Why St George’s Day should be a public holiday in England

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2021 by kmflett

Why St George’s Day should be a Public Holiday in England

Unlike Billy Bragg I’ve never felt particularly tempted to try and wrestle St George, what is known of his actual existence or his myth, from the political right in the UK.

Why the right want St George, who wherever he was born, was certainly not English, is perhaps less obvious. He was a military saint and he was a Christian. Plus he has been around as an icon for a long time in English history.

Shakespeare’s Henry V contains the still oft repeated phrase ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George. As a military and a religious man St George fitted the ideology of the Crusades well

We can agree then that if the reasons for George becoming an English saint, along with being the saint of numbers of other countries, are a little obscure, given the length of time he has been at it he at least has squatting rights to the title.

St George was a soldier in the Roman Army of Emperor Diocletian and was persecuted and killed for refusing to give up his Christian faith.

Given that the Romans had occupied Britain, and that there was some Christianity in the country some kind of connection can be seen.

That said the slaying of the dragon was not a reflection of some ancient English rivalry against Wales but mythic.

Leaving aside an argument about whether the left have not, in the main, been as patriotically English as the right [whether they should have been is another matter] and hence have equal claims to St George, it is also possible to see him as a symbol of the oppressed and poor- which was certainly what the majority of Christians were during the time of the Roman Empire.

I think however that in pursuing that argument the left has the weight of some centuries against it.

In the 1890 preface to the German edition of Marx’s Capital, Engels dealt with the case of Professor Brentano, who had accused Marx of making up a quotation from Gladstone in the book. Engels refers to the Professor as the ‘St George of the German Manufacturers Association’ engaged in slaying the ‘infernal dragon’ of Marx.

In 1941 in the Journal of the History of Ideas we find Goldwin Smith writing an article on Marx and St George. On the face of it the piece is a puzzle as it contains no actual reference to the Saint. The point is of course that St George stands for England, and Smith while finding Marx’s ideas interesting concludes that they weren’t really the thing for the English.

I wish those still trying to reclaim St George from the traditions of the right good luck but I think there is another way in which we could usefully proceed.

There is some evidence that going back to medieval times 23rd April was a feast day as people celebrated St George. This year the pubs in England, unlike in 2020 will see people toasting the dragon slayer with beers of that name or similar, albeit outside only.

Why not however make St George’s Day a national holiday in England as Labour once proposed?


The Battle of Wood Green 44 years on. Why it still matters

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2021 by kmflett

The Battle of Wood Green 44 years on. Why it matters?

It was 44 years ago today ( in fact a Saturday afternoon then) when over a thousand supporters of the fascist National Front, union jacks waving, gathered on Ducketts Common in North London.

Their plan was to march down Wood Green High Rd in one of the most diverse areas of the country. Their aim was to stir up racism and division.

The local community came together to oppose it. It took hard work but a united opposition gathered on the day from all local Councillors, trade unions, political organisations and of course the wider population of the area.

The strategy was to allow those who wished to peacefully protest to do so, while those who felt the march should be stopped, as fascist marches in the 1930s had been, also came up with a plan.

Combining the two ensured maximum support for the protest against the fascists and maximum impact too.

As the National Front march entered Wood Green High Rd early on that sunny April afternoon anti-fascists and anti-racists and many local shoppers pushed into the march and broke it. Some fascists made it to a rally in Arnos Grove. Many ran away.

The NF never again tried to march in the area.

Two generations on it still matters. The NF hardly exists but unfortunately fascists do and they still need to be opposed.

I was there on that day 44 years ago. Would I do it again? Yes


Lenin (b 22 April 1870) cats & socialism

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2021 by kmflett

Lenin (b April 22 1870) cats & socialism

Making a connection between the politics of Lenin who was born 151 years ago today and cats is a complex and certainly dialectical question.

Lenin however was certainly a cat lover, having several in his Kremlin apartment from 1918.

