Men who a few short months before the slaughter
Had voted Socialist and internationalist,
And who had struck for higher wages
Against their respective employers,
Be they German or British Capital or sometimes both,
Were now once more united in common purpose,
And on a sort of shared common land,
For Fritz and Tommy met in No Man’s Land,
And briefly shared a deepened understanding
Of how nationhood had hoodwinked them,
And destroyed lives and mutual empathy;
Not for them the esoteric knowledge
Of British shell manufacturers paying
Royalties on enemy patents,
As Capital respected Capital;
Instead, Christmas trees and fags and beer,
Frost-breath football, schnapps and cigars
Silhouetted against a setting blood-red sun.
And who cares about the one remembered score line?
Who cares if Germany won the Flanders friendly?
For there is a deeper question to ask:
“What if they had played again the next day?”
And then the day after that as well,
And what if they had played mixed sides,
Just like their respective aristocracies and Capital,
Dispensing with birthplace as the sole criterion for selection.
What if the playing of the People’s Game
Had continued beyond that Christmas time?
What on earth would have ensued?
Well, I suggest to you that none of the following
Would have occurred in fact and in name:
The Battle of the Somme; Verdun; Passchendaele;
The Bolshevik Revolution; The Russian Civil War;
The Wall Street Crash; the Great Depression;
Stalin; Hitler; Fascism; World War Two;
Nuclear weapons; the Cold War;
Remembrance Day and the British Legion.
There might just have been a series of socialist revolutions,
A peaceful redrawing of the map and classes of Europe,
With an early end to European Empires and racial theories,
But with a new respect for the wonders of our planet.
Think about it.And remember the People’s Game.