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Champagne socialist: An origin story

The term ‘champagne socialist’ has fascinated me for a long time. The term is used, usually as an insult, to describe someone who is middle class and acknowledge themselves to be a socialist. The insulting part is what fascinates me most: those who use this term believe socialism only belongs to those who are at the bottom of society.

That’s rather exclusive and prejudiced for an ideology that explicitly states its concepts as being fraternity and social solidarity. It comes as no surprise that those who use this insult usually know very little, or claim ignorantly to know loads, about the socialist ideology and benefit from the current system to continue.

These people would argue that a middle class person who campaigns for revolution and the equality of all citizens, in terms of social and economic factors, should not be listened to because they have no idea what it is like for the less well off. With this logic, I cannot campaign to resolve poverty in Africa because I am not African.

The idea that socialism is exclusive to only one group of people is ludicrous; it belongs to everyone. Those who condemn the ‘middle classes’ for being socialist are merely pissed off because they think that they should be on their side of the fence. But don’t take my word for it, let us consider the biggest ‘champagne socialist’ of all time, Karl Marx.

Yes, Karl Marx was born into a wealthy family who could afford to support him through education, but who cares, he’s a champagne socialist, it’s not like he has influenced anyone with his ideas… Let’s look at other uninfluential ‘champagne socialists’ shall we?

Friedrich Engels, the son of a cotton magnate and the main collaborator of Marx and historical materialism, no point listening to him?  Auguste Blanqui, son of an economist and one of the first thinkers of egalitarian economics, but he has money so who cares. The list goes on and on and at the risk of this turning into a politics lecture I will stop there.

The point I am trying to make is those who put down others as being ‘privileged’ and therefore unable to fathom the ideas of socialism will do what those on the right usually do, and that is focus on the superficial rather than the ideas and message.

This supposed ‘insult’ of ‘champagne socialist’ merely demonstrates how those who are against equality, solidarity and free thought will turn the argument to address something that is not relevant. The ‘champagne socialist’ insult logic dictates that Students are not allowed to protest against education fees and cuts because they are privileged, should be happy with what they have and therefore not allowed to have an opinion.

Those who have the ability to change the world for the better are probably thinking ‘you’re making me look bad, fellow middle class person, we are supposed to be on the same side!. I would want to say that no matter what your background is, fraternity and togetherness should not be exclusive to certain people in society because it does not work if it is exclusive. These are socialist values, and those promoting them should not be insulted.

 

Kyle Farrell 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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