It was a good game and it was good to see a broad response from fans and working class people against racism after the defeat by the Italian team. Mixed in with the public response, joined by our anti-racist vanguard Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, was a wider outcry against rowdy behaviour of fans. Racist attacks were lumped in together with trying to get into the stadium without one of the expensive tickets, with looting drinks or putting a flare up your arse on public squares. People were called ‘losers’. We know that the middle-class is afraid of rowdy behaviour, that’s nothing new. What is new is the attempt of the middle-class left to recover the space of ‘progressive patriotism’, not just as a response to the electoral culture war, but as a wider political economic strategy. The new Labour leadership not only discovered their love for the Union Jack, they also announced that they will ‘buy British’ in future. This is applauded by some on the ‘socialist’ left. On the background of the debate of ‘what is modern Britain’, we see the formation of a new ‘patriotic’ left, progressive in values, focused on national development. This new left love for the nation state is not particularly British, e.g. many on the left the applaud Biden’s ‘deficit spending spree’, ignoring its relation to an increasingly aggressive stance towards China.
There is a lot of shit going on in our class and there is never a clear cut line that separates the ‘good’ rowdy and riotous behaviour from all the sexist and racist aggression. We also know that a local working class that has experienced mainly defeats during recent decades is ugly. People who are beaten kick the weaker ones, the newcomers. That is no excuse, but a historical fact, it’s nothing new. What is new is that in the recent defeats of struggles against ‘fire and rehire’ and other attacks, the appeal of the trade union leadership towards a ‘progressive patriotism’ has further weakened our class. When British Airways attacked Heathrow workers, the response of the trade union was to start a whinging campaign ‘Don’t betray Britain’. Instead of trying to forge a militant class unity amongst all workers at Heathrow, the strikes merely became platforms for the political bigwigs to speak on. When Rolls Royce workers were threatened with dismissal in Barnoldswick, the union didn’t call other Rolls Royce sites out on strike. Instead, people like Paul Mason reminded the public of the national importance of the plant as a bomber manufacturing site during World War II. During the current pay campaign in the NHS and the discussion on the Tory health Bill, the left keeps on repeating that the ‘NHS is our national treasure’ that we should defend. To lead a successful struggle for higher wages, we have to see the NHS for what it is: a bureaucratic structure in the hands of the state and management. It is not ours, we have to fight over its control, like in any other company. Last, but not least, (and mirroring the Italian team’s victory!): the UK based automobile supplier GKN decided to sack workers both in Italy and in Birmingham. While the workers in Italy decided to occupy the plant, the union in the UK decided to ‘lobby parliament’ and appeal to the progressive values of the politicians. Buy British!
All this gets us caught in a dangerous downward spiral. A middle class that calls you ‘rowdy losers’, a left that wants to create a ‘progressive national policy’, a trade union hierarchy that ties workers to ‘popular symbolic appeals’ and the whim of the political class and thereby actually creates ‘losers’ – this is a recipe for disaster and an open door for the fascists. The ugly dimensions within our class are our own affair! We have to fight racism and other bullshit by all means necessary. In the long run this will only be possible through effective working class struggle and solidarity – independent from those forces that want to tie us to the ‘fate of the nation’, whether in progressive or reactionary terms.