John Maclean Justice 1911

Democracy and the Coming Coronation

Source: John Maclean, “Democracy and the Coming Coronation,” Justice, 13th May 1911, p.5;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

At the recent half-yearly conference of the Scottish branches the following appropriate resolution was passed “That this Conference of Scottish Social-Democrats, repudiating monarchy as contrary to the principle of democracy, deprecates the needless waste of public time and money on the coming Coronation, and demands that time and money be granted to carrying into effect the following political measures of justice to the working class: Payment of members and election expenses, male and female adult suffrage, proportional representation and devolution.”

I should imagine that it is useless to waste time in proving that all Social Democrats are in favour of such a resolution — very much more, forsooth. But some inside, as well as many outside, may desire to know why our protest against the mockery of the coming monarchical mummery should take the form of a demand for more political freedom for the masses instead of a direct demand for the establishment of a republic. Such a legitimate thirst for knowledge is worthy of satisfaction, and it will be a very pleasant task indeed to throw light on the subject.

The well known fact that the position of the King in the British Empire is merely nominal, and that the monarchs for 200 year have practically contented themselves with “sitting tight” and doing nothing except with the consent of the aristocracy or the plutocracy, has been largely instrumental in inducing the people to tolerate a position as obsolete as the wooden warships of Old England. We Social Democrats, Republicans though we may be, have been essentially responsible for teaching the people that the real political enemy our class is not the king; but the propertied class that, out of the plunder taken from us, is prepared to spend the sum needed to maintain the Royal Family.

The capitalists cheerfully pay out this sum, as the maintenance of Royalty at this critical juncture in the country’s history seems to them necessary as an agency that helps to cover over with superstitious ornament the class war between the capitalists and the workers, and which thus helps to stave off those demands for political equality that would naturally ensue upon the establishment of a republic.

The capitalists cannot afford, then, to dethrone the monarch in this country, especially on account of their supreme control of the political machinery of the land and on account of their fear of the people’s desire for participation in the gentle art of law making and administration. And, on account of their propaganda, the people are conscious that the social inequalities in the land are in no way due to the crowned head; and naturally, they cannot be expected to take but a languidly philosophic interest meantime, in the deposition of a harmless nonentity like Geordie the Fifth.

But the workers are ripe, and over ripe, for the passing into law of a new political People’s Charter. The Liberals have been returned to power on the strength of their sham attempt to clip the talons of those “monsters” the Lords. For the people, in their simplicity, imagine that the clearance of the aristocrats from the path of the large-hearted Liberal plutocrats will, in due course, smooth the way for the passage of political and economic reforms besought of all clean-minded men. In their simplicity, I reiterate, have the workers been beguiled into the support of their bitter enemies, the Liberals. It is now our immediate duty as democrats to unmask the Liberals who are wasting Parliament’s time and the nation’s money on the approaching foolery of placing a crown on the head of a young man, whose only distinction is his third rate mediocrity.

All other legislative work has been ruthlessly swept aside by the present Government because all time had to be devoted to the passing of Parliament Bill. Twice already the people have decided the matter. It is sheer waste of public time, and an impudent insult to the people then, to continue the sham windy warfare, in the House of Commons on the wording of the Bill, especially as both the large parties claim God-given ability in this particular department of law-craft. This waste is increased by the Coronation ceremony and the preparations thereof. All this must become apparent to the workers once it is pointed out to them. It is consequently the duty of all readers to do this little piece of work for the enlightenment of the more indolent.

But education without action is fruitless. We must get the people to act, and act with us. In that we will have no difficulty if we proceed aright. Our action must take the form of a demand, and that demand must be for the People’s Charter. And such a demand is timely, whilst the measures demanded are long overdue. It surely must be admitted that a Parliament that can suspend operations to carry out a silly old mediaeval custom can with good will settle down for three or four days, or, rather, a few minutes on each of three or four days, for the passing of a one page Bill granting the vote to all men and women; granting the money needed to pay the expenses of Parliamentary elections and the salaries of members of Parliament; granting proportional representation, the initiative, referendum and recall; and granting a few other details needful to put all classes on the same political level of opportunity. Time and money can be spent on Royalty. Our demand must be that time and money must be spent on the commonalty.

Personally, I feel confident that we can thus corner the Liberals, and wring from them concessions along the line indicated. And in our efforts we need place no reliance on the Labour Party, bottled up as it has been by the Liberals. The consciousness now prevalent amongst the masses that their real wages are considerably below those obtained when the Labour organisation came into existence, the further consciousness that the Labour Party has failed to defend the workers, when on strike against reduced wages or oppression, and the fact that the Labour Party has made no real outstanding fight for the workers at all since it began its Parliamentary career, warns us to place no reliance for support on these slippery eels of statesmen whose chief end in life seems to be the destruction of Socialism.

Let us directly appeal to the people, and with our clamour, widespread and prolonged, let us drown the chorus of false praise that will herald the approach of the nearing comic opera. Thus will we make history and perhaps march a stage nearer our goal.