Queen Elizabeth the second is dead. From every corner of the world, the ruling class is pouring out its grief. The panegyrics to her are not mourning her as a person or her actual deeds, but her status as a ruler and a symbol of unabashed ruling class privilege.
Vladimir Putin, having forced hundreds of thousands of dissidents to his regime out of the Russia and out of their jobs, having stacked up the bodies of tens of thousands of Ukrainians and his own soldiers for his delusion dreams of Russian imperial restoration, was one of the first to send his “deepest condolences” on this “heavy, irreparable loss”.
Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose predilections for dictatorship are well known, declared three days of mourning, saying that the ex-Queen was “an extraordinary and singular woman” whose example “will continue to inspire us and the world forever”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with tears in his eyes, declared that Elizabeth had been “a constant presence” in the lives of Canadians, and sobbed that “she was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so”.
Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton could have been holding hands when they spoke about the “shock” of the loss of the 96-year-old. Peter Dutton in a moment of feverish delirium noted that Elizabeth had “lead the Commonwealth” through the moon landing, global decolonisation, the “barbarity of terrorism” and “the attainment of civil rights”. What Elizabeth supposedly did during any of these events is unclear, but Peter Dutton is sure that “one of humanity’s lights has gone out”. Even the ABC reporting from the streets of Melbourne could not find a single person who was not apparently “shocked” and “saddened” by the news.
This sickening display of solidarity for one of the richest people on the planet, who literally inherited her title, and who wielded little genuine authority or power, seems to be nothing more than a collective delusion or mass hysteria. We are supposed to believe that a person whose entire existence was predicated on being a purely token, empty symbol of the British nation, was somehow “extraordinary” or that there is any way whatsoever that her life of idle luxury can be compared to the vast majority of humanity.
Even now as thousands gather in Britain to sing “God save the Queen” and television and radio throughout the length and breadth of the state tirelessly repeat staid and hackneyed litanies to her exceptional qualities, the majority of households in the UK are facing “fuel poverty” over the coming northern winter. This is due to the declining incomes of working-class people in the UK flowing from Brexit, the global pandemic and inflation, and scarcity of fuel arising from Russia & NATO’s imperialist jockeying. This will only intensify the horror of the annual toll, mostly on the elderly, each winter as people struggle to stay warm. An average of 39,000 people died every year between 2009-2019, surging to over 60,000 in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. You can be sure that not a single member of the royal family in their dozens of residences has felt so much as a chill during their lifetimes.
In reality, there was nothing extraordinary about the ex-Queen at all. Her entire life was an example of the banality of evil, of a person whose personality and agency were absolutely irrelevant to history. While the ex-Queen presided over innumerable symbolic events and as head of state for multiple nations, her entire role and social position – the immense assets of the Crown Estate, valued at over 15 billion pounds, for example – was and will continue to be predicated on the total inactivity of the monarch. The monarchy as an institution is nothing more than a monument to social parasitism, of the concept that immense wealth and privilege belongs to a few due to god-given rights while the majority of us scrape by with whatever we can. As Charlie Kimber has pointed out in the UK Socialist Worker in opposing the union leaders cancellation of planned strikes in Elizabeth’s honour, the real significance of the monarchy was accurately judged by Irish revolutionary socialist James Connolly a century ago. As Connolly said,
“A people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom. The mind accustomed to political kings can easily be reconciled to social kings—capitalist kings of the workshop, the mill, the railway, the ships and the docks.”James Connolly
The tears of Trudeau, Putin, Bolsonaro, Albanese and Dutton, of all the world’s capitalists, are reserved for this relic of feudalism and modern symbol of servility. But they are hard as stone when they hear the workers in the streets demanding the right not to live in cold and hunger, the right to the wealth that they have created. Working class people should hold the ruling class, and their foremost representative, old Queen Lizzie, in the same regard as our rulers hold us.