On last Tuesday evening at Solidarity Books a small but very interested audience listened to James McBarron of Cork WSM give a talk outlining why people should oppose the impending visit of the queen of England to the Republic of Ireland. In his presentation, he reminded us that the institution of monarchism, the British monarchy in particular because of its historic role, is bound up intimately with the promotion of imperialism, militarism and privilege, and therefore should be opposed.
James drew the audience's attention to how important the Irish ruling class see this forthcoming visit. He described it as part of a 'charm offensive' aimed at the Irish people encouraging us to become an enthusiastic part of the 'imperialist club', and to forget the traditional sympathy ordinary people here have for the oppressed and the victims of imperialism.
James continued by discussing the roots and history of anarchist anti-monarchist activity, going back as far as the French Revolution and using Mikhail Bakunin's personal history to illustrate how many anarchists developed their politics from an initial engagement with radical republican anti-monarchism. He also touched on the use of assassination of kings (and other heads of state) by anarchists in the 19th century and the consequences of these acts. He later reflected on how protest against the queen's visit would be seen, with a focus on how it would be seen by the protestant working class in nothern Ireland. Such concerns though should not inhibit people from protesting the real issues that surround this visit, James contended.
This visit is also happening at a time of dire economic crisis, and while ordinary people's jobs, wages, benefits and public services have been savagely cut, yet the same government can spend tens of millions of euros and deploy up to 10,000 cops and soldiers to protect an obscenely privileged interloper. This made the priorities of our ruling class very visible, said James, and he gave several more examples of how the celebration of privilege cost the rest of us dearly.
The talk was followed by contributions from the floor and questions to the speaker. Among the points raised during these exchanges were how protesting monarchism is in effect protesting all privilege, what it was like to grow up in Britain under the propaganda onslaught for that outdated, undemocratic and warmongering institution, what protests were likely to carry the best political message and the how the history of resistance to the institution of the monarchy in Britain (including one regicide!) has been erased from popular history by the weight of royalist revisionism. In spite of the small attendance, it was well worth doing for the political points it helped tease out for those who came to the bookshop on Tuesday evening to enjoy it.
Audio of James' talk and the following discussion and questions (3 parts):