Russell Brand, revolution and pragmatism

Russell Brand,  revolution and pragmatism

Today Russell Brand has made the news as he openly calls for revolution. Many comrades have been quick to criticise his statements for vagueness, but does it really matter if his statements didn't go far enough?

Russell Brand has long been a somewhat leftist friendly celebrity who is no stranger for causing some mild controversy. From preaching for a more humane, rehabilitative, caring response to drug addiction to performing hilarious critiques of the media with his appearances on MSNBC and the GQ awards, many people have rallied behind him and perhaps been made to stop and think about certain issues they thought they were sure on.

Though it seems for many anarchists and those on the far left in general, his efforts are hypocritical, in effective and not extreme enough to be worth getting behind. It is my opinion that in light of the state of the movement, if one can be said to exist in a meaningful way at all, these points are at least moot, and mostly counterproductive.

The fact of the matter is that Russell Brand is a celebrity with a huge public following, regular appearances in the media that reaches and influences the public in its millions. He thus has an enormous opportunity to effortlessly sway opinion in a way that we will perhaps never have. And it costs us nothing. He is not in a tiny under resourced political organization that's size dictates its biggest victory to be confined to the realm of distributing agitational propaganda; propaganda which is seen by the already converted, bar a few small gains against individuals bosses in mostly non unionised workplaces.

It hence makes absolutely no sense to only be seen as negative and cynical towards an open call for revolution and a condemnation of government, representative democracy and environmental damage. Yes, in the interview with Paxman he is tactically un clear about what his notion of revolution entails specifically and materially. This is probably because he honestly doesn’t know, but that is fine. Also, as he says the onus is not on him to do so as an individual. Of course Brand is not an anarchist. Of course he is not espousing these ideas from the position of being a proletarian. He is not being radicalised by a life of precarity and fear living on zero hour contracts, or being constantly threatened by benefit sanctions in lieu of finding non-existent jobs or creating them himself. But not only is he plainly aware of this, that isn't really the most important thing at hand.

The reality of our situation as radicals at the moment is that we are isolated and often alienated from the working class, a class we are a part of and a class that we ultimately aim to liberate as members of it ourselves. Our victories are small, our presence is largely misunderstood, limited or even non-existent. This is a truth we must confront if we want the next spontaneous expression of rage towards the status quo to be class conscious, organised, targeted and ultimately politically consequential. If not, it will manifest as it did in the riots of 2011 in the mass theft of consumer goods and wrecking our own communities resulting in imprisonment, repression and being labelled as apolitical thugs; equally condemned by the state and fellow working class people blindly succumbing to calls for draconian and reactionary measures, frenzied by a moral panic engineered by our oppressors.

To put it simply, we need to take what we can get when we are not winning the fight against capitalism in anyway at the moment. I am not calling to strive to become celebrities and to sway public opinion by means of trying to gain access to a platform that will always be against us, no matter how much it tries to simulate a debate and the illusion of alternative available via the ballot box. I don’t want anarchists to try and spread our message by getting spots on political TV shows like Question Time or Newsnight or by writing for publications like The New Statesmen.

We cannot compete with the media and we can’t hope to operate for our own interests using its apparatus which is designed by, and is a tool of those we wish to overthrow. We will never make anarchism a popular ideology by going on the news and whining about the great injustice of words like ‘anarchy’ and ‘communism’ being falsely re associated with notions of chaos and horrific totalitarianism. We can’t hope to become famous and influence public opinion in the way Brand can, or at least aspires to.

But we can influence public opinion by communicating with people on a level, fight by fight, struggle by struggle, conversation by conversation, not closed meeting by closed meeting, not TUC march by TUC march or bookfair by bookfair. And specifically with regards to Russell Brand and others like him, we can do this alongside by using this topical event as an opportunity to talk about our views, an action which does not imply we 100% endorse everything he has ever done or will do.

Posted By

Croy
Oct 24 2013 14:16

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Chilli Sauce
Oct 29 2013 20:37

Alright, couple of things here:

Croydonian wrote:
This is why I think Futility asking Commie for evidence and to back up her claims was a perfectly legitimate question.

