Are we witnessing the rebirth of Radical Chic? That was the term coined by Tom Wolfe in his 1970 essay about the party given by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein for the Black Panthers at their 13-room penthouse apartment on Park Avenue. It described a weird trend, beginning in the late 1960s and peaking in the early 1970s, whereby the crème de la crème of New York’s moneyed elite embraced radical left-wing causes, such as the anti-war movement and black power. They did so without irony, seemingly oblivious to the absurdity of trying to ‘stick it to the man’ while living on trust funds established by their robber baron forefathers. It was a way for them to enjoy the fruits of capitalism without stooping to defend it, to have their cake and eat it — or, rather, their Roquefort cheese morsels rolled in crushed nuts, which is what the Bernsteins served at their party.
I’m thinking, in particular, of the progressive posturing of Teen Vogue, which, in spite of being owned by a man with a net worth of $11.6 billion, recently ran a sympathetic profile of Karl Marx to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth. ‘You may have come across communist memes on social media,’ it began. ‘The man, the meme, the legend behind this trend is Karl Marx, who developed the theory of communism, which advocates for workers’ control over their labour (instead of their bosses).’ It went on to explain, in the same breathless, upbeat tone, that capitalism only emerged as a result of violent exploitation: ‘Some examples of violence that aided in the establishment of capitalism in the United States include stealing the land of indigenous people and trafficking Africans through slavery.’ (To read more, click here.)