, Wells ran for the Illinois State Senate, but lost abysmally. Despite her ebbing influence, she continued to organize around causes such as mass incarceration, working for several years as a probation officer, until she died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931, at 68.

Wells was threatened physically and rhetorically constantly throughout her career; she was called a harlot and a courtesan for her frankness about interracial sex. After her anti-lynching editorials were published in The Free Speech, she was run out of the South — her newspaper ransacked and her life threatened. But her commitment to chronicling the experience of African-Americans in order to demonstrate their humanity remained unflinching.

“If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service,” she wrote after fleeing Memphis, “Other considerations are minor.”

Correction March 9, 2018

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to voting rights during Reconstruction. Black men were able to vote. Women did not get the right to vote until 1920.

Caitlin Dickerson is a national immigration reporter. More than a century later, she still uses the reporting techniques that were pioneered by Ida B. Wells.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

“Monarchy is only the string that ties the robber’s bundle” - Percy Bysshe Shelley as Another Royal Parasite is Born

We demand the same treatment for the Royal Brat as for Claimants – no State Aid for three or more children

All day the BBC has been full of idiots telling us how happy they are that there is another royal parasite born to the manor.  What pathetic lives they lead if the hereditary rulers of this country giving birth to another royal brat gives them such pleasure. 

This blog demands that no state money be expended on the Cambridge’s new child.

When the detestable Ian Duncan Smith was Secretary of State for Social Security he introduced a rule that if you have 3 or more children you cannot receive benefits for them, thus throwing hundreds of thousands of children into poverty.

We demand that the same principle be introduced for the latest Royal Brat, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridgeshire’s 3rd child.  No money from the state for its upkeep.
One more royal mouth to feed

Abolish the Royal Family — There is no more logic to having a hereditary mathematician than a hereditary ruler

