GB89 : JFT96
By Ian Cusack
Thursday 21 Feb 2013 15:08:00
Browse all Ian Cusack articles

The news that incompetence and complacent avarice at the heart of the English domestic game has finally and officially been accepted as the root cause of the Hillsborough disaster and appalling police tactics on the day itself the main contributory factor as regards the scale of the tragedy, bearing in mind the complete contempt and outright hostility with which all football fans, regardless of club, social class or social demographic, were viewed by the entire ruling sectors of society, will come as absolutely no surprise  to anyone who has the slightest insight in to the nature of British society during the Thatcher Years. You don’t need to have been a regular matchgoer, or even to have lived through the era, though obviously both of those things are relevant in terms of the insight they give to the prevailing social conditions of the time, to understand the brutal, repressive nature of the Police State that Britain was during the 1980s; a cursory, dispassionate appraisal of the legislation passed during this period, allied to the outpourings of pro-Government propaganda on television and in the press, shows exactly how hard it was to assert individuality during that era. Orwell’s image of the boot heel repeatedly stamping on a human face was as much a literal fact as a metaphorical image in the year of 1984.

From the Brixton Riots of 1981, to the South Atlantic adventure in the Falklands in 82, to the decade long utter dismantling of manufacturing industry and the attendant social problems caused by the lumpenization of the British working classes that blight cities throughout the land to this day, the Thatcher agenda of reverse class war is evident from day 1; nothing sums up this repulsive ideology of brutalising hatred more than the Miners’ Strike of 1984/1985. This tragic defeat cut deep wounds in to the social fabric of mining communities throughout the land; in parts of South Yorkshire these wounds still have not healed. My ex-wife is from Barnsley; her best friend from school married a miner from South Elmshall. When his pit shut in 93, in the second wave of Hesletine-inspired cuts, he joined the police force. From that day onwards, his family refused to speak to him, using a single word by means of explanation for their actions; Orgreave. Who can really blame them?

Don’t just take my word for it, read David Peace’s mesmerising, brilliant fictional retelling of Governmental malfeasance and the tragic impact it had on the lives of ordinary, dignified working class lives in GB84. Once you’ve read that book, you’ll be prepared for the soon come revelations that deceit, corruption and the vile manipulation of a complaint media by the forces of social control were involved in the shameful absolving of blame of South Yorkshire Constabulary in the Hillsborough disaster. The bastards may have got away with it for 23 years, but the facts will out and they will show that the Government fixed it for the Police to get off scot free in the aftermath of 96 tragic, preventable deaths, as a way of saying thanks to SYP for ensuring the Miners’ Strike failed and ensuring that the boys in blue would continue to act as state condoned shock troops, hell-bent on social repression and drunk on power. I applaud the fact that an inquiry is now being conducted in to South Yorkshire Police’s behaviour that day. Frankly, the fact that Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has been allowed to retire, effectively dodging any proper examination of his role in the Hillsborough Disaster is an absolute outrage.

Remember; 96 innocent people died at a football match. That should never happen. Even at the time, the Hillsborough papers show the admission at the time that 41 lives, at a conservative estimate, could have been saved were it not for police tactics. These tactics may be seen, and to an extent excused, as being merely incompetent, but that is wrong. The actions of SYP were actually based on the prevailing attitude of the ruling elite that regarded all fans as potential criminals and an enemy to be confronted and tamed by any means necessary. A new inquest, allowing for evidence beyond the farcically imposed cut off point off 3.15, will follow in due course and, though I’m not holding my breath, proper justice must be seen to be served by a series of court cases against those involved in the disaster and subsequent cover-up. However, bearing in mind the supine, obsequious nature of the CPS when required to take on the establishment, at best we may be looking at a few sacrificial lambs, hauled up to be given suspended sentences, mainly on account of the fact they’ve gone off message from the wall of silent deceit and the closing of the thin blue line in obfuscatory contempt. Witness Norman Bettison stating, on the release of the Hillsborough Papers, “Fans’ behaviour … made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be.” The blame is still being heaped on the innocent and the dead and that truly sickens me.

