Class divisions and the wardrobe…

Here’s a nice variation on theme, ‘can I be Green, and work in Government?’ It’s from Jenny at South Belfast Diary, and she asks “Can I be a socialist and still like handbags?”

  • I do not mean to be offensive Mick, but it seems you are quite happy to post up stories about socialist title tattle like this handbags thread, but you seem to shy away from socialist ideas and politics appearing on slugger. One cannot help wonder if this is a conscious attempt on your part to keep ‘left wing blog’ tag from hanging about sluggers neck.

    I ask this because you seem to have no problem with posting up articles which knock the socialist left and you appear to support those ex leftist who gathered, all be it briefly around the Euston manifesto and Harrys Place, yet articles that show socialism in a positive light are very and few, if at all.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Surprising given some of the best political output comes from Splintered Sunrise.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick mused the other day about banning the word “typical” if the practice of banning was still in effect.
    Well maybe, but I can think of a better 3 letter (self-referential) one which should be used sparingly.

  • How do you mean socialist tittle tattle re handbags? Any self-respecting socialist republic would have to think seriously about whether the availability of £10,000 handbags (or even £500 handbags) and citizens with the cash to buy them were actually compatible with socialism. Might a soc-rep even ban handbags on the basis that they were a mark of residual elitism and go back to the simple pocket inside the skirt of yesteryear?

  • Yes Nick, on taking power, we will have nothing else on our minds but handbags, Thatcher had such detrimental effect on our psyche, indeed we may even issue them to all militants to bash capitalist lick-spitals like our very own michael 😉

  • Way to go with the literal reading Mickhall. So: one person condemns vulgar consumerism. Another says that the left ought not to be in the business of telling people how to spend their money.

    In other words, Jenny was raising a question about how the left wants to balance consumer culture and personal autonomy. Sounds like something that sensible leftists ought to worry about.

    Mick has pointed to a post on a significant issue. But easier to snipe I suppose.

  • joeCanuck

    Apologies if you’ve already read this – I posted on the wrong thread.

    I’ve just read the full report in the B.T. ( ).
    If this stuff were televised (is it?), it would be in the running for the top “Unreality TV show”.

  • snakebrain

    “Just think where this could go – Barry perhaps in his GAA top in the chamber and I’d have to put on my Northern Ireland football top to compete with him.”

    …as it is of course totally impossible to make an independent decision regarding anything, even as minor as what you wear. All decisions must be entirely reactive to the actions of, and as provocative as possible to, the “other side”

    I’d have typed in Ulster-Scots for the complete parodic effect but I can’t speak it. My accent isn’t broad enough.

  • patrique

    Why do so few people know what socialism is? It means a better society. Like Sweden, socialist for about 30 years, but you can still buy a £20,000 handbag, but you will be buying it in a socialist country, with better social services, health, prison and educational services, in short a better society.

    Now isn’t that easy.

  • Patrique, I’m curious. If there are people who can afford a £20,000 handbag, aren’t there others who can barely afford a £20 handbag? Or does everyone in Sweden have an income big enough to snap up luxury goods by the crateload?

  • Patrique

    No, everyone in Sweden does not have the cash to snap up £20,000 handbags, it is a socialist country, not everyone gets the same.Perhaps you imagined that socialism meant we were all equal, and all received the same? Afraid not.

    But everyone in Sweden can afford a handbag. Only morons, wags and bimbos pay £20,000 for a bag.Especially in a socialist country, as the better society makes you appreciate the good things in life, and “real” people, untainted by mass capitalism and a celebrity culture, realise that £20,000 handbags are not among the good things in life.

    So Nick, I suggest you are confusing Socialism with some idea or form of austere communism, which to the best of my knowledge, has never been tried in the “modern” world. Possibly in the Amazon jungle or somewhere, but certainly not in the “developed” world.

  • Ciarán

    If you found the content of this thread so interesting, Im puzzled why you failed to add your opinion about consumerism etc, perhaps because you are well aware that Mick had another purpose in mind when he posted this put down of socialism.