I think there's a fundamental problem here, though, Croydonian. It's two totally different things to say 'I didn't pick up any sexism here, could you show me what you found sexist?' and 'I didn't find it sexist, therefore it's not sexist unless you can prove to me why it's sexist'. I have no truck with privilege politics, but when three regular female posters find an article sexist, I think the response of male posters should be to willingly re-examine the article, not demand proof, justifications, or "call bullshit".

Also, mate, no one is saying you're trying defend Brand in his entirety, don't worry.

JC wrote:
Is there any chance this discussion could get back to what the OP was about, i.e. what anarchists should be doing in response to a celebrity calling for revolution on national TV in an interview which then went viral?

Jim, I understand your wanting to keep this discussion practical, but as I said in a previous post, I think Brand's sexism is pretty relevant to how anarchists respond. I mean, personally, prior to that article, I had no idea Brand's schtick was so clearly patriarchal. It seems that the anarchist response should be to support the worthwhile bits of Brand's interview, while rightfully engaging interested individuals in his shortcomings - political, patriarchal, or otherwise. This conversation would certainly help me do that.

Noah Fence
Oct 29 2013 21:10
Quote:
I have no truck with privilege politics, but when three regular female posters find an article sexist, I think the response of male posters should be to willingly re-examine the article,

This. There's nothing unreasonable there yet it seems a certain competitiveness often comes to the surface when sexism is brought up.

Quote:
It seems that the anarchist response should be to support the worthwhile bits of Brand's interview, while rightfully engaging interested individuals in his shortcomings - political, patriarchal, or otherwise.

Maybe so, but dependant on who you're talking too I think one thing at a time may be the right approach. In this case that doesn't mean putting sexism at the back of the queue until the important stuff is sorted out, it means explaining why parliamentary politics is fucked because that is how the whole debate started and for most people that you may talk to its a massive ask to get them over such a heavily indoctrinated hump.

futility index
Oct 30 2013 02:45
Quote:
Ah women, with their childish tantrums. You know what's childish? Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of something which is plainly and clearly laid out for you in black and white.

How about you run this past some women that are not leftist ideologues. Ask them their opinion of your 'black and white' sexist quotes. Might be interesting, I certainly found it to be.

Quote:
Ah, racist and sexist in one, neat, bite-size package

A white woman just called me a racist for typing the word 'nigger' on the internet. This is truly a special moment. I'm going to be charitable and assume you don't remember me IRL, but either way you continue to validate my comments about alternate realities. I've dealt with more than my fair share of racial abuse, yet I can survive seeing a slur in full online. Maybe its because I don't subscribe to an ideology that continually reinforces a persecution complex? Or perhaps because I don't wilfully blind myself to context?

Quote:
Futility, we all reproduce sexism. I do it, you most certainly do it

As much as you and other feminists want "we all reproduce sexism" to have the same gravity as "we all reproduce capital" it never actually will. You can state it as condescendingly as you want, but the former is a theory and the latter is a fact. I'm sure you would like it to be as beyond question as aspects of your class politics are, but its not happening.

Quote:
Yeah, cos you entered this debate with good, honest intentions. It's not like you wrote some half-arsed, shitty, dismissive, sexist post to begin with.

There was nothing sexist in my post. At all. I asked for evidence, you didn't like it and got personal. Here it is again -

Quote:
Since you can't be arsed - the article only refers to women in the first sentence that you took issue with and indirectly in a crap metaphor halfway through.

I think its fair to say most men and women have related more positively than average to a person they've found attractive. I don't see how a comic making that explicit is sexist.

As usual, challenging feminists is itself sexist. Convenient.

Will come back to other people's replies later, had enough of this circlejerk for tonight.

Tyrion
Oct 30 2013 03:23
futility index wrote:
As usual, challenging feminists is itself sexist. Convenient.

Appalling post, what an explosion of resentment toward women.

Chilli Sauce
Oct 30 2013 10:18

I don't think this conversation is going anywhere at this point, so I'll try to keep this short.

I'm not sure it matters if you showed some quotes to some women who didn't find the quotes offensive. As Steven's already pointed out, a majority of women in America purport to be opposed to abortion. Does that suddenly mean feminists are wrong to fight for reproductive rights?

