The term ‘champagne socialist’ gets bandied about a lot. Mainly as a negative slur levelled at affluent, well off or privileged people who dare to show any sign of compassion for their fellow man or a passion for equality and fairness. The slur is often thrown by other well off, privileged people who haven’t got the intellect, breadth of experience or deep rooted compassion to understand where left leaning or socialist thinking comes from.
I am a champagne socialist and proud of it. I’m unashamedly middle class, brought up comfortable by hard working middle class parents, privately educated and thankfully, privileged enough to have been relatively comfortable in my life so far. That is not to say that I’ve not had my issues, problems, insecurities, struggles or dark moments… I’ve had many, but I would be viewed by the majority as ‘lucky’, privileged, even posh.
I would also however; categorise myself as a socialist. Now I don’t like labelling anything when it comes to politics… there are many socialists that I would disagree with vehemently and probably some Tories that I could share some common ground with, but ultimately if I lay out my thinking and my beliefs… you’d put me firmly on the left. I believe in compassion and helping people. I believe that collectively we are stronger than individually. I believe, where sensible, that state control makes more sense than privatisation and ultimately I like to think that I’m a nice, accepting human being who cannot abide bullying, prejudice, discrimination and hate. Those beliefs and that positioning tend to emanate from left of centre thinking and those with a left leaning tendencies.
I fully understand that my upbringing can also put me at odds with the politics and thinking of a socialist working class, and I would not begrudge those on the left and from a working class background finding my position to be somewhat at odds with perhaps where it should be, but I will not apologise for it. I detest hypocrisy and therefore I make no claims to be of working class origin or downplay my background, why should I just because I hold socialist beliefs?
I would argue that anyone who judges me and my ability to form a political position based on my background is indeed displaying a level of prejudice and stereotyping themselves. The left should welcome those from wherever they come. That is not to say that we should accept patronisation, false empathy and downright hypocrisy but if you believe yourself to be inclusive in your thinking, then you have to prove it through your attitude and actions.
So poor us – being a Champagne socialist can be rather thankless at times, derided by both sides and sometimes not welcomed by those who in fact we share common ground. I would urge you, whatever your background to have faith in your convictions and your beliefs and do not be ashamed to stand up for what you believe in.
In the frankly depressing aftermath of the general election, a certain Charlotte Church came out fighting, expressing her anger and huge disappointment at the result; warning against the dangers of five more years of cruel and relentlessly capitalist conservatism. She attended protest marches and rallies, carrying a banner at one which read “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Of course she was widely ridiculed and sneered at by the right wing press and self-interested middle to upper classes who attacked her “Champagne Socialism” and bare faced cheek to care about those less privileged than herself when she must have it so easy. The peddled the whole “what would she know” line.
Her response was brilliant…. “I’m more of a Prosecco girl.” Good for her.
Barbara Ellen wrote fantastically in her defence in The Observer… “Isn’t it time to ask what’s so wrong with Champagne Socialism anyway? Never mind for a moment that it’s actually laudable – at least politically and culturally interesting – that here is one social group who aren’t huddled in polling booths, acting out of pure self-interest. It could be about having a strong social conscience, or working-class roots they don’t want to forget, or the awareness that they could be less fortunate themselves one day – or none of the above. In Church’s case, she simply doesn’t want to spend her life sitting in a big house, planning holidays in some distanced “gated community” existence, and what’s wrong with that?”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. Which is probably why Barbara Ellen has penned these thoughts in The Observer and I’m rambling on about it on a blog no one will read.
Time to pop out for some Cava.