Friday, July 4, 2014

Between the Lines: Praise Marx (1985)

The Between the Lines column from the June 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bore-o-vision
I am only just recovering from the non-excitement of Norway winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Watching the show is like taking an overdose of valium - and then there was the frustration of going to the toilet and missing "our" song. All over Europe (and Israel - TV bosses aren't too hot on geography) workers were sitting in front of their tellys and waiting for "our" song. What seems like bland light entertainment is doing its bit to encourage the sick sense of nationalism which the masters require of the wage slaves. It's like watching international soccer - millions of workers are urged to think of "us" taking a penalty and "our" goal difference. All ideological preparation for "us" nuking Leningrad and "our" gains in central Russia. If you want to show us a football match or a boring song contest, let them tell us in advance that we're in for a nationalist political broadcast. As for "our" song in the contest - fourth to Norway. Palmerston would never have stood for it. If I were Maggie I'd send a Task Force to Scandinavia.

Hapless Hobsbawm
The Communist Party is beating itself up and, with every justification, the political pundits are having a good laugh. So, Channel Four's A Week in Politics did a special report on the split. Following the informative film report, Peter Jay (married to Jim Callaghan's daughter and suitably boring) interviewed Eurocommunist "intellectual" (historian by trade) Eric Hobsbawm. Our Eric is of the view that "Thatcherism" is a totally new phase of capitalism and that all anti-Thatcherites, from the CP majority to the SDP, should form an anti-Thatcher electoral pact. Jay asked Hobsbawm a number of very pertinent questions (more by luck than judgement, no doubt) which left the Professor stammering in confusion. For example, Jay asked why a "communist" should advocate the election of a labour government when the last seven have brought us no nearer to socialism. He also made the quite valid political point that if CPers wanted to do the Labour Party any favours they would go away and leave them alone, as CP support for Kinnock undermines Labour's credibility with voters. Hobsbawm admitted that Jay had a good point. Which says a lot about CPer Hobsbawm - and about the kind of votes Kinnock is after.

Selling
The series put out by ITV entitled Television was not half as bad as some critics suggested. The penultimate programme was about how TV is used to "sell" politicians, in the same way as it has sold soap powder. It showed how Nixon used a telly broadcast to save his career when some cad accused him of taking bribes - he had the viewers weeping into their hankies with a sub-Crossroads monologue about how he loved his puppy. Then, some years later, when JFK was opposing Nixon for the Presidency, the former's advisors manipulated the set so that Nixon would come off worst; they told him to wear a light blue suit which wouldn't show up against the white background and insisted that the candidates stood up to speak, so exposing Nixon to pain from his recently injured leg. Oh, the seriousness of capitalist politics. What was that about excluding frivolous candidates from elections?

Praise Marx
When you get as little TV exposure as the Socialist Party, any little bit is worth reporting. A few weeks ago C4 showed a late-night film called Praise Marx and Pass the Ammunition. It was quite a good send-up of trendy Leftists who think that their role is to lead the workers to the barricades, and included some pretty good information about British capitalism in the 1960s. But that is not why the film entered socialist history. In one scene the lefty protagonist enters a radical bookshop to deliver some pamphlets. And on what is there a close-up? The Socialist Standard and the Western Socialist. And it was a lengthy shot too. Proof, once again, that the capitalists are only too willing to give TV time to the Socialist Party.
Steve Coleman