A King is to be crowned
In the presence of our Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Premiers of the five dominions of “our” mighty Empire, arid the assembled monarchs of many lands, and the Lord God of Israel and the Stock Exchange himself.
The Crown, and the Sceptre, and the Sword of State, and the Cap of Maintenance, and the Rod with the Dove, and the Monkey on the Stick, and all the other symbolical insignia and regalia which have come downto us from barbarism, along with ye Ancient Order of Foresters and ye game of skittles, are to be brought from their dungeon in the Tower (where they have rivalled a pawnbroker’s window) and taken to the House of God at Westminster, there to be used in the great ceremony.
And there, before a vast concourse of gentlemen who have won the same distinction in the divorce court that their forefathers gained in piratical, slave-hunting, and other plundering forays of the past, and of high born dames whose “Sir Joshua Reynolds” peach-bloom cheeks are veritable triumphs of the house-decorator’s art, and other high-born dames whose ancient lineage goes back to the mighty Pork Kings of Chicago, one George Wettin, a most cosmopolitan British gentleman, will swear great oaths to be faithful to certain hoary superstitions, and to uphold certain important and worthy institutions, and to lay hold of eternal life, and to do it all for the dirt-cheap, upset-competition price of a million a year or nearest offer.
And then another gentleman, who makes a point of doing the job in his nightshirt, scabs on and scandalises every tiddle-wig in the Kingdom by giving the said G. Wettin a dry shampoo with consecrated hair oil, in the full blaze of the public eye, and to the evident perturbation of the Unicorn, who claims affinity with the barbers by virtue of the pole sticking out of his forehead.
What does it all mean; the Crown, and the Orb, and the Sceptre and the Sword of State, and the Cap of Maintenance, and the rest of the jewelled symbols?
What does it mean: the swelling Anthem, the mumbled prayer, the intoned exhortation, the anointing with oil, the Crowning and Enthronisation?
What does it mean: the barbaric pomp and splendour, the lavish display of wealth, the clank of arms and armour and the jingle of spurs, the foregathering from the ends of the earth of the Empire’s rulers?
What does it mean: the flaunting flags, the streets lined with police and military, the hoarse acclamation of pallid millions whose rags flutter a significant reply to the bunting overhead, the bestowing of a meal upon thousands of little children whom hunger makes glad to accept even such a trifle from hands so heavy-laden with wealth that they cannot feel the weight of the charitable grains they scatter?
We are told that these gaudy jewels, this “impressive service”, are full of symbolism and historic significance. They are indeed. To the worker who will think it is very obvious that the Crown and the Sceptre and the rest are the symbols of ruling power. But who it is that rules, and who it is that are ruled, are matters less generally understood.
It is commonly believed that “royal” power is the attribute of the monarch of a constitutional country, but nothing could be farther from the truth. That question our capitalist masters in this country fought out many years ago. They have left the King his name and his robes, his Crown and his palaces, but they have stripped him of every vestige of power. The “Crown” is not the King, in any capacity, but the capitalist State. The King’s Speech to Parliament is written by his Ministers, even the prerogative of mercy is not the King’s, but belongs to the capitalist Cabinet.
The subservience of the royalty of capitalist countries to their capitalist paymasters is shown in such acts as that of the present King’s father (then Prince of Wales) in publicly associating himself, at the time of the “trial” of the Jameson raiders, with Cecil Rhodes, the arch-fiend in that disgusting business, who was even then busy engineering the war which was to give the cosmopolitan mine-owners £4,000,000 a year in extra profits, at the cost of so many thousands of workingmen’s lives.
Even the swearing to uphold the institutions of capitalism is all bunkum and make-believe, There is today, in this country at all events, no institution of capitalism that the capitalists themselves are not fully able to maintain, or that they trust to other hands than their own. Why, this man whom they swear to uphold the very walls of capitalism, they do not trust even with the command of one of the fleets of his own (!) navy, for fear he might be in a position to dictate terms to them, or act detrimentally to their interests.
The King as such is a nonentity, a dummy, a convenient cloak behind which the capitalist class carry on their operations of robbing the workers of the fruits of their toil. As a private individual, the landlord of vast estates, George Wettin may make himself feared, but no one trembles at his royal word, or quakes at the thunder of his anointed brow. If the great ones of the capitalist world bow and scrape before him, it is only because he is the incarnation of capitalism, the symbol of the domination of a class of parasites and thieves, the image of themselves triumphant. They know that while the workers will flock in millions to cheer this straw man of theirs, dragged through the streets like a fifth of November guy, they and their plunder are safe. Hence they set the example of deification, knowing well they will be followed by their sheep.
The aim of the master class is to keep the workers ignorant, for an ignorant subject class, not knowing how to act in their own interests, can be more easily and inexpensively kept in subjection than an educated one. In fostering this ignorance the first thing to be done is to preserve the inertia of the mind – the tendency of the mind to run in an unchanging direction.
