From the January 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
Well did we Standard readers? Show goodwill to all or at least to some of our fellows during the Christmas and the New Year break and, was it a good feeling? Was it good to give as well as to receive – was it better to give or better to receive? Now that we are all back nose to the grindstone, the conflict going on in our heads between the drudgery of factory, the office or the shop, or wherever it is that we find ourselves tied to again, and with the frolics of the holiday extant in our memories. That song still in our heads which occasionally finds its way to our lips, constantly interrupted and usually ceased, by the numbing thoughts, the bland conversation and presence of that cold relation between the product and its maker. Just some of the elements of the workplace which seem to demand for themselves all the space in our heads. We are quickly reminded what a misery and a waste of our lives is this daily drudge. ‘Oh! I wish it could be Christmas everyday…’
Socialist readers say that the only aspects of any value worth considering about this holiday break are that we proles get some time off the drudgery of everyday work and get time with our families and friends. Also, we can pig-out on all the good food, if we are so inclined, enjoy the special TV programmes and have at least one chance in the year to give some kindness, affection and love to our fellows and hopefully, to receive like in return. Readers north of the border enjoy a little extra indulge on Hogmanay. . .
Otherwise, that whole charade has very negative feelings for us. All the money and debt required, the huckstering, the pretence, and the religious connotation and, that feeling that all the kindness, affection and love is primarily expressed in a material form — that sort of love that I can only describe as counterfeit — material love (gifts) to satisfy some fetish with the must-have commodity. We know too that unless we give a gift, a card or a calendar to another we are unlikely to receive like from them in return — a sort of coercive love.
Our children are deceived and urged to request gifts from a fictional figure called all the way up from the 4th century Bishop of Mrya re-branded by Coca Cola and renamed Santa Claus and, unless they behave themselves, he will not deliver — more coercion.
Finally, the ideology or culture demands of us that we all undertake the same ritual every year. Go out and spend as much money as we’ve got and more that we haven’t got, on gifts, cards and calendars as well as buy the same fattening foodstuff, stuffing the turkeys with sausage and the capitalists with profit. And on Hogmanay we are to praise the last year as well as the New Year as though they were something special. Perhaps last year was, if we’ve survived. Unless we follow this line we will not enjoy ourselves and we might be seen as outcasts or spoilsports. In no time at all it seems we are back again in the world we know (but don’t love) where other rituals dominate the scene and here its not “goodwill and love” we hear, but, “go on, stick one on him and then wrestle him to the ground”.
At this time of the year are these feelings of goodwill — kindness, affection and love between fellows — , an ideological or cultural thing or are they symptomatic of deep longing for another world where humans could be free to behave with kindness, affection and love as a matter of course all the year round? We are also to wish each other well for the coming New Year, and hope our luck will bring us a better life despite the cruel truth that our material conditions are likely to remain the same. In the cold miserable light of a capitalist day, nothing much has changed by the notching up of another year since the supposed birth of the fantasy Jesus Christ. Sure, one or two of us might in a New Year win the lottery — and then we can begin to live a little easier, if you can square you conscience with a world of haves and have-nots.
In socialist society, not only will we have free access to the products and services of human production and to life itself, too we’ll get free access to all the human support, kindness, affection and love from all our fellows all year round, instead of for just a mean two weeks. In free society this behaviour will become the norm in our human world. Why would you want to pay, when you can have free access? In addition, we will be free of the drudgery and stressful life that is our everyday experience now, that which we are glad to see the back of for a skimpy two weeks of partying at the end of the year.