Do you uphold socialist ideals while enjoying an affluent and luxurious lifestyle? If so, then you are gauche caviar – or what British people call a ‘champagne socialist’.
This term, often used by right-wingers to poke at the left, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means we appreciate the finer things in life but don’t want others to suffer while we savour a steak tartare at one of London’s most prolific restaurants.
There seems to be a growing number of champagne socialists. According to the New Statesman, research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Party Members Project has found that “more than half of Labour members are graduates, and 77 per cent are in an ABC1 social group, up from 70 per cent in 2015.”
I was raised by the poorest of poor parents. Albeit, I had a comfortable lifestyle myself, the narrative my family upheld was on the contrary. Both of my parents are from Kahramanmaraş in Turkey and spent their entire adolescence working to survive.
While living in Kahramanmaraş, they occupied a small brick house with no windows. After moving to the UK, they jumped from council house to council, and my mum, who moved here before my dad, worked seven days a week at one of Dalston’s textile factories, eating 50p chips and saving every penny she earned.
Whenever my mum recollects her travails and challenging upbringing, I can’t help but think how unfair it is. Her aspirations of being a fashion designer were obliterated by the fact that she had to work in low-paying jobs to make ends meet. In an ideal world, she would’ve had the resources to fulfil her career goals.
Perhaps this is what we, champagne socialists, want. It’s not necessarily about sharing absolutely everything we own, but more about living in a world where everyone has the opportunity to obtain a more affluent lifestyle.
The Guardian noted “what socialists want to see is a world in which everyone has equal access to the resources they require in order to flourish. This would involve social equality in a broad sense – a society in which everyone was equally free to thrive – not absolute equality of everything.”
As I’m writing this from my MacBook Air, whilst eating truffle pesto on toast, I wonder how my mum’s life would be different right now. What if she was able to attend university, get a degree, and complete an internship? Instead of working to survive, she could’ve worked to contribute to the economy creatively.
The 1980 Turkish coup d’état saw executions, assaults, and human rights violations. My parents were some of the Alevi villagers who took in runaway anti-government protestors who were hiding from state officials.
My mum and dad learned a lot from the middle-class socialist intellectuals, including what it means to be positively left-wing. The whole point of socialism is about caring and to ensure that homelessness, hunger, and mistreatment of workers is eradicated.
The parka-wearing freedom fighters wanted nothing but equal opportunities for everyone, and the autonomy to glide through life without fretting about whether they’ll be able to afford dinner the next day.
I care about those less fortunate than me, and shouldn’t be judged for it. What’s wrong with wanting to spread the wealth, instead of poverty? Let’s normalise champagne socialism, and openly discuss the need for more people to embrace to this title – at the end of the day, the right-wing will always find a way to disparage our movement, regardless of whether we add ‘champagne’ to our title.