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John Passant

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August 2009



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Cricket’s imperialist masters beaten

The defeat of the Australia’s cricketers in the Ashes series is a small step forward for the ideas of class struggle in Australia.

It shows that the products of Australian capitalism, in this case its cricket team, are not invincible. The braggadocio, the swagger, the nationalist and often racist superiority may disappear for a little while from Australian cricket culture and have ramifications for some sections of Australian society.

The Australian bourgeoisie commodified cricket in the 70s, when the Packer rebellion overthrew the ancien regime.

So although the game has major working class support (among boys and men, but not to any major extent women and girls),  it is like all things, a creature of the society in which it prospers and grows.

In Australia that means the game and its working class players and supporters are but an adjunct for profit.

Entertainment produces no real economic value.  It re-distributes the wealth workers create to one section of the bourgeoisie.

But cricket too embodies the values of the bourgeoisie and the reality of life for workers – competition between teams and countries and cooperation within teams. 

In some contexts cricket can have a radical edge, as its development in the West Indies as the game of the oppressed shows.  Contrast that with South Africa where it is the game of the privileged elite and major elements of the white working and managerial classes.

In Australia the likes of Ricky Ponting survive on the labour of the working class.  Australia’s elite cricketers are middle class or petit bourgeois, with all the contradictions that contains.

They have a material interest in the continuation of the exploitative system and play an important role in the battle of ideas and acceptance by workers of the world as is.

Cricket spread across the globe as a consequence of the expansion of British capitalism.

In Australia it has become one embodiment of bourgeois propaganda about values – talk about sportsmanship,(it is always manship),  phrases like it’s not cricket, and playing hard and playing fair, abound. 

When the bourgeoisie use such phrases they mean the opposite in their cutthroat world of domestic and international competition, both economic and military.

The defeat of the team of the Australian bourgeoisie, if it is accompanied by a wider awakening to the exploitative nature of Australian capitalism (and all capitalism) will be a step forward for class struggle. 

A small step I admit, but just another reminder that our bourgeoisie and their products are not invincible.

It is a lesson workers in the workplace could well learn.



Comment from AliensInfoTech
Time August 24, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Andrew Flintoff considered to be one among the best all rounder of all times has reiterated his earlier stand on retirement decision. With Australia dominating the fifth Ashes Test which will be a deciding game, there were rumors that Flint off may reconsider his decision.
Flintoff had earlier made up his mind to retire from Test cricket after the current Ashes series, citing the frequent injuries as the reason is firm in his stand. He however did not rule out the possibility of playing four day cricket at national level as a part of Lancashire team. However the eminent all rounder will be continuing playing cricket as far as fifty over game and twenty-twenty version are concerned. Flintoff is a part of IPL Chennai Super Kings team.

Comment from murph
Time August 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Of course, England’s team members all wear flat caps, work at the mill and keep whippets…

Q: Is this a joke or are you completely insane?

Comment from JD of Sydney
Time August 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Are you really serious? If so may I recommend you talk to a professional; and soon.

Comment from John
Time August 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Do they murph? I hadn’t noticed, but since the main enemy is at home from my point of view the defeat of the Australian cricket team is a good thing because it undermines the invincibility the Australian bourgeoisie attaches to itself and the jingoistic claptrap that goes with it.

But hey, of course I am insane, just as those who opposed Stalin were diagnosed with psychiatrict problems too. How could anyone have views that differ from the great leader and doubt the wonderful paradise we live in?

I think understanding cricket necessitates some understanding of the society which produces it and I think the points about the commodifcation of the sport, its history, the important ideological roel cricket plays and the petit bourgeois nature of the players are all valid. CLR James might help you understand this if you wanted to read a great marxist writer on cricket.

The more general point about workers learning that they can defeat the bosses is clearly more speculative and more tenuous, but I am least trying to make that propaganda point loud and clear. The Australian defeat gives me that hook.

Comment from John
Time August 24, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Thanks for doubting my sanity. Different ideas that challenge the status quo are often dsimissed as insane. It’s a pity your mind is closed to difference and you can only muster abuse. What part don’t you agree with – that cricket spread across the globe with British capitalism, that Packer commodified the game, that it is all about profit, that its palyers are no longer working class, that cricket plays an important idelogiocal role in society?

The Australian bosses have invested a lot of money in cricket and the results show they are not that good at picking winners. Why shouldn’t workers draw conclusions from the fact that one of the bosses’ beloved instruments of entertainment and national superiority has lost? I am not saying they will; I am hoping they do, but a more class conscious period of struggle and class conflict and a more combative workign class would do that.

