According to the Roman poet Juvenal, the ancient Roman emperors aimed to placate their subjects with “bread and circuses”. It would seem that the capitalist class in Britain is hoping for a similar effect with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Except that, with the growing cost-of-living crisis, falling pay and soaring food and fuel bills, they seem to have forgotten the bread!
No one would turn down an extra bank holiday. Many workers will be looking forward to a long weekend, spending a bit of extra time relaxing with family and friends. That is, those of us who work for employers who acknowledge the existence of bank holidays – a rarer and rarer occurrence these days.
But celebrate the Jubilee? What’s to celebrate? We’re struggling with falling wages and soaring bills. We’ve battled through Covid and now are being expected to pay the price of economic crisis.
People are fed up and angry. We see war and poverty. We see Tory lies, sleaze, tax avoidance and increasing riches for a tiny few. While we struggle to get by, millions are being lavished on this four-day extravaganza of pageants and parties to ‘celebrate’ a particularly rich family.
The Queen retains popularity with a layer of older workers in particular. And quite a lot of people probably think this jamboree is harmless, even if they don’t support it.
But there is actually a serious aspect to this Jubilee weekend. The monarchy is more than just an expensive sideshow. It serves a useful purpose for the capitalists, engendering a sense of nationhood that can help to paper over the gaping class divide.
What’s more, it holds powers in reserve that can be used by the bosses when all else fails to defend the interests of capitalism. The monarchy can dissolve governments, call elections and even declare martial law. These powers were used when the Queen’s representative in Australia removed the elected Labour prime minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
That’s why the Socialist Party stands for the abolition of the monarchy, and it’s also why the capitalist class puts a lot of effort into trying to maintain social support for them.
As popular support for the institutions of capitalism has fallen following years of austerity and impoverishment, support for the royal family has remained fairly constant, for the Queen especially. But the events of recent years have substantially undermined that support. Most notably Prince Harry and Meghan’s public falling out with the royal family, and the horrible sex scandals around Prince Andrew.
The Queen has been the most popular royal for a long time. She has appeared to sit dignified atop the wayward behaviour of the generations below her. But there’s no getting away from the fact that her 70th anniversary means that stability is coming to an end.
The bosses, the rich and the Tories might hope this Jubilee weekend will burnish the royal family. But really they know that no amount of money spent this weekend will stave off the huge anger among working-class, young, and many middle-class people at the crisis they face.
So enjoy the weekend off, if you get one. Use it to recharge your batteries ready for the national trade union demo two weeks later. Or join one of our many campaign stalls around the country, fighting for the rich to pay for the crisis, not the working class.
Instead of a street party – try joining the Socialist Party!
In 1952, when the Queen was crowned, Britons lived under a regime of rationing. 70 years later, surely things have improved?
Well, the price of a pint of Guinness has gone up from sixpence, to £4.21 – had the rise been in line with inflation it would have been just £1.40, according to the Financial Times. Inflation adjusted, an average home would be just £42,310 – six times cheaper than today. And NHS prescription costs should have risen to £1.12, instead prescription charges now stand at £9.35!
So what has changed? Wealth inequality has grown further.
Want to work for the Queen?
To work in ‘hospitality’ at Buckingham Palace you can earn a “competitive” £7.97 an hour, with accommodation – £1.53 below the minimum wage, according to a job ad shared by Unite Hospitality.