There are still Bastilles to storm

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 12, 2022

The death of Elizabeth II has put all other news in the shade. Television channels, newspapers, political leaders, all kinds of artists and experts are all trying to outdo one another in worldwide homage. 230 years after the French revolution, the abolition of monarchy and its privileges, here we are again being ordered to show interest, respect and admiration for the British crown.

For many of us, this royal performance sparks thoughts of a new revolution. Let’s hope those thoughts are contagious!

The United Kingdom has decreed a national mourning period of ten days. Social life is on hold. Shows and football matches have been cancelled. The populace is called upon to salute the funeral convoy as it crosses the country.

British workers are in a power struggle to have wages keep up with skyrocketing prices but the union leaders have cancelled the strikes planned for this week. Workers are being crushed by staggering bills for gas and electricity but are supposed to attend and pay homage to the queen!

That’s what the British monarchy does best: intoxicating people with stories about princesses and kings so that they don’t deal with their real problems! Exalting chauvinism and respect for tradition so that social order prevails with its injustice, its inequality and its intrinsic horrors.

For 70 years, Elizabeth II embodied the British empire. Across the globe, she ruled over millions of men and women who were exploited, oppressed and even slaughtered during colonial revolts against British rule. It wasn’t the queen’s fault? Yes it was! She was the moral guarantee for it to happen and to be perpetuated. Even if she was no more than window dressing, she helped to make the oppressed accept their position.

We’ve heard “The queen embodied national unity”. Yes, unity in which the common people must kneel when the crowned rich go by! Unity in which some live like parasites off others! Unity in which the hairdresser, the postal worker, the temp have to honor those who transmit title, glory, property and millions from generation to generation. Is there any member of the royal family who knows the price of a loaf of bread or how much gas costs? It’s unlikely!

British republicans criticize the cost to taxpayers of the monarchy. But since the monarchy has become a tourist attraction, much like the Eiffel Tower, it supposedly brings in more money than it costs…

In actual fact, the royal house of Windsor lives mostly off its capital interests: more than 440,000 acres of arable land, shopping malls, offices… And it’s a business that brings in tens of millions in revenue every year. The royal family is above all a very big capitalist family, at the head of a well-run company with added pomp and circumstance, hats and sideshows.

However nauseating it may be, the flood of reactionary homage shouldn’t cause us to forget who the real kings are today: the bourgeois dynasties. They don’t spend their time having their photo taken in front of country houses from a bygone age. They run holding companies and conglomerates and rule over luxury goods and car manufacturing, banking, armaments, pharmaceuticals…and they are the sovereigns who must be dethroned.

In 1789, the bourgeoisie used the revolt of the common people in town and country to establish their own domination. But the revolution was carried out by the masses that had been oppressed and silenced for centuries. At the time, the common people wanted to understand where their money went, and why and for whom they had to work so hard. They wanted to know why they had to pay 100 times the price of salt and why they couldn’t afford to buy bread. They demanded that those responsible be held to account.

Today, we too must find the strength to hold those responsible to account. This time, it won’t be the nobility or the feudal lords but the major capitalists. What happens to the fruit of our labor? Why are prices skyrocketing? Why are profits so high and wages so low?

In capitalist society, another revolution is a logical step: the oppression and sacrifices capitalism imposes on workers and the chaos that it creates are unbearable. This new revolution will arise, as revolutions always do, from the lower rungs on the ladder, from all those who are exploited, put under pressure, excluded from production. And this time, it must be led by the workers.

Nathalie Arthaud