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The People’s Oligarch: What the fuck’s an anti-racist royal? #AbolishtheMonarchy

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Over the past months I have been asked “are you Team Harry & Meghan?” And the answer is no; despite having nothing personally against them as invidiuals, they are part of the establishment. As someone that identifies with many socialist beliefs (and socialism is not without its critiques), H&M represent everything I am against.

However, as there is no doubt they have suffered abuse at the hands of The Crown and media, it appears to me both were upset they were excluded from the Royal Family due to racism and other things. Yet, they would never challenge the monarchy within the frame of a white supermacist, imperialist heteropatriarchal construct” (hooks, 2006: 250). Still, they have never called the monarchy institutionally racist, and their dislike to racism appears personal not communal, revisiting the problematic notion that it only affects them. Their problem wasn’t about equality for all, only in relation to other royals. If Meghan had not been impacted by the UK’s brand of racism, I wonder if they would have been so outspoken about racism at all, something Harry seems to only have reduced down to ‘unconscious bias’ which seems to be all he knows!

By the by, many fans of H&M, like numerous journalists during the Jubilee, are still presenting themselves as bootlicking sychophants. Here, I see no space to have discussions that frame H&M as complicit in an imperialistic construct (the monarchy), but there are “nice” conversations framing them as passive victims of the media and The Crown. The dominant public narrative is one of fairy tale romance and sympathy to their struggle. Yet, what seems unclear is the public amnesia that these two are still members of the establishment, and living thousands of miles away will not change that. Particularly, responses to Meghan from Black Britain in many spaces is positive, but then remain uncritical of how more Black and Brown faces in high places will not change things. To “reform” the monarchy would be to reform empireland itself. It’s a fool’s hope!

Journalist Ash Sakar makes a valid intervention here, that in legitimising the monarchy there is a hierachy of equality that separates fair treatment among “royals” from fair treatment among the general public.

The docuseries Harry and Meghan also showed that the couple were willing to do the monarchy’s bidding overseas in order to avoid the British press (this presumably includes those wretched royal tours). What this shows me is both were willing to continue the legacy of an imperialist monarchy as long as media abuse stopped intruding on their lives. Harry showed a want to reconcile with his father and brother, but it was contentious. Even the fact both have kept their titles shows you where their alleigances sit and that one day, they will be “welcomed back.” For anyone that is pro-democracy, one cannot be pro-H&M when the monarchy still exists (one must choose). The racism Meghan experienced from the media and reportedly from members of the Royal Family is framed as an ‘unexplainable random’ occurence, not the results of centuries of colonial racism wired into the structure. Brown-skinned people being “included” into the white establishment simply reasserts the whiteness in place (Ahmed, 2012: 33).

Harry belongs to posse of privileged white men who have benefited from the spoils of colonial pillage and plunder. This is also someone who spent ten years in the Armed Forces – an institution that has long been envisaged through ‘orientalism and war’ (Smith, 2016: 68). The military was tool of violence throughout the British Empire and continues to be a tool of colonisation now … I find it difficult to see establishmentarians as activists, someone that continues to say they’re pro-monarchy and pro-military while “aligning” with the ‘liberal’ equality agenda. Though their story is interesting (I will be reading Spare), I must question if ‘celebrity activism‘ is the way. Celebrity is not freedom when it just raises the profile of the rich and famous. No less than when those celebrities are establishment and do not show a willingness to leave it. In fact, though the British media are brutal and have treated H&M appallingly, it does appear that if the media stopped and the monarchy came calling Meghan and Harry may go back!

I was also taken aback by the commentary from Black British public intellectuals in the documentary offering a critical analysis of the British Empire, but seemed to have lost steam when it came to linking that analysis to the monarchy itself including present-day Royal Family members. In one case, Prince Harry was referred to as “anti-racist” by author-journalist Afua Hirsch. What the fuck’s an anti-racist royal? This is a captialist institution made up of captialists! Meanwhile, the comment that Meghan looked like many of the people in Commonwealth (Empire 2.0) by historian David Olusoga sent my head spinning for fifteen minutes (insinuating she could reform The Crown). This is a deeply individual docuseries that goes no way to further the debate on race equality in the UK nor the toxicities of the media, but what it does is show how entrenched neoliberal ideology is.

Neoliberal capitalism is defined by scholar-YouTuber Tom Nicholas (2019) as a “political ideology which holds that the primary bond between humans is … purely economic. All of our interactions … with other humans are neoliberal posits, driven … on self-interest.” American economist Milton Friedman (2002) continues that the ‘liberal’ part of the word is “a corruption of the term” (p6). More current discussions around neoliberal capitalism also tell us that the ‘liberal’ in that term is a misnomer (Friedman, 2002: 6), and it actually belongs to the Victorian-Georgian period, for the rich to spend their money how they want (Tom Nicholas, 2019). The H&M docuseries is a text that centres privileged whining with no want to link the formations of colonialism of yesterday to the racism that happens today. This was an individual docuseries centred around H&M’s experiences; this is fine and all, but what was more problematic was the exceptionalism. H&M appear not to be upset at racism in general, but that it is in fact intruding on their lives, somewhat revisiting of how individualism is part-and-parcel of our society.