Comment from AliensInfoTech
Time August 24, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Shane Warne – The best bowler Australia has ever produced has opened up his mind to the media. He exposed his discontent regarding umpires. According to the ace spinner barring a few exceptions like Simon Tauter and ASAP Rauf other umpires went awry in terms of performance .Expressing disappointment that the standard of umpiring has deteriorated to the worst extent in the past twenty years of time he opined that though umpiring was a hard job, the performances of the umpires in the Ashes series had been consistently so ordinary. As far as Warne is concerned umpire Billy Bowden whom he expected to deliver correct judgments was also not consistent in performing his duty.
The spinner repents that there are too many instances of such bad judgments, which is increasingly becoming a cause of concern. He directly made a mention of names of umpires Daryl Harper and Billy Bowden, accusing them to be adamant in not confessing their wrong judgments. He also tried to strengthen his claim by mentioning that several players were not having a good opinion about those umpires in their minds. Warne insisted that the umpires should maintain a friendly attitude towards the players by shedding their high-handed attitude Warne also expressed his view repetitively that fifty over match should be withdrawn once for all as if such a change is brought about it would enable the players to spend more time with their families and relieve them from exhaustion.

Comment from Wes
Time August 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

“So although the game has major working class support (among boys and men, but not to any major extent women and girls)”

No support from women or girls? Are you claiming that all the thousands of women and girls that attend each match, and were clearly visible in the Ashes telecast, are forced to go against their will?

Comment from John
Time August 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Forced against their will to go to the cricket? Oh dear. Read what I wrote Wes. A few thousand women at the cricket is not major support. And a few thousand playing it is not major support. It is in all aspects – players, supporters, administrators – a male dominated sport.

Comment from Kenny
Time August 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm

“But hey, of course I am insane, just as those who opposed Stalin were diagnosed with psychiatrict problems too”… Stalin? Are you serious? Back in the day, navel-gazing, impressed-with-how-smart/witty/insightful-you-are clowns like you would have supported Stalin!
Let me guess – with views like these you would have to be white, middle-class babyboomer- probably academic or a public servant who was never prmoted to his true (self annointed) station of authority.

Comment from John
Time August 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Yes Stalin, since your attack on my sanity appears to me to be typical of the stalinist mindset.

Ah and now you continue the attack with nonsense which no doubt suits your stereotypical view of the world and allows you not to bother with views that differ from yours.

Too bad you can’t address and debate difference but can only wallow in the cesspit of abuse.

Pingback from En Passant » I’ve been Bolted – at last
Time August 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

[…] took my cricket article – Cricket’s imperialist masters beaten – to prompt his […]

Comment from James
Time August 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Sorry, quite frankly, I just thought this was sooo childishly hilarious kind of undergraduate, you know combat boots rippped shorts, megaphone all that, especially in a country that to the best of its ability provides so generously to as many of its citizens as is possible. Nice try though, surely there’s a support group for anger issues that you can turn to?

Comment from Wombo
Time August 25, 2009 at 3:21 pm

An interesting article, perhaps, and I think I see where you’re going, but I rather think you’ve got the premise wrong.

Australian and English cricket have been almost every bit as capitalist and elitist as each other for a very long time. To declare the English victory in the Ashes a success for class struggle is every bit as rational as declaring that a military victory by Canada over New Zealand is a success.

So I think it’s a little difficult to import “revolutionary defeatism” into sport in this way.

The first problem with the Ashes (and test and county cricket more generally) is that it is a vestige of an elitist, “shamateur”, imagined romantic past in cricket – a myth which inhabits both Australian and English test cricket.

The greatest threat to this has always been the “pollution” of the game by (often working class) professionals (an even greater threat than the “liberation” or “calypso” cricket of the Windies, and the rise of India, Pakistan and other “brown” countries in the sport).

The game has certainly evolved since the days of the Men in White and the Raj, and the IPL is a raging maelstrom of dollars and capitalist betting. But there are still those wedded to the “gentile” myth of cricket’s imagined origins – not as a peasant past-time – but as the formative game of an ascendant middle class and laissez-faire bougeosie. (Its a myth because from the very outset, cricket was an elite sport whose lifeblood was betting and frozen class relations).

In short, the class struggle isn’t necessarily advanced, regardless of who wins in a test match between Australia and England. And the game will continue here much as it did before.