Similarly (and I just figured out who you are) it's good that you have the stomach to handle the N-word - however, some people certainly won't. Disparaging someone who chooses to err on the side of inoffensiveness regarding this particular matter is, to me, fairly strange behavior.

And, sorry mate, but we all do reproduce sexism. Obviously, we can try to consciously fight it, and we should. But we're all going to act (quite possibly unconsciously) in certain ways - based on the conditioning we've received by living in a patriarchal society - that are patriarchal. In those acts, we help to reproduce that patriarchy.

Devrim
Oct 30 2013 08:29
Quote:
I have no truck with privilege politics, but when three regular female posters find an article sexist, I think the response of male posters should be to willingly re-examine the article,

I have no truck with privilege politics either, and I know very little about Russell Brand. One of the few things I do know is that he has an absolutely appalling attitude towards women. The New Statesman article isn't the worst of the few things I have seen from him in this regard, but reflects this attitude to women.

What I find a little surprising though is the idea that he had anything interesting to say in that interview. What I took from it is that he said that his not voting was a reflection of a general attitude in the social environment he comes from. We all know that in most Western countries there is voter turnout of around 60% in general elections. What that means is that around half of the working class doesn't take part in the electoral process, which suggests that they don't think it is worthwhile. If we add to that people who vote without much conviction anyway I'd say it is pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of the working class has no conviction that the electoral process has anything to offer them. We all knew that anyway though, and I think the working class knows it much better than the left, which is full of parliamentary illusions.

Devrim

Chilli Sauce
Oct 30 2013 10:21

Good post Devrim.

What I might add is that, in my experience, that rightful reluctance to vote expressed by - in American anyway - the absolute majority of the working class is quite passive. Not voting certainly doesn't equal class or revolutionary consciousness. If the Brand interview opens up the space to catalyze those underlying sentiments into something more concrete, well, then I think it has some value.

Serge Forward
Oct 30 2013 10:48
Quote:
What I find a little surprising though is the idea that he had anything interesting to say in that interview.

It's all about context, Devrim. If Russell Brand had posted his views (without any sexist bits) on Libcom, for example, they would have been seen as unremarkable but nevertheless might have been criticised for their woolliness... albeit nicely, if he was a 'newbie' wink

Likewise, if he had spoken the same views in a pub frequented by a random cross-section of working class people, I suspect many of those present would say his comments were fair play.

The telly, however, is not how it was years ago. I remember Channel 4 when it showed films about the IWW and the Jewish anarchist movement and had interviews with Cornelius Castoriadis - compare today with its facile reality TV and home-makeover programmes, There was also a time when BBC1 had peak viewing time programmes about class struggle, WW1 mutinies, general strikes, with occasional revolutionary ideas chucked in (Days of Hope, Close the Coal House Door and the Monocled Mutineer) - today it's endless Eastenders and the One Show. Even ITV had programmes like Ray Gosling's On Site, in which he would interview people 'on site' who were involved in some local community struggle - that slot now shows Emmerdale.

The context is that nowadays, the views expressed by Brand (even though they may be held by many) are rarely seen on national telly. The fact that they were, and the fact that they were spoken by this archetypal dumb-down TV merchant is what is remarkable.

commieprincess
Oct 30 2013 13:52

Futility - I'm not gonna get sucked back in, there's a lots I'd love to say in reponse to what you just shat out onto the page, but just wanted to apologise for assuming you were white in response to the n-word stuff. That was shitty of me.

Khawaga
Oct 30 2013 14:44
futilitymisogyny wrote:
As much as you and other feminists want "we all reproduce sexism" to have the same gravity as "we all reproduce capital" it never actually will. You can state it as condescendingly as you want, but the former is a theory and the latter is a fact. I'm sure you would like it to be as beyond question as aspects of your class politics are, but its not happening

Too bad you just gave empirical evidence for precisely how sexism is reproduced right there. Indeed, your whole behavior on this thread has been you reproducing your own sexist behavior. You are fucking clueless and your arguments are embarrassingly pathetic attempts at justifying patriarchy. You really should think through what it is you are saying or go to some MRA forum on reedit because that is where your views belong, not on libcom.

Ramona
Oct 30 2013 17:18

This thread has now been locked.