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Issue #1552      20 June 2012

Culture & Life

British royalty and Russian foreign policy

You probably noticed how our local monarchists were cock-a-hoop over the public reaction to the Queen’s “jubilee”. I saw one newspaper headline proclaiming jubilantly that it actually signalled a “boost” in monarchism in this country!

In Australia? In egalitarian Australia, where calls by the wealthy of an earlier generation for the creation of noble titles for privileged Australians were justifiably lampooned as attempts to create a “bunyip aristocracy”.

Just how backward do you have to be to be a monarchist anyway? To regard someone as being innately superior to you not because of any outstanding act of theirs but simply by virtue of their birth? To set up a small extremely privileged group who live in luxury at public expense, and then to kow-tow to them, doff your cap in their presence, bend your knee and tug your forelock, because they are your “betters”?

The struggle against these parasites has been going on for centuries, and has cost the lives of innumerable good and brave people, people who refused to abase themselves before “aristocrats” who rejected the idea that all people have equal rights and instead believed their special privileges to be theirs by “right”.

Their medieval notion of a social system would have been universally swept away in the wave of enlightenment and revolution that began with the French Revolution and reached its zenith with the Russian Revolution, but for one thing: the ruling class had (and still has) a use for such parasites.

Retaining them and surrounding them with pomp and ceremonial splendour is as good a distraction for the despised masses as the sexual antics of film stars – and has more shelf-life, too. When the capitalist class were in the process of asserting their power against the remnants of medieval rule, they often utilised popular sentiment against the “nobility” to overthrow their class rivals. Once that end was achieved, however, they quickly realised what a useful ally a compliant landed gentry could be.

So long as everyone that mattered understood who really ran the country, the capitalists were content to permit the gentry to continue to behave as though they were the top people, and the gentry in return handed out titles to the capitalists so that they too could enjoy the perks of being “noble”.

So useful has this been for the ruling class, that in some countries where the people had kicked out their local parasites, the ruling class has reinstated the monarchy as a handy way of heading off “leftist tendencies”, as in Spain after Franco, for example.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Queen Victoria and her assorted Royal hangers-on were not held in high esteem by all her British “subjects”. When her carriage rolled through the poorer parts of London, children ran after it throwing rocks and shouting ribald ditties about her relationship with “Mr Brown”, her Scottish manservant. It took several decades of mass media propaganda, imperial expansion and a world war to boost the image of Royalty to the position it now enjoys in Britain.

In fact, today the “Royal Family” is a hugely profitable enterprise. Among themselves they aptly and succinctly refer to it as “the Firm”, and they go to some pains to ensure that it remains viable and profitable. Given their usefulness to the ruling class, it is not surprising that the bourgeois state (as well as the Murdoch press) is placed at the service of maintaining their image and their security. From the point of view of the capitalist establishment, it is money well spent, even if it does mean retaining and sustaining an anachronistic hangover from the Middle Ages.

One can only wonder at what psychological problems must afflict relatively young people of today who reject notions of equality in favour of “oohing” and “ahhing” over people of no great distinction who are proclaimed to be royal. It is a testament to the ruling class’ mastery of the mass media that being a royal parasite today is so often seen as an accolade and not an insult.

Before anyone despairs at this state of affairs, however, we should remember that at the beginning of the 20th century the Tsar of Russia and the Emperor of China were both held in near-godlike status in their respective countries. And yet, to general amazement, within 20 years both were decisively dethroned.

Incidentally, while on the subject of Russia, Radio Havana commented last month on the return of Vladimir Putin to the Presidential office in the Kremlin, asking where are the greatest challenges facing him? According to Radio Havana, “the great task to fulfil is in the international arena, that is, namely the role of Russia in a world under the current complex situation.

On this point let us note two fundamental elements: first, Russian foreign policy is the President’s responsibility and second, the election of Putin was not good news for the core of Western powers in the United States and Europe. He was the man who re-made Russia into a great power in the international arena, a nation based on its own interests often contrary to the interests of Washington and Brussels.”

This antagonism on the part of the Western powers is reflected in the strident coverage given in British, US and Australian media to anti-Putin demonstrations (no matter how small) in Moscow.

Radio Havana, in hypothesising on Putin’s possible strategies to deal with these challenges, concluded: “Russia will continue to strengthen ties with the BRICS group, as the quintet comprising Brazil, Russia itself, India, China and South Africa, bringing together the fastest growing emerging economies that have achieved economic development of each of its members separately, while generating a force capable of creating new centres of power outside American hegemony.

“It will be vital for Russia to continue strengthening its relationship with China, where Russia hopes to achieve its required modern infrastructure and access to new technologies.

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