Monday, 28 July 2008

Marxists for Middlesex

For those of you who aren’t familiar with darn saaf, Middlesex was a county that ceased to exist in around 1965. It formed the northern and western part of what was to become Greater London into which most of it was transferred. But Middlesex didn’t disappear altogether. Its county cricket club remains and the name still appears in postal addresses, and there is a Middlesex University. It wasn’t the most exciting of counties, mostly samey suburban semis although it inspired Leslie Thomas’s steamy The Tropics of Ruislip and, I imagine, Betjeman’s Metroland. The astrologist Russell Grant used to champion a campaign to restore the county, although I can’t really understand why.

Middlesex County Cricket Club has produced some famous players over the years - Dennis Compton, Bill Edrich, Phil Tufnell and Mike Gatting to name a few. However, in recent years the trophy cabinet has remained closed. They hadn’t added to their silverware for the past fifteen years but all that changed on Saturday when they lifted the Twenty/Twenty Cup. Twenty/Twenty cricket has been around for six years. There are lots of thrills and spills, razzmatazz and dosh. It might not be for the purist but it puts bums on seats, and it is fun.

Brother S is a native of Middlesex, having been born and raised in Potters Bar which is sadly best known for its rail crash. He spent all of Saturday listening to the finals via his pc. Occasionally, he goes to Lords cricket ground to watch Middlesex play. Being thoroughly bourgeois, he usually watches the game from the famous pavilion that is a throwback to a bygone age. Male spectators (gentlemen) have to wear jackets, ties and ‘tailored’ trousers. Female spectators (ladies) have to ensure that their shoulders are covered (presumably breasts as well that are not mentioned in the regulations). So what is the connection with Marx?

Brother S was sitting in the pavilion one day and contemplating that he was probably the only person in there with a
Socialist Party membership card in the pocket of his acceptable black blazer. He felt a bit confused about the apparent contradiction of his quaint but stuffy surroundings and the class war. The game was interrupted for the wonderfully-named ‘tea interval’ (middle-class tea, a cup of tea and a slice of cake, not one’s evening meal) and Brother S wandered over to the club shop to browse the gaudy ties and overpriced replica shirts. Then he saw a copy of the book Beyond a Boundary by the famous Marxist theorist C.L.R James. This was it; the missing link between cricket and Marxism! I bought a copy.

Actually in
Beyond a Boundary (1963) James writes little about his Marxist convictions. But he does give a fascinating insight into the divisions of race and class that determined membership of Trinidad’s top cricket clubs, and the structure of society when he left school after the First World War. The players in the top team were ‘for the most part white and often wealthy’ but ‘there were a few coloured men among them, chiefly members of the old-established mulatto families’. The second most prestigious club was ‘the club of the old Catholic families’ and ‘almost exclusively white’. Then there was ‘a team of plebeians …totally black and no social status whatever’. There was another, ‘the club of the brown-skinned middle class’ that had been founded ‘on the principle that they didn’t want any dark people in their club’. Another team consisted of black policemen captained by a white Inspector. Lastly, there was a team from the black lower-middle class. However, if a player was exceptionally talented he could cross the divides. James was persuaded to join the club for ‘the brown-skinned middle class’.

James was a remarkable man- a versatile scholar, cricket journalist, an accomplished cricketer himself and a campaigner for West Indian self- government. He was the Johnson in the
Johnson-Forest tendency, a Marxist group that operated in the US in the 1940s and 1950s. Possibly his most acclaimed work was The Black Jacobins. Alex Callinicos described this work as ‘a classic of Marxist histiography’ in which James ‘set the great slave revolt of 1791, which transformed Saint Domingue from a French colony into the Republic of Haiti, in the context of the Atlantic world economy and the French Revolution’.

James’ life merits a far more detailed blog. I thank him for providing me with a faint link between cricket and Marxism. I call on all Marxists to get behind Middlesex in the forthcoming Champions League!


FENN said...

Your grasp of the facts with regards Middlesex is painfully familiar.

Next thing you'll write is that it is only a postal county with a cricket team and university - oh you did, did you?

Totally wrong - you might be right with regards Middlesex County Council but not the County of Middlesex totally different entity.

Might be worth finding out the facts.

Brother S said...

Fenn, an unnecessarily hostile and misinformed comment. Maybe you would like to send me a map of modern-day Middlesex? You could throw in a few pictures of Father Christmas coming down the chimney of your samey suburban semi.

