Sunday, 9 September 2018

Now, Now, We Are all Socialists.

The fortune of the word “socialism” seems to be changing, particularly when compared to its political alternatives, not only worldwide (above), but also locally (below). When even “centre-right, conservative, libertarian” penny-a-liners can see that, one would need to be as blind as Anthony Albanese or Richard Di Natale to miss it.

Chris Dillow does not have that problem. He thinks this may have something to do with the life experiences of youngsters. He may be onto something, I reckon. Capitalism’s failure is becoming more and more evident as Millennials and maybe even post-Millennials come of age.

It’s not that capitalism was problem-free before (ask anyone hailing from poor countries). What makes it so dramatic now is that it affects kids from even the so-called rich countries. Even if we leave aside more catastrophic possibilities (like climate change), that failure alone is bound to shape their whole lives.

Still, I doubt this turnaround in opinion about socialism can be attributed solely to different life experiences. While he welcomes this sudden rehabilitation of the word “socialism” (as I do) Corey Robin seems to be slightly cynical and so remarked on “how eerie and unsettling it can be when people change their minds”.

Robin wasn't talking about youngsters, but about mature, respectable, petty bourgeois … sorry … middle-class, people with a long history of open anti-socialism … as befitting, well, mature, respectable, middle-class people. He didn't name names of course, but upon reading him at least one Baby Boomer felt compelled to explain that he had been a socialist now … for a long time (go figure!).


(click here for the Google interactive chart)

In fact, the claim “we are all socialists now” has a surprisingly long history. I could trace it back to the 1880s. Kids should know about it, for a little history goes a long way into instilling realism. Characters as unlikely as King Edward VII and his loyal MPs, Sir William Harcourt (Britain) and George Laurenson (New Zealand) are credited with having made it … during the most unequal era in advanced nations' history: the Victorian/Edwardian Era (the Belle Epoque in France or Gilded Age, in the US). Sobering, uh?

Moreover, the late British Marxist Edgar Hardcastle wrote about “we are all socialists now” as far back as 1962 -- believe it or not -- long before Millennials (let alone post-Millennials) were born. Get this: at the time yours truly was a baby.

Hardy, as his comrades used to call him, may have been wrong about many things. He wasn’t wrong about “we are all socialists now”. You should read that.

Well, he was wrong about this: “While the phrase is no longer used … ”

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