The Between the Lines column from the December 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
THE SOPPY SEASON
This is the month of the year when TV gets all starry and snowy and twinkly winkly. As the awful day approaches cries of artificial merriment abound, as do the false smiles of weathermen. "And if you're alone this Christmas. let's at least hope it's good Christmas weather for you." They don't tell you what to do if you're alone and can't afford to switch the heater on. Become a statistic, perhaps, as you freeze to death. Blue Peter will announce the totally unpredicted result of its tediously worthy appeal. So now it will be possible for at least twenty deaf children to have their own Blue Peter minibus to get them to their special school. What about the rather more than twenty deaf kids who are not to benefit from Xmas charity? What about the ones who can't get in to a school for the deaf because the places have been cut? What happens when the coach breaks down and there are no more Blue Peter milktops to pay for a new clutch? But let s not bother with such unhappy questions: it's the time of the year when we're supposed to feel good. Let misery recommence in January then it's no longer our problem.
All the Christmas films will be dusted off. Why the hell couldn't the Nazis have caught Julie Andrews and those monstrously sugary kids and contributed one humane deed to history? Dickens' Christmas Carol will be trotted out. Here is a miser, concerned only about money and exploiting workers. Remind you of anyone? No, let's not be vindictive - it's Christmas. Then he falls asleep, meets some ghosts and decides to give a Christmas dinner to his impoverished employee. What spirit! Next the bosses will be falling asleep and giving a living wage to ambulance workers. But let's not talk about them, because it's Christmas and strikes, strife and other nasty things might just crack our contrived grins of delight. Noel Edmonds will be sitting up the top of the Telecom Tower making fools of people And here is your brother from New Zealand whom you haven't seen since you were in the womb together." Why was the family broken up in the first place? What about if they hate the sight of each other? (After all. there can be few other reasons to go voluntarily to New Zealand, can there?) But let's not bother our little Xmas heads with such rest-of-the-year thoughts. At Christmas time we are supposed to weep merrily as dear old Noel plays with the sentiments of a nation, re-uniting those who have successfully avoided each other for decades and springing jolly surprises on old men with heart conditions.
Then the comedians come on. Christmas wouldn't be the same without repeats of Morecambe and Wise repeating what live music hall entertainers did much better in the past. On trots Jim Davidson, that rascally cockney racist, to entertain our lads over in the Falklands. The poor half-wits half wet themselves at jokes about Pakistani shopkeepers and queers. The religious nutters are always let loose at Christmas. The rest of the year most of the religious TV is conducted by Thora Hird and Harry Secombe. the goon who found god. Now it's time for everyone to go bloody barmy: on come children's choirs to sing horrible Christmas carols about lickle Jeesas Kwoist. What about the homeless parents today who can't find anywhere to live? Oh, very well. I've made my point. One could go on about Babycham adverts. the Queen's Christmas Insult to those whom she dares to call her subjects and the newsreaders who give that little wink at the end of the news.
On the other hand, why bother to complain? It will all go away as soon as it came. Christmas over; capitalism back to normal. "Oh. you want to give us 10,000 milktops and we give you a minibus, eh? You want me to fall asleep, meet a ghost and offer you a pay rise?" You see, in a society where everyone is alienated the only way that workers can be collectively happy is when Happiness Season is officially declared. Like Happy Hour in the boozer, except they close the pub on Christmas evening.
This was the question asked on After Dark (C4, 11 November) No answer was given. At one point one of those present mentioned the cause of war. He did not say what it was. you understand. He merely claimed there might be one. He was quickly interrupted by the chaplain of Eton College, a Major in the army, who said that God is on the side of all soldiers in all wars. In which case it would seem that this god is a somewhat vindictive swine, going up to one crowd of killers and saying. "Okay lads. I'm with you on this one" and then turning to their enemies and saying the same. There was an extremely boring General with a loud voice who said that the excitement of war is part of some men's natures. Clearly, the General's thinking about the theory of human nature was about as undeveloped as his knowledge of ways of killing people was sophisticated. But even if some men are conditioned to enjoy fighting wars, so what? Some men are conditioned to like raping women, but we don't make the most vicious rapist a General.
What was needed was a clear analysis of why humans go to war. It is not because of our genes, our natures or our beliefs. It is because capitalists make themselves richer and more powerful by obtaining more and more markets and trade routes and exploitable populations and raw materials. And until capitalism is abolished, its ruthless, competitive drive for profits will condemn workers to die needlessly in wars, as have 25 million since the end of the last world war. The discussion of war is not a moment to entertain the ignorance of know-nothing Generals or chaplains who preach the gospel of legalised murder. Resolution for 1990 socialists on After Dark. Let the army Generals sit up top of the Telecom tower with Noel Edmonds for the next year, planning cunning stunts to bring tears to the eyes of more unsuspecting funsters if - and only if - there really must be another Christmas next year.