    “Why do so few people know what socialism is? It means a better society’.”


    Indeed it does, but I fear our host is to fearful to allow any socialists to blog such a proposal for debate here on slugger, as we are not in a position to advance his career. Instead he prefers articles about handbags and socialists.

    Although for the life of me I cannot see the link because no socialist I know believes these days that dear Harriet Harman is a socialist. Although back in the days before she took the new labour shilling she was a half decent comrade and I have fond memories of working with her and her husband. I fear she will have to do more than stand for the UK LP deputy leaders job to regain her credibility. Why do these people rush to blot their biogs, and for what?

    I know a good shrink who could help you with your handbag fetish, indeed she was recommended to me by one of Harriet parliamentary colleagues.

    Regards to you all, from a very grumpy old man on yet another disappointing day for the left.

  • Mickhall, I can’t pretend to have your insights into Mick’s hidden motives, but I can assure that I don’t need to decide my position on a problem for me to find it interesting.

    I’m happy to leave certainty about how the world should be to ideologues on the left and the right. And how very indistinguishable they sometimes seem.

  • Ciarán
    There you go again, jumping to unfair conclusions about us lefties. True I do not blame you alone as with their support for Stalinism, many comrades made a rod for all our backs. but i can assure you one of the lessons i learnt years ago as a leftist activist is beware of certainties and those who claim them.

    For most thoughtful socialist these days there is no one size fits all situations and to proclaim such nonsense is reactionary to the core. The world is full of contradictions and movement and if we socialists are to gain mass support we need to reflect that.

    I suppose this is one of the reasons why I react badly to Mick’s refusal to have a left socialist blogging on slugger, when almost all other political opion is represented here, but such is life.

    Best regards.

  • Well there we agree Mickhall.

    Socialism needs to reflect contradictions and the like, not just for strategic reasons, but because that’s how reasonable people behave.

    But I do think you picked the wrong post to jump on Mick’s back about this. I think Jenny wasn’t being trivial in the issue she raised.

    I don’t know what to do about the ‘is personal vulgarity political?’ problem. I do have an opinion on what the state, as currently arranged, can justly do about it though. Not much.

  • Ciarán

    On the ‘is personal vulgarity political’ issue, I believe most things to a certain degree are political, but that does not mean politicians should become involve in them directly. To dictate whether some one should wear an £800 handbag etc would be nonsensical, but that does not mean politicians should not attempt to ‘help’ create a society in which wearing such a burble would be regarded as somewhat foolish, instead of as things stand today smart in a oneupmanship sense.

    I am a great believer in the Richard Neville quote made in the 1960s that the reason we lefties support a moderately reformist[progressive] government is that it gives us a half inch of space to work in, cultural, artistically and politically. This certainly happened with the Wilson government in the 1960’s and the latter Whitman government in Australia.

    Where in both countries culture and the arts exploded [TV, music, painting, movies etc] as to did politics in a mirage of different progressive forms not least gay and womens rights. The fact that nothing similar occurred under the Blair government speak volumes about its conservative nature.

  • Why do so few people know what socialism is? It means a better society.

    That’s a matter of political opinion. You and, say, Mick Hall, would say it was; I would disagree. That’s the beuaty of having places like Slugger where we can trade ideas and hopefully learn something, if only how to better hone our arguments.

    But just making assertions like that benefits no-one, especially when you get your facts wrong…

    Like Sweden, socialist for about 30 years

    1. Sweden isn’t socialist in any meaningful sense of the word; it doesn’t strive for common ownership of the means of production and exchange; it’s doesn’t see itself as a workers’ and peasants’ state. It’s a social democratic country; there is a large and important difference that would differentiate the politics of Mick Hall from that of, say, El Blogador.

    2. Sweden has had a social democratic government for most of the past 75 years, not 30 years.

    3. Sweden does not currently have a social democratic government; it is governed by a coalition of conservatives and liberals.

    4. One Swedish adult in five does not work; this does not fit my definition of a better society, and it shouldn’t fit the definition of one for any self-respecting socialist.

