Never mind pillorying Leeds fans for chanting during
the minute's silence for Sir Matt Busby, season ticket-holder John Parker
(North Stand Kop) is more concerned about the club's application to join
the league of the politically correct
For away fans, Elland Road is one of the dark satanic mills of top- flight
football in England. There are few places in the Premiership where visitors
are received less charitably. Nor is fair play something which immediately
springs to mind in connection with Leeds United. Remember the 1975 European
Cup final at Parc des Princes which earned Leeds a European ban; or the
notorious 'friendly' with Glasgow Celtic - by the end there were as many
empty beer bottles on the pitch as blades of grass. More recently, former
Leeds striker Eric Cantona was greeted by a lynch-mob on his return to Elland
Road in a Manchester United shirt. Add to this the roll call of 'tenacious'
stars like Hunter, Jackie Charlton, Bremner, Jones and Batty, and you get
the idea of the 'bites yer leg' Leeds tradition.
So when Leeds fans failed to observe a minute's silence after the death
of Sir Matt Busby in January, everyone who could push a pen or climb on
a soapbox used it as an excuse to raise spectres past and to decry the Leeds
fans as 'scum'. Even Leeds players labelled them 'hooligans'. Sneering press
commentators took great pleasure in affirming that football fans are the
same as they have always been: narrow-minded, bigoted and plain moronic.
The Yorkshire Evening Post and the Sun launched photo campaigns
to single out the perpetrators, and to work with the club and the official
supporters' clubs to get them banned for life.
The hysterical reaction was a continuation of the club's attempts to clean
up its act. The increasingly competitive world of the Premiership dictates
a move up the social ladder way from the 'underclass' in the cheap seats
(or terraces still!) towards the higher-earning respectable working class
and even the middle classes.
It is well known that one of the first things manager Howard Wilkinson did
when he took over five years ago was to remove all the pictures of the great
Leeds teams of the sixties and seventies. Behind the scenes there have been
parallel efforts to remove the negative image that went with the Leeds heyday.
Club officials have outlawed 'provocative' chants in the ground (punishable
by ejection and banning). They have gone to great lengths to marginalise
fans who chant the infamous 'Airplane Song' which, to say the least, does
not take a sympathetic approach to the 1958 Munich air disaster which afflicted
our great rivals Manchester United. Announcements have even been made over
the PA threatening to arrest those who sing the song. In an attempt to undermine
such sentiments, players have been sent to supporters' club meetings, endless
articles published in programmes, and all sorts of PR stunts dreamed up
involving the two clubs. The aim of all this has been to turn the monstrous
spectacle of working class vulgarity into the wholesome family entertainment
of American stadia. With this end in view, Leeds has set aside a large section
of the East stand for family use, and promoted politically correct projects
such as 'Football in the Community', fronted by the likes of Chris Fairclough
and Rod and Ray Wallace.
The first thing to realise is that the target of all the public relations
stunts is not hooliganism, but the fans themselves. The campaign Leeds United
Against Racism and Fascism is a case in point. Touted by the local council
and the police, lauded far and wide by the football establishment, it identifies
racism as a problem of the 'culture' of working class fans. You don't need
to endorse the hostility sometimes vented against visiting black players
to realise that Leeds' directors, the police, security staff and the local
Labour council are in no position to lecture football fans on racism; or
to see the dangers of allowing people like these to dictate what we should
and should not be allowed to say in the stands or on the terraces or anywhere
The flip side of official 'anti-racism' is that nobody quibbles with the
new police surveillance centre at Elland Road. It is justified on the grounds
that the video cameras are monitoring the ground for racist chanters. Although
I have never seen one of these ejected, the video surveillance centre allows
the West Yorkshire police greater control over every fan that comes through
the turnstile, while keeping a lower profile. What they save on Saturday
afternoon overtime can be redirected into trumped-up campaigns to label
Chapeltown - the area in Leeds with the highest concentration of blacks - as
a haven for crime and drugs. The police continue to use football stadia
as laboratories for crowd control and riot tactics, while their high-profile
'anti-racist' activities help them pursue their policing of the black community
I for one don't welcome the drive towards good, clean, law-abiding football.
I don't fancy being searched by a big lump on the gates before having my
face on a police video - all for eight quid a time. I don't want to join
a phoney membership scheme for twelve quid and hand over all my personal
details to the cops for the privilege. Or, even better, spend £140
minimum to stand in luxurious surroundings all season, providing of course
I don't swear, spit, or cause offence to any vicars present.
The whole point about the football fan is that he is not the cricket spectator.
He does not believe in fairness or politeness. When you support a team,
whether it's Leeds United, Manchester United or Shrewsbury Town, for 90
minutes it is the best team in the world and you would throw anything at
the opposition to try to demoralise them. Just as Manchester United fans
made jokes about motor neurone disease when Don Revie died of it, so it
should come as no surprise that many Leeds fans remember Sir Matt Busby
not as a national hero, but as just another manager of the team we love
Supporting a team is about collective self-belief bordering on self-deception.
