The dictionary of the Swedish Academy explains rödvinsvänster as ‘leftist groups who mostly just sit and discuss, often over a glass of wine.’
The expression came to be during the days of the 1968 leftist movements, but is still alive and thriving. Though it previously was directed at people who sat discussing politics over cheap red wine rather than actually getting involved in the political work, today it has come to describe middle-class people who call themselves leftist and drink fancy red wine.
Similar expressions include champagnesocialist, an expression of British origin, or cocktailsosse which means ‘cocktail social democrat’. These two are expressions which more clearly than rödvinsvänster have their origin in a disregard for politicians or socialists who are perceived to break with traditional socialist values because of their love for the ‘finer’ drinks, such as champagne or cocktails, which are considered to be bourgeois drinks.
Although the terms are often used by political opponents of the left, they are also, and perhaps even more frequently, used by leftists who consider other leftists to actually be class traitors or simply bourgeois or middle class and therefore not really workers or good representatives for the working class.
As you can imagine there are similar terms in many countries. Here are a few:
In the UK you will find the above mentioned ‘champagne socialist’ (or ‘Bollinger Bolshevik’), together with ‘Hampstead liberal’, and ‘liberal elite’, In Australia, they would be more likely to be ‘chardonnay socialists’, and in Ireland ‘smoked salmon socialists’. It is Gauche caviar in France and esquerda caviar in Portugal: both mean ‘caviar left’. Italians have radical chic. In the US there is ‘limousine liberal’ or ‘latte liberal’. Salonkommunist is a German version, and the similar salonsocialist can be found in the Netherlands. Examples from other countries abound.
Kolla, där sitter rödvinsvänstern som vanligt på sina älskade uteserveringar och pimplar.
Look, there they are, as usual, the red wine left, sipping on their beloved outdoor terraces.
Rödvinsvänstern har helt tagit över arbetarrörelsen.
The red-wine left has completely taken over the workers’ movement.