John S Clarke who was a professional lion tamer visited Moscow in 1920 and reportedly helped to train and organise cats. Clarke went on to become a Labour MP (those were the days)

The picture of Lenin with a cat was taken in the village of Gorki in 1922

We should however be cautious about assuming an automatic link between cats and any particular trend on the left, Rosa Luxemburg described what happened when her cat Mimi met Lenin:

“She also flirted with him, rolled on her back and behaved enticingly toward him,” Luxemburg writes. “But when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger.”


Lifting of Disneyland beard ban imposed in 1955 welcomed as ‘long overdue’

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2021 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

22nd April

Contact: Keith Flett 07803 167266

Lifting of Disneyland beard ban imposed in 1955 welcomed as ‘long overdue’

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has welcomed the final lifting of a ban on beards for employees at Disneyland, but said it is long overdue.

Disneyland is set to re-open on April 30th following a year of COVID-19 restrictions

For well over 60 years Disneyland has had a series of petty and absurd rules on how their employees can dress and appear. These have gradually been scrapped in recent years with the beard ban amongst the last to go.

The campaigners say that the requirement for beards to be ‘neat and tidy’ in public facing roles is fair enough.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, Disneyland has had significant issues with diversity and inclusion but this is a step in the right direction at last.


St George: Have Flagshaggers taken ‘progressive patriotism’ off the agenda

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2021 by kmflett

St George: Have Flagshaggers taken ‘progressive patriotism’ off the agenda?

23rd April is St George’s Day.

He is the patron saint of England, although he was certainly not English. Traditionally it was a day of parades (think dragon effigies etc) and celebration, in short a festival.

In 2021 St George is associated with patriotism and flag waving although awkwardly the English St George’s flag forms only part of the Union Jack.

While Culture Minister Oliver Dowden has ordered public buildings (in England anyway) to fly the Union Jack at all times(probably upside down in most cases) numbers of Tory MPs now appear virtually festooned with flags. One twerp even asked why the BBC’s annual report didn’t have union jacks in it. Keir Starmer followed suit, although its not entirely clear if he is still with what are known collectively as the flagshaggers.

As an international socialist my flag stays red of course but that doesn’t mean the long running debate about whether patriotism can be progressive should be ignored.

E P Thompson for example wrote quite specifically the Making of the English Working Class and saw himself as English. He likened himself to the Great Bustard a bird extinct in England that was unable to fly and hence depart for Europe.

This was in the context of the debates in the New Left Review in the first half of the 1960s. Thompson was critical of those like Perry Anderson who were critical of what they saw as a tradition of English empiricism and preferred the perspectives of European Marxism.

Thompson was hardly unaware of how far Britain was tied up with imperialism and racism arguing with Anderson that the left had had ‘so bloody much to oppose’ that time for theory was limited.

Ironically Thompson was influenced positively by Gramsci and negatively by Althusser.

Thompson saw progressive English and British traditions forming a part of a federal socialist Europe, very different from the centralised neo-liberal EU.

On St George’s Day the argument for this particular kind of internationalism can be made but not, given the current penchant for flag shagging with a union jack or St George’s flag anywhere in sight I think.


William Cobbett’s The Thing,Sleaze & Boris Johnson

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2021 by kmflett

William Cobbett’s ‘The Thing’, Sleaze & Boris Johnson

Following Boris Johnson’s latest defence of his dealings with Jennifer Arcuri and handouts he approved for James Dyson, Keir Starmer has attacked Johnson on the basis that his Government is mired in sleaze.

Indeed it is, but this is not something that bothers Johnson who as an Old Etonian sees such behaviour simply as a way of life.

The issue perhaps is a lack of democratic accountability which means that currently there is no effective way of calling the Government to account.

In the period before the 1832 Reform Act a similar situation applied.

William Cobbett a writer and farmer was a radical Tory who strongly criticised what he saw as the Old Corruption of the political system before the 1832 Reform Act.

He strongly disliked the power of patronage in the system, people who held well paid positions in Government and other official structures not on merit or competence, and certainly not because they were elected, but rather because of who they were or who they knew.

In his Rural Rides, Cobbett criticised ‘pensions, sinecures, tithes and the other ‘glorious institutions’ of this ‘mighty empire’. He referred to this collectively as The Thing.

