It’s almost enough to turn staunch monarchist John Howard into a republican. Even he considers Abbott’s reintroduction of knights and dames to be “somewhat anachronistic”.
In this new age of the bunyip aristocracy, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer are no doubt already planning the creation of further honours suitable to their talents: the Order of Inheriting Wealth Stolen from Indigenous People, or the highly desirable Lord Warden of the Titanic.
You can see the attraction of feudal titles. Knights, barons and dukes had their own courts in which they made all the decisions. That would no doubt appeal to Arthur Sinodinos, not to mention a fair few on the Labor side.
A bit of “off with their heads!” would probably be to Bronwyn Bishop’s liking; much better than just having to content herself with banning infectious laughter from parliament.
But really, they’ve already got most of this. If the ruling class yearn for a bit of hanging, drawing and quartering, they’ve got Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and secret torture chambers across the globe. On a less overtly violent scale, what is every inquiry into trade unionism but a modern-day Star Chamber?
And they have whole armies of lawyers, personal assistants and other obsequious fart-catchers that they can require to address them (at least in private) in any way they see fit.
Seeing Abbott mocked from all sides is good for a laugh, but the ruling class isn’t really desperate to bring back feudalism. Compared to those impoverished feudal lords and kings, today’s rich are a million miles ahead.
Like all class divided societies, feudalism was exploitative, vicious and unequal. But as Marx famously put it, “the walls of the feudal lord’s stomach set the limits to his exploitation of the peasant”. There are only so many castles and roast suckling pigs that even the greediest noble could get through in one lifetime.
So long as the feudal nobility could force the peasants to hand over enough of their production to keep the riotously good life going, and to pay for those bodies of armed men, the state, without which no minority ruling class can continue to rule, there was an end to it.
Unlike feudalism, under capitalism there is no limit to exploitation and accumulation for the bosses. It’s not personal wealth that drives the capitalists (though none of them are averse to it), but the competitive nature of the system, the threat of being overtaken by rival capitalists.
In another of his expressive phrases, Marx wrote of the capitalists’ drive to expand production as “Moses and the prophets … Accumulation for the sake of accumulation, production for the sake of production.”
The massive expansion of the forces of production under capitalism makes possible the creation of enough wealth for everyone on the planet to have their needs met.
The fact that it is in the hands of the capitalist class means that most people’s needs are systematically not met. To that there is no end until a revolution by the exploited who create the wealth.