Aimed specifically at workers looking forward to the glamorous Coronation of King George VI on May 12th 1937 is this glossy brochure published by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It argues that it is scandalous that a total of £20,000,000 will be spent by the Government in staging the event and by those attending it (new outfits and hotel bills) when that sum might be better spent on new homes, nursery schools and underfed children.
Naturally, the Party denies that it against those with money spending it on whatever they like. What it does argue is that it is divisive for members of the moneyed class to flaunt their wealth before working people. It is also hypocritical for them to spend it on ‘fripperies’ when the ruling class has acknowledged that the Coronation is an occasion for the rich and poor to come together and celebrate the pageantry of this memorable event like ‘ one happy family’.
‘The idea is that you, Bill Smith, miner, fitter, shop assistant, belong to the same happy British family as Lord Nuffield, Mr Selfridge and your own employer—all the King’s loyal subjects together.’
Of course, the pamphlet argues, this is an example of government duplicity. Those in power see the millions as money well spent if the pageantry invokes sufficient feelings of patriotism among the working class to encourage workers to fall in with their ‘ war plans ‘. However, the pamphlet argues that it is up to workers to ensure that the ruling class do not achieve this cosy arrangement.
‘First, make them pay more. If you have to work on Coronation Day, demand holiday rates of pay. Some employers are trying to show how patriotic and generous they are by giving a holiday with pay on Coronation day. If your employer is one of these, demand a proper holiday of at least a week with pay this year and every year—like the French workers get. When they urge you to brighten up your street with flags and streamers, demand that the landlord brightens up your home as well. If they provide a free tea for the children on Coronation day, accept it and see that your children have a good feed and a good time. But demand also, that your children and happy and properly fed during the rest of the year…’
Above all, the pamphlet urges, May Day, was the day when workers had a chance to voice their feelings. ‘On that day workers in nearly every country in the world demonstrate their solidarity. The purpose of the Coronation is to break that solidarity.’
The pamphlet concludes with a call to arms:
‘What is wanted is not a quiet contentment with our lot—but a spirit of flaming revolt against it. What is wanted is not unity of the Labour movement with the Capitalists and the National Government in their war plans, but a conscious, vigorous and united working-class drive against that class…’
Although the Spanish Civil War is not mentioned in the pamphlet, on May Day the Communist Party demonstrated against the Guernica massacre by Spanish Nationalists on April 26th, and there was also support for a busmen’s strike. As far as we know, there were no demonstrations on Coronation Day.