Football and its celebration by “the people” is a tool of capitalist social pacification that allows misery to be swept under the rug through a supposed multicultural unity.
Following France’s victory in the World Cup Semi-Finals, a certain enthusiasm took hold in the streets of many cities in the “French territory”. As soon as the final whistle sounded, hundreds or even thousands of people gathered in downtown squares, yelling, singing, laughing, hugging strangers and dancing, people jumped on passing cars, and smoke rose from flares. There was something unusual in the air. This fever contained a taste of what a moment of revolutionary energy might feel like, a break with normality.
And yet, in this world of bosses, cops, and politicians, football (just like alcohol, drugs, religion, gambling, etc) is a force for social peace. By taking us for a moment out of our dull day-to-day and from both material and emotional misery (without actually changing our lives), football works to help us accept the shit of daily life. Just like rap, football (or more widely, music, art, and sports) offer the chance for individuals to rise out of poverty. But how many football players or rappers become millionaires for every precarious worker, unemployed or poor person, or prisoner? Capitalism sells dreams of better days. It teaches us to wait politely for a hypothetical day of glory. But this hope is an illusion. We are – with France having qualified for the World Cup final – still nothing but the role we are assigned by capitalism .
And no surprise that politicians of all stripes can celebrate France’s win. Behind the disagreements of politicians and the appearance of diverse ideologies, all politicians, from Melenchon to LePen , support capitalism and the nation. Whether capital is managed by liberals or Keynesians isn’t the question, nor is whether or not the nation stands for freedom and equality. The question is the existence of nations themselves, of capitalists, and all the exploitation, repression, borders, wars, and deaths that come with them. And so while the praises are sung, as they were 20 years ago, of the incredible existence of a “Black White and Arab French team” , presented to the nation as a symbol of republican integration , there is silence about the very real social conflicts. This same French players were described as “immature gang leaders” by the Minister of Sports Roselyne Bachelot in 2010. Because when Les Bleus are bad, the media and politicians quickly connect them back to their original conditions: that of working class people from immigrant families, the “rabble”.
As the French flag is hung from every street corner, it’s important to remember that the nation is just an idea (and a shitty one at that), a myth that seeks to create a feeling of belonging to justify the existence of a state, an authority whose interests will always be opposed to those of individuals. And while the bourgeoisie rejoice alongside the poor over the victory of FRAAAAAAAANNNNCCCEE, we would do well to ask ourselves how we can possibly accept such hypocrisy. Because the same people who support murders by the state by means of their police who now make Umtiti a national hero. But how could it be otherwise? The police has never had any function other than to maintain the existing social order, which means protecting private property (on which capitalism, and therefore the wealth of these bourgeois nationalists, is based) and state institutions.
In a world where the only alternative to work is prison, the spectacle of football and the folklore that goes with it keep us dreaming about money, luxury cars, and women as objects. Because world champions or not, the French team will always be made up of millionaires while you go back to hustling for a boss or exploiting yourself (start-up nation what up).
So if there is anything to do be done with the possible victory (or defeat) of the French team in the World Cup Final, it’s to take advantage of the massive street presence to share and spread a bit of the joy and rage that we feel by destroying all that oppresses us in our daily lives. For this joy to last, for possibilities to open up, for the party to keep going, the institutions and those who make our lives so deathly boring must be attacked and reduced to ashes. Instead of raising up French flags, let’s burn them with pride – not to replace them with others, but to never again have to conform to identities, to allow ourselves to be confined in the cages and categories of the powerful. To never again follow any banner bragging of the merits of the nation or whatever other stupidness.
To live free here and now.
Death to the state, death to patriarchy.
Fire to the prisons, death to the bosses.
Fuck France and all other nations.
1] This is a bit too strong. Yes, we cannot escape the roles assigned by capitalism, but no, it is not all we are. We have always keep the ability to accept these conditions or to rebel against them.
2] Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of a leftist party called La France Insoumise; Marine LePen head of the far-right Front National
3] The french expression is “Black Blanc Beur”
4] Integration in French politics typically refers to how migrants conform to French culture