Surrendering to far-right agendas

29 05 2013

Earlier Roy Hodgson sent out an e-mail  to “appeal to fans over ‘No Surrender to the IRA’ chant before Ireland  friendly”, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable request. Today the Daily Telegraph told us that “fans hit back at manager Roy Hodgson’s plea over ‘No Surrender’ chant”

Mark Perryman, who is a member of the London England fans’ group, does not believe that Hodgson’s email will have been well received.

“I think most people will put it straight into the electronic trash bin,” he said. “The worst possible reason for doing something is to be seen to do it. It is gesture politics to be able to say to people, ‘well we sent an email to everybody’.

“I have been following England since 1996 and this song has been sung at every single game home and away that I have been to. The FA have shrugged their shoulders, put their hands over the ears, cranked up the volume of the national anthem and hoped that it would go away.

“It hasn’t gone away. So why has it taken 17 years, or possibly longer, to wake up to this fact? Is it OK for some reason to sing ‘No Surrender to the IRA scum’ when we are playing Montenegro but it is not OK when we are playing Ireland? They are not engaging with the reasons people sing this song. It’s about having an equal-sided conversation.

“For most people, it is just a way of expressing their Englishness. Is that something I agree with? No. I can’t understand why people go to chant ‘No Surrender’.”

I thought the Telegraph was being a little bit disingenuous by using Mark Perryman as an apparent spokesman against this perfectly reasonable move; he likes to pride himself on trying to encourage a more inclusive outlook at England matches. I found Perryman’s thoughts in a another place just to check if they were being disingenuous.

Why England fans should surrender their  traditional chant

Banning the ‘No Surrender’ chant against Ireland won’t  work. Dialogue, not diktat, is needed to find a new tune to unite fans

It has been on the fixture list for months – I snapped up my tickets as long  ago as February. On Wednesday, England play Ireland at Wembley, as part of the  celebrations to mark the FA’s 150th anniversary. Yet it seems that the FA has  only now woken up to the fact that it may be anything but friendly in the  stands. In the coming days all England supporters and ticket-holders will be  receiving an  email or letter from the England manager telling us not to sing a certain  song on the night in order not to cause offence.

For as long as I’ve been a travelling England fan (my first game was Moldova  away in 1996), a decent proportion of England fans have used the musical pause  after the third line of God Save the Queen to insert “No Surrender” with as much  volume and defiance as they can manage. And as the action ebbs and flows on the  pitch – especially when it ebbs – the chant will go up again: “No surrender, no  surrender, no surrender to the IRA scum!” 

Not everybody joins in, but enough do to ensure the sentiment is firmly  established as part and parcel of what being an England fan is – whether we like  it or not (in my case and plenty of other fans’ case, the latter). The FA know  all this only too well, but over the years they’ve put their hands over their  collective ears and wished it would go away. Well, it hasn’t. On some occasions,  they have cranked up the volume for the poor opera singer belting out God Save  the Queen, in the hope no one will hear the unofficial fourth line. Fat chance  that will work on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, journalists are scrambling to unpick what the chant means, with  associations with the National Front, BNP, EDL and extreme Northern Irish  unionism widely trailed. This is the great get-out clause. If No Surrender can  be shown to have something to do with the far right, we can safely condemn it as  belonging to the other. Yet the notion of not surrendering is absolutely central  to a much broader version of Englishness than that of the fascists and race  haters – and it is not all bad either. World war two, resistance against the  Nazis, the Battle of Britain and the blitz spirit were all about not  surrendering too.

Yet ironically, since 1945, surrendering is one thing this the English have  excelled at. First it was the empire. Then at Wembley in 1953 our presumed  footballing superiority was dashed when Puskas’ Hungary thrashed us 6-3 (I  wonder how the FA will mark that anniversary). We have surrendered the idea of  being a monocultural nation: there’s a reason why there will be so many Irish  there on Wednesday night, some of whom will be sitting amongst the England fans.  We’ve also surrendered to being not completely apart from Europe. Does everyone  welcome any or all that we’ve given up in order to become what we are now? It’s  complicated. “No Surrender” rings out while we’re cheering on a team that is the  perfect example of a post-imperial, multicultural and Europeanised England.

