A World Without Problems: Alan Woods’ New Year Message 2024

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

—Shakespeare

And when they have created a wilderness, they call it Peace.

—Tacitus

What a wonderful world we live in! On New Year’s Day, I suddenly woke up to find that nobody has any problems. Yes, indeed. You read that correctly. At long last. We no longer have problems. Only “issues.” True, it seems that it is possible to die from an issue. But don’t let’s dwell upon an unpleasant subject.

It gets better all the time. As you get out of bed on January 1, having consumed immoderate quantities of food and drink while celebrating the Winter Solstice, you might worry about a few extra pounds you have put on in consequence.

No more! You are not fat any more, you are merely overweight or perhaps slightly rotund. But no! Not even that. For there is no satisfactory politically correct alternative to the word “fat.” Nor is there any need for one. Because, guess what—fatness is merely another way of referring to a beautiful body. So not to worry.

In this brave new world in which all unpleasantness is banished forever, we see an infinite number of great advances that leave in the shade all the discoveries of the human race heretofore.

For example, people no longer waste valuable time talking to each other—a quite senseless occupation that has plagued humans from the first moment they discovered the curse of language. In this new and exciting postmodern world, men and women have discovered an excellent way of disposing of this curse radically and forever.

If we suddenly feel the urge to communicate something to somebody, we inform them that we wish to “share something with them.” Now in the far-off days of my youth, one might share a secret or a bag of sweets. Not any more, it would appear.

Nor will we be plagued any more by pesky telephone calls. Instead, we will be informed that someone intends to “reach out to us.” In the past, one might reach out to a person who is in danger of drowning or falling over. But since such unpleasant occurrences are henceforth prohibited from our brave new world, one merely “reaches out.”

Such miraculous transformations of language are now so commonplace, that there is a serious danger that they will be permanently lodged in the human psyche. Now, if, like myself, you are somewhat disturbed by this prospect, don’t worry. For behold! I bring you tidings of good cheer, peace on earth and goodwill to all the inhabitants of planet Earth.

From this day onwards, nobody will ever get killed in a war. Only “taken out.” In my younger days, it was customary to take a girlfriend out, usually to a dance hall and suchlike places of ill repute. Now, however, if I say that I intend to take my wife out, it has something potentially sinister about it.

Moreover, in all wars of our new age, there will be no more slaughter of the innocents. Instead of civilian casualties (all too common in every war up to the present), there will only be “collateral damage.”

Now just imagine. If Pablo Picasso (yet another hate figure for the modern inquisitors) were to paint his great anti-war masterpiece today, it would not be called Guernica, but Collateral Damage. Although, somehow, it does not seem to have quite the same resonance.

The postmodernist disease that addles the brains of many students and almost all university professors can be reduced to the simple concept that everything is determined by words—that is why they endlessly repeat the word “narrative.”

But we are materialists, not idealists, and we understand that merely by changing a word one does not change the substance of anything. Shakespeare put it rather well when he said a rose with any other name would smell as sweet. And certain other substances with any other name would smell just as bad.

In the Bible we read: “in the beginning was the Word.” To this, the great German poet and thinker Goethe replied: “in the beginning was the Deed.” In this controversy, we are inclined to support Goethe’s view, since it is quite evident that men and women acted—that is to say, were involved in those urgent activities necessary for the preservation of life—long before they developed what we would now recognize as language.

Goethe Image public domain
The Bible advises us that “in the beginning was the Word.” But materialists agree with Goethe, who replied, “in the beginning was the Deed.” / Image: public domain

For the middle-class academic, however, words are everything. They are the media in which he or she lives, the air that they breathe, and, last but not least, the tickets to a comfortable existence. Therefore, the endeavor to improve society is reduced in their simple minds to one thing alone: changing words.

It never occurs to them that by changing a word, one does not alter the existing conditions in the slightest degree. Worse still, to the degree that this nonsense succeeds in affecting the thinking of people, it inevitably results in reducing them to the level of imbeciles (in this context, the search for a politically correct alternative is quite superfluous).

