kenny hodgart

On the causes of socialism

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This article appeared in The Herald

The term “right-wing” is hardly used in Scotland other than as an insult these days. It is, therefore, hard to quantify what support there is for rightish sentiment, as poor right-wingers are forced to keep quiet about their political leanings. Left-wingers are, generally, much easier to identify. Often they are devil-may-care types, have great taste in music and great sex lives. They are also deeply moved by images of polar bears, see discrimination in a handful of dust and think competitive school sports days are a bad thing.

In polite society, right-wingers have a way of keeping the conversation on an even keel, often to the extent that their lack of concern for polar bears is all that gives them away. They also tend to be less fashionably attired than their left-wing friends, would rather not be pestered into giving money to causes and are appalled by people crying on television.

I was quite sure these distinctions were fundamentally sound, but some academics have thrown a spanner in the works: a new study has revealed that significant numbers of middle-aged people may be left-wing “by mistake”. Having dabbled with radical left-wing views as students, they still define themselves by those views now, even though the business of holding down a job and raising children has actually led them to be rather more conservative.

The implication is that many people hold centre-rightish views but fail to notice that their outlook has shifted, often because they associate only with others of like mind. Marx, who is thought to have been fairly left-wing, was rather taken with the idea of false consciousness, but I do not think this is what he meant. Later, an Italian fellow, Antonio Gramsci, said that for Marxists to win the political war, they would first have to win the cultural war and, at his suggestion, the left set about infiltrating campuses, the arts and the media, ingraining the idea that to be even remotely right-wing was proof of moral deficiency.

It would be uncharitable not to have a degree of sympathy for the faux left-wing middle classes: in renouncing themselves, they would probably have to forego their good taste in music and their great sex lives. Theirs, though, is the generation that spent all the money, thus requiring their children to be altogether more enterprising and self-reliant, if not actually, openly, right-wing.

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