Dear Messrs Webb and Lustig…

Dear Messrs Webb and Lustig…

An angry response to Robert Webb and Robin Lustig's criticisms of those who choose not to vote, in the wake of Russell Brand's anti-electoral declaration.

Thankyou both for your contributions [1][2] to the debating point “should we vote for Labour in the next election.”

As a non-voter, I now feel well and truly told that by sharing Russell Brand’s view on the matter I have entered a grouping of people who are variously daft, dangerous, apathetic, politically flighty, talking through our arses, in favour of gulags and murder, poorly-read and that we just don’t know how lucky we are. How very kind of you to submit such deep and worthy thoughts to the highbrow liberal outlets of the day.

I wonder though were either of you, steeped as you undoubtedly are in the political life of this country, on a picket line at 7am in the morning yesterday? Or at any of the thousands of other picket lines up and down the country that non-voters I know personally have attended week in, week out both in the cause of their own work and in attempts to help save the jobs, or wages, or conditions of others?

Have you felt compelled to stand there patiently explaining to truly apathetic people what a picket line actually does? Have you watched, devastated, as truly daft people have deliberately flouted the democratic decisions of their peers, their friends, their families by walking into work and undermining the very essence of collective action for the sake of a few lousy bob?

Have either of you ever taken a truly dangerous police boot to the knee, or a baton to the face, in the cause of stopping a single one of the outrageous redistributions of wealth from poor to rich that have taken place under murderous governments, both Labour and Tory, in the course of the last 30 years?

No? You mean you haven’t given up hours, weeks, months, years of your time, spent an intimidating percentage of your own capital, risked your very livelihood and freedom for the sake of a hoped-for future you know you probably won’t live to see? Or even just to stop the world from getting any worse?

You haven’t done these things that I see my fellow anarchists do? I know you haven’t. Because I know that for all your fine words about the importance of democracy you, unlike my “apathetic” peers and I, have never actually found yourself having to go to the wire for something truly important.

You sit in your comfortable chair tapping away at your keyboard about the mighty democratic mandate of the people, about the influence of the ballot box, fully in line with and backed by the most powerful forces this island has to offer. You find yourself lauded by your fellow liberals and media pundits, pat yourself on the back and head off for a nice latte.

But you don’t know what it is to join the dots on Labour’s introduction of Workfare and tests for work availability and realise that people are going to die from it, that in one government’s time, maybe two at the outside, you’re going to be stood in the rain outside a jobcentre or a shop trying desperately to build enough momentum to force those bastards to cut it out.

You haven’t the faintest idea about the black fog of despair that descends as a non-voter when you read about Labour’s introduction of a few “minor privatisations” within the NHS and know as sure as eggs is eggs that this is a deliberate wedge designed to soften the service up for a full-on orgy of profitmaking that will ruin countless lives and end more than a few before their time.

And you clearly haven’t remembered your own past, as you are both old enough to have seen a million people stretched through the streets of London, telling a Labour government not to go to war in a land far away on a lie. A big lie. A lie that eventually would lead to the deaths of half a million innocents. A lie told over and over again by the very people you are now asking us to hold our noses and vote for. Not different people, the same fucking ones.

How dare you? How dare you sit there with that smug smirk on your fat wealthy face and tell us we are dangerously apathetic or impractically romantic when you can’t even face up to the fact that you vote for men who were the backroom boys of this murderous campaign done in our name. When you vote for killers who again and again follow the leverage of big money the moment they’ve occupied their comfy seats in the Commons. When you vote for the scum who have wrought such inconceivable damage against the working classes, who have in toffee-nosed accents told people living off nothing “go get a job or we’ll take your benefits you slacker.”

You castigate Brand for ranting about governments not representing him. You call on him and presumably us to “read some fucking Orwell.” I’ve read some fucking Orwell you blithering fool, enough to remember that even this icon of liberality was sharp enough to know of and sympathise with anarchist theory in Homage to Catalonia. Orwell would laugh at you and disavow any connection to your poorly-wrought propaganda for people to vote rather than fight. He would spit on your self-satisfaction you vacuous whelp.

