The Corner

Left Luxury

The British Labour Party is, now, selling Champagne. There seem to be worries that this may shock some of the puritanical folk all too often found on the left of the politics. It shouldn’t. There is an entertaining (and possibly even true) story about one of the Labour grandees (either Nye Bevan or Ernest Bevin, I forget which) of the early post-war years being criticized for being seen to indulge in Champagne with rather too much gusto. Champagne, it was felt, was too elitist a choice for such a supposedly egalitarian politician.

Bevin/Bevan disagreed. “Nothing,” he said, “is too good for the working class.”

In one respect, and one respect only, Stalin seems to have felt the same way. In pre-revolutionary Russia ice cream was associated with the richer classes. In the new Soviet paradise it was decreed that this delicacy should be available for all, and that is why (it is said), up until the mid-1990s at least, it was always possible (in Moscow certainly) to buy delicious, if slightly sinister-looking, ice cream from ladies manning little vendor carts near Metro stations and similar spots all over the city. The cost? A few Kopecks. The taste – delicious, particularly in winter.

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