Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


The Tet Offensive 50 years on

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2018 by kmflett

British imperialism and the Tet offensive, January 1968


It might be thought that the Tet offensive, a key moment of the Vietnam War that started at the end of January 1968, 50 years ago, is something that the western media might prefer not to dwell on too much.

The line in 1967 from Democratic US President Lyndon Johnson had been that the war was reaching its final stages, that Vietnam would stay as two countries. A Communist state in the North and a US client state designed to maintain US imperial interests in Indo-China in the South.

General Giap the military leader of the Vietnamese forces, the Vietcong had other ideas.

At the end of January he launched an assault on the South, capturing the city of Hue and making advances in other areas. The offensive was overcome in due course, and in the nature of war, many were killed and injured on both Vietcong and US sides. The US Army was a conscript force including many who had no desire to be there.

The political impact on the US was profound.

It also created waves in the UK. Harold Wilson had not sent troops to support the US in Vietnam as Blair did later in Iraq. There were reasons. Firstly the US was using British military facilities in the far east to provide assistance for its Vietnam operation. Wilson kept this quiet.

What he did not keep quiet was Britain’s role in the Vietnam ‘peace’ talks. These were jointly run by Russia and Britain. Russia was held, broadly, to support the North, while Britain was the US representative supporting the South. As 1968 started the aim had been to move towards an agreement. That meant essentially that the Communists gave up their idea of a united socialist Vietnam and in return the US, would retain its regional power base in Saigon and stop attacking the North.

Tet completely changed that equation.

For Wilson there was a wider imperial and military issue and one that is still playing out 50 years on.

The debacle of Suez in 1956, where Britain had acted without US backing in attempt with France and Israel to police the Middle East, and been forced to withdraw in short order, had led to a serious re-think about Britain’s role as a world power.

By the late 1960s it was clear that Britain could no longer afford a military role in the East. The issue was what role could be played and how to maintain the special relationship with the US.

The impact of the Tet offensive was immediate. By the end of March President Johnson had announced a ceasefire and proposed further talks. He concluded his speech with the words ‘I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president’.

It was the beginning of the end for the US in Vietnam and the events of early 1968 sparked anti-Vietnam war protests around the globe including several well-known ones at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, central London.

The right-wing commentator Max Hastings reflecting on Tet after 50 years in the perhaps unlikely space of the Daily Mail noted (27thJanuary 2018):

Here is a lesson for all modern wars: generals can sometimes claim victory — as the West did after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq — yet find that is far from the end of the story’.

Tony Blair whose New Labour project deliberately eschewed historical knowledge, did not however learn the lessons of Vietnam. Britain joined the US in the Iraq War.

The Tet Offensive which both failed to secure the Vietcong aim of an uprising in the South and made the US commitment to Saigon unsustainable in terms of cost and troop deployment went on until March and then entered a second phase in April and May 1968.

A version of this post appeared in the Morning Star



London Fields Brewery re-launches. Of Big Beer & Brand. Can it work?

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2018 by kmflett

London Fields Brewery re-launches: can you go beyond brand.

Hackney Citizen

London Fields Brewery is relaunching at Craft Beer Rising this week. The Morning Advertiser’s James Beeson has the story here:

LFB have brewed two of what were once their core beers at Trumans and the new Head Brewer (who has an impressive pedigree) has also done some collabs at other breweries. It appears that a new brewery wont be on-line until late in the year, whether in Hackney or elsewhere.

London Fields Brewery has an interesting and distinctly chequered history which I wrote about here when Carlsberg announced their acquisition.

I should add for completeness that the HMRC did not ultimately pursue their case against the previous owner (who by that time in any case was not actually the owner).

Despite the fact that the original LFB employed some very good brewers it was the way it went about business (shall we say) and the unevenness of the beers that were issues.

The decision by Carlsberg to buy the name and the brands was an intervention by Big Beer that was, if only marginal (there was after all no actual beer being brewed to mess around with) still controversial.

The issue at bottom is whether the beer will be good enough to overcome the history and the current ownership. As usual time will tell


Socialist Historians back UCU strike action on pensions, prepare to cancel seminar

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2018 by kmflett

London Socialist Historians Group

Press Release

21st February, contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Socialist Historians back UCU strike on pensions, prepare to cancel seminar

The London Socialist Historians Group, which organises the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in central London, has said that it is fully behind the strike action, beginning on 22nd February, by the University and College Union (UCU) to defend their member’s pension scheme.

The historians convene the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, based at the University of London’s Senate House in central London.

The final Spring term seminar on Monday 5th March will be cancelled as it is on a strike day if the employer has not reached agreement with the UCU by then

LSHG convenor Dr Keith Flett said, we’re research historians but we’re also socialists and trade unionists. History teaches us that crossing picket lines leads to a bad place. We will never do it.