It is not we who are uninformed. It is not we who deny reality. It is not we who pretend that politics for the last 30 years have revolved around who’s sat on the green benches and use that as an excuse to do the sum total of fuck all to contribute to our world and our future because some other bloke will sort it out. That’s you. It’s your casual acceptance and shrug of the shoulders that capitalist representative democracy is the best of a bad lot that has led to the utter destruction of first working class power, then our protections and rights.

You haven’t brought your thunderous disdain down on the hypocrites and charlatans who have lied to us over and over, with sharp suits and sharp smiles and sharp machine minds as they promise “we’ll be different, honest” and then promptly forget we ever existed the day after the election. No, instead you’ve carped and moaned at the millions of disenfranchised who have finally had enough of those liars.

You are the apathetic. You are the problem. It is your politics that must die.

Comments

Webby
Nov 1 2013 08:00

Rob Ray

Thanks for this - it has truly made my day. The arrogance of these wittering fucking turds seems to know no bounds, and whilst your well aimed vitriol is extremely unlikely to reach their ears and if they did would no doubt be batted back with their smug, back slapping, smart arse 'wit' a la Have I Got News For You, for me it's a well needed energiser on a day that I don't want to go to work and don't want to spend my evening trying to help my daughter trudge through the soul destroying task of re-establishing her benefits which were stopped when she was admitted to hospital.
These fucking idiots have absolutely no idea what they are on about - they parrot the parliamentary democracy, people died to give you the right to vote, blah blah blah horseshit that has been rammed down our throats for generations without once thinking about what they're saying. Well I think about it every day and am pleased to say I have never once been hypnotised in to taking part in the whole sorry charade in the 30 years I've been eligible.
Great blog.

Serge Forward
Nov 1 2013 08:01

Rob Ray, I think I love you you. Fantastic post red n black star red n black star red n black star

Left Leg
Nov 1 2013 08:50

Great post, cheers.

Jason Cortez
Nov 1 2013 09:34

Nice one.

Edward Sexby
Nov 1 2013 10:12

Nice one, that's made me really happy. Spot on! I've had countless debates over the years with people who call me out when I either don't vote or spoil my ballot paper in protest. You just have to look at the continuity of policy in government over the last thirty years to realize what is going on, and the way in which Reformists - however principled and well intentioned to begin with - end up being co-opted by the system. As an example, check out Aufhaben's article on the health service, a few years back.

In a fit of drunken despair, back in 2005, I was tempted to vote Green, in protest over Iraq. Common (revolutionary) Sense prevailed. Now I read that Darren Johnston, Green member of the London Assembly, moved their motion congratulating the future heir to the throne for sucessfully reproducing. I guess kissing royal arse pays well...

Carly
Nov 1 2013 11:07

Incredible, finally esteemed public figures that are not afraid to tell the real truth. An enormous thank you. Hopefully your peers will be inspired to do the same as it seems you are the pioneers and we need this to gain momentum.

DanT
Nov 1 2013 11:16

Part of the problem with revolutionary politics is that, while the problem is clearly articulated, the solution is not. In that absence of an honest and forthright *policy* or political platform, revolutionary rhetoric only serves the needs of the establishment. It scares the shit out of ordinary working people (as well as the wealthy, needless to say), and therefore gives a rationale for the surveillance and control grid, and for increasing police violence. This is why state intelligence agencies actually plant agents in anarchist groups (as well as any other gathering of more than two people), to *provoke* a violent, "fuck shit up", "to the barricades!" attitude and methodology. The system needs you. It needs something to push against, and to periodically scare ordinary people with. As long as the fear - and moral terror - of petrol bombs, looting, rape, murder, etc. (revolution) is greater than their fear of greater privatization, higher taxes, or losing benefits, the system is winning. Imagine that this terror (which you feel as hope and exhilaration) were gone: then normals could take to the streets peacefully, and make their voices heard without being drowned out by, or associated with, a call for bloody murder, firey destruction and an end to participatory democracy.

