Victor Serge, Sports

By “Le Retif”
From “Le Rèvoltè” # 18, September 1908
Sports are booming an obsession. The kiosks are inundated with sports journals” “L’ Auto”, “Le Velo”, “Le Sportsman”, “Paris Sport”. Sports-Elevage”. “Tous Les Sports” etc., etc. Each day a new journal is born – and the old ones don’t die! Sports literature is almost becoming . . . a sport!
And not only literature. I defy you to take a walk in the street without encountering a young man in helmet, white tunic, the cyclist’s uniform – or of a worker or gentleman caught up in reading a sports sheet.
Those who control our society – the rich and rulers – today encourage the obsession with sports, designed to continue the work of brutalization on young men already began in school. In France, the government subsidizes gymnastics clubs; matched only by the local school authorities.. I will not speak about the sports clubs founded in the barracks, the bathhouses and even the administrative bureaucracy.
The young man who today engages in bicycle racing or volley ball is discouraged from thinking or only thinks in certain, narrow ways. You will not see him reading any journal but his own sports journal. He only knows about sports celebrities, the boxers, the horse-racers, the cyclists, of fantastic racing courses and dizzying wins at the stadiums.
This is a result of his education. At ten years old, he is only spoken to about the victories of sports figures. Much later, he is enrolled in a “post-secondary gymnasium” and attends public sports festivals and parades. His good papa buys him a bicycle for a festival. He participates in the races, sponsored by cycling magazines and here is signed up for the white uniforms. For this type, the bourgeoisie can sleep peacefully; this young man will not study nor become a militant or rebel. He is brutalized even more. For one more hour the domination of the bourgeoisie holds sway..
The result is a brutalized generation; healthy for sure. With perfect biceps, square soldiers and excellently developed legs – but brutes no less!
That physical exercise is essential for the proper functioning of the human organism is indisputable. Life can not be conceived of without movement, without continual effort, without the constant transformation of energy. Under the guidance of sometimes undetectable great natural laws of equilibrium and harmony, this prolific activity, which is integral to the inorganic world, works as well in the universal essence of human beings.
Moreover, the work of production and of enlightenment which is notably the privileged activity of the human species is too a part of nature, constituting the most noble and strengthening of gymnastics.
Only when the natural is replaced by the artificial does work become less recreational and instead, a hell without hope or beauty that each must perform and be rid of.
The individual must forcefully demand special exercises for physical pleasure that the abnormal and monstrous work imposed by society is incapable of giving them.
Looked at this way, sports appear beneficial and salutary. Practiced with intelligence, without excess or madness, sports are a necessary reaction maintaining the equilibrium of exhausted bodies, pushed to the edge by unhealthy and degrading labor.
But it must be understand that if a man is gifted with strong muscles, a man must exercise his mind as well as his body to qualify fully for a dignity worthy of its name.
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.