Saturday, 2 May 2015

Will Self: Oscar Wilde, Champagne Socialism And Why I'm Voting Labour

Wilde seeks to define the individual type of the coming socialist age: “With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” It might be argued that in rejecting the institutions of marriage and family, while taking himself – a quasi-closeted gay artist in hypocritical late-Victorian England – as the representative type of the coming age, Wilde was genuinely prophetic. After all, whatever else we may say about contemporary Britain, there’s little doubt that many people perceive it as a society in which they can be themselves sexually, individually and creatively; that this self-realisation is fully articulated within capitalist metrics would presumably be shocking even to Wilde. Soothsayer or not, he never imagined the pink pound would become legal tender...

Wilde writes: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” Yet for him, in his essay, the two are conflated, because for all utopians, no matter how anarchistic they may think themselves to be, the premise underlying their brave new worlds is that everyone cravenly become exactly like them – and while I myself am perfectly happy to emulate Wilde, I’m not sure being a flamboyant literary figure is likely to fulfil everyone’s needs, nor lie within everyone’s ability. No, I’m no longer a socialist if to be one is to believe that a socialist utopia is attainable by some collective feat of will – but I remain a socialist, if by “socialism” is understood an antipathy to vested interests and privileges neither deserved nor earned, and a strong desire for a genuinely egalitarian society. And that is why, for the first time since 1997, I will be voting Labour in a general election.

Will Self, The Guardian Review.

And here is The Soul Of Man Under Socialism of which Will writes.

1 comment:

  1. The Labour Party has as much to do with socialism as UKIP has with gay rights. If he thinks Labour is going to tackle any vested interest or unearned privilege, he's going to be very disappointed.