|Issue No 11||30 April 1999|
A Workers Online reader explains why he'll be voting "no".
30 January this year marked the 350th anniversary of the execution of Charles I. This put in train events which led to the declaration of England as a republic.
Did anyone know about it, let alone commemorate it? I think not.
The rich and powerful on both sides of our republican debate imposed a republic of silence on the anniversary. Why?
Monarchists fear examining the English Civil War because it shows, contrary to their propaganda, that even the English can lop off the head of their King and declare a Republic. The ARM fears looking at history because it shows that real republics are made by the people, not born of talkfests.
Perhaps we democratic republicans should have been holding regicide parties to stir things up. So far the whole debate has been boring. I blame the Australian Republican Movement and their milksop presidential nomination model.
People are hardly dancing in the streets at the prospect of ousting Elizabeth and replacing her with some aging male lawyer appointed by John Howard and Kim Beazley. We know in our hearts we don't want more John Kerrs.
Why are we so disinterested? We the people are being denied a say in our President - we have no ownership of one of our proposed institutions. So why should we give a rat's about the nomination model?
What has been remarkable so far has been the attempt by the political elite on both sides - the Monarchists and the ARM - to avoid involving ordinary Australians in the process of constitutional change or its outcome. Both of these groups may have different visions for the head of state, but they are absolutely united in denying the people a role in their institutions.
Take the way membership of the Constitutional Convention was determined. Only half were elected. Those appointed were anointed by a conservative monarchist. Some of the appointees only made it to the Convention because they were Young Liberals.
The election process for the Convention itself was a travesty. It was, contrary to recent Australian history, non-compulsory. It was short, giving an advantage to the conservative and already well-known ARM and its presidential nomination model over the direct election democratic republicans.
Even then, the ARM model failed to gain a majority at the Convention. I seem to remember the Prime Minister - Mister 48% - promising to hold a plebiscite to find out the people's views on what to put at a referendum if no model had the support of the Convention. Of course there won't be a plebiscite. The PM knows that the ARM model is the best one for monarchists because it is so unpopular among ordinary Australians.
So the presdential nomination model that will be presented to us at the referendum in November is illegitimate.
In essence conservative republicans and monarchists have conspired in an attempt to keep ordinary Australians with their democratic aspirations out of the republican process as far as is possible.
As the events surrounding the establishment of the English republic those many years ago show, elites act to keep the lower orders in their place if they believe their own interests, political and economic, will in any way be interfered with.
Back then, the parliamentary forces and their generals were reluctant republicans. They were forced to execute the King by the pressure from the radicals in London and Charles' intransigent belief in his divine right to rule.
The execution of the King was a coup by the Army to forestall a more radical alternative - a democratic republic - and to protect private property from those who would share the wealth.
The ARM too has engineered its own coup - the coup of a Clayton's republic. They too want to forestall a more democratic alternative and ensure the unquestioned rule of the rich and powerful.
The ARM fears a directly elected president because the people's choice may be genuinely popular and challenge, shock horror, the rule of the political and economic elite.
A directly elected head of state raises questions about the nature of Australian society.
Most of our institutions (except for unions) are undemocratic - the courts, the public service, and of course our present head of state. Indeed, the whole of our society is essentially undemocratic.
Ordinary people have no say in "private" economic decisions. Even our parliament is not fully democratic because our "representatives" are elected for three or so years and we have no control over them once elected.
As the support for an elected president shows, the people yearn to democratise their institutions and society.
The ARM, just like the reluctant republicans of yesteryear, fears spreading democracy. A democratic President sets a dangerous precedent. If we can elect our head of state, why not our judges? Why not our top public servants? And why not our bosses?
The men and women of property - the people who run the ARM and its alter ego, Conservatives for a Republic - fear what they cannot control. Whereas they have learnt that they can easily control Parliament, they are not so sure about a directly elected President. There is no guarantee that such a President would be their reliable servant.
There is the possibility that an elected President might express the desire of ordinary people for a just and equitable society. Since private property is built on inequality and injustice, a directly elected President, owing allegiance to the people, could pose problems for the untrammeled rule of the rich.
And so the grandees of the ARM oppose a directly elected President and offer us a nominated president.
Democratic republicans cannot support such an anti-democratic model, a model which entrenches privilege and power.
Come referendum day, I'll be voting against the ARM nominated president model.
This is not a vote for the monarchy. It's a vote against the republic of the rich.
And every opportunity I get this year I'll be toasting the end of King Charles.
John is an independent socialist
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005