At the time of the disaster, the ruling class attitude of repression and contempt was as pervasive as it was effective, both tactically and ideologically. The day of Hillsborough, I was watching Newcastle lose 1-0 to a Paul Davis penalty against Arsenal at Highbury; they’d be champions and we’d finish bottom. In a ground where the facilities knocked spots off the crumbling concrete and rusting girders I was used to, stewards treated away fans with dignity and decency; unlike the hideous crushes and appalling views of White Hart Lane, or air of impending violence that hung over Stamford Bridge like noxious cigar smoke, Highbury was a decent place to watch a game of football. We still lost. Nick Hornby writes brilliantly about the day and the kneejerk reaction of fans in Fever Pitch. I hold my hand up as guilty as the rest in assuming, when I heard the news of the disaster, that “Scouse bastards” had gone on the rampage and caused an abandonment. Basically, the media stereotype of football hooligans permeated the consciousness of other football fans, giving an indication as the effectiveness of the state propaganda machine. There is no better example of false consciousness prevalent among ordinary fans than the anti-Liverpool comments I heard inside and outside of Highbury that day. That said, all of us learned very quickly that we’d made terrible false assumptions. Don’t blame us; blame hegemony, as wielded by the Thatcher state apparatus. Divide and rule was their mantra and their casus belli.

I was in London that weekend for a gig; Dinosaur Jr in Kentish Town, staying with some mates who simply didn’t do football. Attired in bike jacket, Butthole Surfers t-shirt, tartan lumberjack shirt, split-knee 501s and paint-spattered 7 hole DMs, it was fair to say I was at variance to the football casual fashions of the day. Indeed, I didn’t look like a football fan at all, which enabled me to blend in with ease as I made my way from Highbury back towards Finsbury Park and the pre-gig meet up in The World’s End pub on Upper Tollington Park. All the way up, I eavesdropped on conversations about the goings-on at Hillsboorugh and to those carrying transistors tuned to Sports Report, as the news from Sheffield unfolded. A sense of unease, mingled with guilt, that turned to shock, horror and eventually boiling anger, as further revelations about the day emerged; it wasn’t “Scouse bastards” to blame at all; it was “Ruling elite bastards.” 23 years on, it is still the “Ruling elite bastards” we must blame. Strangely, I didn’t hear a single word about the disaster at the gig; in those days, music and football were different worlds. Mind, I’d still contend that arena gigs of landfill indie that many fans seem to consider the cutting edge of popular culture are as contemptible as the Luther Vandross and Gloria Estefan soundtrack 80s footballers seemed addicted to.

Despite the poisonous lies spread by Murdoch’s minions in the immediate aftermath, the real truth was to be found in the samizdat accounts of supporter zeitgeist in the fanzine movement. These days When Saturday Comes may be a toothless billet doux for AFC Wimbledon, but back then, it was a crusading mouthpiece for the articulate disenfranchised. WSC was clear about Hillsborough; this was not our fault, it was the fault of the authorities who’d treat us like cattle for so many years. Sadly, the events of 15th April 1989 meant so many of our fellow supporters were lambs to the slaughter.

The emergence of a percentage of the truth related to Hillsborough means that we must never forgive and never forget; the petty whining of Newcastle fans about squad strength. Red herrings such as the excoriation of Manchester United fans for singing “it’s never your fault” to a Liverpool fan base who continue to chant about Munich to this day, revealing both sets of fans need to get their house in order and a blame or victim culture does nothing but play in to the hands of enemies of the game, must not deflect from the inalienable truth; 96 innocent football fans lost their lives. Those responsible for those deaths, historically and on the day of the tragedy, as well as those who smeared the victims and covered up the corruption and incompetence that followed, must be brought to book. Only when this has happened can we truly say we will have seen Justice For The 96.

Ian Cusack

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