Below is an Article on the Socialist case Against Monarchy

Monarchy in the UK

This year marks Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee. During those 50 years the royal family has tried desperately to maintain its credibility amid scandal and seismic social changes. MANNY THAIN looks at how Britain's monarchy has developed and at its place in the modern world.
BRITAIN IS RULED, at least nominally, by a monarch - Queen Elizabeth II. The royal family is viewed as a purely symbolic state decoration by some, as being completely irrelevant by others, or as a mildly entertaining soap opera centred on a deeply dysfunctional family. It also plays a constitutional role which is generally hidden behind a carefully constructed faade of political neutrality. As the recent funeral of the Queen Mother showed, it is capable of arousing deep feelings of loyalty and support.
The monarchy was actually overthrown during the English revolution. On 4 January 1649, parliament passed a resolution which abolished the House of Lords, confiscated crown, church and royalist land, and set up a commission to try the king, Charles I, who was later executed. In 1660, however, the monarchy was restored with Charles II and has retained an important constitutional role ever since.
The monarchy epitomises conservative values and the status quo. It is a bastion against change. It is the living embodiment of a hierarchical society, reinforcing the notion that there is an established order: people should know their place and accept it.
The monarch dissolves parliament, appoints and dismisses prime ministers, assents to legislation, signs treaties, declares war and appoints judges. These powers are generally exercised by the prime minister under royal prerogative. Using this prerogative, a British prime minister can declare war without a debate in parliament. Margaret Thatcher banned trade unions at the Ministry of Defence 'spy centre' at GCHQ on that basis. Whole areas of secondary legislation are handled by the Privy Council - the members of which are appointed for life - and the 'orders in council', and never come before parliament. MPs swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen not to the people they represent. The monarch meets the prime minister once a week. Britain's peoples are not citizens but subjects.
Public image
THE IMAGE PRESENTED is that the monarchy follows age-old tradition. In reality, 'The Firm' (as its members refer to it) is a very modern construct, dating back to Queen Victoria who ruled from 1837-1901. The death of the Queen Mother on 30 March, aged 101, marked the end of the physical connection between the present House of Windsor (which is itself a fabricated brand name) and Victorian Britain and empire.
Under Hanoverian rule (1714-1836) royalty became increasingly discredited with American independence, the madness of George III and the depravity of George IV. In the face of a strengthening republican mood, Victoria and Albert set about making the institution popular. This was not a straightforward task and it provoked some familiar criticism: "George Bernard Shaw, writing anonymously in the Pall Mall Gazette, complained just before Victoria's half-century celebration: 'Were a gust of wind to blow off our sovereign's head-gear tomorrow, the Queen's bonnet would crowd Bulgaria out of the papers'. And when Victoria visited the East End, the celebration was marred by what Lord Salisbury called 'a horrid noise'. [The] booing was attributed to 'socialists and the worst Irish'." (The Observer, 10 February 2002)
The opening of parliament was reinvented by Edward VII (r1901-10). He introduced the theatrics of Black Rod knocking on doors and the practice of courtiers walking backwards. Queen Elizabeth II, for her part, curtailed last summer's state opening ceremony so she could enjoy a day at the races.
In the past, royalty claimed the divine right to rule. Although that idea had been undermined by the English revolution, it endured far longer than many might have thought possible. Even in 1964 a poll claimed that 30% of the public believed that the monarch was chosen by God! The mystery surrounding the monarchy has been an important component in its history. In 1923 the BBC considered broadcasting the marriage of Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (later, the Queen Mother) to the Duke of York (the future George VI). Courtiers refused on the grounds that the service might be heard 'by men in public houses' with their caps still on. That would never do.
George's elder brother, Edward VIII, was heir to the throne but abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcŽe. That undermined the example the head of the Church of England was expected to uphold. An Independent Labour Party MP moved a motion to replace the monarchy with a republic. It fell by 403 to 5. On 12 May 1937, George VI was crowned. The abdication was a major crisis for the royal family and, even now, official documents on the affair remain under lock and key at the Public Records Office.
Edward VIII was a fascist sympathiser, a friend of Adolf Hitler. That was common among the British ruling class whose biggest threat came from the socialist movement, with the example of the Russian revolution still fresh in the memory. Several of the current Prince Philip's sisters married German aristocrats who backed the Nazis. Philip was a minor Greek royal from a German line but was transformed under the tutelage of the influential Lord Louis Mountbatten, Queen Victoria's great-grandson. He renounced his Greek titles. Out went the Greek Orthodox religion. In came the Church of England. He learned to ride a horse.
Mother of invention