It may appear childish to some and offensive to others, but there it is.
Some of you may not give a toss about football one way or the other. But
I suggest your alarm bells should ring when you hear people labelled hooligans,
paraded across the pages of the press and threatened with bans and arrests
merely for expressing sentiments considered outré in polite
circles. If we let the authorities suppress the voices from the terraces
and practice their experiments in etiquette on football fans, the next voices
to be silenced may be ours.
Dali's deformative years
James Heartfield rooted around Salvador Dali's personal stuff at the
Surrealist Salvador Dali's 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus' has adorned thousands
of morbid teenagers' bedroom walls. Now, as if in an act of revenge for
his immoral influence on the young, the Hayward Gallery gives us Dali's
formative years, with an exhibition of paintings, drawings, notebooks, letters,
memorabilia and, most important to style-fetishists, some handsome photographs
of the artist as a young man.
The Early Years contradicts Dali's own fantastic picture of his youth as
a child-killer and pervert. Portraits of the painter with his father and
family show a well-adjusted if not respectful son. And, as against the Dali
who set out to offend the self-consciously offensive surrealist leader André
Breton by declaring his emotional adoration of Hitler, The Early Years shows
Dali following in his atheistic and leftist father's footsteps with a celebratory
sketch of Trotsky (1920), and other agit-prop stuff. It's all a long way
from the later Dali who outraged left-wing opinion with his professed love
of money, Hollywood and the monarchy.
The exhibition reveals Dali as a diligent art student, mastering expressionist
and cubist styles, assimilating Picasso, and even knocking off a quick sketch
in the manner of the surrealists, before he made that movement his own.
His draughtsmanship too is good, as can be seen in some elegant still lifes
and solidly classical portraiture. Dali exhibited all of these disparate
styles side-by-side, as if in contempt for any particular genre.
But it is in Madrid as a student at the Special School that Dali found his
true voice. Away from home Dali ganged up with Frederico Garcia Lorca, who
was to make a name for himself as a playwright (The House of Bernarda
Alba, Blood Wedding) and the anarchist film-maker Luis Buñuel
(Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), both then fellow students at
the special school.
Here the photographic record is invaluable: Dali and Lorca camp it up like
a homoerotic Häagen-Dazs commercial, posing on the rocks in those single
piece swimsuits that Edwardian gents wore, with white pumps, greased-back
hair and pouts that would outdo Suede's Brett Anderson any day. Fashion
editors and art students have been trying to recreate that Lee Miller/Leni
Riefenstahl look ever since, but here are the professionals.
Bunuel is there too. But the film-maker, collaborator with Dali on the classic
surrealist short L'Age D'Or is represented by a solid portrait in
the manner of Dali's rendition of his father. Lorca, by contrast, features
in Dali's sketch-books as a clown, sticking his tongue out.
As Dali plunged ever deeper into the unconscious, and the taboo, Lorca is
on hand to sing his praises in adoring surreal verse. Spurn the dry flower
of the square root, implores Lorca, and clear the mountains of their impressionistic
mist. Dali writes that he is painting without effort or academic affectation.
By the mid-twenties Dali's style is recognisably that of the bending watches,
ant-infestations and contorted flesh that was to make him famous. The mastery
of style and draughtsmanship of his early years puts Dali ahead of the surrealist
pack, as if he had always known that to subvert bourgeois art, you have
to master it. The subject matter is proudly repulsive, the colour is vulgarly
dramatic, but technically excellent, the proportions rebel against the classical
and the whole shop of horrors glints and gleams courtesy of brush-work that
any photo-realist would die for.
Praised as Dali's technique is, it is only the vehicle for his development
of the surreal, beyond realism to the unconscious and the unmentionable.
At the time, Dali was rifling his dreams for images on instructions sent
down from surrealist head office. Later works juxtapose the inappropriate
with more wit, like the aphrodisiac jacket, embroidered with hundreds of
tiny glasses of creme de menthe. Here, though, we get Dali's subconscious
in the raw.
These works are brave, brave enough to be ripped up by the mob that attacked
the first surrealist exhibition in Paris - to the surrealists' secret delight.
Dali reaches those parts of the imagination that other people would prefer
not to. Sex is here, not for enjoyment, but because it is shameful and repellant.
Cocks throb and cunts gape, daring you to look, challenging you to justify
Nor was Dali only investigating our taboos. He wasn't frightened to pillage
his own darkest fears if there was a chance of a good picture. The Hayward's
exhibition wants to present Dali as slave to his own personal demons by
setting his work among his private letters and memorabilia. But if the intent
is narrow, the association works all the same, showing how Dali raided his
own emotions for inspiration.
In 'The Altar' a church is the site for a frightening vision of a woman's
head glowing. A couple of figures are cowering in shame, and look, the kneeling
figure is clearly giving his partner a blow-job. The image is one of self-disgust,
as the couple are caught in the act. The standing partner is shielding his
face in shame; the kneeling, too preoccupied to notice. The message of The
Early Years is 'that's Dali, with Lorca'. Is it? Perhaps the proper thing
to say would be that Dali is describing the human condition, but comparing
the figures in 'The Altar' with the photograph of Dali and Lorca on the
rocks, the similarity is inescapable: Lorca looks adoringly at Dali, smitten.
