1980s >> >> no-977-january-1986

Between the Lines: Trouble at Motel

Trouble at Motel
Not even dedication to the cause would normally move me to watch several consecutive episodes of Crossroads, which is without doubt one of the worst things to hit the working class since the Blitz. Crossroads is unadulterated rubbish the sort of drama which makes East Enders seem like high art. If you’ve ever wondered what Sun readers do in the evening, Crossroads is your answer. But what’s been happening at the motel of late? A strike, no less: picket lines in front of the entrance and banners demanding the reinstatement of a sacked waitress. (It would never have been allowed in Meg’s day.) The portrayal of the strike reached depths of caricature and insensitivity lower than those usually descended to in TV dramas which try to get to grips with the class struggle. The strikers are led by a nasty little rich kid (the boss’s stepson) and the workers on the picket line are depicted as witless dummies — puppets in the hands of the up-to-no-good leader who is really only using them for political ends: to embarrass his step mother in the eyes of the big hotel chain which took control of Crossroads after David Hunter slung his hook. In the end management convene a meeting and. in a spirit of benevolent compromise, agree to reinstate the waitress and allow the workers to have a management consultative committee — a company union. The workers say thanks very much for letting them return to normal conditions of wage slavery and the strike is over. Like the trendy vicar who can bring himself to be radical and critical about anything except the validity of the twaddle of religion, TV drama is able to depict all kinds of realistic scenes, but comes totally unstuck when it attempts to show episodes in the class struggle. The result of this incapacity is dramatic parody in which caricatured beings are put on our screens as representations of what the capitalist media would like the class struggle to look like. If the ruling class had to think of a way to insult the exploited majority they could not do much better than the “entertainment” of Crossroads; if workers wanted to demonstrate just how willing to be insulted millions of them are they could do worse than to continue making Crossroads one of the most-watched programmes on British TV.

A Russian tells the truth
Open To Question (BBC2, 19 November) is a series in which well-known people (usually politicians) answer questions put to them by teenage school students. In the programme under review the interviewee was a man called Posner, a reporter in London for Russian TV. Most of his answers to questions ranged from the “America’s just as bad” response (which, logically interpreted, means that Russia’s just as bad as America) to the “This does not happen in the Soviet Union’ response (to questions about why people are drugged in psychiatric hospitals for dissenting from the police state). Like most journalists in a foreign country, paid to speak up for what they perceive to be “their” nation. Posner lied through his teeth. But on one question — a crucial question — he told the truth. He was asked about “communism” in Russia. “We do not have communism in the Soviet Union”, he replied. “Maybe one day we shall have communism in the Soviet Union, but that day is a long way off.” So. Russia is not a communist society — and that’s official

Much ado
I often find myself puzzling why so many grown men sit in front of TV cameras shouting at each other about matters which the average worker could settle over half a pint of lager. This Week, Next Week (BBC 1. Sundays) had a blazing row on 24 November between a Bishop who was against, and a Labour MP who was for. Sunday Opening. What a thing to get all upset about. In a socialist society, where people will take freely what they need, there can be all night opening seven days a week. The Sunday before, the same programme had a debate between a crowd of bigoted Northern Irish politicians, all shouting the odds about who was going to get it in the back if they didn’t get their way. Fancy getting so upset over a little business like who runs Ireland: socialists are after the whole world but we can get it without behaving in TV studios like kids squabbling over a toy. Try to forget all you have been taught about how wise and dignified our leaders must be and then take a look at a bunch of them next time they’re having a televised brawl — would you buy a used manifesto from these clowns?

Strangers, keep out
The role of the working class under capitalism is to be exploited so that the capitalists can get rich. In parliament, representatives of the robber class run the system and if members of the robbed class want to see the capitalists and their political agents at work we are confined to the “strangers’ gallery’  — highly appropriate, seeing as workers are strangers to any real power. In November the House of Commons threw out a Bill which would have allowed its proceedings to be televised. Could this be because our leaders fear they will be caught sleeping in the chamber and debating under the influence of more alcohol than is safe to drive a car, let alone make decisions about society? Could it be that if workers were to hear the level of thinking exhibited in the average Commons debate more might decide that none of the rogues and liars is worthy of our votes? Could it be that all these Labour MPs who shed crocodile tears about unemployment will be seen to be conspicuous by their absence when debates on the subject take place in the House? The idea that democracy exists in a small chamber, isolated from the rest of society is as outdated and undemocratic as is the entire capitalist system.
Unreasonable language
There are people who get very upset at hearing words like “fuck” on television. Such fetishes are their problem and socialists will have no part in such taboos, especially when words like “war” and military hero” are considered by the Clean Up TV Brigade as quite acceptable. What most certainly does constitute unreasonable language is the persistent use of terms like “socialists’ and “Marxists” by TV reporters and pundits who fail to define their terms and use them in ways which ignore social reality. For example, we have had news reports about the “Marxist government in the Seychelles” (which presumably spends its time advocating the abolition of the wages system?), the “militant socialist council in Liverpool”, the “more socialist elements (sic) in the Church” and ” Marxist guerrillas from Angola” If these unreasoning TV pundits were given £2 at the end of the week, instead of the £200 which the BBC has agreed to pay them for a couple of nights of talking nonsense, they would be annoyed if the BBC told them that “what you call a penny we call a pound, so there’s your wage and get lost”. Similarly, socialists have good reason to accuse those who use the word “socialism” of changing its meaning to suit their own purposes.
Steve Coleman