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 or sometimes both,
Were now once more united in common purpose,
And on a sort of shared common land,
Reading in the newspapers about when
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 about whosoever 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,
As did royal families, aristocracies and capitalists,
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?
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,
And with a new respect for the wonders of our planet -
Think about it.
And remember the People’s Game.