Those on the left must recognize the burden of history that their ideology bears. Of course you have every right to believe and speak what you choose. But 250 million people were killed by their own socialist/communist governments in the 20th century alone. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot - if you're going to have one of these people on your t-shirt, and use their rhetoric and methods of agitation, then you have to explain to the wary working person (who also wants change and accountability) exactly *how* and *why* "this time it will be different." I don't hear that at all from the left. Even when the debate rises above the purely emotional, I hear pure, indignant denial of the horror forced collectivism has wrought on humanity, or I hear "that wasn't *real* socialism/communism/collectivism." Well, you're wearing the t-shirt. You're mouthing the same words. You're walking the same revolutionary path. And behind the call to tear everything down, there is no clear articulation of what would take its place. People like owning things, and being free to engage in commerce. They like being able to earn and save what little they make, and invest it, to choose the work they do, and have the freedom to quit their job or retrain for one of their choosing. And they know that forced collectivism would take that away from them. They've read some history, and they're listening to you, and they understand that gulags and rationing and secret police dragging off dissidents in the middle of the night is what comes after the thrill of "fucking shit up." People like owning property, and they don't like BEING property. They like a reasonable degree of personal intellectual freedom, freedom of assembly; they like contracting freely among themselves in all sorts of ways without the interference of the state. Address those concerns effectively and honestly (if you can), and you will get ordinary people to the barricades. Until then, you serve the roll of a scary political monster for the establishment to point to and say "at least its not as bad as what those lot would do to you."

commieprincess
Nov 1 2013 11:41

DanT,

Have a read of this, it might help address some of your concerns.

http://libcom.org/thought/ideas/libertarian-communism/introduction-to-libertarian-communism.php

sandy_ash
Nov 1 2013 12:46

DanT,
Hitler was a socialist? News to me!

susanegreen
Nov 1 2013 12:57

Thankyou for expressing so eloquently and informatively how I felt about the Lustig and Webb pieces. I am going to try to ensure that those friends on FB and elsewhere who 'concurred' with Lustig read your piece. One can lead a horse to water etc......

Cooked
Nov 1 2013 14:08

Rob, that's some precision channeled anger right there!

the croydonian ...
Nov 1 2013 17:07

Brilliant, you beat me to it.

Against Rich Su...
Nov 1 2013 20:06
Quote:
an end to participatory democracy.

How can we end something that doesn't yet exist?

Quote:
Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot

First of all, we're not authoritarian communists. Secondly, one of these things is not like the other.

And what is this nonsense about T-shirts?

Bunion_on_my_foot
Nov 1 2013 20:34

I don't get why everyone is so pissy. I read Webb's article and I also watched the Peep Show. Both were marvellous and very funny.

If you do not live in Bangladesh or fourteenth century Shropshire, you should join the Labour Party. An excellent point well made.

PS I loved the joke about Tirstam Hunt's action figure!! The Labour Party wouldn't make Tristram Hunt action figures, that would be silly.

Bunion_on_my_foot
Nov 1 2013 20:50
DanT wrote:
Those on the left must recognize the burden of history that their ideology bears. Of course you have every right to believe and speak what you choose. But 250 million people were killed by their own socialist/communist governments in the 20th century alone.

Dan, how many people were killed liberal democracies in the 20th century alone? Just wondering if you have a figure handy.

Tian
Nov 1 2013 22:48
Bunion_on_my_foot wrote:
DanT wrote:
Those on the left must recognize the burden of history that their ideology bears. Of course you have every right to believe and speak what you choose. But 250 million people were killed by their own socialist/communist governments in the 20th century alone.

Dan, how many people were killed liberal democracies in the 20th century alone? Just wondering if you have a figure handy.

I don't think it's worth getting into this kind of slanging match, as it can be interpreted that we're in some way defending these 'leftist' states (I know you weren't in this case, Bunion).

To be absolutely clear: They're all fucking bad. Trying to tar us with the same brush as totalitarian states just ain't going to work.

someoneionceknew
Nov 2 2013 02:10

Bravo. Superbly put.

jimsnopes
Nov 2 2013 10:36

Thanks, commieprincess. A great response to DanT's impressively well written but blinkered musings.

beam12
Nov 2 2013 11:09

Replying to this blog as it seems a dangerous polarity seems to be developing within some groups about using your vote , I understand the cynicsm of those who think 'whoever wins the government gets in' . I can also see how highminded and partonising it can seem to be hectored about using your vote BUT it's not either /or !!

