This Sunday – while a long line of boats floats downstream along the Thames to mark the Queen’s sixty years on the throne – hundreds of republicans will be protesting against the monarchy on the river bank. Republic’s jubilee protest will be the biggest and most vocal expression of anti-monarchy and republican dissent there has been in modern times.
Armchair republicans meanwhile have been out and about in the media telling us that the best strategy would be to do nothing – a strategy that for the past 30 years has left the movement lagging well behind other progressive and democratic causes. To do nothing, to buy into the ‘we all love the Queen’ royalist-Britain narrative, is a failure of imagination and ambition that has to stop.
For years republicanism has been treated by many in politics and the media as nothing more than an intellectual exercise for the educated elite. The ‘chattering classes’ like to wear the republican badge – it gives them a warm sense of satisfaction about their rationality – but they have refused to take up the challenge of turning the cause into a serious movement. On the weekend, Roy Hattersley criticised Republic’s campaign as ‘silly’ and ‘trivialising’ the issue – a response absolutely typical of the previous generation of republicans who have spectacularly failed the cause. In the Guardian, Tom Clark was recently suggesting that ‘shrewd’ republicans would simply sit back and do nothing until the Queen dies. This is a passive – and rather morbid – approach that a new generation of republicans are completely rejecting. There is nothing shrewd about do-nothing campaigning.
The monarchy is a political institution and it survives for political and cynical reasons. It’s not going to fade away, and a passive ‘wait for Charles’ approach is a recipe of failure. The palace and the government do all they can to promote and shore up the monarchy – it serves the interests of the Windsors of course, but with the Crown giving so much power to the government it also serves the interests of the politicians. This is a politicians’ monarchy, cynically dressed up in Edwardian pomp to distract attention from a very shabby political operation. The only way it will be disposed of is by republicans taking the fight to the palace and to parliament, winning over public support in the long term and demanding the politicians follow.
Republic represents a new and dynamic republicanism – one that doesn’t accept the monarchist narrative and which is determined to challenge the spin, hype and hyperbole of the royalists. We also do not accept the defeatism of some republicans – such as Peter Wilby, who, the other day, was suggesting protest was pointless and that we ought instead to aim for a scaled down monarchy.
This is why, on Sunday, Republic will be staging the biggest republican protest in living memory right on the banks of the river Thames. It is our intention to make a very clear, vocal and visible statement about our cause and to challenge people to think again about what they’re being asked to celebrate. The jubilee is not just a celebration of one woman’s time in office, it is a celebration of monarchy itself and the hereditary principle. Yet the Queen is just an ordinary woman who at the age of 25 was given a job for life and who has kept that job for life for over 60 years – while allowing all those around her to cynically manipulate our media and politicians in a concerted effort to protect her and her institution from scrutiny or challenge. It is not an achievement to keep such a job for 60 years – it’s just a matter of mathematics.
Republicans have a powerful and positive message about democratic values and a more imaginative and inspiring form of politics. We must make the case for change and take up the challenge to persuade a majority that the case is one deserving their support.
At the same time we must challenge the public to think again about the monarchy, to reject the lazy clichés – and we must challenge the palace head on. Monarchy is not as popular as Tom Clark suggested in his earlier article – 69% prefer the status quo, that’s not the same as saying 69% love the monarchy. Widespread opposition to the taxpayer buying a new boat for the Queen and a clear majority objecting even to changing the name of the Big Ben tower to Elizabeth Tower are just two recent indicators of a much more ambivalent public attitude.
The monarchy’s popularity and survival aren’t the result of its inherent place in the fabric of Britain, but a result of a deliberate and concerted PR campaign from the palace and the complete failure of previous generations of republicans to take up the fight.
That fight is now on, and Sunday’s protest is just the start of a bigger and more robust republican campaign – one that will continue to grow, as it has done over the past eighteen months and which will succeed.
The Republic protest will take place on 3 June, at Tower Bridge between 12-5pm. For more information please visit www.republic.org.uk.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill