Charles Windsor’s coronation is a huge provocation against the working class, and an incredibly arrogant psyop. The timing is not fundamental to the point: but today working-class people are being hammered by huge price rises in basic foodstuffs and a considerable number are threatened with being driven into malnutrition, and even homelessness. Yet on coronation day, May 6th, there is a demand from the monarch and his ruling class cohorts for the population to “swear allegiance” to him and his family, as he partakes of his enormously expensive ceremony, estimated at around £100 million.
This arrogant demand on the people from those above is likely to fall flat. It is a sign of fragility. Charles Windsor is not popular or respected. Many sections of the population have a distinctly low opinion of him. Part of the ideology of monarchism is that the royals are somehow supposed to be a superior breed to the rest of us, but Charles Windsor is seen as callous, arrogant and a crank by many. The prince who talks to his plants.
Even among monarchists, many consider him tainted by the issue of his late wife, Diana Spencer, who died in a car crash 26 years ago after being hounded by the prurient royalist tabloid media and its paparazzi for speaking out about his adultery with the woman who is now his wife (soon to be ‘Queen Camilla’) while their sons were still infants.
The various official explanations for her death, mainly that she was the victim of a drunken chauffeur, are full of holes and contradicted by video evidence. At best, she died after being hounded and chased through the streets of Paris by the voracious British royalist press-pack and their hirelings; at worst, some suspect foul play and some sort of covert state action to get rid of her and an embarrassing problem that threatened to mortally wound public support for the monarchy.
Her death, in August 1997 caused a huge public outpouring of grief from a population that was obviously then, as it is now, saturated with monarchist sentiment, or at least sentimental softness on the various eagerly promoted myths of royalty. But it had a two-edged aspect to it; there was also great suspicion and latent anger among those masses that was partially directed even then at then-monarch Elizabeth Windsor for what was seen as public callousness about the death, tinged with suspicion. It was a peculiar episode that allowed the newly elected Tony Blair to co-opt this sentiment, however briefly, for his government by baptising her as the “people’s princess”.
The problem with the treatment of the comings and goings of the royals as soap opera, as has become the practice of the media in the neoliberal era, is that the monarchy derives its legitimacy from the principle of dynastic succession. Soap operas can turn nasty. And real life, when there are dynastic conflicts at stake, as well as questions involving racism and similar issues, can be even nastier when they are fought out in public.
The death of Diana was a major trauma, and the central figures at the heart of this are Charles and his two sons, William and Harry, and his former mistress and soon-to-be “Queen Camilla”, the former Mrs Parker-Bowles. They became the central figures of the British monarchy the moment the aged Elizabeth passed away. Elements of this group are at daggers drawn with each other, in public view. And there is no alternative for the UK monarchy than them.
Harry’s recent series of Netflix interviews, with his mixed-race American wife Meghan Merkle, and his book Spare, was an explosion waiting to happen. A continuation, and a deepening, of the trauma of the death of Diana. If Diana was an explosive outsider to the British royal camarilla, Harry and Meghan are even more explosive. The royal family, desperate to show that it was in tune with ‘modern Britain’ with its immigrant-derived communities and ethnically mixed major cities, completely failed to deal with a non-white woman marrying into it through Charles and Diana’s younger son.
Accusations of racist treatment of Meghan Merkle, together with actual physical brawling between brothers William and Harry over matters related to this, have caused further, major trauma to the reputation of the royals. The whole saga of whether Harry and his wife will attend the coronation just epitomises this. When the spectacle is over, monarchists everywhere will have to come to terms with the fact that the new monarch, and the ‘new’ monarchy, is very different to the staid, dependable image his mother went to great lengths to project throughout her record-long reign, trying to preserve the monarchy from scandal.
Charles/Camilla Pseudo-Liberal Cult: “Please Tolerate Us!”
Instead of this, we will have King Charles and Queen Camilla, who everyone knows were in an adulterous relationship for the whole period when Charles was married to Diana Spencer, who bore the current heir to the throne, William Windsor, and the ‘Spare’, Harry. Charles will be the head of the Church of England: which as least nominally stands on the biblical 10 Commandments, among them being: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”.
