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By Noam Chomsky

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By the end of the decade, Britain had withdrawn from its self-imposed defence commitment ‘East of Suez’. Britain’s empire was at an end. The Queen consoled herself that she remained Head of the Commonwealth, and continued to take much interest in its development. Many of the British people consoled themselves that Britain’s distinctiveness now resided in its monarchy. 111 32 Monarchy and Empire In other ways too the monarchy replaced the Empire. 112 More recently, as the Blair Labour government looked to rebrand Britain, some saw the monarch as able to play a role in removing the deadweight of imperialism from the British image.

The monarchy and the end of Empire The coronation in 1953 was an imperial occasion. As Gordon T. Stewart has pointed out, the news, on the morning of the coronation, that Mount Everest had at last been conquered by Edmund Hillary, an imperial Briton from New Zealand, set the seal on the claims that Britain was entering a new and imperial Elizabethan age. 110 In 1956 Britain failed to achieve its imperial objectives at Suez, and the reality of the weakness of British power in relation to that of the United States of America became more readily apparent.

115 In Britain the process of the end of Empire was part of a wider consensus that incorporated agreements over national identity. That both major political parties agreed the need to bring the Empire to an orderly end cannot be doubted, but this process was not straightforward. 116 The consensual decision to bring the Empire to an end was a rushed judgement, certainly based on an awareness of long-term weakness, but that was a recent awareness. Crucially John Darwin argues that the end of Empire was not accompanied by a belief in the end of Britain’s global influence.

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Anarchism, Marxism & hope for the future by Noam Chomsky

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