Fascists Always Lose
I wouldn’t normally mention the team down the road and I have never been one of
those Newcastle fans who is happy with a 2-0 defeat as long as Sunderland lose 3-0. However, I do think that the issues swirling around Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio are worthy of comment on this occasion.
When Di Canio was appointed in April, there was uproar about his fascist views. It was widely noted that in 2005, Di Canio three times raised his right-arm in a stiff fascist salute towards like-minded supporters of Lazio, a club with a notorious racist and fascist following. He had also openly admitted that he was a fascist. To their credit, many Sunderland supporters did express their concerns about the appointment and the Durham Miners Association threatened to take back their banner from the Stadium of Light. After all, many County Durham men had died in the sweltering deserts of North Africa fighting and defeating the Italian forces of Di Canio’s fascist hero Benito Mussolini. The fact that it was the Durham Light Infantry who liberated the Belsen Concentration Camp, sadly a month after Anne Frank had perished there, is something we should all be proud of in the North East.
Di Canio then tried to defend his views by saying that he was a “fascist, not a racist”. The Sunderland board, clearly taken aback at the onslaught, made mealy-mouthed remarks about how he was no longer a fascist. Yet when given an opportunity to say this for himself at the press conference announcing his arrival at Sunderland, Di Canio declined the opportunity to distance himself from his fascist views.
The next day, Di Canio finally made some very ambiguous remarks about his fascism. It was so obvious that he had only made these remarks because he had been leant upon by the owners, worried about the possible effect on the brand name of Sunderland and of course the personal profits they could make. To put it another way, I certainly haven’t heard anything about Di Canio having his huge tattoo of Benito Mussolini removed…..
And then..…Sunderland won 3-0 at our place, followed it up with a 1-0 win against Everton and everyone seemed to go silent on Di Canio’s fascism. As long as his team were winning, then it didn’t seem to matter any more. I remember speaking to someone who works in Sunderland who related how friend of hers, who hated fascism, were delighted with Di Canio, as long as Sunderland had beaten us. To be fair I also know that there many Sunderland fans who have had concerns all along about Di Canio’s views…
And now…. Sunderland lie bottom of the Premier League with one point from five games and seem to be a club in absolute chaos. I mean, we look like the very model of stability in comparison….
But has any of this anything to do with Di Canio’s fascism? Well….
At the end of the day fascists are bullies. They simply lack the basic social skills to talk and debate reasonably with others. Di Canio has certainly acted like a real fascist in this respect, in his time at Sunderland. The late Jock Stein, a great football manager if there ever was one, once pointed out that you had to treat players as individuals to get the best out of them. Some you might treat in quite a hard manner, others you would treat with kid gloves. This is a philosophy which is beyond the average fascist and certainly seems beyond Di Canio.
The signs were there at the end of last season after the heavy defeat away at Aston Villa. After that game, Di Canio said how poor the players were and whilst there might be seen as a refreshing honesty in this, there was a bullying tone to his remarks. He then went on to say that he wanted most of the players out of the club. But what kind of player did he want? Some sort of supermen? Or does he simply not have the skills to turn mediocre players into better ones?
Anybody who has seen the excellent German film Downfall and not just the clips on You Tube with Hitler’s words being given ‘amusing’ subtitles, will be struck by the scene where Hitler makes his last will and testimony. This was his opportunity to explanation as to why he had brought his country to its knees. His secretary Traudl Junge relates at the end of the film that this was when she thought that there might at least be some explanation as to his disastrous actions, if not an apology. But no. Everybody else was at fault; the Jews, naturally in Hitler’s twisted world view, but also the German people, for being too weak and letting the Fuhrer down.
I cannot help but see comparisons with Paolo Di Canio. Here is another man who has professed fascist views and seen defeat after defeat; but it is never his fault. It is never his poor motivation skills, his tactics, the team formation or even more obviously after the defeat at West Brom, the sale of Stephane Sessegnon. No, just like Adolf, it is never Paolo’s fault, always somebody else’s…. `
Now of course, it is sadly true that there are those who are foolish enough to be taken in by fascism. The certainties it provides and the bullying nature of fascist leaders, means that it can provide an early façade of dynamism and action. That perhaps explains Di Canio’s early successes at Sunderland. On the other hand one could point to poor tactics on the part of Pardew for the result in the Tyne-Wear derby in April. What does appear to be true is that these early successes are rarely maintained by those of fascist natures. Their inability to emphasise with others and work successfully with them and their inability to accept criticsm and learn from it always finds them out. They also tend to have childishly simplistic view of the world. I wonder if this is what we are seeing now with Di Canio?
After all, other facists in history have begun their careers with startling victories only for it all to go wrong in the end. The point I am making is simply this; in the end, Fascists always lose.
Just as I have never been a supporter who is happy for us to lose as long as Sunderland lose by more, so the fact that our nearest and dearest have sunk to the level of scraping the barrel and appointing an openly fascist manager doesn’t mean that having the likes of Wonga as sponsors or having an owner who employs most of his staff on zero-hours contracts are now alright. Sure, both of the North East’s big two clubs are in the top league, but in other respects has North East football ever sunk to such a low-level? Both clubs should be better than this.
Perhaps Di Canio can learn and change as a manager and a person. Who knows? He clearly needs to change. Sunderland’s next four games are home matches against Manchester United and Liverpool and away at Swansea, before the Tyne-Wear derby on October 27th. What odds on a Newcastle victory that day seeing Sunderland finally do the decent thing and sack a manager whose views are so odious? We shall see….