The petty bourgeoisie, following in the footsteps of the Almighty, creates men and women in its own image: a servile generation of weak yet pretentious creatures, anaemic, emasculated eunuchs, dead from the neck up and the waist down, fit for nothing more than endlessly chattering and examining the contours of their own navel.

The new Inquisition

This astonishing revolution in language evidently has tremendous cultural significance. Once upon a time, the Vatican possessed a long list of books in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, (Latin for “Index of Forbidden Books”). These were books once prohibited by Roman Catholic Church authority as dangerous to the faith or morals of Roman Catholics.

Publication of the Index ceased in 1966, and it was relegated to the status of a historical document. But now, a new breed of postmodernist inquisitors is busy recreating the infamous list.

A veritable army of “politically correct” censors are diligently searching all the works of literature—including all those that were universally considered to be works of considerable merit and genius—to purge them of all traces of heresy.

New editions of the works of Roald Dahl—the best-selling British novelist whose children’s classics include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach—have been rewritten in an effort to make them less offensive and “more inclusive.”

Rudyard Kipling has fared far worse. He is definitely beyond the pale. Now, it is quite true that many of his works bear the stamp of a pro-imperialist mentality. But Kipling was nevertheless a talented author who represented the thinking of his own times. Lenin himself admired Kipling for accurately describing the language and psychology of the ordinary British soldier of those times.

And then there is Shakespeare! Why read him? After all, he is known to have been white and strongly suspected of heterosexual tendencies. If that was not quite enough to condemn him out of hand, The New York Times informs us that an increasing number of teachers are refusing to study Shakespeare.

The unfortunate Bard of Avon stands accused of a long list of crimes, including promoting “misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism, and misogynoir.” Not a bad record for one of the world’s greatest writers!

Nor are the activities of the new inquisitors confined to literature. The plastic arts fare no better. Recently, the headmistress of a school in Florida was forced to resign following a vicious campaign of some parents against her for daring to show her pupils a picture of Michelangelo’s David, a beautiful male figure as naked as Adam the day before he met Eve.

Michaelangelo David Image Korido wikimedia commons
Not even sculpture has been spared by the modern Inquisition. Michelangelo’s David may have to soon wear a fig leaf. / Image: Korido, Wikimedia Commons

This was condemned as “pornography.” So the day will not be far off when, as in Victorian times, every statue will find itself adorned by a very large fig leaf to conceal its private parts, in order to protect from offense the tender feelings and moral scruples of the beholder.

Now, if one is to judge the whole of art and literature from the standpoint of present-day prejudices, there will be precious little left.

Having demolished the magnificent structure of human culture constructed over many centuries, one would be left with a few colorless, trite, and interminably boring works of the politically correct fraternity. Humanity would be left infinitely poorer as a result of this senseless cultural vandalism.

True, these modern inquisitors have not yet arrived at the logical conclusion that such works ought to be consigned to the flames. But be patient! Everything comes to him who waits.

While we impatiently await the coming of the inquisitorial fires into which all the great works of past literature will be remorselessly consigned in order that our eternal souls and linguistic purity might be saved, other, less drastic, but perhaps equally effective measures are being carried out.

With every day that passes, new titles are added to the list of heretical literature: classics like Grimm’s fairy stories, Shakespeare, Dante’s Inferno and many others are submitted to censorship that makes the one practiced by Joseph Stalin look positively tame by comparison.

To take just one instance, in the celebrated tale of Snow White in Grimm’s Tales, the young lady in question spends some time happily cohabiting in the forest with seven dwarves.

Now, to the best of my recollection, nothing untoward occurred during this period of cohabitation. The seven dwarves were all perfectly respectable little gentlemen of a most pleasing, happy and helpful disposition. Moreover, like most fairy stories, it all ends happily ever after. Only the wicked witch came to a deservedly bad end.

For the past two centuries, most people have been very happy with this pleasant and instructive tale. True, in its original version it contains some rather gruesome details. But that is a common feature of all the genuine early folklore, which has its roots in remote pagan myths and ceremonies.

