July 18, 2024
woman athletes playing soccer

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The capitalist system opens every aspect of human life to the domination of capital. In every avenue for the all-round development of individuals, the interests of businesses gain a foothold and perpetuate private interests, making it increasingly difficult for the proletariat to fulfill its desire for leisure outside its exploitation and wage enslavement. The same fate awaits working-class children who seek future avenues unavailable to their parents: sports, music, arts, etc. For many, their only access to these necessities occurs in the public schools, which are, more and more, facing the threat of complete privatization. We say “complete” to draw attention to the fact that while public schools offer sports and arts programs, they are forced to operate as small businesses, with little to no funding from the school districts or the state or federal governments. Therefore, coaches, instructors, etc., are transformed from trained professionals to abysmally paid proprietors: more time devoted to planning fundraisers, seeking sponsors, paperwork, handling finances, transportation, and sub-par facilities, and less time for the coaches and instructors for the all-round help of all those who want to engage in sports and its creative possibilities. For working families, deciding whether to participate in sports at school has become less of a matter of whether you are interested and more of a conversation about whether your family has the money to make it possible.

Such is the consequence of commercialism in school sports. More and more, it is becoming a privilege and not a right, and thus is denied to many talented working-class youths. This situation is worse among the less popular school sports in the US, which have failed to generate the desired profit. Even more grave for sports programs of female athletes. The degradation of school sports confirms the orientation of governments to fully surrender the need for physical activity of the youth to business activity, driving school sports programs to seek sponsors for their survival and forcing them to build a healthy account off the backs of the families. Want to participate? You must meet the “sponsorship” requirement. Wherever the business steps in to provide some crumbs and receive a banner in the school stadium, it reflects the corresponding consciousness that develops among the people involved in sports, from members of administrations to athletes and parents. The businesses become viewed as philanthropic, investing in the “future of youth,” but the reality is that school sports join the list of outlets for tax write-offs. In other words, it is another reduction in taxable profits. Ironic when families cannot write off these same sorts of expenses to reduce the burden of crippling taxes. Moreover, not only do school sports provide this perk for capital, but in other cases where they cannot deduct taxes, it facilitates a fundamental element of capitalism: exchange. The business places its logos on the apparel or social activities of the sports programs and, in return, receives public exposure, marketing, and advertising.

What process has allowed the degradation of school sports and their transformation into a field of business activity? In short, governments past and present undervalue the role of physical education, giving their blessings to business projects that treat school sports programs as another market. These projects, subjecting schools across the US to policies that cut back on physical education, suck up all the free time of children and facilitate the elimination from the schools of the necessary professional staff. To even participate in sports, student-athletes must reach deep into their pockets to go to a private doctor and pay the cost of expensive insurance policies. Combined with the denial of access to ordinary people to parks and sports facilities, many are prevented from developing an active lifestyle. On such ground, it becomes evident why those who move on from school sports to what is considered the “next level” in US sports—college—originate from the most privileged classes.

In a capitalist system, the means of production are owned by private individuals, shaping the operating conditions for various sectors such as health, education, and sports. Consequently, these sectors lose their social character and become subservient to profit-driven motives. In this way, sports transition from being a tool to becoming an ultimate goal. The policies of the Democrats and the Republicans serve the strategic choice of further delivery of the right to physical exercise and sports to private interests.

Against this, the communists place the liberation of sports from business interests and its corresponding logic of individualism and competition. Sports, through the historical examples of the USSR and Cuba, play a decisive role in shaping personality and health, acting as a shield of protection for the youth against dangerous paths. Further, its content should serve the people as a means of all-round physical and spiritual development, enrichment of the personality, and cooperation and friendship. To that end, political changes are necessary. The prerequisite is a massive coordinated struggle that places the right to sports and the abolition of entrepreneurial action on the agenda of the workers’ and peoples’ movements in the workplaces, the neighborhoods, and the schools. The creative use of free time for workers and youth is neither a “luxury” nor a “hobby” to be bought, but a necessity and right they must claim.

We cannot resolve the right to sports separately from the social change that our country needs: the socialist revolution. It is this task that the CWPUSA sets before itself.