Champagne Socialists and Useless Language

It is so comforting to know we have the George Soros types to criticize free market capitalism for us.

Yet again, the “left-leaning” part of the establishment lifts their glasses of Chardonnay wine in honor of their great achievements. They have done it again and muttered it endlessly  – “I will fight against economic injustice!” as they scurry back to their elaborate luxurious homes. No, we cannot actually go near poverty, it’s far too dangerous. We’d much rather take on the fight in the comfort of our homey leather furniture.

American liberalism is riddled with indulgence.  The higher class is seemingly always in need of some cause or another. Every celebrity needs one. And it becomes a spectacle to gawk at and for the rest of us to adore, be it token environmentalism or anti-racist campaigns that fail to address systemic institutions that perpetuate the actual problem. There was a bit of beauty in the left movements of the early 20th century because they were crafted by the people who were actually in need. As the American political spectrum moved further to the right in recent decades, the figureheads of what is seen as “liberalism” took on affluent personas rather than genuine struggles. Leftist movements died and liberals took to representing the ideological leftovers and then falsely claimed they fell in that same tradition.

George Orwell wrote an excellent essay in 1944 titled Propaganda and Demotic SpeechIn it, he discusses the aristocratic drawl and language used by pompous socialists that claim to speak on behalf of social justice movements while alienating any working people with their demeanor. He writes:

When recently I protested in print against the Marxist dialect which makes use of phrases like ‘objectively counter-revolutionary left-deviationism’ or ‘drastic liquidation of petty-bourgeois elements,’ I received indignant letters from lifelong Socialists who told me that I was ‘insulting the language of the proletariat.’ [1] 

This captures the separation between affluent academics and the toil of actual political action. Orwell, himself, realized this contradiction. Orwell was born into what he called the “lower-upper-middle class.” He struggled to reconcile his family’s complacency with British imperialism and his ideological views. He attempted to humble himself to working class life by documenting it, living it, and adopting its language since he felt the inconsistency was too great. He felt immensely guilty and could not handle what he viewed as hypocrisy in socialist circles. He writes in chapter nine of The Road to the Wigan Pier: 

Question a person of this type, and you will often get the semi-
frivolous answer, “I don’t object to Socialism, but I do object to
Socialists.” Logically it is a poor argument, but it carries weight with
many people. As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for
Socialism is its adherents. [2]

And it comes as no surprise that working class peoples are voting right-wing parties into power in Europe and in the United States. The worst advertisement for socialism is its adherents.

To this you have got to add the ugly fact that most middle-class
Socialists, while theoretically pining for a class-less society, cling like
glue to their miserable fragments of social prestige. I remember my
sensations of horror on first attending an I.L.P. branch meeting in London.
(It might have been rather different in the North, where the bourgeoisie
are less thickly scattered.) Are these mingy little beasts, I thought, the
champions of the working class? For every person there, male and female,
bore the worst stigmata of sniffish middle-class superiority. If a real
working man, a miner dirty from the pit, for instance, had suddenly walked
into their midst, they would have been embarrassed, angry, and disgusted;
some, I should think, would have fled holding their noses. [2]

Sadly, I picture this same reaction from American liberals and European left-leaning establishment officials. There is a feeling of dissociation when you attempt to create a movement while basking in comfort when you arrive home. The crucial difference is that the working poor do not enjoy that same benefit of security when they arrive home — being involved is more costly for them than it is to you. Every hour lost for activism is an hour that they could have earned for their sustenance. They don’t have time for ideological gimmicks and costly activist projects — rather, they are attracted to movements that give them stability and economic power where they lack it. With students being the bastion of leftist power since the 1960s, the emphasis on working class strength has been largely dismissed. Now, it sometimes borders on self-satisfaction more than anything else, as we distance ourselves from the demographic we are attempting to fight for. And, at the same time, the rift between the working poor and the higher castes of society grows as the rhetoric becomes more and more obscure. Let us be honest, there is no surprise that the lower classes are voting for reactionary parties in large numbers. We caused it.

The problem with socialism is not its ideology, but its adherents. There is a certain image of the “leftist” that is painted in the Western mind which has a stigma. It is not seen as a broad movement of many different faces that appeal to the general public — much of it has descended to petty ideological battles on the internet and just general disorganization and sectarian confusion. Let us drop the wordy rhetoric and call out inconsistency when we see it. And it begins with denouncing the hypocrisy of those in power that have falsely claimed the title of being someone “on the left.” To leave them without criticism would paint us all with the same brush — we would all be forced to bear the brunt of their hypocrisy. And frankly, we are now and it is hurting us.

Popular Front, Paris. 1936.

*** 

- So What’s the Problem with Champagne Socialism? 

- Why Working-Class People Vote Conservative 

- The final Image of the “Popular Front” in 1936 was taken from a Tablet Article titled Occupy Paris.

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