Co-founder of the New Zealand Republican Movement says: “Queen Elizabeth should abdicate her position as Head of the Commonwealth”Posted by AlexT - 20/08/09 at 11:08 am
Savage, a co-founder of the New Zealand Republican Movement has written the following contribution to the Commonwealth Conversation:
There is a belief perpetuated in Britain and other Commonwealth countries that the British Empire was of benefit to the world. The greed and racism are forgotten. The invasions, wars, political oppression and genocide are downplayed. The poverty and inequality it created are conveniently ignored.
The damage caused by Britain’s imperial project is not something many British people want to accept. The overall approach is a self-deluding calculation. Weighing up the positive and negative, the overall achievements were positive. The empire was a good thing.
This ongoing debate about the Empire’s historical merits is relevant to the commonwealth conversation. It reminds us of the attitudes and values the Commonwealth has been left to deal with. Self-delusion was an integral part of the imperial project. Institutional inequality and a commitment to democracy could only co-exist if elaborate self-delusions were maintained. Without the historical fictions and cultural myths, the contradictions inherent in the whole project would have been exposed. The fa?ade of civility and ‘progress’ would have crumbled.
The Commonwealth is still dealing with the imperial legacy. It is now working to empower commonwealth citizens; to improve living conditions and enlarge political freedoms. To do this, however, it must also deal with the delusions and contradictions inherent in its own political structure. The privileged role of the Monarchy is the most obvious contradiction.
Recent comments by Danny Sriskandarajah, director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, highlight the issue. Arguing for a commonwealth with a post-colonial identity, he none the less maintains the fiction that ‘The Queen is almost universally adored all over the Commonwealth.’ The same myth ‘that everyone loves the Monarchy’ – is used by Professor David Flint, National Convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy as a reason why Charles should be the next head of the Commonwealth.
Such deference to the royal family is ingrained in the culture of both the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth secretariat. There is an unwillingness to accept that the British Monarchy was at the heart of the whole imperial project: That the royal family prospered at the expense of the commonwealth and that their political privileges represent the outdated and dangerous belief that hierarchy and inequality are beneficial.
Britain is now one country among many. There is no sound reason why the British head of state should be any more important within the Commonwealth than that of India or Nigeria or Malta. The Royal Family certainly does not deserve such a privilege.
The Republican Movement in New Zealand is cooperating with republican movements in Britain, Australia and Canada. The four groups want the same thing – an end to the constitutional inequalities inherent in having the Monarch as head of state. While each group campaigns in its own country, the overall republic project, if taken to its logical conclusion, must also include the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth should abdicate her position as Head of the Commonwealth right now. By giving up her position she demonstrates to the Commonwealth that both democracy and equality are the guiding principles of the commonwealth. If this is too hard a task for someone who still believes in the fiction of imperial progress then it falls to her son to demonstrate it. Charles must stop campaigning to become the next head of the commonwealth. There is no longer a role for his family in the Commonwealth’s political structures.
The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and may or may not coincide with the views of the Republican Movement of New Zealand.”