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Who are the hooligans now?

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Here is Socialist Worker's editorial on the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster
Issue 2321
Who are the hooligans now?

The lives of thousands of people have been rent apart by last week’s tragic events.

Press, police and politicians have looked for scapegoats and then excuses.

Within minutes of the crush which led to 95 deaths in Sheffield they were all insisting it was the work of “hooligans”.

As it became obvious it was not “hooligans”, but the police who were to blame, some bit their tongues.

Others, like Peter Wright, South Yorkshire’s chief police officer, continued into Saturday night blaming fans and defending his force’s operations.

By Tuesday some police were even daring to blame drunkenness for the dreadful death toll.

As more evidence of the events came to light, attention shifted from the real causes to attempts by politicians to claim sympathy with the dead and the bereaved.

Those who blame Boeing for the airline crash, oil companies for the Piper Alpha explosion, or Tory cuts for the rail disasters were attacked for “making political capital” out of tragedy.

Now those who want to see an end to the treatment of football fans like animals caged in lethal enclosures are under attack.

Many people genuinely do feel that in such a time of grief criticism and questioning are inappropriate, although the rough ride given to Thatcher in the hospital shows this idea is less powerful than in the past.

The danger is that the Tories are allowed to shed crocodile tears and let the real culprits off the hook.

The Tories like to give the impression that some “community”, of which they are part, holds everyone together at times like this.

There was a community that gave us inspiration on Saturday, but it wasn’t that of the Tories, the police or the football bosses.

The real heroes were ordinary people who had gone for what they hoped would be a pleasant day out at the match.

Fans branded as hooligans by the Tories worked for hours to help friends and strangers alike. People with little or no medical experience did the best they could to revive the fallen. Others ripped up advertising hoardings to ferry person after person to ambulances.

Individual cases of heroism stand out even more starkly. There are tales of people keeping others alive, only then to perish themselves.

Within minutes of the disaster becoming apparent Sheffield people were phoning up the local radio station to offer to put relatives up.

Virtually every home around the ground was thrown open to people anxious to call worried friends and relatives.

Neither they nor the health workers, nor fire fighters who battled to keep people alive did this for money or personal gain, although the Tories insist this is what keeps the world turning.

Grudges between fans of rival teams came to nothing when they heard of the events. They stood in solidarity with the Liverpool fans. They knew the same could happen to them. And they knew what was to blame.

They too suffer every week at the hands of a system which treats predominantly working class crowds as a dangerous enemy.

Through the tragedy of last Saturday we saw a glimpse of what the socialist idea is all about.

Working class people are forced by the bosses and the “market” to fight each other.

In the absence of anything else to identify with, many working class youth come to see competition between their team and others as more important than anything else.

Yet their circumstances also drive them to cooperate. People live and work together in society. Of necessity they help each other out.

That’s why thousands of ordinary people became heroes at Hillsborough.

Thatcher has no right to claim to be part of this. For her, “society does not exist”.

For her the only sane world is one of ruthless competition which causes planes, trains and ferries to crash and oil rigs to explode.

For her ordinary folk on a day out are the enemy within, to be abused and mistreated in the name of law and order.

‘Keep her away from me’

What became of Thatcher’s visit to the survivors of the Hillsborough disaster?

Mysteriously the event went virtually unreported, unlike her ambulance chasing after every previous disaster.

A nurse from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield told us what happened to Thatcher’s attempted publicity stunt:

“Thatcher came onto our ward and one bloke said to me, ‘I don’t want to speak to that bastard. Keep her away from me.’ ”

“Patients that could, got themselves discharged when they heard she was coming. They were desperate not to see her.

“Some journalists from Holland said that they didn’t come here to talk to Thatcher, they wanted to speak to the patients, so they refused to come onto the ward while she was here.

“She was in here and back out inside five minutes because the reception was so cold. Even the police got a better reception when they came round before her.”

One person in intensive care managed to tell her to get lost. Another physically couldn’t, but made his feelings known by kicking the bedclothes off.

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