1970s >> 1979 >> no-904-december-1979

Festival of fools

Christmas: the anniversary of the birth of a legendary con-man who tyrannised the ignorant believers of the ancient Middle East by threatening that “He that believeth not shall be damned”. (Mark xvi, 16.) And the ignorant believers of our time, the alleged Age of Science, flock to the churches to prove their stupidity and moral purity. Priests bless the working class and tell us that we are saved. Nobody knows more about saving than the wage slaves, for they are the ones who are forced to store away and put aside their negligible share of wealth so that on at least a few days of the year they and their families can forget that they are workers.

 

On Christmas day the working class may eat, drink, watch television and give each other presents almost as if the world was theirs. Men, normally appendages to commodity-producing machines, are allowed to spend time with their families. Laughter is permitted without the guilt of ‘timewasting’. Song and dance and games are there to be enjoyed. Is it only the most naive child who dares to ask why it can’t be Christmas every day?

 

No, there are others. The capitalist investors in the large department stores, selling rubbish to a class of bargain-consumers, would be happy to see profits reach the December peak every month. The advertising companies, there to persuade us to need what only financial sacrifice can buy, would not mind a year-long dose of Christmas money-wasting for the working class. The TV companies, with their annual tasteless mixture of Morecambe and Wise and Christ and Queen would readily churn out their glittering propaganda every day of the year. The Bishops and the other philosophical phonies rejoice in this yearly suspension of disbelief. Christmas, for the few who exploit and commercialise the lives of the many, is a worthwhile investment.

 

Of course, for the small minority of men and women who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution it might as well be Christmas every day. They are the class who have no need to work. They eat the best food, wear the best clothes, drive the best cars and live in the best houses. They do so because the working class give them a present every day and week and month of the year. We give them surplus value: more than the amount of values paid to us in the form of wages and salaries. The exploitation of the wealth producers is the source of the profit of the parasite class. The workers produce; the parasites grow rich. For capitalists, every day can be Christmas.

 

But it is not quite the same. Because on most days of the year their social inferiors are not to be found living it up at home. If the working class did that—if we were to become permanently idle like the socially superior class— there would be no one to run the factories, go down the mines, drive the buses and trains, farm the land and work in the schools and hospitals. Without work production would stop. Yet without working the owners of the means of production live in luxury. What a useful present we give them. And in return they give us a few days off for Christmas.

 

What a miserable time Christmas is for those too poor to enjoy it. The children whose parents’ poverty denies them access to the gifts seen on television. The homeless, the starving, those employed to fight wars. In a world which can potentially provide for three times the food needs of the present population, while millions die of malnutrition, recipes for plum pudding and mince pies are a sick joke. When bombs kill workers in a struggle for a market that another capitalist gang wants to add to its collection it is an insult to tell us that Jesus Christ died for our sins.

 

The image of Christ, who in all probability never existed, represents the twin idiocies of superstition and morality. Both serve to enslave the working class; superstition because it leads people to believe in the scientifically unprovable and morality because it reinforces the values of the profit system in the name of Human Nature. Pious and simple souls tell us that we ought to return to celebrating Christmas as a Christian festival. We remind them that to celebrate their Christianity is to proclaim the philosophy of the socially and scientifically ignorant.

 

If Father Christmas was a socialist he would drop Socialist Standards down the chimneys of the exploited instead of record tokens and toy guns. He would tell people that they could be free every day to enjoy themselves and co-operate and show goodwill. In a world without the obstacles of class division and production for profit people will no longer be forced to look forward to a single happy and satisfying day. On December 26 there will be another three hundred and sixty-four days to Christmas. Or it could be socialism every day.

 

Steve Coleman