Most people do not realize that the brothers Grimm were serious scientists. Unlike our postmodern charlatans, they were genuine linguistic scholars who collected fairy tales, not for the amusement of children, but to pursue their studies of the evolution of the German language and dialects.

As a matter of fact, the version of Grimm’s Tales that is generally known was long ago censored to remove the more alarming and gruesome aspects, and so far, there is little or no evidence that these magnificent tales ever had any negative effect on the minds of little children.

Everyone was, in fact, very happy with them. That is, until our linguistic inquisitors arrived, armed with bell, book and candle and a pair of extra-large scissors to cut them down to size.

The problem is, you see, that in our brave new world dwarves no longer exist. So now, instead of our old friends, Snow White is condemned to spend what sounds like a fairly dreary existence in the company of “vertically challenged persons.”

All well and good, you might say. But what is to be done with the Bible? One would search in vain through all the annals of world literature to find a work so replete with horror stories of murder, rape, incest, cruel tortures and all kinds of nightmarish things, which leap out at us from every other page.

God Image Jörg Bittner Unna
Amidst the rush to censor the great masterpieces of literature, no one has yet suggested censoring the Bible, which contains descriptions of the most terrible deeds on every other page. / Image: Jörg Bittner Unna

Surely, the time has come for this appalling misogynistic, racist and violent text to be thoroughly expunged so that it will not continue to inflict psychological damage on young people?

But on this issue, our linguistic censors are silent. Although they show themselves to be heroic innovators when wielding a pair of scissors on great works of literature, thereby emasculating dead authors who are unable to defend themselves, they are not so brave, it seems, when it comes to confronting the vested interests of the Church and the ruling class.

To this accusation, they naturally have a ready-made reply. Our aim, they will say, is to avoid offending people’s sensitivities. Since religion is a most sensitive issue, we must put our opinions to one side, and continue to allow it to poison the minds of millions of people, as it has done to great effect for the past several thousand years.

A tale of two wars

Talking of religion, let us turn our attention to events that are unfolding before our very eyes. Myths have their own power over the minds of men and women—even normally rational and intelligent ones. Religious fanaticism has for centuries been used to justify the most appalling atrocities. And this continues to be the case.

As I write these lines, the military might of a wealthy and powerful state is being mobilized to crush a small, poor and downtrodden people that has been violently evicted from its homeland and compelled to live in a tiny, overcrowded stretch of land sandwiched between Israel and Egypt.

The ruling Israeli clique led by Benjamin Netanyahu claims that Israel has a right to defend itself. So it has. But so too do the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves, which they are endeavoring to do against overwhelming odds.

How does Netanyahu justify the forcible eviction of Palestinians from land they have occupied for generations? By referring to the Bible. He merely asserts that at some time in a distant mythical past, “God gave this land to us.” Since God is unfortunately not currently available to confirm or deny this claim, we are expected to accept it merely on trust.

But we Marxists have no use for myths, religious or otherwise. We must seek the reasons for war in very material causes that have nothing whatsoever to do with an invisible man in the clouds who for thousands of years has not spoken a single word to any human being, and whose will can therefore be interpreted in any way one chooses.

The Israeli attack on Gaza has nothing to do with religion or with self-defense. It has everything to do with revenge and a barely concealed desire of the ruling clique in Israel to destroy Gaza utterly and drive its population into the Egyptian desert.

Netanyahu criminal Image own work
The Israeli attack on Gaza has very little to do with religion, or self-defense for that matter. / Image: own work

Taken together with the intensification of the vicious oppression of the so-called autonomous Palestinian state on the West Bank and the violent activities of quasi-fascist gangs of “settlers,” this could well be described as Netanyahu’s attempt at a Final Solution of the Palestinian problem.

Naturally, this claim will be met by an outburst of violent indignation on the part of the Israeli ruling clique and its supporters. But frankly, upsetting people’s sensitivities is an entirely secondary consideration for us, given the extreme gravity of the situation.

The cynical hypocrisy of the western powers stands completely exposed by the stark contrast in the attitude of its media towards the wars in Gaza and Ukraine. This was once again demonstrated by recent events.

