From royal weddings to republics and revolution

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Van T Rudd, mural, Prince Harry and Meghan ready for the big day, on St Georges Road, Preston, Australia, 19 May 2018 (Image via

The royal wedding was sugar-coated propaganda designed to prop up the ruling class at the expense of the masses, writes John Passant.

OK, put your hands up if you watched it. Go on, don’t be shy. Let the world know.

Now, to be fair, the game itself wasn’t as bad as I feared. As a long-time Collingwood supporter, I thought they played well. And I switched over to the rugby league, my first love, to watch Manly against the Storm when it came on.

Oh, did you think I meant the wedding of Harry and Meghan? It just shows how dominant their wedding has been in the media in Australia that I only had to refer to it as an "it" and many of you assumed their wedding was what I meant.

Yet most Australians were uninterested in the event.

Here’s what an ABC Radio News straw poll found:

Will this weekend's Royal Wedding take the TV crown as the most popular ever?

what... there's another Royal Wedding?






hard to top Charles and Diana's union in 1981



However, it is consistent with results of a YouGov poll which showed that two-thirds of Britons were not interested in the royal wedding.  On this basis I think we can safely assume the figure in Australia is higher.

Yet other than Channel 10, all the major free to air TV stations in Australia, including the publicly funded SBS and "our" ABC, covered the wedding. They abandoned the restrained toadyism they normally reserve for our conservative politicians. Instead they unleashed unrestrained fawning in great gushes of garbage and titanic tales of tittle tattle. Why did the media indulge in this orgy of oligarchical onanism and why do some of us, including workers, seemingly love it?

Australia is far removed from the UK geographically. Ah, but it was the British who set up the police state here in 1788. That police state was established and grew on the back of the genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into a thriving capitalist system by the mid-1800s, bolstered by gold, wool and wheat, all dependent on stealing land to begin.

Like many colonial settler states, the Australian ruling class owed its existence and survival to the British ruling class — and, of course, to the workers in Australia producing the profits they lived on. It is one of the reasons why the vast majority of that class for about 160 years of its existence regarded itself as British.

This began to change with the decline of the British Empire and the rise of a new dominant imperialist power after World War II, the United States. Australia saw its imperialist interests best defended by closer ties with America. On top of this, over time, Britain turned to Europe and Australia turned to free trade.

This made ties for our ruling class with the UK less and less a priority. However, as Marx argues, ‘the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living’. Our Constitutional and Parliamentary institutions reflect that nightmare, where the past is the present, but is divorced from the lived reality for most workers and bosses in Australia.

In the UK, royalty is a key institution of capitalism. It inspires millions there because they can escape from the reality of their alienation — at least momentarily. It inspires millions to imagine themselves as Meghan or Harry. The reality however remains. So it was that homeless people were removed from the streets of Windsor to ensure they did not upset "the optics".

As the UK disappeared as a protector of Australia’s own imperialist interests, new homegrown symbols of the glue that binds arose. Australia Day became a rabid nationalist celebration, ignoring and attempting to hide the reality of our brutal history of genocide.  

ANZAC Day became another key element in the celebration of Australian nationalism. It hides the reality of war and prepares the next generation to fight for Australian capitalism.  Like royalty in the UK, all this jingoistic propaganda is aimed at hiding capitalist reality — the reality of poverty, exploitation, inequality, war and inadequate public services.

Many capitalist republics are built on struggle and revolution. France, the U.S., India, the East European countries throwing off their state capitalist rulers, all show that it is only when the ordinary people enter onto the stage of history that genuine republics can be founded.  Even then, as the U.S. and French revolutions show us, the ruling class, over time, subverts the popular will to ensure their rule is not threatened by democracy from below.

In 1649, the developing British capitalist class overthrew the rule of the landed gentry and executed their King. The return of the royalty, after some further battles, developed a compromise that enabled capitalism to develop and expand. Part of that compromise is the constitutional monarchy that Britain – and Australia – has today.

In Australia, the royals are not a key institution of our day to day capitalism, other than indirectly through constitutional and parliamentary arrangements. Royalty is an add on for us. Sensible sections of the ruling class wanted to dump the monarchy as part of capitalist symbolism and replace it with an easy to manage Australian head of state who, as a figurehead, they hoped would resonate more with workers.

The John Howard inspired referendum on a republic in 1999 reflected the battle between the traditionalist section of the ruling class, of which Howard – a very successful scheming bastard – was and is a member, and the more "modern" section. This modern section understands the importance of symbolism and the fact that royalty is not a good glue to bind Australian workers to their bosses. However, they feared what working class Australians wanted — more democracy. As a result, their timid, conservative republican model failed at the 1999 referendum.

Real change and empowerment comes through struggle, not ticking a box on a referendum question or ballot box. A republic for the likes of those who run the banks won’t address poverty, inequality or warmongering. In the class struggle for better wages, for jobs, for better spending on health and education, we can build the momentum for a republic that reflects our interests.

Ultimately, we can only abolish the monarchy, or its republican cousin, as expressions of the capitalist system that exploits us and as smokescreens for its reality, if we abolish the system that gives rise to them. 

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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