21st February 1848: 170 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2018 by kmflett

21st February 1848: 170 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto was first published, in London, but in German only, 170 years ago, on 21st February 1848. The preamble went as follows:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Two things result from this fact:

  1. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.
  2. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London and sketched the following manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

The Manifesto was published just 4 days before revolutionary events toppled the King in France and started the revolutionary year of 1848. However it had no impact on those events, as it was not available either in France or in French.

An English translation by the female Chartist Helen Macfarlane, appeared in the Red Republican in 1850, after the revolutionary wave had subsided.

The point is not that Marx and Engels had a better crystal ball than anyone else but they had correctly analysed the old order in Europe by 1848 was creaking and ready in places to change. They could do little more at the time to influence the course of events than analyse them, though Engels in particular was involved in revolutionary events in what is now Germany in 1848/9. Marx was deported and found his way to London by 1849.

The Manifesto itself however provided the beginnings of a theoretical basis, overtime, for the development of a serious left based on the revolutions of 1848 and indeed their defeat


Fullers takes over Dark Star: does capitalism work?

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2018 by kmflett

Fullers takes over Dark Star: does capitalism work?

Fullers announced on 20th February that they were taking over Dark Star brewery. The stated motivation was to provide capital to help Dark Star expand into new markets (and so on). Most commentators thought the idea was for Fuller’s to get hold of Dark Star’s very popular, and rightly so, Hophead beer.

As usual the statement noted that nothing much would change in the near future and that Dark Star would remain open. As Boak and Bailey suggest above I’d guess that is right. Local provenance of Hophead is important. At the same time the word ‘synergies’ was mentioned which to anyone familiar with management speak (its part of my job) will know means rationalisation and cost cutting. So one does wonder if Dark Star will end up just producing lots of Hophead. There are worse things but it would rather undermine its independent identity.

Both breweries of course have a place in CAMRA history. Dark Star the beer (now Dark Star Original) was Champion Beer of Britain in 1987 before production moved from Old St to the basement of the Evening Star in Brighton in 1994 and Dark Star brewery was founded.

Meanwhile Fullers certainly did not stand against the keg tide in London in the 1970s (they moved mainly to top pressure). However they did brew ESB at 5.5% which could be found here and there on handpump and in that area it was a stand-out real ale in the Capital (and still a pretty decent beer now). Fullers later redeemed themselves, the handpumps returned and the brewery that is mostly much loved today arose. Gales was a blot on that trajectory which some will not want to forget though.

CAMRA had nothing to say (as far as I can see) on the matter, while they almost certainly would have done back in the day. Fuller’s takeover of Dark Star appears relatively benign, but here’s the thing: market capitalism is red in tooth and claw.

Watch this campaigning space.


Pete Brown, the well known beard wearer, has provided an interesting update on the question here:

I didnt touch on the Dark Star cask/keg issue above because it didnt occur to me that it was an issue. I continue to think (and hopefully the CAMRA AGM in April will concur) that what is sought is good beer that is good to drink in whatever format. Its difficult to understand an argument that Dark Star isnt craft except in the sense of class snobbery. That is ‘cask beer is cheap stuff for the masses, while I drink expensive beer of distinction on keg’. We live in a class society so such attitudes will be around, but as they are they also deserve to be rebuffed and as ever Pete Brown makes an excellent job of it.



Campaigners to review Ben Bradley’s Parliamentary Beard of the Year title

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2018 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

PRESS RELEASE   20th February

Contact Keith Flett      07803 167266

Campaigners to review Ben Bradley’s Parliamentary Beard of the Year title

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that it will meet at the weekend to determine whether to withdraw the Parliamentary Beard of the Year title from Mansfield MP Ben Bradley.

He won the on-line poll in December after Jeremy Corbyn, seven times winner, had previously been declared ineligible in 2017.

The campaigners say it has received a large number of complaints from supporters about Ben Bradley. It had hoped that previous injudicious behaviour on social media had ceased but a tweet about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, since deleted, has aroused fresh concerns

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, we haven’t previously acted, hoping more judicious behaviour would prevail. The concern now is that Mr Bradley is bringing the hirsute into disrepute. We will carefully review matters at the weekend. Until then no decision has been made or is being made.

Advisory Vote

The BLF will take this expression of opinion into account but it will be one among a number of points that are reviewed

Notes for Editors: Announcement of Ben Bradley’s December as victory in Parliamentary Beard of the Year




Historians call for opening up of all MI5 files on politicians from the 1980s

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2018 by kmflett

London Socialist Historians Group

Press Release

20th February, contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Historians call for opening up of all MI5 files on politicians from the 1980s

The London Socialist Historians Group, which organises the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in central London, has called on Theresa May to authorise the opening up of all MI5 files on politicians from the 1980s, following the furore over Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged links with Czech diplomats in that decade.

The campaigners say that the British Government is amongst the more secretive of democratic administrations when it comes to official files. CIA documents in Washington are often far more easy for researchers to access than those in London.

LSHG convenor Dr Keith Flett said, Theresa May has urged Jeremy Corbyn to be transparent about the 1980s, and why not? By the same token its more than time that the hitherto over-secretive UK Government opened access to its official files for that decade.