I can list all the actions I have been involved in over decades from endless demonstations ,squatting ,striking ,pickets lines etc. They are all important as are mass demonsrations ,such as the ones that won Lewisham hospital it's A&E reprieve recently but you need to vote as well!!
Simple example
The working people of the UK threw out Churchill after the war ,we have the NHS It was implemented by government .If you don't vote ,either for the least worse option, or for a minority to show the support such the Green party you are condoning the current government,You are saying you are happy with the bedroom tax ,the selling off of Royal Mail etc.
Protest yes ,sign every good cause going ,good on 38 degrees, Avaaz, the Occupy movement. get up a tree to stop developers .I'm a bit past that now but do not throw away the right that took the peasants revolt ,the Lellevers ,the Diggers ,the Chartists the Suffragettes etc so long to achieve

Serge Forward
Nov 2 2013 11:33

Beam12, while I don't agree with parliamentarism and electoralism, the writer of this blogpost was responding to the view from Webb and Lustig that people who don't vote are apathetic and should read some fucking Orwell (ironically demonstrating that Mr Webb has actually read very little, if any, Orwell). I take your point that many voters are not necessarily apathetic but that's not really the issue here.

Webby
Nov 2 2013 11:34
Quote:
The working people of the UK threw out Churchill after the war ,we have the NHS It was implemented by government .If you don't vote ,either for the least worse option, or for a minority to show the support such the Green party you are condoning the current government,You are saying you are happy with the bedroom tax ,the selling off of Royal Mail etc.

By not voting you are condoning the current government??? Are you serious? So what are you condoning if you DO vote? Come on, do you really think we should give the whole pathetic business credibility by participating? Even puting the ideological aspect of it to one side what do you really think can be achieved? Casting a vote is like giving a aspirin to an end stage cancer victim.

Rob Ray
Nov 2 2013 12:50

Honestly I really don't care whether you want to vote or not (my examples above were meant more as rebuttal than accusation), that's your prerogative. But don't tell me what I "need" to do and assume I haven't thought about what I'm really saying by not voting, that's the same patronising shit that I'm angry about from Webb and Lustig.

Now actually, Labour tried to introduce the Bedroom Tax in 2001. Ed Miliband himself voted for it in 2007 as part of the Welfare Reform Bill. So I'm going to make a wild leap here, and say that if and when they get into power, despite their rhetoric now, they'll pull a little Clegg on you by not repealing it. And you'll no doubt bitch and moan about that, but here's the thing. You voted for it. You voted to be lied to. Remember it.

They also tried to sell off Royal Mail in 2009 using almost identical plans to the ones which have been done by the Tories. You know what stopped them? Strikes. Lots and lots of industrial action. Not a cross in a box, but direct action which scared off investors.

So in fact, who's saying they're happy with taxing the poor and selling things off here? Me? I didn't vote for those fuckers because I knew they'd do that. It's been the MO of governments red and blue for three decades. I fought them every step of the way and could do so with the clearest of understandings that they did none of this in my name. You on the other hand...

But both of these, tbh, are sideshows because what you're doing is missing the point of not voting, which is legitimacy. These people act out a play in which you are given option A: Get fucked, or option B: get fucked with bells on. There's no option C: not to be fucked at all. And as long as people like you continue to fetishise this state of affairs there never will be an option C because one or the other of A and B always get to say "I'm here because people voted for me."

The political class as a whole doesn't fear voters (hell it doesn't even listen to them, Labour is sharply to the right of the vast bulk of the public on economics), it fears powerful working class movements capable of stopping ministers cold when they try and wring out that little bit extra for themselves and their fellow capitalists. It fears challenges to its primacy as the only allowable arbiter of power.

Don't come on here with your accusations that I'm somehow being blinkered or polarising (on a binary question debate of "should you vote Labour" no less), I read widely and think carefully about the choices I make. More so than you, because I'm not simply going with the rhetorical flow provided for me by almost every mainstream media outlet going.

