By Bumpy Walker
Revolutions are chaotic events, mass demonstrations of people power, as was the Russian or French cases. Out of chaos, political and social systems will change, evolve. In the last 103 years the British Islands have undergone major social and political changes for the better, seemingly without chaos. This period can be best described as the “Elizabethan revolution” as most of these changes occurred during the life of the Queen/Empress Elizabeth II. During this period her empire has been reduced from controlling a third of the world, to what is in effect a rump state.
For those who live in this rump state, the quality of life, education, health, and justice has risen to arguably the highest ever attained by humanity. I don’t think Marx or Lenin could have envisioned this positive an outcome for the proletariat, given these Kamunists viewed a constitutional monarchy as mere puffery. The best way to illustrate this social progress is to compare the budgets of 1919 with the current budget. In 1919, ninety per cent of the budget was for military spending and two per cent in social spending. Today in the UK the budget has 90% on social spending with less than two per cent on military spending.
The most admired institution developed during the Elizabethan Revolution is the National Health Service (NHS). This gives the British public healthcare free at point of use. Also developed was universal pre tertiary education, free at point of use, (In Scotland tertiary education is still free). Politically there is in place universal suffrage, clean and fair election, instruments of government that are semi-independent of cross institutional interference. Freedom of religion exists. The Marxist intent of minimizing religion which they saw as an anti-social drug has been achieved without priests hanging from lamp posts, to the extent that churches have been changed into night clubs or social meeting place with many in a sad state of rack and ruin. Not only has Queen Elizabeth II overseen a positive change in social and political expectation, but both the quality and variety of diet have also improved. Curry is now universally available in every corner of the country! As well as more varieties of cheese being produced than in France.
Retreat of Empire
The Elizabethan revolution was built on the patrimony, legacy of empire. My favorite contrarian, colonial apologist Morris Cargil described Jamaican independence, of which he was an opponent, with a logic rooted in economics, as “retirement after 300 years of service, without even a gold watch.” This is exactly what happened to all the states that had received the tender mercies of British Empire. Jamaica’s experience was not uniquely evil or exploitative. If one examines the history of the British empire in Africa, China, India and Australia the differences are in quantity not quality of evil. Contrary to black nationalists, this wasn’t simply a question of skin color, the empire was equally exploitive of its European subjects the Irish and highlanders of Scotland!
The NHS, which the British public is rightly proud of, was set up with in 1948. This can be seen to have been underwritten by the hundreds of millions of barrels of oil British government owned Companies (Anglo Persian Oil Company, Turkish Petroleum Company) extracted from Iran and Iraq that year.
The popular narrative of the beneficiaries of the Elizabethan Revolution, the British, is that empire had been created for moral reasons not for piracy. Its retreat is seen for equally moral reason: not the inability to project military power on a global scale. This is not historical amnesia; it is willful ignorance!
Independence for most of the former empire was gained by a small cadre of educated colonized natives who had become competent in the systems and or the instruments of rule. This cadre was educated by the colonizer, not for moral reasons, but to save money as they were cheaper than expats from the mother country! This educated bourgeoisie was driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, won independence from the empire at a time when the Elizabethan empire was undergoing social reform, having been wounded by multiple wars, and was at its weakest. Others, like the Caribbean colonies, had no further value for the metropole, having been squeezed of riches “till the pip squeaked” were encouraged to leave without the figurative gold watch.
The Elizabethan revolution saw an end to the direct transfer of wealth from its colonized to a system of transfer of wealth through the development of international financial systems. Ironically, the main beneficiaries of the revolution were socialized to believe that the wealth transfer did not happen or that it continues.
Amorality of a ceremonial role
Long before the Elizabethan Revolution, the British monarchy had become a ceremonial role. Essentially the crown is politically amoral; it only announces the policies of a democratically selected government. One can see a counter factual: Had the Nazis attempt at European colonization in the 1930s been successful, a British monarch could have given a crown speech that outlined an anti-Jewish pogrom. (Ethnically cleansing is the modern term). The “Hitlerite” Colonial regime had articulated a future with a British Empire they dominated, with this current royal family still having the same ceremonial role. They had plans to reinstate Edward VII who had abdicated as monarch, as they saw him as sympathetic to their ideals.
This is not so farfetched in reality. During the first Elizabethan age (16th century) the crown had issued an edict to rid London of its African population. Indeed, during the 1940s in the British Empire Jewish refugees from Nazi genocide were imprisoned without due process. Further, it was her late Majesty’s government that created a hostile environment for the Windrush generation; not to mention a direct policy from her Majesty whereby African-Jamaicans could only have jobs as cleaners in her household!
During this Elizabethan revolution troops were dispatched to try and retain the fading empire, resulting in locals being killed and or tortured in Yemen, Kenya, Malaysia. Post World War I, not many years before the start of her reign, her empire’s military invented dive bombing in Iraq! In the 1970s, during her reign, the people of Diego Garcia were evicted from their island without due process, and their island handed to her empire´s ally.
Those who celebrate the Elizabethan Revolution seek to hide behind the post Nazi German ignorance defense “She never knew about it “and “It was the British government not the Queen” that decided these policies. In the 1860s her ancestor Queen Victoria’s government responded to a petition to her from the small farmers of St Ann with words that may best summarized as “Work will set you free,” The identical aphorism at the entrance to Auschwitz.
Queen Elizabeth II, an old lady, died earlier this month. Naturally her multi-generational family, her personal friends will mourn. Most of her subjects in Great Britain are stunned. Her death "did not move and it did not shift me". I understand and empathize with the British collective grief. I felt the same when Haile Selassie and Bob Marley died.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bumpy Walker is a Jamaican domiciled in Scotland