Statement by the Communist Party of Britain Executive Committee
September 18, 2022
A change of head of state without a single vote being cast is an ideal opportunity to begin a debate not only on the left and in the labour movement, but also among the wider public, on Britain’s constitutional arrangements.
Can we really be satisfied that two of the three major pillars of the political power structure alongside the Westminster Parliament are unelected, namely, the head of state and the House of Lords?
It’s long past the time to complete the democratic revolution that began in the 1640s and was reversed by the 1688 counter-revolution, which consolidated the restoration of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the established Church of England.
In particular, royalty continues to be used to mask the realities of an economic and social system based on the exploitation and oppression of one class by another and to whitewash Britain’s bloody imperial legacy.
Around the world, wars of conquest, occupation and plunder have been carried out in the name of the British crown. Today, the legacy of British imperialism includes the crown territories, some of which today are among the biggest tax havens where the super-wealthy of Britain and other major capitalist countries conceal the vast proceeds of their comercial and criminal activities.
Another legacy is the division of Ireland, where loyalty to the British crown is used as a toxic weapon to impede reunification of the island in a 32-county republic.
At home, the monarchy has been cynically deployed to promote jingoism, militarism, imperialism and a bogus “national unity” and to undermine working-class and popular resistance to ruling-class policies.
In particular, events since the death of Elizabeth Windsor have confirmed the extremely close ties between the royal family and Britain’s armed forces, which allow no mention of the war crimes and gross abuses of human rights that have taken place during her reign from Cyprus, Kenya and Aden to Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although democratic advances have been made in terms of universal suffrage, the establishment of Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and decolonisation in the former empire, the peoples of Britain and the misnamed Commonwealth still do not exercise real sovereignty over the economic, social, political and cultural forces that dominate our societies.
What civil, political and trade union rights we have were won by mass popular and class struggle — never willingly granted by the ruling class and the monarchy.
In England, Scotland and Wales, many of these rights now face a fresh threat from the new Tory government headed by Liz Truss. As much of the capitalist world slides towards recession and capitalist markets increasingly fail to secure economic and environmental security, social justice and peaceful development, the British ruling class is preparing a new offensive against working people’s living standards, trade union and employment rights and the vital democratic freedoms to dissent and protest.
This offensive will be promoted by the same mainstream media that have done so much to promote the myths of monarchy, including the fawning, one-sided and historically revisionist coverage of the death and replacement of a monarch.
Only the most steadfast and united resistance can meet the challenge of the coming offensive from big business and its government. But as harsh reality reasserts itself, the pro-monarchy hysteria fades and resistance grows, the opportunity must also be seized to raise important constitutional questions.
The current leadership of the Labour Party, wrapping itself in the Union Jack, is unwilling to undertake any of these vital tasks.
For its part, therefore, the Communist Party will work with left and progressive allies to make the case for an elected head of state; nationalisation of the crown estate and its use for the public good; abolition of the House of Lords; a federal system in Britain with substantial economic and financial powers and resources for Scottish, Welsh, English Parliaments, regional assemblies and local government; and a voting system that produces proportional representation in the parliaments and assemblies, preferably by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies.
The Communist Party also welcomes the decision by the people and parliament of Barbados to leave the Commonwealth and become a republic.
We look forward to the forthcoming decision of the people of Jamaica and other members of the Commonwealth to depose the unelected monarch as their head of state and to assert their national sovereignty and independence.
These overdue constitutional changes should be an inspiration to the peoples of Britain. Until Britain’s constitutional arrangements are radically democratised, they will be used to protect the wealth and power of the few against the interests and demands of the many.