Editorial from the December 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
As the jamboree of commercialism known as Christmas approaches, we take the opportunity of expressing our attitude to it and wishing you a tolerable and enlightening New Year.
Christmas developed from an ancient pagan festival: both the date and superstitions like the mistletoe are of pre-Christian origin. It is supposed to celebrate the birth of "Jesus Christ", a possibly legendary figure claimed as the Messiah and as a demigod. He is the focal point of one the most powerful and widespread, oppressive and stultifying religious movements that have tortured humanity.
Religion cannot be reconciled with a rational view of the universe and society. Inverting Genesis, we say "humans made God in their own image". The rule of God in the universe reflects and serves to justify rule by human masters in society. Why else is he called "King"? Indeed. why else is he "he" rather than "she"? Like our real rulers, he is portrayed as powerful yet merciful, presiding sadly over the labyrinth of human misery. If God exists, he is our enemy.
Nowadays Christmas is primarily a secular festival. The rat-race is suspended for a few days to give the morale of the wage and salary slaves a midwinter boost. During the festivities, those that can afford it try to enjoy themselves. The limited extent to which they succeed is evidenced by their frantic efforts to drown out the consciousness of their alienation by loud music, over-eating and—above all—getting pissed.And then back to the grindstone.
Expensive and unwanted gifts are purchased and exchanged, to the great profit of all the business interests involved. This custom is scarcely a spontaneous expression of affection. On the whole it is more like a ritual duty. A significant point is the way people are embarrassed to receive a present and to have none to give in return. The exchange economy not only fragments society into a myriad of isolated competitors; it also produces the poisonous ethos of "you don't get or give something for nothing", which penetrates personal life.
It is customary at Christmas to speak of Peace on Earth and Good Will To All Men. But the tragedy of an outmoded and insane social organisation continues as usual. Think of its delights. Poverty and destruction in the midst of actual or potential plenty. Slums, famines, pollution, commercial destruction of wildlife, waste, more waste, social divisions and strife of all kinds. Built-in obsolescence, advertising, the domination of money. Uniforms, tanks, bombs, prisons, muggings, alcoholism, prayers, prostitution, national anthems, bigotry, fear, ignorance, loneliness, AIDS, Neil Major and John Kinnock. Feeling better now?
Humanity has the means—technical, material, organisational—to build a new world of freedom, harmony and enough for all. A world in which the enormous potential of modern knowledge and technology, released from the service of commerce and war, can be realised. A world in which the human species owns its means of life in common, and controls them democratically in the interests of all. A world in which the direct satisfaction of human needs of all kinds had replaced profit and the "national interest" as the moving force of social life. A world which will know nothing of money or coercive government or national frontiers. A world fit to live in.
We think humanity is fully capable of constructing such a socialist society once it has the understanding necessary. We must establish the new society soon of the species is to survive. Helping people grasp this is the purpose of the Socialist Party. Don't just wish us luck if you sympathise (we don't believe in luck, either). Contact us for more information; and you might feel inclined to join and help us in the new year.