Saturday, 19 February 2011

In defence of the Spirit of Shankly Supporters' Union (Liverpool Football Club)

As far as I'm concerned, without the work of SOS and other similar groups, we'd still be sitting on our hands with regards the ownership issue.  It's abundantly clear that Hicks and Gillett would have hung on for their outrageous asking price whatever the cost to the club in terms of the footballing performance.  At best, SOS and other groups have mobilized a section of the fanbase that was until that point happy to be passive and the owners left as a result of direct pressure applied to them, and this didn't just happen in the city.  This happened around the world.  At worst, at least somebody tried to do something effective themselves instead of waiting for a white knight.  

The sooner working people realize that nothing will change without their direct and decisive action, the better off we'll all be.  Grouping together, working democratically, taking direct action.  These are the core of what will change things for the better for working people, regardless of sex, race or whatever.  Groups like SOS are where ideas form, they're a forum for real change.  Sitting on your hands is not an option and nobody who really identifies themselves with this fanbase can afford to be isolated from such a group.  People who really identify with the club will also identify with the culture that surrounds it. 

It's understandable that people from outside the city can find it harder to identify with that culture, but it's inevitable that people from within the city will be a product of it.  Their ideas will reflect the environment of that city and that culture, a culture that has grown and morphed with the decades.  It's a culture that, as the decades wound on from the 60s onwards, has grown in an environment of deprivation, of decisions taken by moneymen and politicians from further afield devastating lives and communities in the name of money and the ideology that privilege and power breeds. 
It's an environment where, when working men and women have stood up for their jobs, their lives, their city and each other, politicians and the media in the south have demonized them, beaten them down and at one stage sacked their entire democratically elected city council.  It was in the environment of 70s and 80s football hooliganism and years of neglect of the game from politicians, the police and the footballing authorities culminated in a disaster where seemingly the blame for two decades of violence and disorder, and a subsequent European ban on all English clubs was laid at the door of the fans of one club.  It's against this background that, with the city opposing the Tory government at every stage as they sent it to the wall, the needless deaths of 96 fans of the club were paraded across the front pages of the right-wing gutter press as something these people brought on themselves, as something they deserved even though these papers (there were more than one) knew full well that what they were printing were nothing but lies. 

It's no wonder then that a siege mentality of sorts has built up and that people realize that if you want something badly enough, you have to struggle together to achieve the goal.  It's how the club has built its most successful teams, it's how the lies of those newspapers and police and politicians have been challenged and at least partly overturned in the wider public consciousness (although there is obviously still much work to do).  And it's how the departure of Hicks and Gillett was accelerated.  And it will be how the future of working people everywhere will eventually be determined.  Because the people in power will not give up that power willingly.  

The SOS movement grew out of this environment in Liverpool and was initially mostly made up of people from the city.  It should be no great surprise that the group initially viewed things from a Liverpool-centric viewpoint.  But the group has wilfully broadened its horizons.  People are free to join from wherever they are in the world, and are then free to set up a regional group, or to join an already existing one.  And the more people from outside of the city do this, the more they will be represented, the more the whole group will reflect the ideas and requirements of those people.  It's self-evident that when people are exposed to ideas, these ideas influence the person exposed to them.  When different people come together and get to know each other, and see each other's struggles, a new appreciation of them will build up.  But I'm not denying that this is a two-way street. To quote Tony Cliff:-

"To achieve unity between white and black workers the white workers must move toward the black workers and go a mile further. To achieve unity between male and female workers, the male worker must go out of his way to prove that he is not part of the oppressors. Lenin put it very simply in 1902. He wrote that when workers go on strike for higher wages they are simply trade unionists. Only when they go on strike against the beating of Jews or of students are they really socialists.

A strike involving black and white workers helps to undermine racism. A strike strengthens solidarity, and therefore has an impact beyond the immediate issue. The spiritual changes in workers is the most precious result of the strike.

But solidarity can start from an anti-racist demonstration that leads to a feeling of unity with black workers that has an impact on future industrial disputes. The meetings in London in solidarity with the Lawrences are very large, composed of black and white people, and no doubt will have a big impact not only on the attitude of millions to the police but also will inspire increasing solidarity among workers on a whole number of other issues.

A strike in which men and women stand shoulder to shoulder helps to overcome sexism. One should remember the Paris Commune where the women fought brilliantly, causing one British reporter to say that if all the Communards were women they would have won."

And this is the environment we must continue to foster, in order to be able to effectively face any challenges the future might present us.  And if possible, this attitude and environment must go beyond football, to fight the inequities of a system that has allowed banks to take £1 trillion out of our pockets while our libraries, schools, leisure centres, benefits and infrastructure all creak under the weight of 30 or 40 years of neglect.  To fight a system that has allowed men, women and children to be herded into pens like animals, to die and to then be slandered by a press that already despised them because their city tried to stand up for itself.  To fight a tax system that hits the poorest proportionally hardest.  To fight a system that sees jobs and livelihoods as expendable to suit its ideology.  And to fight any future owners of football clubs who want to tear that club away from the community and its fans to make some quick money.

No comments:

Post a Comment