Keith Flett

Real ale, craft beer and anti-capitalism

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The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been in the news as its recent annual conference launched a year-long debate about “revitalisation”, to look at what the purpose of the organisation should be in future. Aside from the old Alex Glasgow song, “As Soon as This Pub Closes (the revolution starts)”, why is this of interest to socialists?

A class that made itself

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Socialist historian E P Thompson's classic book The Making of the English Working Class was first published 50 years ago. Keith Flett takes a look at this seminal work of labour history that placed workers at the centre of making their own history

It is 50 years since the publication of E P Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. Published by Gollancz in the autumn of 1963, it was paper-backed by Penguin in 1968 and remains in print today. The original paperback cover, a painting of a collier from 1814, clay pipe in mouth, walking stick in hand tramping for work, remains an iconic image of the origins of the modern working class. The impact and influence of the book have been worldwide, despite the fact that the paperback edition weighs in at 958 pages.

Dorothy Thompson (1923-2011) - Groundbreaking historian of Chartism

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Dorothy Thompson was a socialist and feminist historian who transformed the study of the Chartist movement. Keith Flett considers her life and achievements

Dorothy Thompson, who has died aged 87, was one of the post-1945 era's leading socialist and feminist historians and a political activist of considerable note and impact.

She was married for many years to the socialist historian E P Thompson, who died in 1993, and her work and activity were in some ways complementary to, and at least equal to, his own. Edward studied Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, for example, while Dorothy focused on the period immediately afterwards - that of Chartism, the first great working class movement.

The Verdict

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Polly Toynbee and David Walker, Granta, £18.99

The Verdict is the third in a series of books authored by Polly Toynbee and David Walker, both Guardian journalists, which deal respectively with the outcomes of the 1997, 2001 and now 2005 Labour governments.

Many readers of Socialist Review will have reached their own verdict about the New Labour administration from 2005, probably focused on warmongering and neoliberalism.

What I Believe

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Space, Hackney, until 19 December

Ruth Beale's project is to stage an exhibition of political and literary pamphlets dating from the 1930s until today with some paintings based on them.

It is not just something to look at, although all the pamphlets can be picked up and read. It is a piece of political art designed to provoke discussion on the history of the political intervention that a pamphlet represented and represents, and whether this is still relevant in the internet age.

The English Rebel

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David Horspool, Viking; £25

There are several ways to look at the history of English rebellion. Many politicians will argue that England has little such history compared to other countries, and certainly nothing like a violent revolution. Another version is to see England as a nation of great characters and eccentrics rebelling in unique English ways, rather like the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico.

David Horspool, the Times Literary Supplement history editor, certainly subscribes to several of these views in this guide to English rebellion from the Norman Conquest to the present day.

John Saville - 1916-2009

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John Saville, who has died aged 93, was a towering figure in the fields of Marxist and labour history, and in the British labour movement and the left, for more than seven decades.

His enduring legacy may well be the volumes of the Dictionary of Labour Biography that he edited, detailing the lives of many of the women and men who were active in the labour movement from the late 18th century.

Only someone with an extensive knowledge of the movement as a participant could possibly have embarked on such a project.

Hidden Chains

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John Charlton, Tyne Bridge Publishing, £10

John Charlton's book on the slave trade in the North-East of England is a regional history with a far wider - transatlantic - reach.

But it is not just a book. It is a research project dedicated to trawling through archives to look for evidence of the slave trade and its opponents, and a popular local history initiative that has seen its author go on a speaking tour to explain what the project has uncovered. That has led to numerous reviews in local papers and no doubt, welcome publicity for the North East Labour History Society that Charlton helps to run.

Villages of Vision

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Gillian Darley, Five Leaves Publications, £14.99

Socialists are always dreamers so the new edition of Gillian Varley's Villages of Vision, which the author describes as a "delicious stew of crankiness, utopian thinking, architectural purity, philanthropic impulse and enlightened expediency", is welcome.

Co-opting ideologies?

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Tory leader David Cameron has been to Manchester to launch a Conservative cooperative movement.

It's a fair bet that Mr Cameron did not learn a great deal about British labour history while he was at Eton - or since - but in his Manchester speech he did recognise that the cooperative movement in Britain has been something associated with the left.

Indeed the political expression of the movement, the Cooperative Party, is linked with the Labour Party, although Cameron didn't quite get around to mentioning that.

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