Wandering past one of the many TV screens showing rolling news that populate the modern media school I saw the most bizarre of events. The Labour Party conference, trying to follow the words of The Red Flag, which was being sung by a soprano opera singer, as Gordon Brown smiled on. So we have a collection of quite right wing pronouncements, coupled with the nationalistic overtones of the British Brown, all wrapped up with a nod to the history of the Labour movement. What Keir Hardie would have made of the spectacle god only knows. The Guardian's Simon Hoggart was less than impressed that's for sure!
But in considering the point of it all, this seemed to be the return of something iconic, something that denotes socialism, while everything that is proposed is as far from socialism as is possible. So why? Was this some attempt to revoke some core philosophy, or did someone suggest that they needed "a little something to keep the reds happy"? It certainly came across as a bizarre piece of spectacle that conferences have become (on the reform of conferences see James Stanyer's work).
For those interested in symbols, rhetoric and connotations, the song was signing the party up to:
It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.
It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man's frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.
With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.
Then raise the scarlet standard high
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
One wonders how many of those whose minds are fixed on pelf and place see Brown as the man who wont let them down? Just a thought.