Support Left-Wing Ultra Culture

PH, Béal Feirste.

If you listen to the anti-working class liberal media you would not be forgiven for thinking your average football fan is a “thug”, “hooligan” and a “fascist” but you have to look at the bigger picture to see that many of the fascist football fan groups such as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) are sustained partly as a reactionary force to the anti-working class liberal media who portray the average working class football fan as a savage. Lenin’s analysis of fascism says Liberalism produces the conditions for fascism and that has proven true to an extent for groups such as the DFLA. But many left-wing ultra groups (the most radical football fan culture) that have been set up have combated both the fascists and the media’s narrative of working class football fans while supporting their team and community, bringing a positive atmosphere to the terraces of collective belonging and working class identity.

The First Cork City Brigade is Cork’s left-wing anti-imperialist ultras group

One key component of left-wing ultra groups is unity and solidarity. While this should be central to any working class left-wing group, especially useful to combat the fascists, the media as well as football authorities such as UEFA censor and condemn politics on the terraces, unless it suits them. In the ultras fan culture you have what is called a twinning (a friendship) and left wing ultra groups use this to co-operate. Possibly the most famous one and strongest is the triangle of brotherhood involving ultra groups of AEK Athens, Livorno and Marseille, which would be the most radical twinning of ultra groups.

If you go to Curva Nord Livorno you will see many AEK Athens ultras present there,cheering on the team. You will hear chants such as “Bella Ciao”, “Avanti Popolo” (red flag). You will also see flags with Che Guevara on them (also on Marseille’s terrace, South Winners group). Curva Nord Livorno is made up of members of the previous group Brigate Autonome Livornesi (BAL99) who were a Marxist-Leninist group but are now dissolved after complaints, arrests and bans from the stadium, something the majority of ultra groups have to deal with. On the Curva Nord where BAL occupied you would’ve seen DPRK flags, Hammer and Sickle flags, Palestine flags, Antifascist symbols and also pictures of Bobby Sands with Che Guevara flags and Stalin’s birthday was also celebrated every year with banners.

Livorno supporters carrying forward the tradition of celebrating Stalin’s birthday.

You still do see this in the Curva Nord although to a lesser extent. One of Livorno’s former players Cristiano Lucarelli whose father was a trade unionist took number 99 for the ultra group. When he scored for the Italy Under 21 side he took his shirt off and displayed underneath a shirt of Che Guevara, this has seen him banned from the Italian national team for eight years.He also got fined 30,000 euro when he gave the fist to the Curva Nord when the BAL group was after scoring a goal. Lucarelli had close links with the oppressed BAL99 group, and when Livorno ultras were arrested at an away day he paid for their bail and also their transport fees. Lucarelli did not come from a privileged background and when he played for Livorno he said, “Some players buy themselves a Ferrari or a yacht with a billion lire, I just bought myself a Livorno shirt”. Luccarelli can still be seen at Livorno matches today in the Curva Nord and the position of the BAL99 group was and is “The struggle of our lives is that of the working class,of anti-fascism and anti-capitalism and so it will be in eternity”. Livorno was also the birthplace of the Communist party of Italy in 1921.

A Livorno TIFO

Another left wing ultra group is also the Green Brigade of Celtic who have a friendship with the triangle of brotherhood twinning groups, when Celtic played AEK Athens last year in the champions League qualifiers, The Original 21 AEK Athens ultra group unfurled a banner outside the Stadium, “Original 21 knows how to honour and respect… welcome our Celtic friends”, on the Original 21 terrace you can also see anti-fascist banners and Palestine flags similarly to the North Curve which the Green Brigade occupy at Celtic park. Green Brigade actively oppose the criminality policies which are placed against ultra Groups in Scotland, these were passed by the SNP and make life hard for the few ultra groups in Scotland who consistently get harassed by the police.

Celtic fans have withstood continuous harassment, fines and bans to show uncompromising solidarity with Palestine.

Despite these restrictions placed against ultra groups in Scotland, Green Brigade still managed to do a huge amount of charity work and raise money for Palestine.In the previous few months they managed to raise over 10 thousand pound for the NHS and regularly donated to food banks that were facing challenges from the pandemic. After Green Brigade unfurled Palestinan flags against Hapoel Beer Sheva in a champions League qualifier they were fined £8,000  by UEFA and the ultra group aimed to match the fine to give to Palestinian charities, they ultimately raised £176,076 which was given to the Medical Aid for Palestine charity and they also have a four year ongoing relationship with the AIDA refugee camp in Bethlehem that houses Palestinan refugees. Many members of the Green Brigade who are Irish Republicans show solidarity and sympathy with the Palestinan struggle.

When Green Brigade played Lazio earlier this year in the Europa League, whose ultras have white supremacist and facist ethos, Green Brigade displayed a TIFO inspired by the Brigate Rosse an Italian Marxist Leninist group who believed in armed struggle to create a revolutionary state, this resulted in the Green Brigade getting banned in for the next Europa League home game and Celtic getting fined £12,600.

Celtic fans show solidarity with Italian comrades

The German Ultra scene is different from the rest of Europe, the majority of ultra groups are united in their left-wing beliefs unlike, for example, the Millwall and Chelsea right-wing casuals who would be divided against each other. In Germany rivalries aren’t based on politics – for example two of the biggest derbies, Hamburg and St Pauli, are both left wing supported clubs. In the Ultra Sankt Pauli terrace you will always see the Che Guevara flag present, they also have a friendship with Union Berlin who are also left-wing, where both fans donated their blood in order to help save Union Berlin in their financial crisis, you will also always see the Ultra Sankt Pauli Che Guevara flag on the Bayern Munich ultra terrace who they have a friendship with. Green Brigade and St Pauli supporters have a long strong friendship also.

