Before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015 much of the media focussed on his belief in republicanism, and Corbyn repeatedly had to dismiss the idea of wanting to turf the monarchy out of Buckingham Palace. Since his landslide victory the right-wing elements of the media have doubled down on this criticism, but this was expected as they are right-wing papers that venerate tradition. What fucks me off is when people who are monarchists also claim to be socialists.
When Corbyn began to promote his policies, particularly in economics, the story of his republican views began to be ignored but his recent refusal to join the Privy Council has brought the story back into the media, albeit for a few days. Corbyn has had the title of ‘The Right Honourable’ removed from his name which, unsurprisingly, the monarchy-loving media outlets saw this as incredibly significant although I would question that. What should be surprising is how becoming a royal sycophant has become a necessary characteristic of a Labour leader.
If we ignore that the Labour Party is in fact a social democratic party at its core, Labour self-identifies as a “democratic socialist party” and even Tony Blair said that he applied “socialist principles to modern problems”. If you are in the Labour Party and identify as a socialist, even if by all definitions of socialism you aren’t, you cannot justify support for the monarchy. Socialist principles are the democratisation of all aspects of society including the workplace, egalitarianism, and scepticism towards authority justified on the basis of tradition. Even the most committed monarchist would acknowledge that having a hereditary monarch is not democratic or egalitarian, and any ‘socialist’ that believes in the monarchy’s authority by virtue of it always existing is not really a socialist.
However the deference towards the monarchy is part of wider problem that Labour has when it comes to tradition and authority. A ‘democratic socialist’ party shouldn’t support the continuation of the Church of England as an established part of the British state with some of it’s clergy having a direct influence on the passage of legislation. A ‘democratic socialist’ party shouldn’t support the continued existence of the House of Lords on the grounds that it is a bastion of patronage and landowners whose ‘right’ to sit in the chamber go back hundreds of years. A ‘democratic socialist’ party shouldn’t allow private schools like Eton College and Harrow, who entrench privilege and inequality, to have tax-exempt status. The Labour Party is too respectful of authority, especially given that much of the authority I’m talking about directly contradicts the socialist principles that Labour claims to stand up for.
To conclude, I’m not saying that you can’t be in the Labour Party if you support the monarchy because as I’ve said the Labour Party isn’t actually a socialist party any more but what I find particularly annoying is when socialist language is appropriated by people to justify systemic inequality and authority by people who claim such justifications are consistent with socialist principles. I’m not even judging these people, all I’m saying is that if you allow for the continuation of privilege, inequality and institutions that run counter to democracy, you’re not a socialist. You can identify as whatever you want but you’re definitely not anything to the left of a social-democrat by any definitions I am aware of.