Cobbett was might well have recognised the Tory Party of 2020 as strangely familiar.

The 1832 Reform Act did begin a process of changing this, very unevenly. It might however be noted that before it was passed in 1831 some historians have argued that Britain came the closest to revolution that it has ever been.

Johnson is playing for high stakes and I suspect he knows it.


Craft Beer in Tesco: Vault City make the case for it

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2021 by kmflett

Craft Beer in Tesco: Vault City make the case for it

In the link below Vault City make the case for placing a couple of their beers in Tesco. They also helpfully list those Tesco outlets where you might find the beer (allowing for the fact that supermarket supply chains are often somewhat erratic).

Vault City for the unaware are Scottish brewers of really rather good sour beers. They are brewing a couple specially for Tesco but otherwise will continue to supply craft beer bars and Indy bottle shops.

Their aim is not to lose their independence but to protect it. They say the scale of the Tesco order gives them an element of financial stability that will allow them to repulse third party interest.

Hopefully they are right. However there is a risk. If the beers don’t sell well (they should btw but I’m not sure how popular sour beers even of this quality are across the UK as opposed to some well known centres) Tesco may withdraw and leave them in the lurch. It is hardly unknown for supermarkets, whose bottom line is profit and shareholder value, not craft beer, to do that.

Hopefully they have a Plan B for that possibility


Derek Chauvin: guilty. There are decades when nothing happens…

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2021 by kmflett

Derek Chauvin: guilty. Decades when nothing happens..

On Tuesday Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the racist murder of George Floyd. It is the start not the end of a process. It’s worth reflecting that in Britain no police officer has ever been prosecuted for a similar matter, even though deaths of black people in custody continue. The issue of institutional racism cannot be swept under the carpet whatever the Sewell report says.

On the same day the football European Super League imploded after player and fan protests.

On a less significant scale, Ed Smith was replaced as the England cricket selector and the Downing St press room, on which millions were wasted, was scrapped.

As Lenin noted, there are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.


Arsenal & Spurs fans unite North London against the European Super League

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2021 by kmflett

Arsenal & Spurs fans unite North London against the European Super League

The rivalry between Arsenal and Spurs two clubs just a few miles apart in North London is well known. However sometimes there is more that unites supporters than divides them.

One example is the decision of both clubs (at the moment) to join the European Super League, a group of wealthy clubs determined to get even wealthier.

The ownership structure of Arsenal and Spurs already leaves a huge amount to be desired and the ESL would make it even worse.

However on Tuesday Labour and union representatives from across North London were to be found united against the ESL. The two Labour MPs for Islington Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry and Labour controlled Islington Council wrote a joint letter to Arsenal condemning the ESL plan

At the same time Haringey Trades Union Council, representing thousands of workers in the Borough in which Spurs play, agreed to write to the club’s owners condemning their involvement with the ESL.

As we know in the labour movement, unity is strength. Arsenal and Spurs fan uniting is surely a display of people power that the clubs will find it hard to ignore.


Boris Johnson on Greed: In general a good thing. In football a bad thing

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2021 by kmflett

Boris Johnson on Greed: In general a good thing. In football a bad thing

Boris Johnson has spoken out against the new football European Super League, widely condemned as putting the greed of a few already very wealthy football clubs above the interests of the sport.

It’s a particularly Johnsonian intervention.

Just recently he was heard to exclaim that the production of COVID-19 vaccines was motivated by greed for the profits they might make and this underlined capitalism was a good thing.

He back tracked from that remark but in fact he has a record of praising greed. Here for example is a summary of part of a speech he made when he was London Mayor in 2013:

In an attempt to shore up his support on the Tory right, as he positions himself as the natural successor to David Cameron, the London mayor called for the “Gordon Gekkos of London” to display their greed to promote economic growth.

Sonia Purnell’s biography of Johnson, Just Boris, confirms he is a rugby not a football fan and a Downing St spokesperson confirmed (20.4) that Johnson does not support a football team.

Slamming greed in football does not therefore seem consistent with a Johnsonian worldview unless one understands that Johnson’s position on many things varies depending on what he thinks will be popular. Principle is very much a second best.