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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(23 December 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 94, 23 December 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

All year long We are fed pap from the pulpits and the press, on the screen and over the air waves. But it takes Christmas to place all this sham in its proper setting of sharply chiselled contrasts.

All the preachers and all the preachers’ men bleat about peace and goodwill. But the gossamer web of their phrases fails to cover a single gaping wound in the bodies of men rent apart on the battlefields. It fails to cover the shaking frames of the cold and starving millions.

Every day of every year men, women, and children are nailed to the cross of war and greed and privation. And on this under the pathetic figure of one such crucified man the preachers try to tell us again that this is all in the order of things, that this is part of the divinely ordained beauty and mystery of life, that after the cup of pain shall come the soothing draft of salvation in a world better than man can build.

And with that we’re supposed to pull in our belts and go back to another 364 days of dying, killing, starving – whichever our masters decree we shall do.

The capitalist system that still rules the world offers in the reality of things bloody war and mass starvation, dressing it up with tinsel, rouging the lips of a death’s head. You can’t deal with carriers of deadly disease unless you drain out the swamps where they breed, and you can’t do away with war and want unless you put an end to the capitalist order of things.

The same people, the same newspapers, politicians, preachers, writers, radio commentators, who fill the Christmas air with their dripping phrases about peace on earth are preparing to sweep the working men and women of this country into the holocaust of war.

But if we are to take the idea of peace on earth seriously, we’ve got to work with might and main to prevent them from doing so, and we’ll do this by thrusting them from the seats of power and setting out to build a new kind of world.

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