Friday, December 24, 2004

For A Merry Christmas 

From Daniel DeLeon, writing 104 years ago tomorrow:

"The “charitably minded” will attempt to lighten the woes of those who are out of work, of those who have been violently torn from the sources of livelihood, by giving them free dinners. The number of poor who will be fed today is not an indication of the goodness of man, but it is an arraignment of the capitalist system, a protest against that system and a menace to the human race. It is well to assist the fallen, but it is dangerous, it is criminal, to throw them to the ground so that you can assist them. More charity is shown in pointing out the right way for society than there is in feeding millions of men who are kept in servitude.

The arrangements that were made for the wholesale feeding of the poor gave the lie direct to the claim that we are either a civilized or a prosperous nation. If so many mouths must be fed at the expense of others, and if thousands, or hundreds of thousands, will get but the meager dinner to which they are accustomed from day to day, then prosperity is distributed so unevenly that that such a large proportion of the people are cut out of it, that it is better to abolish the whole thing and substitute a little justice...

...There was a time here when it would have been an insult to a man to offer him his Christmas dinner. He was capable of providing all that he needed. He is no longer. He must depend on what charity doles out to him. He is made a suppliant for Christmas cheer. He is no longer capable of providing for himself, and must depend on what is given him...

Such a “merry” Christmas cannot come unless there is some great and terrible wrong. Such a state of affairs works the ruin of all who take part in it. Its increase betokens disaster. Its continuance breeds crime.

A merry Christmas should be a Christmas that finds all men capable of producing their own merriment, instead of having it ladled out to them, to a chorus of self-praise and gratulation on the part of the givers."

This is all founded on an economic argument about capitalism necessarily pitting wage workers against non-workers in order to keep them all down, but it works just as well as a moral argument, I reckon.

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