The Republicans' Jubilee

Submitted by AWL on 28 June, 2002 - 11:56

From the Bedfordshire Socialist Alliance Democratic and Republican Platform

The Democratic and Republican Platform took the initiative to organise a "Republican Jubilee" party in Luton's People's Park on 4 June to promote the Socialist Alliance. An estimated thousand people participated in the various events over the course of the day. There were political stalls, a sound system, games such as football and rounders, a bouncy castle, a raffle and a mini-referendum on the monarchy.
We also had three relatively brief republican socialist speeches from Martin Thomas (Alliance for Workers' Liberty), Terry Liddle (Revolutionary Democratic Group) and Tony Purdue (Socialist Workers Party and SA candidate in the forthcoming council by-election).

Leaflets were given out about a public meeting on the monarchy on 26 June.

The activity of the BSA reminds us that we need to fight against the monarchy, and no better or more important time to do that than during the biggest monarchist event for 25 years. Nobody thinks that dancing in the park will abolish the monarchy. But putting up resistance, rather than capitulating to national royalist euphoria, is the starting point.

There was a possibility of our Republican Jubilee being cancelled. It had been given the go-ahead by the local authority, but when the local press started asking questions, some differences appeared within the council over whether it ought to be allowed. We made it clear we would resist any attempt to ban the event. After considerable hesitation the council confirmed its permission.

The consequence was that for the very first time the Socialist Alliance became front page news in the local paper. Indeed the BSA got national publicity when the story was picked up by the Guardian and we got an interview on BBC local radio.

The monarchy is a sensitive issue which goes to the heart of what the UK is and how we are governed. When you challenge that, it creates controversy, polarises opinion, produces divisions at the top - not least within the Labour Party - and becomes very newsworthy. The left does not understand this and therefore seems incapable of exploiting it.

The fact that the BSA got national publicity shows how weak the SA There should have been a national SA event or political rally involving the whole left. This was proposed by the RDG at last year's 1 December SA conference and taken up on the SA executive by the CPGB. The failure of the SA to mount a national challenge to this political and ideological offensive of the ruling class shows how weak the SA is. Challenging the Labour Government and challenging the national obsession of monarchy-worship are not separate campaigns, but part of one struggle for democracy. The SA's here is another expression of the fact that it does not have the politics to challenge Labour.

The Democratic and Republican platform made considerable political capital for the BSA out of the jubilee, despite our very limited resources and the almost total indifference of SWP members in the local alliance. They made no financial, political or physical contribution to building the event. But they did turn up to sell papers on the day!

The Jubilee events prove the republican perspective of the RDG, CPGB and AWL nationally and correctness of setting up the Democratic and Republican Platform within the BSA. The platform is part of the BSA.

But without the platform, the BSA independents would have followed the SWP line - ignore the monarchy and hope it will go away. But the indies rallied around and the SWP showed themselves to be more like the royalist rearguard than the republican vanguard. We clearly need the platform to become national.

How much more would have been achieved, had the event taken place in the context of a serious national political campaign? Despite Marcus Ström's [CPGB's] heroic attempts to stimulate a national campaign, the truth is that there wasn't one. If the royalists can mobilise a million, how many can republicans mobilise? A few thousand?

The monarchists have done well. Now there is surely a challenge to the SA and the working class movement to do even better. We need a national republican demonstration and the mobilisation of the working class and the trade union movement behind democratic and republican slogans. But this will not take us very far unless we make democratic and republican campaigning relevant and central to local communities and local issues.

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