Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Time for Marxists to 'get behind' England?

This made me smile I must say...

It appears I have badly, badly misjudged things as a Marxist with my defence of the position of 'Anyone but England' with respect to the World Cup. Recently Martin Wisse explictly attacked my argument.

"Even worse is being anti-England out of a misplaced sense of anti-imperialism: Blair's policies will not change because the SWP does not support England! It just seems like yet another form of identify politics, a way to show how socialist you are without, you know, doing anything about it."

Then my position was implicitly criticised by another leading Marxist blogger. It is not often that Meaders can describe a Respect meeting and have a supporter of the Zionist AWL cheering on his comments like a deranged loon, but I guess there is a first time for everything. This is Meaders on how why revolutionaries should just sit out of the debate:

"I find the argument that socialists should actively oppose England slightly tiresome: there seems to be no quicker way to have a futile and bitter argument with precisely the people we should be trying to win over...I can't think of a single instance - indeed, I'm fairly certain there isn't a single instance - where anybody-but-England has advanced the cause of socialism...disentangling the threads of identity, culture, and recognition that lead people to support England is not going to be done through bloody-minded opposition."

Such criticism hurts - I guess feel a bit like Michael Owen must be feeling at the moment. However, I want to say two things in my defence.

Firstly, I never said that Marxists should 'actively' go out and oppose England in a 'bloody minded' manner - I explained why as Marxists we understand why ordinary people do support England in the football in their millions and millions and that advancing 'Anyone but England' as a position should be done creatively and sensitively. Nor did I say that it would lead to a change in Blair's policies or 'an advance for socialism' - though I still think the sooner England gets out of the world cup the sooner Blair will go from power.

Secondly, I do think Marxists in England should 'patiently explain' (to quote Lenin) to those around us at times like this that our position is one that does see 'England' as an imagined community that exists to strengthen the grip of the bosses and their ideas over us all and therefore that is why we are not therefore going to rally around the St George's flag.

This is actually a question which shows the division between reformist and revolutionary socialists completely and utterly. Reformists believe the national state can be taken over and used to deliver 'socialism' - so therefore reformist socialists tend to support England when it comes to football (there are some honourable exceptions of course like Marquesee and Ed Rooksby). Reformists believe the capitalist state is inherently benign as an institution. This is where I agree that Meaders was absolutely right not to make this an issue at a Respect meeting - which is a united front of reformists and revolutionaries based around a common aim of building a left alternative to New Labour. To bring up Marxist 'shibboleths' like 'Anyone but England' would be extremely sectarian in such an environment.

However, revolutionary socialists (Marxists) do argubly have a duty in their own publications/blogs to challenge such arguments when they come up. The alternative is to legitimate things like the English National Anthem 'God Save the Queen'

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world o'er.

From every latent foe,
From the assassins blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend,
Our mother, prince, and friend,
God save the Queen!

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the Queen!

I can understand why some pro-imperialist 'socialists' like the AWL would enjoy singing along with this shite about how we need to 'crush' rebels against the British Empire - but should the rest of us really just sing along with 'Wayne [Rooney] the Warrior'? Personally, and as a Marxist, I would much rather listen to this.

Finally, it looks as though the argument why English socialists should not support England may well soon be an immaterial one - lets face it, England's performances on the pitch (Joe Cole and Gerrard aside) have been dire. C'mon Ecuador - you can do it!

Edited to add: Check this: Anyone but England

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At 2:29 pm, Blogger Daphne Watermelon said...

you really need to accept that you're not from trinidad and tobago, and just get over it, rather than swapping one nationalism for another.

At 11:03 pm, Blogger Martin Wisse said...

IF you truly want to rise above nationalism, you need to sit out these competitions entirely, as no matter hwo you support, you'd be supporting a capitalist nation state.

Just like supporting any football club is supporting a highly capitalist coorperation.

At 5:26 pm, Blogger Gareth said...

God Save the Queen is not the English Anthem


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