I personally don’t go to England matches to sing No Surrender for the same  reason that you won’t find me at Wembley on Wednesday night trying to raise a  chant of “No Privatisation”: I leave my politics at the turnstile. But simply banning the chant won’t work, nor will demonising those who join in. We don’t need diktats, but dialogue about what we have surrendered and why some of those  surrenders have made sense. A conversation about how a political and peaceful  solution to one of the bloodiest terror campaigns of postwar Europe was found.  An admission that both sides surrendered and found peace instead.

On the way, we may just uncover an entirely different, softer version of  martial and imperial Englishness to the one we’re used to. “What’s so funny  ’bout peace, love and understanding?” Now there’s a tune for Wednesday  night.

To judge from both articles Perryman doesn’t seem to like other people singing the song so you could say the Telegraph does seem a little disingenuous towards him. Having said that I’m not sure what he’s trying to say.

Perryman might not go to sing political song as he “leaves politics at the turnstile” but it’s probably safe to assume that the people who enjoy singing this song don’t feel like him. Why shouldn’t we challenge these people?

I can’t see how a human being can choose to leave politics at the turnstile. Do you turn a blind eye to the racial abuse of your fellow fans simply because you left politics at the turnstile? Do you laugh at the knuckle dragging sexism merely to fit in? Do you join in with the abuse of the “Pikeys” because the songs are funny?  I found the following paragraph a little odd too;

“Meanwhile, journalists are scrambling to unpick what the chant means, with  associations with the National Front, BNP, EDL and extreme Northern Irish  unionism widely trailed. This is the great get-out clause. If No Surrender can  be shown to have something to do with the far right, we can safely condemn it as  belonging to the other. Yet the notion of not surrendering is absolutely central  to a much broader version of Englishness than that of the fascists and race  haters – and it is not all bad either. World war two, resistance against the  Nazis, the Battle of Britain and the blitz spirit were all about not  surrendering too.”

We don’t need to unpick the No Surrender chant very much to see that it’s use has explicit connections to Combat 18, Loyalists terror groups and, judging by twitter, the EDL.

Although the phrase “No Surrender” is two simple words, and although  the idea of not surrendering to something can be used by any political ideology –  “No Pasaran” for example – and although you can place a more progressive British spin to the idea, when you hear the song at England matches it’s not a neutral expression of feelings. The song is charged with unthinking hatred of “the other”; Catholics, Foreigners, Immigrants etc etc, and delivered via a defiant attitude. The people singing know perfectly well what they’re singing.

Making the connection between the song and right-wing politics and then challenging this is not  a “great get-out clause. it’s something that we should all do. If we don’t challenge something that’s wrong how will things change? Did the widespread racial abuse at British football matches stop because people let it slide, or because people labeled as such behaviour racist and challenged it?

Perryman wants to have a dialogue to change the situation, how can you do this if you don’t label certain behavior as wrong?

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One response

29 05 2013
gol2013

There’s a lot of disingenuousness going on here.

Certainly, English football authorities, media and politicians have shut their ears to the ‘No Surrender’ chant for years. They did it because they didn’t want to open a can of worms by asking where the England fans picked up these sentiments.

For the truth is that the hard-core extreme Right element – those responsible for much of the trouble in Dublin in 1995 – have links with Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, and their allies in Scotland, most of whom support Rangers.

They even have a branch in Wales. You may have seen a big Union Jack at Swans games, behind which can be found a local BNP / EDL / WDL gang formerly known as Swansea Loyals, whose now defunct website used to show pics of its members in East Belfast and other Loyalist strongholds.

There is a loose network linking many extreme Right and extreme Brit groups that is represented in Wales, England, Scotland and of course the North of Ireland.

If journalists want to do something positive and really informative they could investigate these links. And by so doing they would get to the bottom of why England football fans are so concerned swith Irish politics.

But they won’t. They’d rather ignore it like they have in the past.

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