I’m interested in comparisons between systems that operate via “central command and control” vs. those that operate via “cooperation and emergent consensus”. A classic example is the comparison between a corporation like Microsoft and the Open Source movement (see “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”).
According to football legend John Barnes, England will never win a World Cup until our footballers embrace their inner socialist. “Players from other nations when they play for their country are once again a socialist entity, all pulling in the same direction,” he told the journalist Mihir Bose last week. Apart from citing Brazil and Argentina as role models seamlessly making their way to the World Cup final, he was spot on.
The best football teams are socialist in nature. They play for each other, and individual brilliance is often subservient to the common good. Even the language of team sport is socialist solidarity, unite, goal, come together. Why do you think the word United is so beloved by football people that 15 clubs in England’s top four division divisions have it in their title? Barcelona, possibly the world’s most successful club, are the living embodiment of our old clause four (remember that?) owned by the supporters for the supporters, they have indeed “secured by hand or brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof” as some of us used to say. …
Football’s greatest managers always knew how much the sport owed to socialism. Brian Clough, who gave tickets for Derby’s games to striking miners and agitated for a player walkout (admittedly after he had walked out on Derby), was once asked by the former Labour MP, Austin Mitchell, whether he was a superstitious man? “No, Austin, I’m not,” he answered. “I’m a socialist.” Sure he drove a Mercedes, but he wanted everybody to be able to drive a Mercedes. A slice of bloody cake for all, that was his philosophy.
Bill Shankly, possibly the greatest and wisest of them all, believed football and socialism were inseparable. “The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life,” he said.
As for the World Cup, we should have known there was no chance of glory for the Three Lions with a Con-Dem coalition. After all, England has never won the World Cup under the Tories or the Liberals, or the Liberal Democrats, or New Labour. As Harold Wilson boasted in 1966: “Have you ever noticed how we only win the World Cup under a Labour government?”