FENN said...

No samey semi sorry to disappoint; that's two things you've got wrong in one day.

As for being misinformed; kettle, pot, black? You can't even be bothered to find out the facts can you, just in case you are wrong - and you really are on this.

The last ho-ho-ho comes from Middlesex people everywhere.

Father Christmas via Middlesex, yes he found it.

Anonymous said...

Do some research, find the facts and put me straight then. And try to lighten up! Middlesex people are renowned the world over for their warmth and humour!

FENN said...


Well I did end on a ho,ho,ho!

Anonymous said...


I think we should agree to disagree on this one. Nice to see a new name posting a comment. Ho, ho,ho

brother g said...

Yet again I must object to the notion that there is ANY OTHER kind of tea than the 'middle class' version you so cruelly deride. The North is obviously making your head go funny.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Brother G. I will be taking tea shortly- a cup of tea with a slice of Bakewell Tart. I will eat my sausages for dinner later. You can take the boy out of Middlesex, but you can't take the Middlesex out of the boy!

FENN said...

The North? Oh I see as in Father Christmas - wrong again.

FENN said...

Middle class as in Middle sex? Wrong again

FENN said...

Cruel derision? Wrong again.

brother g said...


I'm not entirely sure what points you're trying to make. My comment refers entirely to Brother S' own mention of the "middle class" definition of tea and to an ongoing debate with members of the Stoke community. It in no way relates to Middlesex. Infact I've never even been to middlesex, and don't see why anyone would want to. It's a well known fact that Middlesex was a truly dreadful place not only during, but also before and for some time after its existence.

FENN said...

There you go again, another 'fact' according to you.

You really are suffering from such sad delusions.

And you strengthen your case SO well, you've not even been to Middlesex.

Goodness me your argument gets stronger with every comment - don't know, not been there, whoops another fact that isn't actually a fact at all.

Just the gospel according to you!

All hail!

brother g said...

To hell with your facts, sir! I know a shithole when I havn't been to one, and Middlesex undisputedly fits the bill.

Incidentally, I would be interested to know what argument it is that I am supposed to be making. All I know is that a throwaway comment about tea culture got figuratively molested by some Middlesex native with a misdirected sense of home pride.

FENN said...

Oh brother!

That's my bet one, bet you can't guess who this is????

You see I had a bet with one of our mutual comrades that I could get you swearing within 20 comments, and you did!

End of - thanks for making it such an enjoyable day.

Enjoy your sandwiches (which was the Home Pride line I presumed, quite brilliant).

Yum, yum from the other side of the Middlesex tracks somewhere near that is a clue.

brother g said...

...this isn't Tony is it?

If not then I concede defeat in both your bet and your identity mystery, the best geographer has evidently won.

FENN said...

Getting warm......definitely a big Middlesex fanatic....

brother g said...

There's no such thing as a Middlesex fanatic, thats an absurd clue!

Phil BC said...

An excellent post Brother S, and easily one of the funniest comment box mash ups i've seen in a while!

Miles said...

Funnily enough I blogged about cricket today.
Good to see, Phil, that you have become a Lancashire fan

Phil BC said...

A Lancs fan? Don't know where you got that from! I can't stand Cricket, it's just so dull!

(Cue brickbats)

Brother S said...

Miles was referring to the Lancastrian red rose, phil. War of the Roses and all that.

Phil BC said...

Lol, obviously a reference completely lost on me!

runia said...

Interesting post.

To me 20/20 is to cricket what Big Brother is to channel 4. A necessary evil required to pay for more worthwhile fare, but good luck and all that.
The real cricket is happening now at Edgbaston.

If you really want to annoy Phil I would suggest he is a Lancashire fan and a Labour Party supporter due to the rose.

Anonymous said...

Potters Bar eh? I grew in a London W postcode but Middx is such an amporhous blob. On the ewst-side alone everything from West Drayton to Sunbury on Thames counts. Locals in the two would I doubt feel not that much obvious bonding really...

brother g said...

"If you really want to annoy Phil I would suggest he is a Lancashire fan and a Labour Party supporter due to the rose."

That is below the belt. I would never dare to suggest that Phil holds a deep love for any party other than the Liberal Democrats.

Phil BC said...

You're a cruel man, Brother S. I'd rather eat marmite than lend that bunch any support. Their party colour is yellow for a reason, don't you know.