Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

The British monarch – feudal relics

King Charles billionaire, head of state and army and veto over parliament

By International Socialist League

The British royal family is popularly perceived as a benign institution, an image important to and encouraged by the ruling class, enthusiastically supported by a bourgeois media sowing lies that royalty are humble folk “just like us” and that everyone is loyal to King and country. It is a myth to say that the British monarch acts in a neutral, non-political way without interference in parliament, big business or the political life of a country. The monarchy is an important part of the ideological underpinning of British capitalism and imperialism.

The exorbitant coronation of King Charles is taking place at the same time as the biggest strike wave in Britain for over 30 years by workers who are striking for fair pay but are told there is no money. The coronation will cost millions.

The monarchy is undemocratic, taking millions from the public purse to increase their private wealth of billions for which they are entirely unaccountable.

Interference in politics by monarchs is generally shrouded in secrecy however, when the interests of British capitalism and imperialism are at stake interference is powerful and open. Furthermore, an important role is to support war – as they did against many nationalist insurgencies like the Mau-Mau, 1952-1960[i]. The armed forces serve under the monarch not parliament and must pledge an oath of allegiance to serve King/Queen and country. 

In her Christmas speech in 1982, Queen Elizabeth praised the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy for going “to the rescue of the Falkland Islanders, 8,000 miles across the ocean”, including the illegal sinking of the General Belgrano ship and drowning of hundreds, what was at stake was the mineral wealth in the sea.  

The monarchy has extraordinary powers of veto over proposed legislation, such as stopping a Private Members Bill in 1999, which would have removed the Queen’s power to authorise military strikes against Iraq. Such matters are normally settled in the weekly private meetings between the head of the state and the armed forces and the Prime Minister, or other meetings with senior government figures.

“The extent of the Queen and Prince Charles’s secretive power of veto over new laws has been exposed after Downing Street lost its battle to keep information about its application secret.”[ii] A court case in 2014 revealed that at least 39 bills have been subject to the most senior royals’ little-known power to consent to or block new laws.

It is shown in Joan Smith’s book “Down with The Tories” that Prince Charles wrote many letters to the government of the day opposing a range of policies.

During the Scottish referendum vote, she gave a stark warning about independence, saying she hoped voters “would think very carefully about the future.”  Senior figures in Whitehall had panicked because of an increasing Yes vote and approached Buckingham Palace to intervene.[iii]

With the power of veto and other interferences in parliament and politics, King Charles can act in a Bonapartist way for different exploiting sectors to ensure unity against the oppressed, nationally and internationally.

Tax havens and offshore accounts

King Charles has created a billion-pound multinational conglomerate that helps cement the oppression of smaller countries and the British working class, an essential part of the British bourgeoisie’s drive to increase and justify its wealth.

Charles utilises tax breaks, offshore accounts and real estate investments to create a billion-pound business – the Duchy of Cornwall, which now passes onto Prince William and is exempt from corporate taxation. King Charles inherits an estate of over £652 million and unlike everyone else, does not have to pay a penny in inheritance tax because of a law designed to protect Royal wealth.

The Duchy of Cornwall owns the landmark cricket ground the Oval, lush farmland in the south of England, seaside vacation rentals, office space in London and a suburban supermarket depot. Its holdings are valued at roughly £1.4 billion, compared with around £949 million in the late queen’s private portfolio. These two estates represent a small fraction of the royal family’s estimated £28 billion fortune. On top of that, the family has personal wealth that remains a closely guarded secret.[iv]

The Duchy of Cornwall accumulated £28 million profit last year, dwarfing Charles’ official salary as prince of just over £1.1 million.

In 2017, leaked financial documents known as the Paradise Papers, revealing how wealth is stashed offshore, showed that Charles’ Duchy estate invested millions in offshore companies including a Bermuda-registered business run by one of his best friends.

Ambassador for death and destruction

Charles acted as a “de facto high-level salesman for the British arms exports,” “bolstering autocratic Gulf regimes,” as claimed in a report by Declassified UK. The investigative journalism website released two reports on the relationship between the House of Windsor and Arab royalty. It found that over the past decade, Charles alone had at least 95 meetings with ruling families in the Middle East, while in total members of Britain’s royal family met 217 times with counterparts in the region’s monarchies.

