Why I’ll be having a good ol’ royal wedding knees up
I’ll be at a royal wedding celebration on Friday. I’ve been invited to one up the road, and I’m already saving up for some lager.
Given the manner in which I have disappointed comrades in the last few months with my political pragmatism/betrayal of socialist principles (delete as appropriate), this may come as no surprise.
As for justification of my newly revealed royalist tendencies, I can do little better than add a few thoughts to Simon’s excellently balanced post at Latte Labour on why he’ll be protesting against the royal wedding. Simon makes excellent points for and against protesting, but I think his final judgment is wrong.
Of course I’m not a supporter of the monarchy. Given a free vote in a referendum I’d certainly vote for abolition. But the creation of a republic is not top of my political agenda. The same applies, clearly, to Julia Gillard.
In the case of the royal wedding, any argument about the extent to which a continued existence of the monarchy is or isn’t damaging to British (or perhaps more pertinently, Commonwealth) democracy is much less important than the question of why and people are actually having street parties.
Talking to people about what’s being planned locally round my way, it has become fairly clear that the parties are not the same as the ones that were held in 1981. The early 1980s reverence for royalty has largely gone, and been replaced by a knowing irony about it all, fused with a celebrity age inquistiveness about the two ‘hot’ celebrities of the moment.
The key reason my friends are having a party is because they’ve got an umexpected day off, and they like barbecques with beer when you don’t have to go to work next day. The royal wedding is a good excuse for this, a bit like the state-sponsored promotion of catholic burning is a good excuse to get together every November.
I think for lefties to protest about the royal wedding, while it is justifiable in one set of political/constitutional terms, risks more than ’looking like an arsehole’, to use Simon’s eloquent terms.
It also risks looking patronising towards a whole section of the population. because it appears to assume that ordinary people up and down the country are being successfully subjected (geddit?) to a narrative of continued subservience to their betters, whereas in fact those ordinary people are actually pretty clued into what’s going on.
This doesn’t mean, I hasten to add, that the same principle of ‘listen to where the working class because they are right’ should always apply to the Left.
When I get round to it, I’ll be writing at length about Blue Labour and imimigration, and in this context I’ll argue quite happily and unashamedly about rightwing hegemony and the need for ‘conscientization’ (while also taking on board Lenin’s useful recent piece on Blue Labour’s deliberate contortion of what the working class actually thinks about immigration).
Yes, there are conceptual difficulties here associated with the notion of a leftwing vanguard imposing a consciousness from above, but these difficulties are worth tackling when it comes to tackling what may be a dangerous new rise of nationalism within the so-called labour movement.
But these are not difficulties that it’s worth tackling when it comes to the royal wedding.
Better, I contend, to give credit where credit is due, accept that in general people know pretty well how the monarchy sits in the 21st century – an odd but increasingly Hello-friendly anachronism which over the next generation may well be reduced in scale and constitutional importance through a process of ‘attrition-by-fading-celebrity-lustre’. A bit like Kerry Katona, but with less burgers.
Better, ultimately, to have regard to Owen’s earnest exhortations for lefties to have a laugh at times, over and above Simon’s earnest advice on the need for slightly reluctant bolshiness, and get down the Co-op for some lager before it runs out.