Tag Archives: representitive democracy

So, is Russell Brand right then?

Russell Brand on Jeremy Paxman's show

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.

Money, money, money

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.

Talking about a revolution

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.

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Free education and the Liberal Democrats: a student’s perspective

A student member of the Anarchist Federation’s account of the Lib Dems’ promise on university tuition fees and the lessons learned.

Living in Sheffield at the time of the last election, I saw that there was massive voter turn-out and support for the Lib Dems amongst students. A tangible optimism and excitement existed in Nick Clegg’s constituency. Personally, I spoiled my ballot paper with, ‘If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal’. However, I did wonder whether a Lib-Dem rise could contest the New Labour/Conservative stalemate of neoliberal similarity.

Clegg now sports a satisfaction rating of minus-40 (Mori survey). This is well deserved. Instead of capping tuition fees he has overseen them triple to £9,000. Young people among many others who voted Lib-Dem have been left disillusioned by this, becoming disengaged from politics. What has been proven is not that young people are not interested in politics, but that politicians are not interested in young people.

Debt

I was lucky and only had to pay £3,000/year in fees. But I now owe the Students Loan Company £23,000. This increases by at least £30 a month due to interest, which started whilst I was still at university! I am persistently being hassled by them checking if I’m earning enough yet to start paying it back.

Neo-liberalisation

When I finished university I wanted to continue studying. However, funding for a social science Master’s degree is rare and most students are self-funded. I couldn’t stand the thought of incurring more debt by taking out a loan, so I gave up on the idea. I moved home and worked in a café trying to get out of my overdraft. I found out that there are no tuition fees in Sweden for EU citizens. I applied to Stockholm University and got in, paying living costs with money I’d earned in the café. I then found out I could return to the UK on an Erasmus exchange, avoiding tuition fees and even getting an EU grant!

This illustrates the lengths that you have to go to if you come from a background where higher education is unaffordable. Furthermore, it has taught me that a free education is feasible, but cannot be accomplished by relying on political parties and the establishment. The neo-liberalisation of higher education has proliferated under the Coalition. Education is becoming the preserve of the upper-middle-class. Research too must now be ‘competitive’, not expressing critical, independent thought.

To contest this, to strive for free education, the only way is to self-organise! The demise of the Lib-Dems has shown we cannot rely on any political party to deliver this. This is why we argue ‘Don’t Vote – Organise!’