Anti-Imperialist Soccer Tournament: August-November 2003

Catalyst Project members played leading roles bringing together the Anti-Imperialist Soccer Tournament and in building the Kronstadt Football Club.

Imperialism is Offsides:

Bay Area communist and anarchists take it to the soccer field

By Josh Warren-White and Chris Crass

Over the course of the past three months, in the hopes of building movement alliances, having fun and getting exercise, revolutionary anarchists and communists in the SF Bay Area have been preparing for a soccer tournament between people in the two tendencies.  This article hopes to provide a brief look into the goals for this project and how it is looking after the first highly anticipated game.

"We've run in the streets together.  We've been in meetings together. We've strategized against imperialism together.  But now it's time for Bay Area Anarchists and Communists to bring our relationship to a whole new level. So we're going to build unity and work out our differences where it really matters – on the soccer field.  Come support your comrades and cheer us on!"  –text from original flier

The Anarchist vs. Communist tournament was kicked off Sunday, Aug 17th, in grand Bay Area style with a spirited first match.  Unfortunately the game was brought to a close half way through the fourth quarter at a 2 to 2 tie by the teams’ common enemy, the police.  The supposed charge: playing organized soccer without a permit.  But it was clear to all present that the real reason was the fear that the coming together of two organized revolutionary tendencies had sent the state and capitalist forces (ok, so maybe the one Piedmont cop didn’t seem that scared, although he did stay behind the fence.)

The teams played impressively well, showing both the discipline and fun needed to carry our movements forward to victory.  The Kronstadt FC, the anarchist team, took the field sporting their new black jerseys emblazoned with their insignia (a circle A, a black star, and a soccer ball).  While the Left Wing FC, the communist team, held down their end of things with their shiny red jerseys with a fist and red star and even team numbers.

Nisha Anand from SFWAR (San Francisco Women Against Rape) and a player for Kronstadt commented that, "If you put all the players from both teams together, you have representatives from a lot of great radical social justice organizations, non-profits, and collectives in the Bay Area (examples being… Active Solidarity Collective, AK Press, Challenging White Supremacy workshops, RACE, Freedom Uprising, SOUL, POWER, Just Cause Oakland, ASATA, Underground Railroad, Code Purple AG, Direct Action to Stop the War, Legal Support to Stop the War, SFWAR, Heads Up Collective, Global Intifada, La Pena, SF Day Laborers, Campaign for Renters Rights, the Childcare Collective etc…). That is incredibly powerful stuff!"

"Since moving to the Bay Area 2 years ago," Anand continued, "I've had the opportunity to organize with folks from both the anarchist and communist teams.  The right-wing attack is so huge right now and I am glad that, even though we are competing on the field, I know that folks from both teams got my back in the struggle."

Tenant organizer, Maria Poblet from Left Wing, was asked about the tournament and said, "Whether you identify as red, black, or a little of both, these soccer games offer a unique opportunity to get to know other revolutionaries.  Are you fed up with the competition/profit/male driven sports standard?  Here's a chance to build a truly cooperative alternative. Plus we get to develop leg muscles useful for wreaking anti-capitalist havoc!  In the end it's Red and black vs. red, white and blue."

The stands were scattered with fans dressed in black and red cheering on their respective teams, and in some cases cheering both on.  As black and red flags flittered in the breeze, chants to the effect of, "What do we want?  Left Wing!  When do we want it?  Now!" and "Agitate!  Agitate! Score a goal and smash the state!" filled the air.  As a show of unity in struggle, at the end of the game, the communists came together and proclaimed, "TWO, FOUR, SIX, EIGHT!  ANARCHISTS ARE REALLY GREAT!"

Rahula Janowski a fan for Kronstadt and a member of Heads Up shared, "My partner, my baby and I, had a great time at the soccer match.  It was a great event.  I got to see lots of comrades and friends, both on the field and in the stands.  The whole game was exciting, but I was really impressed when, at the end of the game, the communist started chanting 'All Power to the People!  Smash the State!' and the anarchists joined in. When that kind of thing happens, the capitalists and imperialists should be shaking in their boots!  I can't wait to see what happens at the next game."

As the next game approaches members of both teams would like to stress that these games are about building our relationships and our larger movement.  A fundamental goal of these games, in addition to having fun, is to help build non-sectarian political culture where we can learn more about each others work, find our points of unity and open space for comradely debate about differences.  While we have a long history of conflict dating back to the First International and the question of state power as a means for liberation will continue to be a point of struggle and contention, we have much in common – regarding both values and enemies.  We are united in our struggles against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, the gender binary system and the US government.

These games are also a move to build multiracial anti-capitalist movement as the majority of the anarchist team is white and the majority of the communist team is people of color.  Many of the anarchists are doing anti-racist work with white people and players from both teams have been instrumental in organizing in the global justice and anti-war movements as well as radical community based organizing and education within oppressed communities.  Many working relationships already exist between players on each team in struggles for justice all across the Bay Area.  Hopefully these events will only strengthen our ability to fight and win together on common ground.

Harmony Goldberg from SOUL and Left Wing noted, "It's good to be on the soccer field together, playing futbol with the same people who ran in the streets together in the days after the war started.  Real unity between revolutionaries of all different ideological trends is our only hope for bringing down this empire – and this soccer tournament gives us a chance to start rewriting the old histories of tension and conflict between revolutionary anarchists and communists."

Clare Bayard from Challenging White Supremacy workshops and Kronstadt said, "There are players on both teams whose work and dedication to revolution I respect and appreciate, people I’ve fought beside for years in many campaigns.  Our differences as communists and anarchists are real, but so is the range of political, creative and strategic thinking inside each team and amongst our supporters in the stands.  We are a new generation, with new hope to build common ground in order to constructively engage those differences, to build broader movement instead of fracturing our opposition to the real enemies."

Fans coming to cheer on both teams please come with fun and witty revolutionary soccer chants and cheer our teams on with respect for all the players on the field.  We ask that our fans join us in our work to create non-sectarian and anti-racist culture that celebrates all of our work to build movement for liberation.  In the coming weeks of soccer battles we hope our relationships will continue to grow and our games will only get more exciting!

As Latin American author Edward Galeano wrote in Football in Sun and Shadow, "we lost, we won, either way we had fun."

Kick imperialist balls,

Unfurl the flags of justice,

Unity in struggle,

Fight to Win!

(This article was written by two members of the anarchist Kronstadt FC team.  It is not a team statement but rather their perspectives.)

Dates, times and locations for games 2 & 3 will be released very soon… keep posted!