St. Pauli fans raising the rainbow flag in a demonstration against homophobia

The FC Dynamo branches were also originally founded as the football clubs of the DDR’s state personnel, and some of them still retain chants that celebrate the legacy of the DDR and a left-wing outlook. Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, declared “”Football success will highlight even more clearly the superiority of our socialist order in the area of sport” and publicly funding competitive sports was a major priority. Many of the Dynamo sports outlets suffered dramatically and fell off the map as major clubs in league sports after mass privatisation broke up the social structure of the DDR.

Ultras of Berliner FC Dynamo flying the flag of the DDR

German football should be an example to the rest of Europe as the fans are very much at the heart of the club, as each club has to be owned by the majority of fans in order to get a license instead of big businesses which have privatised the sport and led to fans being out priced especially in England. The average Bundesliga ticket costs 23 euro. When clubs are fan owned it means the fans get the majority of the say in votes of the club which means working class interests are placed at the heart of the game most of the time. German football ultras are running a “Twenty is Plenty” campaign for ticket prices, meanwhile the bourgeoisie running UEFA have tickets prices capped at £63,50 for away games making it unaffordable for the working class fans who make up the ultra scene and bring the atmosphere to the stadium to travel to watch their team.

You will see banners supporting the Twenty is Plenty campaign on many German teams terraces, the Green Brigade are also advocates of the campaign especially for Scotland and European games, where working-class football fans get priced out. Football is a working-class sport and this should not mean the highest bidder gets to see teams play, which only lines the pockets of the bourgeois owners in privatised clubs. Having clubs majority fan-owned means more fans support their local club while keeping it affordable to the working class football fan rather than a privatised club hundreds of miles away, making it unaffordable to watch your team in real life or buy the clubs merchandise. Eintracht Frankfurt who also have the Che Guevara banner present at their ultras terrace and have banned voters of the far-right AfD party from their stadium, the AFD don’t put working class interests at heart.

Support on display for the Twenty Is Plenty campaign

In Cyprus there is a club with a fan base of a largely Marxist-Leninist ideology, they support the People’s athletic club Omonia Nicosia.AKEL, the Cypriot communist party, was the only elected Communist party heading a government in the EU for the better part of the last decade. in a recent poll in gate 9 (the ultras group) it was found that three out of four Omonia fans voted for the Communist Party of Cyprus, a Marxist-Leninist party. Similarly to other left wing terraces around Europe you will see the Che Guevara banner, the ultras have also done a TIFO display of the hammer and sickle on their gate 9 terrace, the group 9 has also done a lot of humanitarian work for refugees in Cyprus. In 1948 the club was founded as a break of from the APOEL club in Nicosia by a group of communists opposed to the politics of the APOEL club. Their aim was to limit Fascism and right-wing nationalism in football and in Cypriot society, since then Omonia has went on to be the most successful club in Cyprus winning 20 league titles.

Flags on display at an Omonia Nicosia game.

In 2011 when Omonia won their thirteenth Cyprus cup, the communist ultras of gate 9 took to the streets and while celebrating with hammer and sickle flags, attacked a police station that used to be occupied by British imperial forces in Cyprus and also attacked the conserative billboards that were put up four days before the election, they had enough of the nationalist hysteria surrounding Cyprus at this time. More recently in 2018 Omonia was taken over by a bourgeois, privatised American company, who seem not to have recognised the club’s ethos, something many fans have to put up with in a capitalist society while supporting their football club in the free market economy. The ultras of gate 9 responded by founding their own club in 2019 called the People’s Athletic Club – Omonia Nicosia. Remembering the ethos their club was founded on in 1948, we extend our solidarity to them. 

Gate 9 clashing with riot police at Pallouriotissa.

The ultras of Rayo Vallecano (Bukaneros) in Spain have their working-class identity placed at the heart of their ultras movement, when the now dissolved fan group was founded in 1991 they made their concept clear -“Rayo working class and anti-ascism” and even to this day when the descendant ultras visit stadiums they unfurl banner with the same slogan their group was founded on. The ultras regularly display symbols of Che Guevara.,Anarchism, Communism and Socialism. The Vallecas district in Madrid where Vallecano are based has a lot of poverty and homelessness and the ultras have to defend their areas from fascists. After the end of Franco’s dictatorship the left wing ideas of the district have only gotten stronger. In 2015 they protested against the fascist regime of Franco and also today’s world of capitalism. The second division club who regularly have the rainbow colours on one or more of their shirts each year is very much ingrained into the district. In November 2014 the coach of the club Paco Jemez and his team payed an 85 year old’s rent for the rest of her life after she was thrown out of her home by the Spanish police. Also when Spanish workers were having a one day general strike in 2012 the Rayo Vallecano players joined the strike in solidarity. This shows the immense potential for social solidarity at the core of working-class ultra groups.

As Communists it is important we do not give in to the liberal media in their anti-working class narrative that football fans are “thugs” and “savages”, we should stand in solidarity with the working class ultras culture in their fight against the bourgeoisie commercialising football, that stole the sport that was founded by the poor and turned into a business that oppresses the working-class fans that love their club and community and just want to create an atmosphere to make for a better matchday experience to help their team win. It is important we follow examples of ultras such as gate 9 of Omonia and BAL99 of Livorno to combat the fascist on the terraces that emerged as a result of the alienation from the liberal media attacking working class football fans, we must spread Lenin’s analysis of fascism in order to rally supporters and clubs against the bourgeois oppressors that now run the sport of football.

Another Football is possible. Another World is possible.

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