The Church of England was founded by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century when he wanted to divorce his wife and broke with Rome to allow him to do so (he later executed two of his six wives). But the question of divorce, let alone adultery, was so sensitive for the monarchy and the Church of England in the 20th Century that in 1936 Edward VIII had to abdicate the throne because he wanted to marry a divorcee.
But now the King – the head of the Church – and his Queen will be the two best-known ‘adulterers’ in the country, and their actions are not seen as mere innocent dalliance, but having played a major role in circumstances that caused the death of the mother of the new heir to the throne, a charismatic woman with a following like that of a film star. This leading to major conflict including physical brawling and estrangement between the succeeding generation of the royal family. Charles is himself old, and unlikely to be around much longer than a decade or two. It is tailor-made for more blowouts and internecine warfare that could easily bring the fragile British royal dynasty to complete collapse.
That is where this latest wheeze of asking the population at large to ‘swear allegiance’ to the new King comes in. It has the whiff of desperation about it, and the flavour of even trying to create a cult. And then there is the odd fact that, among the bunting and Union Flags that bedeck the streets ready for the coronation, you frequently see the rainbow flag of LGBT rights. Is this a sign that the British monarchy have suddenly become progressive campaigners for gay rights? That is unlikely. Though Diana was known for her work as a champion of the victims of AIDS, the rest of them had no particular liberal reputation.
It appears more likely that Charles and Camilla are so conscious of their position as adulterers at the head of the Established Church, that they are looking for support and sympathy among others who are also deemed by conservative elements in and around the church to be ‘deviants’. It’s a cynical exercise in in trying to gain sympathy for the new monarch among unconventional layers, that will likely strengthen the arguments of those who dismiss support for gay rights as cynical, hypocritical ‘wokery’.
Manipulation and attacks on Democratic Rights
This manipulation goes hand in hands with threats of repression from the government and the bourgeois state against anti-monarchy protesters. The ruling class is quite worried that the institution of the monarchy is particularly fragile right now, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. So, they are particularly intolerant of criticism, and hostile to those who would campaign for its abolition. The implementation of the new grossly undemocratic anti-protest laws has been brought forward, threats have been made by the police and the Home Office against protesters and opponents of the monarchy, and facial recognition will be used on coronation day against those objecting, an outrage against democratic rights. This was echoed within the Labour Party of Starmer, as at the 2022 LP Conference the delegates were pressganged into singing “God Save the King”, and Starmer made clear that criticising the monarchy was as much a no-no as opposing the imperialist proxy-war in Ukraine, or criticising Zionism.
Liberal republicans and the soft-left say that the monarchy is “out of touch”. They say similar things about the current Tory government, implying that the ruling layers are somehow unaware of the suffering and anger that their attacks on our living standards, on social welfare and the social wage, the engineered, rigged housing market and the huge housing crisis, sky high prices, extortionate rents, unfit housing and homelessness that is the result of it, cause to working class people. But this is wilful naiveite.
These are not lapses. They are brutal means to keep working-class people in line. They WANT working class people to fear being reduced to penury if they fight back. They WANT to destroy every social gain we have, from the NHS and basic protection against ill-health, to pensions. They want to hamstring and render useless the trade unions, to effectively ban working class struggle against our impoverishment. They want to make effective social and political protest against their attacks on us, against the destruction of the environment, and now against the coronation, difficult if not impossible.
The monarchy is an anti-democratic institution par excellence. Its very existence is a complete negation of democracy and the very idea of equality. It asserts that the common man or woman belongs to an inferior species, in effect, that privilege, not only wealth but power, is dependent upon birth, and that that is true by right. The ideology of monarchy wraps up subservience in the mantle of supposed virtue, the ‘virtue’ of being ‘loyal’ to the project of world robbery, of benefiting from the plunder of centuries, and of being ‘a cut above’ the victims of British imperialism in the past centuries, by such a show of loyalty to the robbers.
