SWP man of letters Keith Flett really surpassed himself in today’s Morning Star (19 May 2006), with an article, Anyone but England: Socialists and the World Cup.
Flett says he won’t be supporting England in the World Cup because:
1) There are often racist attacks after England games, “orchestrated by BNP members”. He says, “if England go out, it can’t happen at all”.
2) It promotes soft nationalism and the national interests.
Instead Flett tells his aging tankie readers:
“I have skirted around here what side socialists should support if not England. Before 1989, even people like myself, who were critical of Eastern Europe, might raise a cheer or two for a side from that region on the grounds that they were more progressive.
“That has gone, of course, and, without Venezuela and Cuba to cheer on, the best that an anti-imperialist might wish for is progress by Iran.”
Flett manages to say:
* Eastern Europe was better than capitalism – shame about no labour movement
* He supported Poland, before and after the suppression of Solidarnosc
* Racist attacks won’t happen if there’s no football
And then he smuggles in - support for Iran. The same Iran with its own, regional sub-imperialist ambitions. The same Iran whose government locks up trade unionists and bans free trade unions.
Flett displays what Trotsky called in the FWW the inverted methodology of social patriotism. He only cares about what’s happening in Britain. He does not think about the consequences of “Iran’s progress”- that it might buttress the clerical regime – and keep women out of Iran’s football grounds.
The same arguments about nationalism in Britain also apply to Iran. Choosing either side on this logic makes no sense.
Personally, I don’t think it matters much politically who you support in the World Cup. I hope the football’s good, whoever wins. And I hope socialists rationally work out the real issues in world politics, rather than simply putting a minus where the big powers put a plus.
Who do you reckon Comrade Flett would support if England played Israel?!
I remember being given a dressing down by an SWP member during the 1990 world cup after I celebrated an England victory. The young women, who was a teacher, obviously had no interest in the football at all ("I tell my children not to support England"). Anyway, I asked around the small number of SWPers, who were human, about "the line". And without being crudely workerist about this my conclusion was that the largely middle class SWP membership didn't really know anything about the beautiful game and were basically irritated by it. Of course it did offer an opportunity to "talk socialism on the job", or in the bar, as it was with me. The few proles and footie fans in the Cliffite ranks kept quiet and hoped it would blow over.
Maybe our later-day anti-imperialists could make common cause with the militant Islamists who favour a ban on people's game.