THE OUTBREAK OF the second world war saw George VI and his Consort get their hands dirty, very dirty. They were closely associated with the policy of appeasement with Hitler. The prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, was invited onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace to celebrate his capitulation, in what was described by the court historian, John Grigg, as "the most unconstitutional act by a British sovereign in the present century". (The Guardian, 1 April) In 1939 the foreign secretary's office telegraphed the British ambassador in Berlin to encourage the fascist regime "to check the unauthorised emigration of Jews". The relevant papers to these ignominious episodes also remain secret.
Once Britain was at war with Germany, the myth-making machine went into overdrive. The Queen Consort's visits to the bomb-devastated East End of London became the stuff of legend. Yet her initial visits - in high heels, jewels and expensive clothes - gave people the impression that the royal family was untouched by the war's tragedies. The propaganda took a while to work. Echoing Queen Victoria's experience, Elizabeth was pelted with rubbish and jeered by angry crowds. When Buckingham Palace was bombed in 1940, the Queen Consort, with more than a hint of relief, remarked that she could now look the East End in the face.
Throughout the war the standard flew at Buckingham Palace, denoting the presence of royalty. At night, however, George VI and Elizabeth would travel to the safety of Windsor Castle. The palace implied that they were living off similar rations to everyone else but, of course, they wanted for nothing. The Queen Consort played the long-suffering patriot. When it was suggested that the family should go to Canada, she famously said, "The children could not leave without me, I could not leave without the king, and the king will never leave".
George VI died on 6 February 1952, opening the way for Elizabeth II to take the throne. The title of 'Queen Mother' was created. More familial strife followed as the Queen refused to give consent to the late Princess Margaret marrying divorcŽ Group Captain Peter Townsend. Even then, the issue was mainly one of example rather than constitution. Margaret and any future offspring had very little chance of succeeding to the throne (the Queen already had two children). A Daily Mirror poll showed 95% of people in favour of the marriage. The monarchy showed itself to be hopelessly out of touch.
The end of deference
IN ATTEMPTING TO modernise the monarchy, the royal family opened up to the outside world, at least to a limited extent. "The royals have become a media commodity in a circulation and ratings-driven age". (Financial Times, 7 February) Its decadent, bankrupt and reactionary nature was exposed.
The watershed year was 1992, described in the Queen's inimitable way as her 'annus horribilis'. Few people had any idea what she was talking about. Her use of arcane language reinforced how far removed she is from the real world. Tabloid newspapers had a field day. But it had been a bad year. A fire at Windsor Castle provoked widespread anger when it was revealed that the property was not insured and that The Firm was about to present a repair bill for £40 million to Britain's taxpayers. There was a series of domestic faux pas: photos of a topless Duchess of York with businessman, John Bryan; Princess Anne divorcing and remarrying within six months; and the marriage between heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana was collapsing amid bitter mutual recriminations.
In search of rehabilitation, royals visited pubs and Glaswegian council houses. The royal yacht was decommissioned and the palace travel budget cut from £17.3 million in 1997 to £5.4 million in 2000. A fraction of the Queen's accounts was reluctantly declared and a very small amount of tax was paid, voluntarily.
Social attitudes had shifted significantly and the monarchy was struggling to keep up: "When she left her safari hotel after being told she was queen 50 years ago, journalists respectfully lined the road, but not one took a picture. In 1957 when the journalist John Grigg ventured to suggest her speaking style was a 'pain in the neck' he was assaulted in the street. Now deference is dead. Fergie is the Duchess of Pork, Edward is Prince Plonker and Andrew is pictured with topless models on holiday". (The Guardian, 2 February)
The media attention courted by the royals was undermining the institution's credibility. The low point was the death of the Princess of Wales in 1997 and the royal family's unfeeling reaction. Paradoxically, Princess Diana's death became the focus of anger against the monarchy. The question of its viability was posed starkly. Only the direct intervention of Tony Blair saved the day. His leading spin doctors were deployed to help rebuild the monarchy's crumbling reputation.
The Queen Mother's death exposed generational divisions in Britain. It was a non-event for the vast majority of young people, many of whom have rejected the corrupt establishment politics and institutions. More 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the Pop Idol television poll than in the general election and a Mori poll found that eight out of ten young people have no idea how parliament works. There is no common ground between the right-wing, all-white, privileged House of Windsor and a capital city which is now home to more than 300 language groups (Financial Times, 6 April). Of the 2,500 calls to the BBC on its coverage of the Queen Mother, those who wanted more or who were supportive were outnumbered ten to one.
On the other hand, the Queen Mother's televised 100th birthday celebration in London on 19 July 2000 was seen by seven million people in Britain - nearly half of all viewers that night. An estimated quarter of a million people filed passed her coffin in Westminster Hall and the funeral was watched by 300 million people worldwide. Simon Schama, a historian with the BBC, put forward the thoroughly reactionary view that the ceremony demonstrated the "entirely instinctive emotional bond" between crown and country. Schama is saying that the monarchy, and the class system it upholds, is the 'natural order'. But there is nothing instinctive about the relationship between the royal family and its subjects. It has been systematically cultivated and conditioned, the product of centuries of physical oppression and exploitation by the ruling class.