The capitalists know, as well as we do, that it is changing environment that causes the alteration in the mental outlook of the people. Their great endeavour, therefore, is to oppose to that ceaseless evolution in the world about them, over which they have no control, counteracting conditions and influences. Hence they cling with the tenacity of desperation, to the empty husks and decaying forms of the past.
This can be seen in every dominant interest, since every interest, when it has become dominant, becomes conservative and reactionary. It explains why the Catholic Church clings so frantically to its out-of-date forms, why the Anglican and other Churches set their faces so relentlessly against innovation, and why capitalist countries would rather convert their monarchies to their own ends than abolish them.
A king, in the popular mind, rules by divine sanction and in accordance with grey and hoary custom – as the Archbishop will remind the world at the great shampooing in the words: “Be thou anointed with holy oil, as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. And as Solomon was appointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be you anointed, blessed and consecrated king over this people, whom the Lord thy God has given you to govern.”
The capitalists, on the other hand, have no ancient usage behind them, no special appointment from heaven. Unless they can disguise the fact of their dominance, they are clearly seen to rule by might alone – a perpetual challenge to might. A ruling class which has to confess that it rules because it possesses the means of life, already has one foot in the grave, for it holds a lamp to the line of class cleavage that all men may see.
This is the real use of monarchs in capitalist States. Behind the person of the King the capitalists can hide the fact that it is they in reality who rule. By parading their kings before the workers at every possible opportunity, and with every circumstance of pomp and display that their ingenuity can invent, by investing them with divine right and something of divinity itself, the capitalists awaken and stimulate and nurture that spirit of reverence which is so deadly an enemy to the growth of revolutionary ideas, and so detract attention from themselves.
As it is to the interest of the capitalist class to represent that they, together with the working class, are subservient to a greater power, and to set the example of loyalty to their king, it becomes the imperative duty of Socialists to strip the sham of all its disguising tinsel, and to expose the grim, sordid, unromantic, iron form of tyrant Capital beneath it all. No kingly power exists today in Western Europe. Everywhere the owners of the means of production have either bent the monarchy to their will or broken it. Power lies alone with the class of property-owners. They rule who “buzz” us to the check-board at dawn, who tell us we are “sacked” at dusk; they rule who grind our faces on the factory mill-stones; and rob us at the pay-box; they rule who lock us out of the workshops and quarries and mines, in order to convince us by starvation that their view of the value of our labour is correct; they rule who make mockery of their own laws, and bury our poor fellows alive in blazing coal seams in the bowels of the earth. They rule who own.
Clear your minds, fellow workers, of any idea that these Prime Ministers of the Dominions of the Empire have gathered together to render homage to the house of Hanover. They come to celebrate the dominion of their class and to take steps in conference assembled, to ensure the continued crucifixion of Labour. The whole of this inglorious show, indeed, is subordinate to this object. It is not an effort to solidify and make more stable the monarchy, but to blind the workers to their true position, and make capitalist domination more secure.
It is for this reason that the impudent thieves mock your poverty by flaunting in your faces the wealth they have stolen from you. They wish you to believe that you are sharers in the stupendous opulence all their efforts could not hide from your vision. The late Lord Salisbury, wise in his generation, once cynically said that what the working class wanted was not education but a circus. They are giving us a circus, in order to make our minds less receptive of education.
Fellow workers, there is but one meaning attaching to class rule, and that is class plunder. No man wishes to rule over another except to plunder him. Consider whence comes all this wealth and luxury which is to riot before your weary eyes? Is there one jot or tittle of it that you have not made? You, the workers of the world are the true Atlas. You carry the world upon your shoulders. Your strong arms sow, and reap, and gather the harvest of the field, your stout hearts face the terrors of the mine and battle with the dangers of the deep; your virile brains conquer natural forces, and turn the tyrants of the Cosmic System into agents of wealth production. And what is your portion of it all?
This question is answered by the ranks of armed men who press your serried masses into the gutters, by the gaudy regimental banners whose last glorious inscriptions are “Belfast” and “Tonypandy”, by the proposal to compel you to pay to ensure that you shall have 6s. a week to keep wife and family on when you are unemployed.
As long as you are ruled starvation will be your lot, for those who rule over you can always plunder you and always will. You are ruled, not by kings, but by those who possess the land, mines, factories, machinery, railways, and other means of production and distribution, and just because they possess those things. Since you are denied access to those things all the doors of life are shut against you except that of the labour market. You must become wage slaves – must sell your energies to those who own the productive forces. This means that goods are produced for profit, and that profit, that wealth you produce but which is taken away from you, goes to glut the market and to throw you out of work, so that you and your children starve when the warehouses are fullest.
The remedy for all this is to take these means of production and distribution away from their present owners and make them the property of the whole community. Bread will then be produced to feed people, not for profit, and clothes to clothe them, and houses to shelter them. All able-bodied adults will take part in the necessary social labour, and all will partake freely of the wealth produced.
To do this the workers must first study Socialism and organise to capture political power, in order that the political machinery may be used to end for ever the class domination which political power alone upholds.
A. E. Jacomb
Reprinted from the "Socialist Standard," June, 1911.