There was a discussion a while ago on Orphans of Liberty — can’t find the exact post any more — about thinking up a new name for the left. Personally I quite like ‘clubmen’, because basically leftists want their little club to rule the world. That’s actually how Lenin and the Bolsheviks thought, they saw themselves as a club who would seize power. Seize power in the name of the people, yes, but the important bit there is ‘in the name of’. They were the ones who would wield the power, not the people. Not the proletariat. The state would only ever be run by one party, and that party would be the club. The club may or may not be vaguely democratic internally (Lenin was more keen on this than Stalin, in theory at least), but the state would definitely not be the slightest bit democratic. The club would rule all.
The club-like nature of the Bolsheviks wasn’t hidden at the time. It was supposed to be part of the appeal of joining the Bolsheviks that club members would benefit from being in the Bolshevik club if the club took power. Joining the Bolsehviks in the mid-teens last century was risky, more risky than joining the Mensheviks or the Socialist Revolutionaries, both of whom were more popular, and who looked to be better placed at the time. You either joined the Bolsheviks because you were a true believer, or because you thought it would benefit you in the long-term, or both.
After the Bolshies took power obviously many people flocked to join them because of the benefits to be gained by being in the club, and not so much because they were true believers. Stalin soon had to start getting rid of members — this was before the mass deaths and imprisonments of Party members happened in the 1930s — partly because he recognised that too many new members didn’t really believe in the club’s values, and were just in it for themselves, but also because he and the other party leaders didn’t want the club to get too big. If the club is too big then the benefits to be derived from being in it get too diluted. While they wanted everyone to be forced to accept the party line, they didn’t want everyone to get their share of the spoils.
The EU, I note, is also something like a club along these lines. Sure it’s not rampantly bloodthirsty and ruthless like the Bolsheviks, but it’s very much a club that like to run things its own way. It allows as minimal an input from democratic processes as it can get away with. It prefers club members, ie. the EU apparatchiks, to be like-minded people; you won’t get in if you don’t have the right mindset. It furiously resists attempts to take any power away from it — the explicit plan is for more power to flow to it. And those in the club benefit from the many perks available to club members.
Many Western left-wing parties, even democratic parties, such as the UK’s Labour Party, and the US Democrats, have got noticeably more clublike in recent years, a process that shows no signs of stopping.
So ‘clubmen’ sums the progressive left up pretty well, I think. Unfortunately as a name it doesn’t really have a forceful impact, so it’s not one I’m going to be using regularly. But maybe now and then.