By Steve Brady
BEER is a subject dear to the hearts of many Nationalists, as can be seen from the often close connection between NF activities and pubs! Indeed, a pint of good ale in a friendly 'local' is a part of our British way of life, and has been for centuries. So any threat to our British pint threatens not just confirmed ale-topers like the author but a basic part of our national heritage.
And today the British pint is threatened. A hundred years ago, 16,000 independent brewers across the country provided every town and many villages ― even large numbers of individual pubs ― with their own distinctive and full-flavoured local brew. By the mid-1970's, only 87 brewers survived. Today seven of them sell 89% of Britain's beer. Six of these ― the so-called 'Big Six' own 37,000 of Britain's 66,000 pubs, and use this ownership to compel them to sell their beer. The seventh giant brewery, the Irish firm Guinness (who own most of Harp lager as well), own no pubs in return for having their stout sold in everyone else's premises.
The 'Big Six' are typically plutocratic cartels. Allied Breweries not only brew Ansell's, Ind Coope and Tetley's beers (among others) and Skol lager, they make Teacher's whisky, Babycham and Britvic fruit juice, as well as owning Harvey's wine and sherry importers and three cider firms. Bass Charrington's include Mitchell and Butler's, Stone's, Carling lager and Canada Dry. Courage include John Smith's beer, Arthur Cooper Wine Merchants, sundry hotels and numerous overseas interests, as well as third shares in Taunton cider and Harp lager. They are themselves a mere appendage of the colossal Imperial Tobacco Group, which as well as virtually monopolising Britain's cigarette and tobacco trade makes Golden Wonder crisps and HP Sauce. Scottish and Newcastle, brewers of Tartan, MacEwan's and Younger's beers, own 49% of Del Monte Kitchens and sundry Scottish whisky and tourism interests.
Watney, Mann and Truman brew Websters, Tamplins and Norwich beers amongst many others, and also make Coca-Cola and C. & C. Lemonade. After narrowly avoiding the clutches of one Zionist plutocrat, Charles Clore, Watney's was gobbled up in 1972 by another, Maxwell Joseph. They are now part of his monolithic Grand Metropolitan empire, which extends from hotels to computer services, from Berni and Schooner Inns to Express and Marshall's Dairies, from Gilbey Vintners to Devon eggs. Whitbreads include Flower's, Fremlin's, Wethered's and Thresher's Off-licences. They are closely linked by substantial mutual shareholdings to Trafalgar Properties, owners of the Daily Express and the Daily Star.
The 'Big Six' have systematically used their near-monopoly of Britain's beer brewing and sale outlets to replace the strong, traditional British bitter, 'real ale' brewed in the cask and alive in the glass, with watered down, gassy keg fizz, made by industrial chemists in oil-refinery-like 'megakeggeries' like Courage's in Reading and Bass Gharrington's in Runcorn. Traditional hops and barley are replaced by 'hop extract', potatoes, starch, onions, rice grits and pasta as ingredients. Dubious chemical 'preservatives', 'flavourings', and 'colourants' are added, including formaldehyde (normally used for pickling corpses!) and, in one case, chemicals causing a ferocious hangover, thus persuading the victim he had tippled powerful ale instead of weak fizz-water!
Since weak beer is cheaper to make, incurs less Excise Duty, and can be sold for just as much as strong ale, with consequent greater profit, the 'Big Six' prefer it. The-average strength of British bitter today is half what it was in 1900. Watney's, Allied Breweries and Whitbread have brewed 'beer' so weak it would have been legal during U.S. Prohibition days! Here, truly, are the "very fat men who water the workers' beer"!
All opposition is ruthlessly gobbled up and shut down. Between 1960 and 1972, the 'Big Six' carried out 101 mergers and closed down 105 breweries.
Nor are the surviving real ale breweries safe: for example Whitbreads own 26% of Boddington's, 27% of Brakspear's, 31% of Ruddle's and 39% of Morland's ― they need only 51% to take over and close down these breweries. As they have closed down many a Village pub, destroying a centuries-old social life and driving ever more rural Britons into the racially unhealthy 'Coca-Cola culture' of our larger towns.
The monopoly of the beer market held by the 'Big Six', and the gross overcharging of consumers for an inferior product to which it has given rise, has twice been damningly condemned by Government 'watchdogs': in 1969 by the Monopolies Commission, and in 1977 by the Price Commission. Yet both times a Labour Government, supposedly anti-Capitalist, did nothing. Even less will the Tories and the SDP, in the pockets of the big brewers. Nor indeed can they do anything effective within the confines of the present System.
For that Capitalist system, with its 'shareholders' who own firms whose wealth they play no part in creating, in which they do not work and for which they do not care, save as 'profit centres', and its Stock Exchange, is the root cause of the trouble.
The imposition of the public by monopolistic force of an inferior product which ― as the widespread support for the Campaign for Real Ale shows ― they do not want in the interest of profit may not be the vision of 'free enterprise' presented by such defenders of the present System of industrial ownership as Margaret Thatcher and John Tyndall. Nor is the brewing of 90% of Britain's beer by seven Capitalist cartels instead of 100% of it by one State cartel quite the "opposite of Communism" they might like to claim. But such a rise of the plutocrats, such a monopolistic concentration of more and more economic power in fewer and fewer hands, is not an 'aberration' but the inevitable consequence of the present Capitalist System, in brewing as in many other industries.
Enterprises can be bought and sold like tins of beans on the floor of the Stock Exchange, and the likes of Maxwell Joseph can use the 'limited liability' shareholding laws to wield Money Power far beyond the wealth any productive contribution they could make could create. So long as this system continues, mergers and takeovers will build giant companies like the 'Big Six' breweries, and they'll be able to buy up and shut down their smaller rivals, however thriving. And as long as Britain's industries are owned by shareholding speculators out for a fast profit, be they City slickers or investment funds, then they will be run in the interest of profit and not the British people.
The answer, in brewing as in the rest of British industry, is to break up the Capitalist combines, abolish shareholding parasites, and decree that no one may own, or share in the ownership of, any concern in which he does not work. The result would be to replace the megakeggeries of the 'Big Six' and the foul fluids they churn out with a profusion of small worker-co-operative and family breweries, too small to impose by monopoly power inferior products and compelled by competition and public demand to brew decent beer at a fair price. Thus would the Money Power of Messrs. Joseph, Clore and their ilk be destroyed, and thus would the British pint be saved.