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Thursday Night Fever

Submitted by on June 6, 2017 – 8:05 pmNo Comment
Thursday night reds

Thursday night reds

I don’t get out much these days, so spend a lot of time grumbling to myself about the two things that still rattle loudest around my head.

Sometimes I have imaginary arguments while walking to work in which I come up with amazing ripostes to win the argument in no uncertain terms. Occasionally this is muttered out loud instead of inside my head and I get caught unawares by someone silently overtaking me, and I have to hope they think I’m using one of those bluetooth earpieces, so rather than being a lunatic I’m just a twat.

I was about to say that the two things constantly rattling around in my head are football and politics, but it’s a bit of a stretch to pretend there’s that much subject coverage, because in reality it’s United and Socialism.


I don’t go to either of the Uniteds these days, am not a member of a political party and let’s face it, expecting a socialist option at the ballot box in recent years has been like expecting a quality sausage in an Abergeldie breakfast. So I’m stuck arguing with myself in the street or shouting at the telly like what we all used to laugh at my dad for (‘bloody Stapleton’ before McClair came long).

The problem though, for both United and Socialism, is with the institutions that carry our hopes. We channel our hopes and fears, friendships and rivalries through institutions that promise some sort of collective direction. About the time that one United sadly yet heroically became two, some of us came to realise that the bureaucratic institutions themselves weren’t as important as the intangible collection of people’s ideas and dreams around which they’re built.

You might also argue that the closer you get to the inner workings of the institution, and the longer you spend there, the harder it is to stay true to those ideas and dreams. Then one day you can only see the institution, even amidst the swirling around of dream-filled words that used to do the shaping but that now are shaped.

The persistent man who wanted this rattled out on paper instead of in my head, once used the freedom from institutional inner workings that his Lincoln biscuit rambling had given him to write about the ‘shaping walk’ that had implored us to see beyond the bricks and mortar of even our most beloved of institutions. Time well spent.

Of course the Labour Party has never really been about proper socialism, but it is an institution built around socialist ideas and dreams, and as has been the case with more than one football club, those closest to the inner workings have tended to lose sight of those ideas and dreams, even while, and especially while in some cases, using the words that were crafted to carry those ideas and dreams that built the institution.

By the time New Labour allowed perceived ‘electability’ to completely obscure those ideas and dreams, the institution had truly become an end instead of a means. Jeremy Corbyn is trying to change that, despite worrying/impressive levels of tolerance for those who still career around the party pooh-poohing the utopian socialist talk, because that belongs in the past with industry, class, flowery wallpaper and donkey jackets.

Corbyn of course has more reason than most to avoid looking back to the 70s and 80s, when he looked like one of those blokes you’d only ever see on Open University in the early hours, or in your mate’s mum’s Joy of Sex book.

The joy of keks

The joy of keks

Labour’s shift in focus from ideas and dreams to institutional electability played a big part in the political disorientation of a generation. It brought with it a rightward shift in political discourse so that, for one, Labour politicians could only bring themselves to defend immigrants by pointing out their economic contribution, and saw them unable to counter the dim-witted arguments of right wing wrong-uns because they’d abandoned the socialist ground that will always obliterate any nationalist, divisive bile.

While institutionally badged-up as the left, they ensconced themselves in corporate cosiness, deceitful war-mongering and middle-class identity politics, leaving those still living in Thatcher’s post-industrial wastelands with no one speaking for them except, it seemed, those who think the iron lady’s handiwork didn’t go far enough.

I spent a lot of Thursday nights this year watching United on dodgy streams, and surprised myself how worked up I got as they stumbled and stuttered their way to a European trophy. I can still let my United dreams ride along with the institution, in the ‘love the team, hate the club’ kind of way that has me ready to snatch them back when the Glazers appear on screen in injury time wearing their fucking VIP lounge access lanyards.


I can watch clips of a 70s scarf-twirling Stretford End, the pitch invasion at Rochdale and see United winning cups under the Glazers, and despite the institutional contradictions, still burst with pride at being a red.

I burst with a different kind of red pride at the great achievements of socialism, when collectively harnessed ideas and dreams have forged institutions to do immeasurable good, even in defeat. The Labour Party has had its fair share of institutional contradictions as it has staggered and stuttered on mostly the right side of social change over the years.

I can’t place my ideas and dreams too firmly within the institution of the Labour Party or its leader, but when they’re offering a chance to shape a generation’s walk so that socialist ideas are at least on the table, then they can defo have a lend and we’ll see where it takes us.

Not the ringing endorsement of Colin or Helen at a blue campanology convention I know, but for a grumpy, cynical red that always has one wistful eye on betrayed dreams when looking hopefully to the future, a vote for Labour on Thursday night just can’t come without its doubts. The doubts are about the institution, not the ideas and dreams it’s responsible for carrying.

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