What would Marx have thought of television? If he had been alive in our age of mass televised media, I think the Communist Manifesto would have included a few more pages to say the least. Reading his theories now, it does appear that he was right in saying that capitalism is vastly unstable, and will be overthrown due to a revolutionary event bought on by capitalism’s inability to create a stable and just society.
When the television was invented I would guess it was seen as a great source of education and information, bringing knowledge and wisdom to the masses. But the ruling class knows too well that if true knowledge and wisdom was given to the masses then revolution would most likely occur. These days it is only too clear that the ruling class saw the television as it does everything else: something it could exploit and draw profit from.
It is now clear that it is also used to condition the masses. Condition in what way? With a false image of the world. Conditioned not to think about the existing society of exploitation and, above all, to be better consumers. The sheer number of mind numbing “adverts” we are subjected to proves this beyond doubt. We are constantly assaulted with this wave of insane babble trying to get us to part with the wages gained from our labour. As we return home from work, we are often so tired that people will just sit in front of the television. Then this propaganda works its magic, telling us to go and buy these products, most of which we don’t even need. After years of this most of us accept this system of chasing profit as natural. Assuming the great mass of workers these days really is sick of capitalism, which I’m sure a lot of them are, they may just think there is no alternative, so they may just despair and try and make the best of it.
This media propaganda extends to just about everything on television, things of relevance hardly ever being shown. We are exposed to so-called “stars” and celebrities and this is set as something to aspire to, to be incredibly rich and shallow, concerned with only gossip and supposed glamour. We are shown parliament in session, which deliberately seems to be trying to bore the viewer to death, as the so-called “politicians” simply stand up in turns and insult each other. They argue and ridicule each others’ little tinkerings with capitalism, a system that is vastly unstable and is entirely based on exploitation, ignorance and inequality. Workers see these men and women in their supposedly rational debates and cannot make any sense out of it, so they simply assume that they should leave them to it. They think there is no way they can ever understand politics or have any wish to understand politics. They assume this is all there is to the political scene, that all politicians are this petty and self-indulgent.
A primary use of television by the bourgeois-controlled media is to give the workers a clouded view of the world. That the latest gossip from our celebrity gods is more important than poverty in Africa or the homeless in London. We are given the sense that there is nothing we can do about these things, so rather than be haunted by a troubled conscience, we comfort ourselves by thinking there is nothing we can do about the situation. Even worse, people may resort to blaming poverty-stricken people, saying they deserve such a fate and that it is their fault they are in such a position. Or they may glance about for an easy target to lay the blame on, i.e. students or workers from other nations. We are told that this really is the “free world”. That capitalism is the best system ever devised, because it works in practice. We are told that all other systems will fail, capitalism is the only choice. Other nations who stand in the way of West’s bourgeois ambition must be run by evil cruel dictators, bent on destroying.
In the novel Brave New World children’s cots are fitted with speakers that spout class conditioning while the children sleep. Is this any different from our society? Children are encouraged to spend a lot of time watching TV, it appeals to them. They are taught respect for bourgeois laws and values: to go to school, to be subject to conditioning, that to be an obedient wage slave is good, anything else is abhorrent. In the end, the capitalist media is there to condition the masses to accept their role as wage slaves. Adverts are blared at us telling us to spend our wages on products that people have made en masse but they themselves can only afford to buy one of. We are fed a steady diet of half-truths and propaganda about the world and shown that politics is something incomprehensible and best left alone.
The “entertainment” that is all over the television nullifies the brain and gives a false picture of reality. The ruling class sees that if the masses were ever to become too concerned with social and economic concerns, and that another way is possible, revolution would occur. The bourgeois would be removed from power. The media distracts the masses, narrows their minds and makes them believe that this is reality and that it can never change. It is another tool of the system, the masses are kept sedated and docile, or if they are roused by discontent they are so blinded they cannot see who the real enemy is. They lash out at everything else, foreigners, immigrants, etc. This media conditioning works so well, that potential dissidents are put down by the masses themselves, as radicals within the proletariat who speak of change are often ignored and shunned by some of their fellow workers. This isn’t because the masses love capitalism, it’s just that they have been conditioned to believe that no other way of society is possible.
DAN READ (by e-mail)
I have been interested in politics all my life, although I have not really been active for some time. I did join the Socialist Party of Great Britain a few years ago but confess I lapsed my membership as I never attended any meetings due to my location, lack of time etc (all the usual excuses). But, I have to say that the Party is the only one that I have felt any affinity to and I agree with your general principles.
One issue that I would be interested in knowing your views on is “animal rights”. I understand the socialist position to be that until we remove capitalism we will not remove the terrible exploitation and suffering of animals, and that you would probably feel that any activity in this area was reformism. My view is that animals are just another species like ourselves, they feel pain, love and suffering, and that if we are ever to become civilised human beings we should respect animals and not kill and eat them, expect them to perform for us, or experiment on them either to test new household and cosmetic products, and drugs.
Jane Lewis (by e-mail).
Reply: All socialists are of course opposed to cruelty to animals but, just like the rest of the population, have differing views as to what constitutes cruelty. Some may go shooting birds and rabbits, some go fishing, some eat meat, some are vegetarians, some perhaps are vegans. There is no line or policy on the matter, because we are an organisation of people who have come together to campaign for socialism and nothing else.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say nothing can be done to improve the lot of animals within capitalism nor as to denounce the RSPCA and the Cat Protection League as reformist enemies of the working class. It’s just that they have different priorities from us and that we are not ourselves in the business of advocating reforms (legislative measures) in any field.
It only remains to add that arguments over this issue will no doubt continue into socialist society – Editors.
Does anyone agree with me that it is not just a Socialist World which we should be aiming for but one which is ‘Self-Governed’?
Of course, this More Advanced Society (in which there are no more wars) would still be run according to the Socialist principles of common ownership, democratic control and production for need – along with those of, from Ecology, respect for nature, sustainability and diversity and, from Anarchism, mutual aid, voluntary association and self-management – but it would be founded upon the spiritual understanding that there is ‘only one of us here’, i.e. One Self, and that, therefore, ‘Self-Government’ must be the next logical step forward in the cultural and politicial evolution of the human race.
For is it not true that ‘The Social Revolution’ is more likely to be achieved not by force of argument and/or fear of the alternative but when the notion of ‘Unity/We Are All One/Everything Is Connected’ has entered ‘The Collective Consciousness’?
Yours for radical change,
Colin Millen, Sheringham, Norfolk
Reply: Yes, we suppose that, insofar as “self-government” means the same as democracy, socialism could be described as “self-government”, though “self-administration” might be better. However, “self” is not to be taken, as you seem to, too literally as referring to a single entity, linking all humans, which has its own consciousness. That would be mysticism, which we can’t accept. On the other hand, to recognise that all humans are socially interdependent and form part of a greater whole, whether the whole of humanity, all living things, or all nature, is to recognise reality and will no doubt be part of the consciousness of the people of world socialist society—Editors.