St George, Karl Marx & public holidays

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2016 by kmflett

St George, Karl Marx & Public Holidays


Saint George 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

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.

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.

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.

There is some evidence that going back to medieval times 23rd April was a feast day as people celebrated St George. Of course the pubs today will no doubt be full of people toasting the dragon slayer with beers of that name or similar.

Why not however make St George’s Day a national holiday?

As the TUC regularly reminds us Britain has far fewer holidays than elsewhere in Europe and while the rest of the UK wouldn’t want a holiday to mark St George they could have one for David, Patrick and Andrew at the appropriate time.

That way the right can celebrate their version of St George, while the left and everyone else can reflect on the great British traditions of Saints Days, feasts and holidays.


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