7-ish am on 6 May. I awoke to a cascade of royal drivel gushing from my radio. At that moment one of the most beneficial technological innovations was the ‘OFF’ button (preceded by an appropriate invective).

Before my censorship of the impartial BBC there was a report that Canterbury had recanted. The Archbishop was no longer going to invite the goggling masses to do verbal homage to their newly anointed king by swearing allegiance before God and the TV.

The previous day, in an interview, a friend, confidant and biographer insisted the monarch had no wish for anyone to pay such formalised respects except, perhaps, as a joke. Not much of a stand-up routine in my opinion.

However, the nation need not be struck dumb when the moment in the coronation ceremony came as there would be an invitation by the Anglican head prelate for viewers to join in with the declaration, ‘God save King Charles’. Who then would be dumb?

To voice such a sentiment is at least a tacit acceptance of inferiority, of subjection, of being a subject of the crown. The Lords will still be called upon to pay homage, binding them closer to the monarch than the vassals excluded from direct attendance.

This recognition of divine right to rule does not, of course, confer arbitrary powers upon the King. While he may well still consider himself answerable to a divinity, the engines of the state through which crown power is actually exercised are answerable, ultimately to capital.

The notion of inviting the nation to express its loyalty through swearing an oath of allegiance is an indication that a liberal bourgeois democracy is by no means a society of equals. Perhaps it would have been a too blatant expression of inequality which led to it being substantially toned down.

Whether Charles lll was in favour of it or not is beside the point. It is a demonstration of the careful and meticulous management of public perception by which capitalism ultimately maintains its ideological hold.

There may well be further demonstrations by republicans, vexed at having an unelected head of state foisted upon the nation. While there is no pretence of democracy by having a monarch chosen by birth not the ballot box, election does not substantially change the role of a head of state.

A president may be able to serve only a fixed term, but that merely means that the person in office changes regularly, not the office. Nor is there any compelling evidence that suffrage guarantees meritocratic excellence. The example of the USA shows financial clout not ability is the determining factor in selecting an incumbent for the White House.

Nor does America demonstrate any significant social egalitarianism for all its rejection of monarchy and formal aristocracy. Can there be any doubt that the nation is in thrall to the lords of capital even if they don’t grant them such formal titles.

The swearing of allegiance, right hand earnestly pressed to the heart, is certainly a feature of American pomp and circumstance. The form of address may be Mr. President rather than your majesty, but the effect is the same.

The swearing of oaths has an honourable working class pedigree. In the early days of British industrial capitalism workers responded to their harsh conditions through trade union organisation. This was duly criminalised by the Combination Acts of 1799/1800.

Workers continued to organise, but as a response to illegality and a need for secrecy an oath of allegiance to the union and its fellow members was often required, a condition known as being twisted in.

Following the repeal, in the 1820s, of those pernicious acts workers began to further develop their organisations. However, the use of oaths of allegiance did not immediately disappear. Worker solidarity and the seriousness of their unions were on occasion emphasised through formal ceremony.

An initiation into membership could involve an individual being blindfolded and required to swear an oath of loyalty before a skeleton painting, a reminder of mortality and the seriousness of the undertaking.

It was for such a procedure the Tolpuddle Martyrs were convicted under the Unlawful Oaths Act, 1797, originally passed in reaction to naval mutinies at Spithead and Nore. The use of oaths obviously depends on who is swearing them and for what purpose.

The crown and its agents are not so enamoured of oaths taken for the purpose of reinforcing working class solidarity. Such, it seems, trespasses upon the royal prerogative designed to ensure everyone accepts society as it is organised and each person’s relationship with the status quo.

Reflecting on the coronation there was a brief radio interview with a woman who’d been honoured for her charity work and was an invited guest at the Westminster service. Her reaction was along the lines that it was marvellous that someone like her, a commoner (her word), had been able to attend.

Actually being there might well have required her to join in repeating the oath of allegiance which essentially confirms her status. Indeed, all who did verbal homage affirmed the notion that one person is elevated over all others.

For socialists, attitudes such as this represent a serious obstacle to the pursuit of socialism. Those who were not fascinated by the carefully stage-managed spectacle are still influenced by it. Thankful for another bank holiday, as if there should be gratitude for the grace and favour of being granted a day off from work.

Even the ones who consciously opposed the coronation such as members of ‘Republic’ are focusing attention on the monarch or the possibility of an alternative essentially fulfilling the same role. Whereas pledging allegiance to a monarch or president doesn’t address the basic issue.

That is, the achievement of a society free of social hierarchy and based instead on everyone contributing to society according to ability, thereby creating the conditions in which everybody’s self-determined needs can be met.

This will only happen if and when the vast majority get up, actually or metaphorically, off their knees and stride towards their consciously created future – socialism.


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