The following is an abridged form of the speech by Eibhlin McDonald for the Spartacist League at our anti-monarchy protest in London on 19 September 2022.
I’m very pleased that you’ve all come out today in defiance of the repression that has been directed at people protesting against the monarchy. For over a week, we’ve had a barrage of disgusting royalist propaganda shoved down our throats. The slightest signs of dissent have been repressed.
We in the Spartacist League decided enough is enough: we called this protest so that the royalist carnival of reaction would not go unopposed. And we invited all socialists and anti-monarchists to join us today. As the heads of state from around the world gather in Westminster to honour Elizabeth II, here in Brixton we remember the hideous crimes of British imperialism during her reign: Queen Elizabeth lorded it over the remnants of the brutal British Empire from Africa to Asia and beyond. Her Majesty’s governments were responsible for the slaughter of the Mau Mau in Kenya. They were heavily involved in the bombing and devastation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Her army was sent to Northern Ireland to keep the Catholic population down; King Charles III happens to be colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment that gunned down 14 Catholic protesters in Derry in 1972.
The Spartacist League sent representatives to a protest in Belfast organised by a small Republican socialist group just under a week ago. We were glad to see that the King’s visit to Wales was protested, but not surprised, because the monarchy and the so-called United Kingdom is a prison for Scotland, Wales and the Catholics of Northern Ireland. And of course it oppresses the working class of England too. Her Majesty’s government under Margaret Thatcher smashed the miners and devastated whole areas, a policy which was continued by successive Labour governments.
Among those workers in Britain who hate the monarchy are many whose parents and grandparents originated from the Indian subcontinent. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the dearly beloved great uncle of King Charles III, was responsible for the bloody partition of India. The British Empire set Hindu, Sikh and Muslim against each other and partition unleashed a hideous mass slaughter as well as one of the largest forced population transfers in history. As regards Britain’s black population, Her Majesty’s police apply the same shoot-to-kill policy as the British Army did in Northern Ireland. The most recent victim is Chris Kaba, a young black man gunned down two weeks ago by the Metropolitan Police — whose logo happens to be the insignia of Elizabeth Regina.
In the Spartacist League we understand that racial oppression is rooted in the capitalist system and in British imperialism itself. It is enforced by the state, which cannot be reformed. We do not believe in reform or defunding of the police. We think that the working class needs to set up its own state which will be run according to the interests of the working class. We say: Down with the monarchy and the United Kingdom! For workers republics on both sides of the Irish sea!
Many of you here today already know the crimes of British imperialism only too well. The question is, what to do about it? Take a look around this country, it’s in a shambles. The international economic crisis is hitting Britain much harder than any other developed country. There’s massive inflation, looming recession, the NHS crisis, the housing situation; nothing works in the country. As communists, we have a solution. The entire system in this country is rotten and it must go! It must be torn down! But why has this not happened? For that matter, why does Britain still have a monarchy, an institution that belongs in feudal times? The central problem is one of leadership. The workers today are led by people who bow down to the Crown and to the capitalist class.
The Labour Party, under Sir Keir Starmer, outdid the Tories in royalist grovelling. And it wasn’t just Starmer. He was backed to the hilt by the Labour left MPs who supposedly stand for socialism and the working class. Jeremy Corbyn, Zarah Sultana, Diane Abbott are all in mourning for the Queen. The working class has demonstrated that they are willing to fight and there desperately needs to be a fight against the huge assault on their living standards. Over the summer there have been strikes in rail, the docks and the post office. But the very minute the Queen croaked, Mick Lynch of the RMT and Dave Ward of the CWU cancelled the strikes. Why? So they could join this obscene outpouring of patriotism and national unity alongside the capitalist rulers. What did it mean to cancel those strikes? It sent out a clear message that the struggle of the working class against starvation wages must take second place to the need for all classes to stand united and swear loyalty to the monarchy, to the system of class privilege and exploitation.
You don’t need to be a socialist to oppose the monarchy. But if you refuse to oppose the monarchy now, when it counts, you’re no socialist. And in this country which famously has “57 varieties” of socialist groups, the Spartacist League is the only one that called a demonstration against the monarchy in London. Other groups have no problem saying they’re against the monarchy when it carries no consequences. But right now, when it counts, they’re nowhere to be seen.
The trade union bureaucrats will tell you that they had no choice but to do what they did because if they were to oppose the monarchy it would divide the working class. Of course there’s royalist sentiment within the working class, but it is totally against workers’ own class interests. The union bureaucrats are simply defending their own refusal to take a stand against the monarchy. They are also making sure that any royalist sentiment that does exist within the working class is unchallenged and unopposed. Another aspect of the trade union and Labour leaders’ bowing before the monarchy is that those sections of the working class who hate the monarchy and British imperialism are excluded, ignored and silenced. They are told to shut up in the name of unity. What kind of unity is that? It’s unity with the ruling class. As I said, it’s in the direct interest of the entire working class to fight against monarchism wherever you find it.
We in the Spartacist League say that what’s needed is a socialist campaign which aims to put the working class in power. For that there needs to be a new, revolutionary leadership, one which connects the day-to-day struggles of the working class to the struggle against capitalism as a whole. The bottom line is: a leadership that is too spineless to oppose the monarchy will never find the backbone to confront the ruling class of this country, much less bring it down. And that is what’s needed. So, to conclude, we must fight in the trade unions and the workers organisations for revolutionary leadership. A leadership which opposes the monarchy, British imperialism, racial oppression and the entire rule of the British capitalist class.