You are here:   Class > A 'Liberal Racist'? Me? I Felt Like a Heretic

(credit: Karen Gordon, Writer Pictures) 

One of my great-great-grandfathers was a founder of the American-Jewish Lehman banking dynasty, one of my grandfathers was master of an Oxford college, my father was a Tory MP, I went to Eton.

If you come from that kind of background and identify yourself as on the Left, as I do, some shadow of bad faith unavoidably falls across your political journey. After all the Left itself has always placed great stress on "material interests" and "lived experience" as the basis for belief and political action.

If those two factors are removed from the equation what are you left with? Guilt, idealism, book learning or the quirks of adolescent psychology? 

Many years ago I read Hugh Thomas's biography of John Strachey, a minister in the Attlee government, which claimed he became a Communist in the 1930s because he didn't get into the Eton cricket first XI. I realised with some sense of embarrassment that I, too, had become a late adolescent Marxist for similar reasons.

It was not the only reason: the confusion of going to such a self-consciously ruling-class school at a time when it seemed to have lost its legitimacy and wanting to attract the attention of a rather absent father (though I was not aware of that psychological cliché at the time), were probably partial explanations too.

Coincidentally, it was reading John Strachey's Contemporary Capitalism and then even more revisionist works like Tony Crosland's Future of Socialism that led me to the more solid foundations of social democracy after my brief flirtation with the comforting certainties of Marxism.

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November 13th, 2013
3:11 PM
a very important article. I live in Berlin where right now people on the left have a hard time seeing why newly-arrived Roma shouldn't be granted full access to the welfare state. It's a shame Goodhart's doesn't elaborate more on his Eureka: "embracing the idea of human equality does not mean we owe the same allegiance to everyone." It is precisely this point that so many who insist on paving the road to hell have yet to appreciate

August 31st, 2013
5:08 PM
To quote from Goodhart's piece: 'Recently, for example, a well-known liberal newspaper columnist told me how pleased he was that the boring lower-middle-class suburb he was raised in had been disrupted by big demographic change against the wishes of the existing population'. There, perfectly encapsulated, is the arrogance of our intellectual elite forever trying to distance themselves from the despised lower middle class observng with cynical amusement as these small minded people with their petty aspirations have their way of life destroyed by the "cultural enrichment" of mass immigration. A pity that Goodhart doesn't name the columnist. Goodhart's tone throughout the article is oddly self-regarding. Although he claims to be concerned about the effects of mass immigration on the community his main focus seems to be on displaying his open-minded attitude and his willingness to change his views (in contrast to lesser lefties). This is an attitude I have often encountered in left wingers. It manifests as a kind of moral exhibitionism - being seen as person holding a partular moral position is more important than any action that position may demand or result in.

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