Surprised to find that a week’s gone by since I last posted here. I’m working on a lengthy (aren’t they all) post on the ethics of war, which will probably go up both here and at the Sharpener.
In the mean time, have a look at this fascinating take on the Glazer affair. I should say that it’s not about football. I was a Red at primary school, & would be now if I was anything – they’re now my local side, ironically enough – but by and large I really don’t give a monkey’s about football.
This is interesting stuff, though. Here’s Jamie’s conclusion (slightly edited):
Some pro-Glazer sentiment is pure cap doffing feudalism [...] but other Glazer supporters reach towards a more developed conservatism: the idea that the club – the nation, effectively – is an organic, essentially mystical entity whose ownership follows natural laws and where the role of the fans is simple loyalty.
By contrast, the anti-Glazer camp tend to hammer at the details of the deal, their patriotism motivated by a sense of active responsibility for how the club conducts itself and of the rights and liberties that should attend “citizenship”.
You can imagine the same kind of discussions in the taverns of late fifteenth century Florence, when the Medicis moved to end the city’s mixed constitution and take the city private under the leadership of Lorenzo the Magnificent. See also the Putney debates.
(The club/nation analogy isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound – it’s developed further here.)
I think that last sentence struck me most forcibly. See also the Putney debates. But, but… surely Putney is finished business? We can argue about the Diggers – about Burford, even – but not Putney; Rainborough’s line was radical then, but it’s been common sense for a century or more. We’re all democrats now.
What was borne in on me as I read Jamie’s piece is that this is a half-truth at best. It’s true that certain important battles were won, in the name of liberty or democracy or equality; it’s also true that life went on, and those power relations which weren’t extirpated tended to revive and perpetuate themselves. In this century, it’s entirely possible to believe oneself a staunch democrat – to believe sincerely in equality before the law and government by the people – and come out with something like this:
So, you fear that your new owner will run you solely for a profit? Well, tough. In any case, I don’t see what the worry is about. Is it really in the interests of a man trying to run a commercial empire to have a floundering team, uncompetitive at the highest level?
“He’ll take good care of the team – that’s all you need to worry about. Of course you can trust him – look how rich he is! Besides, who asked you? The club was up for sale, he bought it, end of story.”
Villeins ye are still and villeins ye shall remain, in other words. Old myths die hard – and they perpetuate themselves by clothing themselves in new language. Of course, this isn’t a new insight. We’ve known for some time that people who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life – without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints – have a corpse in their mouth. But the problem goes deeper. In A dream of John Ball, William Morris wrote:
I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name
Revolution could be a live term; for that matter, so could socialism or workers’ control. They could be living terms, capable of inspiring the right people (and alarming the right people), but they aren’t – any more than democracy can be enlisted against the power exercised by Malcolm Glazer. There will be challenges to the position of Glazer and people like him, and they will return to the terrain sketched out by Rainborough in Putney – but the word that strikes fear into the bosses won’t be democracy, and it won’t be revolution either. We shall need new terms – which means, first and foremost, that we will need to look to be new battles, new tactics and new organisations.
Which in turn means that we need to know how to wait. “We are in a battle between two worlds: one which we do not recognise, and one which does not yet exist.” Thus Vaneigem in 1961; Gramsci and Matthew Arnold both said something similar (thanks, Ellis).
Things will get worse before they get better – and we may not know ‘better’ when we see it. But I think we can be confident that it will come.