Oh and honestly you can fuck off citing the likes of the Levellers and the Diggers. They weren't fighting for the right to put a cross against a piece of paper, they were fighting for working class power. A mere cursory look at the trends of 30 years of neoliberal economics regardless of party should be enough to show that one is not synonymous with the other.

OneKlart
Nov 2 2013 13:49

Clearly Mr Webb has failed to compare the neoliberal meerkat dogma to reality.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/watch-robert-webb-aleksandr-orlov-2016757

Absolutely fucking brilliant spot-on blogrant there Rob Ray. Cutting like a sharpened diamond through the bullshit. Like someone said above "precision channelled anger" fucking brilliant mate.

Webby
Nov 2 2013 14:04

One thing I am grateful to Robert for is the opportunity to dish out 'Webb, you are a fucking wanker!' instead of being on the receiving end.

Paul Nelson
Nov 2 2013 14:18

Like the author you seem to be of the opinion that you either vote OR fight. Have you petty-bouregois anarchist simpletons ever grasped the concept that you can do BOTH? Yep, that's right; you can vote AND join picket lines, attend demonstrations, spray paint walls, flyer gigs and housing estates, fly-post bust stops, join Occupy camps, join sabs in the field against badger culls.

I wonder if your multi-millionaire, foppish vagabond pirate spokeman, Russell Brand, the Lidl Will Self, attended any picket lines this week? Now THAT may have made many take him a little more seriously, but I bet he was still in bed wondering if his rape-culture slut-shaming career is in anyway in direct contrast to his calls for social progress?

It is you who sneer and mock those who vote whilst simultaneously denying yourself, and encouraging others to deny themselves, a form of protest and the right of a (small) voice in the parliamentary process.

By all means have no illusions that parliamentary democracy will give us any fundamental change in the power structures in our society but from the formation of the NHS (thanks to Laour) to the attacks of ATOS (opposed by Labour) on the most vulnerable in our society clearly voting can make a erious and very real impact on many lives. But I guess you'll only realise that when you leave your middle-class student politics behind and join the real world.

Paul Nelson
Nov 2 2013 14:23

I mean, Russell fuckin Brand!!! Really?!?

wall

omen
Nov 2 2013 14:32

(Please excuse the poor likenesses, but it was a bit of a rush job. embarrassed)

Bunion_on_my_foot
Nov 2 2013 15:07
Quote:
Like the author you seem to be of the opinion that you either vote OR fight. Have you petty-bouregois anarchist simpletons ever grasped the concept that you can do BOTH? Yep, that's right; you can vote AND join picket lines, attend demonstrations, spray paint walls, flyer gigs and housing estates, fly-post bust stops, join Occupy camps, join sabs in the field against badger culls.

Webb's entire argument is that we should all be thankful Britain has not been on the receiving end of a superpower's bloodthirsty quest for world domination. He goes even further and suggests we should vote Labour even if you believe in a host of things they do not support. Lustig claimed the 1994 South African election stopped apartheid and not decades of militant struggle. It is all just total wank and an opportunity for influential twats (Brand included) to advertise themselves for Newsnight/Question Time when the next election is another record low turnout.

Cooked
Nov 2 2013 15:06
Paul Nelson wrote:
I mean, Russell fuckin Brand!!! Really?!?

wall

Forget Russel Brand, he's just the mouth that happened to say it on TV.

No one is planning to elect him as a leader (goes without saying no?) or has said anything positive about him beyond him advocating revolution and that you don't vote.

Webby
Nov 2 2013 15:15

Paul Nelson - You may want to read this thread http://libcom.org/blog/russel-brand-revolution-pragmatism-24102013 before judging how much of a spokesperson Mr Brand is considered around these here parts.
Yes, we could do all the things you mention AND vote. We could also do all of those things and dance the funky chicken. A similar level of change could be effected by both options but at least with the latter we would have a good laugh and get some exercise, plus there would be the added bonus of not falling for the con trick that has convinced countless millions that an act of base submission is act of collective power.
Seriously man, get to fuck with your lazy accusations of 'middle class student politics'.

One thing I'll give you though - calling Brand 'the Liidl Will Self'. Now that is funny.