On December 28, Russia launched the biggest missile and drone strike of the war. It hit targets all over Ukraine, right up to Lviv on the border with Poland. This was aimed at a training base for western forces in Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainians, the combined number of missiles and drones exceeded 160.

The attack overpowered the Ukrainian defense. It exposed the crucial weaknesses of the Ukrainian air defenses. Significant damage was done (the details have not been made public by Kiev). But how many people were killed?

At first, the figure given was 18 deaths. This was subsequently increased to around thirty. As usual, the UN representative lost no time in branding this as an atrocious war crime and a blatant violation of international law.

There is something strange about all this.

The aim of the attack was probably to further weaken Ukraine’s defenses, so that it will be incapable of resisting a major Russian advance. That is now a distinct possibility. But whatever the intention of this attack may have been, it certainly was not to massacre civilians.

The launching of over 160 missiles and drones (according to Ukrainian sources) in attacks all over Ukraine would suggest a very large number of casualties, numbering several hundred at least. But the figures given by official Ukrainian sources are only about thirty.

Now, it goes without saying that the death of even one person is a tragedy. But if we compare these figures with the bloody massacre of civilians that is being inflicted on the people of Gaza every day by the indiscriminate bombing and shelling carried out by the Israeli armed forces, the contrast is strikingly obvious.

We draw your attention to the noisy campaign over many months to send Vladimir Putin to the Hague to be tried as a war criminal. But there is no equivalent campaign to indict Netanyahu for war crimes and the most blatant violation of what is laughingly called “international law.”

This deafening silence tells us all we need to know about the moral standards of the self-proclaimed upholders of democracy, self-determination and human rights.

The government of South Africa alone has dared to accuse the Israelis of a war of extermination against the people of Gaza. The reaction of the Israeli government was entirely predictable. Their furious indignation knew no bounds. “What, us? Aggressors? But we are only trying to defend ourselves against aggression. Do we not have the right to defend ourselves?”

This is an example of hypocrisy in its most blatant guise. We will not quibble over words, except to say that if this is not genocide, it certainly comes very close to it.

Foolish and naïve people have fallen into the trap prepared by the ruling clique in Israel. For many decades, they have made the most cynical use of the Holocaust and the monstrous crimes committed in the past against the Jewish people.

All right-minded people will naturally condemn those crimes and stand against the poison of antisemitism. But this cannot and must not be interpreted as a blank cheque to Netanyahu and the monstrous reactionaries in his ultra right-wing government to commit mass murder.

They point to the killings perpetrated by Hamas and other groups on October 7. That was an appalling atrocity. But you cannot excuse one act of swinery by pointing to another.

The bloody massacre of men, women and children in Gaza has already claimed a figure approaching 30,000 victims—not including the ones buried under the rubble of bombed flats and houses. This has nothing to do with fighting Hamas.

The bombing of civilian targets is clearly not accidental. The entire population is being deliberately targeted, since, according to the Israeli hawks, they are all just as bad as Hamas and deserve everything they get.

The fact that a people has suffered oppression in the past does not give them any right to inflict acts of violence and oppression against another people today. It happens all too often in history that a formerly oppressed and subjugated people become transformed into the most monstrous oppressors.

The United States itself was once an oppressed colony of Britain. But that is no longer the case. Today, US imperialism is a mighty economic and military power that attempts to subjugate the entire world to its domination and systematically crushes any nation that attempts to resist it.

And what has the present-day state of Israel in common with the poor oppressed Jews in the ghettos of Eastern Europe before the Second World War? The very notion is monstrous and absurd.

Imperialist hypocrisy

The calls for Israel to be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague can have little or no substance.

In practice, there is no way this can be implemented. In any case, appeals to “international law” or “humanitarian law” are entirely hollow. Solon the great, the author of the Athenian constitution, said: “the law is like a spider’s web. The small are caught and the great tear it up.”

Over 2,000 years later, there is not a great deal to add to this concise and perspicacious statement. Neither the imperialists nor the reactionary Israeli regime have the slightest concern either for law or any humanitarian concerns whatsoever. They have shown this very clearly by their barbarous war on the people of Gaza.