The monarchy plays an important role in maintaining the bourgeois order: it is the formal basis for the power of the executive branch of government, the power of the prime minister, who acts in the name of the Crown, not the popular will. Citizens of the UK are deemed as ‘subjects’, another negation of democracy and equality. The monarch still also has reserve powers that can be used by the ruling class to restrict or abolish democratic rights and procedures in an ‘emergency’ as the ruling class sees it. So far these have been used by the monarch’s representative overseas, as in 1975 when the Australian Labor government of Gough Whitlam was sacked by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, whose power derived from the British monarchy (though in fact he acted for the CIA). Something similar happened in 1983 when another Governor General was instrumental in giving legal cover to the US invasion of the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada, to overthrow the fractured remnants of the leftist New Jewel Movement and reassert US power.
The fact that the monarch mostly no longer exercises direct political power does not change its political-ideological role. It renders the widespread veneration of it among the middle classes and backward parts of the working class, more craven, more ideologically retrograde. The naked exercise of power at least commands a form of respect through knowledge of the consequences of non-obedience. This is self-willed subservience, the only thing that really drives it is the belief that the subservient benefit from a share of the ruling-class plunder that the monarchy symbolises.
Abolish the Monarchy – Abolish Capitalist Power!
The monarchy symbolises subservience to wealth in general, which is why the tabloid press is ferocious in denouncing all dissent from this ideology, even when it seeps into the family of the monarch, and the liberal media as often as not follows suit. The negation of class consciousness and democracy. Subservience to the monarchy thus runs deep in the imperialist-dominated British labour movement and the Labour Party. The hegemony of British capitalism in the 19th Century, and then Britain’s imperialist hegemony from approximately the 1880s until it was fractured by WWI, and then only finally displaced by US imperialist hegemony since WWII, created the material base for the dominance of the monarchy over British politics even in the period when the working class movement managed to extract real concessions from the bourgeoisie, with ‘welfare capitalism’ in the three decades or so after WWII, which came under concerted attack from neoliberalism from the 1970s onwards to the this day. All these events failed to shake the domination of the monarchy spiritually over the British Labour movement.
The biggest give-away that Brexit, contrary to the illusions of some on the left, was not a left-wing opposition to neoliberalism, was the nationalism and the continued, even enhanced, reverence and deference to the monarchy and the Union Jack, the flag-shagging etc. Even though part of the drive behind it was anger at the decline of working-class living standards under neoliberalism, and the abandonment of working class politics by the Labour Party for the last few decades (with the partial exception of the period under Corbyn’s leadership). The thrust of this movement was a demand for the restoration of the privileges British workers felt that they were owed as members of a formerly ‘great’ Empire, and a hostility to immigrant workers, not any solidarity with the victims of British imperialism and its allies. Thus overall, Brexit was a reactionary, sentimental-imperialist movement despite being driven by working class discontent.
To politically express its own class interests, and not be the self-willed wage-slaves of the bourgeoisie, British workers have to break decisively from monarchism. This has not happened so far in the 20th and 21st Centuries, though there were some fleeting signs of it in the 19th. But the most revolutionary act in British history was of course carried out by the bourgeoisie in its revolutionary phase under the leadership of Cromwell. Even though he was a bourgeois scoundrel and a key progenitor of British colonialism’s crimes in Ireland, the act of his movement in executing Charles I was a highpoint that the British working-class movement has never come close to emulating – yet! But British imperialism is in terminal decline, and the US behemoth they today act as vassal to is also facing the loss of hegemony in the current ‘new’ Cold War with Russia and China. These ruling classes will take ‘their’ working classes with them into deeper and deeper penury, if not nuclear annihilation, as they struggle to retain their world power and profit margins.
It is thus a matter of simple self-preservation and class interest for the working-class movement in Britain to reject this absurd loyalism and inscribe the democratic demand for the abolition of the (very bourgeois) monarchy and aristocracy on its banner as an integral part of a transitional programme for working class rule and international revolution.