The AF give their view on Russell Brand, the comedian-turned-activist who opposes voting and calls himself anarchist in his new book, Revolution.
Celebrity sexist Russell Brand has recently added ‘revolutionary’ to his CV, and he’s written a book about it. He has also turned out in person to support things like the successful housing struggle of the New Era Estate residents in London. If you can stomach the man himself, he seems to offer something to people sick of inequality, war-mongering and political hypocrisy. Brand agrees with anarchists on many things and refers to himself as an anarchist in his new book ‘Revolution’. He won’t be voting in the election for pretty much the same reasons that anarchists won’t be. The Spanish revolution inspires him as the best social experiment in history, as it does us. So, we should say what we think about him.
Brand genuinely does see political parties as all the same, and electoral politics as a sham which serves the rich and powerful. But he seems unaware of what lies behind inequality. This is how he has come to the conclusion that society should be run by small, decentralised ‘groups’, which don’t act against anyone else’s interests, and which help each other out when needed. Great! But they would apparently still use money.
You can’t have both equality and money! The whole point of money is to have more of it than someone else. And no, we wouldn’t all be trading turnips for sheep in an anarchist society. We’d give and receive freely. So, although Brand has face-palmed Marx’s ‘From each according to (their) ability, to each according to (their) need’, he doesn’t understand what Marx meant. Money doesn’t enter into it.
So how does he think this ‘revolution’ will happen? Unfortunately, Gandhi is explicitly his model. It isn’t so much that Brand is a pacifist, but that he glosses over violence by thinking that if enough of us rise up, the state won’t be able to do anything about it. Aside from talking to the prominent anarchist David Graeber, he doesn’t seem to have thought about this stuff seriously. So where he agrees with Graeber that we should take-over the functions of the state and make it redundant, he disagrees that we will need to defend the revolution. In fact, he says he has no ill will towards the police or army. Well that’s OK for this white, male revolutionary, who these days is rich and healthy too. In fact, when it comes to political freedoms in general, he is a little vague and places his faith in human nature and ‘Love’, as opposed to properly thought-out social structures.
Also, although Brand talks of ‘social recalibration’, his is a purely economic revolution, not one which would change other aspects of our damaged society. For example – and Brand, who claims to be challenging his own sexism, should take note – it would mean a believing stance towards rape survivors, instead of towards Julian Assange, such as he takes in ‘Revolution.’
So, genuinely angry at capitalism as he is, Brand is not qualified to be a spokesperson of the revolution. He will be using the royalties from ‘Revolution’ to set up a self-managed business for recovering addicts. But revolution has to be made by people oppressed by class, race, gender, sexuality, ability and lack of opportunity, all acting together. We should use as little violence as possible, but we have to defend the gains we make, which the people on the New Era Estate can do with or without Russell Brand.