The conduct of the Biden administration in the Gaza war goes far further than mere complicity. US imperialism is an active participant in the bloody assault on the helpless people of Gaza. The fact is that this criminal war of aggression could not last a single day without the active support of Washington.

It is true that the monstrous slaughter of civilians in Gaza has had a disastrous effect on the image of the United States in the Middle East and all over the world.

The United Nations has shown itself to be utterly incapable of doing anything to implement repeated resolutions on the issue of Palestine. Nevertheless, the results of several votes in the UN serve to highlight the growing isolation of the United States in the world.

Despite this fact, the Biden administration stubbornly maintains its unconditional support for Israel in its war against the Palestinian people. The fact that it was compelled by pressure of public opinion to call for a “more moderate” approach on Israel’s part and an increase in “humanitarian aid” amounts to precisely nothing.

The United States House of Representatives has approved the allocation of $14.5 billion in military aid for Israel. They are arming the Israelis to the teeth with all kinds of weapons of destruction that are being used to carry out an indiscriminate massacre of the people of Gaza.

The Americans are doing everything in their power to sabotage calls for a ceasefire, to which Netanyahu has no intention of agreeing. At the same time, they make hypocritical public statements, politely requesting the Israelis to take every care to avoid civilian casualties while bombing the hell out of the population.

This conduct is similar to a murderer who, while stabbing his defenseless victim to death, pleads with him not to make so much noise, as it may disturb the neighbors and damage the reputation of the assassin.

Not satisfied with this, the hawks in Washington are pressing hard for an attack on Iran. It is no secret that US imperialism has long desired to inflict a severe military defeat on Iran, which it sees as the most dangerous element of instability in the Middle East.

As soon as the Gaza conflict commenced, the Americans dispatched two aircraft carriers to the region: one to the Eastern Mediterranean, the other to the Red Sea. The intention was perfectly clear—to launch a devastating air strike against Iran.

US ships Image public domain
It is no secret that US imperialism has long desired to inflict a severe military defeat on Iran. / Image: public domain

However, Netanyahu and even the senile old man in the White House realize that a military conflict with Iran will not be a pushover. That is why they have acted with caution so far.

For some time, they hesitated. But now all the factors are pointing towards an open conflict. Israel is threatening to act to remove Hezbollah from the border with Lebanon if the militia group’s attacks continue. All this is stoking up a bellicose mood and preparing the population for war.

The final outcome remains to be seen. But the whole of the Middle East is a powder keg awaiting a match. It may well be that by the time this article is published, a new and bloody stage in the war will already have commenced.

The year 2024 thus begins just as 2023 ended: a picture of unrelieved suffering, economic crisis, falling living standards, wars and horrors on all sides.

These are clear symptoms that the capitalist system has entered a period of terminal decline that threatens the very existence of civilization, culture and perhaps even the future prospects of life on earth.

This month is the hundredth anniversary of the death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the greatest revolutionary of modern times together with Leon Trotsky. Lenin warned that the continuation of the capitalist system represents the gravest threat to humanity. He said that capitalism is horror without end. His words have been entirely vindicated by all subsequent history.

The capitalists and their political representatives have no solution to the present crisis. By their actions, they continually make a bad situation a thousand times worse. They are blundering from one catastrophe to another like a blind man stumbling towards a cliff. And they threaten to drag the whole world down with them.

The system is terminally sick and no amount of reformist tinkering can save it. A root and branch transformation is the only possible solution.

It is said that in a decisive moment, on the eve of battle, the first Christian emperor Constantine raised a banner with the sign of the cross, rallying his troops with the war cry: In hoc signo vinces—“In this sign thou shalt conquer.”

Today, it is the banner of Lenin and Trotsky, of socialist revolution and Communism, that is destined to lead the workers and all the oppressed and downtrodden masses forward to a new and better world in which wars, poverty and oppression will be only bad memories of the past.

London, January 1, 2024


Click to Donate

Are you a communist? Then apply to join Socialist Revolution!


Click to Donate