Socialism and Culture

Arguably, the intersection and entanglement of culture with economics is best demonstrated by the state within the American state, and this intersection and entanglement in turn demonstrates how the cultural and sociological dimensions of the state which consist of fascism, Nazism, antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, pseudoscience, misogyny, male patriarchy, and sexism buoy the economic and financial interests and vice versa. 

In turn, progressivism and socialism have their own intersection and entanglement between culture and economics. As mentioned before, symbols and symbolism are embedded in virtually every aspect of human existence and human life, including progressive and socialist thought. As Richard Wolff noted, the red rose became the symbol for progressive and socialist thought in the early 20th century. The red rose is the symbol not only for the ‘Socialist International,’ but it is also the symbol for the ‘French Socialist Party’ as well as the ‘Labour Party’ in Great Britain. 

The poem “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim, published in the early 20th century, also sheds light on the cultural symbolism which envelops the economic thought of progressivism and socialism:

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,

For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men – 

For they are women’s children and we mother them again,

Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes – 

Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses. 

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead

Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;

Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew – 

Yes, it is Bread we fight for – but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days – 

The rising of the women means the rising of the race.

No more the drudge and idler – ten that toil where one reposes – 

But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

Hence, culture and economics are essentially mutually reinforcing and symbiotic with one another, and for one to change, the other needs to change and vice versa. But as Thomas Piketty has noted, fat capitalists like Donald Trump who naturally gravitate towards the ideology and social dispositions of the American ‘Deep State’ and would be co-opted by the American ‘Deep State’ if he refuses to challenge the ‘Deep State’ have put their own unique spin on the ‘class struggle’ which progressive and socialists are supposed to have as their brand and trademark and have ironically and strangely appropriated it for themselves: 

“This structuring of the political conflict is now tending to spread throughout the world today, in particular in Europe. In many places, we witness the rise in working-class constituencies of a mixture of attraction for xenophobia and resigned acceptance of the laws of globalized capitalism. Since it is unrealistic to expect anything much from the regulation of finance and multinationals, let’s focus on immigrants and foreigners; it won’t do us any harm even if we don’t get much out of it. Many of those who vote for Trump or Le Pen have a fundamental conviction which is very simple: it is easier to attack immigrants than financial capitalism or to imagine another economic system.”

The response of liberals, centrists, and mainstream leftists in the Western world to the exacerbation and manipulation of ‘culture wars’ while staying away from addressing the basic characteristics of plutocracy and oligarchy in our economic system by Trump and other right-wing populist leaders in the Western world has been tepid and weak, given that while the liberals, centrists, and mainstream leftists appear more benign on the cultural and social front, these liberals, centrists, and mainstream leftists are also guilty of resigning to the status quo of the economic system which has caused the cultural and social ills. Hence, in this type of political and social climate, the side that best exploits the combination of anxiety and fear in an economically and socially unstable order will most likely win, given that neither side wants to challenge the basic economic premises of plutocracy and oligarchy which underpin our system and have fostered the current political and social climate. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s