Plans for the Queen Mother's funeral were drawn up decades ago. Apparently, the original plan was for the biggest state funeral since Winston Churchill's to give the monarchy a shot in the arm. Princess Diana's death five years ago, and the incredible outpourings of emotion at the time, led to the plans being shelved. The monarchy feared organising a massive show with no one turning up. It would never live down being upstaged by the upstart Diana.
Nonetheless, in the ten days between the Queen Mother's death and her burial, a carefully orchestrated campaign was set in motion. For the first time ever, parliament was recalled to commemorate the death of a member of the royal family. It was not recalled during the miners' strike of 1984-85; or when 2,000 British troops were sent to Bosnia in 1992; when the RAF bombed Iraq in February 2001; or during the present crisis in the Middle East. This was despite calls from MPs to debate all these issues. The Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly were also convened. Clearly, a proportion of that audience was drawn by curiosity and tourists helped boost the crowds.
Dwindling support
SUPPORT FOR THE royal family is steadily declining, although it still commands respect from significant, though ageing, sections of the population. In 1990, 75% thought Britain would be worse off without a monarch. In 2000 it was 44%. And an ICM poll in April 2001 showed that 34% believed Britain would be better off without a monarchy. A Mori poll for the royal household found that only one in four people believed the family was hard-working. One in ten considered them good value for money.
Sympathy for the Queen Mother may feed into the Queen's golden jubilee celebrations, bolstering the lacklustre preparations to date and giving the impression of a new-found popularity. Any such effect is likely to be short-lived. The monarchy is an anachronism, totally out of step with life in the 21st century. The Queen Mother's death could, in fact, precipitate further crises as the Queen finds herself directly in the firing line, so to speak.
Anthony Holden, an author on constitutional and royal affairs, commented: "Not since the 1870s has there been such a whiff of republicanism in the air, and the passing of the Queen Mother will do nothing to dispel it. Quite the reverse. For half a century, since the early death of her husband, she has served as a cordon sanitaire around her increasingly dysfunctional family, disarming constitutional criticism as her adoring fans made the age-old mistake of confusing the institution of the monarchy with the transient mortals who happen to be its temporary custodians.
"This handy smokescreen used to be one of the Windsors' hidden strengths; now it may prove their fatal weakness. For most of the Queen Mother's lifetime, the constitutional arguments of abolitionists have all too easily been swatted aside as tasteless criticism of a harmless old lady and her dutiful daughter and grandson". (The Observer, 31 March)
The Queen's golden jubilee celebrations include tours to Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia, with a three-month tour of Britain. There will be classical and 'pop concerts' at Buckingham Palace, thanksgiving at St Paul's cathedral, a carnival in the Mall, beacons across the country and street parties. But The Firm is apprehensive about what these events might reveal about support for the monarchy.
As with the death of Princess Diana, Blair is doing all he can to prop up the royal edifice. His sycophantic speeches hide behind a mask of 'neutral, universal values' and evoke nationalism. Blair said that the Queen Mother "was part of the fabric of our nation and we were immensely proud of her. But respect for her went far beyond Britain. Throughout the Commonwealth and the world, she was greeted with instant affection and acclaim". (The Observer, 31 March) Blair's talk of 'the nation', in this context, is really code for the ruling class and capitalist system. In fact, the Queen Mother, the last Empress of India, was a bigoted reactionary, opposed to the break up of the British empire and an admirer of PW Botha, leader of South Africa's brutal apartheid regime. She implacably defended the interests of the rich against the working class but astutely never voiced her political opinions in public. Her only interview was conducted in 1923.
Royalists have every reason to be concerned. The constitutional crisis in prospect if Prince Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles has set off alarm bells. The heir to the throne and head of the Church of England is a self-confessed adulterer living unmarried with another man's ex-wife. It might not sound such a big deal but this is what royal crises are made of. If the Queen and her advisers try to block the marriage, the House of Windsor could yet again demonstrate how out of step it is with the rest of society.
It is tempting, and relatively easy, to ridicule the pompous attitudes of the British monarchy. Its members betray a peculiar, other-worldly arrogance which suggests they really do believe that they are superior beings: "On one occasion when they [the Earl and Countess of Wessex] walked across St James's Park for lunch, they declared upon arrival that they had travelled by foot to 'give pleasure to the people'." (The Observer, 3 March)
Time for change