“Charles’ diplomatic trips to the region are made at the request of the Foreign Office. He has helped to cement controversial alliances with undemocratic regimes and promoted £14.5 billion worth of arms exports in the past decade,” the new report reveals. “The real purpose of these visits is concealed by Buckingham Palace, it is claimed. The palace emphasises his cultural visits although meetings are often with senior military, intelligence and domestic security officials.”[v]

Monarchy for the bourgeoisie

The English Revolution and civil war destroyed absolute monarchy when Charles I refused to concede to parliament and the rising bourgeoisie, which led to his beheading in 1649. A republic was proclaimed, and the monarchy and the House of Lords (HOL) were abolished.

However, the HOL was restored in 1659 after Cromwell died. Today the HOL is a second chamber of parliament composed of hereditary and a majority of life peers who the Queen appointed after a nomination by the prime minister.

A constitutional monarchy was created in 1659 following the ten-year English republic in order to help quell the chaos of competing political interests and to drown the threats from those who had followed the levellers and diggers – who wanted the revolution to go much further.

The consolidation of the ruling class counter-revolution ended with the victory of the Whigs in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, which created an enduring alliance between the bourgeoisie and numerous landowners by making the monarch subject to the rule, an alliance between the bourgeoisie and William of Orange from the Netherlands.

As Marx says, “The English class of great landowners, allied with the bourgeoisie — which, incidentally, had already developed under Henry VIII — did not find itself in opposition — as did the French feudal landowners in 1789 — but rather in complete harmony with the vital requirements of the bourgeoisie. In fact, their lands were not feudal but bourgeois property.[vi]

Stolen wealth

Slave-trading initiatives began with Queen Elizabeth I and continued during the reign of King Charles II. From 1660 to 1685, the Crown and royal family members invested heavily in the African slave trade. During the peak years of the Atlantic slave trade, between 1690 and 1807, European enslavers carried approximately 6 million enslaved Africans to the Americas; almost half of these captives arrived in British or Anglo-American ships. Protected by the Crown and Parliament. The trade of African slaves became one of Britain’s most profitable ‘industries’.[vii]

In the 19th century, Queen Victoria and Albert acquired an international reputation as humanitarian reformers whilst they simultaneously oversaw the expansion of an empire rooted in the racial subjugation and exploitation of people in the Americas, India, Africa, and Asia and throughout the Pacific.

“Monarchy is a survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history. It derives its sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer … … its gifts to humanity are unknown…[viii] (James Connolly, 1911: The British Monarchy Is an Affront to Democracy).

Labour’s political allegiance

The royal family and all it represents and is responsible for, is fully supported by the Conservative and Labour Party and its leader Keir Starmer, guardians of British imperialism. But what of the leftists such as Jeremy Corbyn? Corbyn as the former leader of the Labour Party rejected any suggestion that he wanted to abolish the monarchy and nothing in his manifesto called for abolition, “It’s not on anybody’s agenda, it’s certainly not on my agenda and, do you know what, I had a very nice chat with the Queen,[ix] suggesting unfaltering support for a continuation of the monarchy.

The abolition of the monarchy is a democratic demand of the British revolution, which challenges the mix of arrogance, wealth, privilege, paternalism and bleeding the public purse dry while millions go hungry. Including a condemnation of the racism, sexism and cruelty of monarchic rule.

Working-class people have nothing in common with King Charles and the entire monarchy he represents, our allegiance is to the world’s working class and all oppressed people and to their struggles for freedom from monarchy and capitalism.

A people mentally poisoned by the adulation of royalty can never attain to that spirit of self-reliant democracy necessary for the attainment of social freedom. 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.[x] (James Connolly, 1910).

Abolish the monarchy!

For a workers’ republic!

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/aug/18/uncovering-truth-british-empire-caroline-elkins-mau-mau

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/14/secret-papers-royals-veto-bills

[iii] The Guardian 16 December 2014

[iv] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/13/world/europe/king-charles-wealth.html

[v] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20210225-british-royal-plays-high-level-salesman-for-british-arms-exports/

[vi] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/02/english-revolution.htm

[vii] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/07/british-royal-family-slavery-reparations.html

[viii] https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

[ix] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/leadership-debate-latest-jeremy-corbyn-jeremy-paxman-monarchy-not-on-my-agenda-a7762281.html

[x] https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1911/xx/visitkng.htm

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