Replying to @fishy_hi Colonization is a SYSTEM of oppression and exploitation. Not just a punctual action. #britishhistory #ukhistory #unitedkingdom #colonisation #learnontiktok

♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim
Joris Lechene’s defintion of colonisation is aptly fitting for why present-day Royal Family members could be defined as colonisers (TikTok, 2022)

It is very easy to be pro-Harry & Meghan when they have been painted as victims, but not all victims are blameless (no less than when they’re millionaires part of a colonising institution). Thousands of miles does not change that one day they may go back. If Harry & Meghan debacle has shown me anything, it has only revealed that colonial racism is endemic to Britain. Moreover, oligarchy is not being discussed in this context. ByLine Times editor Peter Jukes says “oligarchy is the combination of money and power, of the state and money and power.” H&M are complicit in an establishment where the few rule the many. In my opinion, the greatest threat to democracy is not just right-wing politicians, but also oligarchs. Plato believed that an exclusive group of rich people taking over was a threat to democracy, and we call this oligarchy. Whilst Harry & Meghan are allegedly among the popular royals, I also worry that their sympathy story opens the floodgates for them (especially Harry) to become The People’s Oligarch.

Public investment in Harry & Meghan as a symbol of British culture worries me. It is smoke and mirrors, and the monarchy benefits from their popularity; as individuals, H&M have had a rough go of it but they are part of a rat-infested institution. As long as H&M are seen as “good royals”, the British Crown benefits – because the monarchy is then seen as good. Regardless of in-fighting, the institution wins. Recently, we saw their sewage floating down the streets through the Jubilee, and colonial nostalgia following the Queen’s death. It accumaltes in stately homes; it gathers in schools forcing their students to stand for the national anthem and honour The Crown; it exists in the deluge of investment into the 2022 Commonwealth Games during the summer … pervading, as numbers of “activists” become knights of realm and Members of the British Empire [MBEs].

During a Cost of Capitalism Crisis (dubbed Living by media), we are being infected by royal propaganda as if ‘being royal’ is a normal thing. One way to solve this pollution of our bodies and minds is filter it out by educating people at every level on the history and present of this institution. There are no good royals, simply many shades of bad. I hold no ill-will to Harry & Meghan as individuals, but the Disney story metaphor that the docuseries projected overshadows another story – H&M as the layperson’s neoliberal and Prince Harry as the oligarch that everyday people will accept – the antithesis to men like PM Rishi Sunak, but covertly equally as damaging where the British monarchy is good for oligarch business, but not for working-class survival.

Now that the Queen has been buried, why not bury the institution? Britain has more foodbanks than McDonald’s restaurants and people act like a brown person in the royal institution will change things? Nonsense. You can’t EDI the monarchy. Throw it on the scrapheap. Nothing about the royal couple is anti-racist when they present themselves as capitalists. Eric Williams’ 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery shows the intersections between capitalism and enslavement, further to Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In our anti-racism, anti-capitalism must feature. This power couple are capitalists, so I need someone to tell answer me this, “what the fuck’s an anti-racist royal?” This is diversity wearing the Benin Bronzes; it is EDI in a Gucci belt – celebrity activism “spectacularised” (DeBord, 1967), making the public look like mugs.

In his book Not the Chilcot Report, journalist Peter Oborne calls Britain a modern state with a medieval core. The treatment of Harry & Meghan is testament to this. Their punishment for complaining, for daring to say anything and speak out is deeply medieval in its logic. These incidents are treated as individual while those who complain are disciplined (Ahmed, 2021). What is the antithesis to monarchy? A British culture of equality driven by abolition and decolonial thought at its heart. If we actually took decolonisation seriously, we would see empire at home embedded in numerous ways – including we the public internally colonised at home while the police ‘maintain law and order.’

Sociologist Emma Dabiri’s tweet here can be applied in many contexts, no less than the toxic nature of Black and Brown faces in high spaces being interchangeable with ‘representation’. We need a more nuanced conversation.

With abolishing the monarchy, you then start to think about abolishing the House of Lords (filled with unelected officials of all colours and creeds who “make decisions” for us). This triggers me to think about the Cost of Capitalism Crisis – so much of what we are talking about and experiencing now, including asshole landlords and unaccountable power pervades through the monarchy, Harry & Meghan not excluded. And it seems to me, many of those who were criticising the monarchy last summer even up to the September when the Queen died, suddenly have lost their voice and have a deference to power when it comes to H&M. People I know to be staunch activists suddenly forget and become gugu-eyed and starstruck; Harry & Meghan have us in a chokehold.

By all means, both these figures are victims but that also does not mean they are not complicit in other ways. I have found, especially amid Black people who view them as “representation” – H&M are unimpeachable. The liberal left in my experience has been more problematic than the political right, blinkered, unable to see how “good” and “bad” individuals stop us from looking at overarching systems of domination. There are no good royals, but the fish rots from the head down (just many shades of bad and the bar of virtue is the floor). The appeal of Harry & Meghan is they are not William & Kate, Lady Hussey, or the late Queen and Philip. Royal in-fighting only does the work of the institution, framing H&M as good and William, Kate etc etc as bad – but nonetheless united in framing The Crown as legitimate. We need not give H&M more airtime, instead our time may be better used to look at things like The Crown, House of Lords, the Privy Council, Honours etc etc and challenge the legitimacy of the cage.

1 Comment

  1. Excellent analysis, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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