Johnnie Gallacher of the Republican Socialist Platform has written an article updating some of the postings made earlier in our blog. We are posting this article along with a a list of other articles on the E&L blog addressing the issue of republicanism.
This article is a synthesis and summary of several articles originally published in Emancipation & Liberation:
SOCIALIST REPUBLICANISM AND THE DIAMOND JUBILEE
What is the Crown?
If you were to ask a few randomly selected person to define the Crown, they would no doubt mention the Queen and royal family, encouraged in this regard by the misleadingly named popular Netflix biopic. Similarly, if you were to ask for definitions of Republicanism, you would no doubt hear about toothless debates about whether the Queen costs too much money, or whether or not she attracts tourists and thereby generates national income. .
In both instances, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the distinction between the monarchs themselves and the actual Crown Powers. It is common to see the Queen as just a wee auld woman who through an accident of birth is grandmother to the entire British nation; and to see Prince Charles as just a daft old man who is somehow the nation’s strange spiritual uncle. There is an illusion that the royal family are above and beyond the corrupt and dishonest parliamentary politicians and profit-obsessed capitalists. There is a pretension of powerlessness and an irrelevance to real life. However, the modern monarchy is merely a camouflage for the Crown, and the unaccountable Crown Powers are wielded everyday by a predominantly unelected political class.
Despite the existence of a parliamentary democracy centred on Westminster with its newer devolved offspring at Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont, our democracy has very real limitations. Senior civil servants, judges, officers and ranks in the armed forces all swear their allegiance to the Queen, not to Parliament, and certainly not to the people. The ruling class may require their services, acting when necessary, against the interests of the people, or even Parliament. It is not the Queen herself who wields this power, but the Prime Minister, acting on behalf of the ruling class. This is all done under the unaccountable anti-democratic powers of the Crown which are yielded everyday by a predominantly unelected political class.
Examples of Crown Power interference.
The British Labour premierships of Harold Wilson (1964-70, 1974-76) were repeatedly run into the ground through state interference. This was dramatised in the excellent roman à clef novel/film A Very British Coup.
In 1975, Australian Labour prime minister Gough Whitlam, following his attempts to stop the US navy from docking in Australia, was removed from office by the Australian Governor-General (the queen’s representative). The premiership then passed to the right-wing opposition party without the electorate ever having been consulted. (And yet many English-speaking liberals around the world label the Australian people as inherently backwards, even though it was outside British interference which sent them down that path of political deformity).
From 1968-73, the native people of the Chago Islands were illegally cleared from their Indian Ocean archipelago by British forces, at the request of the United States, in advance of the American militarisation of those islands. In 2000, the British High Court granted the islanders the right to return home, but this was subsequently overturned by the Crown powers, and the islanders were stopped from returning. In 2019, the United Nation’s International Court of Justice at the Hague called on the UK to ‘withdraw its colonial administration … unconditionally within a period of no more than six months’. On the orders of the Crown, these calls have been completely ignored by the UK government.
The Crown Powers have also been used by Prime Ministers to declare wars without parliamentary sanction, and to mobilise troops to break strikes.
What is Republicanism?
Having distinguished the nature of the Crown from the celebrity-culture/state-religion distraction of the royal family, clearly to define Republicanism merely as a desire to unseat the royal family at an unspecified future point in time is to sell Republicanism short. Let us consider Republicanism in its purest form: an immediate Republicanism which upholds ‘the sovereignty of the people’ in the here and now against the UK state’s sovereignty of the Crown-in-Westminster and its anti-democratic Crown Powers. Republicanism is about the maximum level of participation in any action with democratic control at the grassroots level. It seeks to develop a programme for expanding democracy as far as it can go under capitalism.
Republicanism and the Scottish independence movement
The SNP is a not a Republican party. It seeks an end to the outdated 1707 Union of the Parliaments, only to return to the even more antiquated 1603 Union of the Crowns. Whilst there are individual Republicans inside the SNP, their Republicanism is merely a sentimental idea for the future, rather than a democratic recognition of the sovereignty of the people in the here and now.
In full conformity with the Crown Powers, despite recent developments in the United Nations regarding the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the SNP has fallen silent about the Trident nuclear missiles held at Faslane. The SNP also continue to affirm their support for participation in the NATO military alliance, which obliges member states to follow the USA and Turkey into war.
2. EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – REPUBLICANISM COVERAGE, 2002-20