Supporting crony capitalism weakens the appeal of social conservatism; it is difficult to hold the moral high ground on abortion and marriage while defending exploiters of the poor and oppressed.
Almost eighty years ago, in The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell described the sorry condition of the English working class (both employed and unemployed) amid rising fascism in 1930s Europe. In the final chapters of his book, Orwell warned his fellow socialists of the need to reflect upon their unfavorable political situation, suggesting that socialism was doomed unless socialists took pains to understand what it was that non-socialists didn’t like about them. These things included everything from worship of industrialism, to adulation of Russia, to rigid materialist ideology, to boorish pseudo-intellectualism. According to Orwell, “Socialism is too often coupled with a fat-bellied, godless conception of ‘progress’ which revolts anyone with a feeling for tradition or for the rudiments of an aesthetic sense.”
Orwell was no ordinary socialist, certainly not one of the doctrinaire variety. For him, socialism was about justice and freedom from oppression and tyranny, not about atheism, materialism, or any other of the -isms fashionable in his day. Nor did he find it necessary to give up Beethoven—as Lenin did—to be a good socialist. I don’t know whether or not Orwell had taken a cue from Marx’s dictum that the problem with capitalism was capitalists, and then applied the dictum to socialists, but it certainly sounds as if he had. In any case, it takes little imagination to realize that the “fat-bellied, godless conception of progress” that Orwell applied to socialists might be applicable to more than a few capitalists as well.