In defence of champagne socialism

If people who eat meat can be against animal cruelty, why shouldn’t socialists be able to enjoy a glass of champagne?

The article on “champagne socialists” perfectly encapsulates the inevitable misunderstanding which occurs whenever the topic of socialism is brought up.

Socialism is not about which class you’re from – that would paradoxically make it an incredibly elitist ideology. It is rather about supporting the abolition of social class altogether, which is in no way contradicted by a wealthy upbringing. After all, who can choose their parents?

Engels, “The great beheader of champagne bottles”

Aside from the fact that Tor mistakes political liberalism for socialism, it is worth challenging her idea that those on the political left cannot drink champagne.

Fred Engels (co-author of The Communist Manifesto), in a letter to Karl Marx’s daughter, wrote that he had drunk “besides claret, 16 bottles of champagne” to celebrate his 70th birthday, and that “that morning we had had 12 dozen oysters” – hardly a working class breakfast. Engels was in fact a factory owner (like his father) and therefore a member of the bourgeoisie.

Moral outrage expressed at those who support equality whilst coming from a wealthy background only serves to reinforce the idea that political views are determined by upbringing or lifestyle.

Expressing the idea that socialism is only for the poor equally expresses “conservative principles” as a preserve of the rich and privileged, and ignores the hundreds of wealthy people on the left (such as Warren Buffet, who supported the raising of the top level of tax in America), and working class on the right.

The story goes that when Lenin was asked by a comrade why he was travelling in a first class carriage, he responded that it was not first class that the communist revolution wanted to abolish, but second class.

A similar argument can be made about access to champagne – that socialism would support (albeit romantically and unrealistically) equality of champagne for everyone – what’s not to like about that?

In order to see that political views are unrelated to personal background or wealth, you need look no further than Engels, who his son in law described as “the great beheader of champagne bottles”. Equally on the political right, Tor’s beloved Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a working class greengrocer.

For the same reason that people who eat meat can also be against animal cruelty, so too can socialists enjoy a glass of champagne.