With the British monarchy mired in crisis and scandal, calls for republicanism are growing across the Commonwealth. The struggle for genuine independence must be linked to the struggle against imperialism and capitalism – and for socialism.
This year is the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from Britain. So one might think it a little tone deaf that Prince William and Kate visited Jamaica last week as part of a charm offensive to avoid a wave of Caribbean and Commonwealth nations removing the Queen as head of state, as Barbados did in 2021.
The mere presence of these feudal relics has achieved the opposite of their intended goal, however, instead stoking calls for Jamaica to become a republic.
In front of news cameras, Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that his country was “moving on”.
Almost wherever the Royals went they were followed by protests against their visit. Indeed, according to a 2020 poll on whether Jamaicans think the Queen should continue to be the head of state or not, 55% said ‘No’, 30% said ‘Yes’, and 15% said ‘Don’t know’.
Protesters not only demanded a republic, but also called for an apology from the Royals for their historical profiteering from slavery, as well for reparations for slavery.
This disastrous Royal visit was reflective of the diminishing and blundering role the British ruling class plays on the world stage. No wonder workers in Jamaica and across the Caribbean increasingly want to move on from these imperialist has-beens.
Who thought this was a good photo op? pic.twitter.com/AAQjLh3WrQ— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) March 23, 2022
Britain’s legacy in Jamaica is inseparable from slavery and exploitation.
For centuries, British ships transported countless numbers of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean to labour on sugar plantations. It was partly the vast profits generated by the work of African slaves that allowed British imperialism to dominate the world economy for over a century.
After the abolition of slavery, British imperialism continued to rule Jamaica as a colony – profiting from its raw materials, labour, and underdeveloping industry.
Although British imperialism’s ties to Jamaica have weakened, it still exerts a significant amount of pernicious influence.
The Windrush scandal is a clear demonstration that the British ruling class are able to harass Jamaicans through racist immigration policies, in addition to domestic racist policing policies.
In 2018, it emerged that those who migrated to Britain as children during the Windrush period (1948-73, named for the Empire Windrush vessel that transported one of the first groups of migrants from the West Indies) were having their British citizenship questioned and revoked. This racist attack led to dozens of people being wrongly deported by the Tory government.
Unsurprisingly, those in the Caribbean are demanding that if those who legally come to the UK are mistreated in this way, then it’s about time they finally cut ties with the racist British ruling class.
What kind of republic?
That being said, no expense was spared by the Jamaican government for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s arrival. Roads were resurfaced; areas were cleared of litter; and low-paid workers were told by bosses to stay out of the way of the Royals.
In fact, the ruling Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) and opposition People’s National Party (PNP) have claimed to be republican for decades, and have promised countless referendums on removing the Queen as head of state. So what’s taking them so long?
Barbados became the world’s youngest republic last year. Subsequently, in a snap general election in January, the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) repeated their 2018 clean sweep of 30 out of 30 seats in the House of Assembly.
Seeing this success, Jamaica PM Holness is now cynically riding a wave of republicanism to bolster his chances of re-election.
It’s yet to be seen what will be done by Holness’ JLP to actually make the country a republic. And even if Jamaica does become a republic, then what kind of republic will it become?
It is abundantly clear that the IMF and US imperialism dominate the Jamaican economy today through crippling financial loans and Bauxite mining, respectively. The World Bank estimated that 23% of Jamaicans lived in poverty in 2020, up from 18% in 2019.
Increasingly, people are seeing that the vast profits extracted by US imperialism could go towards solving the manifold problems in Jamaica. British imperialism is at its weakest point for centuries.
Britain's former colonies in the Commonwealth are growing in confidence to break free from the shackles of an imperialist power incapable of striking back. But a republic ushered in by the Jamaican ruling class would do nothing to alleviate the endemic poverty and crime sown by imperialism and capitalism.
It is only the struggle for socialism and abolition of capitalism that can guarantee true independence from both the British monarchy and US imperialism.
Abolish the monarchy!
As Marxists, we are internationalists and republicans. We enthusiastically support the struggle of the international working class in the fight against imperialism and capitalism.
This struggle must begin at home. For Marxists in Britain, this means fighting against the wrongful, racist deportations of those who have lived in this country for decades, and instead fight for open borders.
Above all, it means fighting to overthrow our own racist ruling class – including our criminal Tory government and the rotten institution that is the British monarchy.
This is the most effective way that we in Britain can support workers and youth in Jamaica in their struggle to become a republic. For the Jamaican workers and youth, it means a relentless class struggle not only against the nefarious influence of the British Crown, but imperialism and the capitalist system as a whole.