MANY PEOPLE WANT royalty scaled down: "Mori polls suggest that 70% of the British people prefer a monarchy to a republic although nearly the same proportion wants it modernised". (Financial Times, 7 February 2002) The 'continental model' is put forward, where the royal family would have a much reduced income and property, and a purely ceremonial role. This does not solve the problem. The House of Windsor is unique in the West for its constitutional role and vast wealth. One of its greatest assets to the capitalist system lies in its potential for rallying reaction. It is a weapon the ruling class keeps in reserve. But even the less extravagant royal families could become a focus for reaction to varying degrees.
With respect for establishment politicians and parties at an all-time low, and with massive social, economic and political upheaval on the horizon internationally, the capitalist ruling class will use any means at its disposal to maintain its power and privileges. Philip Stephens commented: "But at the start of her jubilee year, the Queen knows that the monarchy is weaker, measurably so, than it has been for a long time. The deference and the reverence have gone... the logical absurdity of choosing a head of state by accident of birth also becomes ever more apparent. But, for now at least, contempt for politicians outweighs the misgivings about the Windsors and the obvious flaws of a hereditary system". (Financial Times, 11 January)
The Windsors are a throwback to a far distant time and system. Many states making the transition from feudalism to capitalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries drastically curtailed the privileges and power of their royalty. In Britain the monarchy reinvented itself and retained an unusually important position.
Reform of the British state is long overdue. The monarchy must be abolished, along with that other feudal bastion of privilege, the House of Lords. If, faced with an overwhelming tide of opposition to the monarchy and its trappings, the ruling class judged that this would help ensure the survival of capitalism, they could be reformed out of existence. The monarchy's potential for mobilising support for the system, however, makes it a useful weapon in future battles with a socialist movement and one it would prefer to retain in its arsenal.
Alternatively, the task of removing the monarchy will fall on the shoulders of the socialist revolution. Society would be able to look forward to a future based on human solidarity. The vast majority of working-class people would be involved in planning and running the economy. And there would be no room for this privileged and parasitical elite.
The cost of royalty
DETAILED FIGURES ARE unavailable, but the royal household cost Britain's taxpayers around £35 million in 2001, including £6.5 million for the Queen's expenses. The royal estate comprises 285 houses and apartments. The following information only provides the merest glimpse of the phenomenal wealth in the hands of The Firm. On top of the payments these spongers receive from the government - through us - they are all wealthy landowners raking in profits from agriculture (120,000 hectares), land and property rents, marine assets and all manner of scams. The crown estates made a profit of £147.7 million after tax in 2001.
Queen Elizabeth II has personal wealth estimated at £1.15 billion. The Duchy of Lancaster brings in millions more. Her stamp and medal collections are worth £102 million, her jewels £72 million. She has £7.1 million-worth of cars, and racehorses valued at £3.6 million. Her official residences of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyroodhouse are supplemented by private properties at Balmoral, Sandringham and Frogmore. Buckingham Palace has 600 staff, Windsor Castle 1,000 rooms.
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, gets £379,000 from the civil list.
Charles, the Prince of Wales, has personal wealth estimated at £346 million. He resides at St James's Palace and Highgrove, although he will move into the Queen Mother's old London residence at Clarence House. Workers in Britain will pick up the bill for refurbishment, estimated at £5 million. Clarence House costs £500,000 a year in upkeep. Charles is also the Duke of Cornwall and his land there earned him £7 million in 2000. He paid £1.5 million in tax.
Andrew, the Duke of York, has personal wealth estimated at £3.5 million. He gets £249,000 from the civil list and a Royal Navy pension of £16,500. His residences are at Sunnyhill Park, the Royal Lodge at Windsor and Buckingham Palace.
Edward, the Earl of Wessex, has a personal fortune estimated at £9 million. He lives in a £10 million, 56-room mansion, Bagshot Park, set in 88 acres of woodland. When he and the countess moved in the Ministry of Defence funded £1.8 million repairs. Bagshot costs around £250,000 a year to run. Edward gets £249,000 from the civil list and was given £250,000 when the couple agreed to stop pursuing their business careers.
Anne, the Princess Royal, gets £228,000 from the civil list. Her residences are at Gatcombe Park and St James's Palace.
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have no royal duties. They lived rent-free for the first 18 years they spent in Kensington Palace, where they have the use of nine reception rooms, seven bedrooms and the palace staff. They have just started paying for this accommodation - £67 a week!
The Queen Mother's personal fortune was estimated at £60 million. Her civil list allowance was £643,000. She put £14 million in a trust fund for her great-grandchildren and left a £4 million overdraft with Coutts bank. If she had to pay inheritance tax the overdraft would have been discounted. As it is, however, no tax is due - part of the agreement reached with John Major's government in 1992/93. The one property she had owned herself, the Castle of Mey, was handed over to a trust in 1996. Her paintings and jewels are estimated to be worth £16.5 million.