Sir: Steve Hitchens (letter, 19 May), in referring to the flying of the red flag over Islington town hall, argues that the red flag is a "symbol of oppression". Nonsense. It is an emblem of revolt, liberation and international working-class solidarity.
Its origins are uncertain, but Britain may lay claim. Professor Gwyn Williams, in writing of the Merthyr Tydfil rising of 1831, relates how the miners, after a bloody confrontation with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, "ritually sacrificed a calf, washed a flag in its blood and impaled a loaf of bread on the staff" and "marched to rouse the people to insurrection".
When Jim Connell, the grand old Irish socialist, wrote The Red Flag in 1889, he was, he said, inspired by the judicial murder of trade unionists in Chicago in 1887, and the great London dock strike of 1889. Both events arose from the struggle of working people against oppression.
The red flag may not fly in Islington next year, but it is worth recalling the fifth verse of The Red Flag:
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
Haul it down, Mr Hitchens, but it will still flutter aloft in the hearts of all true socialists.
Waltham Abbey, Essex
21 MayReuse content