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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary October 27, 2009



Can publicans unite?

Iíve joined the Pub Revolution Movement. At least I think I have. I didnít really mean to and Iím not going to be much use as I donít have a pub and canít join in the boycott of pubco beers. I just wanted to keep in touch with what was going on. It involved me re-registering with Facebook, which again wasnít in my life plan. I donít really get Facebook.

So what brought this on? An interesting blog by Sheps tenant Chris Maclean is what, and then discovering that the campaign has the support of veteran anarchist Ian Bone, the founder of Class War newspaper.

Bone describes the Pub Revolution Movement as a ďproletarian uprisingĒ, which is funny. In strict Marxist class analysis terms, of course, publicans are not proletarian but petit bourgeois, falling as they do into the shopkeeper/small capitalist category. You donít have to be rich to be a capitalist (though it helps), you just have to own your own business. Even though they only rent the pub, tenants still own the business and employ barstaff and so on.

You canít expect an anarchist to see this, though, since they have petit bourgeois roots too (mind that handbag!).

Chris Maclean is smart enough to see that collective action by publicans has its limits because, when it comes down to it, they are capitalists in competition with each other. If the pub up the road closes, all the more business for those that survive.

But I also share Chrisís sympathy with the plight of so many. When I was on the Pub Revolution Facebook page earlier a daughter of licensees was reporting in real time a bailiffsí visit to the pub. She sounded terrified. This must be going on all over. Itís the tragic human story behind those 50 houses a week that are closing.

Desperation is a great motivator. I still donít think itíll bring lasting unity among tenants, but the Pub Revolution Movement could be worth watching.

Born to be mild

I was drawn into the Mitre this morning, on my way back from picking up some essential sausages, and had a pint of Harvey's Mild. This is possibly the most unfashionable thing you could do. Hardly anybody drinks in the mornings any more - well, the part of the morning after you got up in, rather than went to bed in - and hardly anybody drinks mild. But the Mitre is one of those Old Boysí Pubs where this kind of thing still happens.

Sitting there in an everyday type of Brycreem-scented heaven, wondering at the character and flavour that can be packed into a brew that's only three per cent alcohol, it struck me that pubs like the Mitre must think more of their ale than their customers, who get precious few comforts.

I imagine the beer resting in the Mitreís cellar on velvet-cushioned stillages, gold-sconced candles picking out the gleam from the caskís bow, a choir singing softly some enchanting air, a waft of hoppy incense.

Then an Old Boy dodders into my table on his fifth visit to the gents, my reverie snaps and it seems I still have some reflexes left in me as I rescue the remains of my pint.

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