The campaign group Republic, with its mission of “Campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy”, is fighting to be heard over the pomp and nationalism greeting the Royal baby (#RoyalBaby) into a life of more pomp and nationalism. They had two minor victories on the BBC News Channel today, with Republic’s Graham Smith and Independent journalist Owen Jones both getting a three minutes head-to-head with a monarchist opponent. In Spain, activists opposing Royal rule are mostly socialists, but Republic seems much more balanced. Eleven Labour MPs, the one Green MP and two Liberal Democrat MPs support the group, while ‘Conservatives for a Republic’ started off in September 2012. The single-issue cause across the political spectrum of replacing the monarchy is difficult to get excited about, though. France and the USA have successfully freed themselves from this feudal leftover, and are they something we want to imitate? Our head of state may be decided by blood, but the American presidency, relying so much on corporations to fund campaigns, is decided by capital. It’s hard to decide which is preferable to live in because political corruption and contradictions between classes function the same. This makes Republic’s “Born Equal” campaign seem very poorly thought through: do republics around the world not have an unequal distribution of wealth and therefore political power as well? In addition to being envious of the States, I’ve also found some republicans trying to relate to the Cromwellian Republic, which is not a good model and provides no useful lessons today.
It is possible that the establishment of a republic and a new constitution happens as a popular response to the Royals trying to grab more power and political influence than they have already. This can be seen in Europe’s old Absolute Monarchies. Today it is more unlikely, with the BBC, Sky, and Channel 4 devoting most of the time spent on Royal coverage to cheerleading or defending the Royal family no matter what. One of Republic’s signs always seen at protests, aimed at the BBC, is “Report, Don’t Celebrate”. The efforts of campaigners have not worked so far. There hasn’t been a huge backlash against Prince Charles’s tax dodging or the Queen’s pay rise. However, opinion polls seem to show at least 10% in support of a republic. The majority wants the Royal family to stay, but as Graham Smith pointed out, not the vast majority: many are simply indifferent. But considering the unfailing support of mainstream media for the monarchy, above 10% being actively opposed to it is seriously impressive.
More likely, the abolition of the monarchy will not come as a result of the work of Republic or any other one-issue lobbying group, though its agitation might be useful, but it will be a necessary part of broader anti-capitalism. The change from constitutional monarchy to bourgeois democracy does not mean property relations will change at all, but for socialism and a workers’ democracy where every position of political power is elected and instantly recallable, it is absolutely essential, and can not co-exist with an inherited head of state. It is much easier to imagine socialist society making the Royal family impossible than normal parliamentary democracy peacefully finishing it off.