Marx : On Cricket


As far as can be discerned from exhaustive study of the published oeuvre, Karl Marx never saw fit to pronounce on the game of cricket. A rare ideological lacuna, the absence came as profound relief to Joe Keats (1900-1956), he a coalminer, stalwart of the Militant Minority Movement, believer in the inevitable progress of historical materialism, and lover of the game. The Mentor, Joe suspected, had he turned his considerable intellect to the subject, might well have disapproved of the activity, on numerous grounds, all of which Joe had elected to ignore when it came to donning the flannels. For Joe had discovered early on that batting calmed the fevered political mind. At bat, all he thought about was the ball. And to which part of the field he might despatch it. Fielding likewise soothed, unless one was assigned to the outfield, against weak opposition, whence, the ball rarely visiting such precinct, the mind became prey to dialectical conjecture. Joe preferred to field in the slips. There was no time for political thought in the slips.

The 1932-33 England-Australia “Bodyline” series was to cause Joe Keats particular perturbance. English fast bowlers Larwood and Voce were sons of coalminers and coalminers themselves. Bradman was bourgeois. There were long dark nights of ideological brawl with Moscow-aligned Shug Meiklejohn, the elastic inconclusiveness of which no doubt nourished by Lenin and Stalin echoing The Mentor in neglecting to offer a view on the game.

Larwood and Voce had been rescued from the Nottinghamshire pits by professional cricket. No such escape was ever to present itself to Joe. That son Cedric evinced total disinterest in the game was, in a way, more disappointing than the offspring’s drift to Trotskyism and beyond.

Off season, uninterested in football, Joe would attempt to ease a troubled mind in contributing articles of impeccably impenetrable revolutionary logic to The Red Leader, organ of the MMM, and the Miners Federation newspaper Common Cause. Most, if not all of his submissions, were deemed too prolix for publication, let alone digestion.

Joe went on to recruit and captain the only recorded all-communist cricket team ever to play the game. The Red XI enjoyed a single season in a northern coalfields district competition, losing every game before disbanding. Love of the game saw Joe continue to play alongside reformists and other moderates, whilst drawing the line at teaming with management.

Joe Keats died in 1950, of lockjaw, the result of tetanus infection, outcome of slashing a foot on ancient corrugated iron, remains of a pioneer miner’s shanty unearthed while planting silver beet in the back garden.

(Excerpt from “52 Graves : A Workingman’s Cemetery”. See main menu.)

That’s all for now.


Remember: Cause trouble and teach your children well.


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