Dali, striking a disdainful pose, has his eyes on the horizon.
Sixty years on the programme for The Early Years warns that some of these
pictures are unsuitable for children. Dali would be proud.
The Early Years shows at the Hayward Gallery, London SE1, until 30 May.
Ian Scott asked Philip Kerr about his novel, Dead
Meat, just filmed as Grushko by the BBC
St Petersburg cop
'I was first approached by an independent film producer to adapt a Russian
bestseller set in the fifties called The Sad Detective'. Philip Kerr
found the book a bit too sad and argued that, with all the changes taking
place in Russia, it would be better to work on a contemporary idea. He was
given the go-ahead by the BBC and set out to Leningrad to research the story.
The result was Dead Meat, which follows Chief of Detectives Yevgeni
Grushko, the leading anti-mafia policeman in the now renamed city of St
Petersburg, as he tries to crack a series of murders. What inspires Kerr
is not the story itself, but the characters and the context: 'I write about
outsiders, marginalised by society', ordinary people under extraordinary
conditions. Kerr feels his characters have a strong sense of having been
'betrayed by politicians'.
Did his characters' sense of alienation reflect his own? 'I don't feel angry
about anything in particular. It is more like my own feelings of bewilderment
and a sense of a future which is not necessarily going to be better than
Martin Cruz Smith, who wrote Gorky Park, is the best-known crime
writer working on contemporary Russia. Cruz Smith is not popular with the
Russian police. Philip Kerr is unsure whether they like Dead Meat any
better. 'When I left St Petersburg I was advised by the chief of police
to "make sure my book was not like Gorky Park".' Kerr was
surprised by this advice. He thinks Gorky Park was 'an important
book, written at the time when the country was opening up'.
In Arkady Renko, the main character in Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
created the first major contemporary Russian detective. Renko is the son
of a leading Soviet general and a loner. Published in 1981, Gorky Park
captures in vivid detail the daily routine of the Soviet people in a
society out of control. The book was nominated by Time magazine as
'the thriller of eighties', became an international bestseller and was made
into a major film. What impressed Kerr most about the book was its 'real
people'. The character of Renko appears in two other novels, Polaris
and Red Square. The latter is set around the period of the Soviet
Union collapsing and focuses on the rise of organised crime with the introduction
of the market. Cruz Smith's characters all aspire to be like Western businessmen
but have no illusions as to the nature of the market. 'Another way to say
"non-violent crimes" is "business"', says an illegal
banker in Red Square.
In the Russian mafia crime novel stakes, Kerr's Dead Meat has the
edge over Cruz Smith's Red Square. Cruz Smith tries to cover the
great events unfolding around his characters, such as the breaking away
of various republics, leaving you wishing he would just concentrate on the
story. By contrast, in Dead Meat Kerr uses his central characters
to guide the reader through life in St Petersburg today, but not at the
expense of the story. Kerr suceeds in capturing a strong sense of time and
place while still telling a gripping tale.
Novels on the Soviet Union and now Russia written in the West often tell
us a lot more about the preoccupations of Western society than about reality
in the East. The success of Martin Cruz Smith's novels coincided with the
West's love affair with Gorbachev and the theme he pursued reflected the
West's fears over the unstable conditions in Russia.
Unfortunately Kerr falls into the same trap of viewing Russia through the
prism of Western concerns. I asked Kerr what he thought the future held
for Russia. 'Russians are going to get a shock when unemployment really
hits there. I think we should be very worried about the coincidence of unemployment
and extreme nationalism.' The twin fears of economic and social breakdown
are the major Western preoccupations over Russia today.
An exaggerated sense of threat from Russia reflects the crisis of confidence
in the West. Kerr told me that following Grushko - Dead Meat's name
for TV - a number of other television projects were in development on organised
crime in Russia, including one from Lynda La Plante (Widows, Civvies).
In all of his novels Kerr deals with extreme social conditions, the rise
of fascism, an apocalyptic future of uncontained violence and sickening
squalor, the collapse of Stalinism and the establishment of the market in
Russia. Kerr's re-creation of prewar Berlin in his Bernie Gunther novels
is compelling. He does not let the historical situation crush his characters.
But it seems he has had rather more trouble protecting their integrity against
the banal agendas of the television people.
Grushko was filmed entirely on location in St Petersburg. The process
of turning his story into a television series was, says Kerr, 'painful'.
'I had in mind the pace of Tinker Tailor or Smiley's People but
the producer wanted more car chases and a higher body count'. This conflicted
with the BBC request for Kerr to develop the family side of the story. 'I
think they wanted me to turn it into Love Hurts or Casualty. The
BBC seems to be obsessed with domestic drama.'
Dead Meat is published in paperback as Grushko by Arrow at
£4.99, and is currently showing on BBC1.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 66, April 1994