    5. Buying hard liquor in Sweden is more difficult than buying arms from the Russian mafia and costs more than flying to the moon. Paying for a night out involves a mortgage application. This really does not fit my definition of a perfect society. And it’s exactly the sort of thing that make many people think of socialists as drudge and puritanical (which brings us back to Jenny’s point).

    6. Northern Ireland has an economy even more dominated by the state than Sweden, because unlike the Swedes, we get to sponge off our neighbours. Whatever is wrong with Northern Ireland, I challenge anyone to produce an argument that says not enough socialism lies at the root of our problems.

  • “4. One Swedish adult in five does not work; this does not fit my definition of a better society, and it shouldn’t fit the definition of one for any self-respecting socialist.”

    I do not know how the figures above break down and I am well aware a very high proportion of new migrants to Sweden are unemployed, but there are a number of complex reasons for this most of which are not solely related to the level of social benefits.

    The point I wished to make was that I see no reason why in a civilized society 1/5th of the population should not be in full time work. I am not talking about being unemployed, but consciously choosing to take time out. Either to raise pre school age children, taking a gap year for a host of differing reasons, returning to full time education in later life etc.

    There is little doubt the way most of us live our lives these days is one of drudgery, few people enjoy or even like their jobs. Yet we still judge a persons place in society by what they work at and how much they earn. Especially the latter as a silly second rate pop star like Mrs footballers wife is held up as a role model and for example a dustman/women is shown little respect. Yet one does a far more important job for society as a whole than the other. Surly this ridiculous attitude tells us a great deal about this societies failings?

    The western nations are extremely wealthy and it is high time we looked at how we can reduce the rat race, not as FF and NL wish to fasten it up and set it in stone. Not long ago companies said any thought of gap years would be impossible, now most of the better firms actively encourage them as they find jaded workers come back invigorated.

    Look at women with young kids, whilst the government is busy driving them back to work before they and their kids are ready, they are also complaining about latch key kids etc. If young mums wish to work fine, but if they do not, is it beyond the means of our society to find a way to let them stay at home in the early years of their kids life, I know it is not, it is just that there is not the political will there.

    The same problem exists with the lack of affordable housing i e if the supply was taken out of the control of the construction industry this problem could be solved within a year at most.

    There is a better way but it means that central government must take on the power elites and cease being their willing tool. I do not give a dam what we call such a system, all I am interested in is a better life for all and the ending of human beings accepting their role in life is to be a cart horse which makes money for greedy capitalists who have no interest in helping to create a decent society.

  • Rory

    Surely if schoolbags were manufactured to be more robust they would last us well into adulthood and thus obviate the need for handbags.

    A cradle-to-grave handbag policy – now that is what socialists should be addressing in this context.

    (Flash afterthought: if they were to be made expandable perhaps we could also be buried in them.)

  • I gave a long and thoughtful reply to your argument, Mick, and Slugger ate it up!!! Sorry!

  • mickhall


    Does that not just drive one nuts.

    All the best.

  • Mickhall – handbag fetish? When I mentioned handbags twice? Funny sort of fetish. I’m sure you realise that the point I was making was not about handbags but about the relationship between obscenely expensive consumer goods (probably made in a Chinese sweatshop) and a socialist / egalitarian / no more carthorses and greedy capitalists society. And is it actually possible to wipe out conspicuous consumption / wealthy elites / profit-maximisation for good?

  • patrique

    God bless your cotton socks, Sammy Morse, obviously not a classics student like your namesake, Endeavour.

    Socialism means a better society.A fairer society, a more caring society. That’s what it MEANS. Whether we will ever achieve that is open to debate.

    Just as religion MEANS following a God. Whether there is a god or not is a different matter.

    And if society’s are judged by the price of drink, well, leave me out of the debate.

  • mickhall

    ‘God bless your cotton socks’


    I have not heard that saying since I was a little boy in the 1950s when my grannie used to say it, it took me back to the kitchen in the farm house she lived in with the tin bath on the back of the door.


    I understood what you meant mate, just trying to lighten things a bit. No offense intended.