1990s >> 1991 >> no-1048-december-1991

Between the Lines: Humbug!


It is that time of the year again when Blue Peter shows us how to make cribs out of Big Mac boxes and Gary Glitter is resurrected to prove that there is life after death. A false mood of cheerfulness is forced. Ed the Duck, who is rumoured to be the heir apparent to Kinnock if Labour loses, will squeak Christmas messages to sick children in towns we have never heard of, and on the day itself Noel Edmonds will sit at the top of the Telecom Tower and make Australians cry by re-introducing them to their long-lost sisters from Catford.

It is the time of year when newsreaders smile just a little more. Last year they smiled incessantly because “freedom” had been delivered by Santa to the east Europeans and “communism” had collapsed under the weight of its refusal to provide the proles with sufficient threepenny bits in their Christmas pud. This year the inevitable Review of 1991 will furiously bang nails into the coffin lid of the Russian Communist Party. It is their media and they are entitled to bash their enemies; let’s face it, state capitalism has been brought to its knees and there are some very happy billionaires and generals around. We, the wealth-producing majority, will have the capitalists’ year reviewed for us: their defeat of the Kremlin superpower, their loss of a Prime Minister, their war for oil in the Gulf, their newspaper tycoon who drowned. This is not our life; this is the televised reality which must be slotted into our memory banks to make the memory of our class the memory of our masters’ affairs.

On Christmas morning dull Church of England choirs will offer dirges about Christ who was born on this day. Christ, if he lived, was apparently a rebel leader against the tyranny of Roman imperialism. Had he lived today he would have been a victim of the government broadcasting: “And here is the Sermon delivered by the rebel leader from the Mount, but government restrictions require us to have an actor to dub his voice”. John Selwyn Gummer perhaps? He certainly has my vote if he agrees to play the part through to the crucifixion. There are few things more uncheerful than a C of E choir on the telly while you are unwrapping your unwanted gifts. Few things, but some. There is, of course, the Queen-Parasite’s speech to her subjects. Forget your citizen’s charter, Johnnie boy, we’re all subjects as far as the BBC is concerned. At one minute past midnight on 1 January we all become sinners (as well as yawning Europeans this year), for the Archbishop of Cant — this year a new face but the same old cant — comes on after the pissed Scottish dancers to tell us our fortunes. It is always a bad start to the year, this tedious sermon from Christ’s man in Lambeth. On Christmas Day the Pope does his gig — a much more jolly affair, if only because it is obvious that the guy literally does not know what he is talking about in the various speeches he delivers.

Christmas is a time for the good old comics to come out and entertain the troops. Here we see glittery rubbish, recorded last summer, with jokes that can be understood by Sun readers and “songs for all the family” — if collective torture is on the agenda after three glasses of brandy. There is usually a Christmas film and it is usually talked about by families for days before the big day, only to be watched in sulking silence when it comes because Father and Aunty Florry have fallen out over who should pull the last cracker — this leading Flo to criticise his side of the family. Psychiatrists say that more divorces start during the Christmas festivities than at any other time except the fortnight’s summer holiday. Capitalism is not a system which lets workers get used to spending lime with their “loved ones.” When such time is offered, under all of the pressures of money insecurity and the need to participate in the ritual jolliness, genuine relationships crack.

Christmas TV is a moment of capitalism at its most dishonest. It is the moment like the politician kissing the baby whom he will later call a rioting delinquent, and like the bank manager on Children In Need who presents his slinking cheque before evicting a few thousand mortgage defaulters from their homes. Christmas TV is your exploiter wearing a silly paper hat and laughing at you through the screen. He has a lot to laugh about and the wage slaves give him too much to laugh at. The biggest Christmas gift of all is offered by the workers in the form of a willingness to carry on laying the golden egg of rent, interest and profit for another miserable year.

No doubt Christmas will offer at least one decent black and white film on BBC2 and, who knows, maybe they will show a few hours of decent music. Anyway, we have a world to win and then it can be Christmas every day — or never at all.

Steve Coleman