Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Socialists and the 2010 World Cup

Four years ago, in the run up to the 2006 World Cup I produced a brief socialist 'Guide to the World Cup', aimed really for football fans based in England of a left-wing, internationalist persuasion. I still hold to the essential argument I made there - one of 'Anyone But England' amidst the tide of corporate-sponsored English nationalism which seems to find expression in crappy little mass produced St Georges flags that are already reappearing across the landscape. This position seems doubly important given we are now under a new 'national coalition' of Tories and neo-Liberals committed to even more attacks on the working class, and which will no doubt see many attempts by 'Posh and Cleggs' to drap themselves in any success the England team do have - and this is before we come onto the likes of the EDL and their plans for racist rampages up and down the country. Some England supporters might point to the relatively high number of black players in the England team - as a defence - but given the changing forms of racism in Britain today have their cutting edge with Islamophobia - unless the England team were almost entirely Muslim I am not sure this argument carries a great deal of analytical weight. The only slight difficulty with holding such a clear internationalist and quasi-revolutionary defeatist position of 'Anyone But England' it seems to me might arise when England - still symbolic representative of the British Empire - play the symbolic representatives of the American Empire on 12 June - but one should I think still hold firm to a stress on 'the main enemy being at home', and perhaps lie back and think of those rich and powerful overlords who own and run BP and damage their oil spill has done and is doing to the US coastline.

Actually, the 2010 World Cup - set as it is in South Africa - gives English socialist football fans a refreshing choice of skilled and tough African teams to cheer on while they are hoping England crash out, including the likes of the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Some English socialists - readers of the Morning Star perhaps - might also point to the quite remarkable presence of plucky little North Korea in the tournament. However, while it would be great to see a World Cup final in which North Korea knock out the USA, such a clash seems, well, unlikely - and any revolutionary democrat could only celebrate such a result in terms of anti-imperialism - not as any sort of triumph of
as such.

Moreover, while the location of the World Cup in South Africa serves to highlight the criminal inequality and exploitation still remaining in that country, the history of anti-apartheid struggle allows socialists space to inject some anti-racist history and politics into the proceedings. And here it is only right to pay tribute to the people over at Philosophy Football, for highlighting this hidden history and producing a 'unique commemorative football shirt' honouring the Makana FA, 'the football association which was formed by prisoners on the notorious Robben Island' - one shirt any self-respecting revolutionary socialist of whatever nationality can proudly wear during the coming month or so. The story of Makana FA is perhaps a little reminiscent of the classic footy film 'Escape to Victory', only immeasurably more important and more inspiring because it is true.

Imprisoned because of their opposition to Apartheid, playing football, organising their own league and cup competitions as the Makana FA the game became a symbol and tool of the prisoners refusal to surrender their human dignity to the prison authorities. Yet this FA never had their own strip, now they do.

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