The second problematic aspect of the Ashes from a Marxist point of view – which goes back to the first – is that it is basically a nationalist struggle. Now, with CLR James and friends, I recognise the importance of national liberation struggles, and the progressive role these movements *can* (but don’t always) play…

Now, you could say that an Australian national struggle against British colonial superiority was present in the origin of the Ashes series (I would argue it was, if barely) but has been brushed aside by Australian ascendancy in the game and the nationalism and racism that has at times been associated with the Australian side (although not every member was so – having grown up with close relatives of AB and having met a number of the key players of the 70s and 80s I can vouch for a wide range of attitudes, many of them quite progressive).

And you could point to the larger smattering of players of ethnic backgrounds in (elitist, bourgeois) English *test* cricket – compared to Australia.

But there are plenty of pitfalls in supporting national liberation struggles, and this result – politically – is neither here nor there (and runs the risk of coming out on the same side as the Old Boys’ Club at Lords).

A better hook would have been to contrast the Ashes to – on the one hand – the cricket leagues (whose commodification is an improvement on the shamateur game, and opens wide the door to class struggle), and – on the other – to the first Australian tour of England: the very successful Aboriginal team of 1868.

Comment from Mick
Time August 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm

“Why shouldn’t workers draw conclusions from the fact that one of the bosses’ beloved instruments of entertainment and national superiority has lost?”

Its all a government coverup to keep the workers oppressed John. Oh, they will blame it on a “rebuilding” required after so many years of domination and so on, but we all know its just a capitalist plot.

Oh, and the story about Ben Hilfenhaus being a brickie? Typical capitalist propaganda. He is obviously burgeious (sp?) scum operating under deep cover to infiltrate the working class.

Pass the cool aid.

Comment from John
Time August 25, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Of course the loss can be blamed on ageing, the need for restructuring, perhaps the changing nature of Australian society etc (although that does raise wider questions of whether we should waste taxpayer money on elite sports like cricket, but that is a separate debate.) I was looking at possible (and very speculative) consequences, not causes.

Unfortunately, Mick, you seem incapable of grasping such an obvious point.

On the other hand I would have thought there is nothing controversial about saying the Packer revolution commercialised cricket, that the game is driven by profit (which may well see Twenty20 become the preferred version of the game for the ruling elite over time), that the game spread around the globe with the spread of British capitalism, that the game is part of the superstructure of ideas binding the working class to the ruling class, and that the elite players have left the working class behind and are members of the middle class.

No one has challenged me on these points. Other of course than to question my sanity.

Presumably slagging off my mental health is a substitute for rational debate and discussion. Oh well.

Comment from John
Time August 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Thank you Wombo for the second sensible comment on the thread. I didn’t call for the victory of the English; I called for a defeat for the Australians. There is a difference, and it becomes an important difference when imperialist countries go to war.

Comment from John
Time August 25, 2009 at 9:36 pm


Thanks. Actually I think a better hook might have been to concentrate on the ideological use the bourgeoisie make of cricket and what it costs us.

I don’t see this in national liberation terms – two imperialisms, British and Australian, playing cricket hardly raises the spectre of national liberation.

Siding with the Old Boys CLub at Lord’s? Hardly. That’s like suggesting that because I supported the defeat of US imperialism in Vietnam I supported the stalinists.

I thought about the aborignal tour (after I had written this in haste early one morning) but thought it would require much more thought and research than the quick 400 words off the top of my head did.

Politically I agree this is all an irrelevance except it may have helped one or two people explore the ideas of the left more generally.

Comment from Wombo
Time August 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Oh no, the irrelevance only applies in so far as it’s a question of England and Australia playing (I realise there was no question of “national liberation”, but rather of rival imperialisms, in you post. The problem is that cricket is not vital to the fnctioning of world capitalism, and so revolutionary defeatism has limited application in cricket, and even less so in the Ashes.)

More people should be engaging in the political aspects of sport, and going “beyond the boundary”, so to speak.

Comment from Deek
Time August 26, 2009 at 6:10 pm

You seriously need to move to Cuba man! They welcome your type there…

Comment from John
Time August 26, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Thansk Deek. Actually you should read the article on this site about why Cuba isn’t socialist (Cuba: Stalinism isn’t socialism). I’d be imprisoned for agitating for genuine socialist politics and for workers to overthrow the stalinist Castro regime and introduce real demcoracy.

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