“It will be a historic moment, and I regard it as a great privilege ... to be present at Westminster Abbey when it occurs.” Thus spoke Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in anticipation of the coronation of King Charles III. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty exciting. Every few generations, subjects of the British Commonwealth are blessed with the chance to watch a precious metal hat being placed upon the empty head of our new God-sanctioned monarch.
And this time, we weren’t relegated to being passive observers of this important televised event. Viewers were given the opportunity to engage in the political process by swearing allegiance to the king in a newly worded “homage of the people”. If, like me, you hoped to make the most of the occasion by practising the oath in advance, you might have made use of this handy guide produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
After printing the text of the homage in full, the ABC reminded us, “If you’re watching the coronation at home on Saturday, just follow along and recite the lines above when it reaches the appropriate point in the service”. Easy peasy. But don’t get too comfortable; there were still some central details to be ironed out. “In the traditional homage of peers, members kneel before the sovereign, but it’s not clear this time around what the expectations are for people at home.” I’m sure that, after a few tense moments of hand wringing and some helpful guidance from the Australian media, we all figured it out.
At special and exciting times like these, it might seem that the continued existence of the British crown has degenerated into an absurdist farce. But make no mistake: for the international ruling classes, the coronation is no laughing matter. Far from being some obsolete feudal relic, the undemocratic and parasitic nature of the monarchy reflects all the basic values of the modern capitalist system.
As tireless revolutionary and Irish republican James Connolly wrote on the eve of King George V’s 1911 tour to Dublin:
“The capitalist and landlord class flock to exalt him ... in him they see embodied the idea of caste and class; they glorify him and exalt his importance that they might familiarise the public mind with the conception of political inequality ... The mind accustomed to political kings can easily be reconciled to social kings—capitalist kings of the workshop, the mill, the railway, the ships and the docks.”
Coronations and royal visits are an opportunity to celebrate and cohere people around the most reactionary features of capitalist society, to glorify an ongoing legacy of violent imperialist subjugation and to normalise the most grotesque forms of inequality.
The coronation itself was expected to cost more than £100 million in taxpayer money. This is while living standards in Britain have plummeted to Dickensian lows, where full-time workers are forced to access food banks in order to survive. Tens of thousands of British pensioners freeze to death in their homes each year as the royals spend an estimated £2 million heating their palaces and luxury private residences. Millions of trade unionists are fighting to win wage rises that keep up with runaway inflation, while King Charles controls an asset portfolio of more than £46 billion. If any institution personifies the mindless injustice of modern capitalism, it is the British royal family.
Yet Australian politicians and media pundits are at pains to identify themselves with this band of thieves. In a recent opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, former Attorney-General George Brandis wrote, “Australians should never underestimate the depth of Charles’ emotional connection to this country” and praised the king’s deep “knowledge of Australian affairs”. An editorial in the same publication weighed up some common criticisms of the monarchy, offering the conclusion that “such complaints contain truths, but they miss the role royalty has played in helping to understand the human condition”.
Albanese, for his part, reminds us that, whatever personal republican leanings we Australians may harbour, “that doesn’t mean that you cannot have respect for the institution”. All this is to be expected from a ruling class that has derived its wealth and power from Britain’s genocidal invasion of this land, and later relied on British stewardship to build a thriving economy on the broken backs of migrant labour and Indigenous people.
Our current government is waging a war on the working class, with real incomes falling more than 7 percent over the last two years. In pledging allegiance to the king, our modern-day rulers hope to win the allegiance of their subjects to a sick and sickening Australian capitalism.
After the pomp and pageantry of the coronation, we should remember Connolly’s invocations against “all these parading royalties, all this insolent aristocracy, all these grovelling, dirt-eating capitalist traitors”.
The last word and call to social revolution still falls to him: “If our masters and rulers are sleepless in their schemes against us, so we, rebels against their rule, must never sleep in our belief in the dignity of our class—in the ultimate sovereignty of those who labour”.
Artwork by Van Thanh Rudd.
“You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
The South Australian government has followed New South Wales and Victoria to undermine democratic rights. A bi-partisan bill has been rushed through parliament’s lower house, which proposes fines up to $50,000 or three months in jail if protesters “intentionally or recklessly obstruct the public place”.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.
A recent NBC News poll found that 70 percent of US voters don’t want Joe Biden to recontest the presidency next year. Sixty percent feel likewise about Donald Trump. Yet the two men are currently odds-on to face each other in a 2024 re-run of the 2020 presidential election.
Allyship presents itself as a way that people can show support for the rights of an oppressed group that they themselves are not a part of without “taking the space” of those who are oppressed. Marxists, conversely, argue that solidarity is the key way we can win reforms for, and ultimately liberate, the oppressed. Allyship and solidarity might sound like much the same thing, but there are important differences in these strategies for social change.