the Informed

On Russell Brand, Voting & How Not to Start a Revolution

After Russell Brand's long anti-voting stance, the comedian and activist stated today on his YouTube channel The Trews, that voters in the UK should vote for Ed Miliband on Thursday's election. But until today, an outspoken advocate against voting for a corrupt system has suddenly reversed his stance by supporting the Labour Party leader in an attempt to help oust the Tories from power. What should one think about all of this, about an activist who once so vehemently argued that the system is failed and corrupt, and who now says that it is prudent to vote for the lesser of two evils? On voting, altered beliefs and conviction.

From the beginning, I have been a fan of The Trews. His brand (sorry) of politics, activism and wit has been a staple in my daily diet of political opinion and truth-seeking from the inception of his channel, and while I haven't always agreed with his opinions, his world-view has largely resonated with me and I have been able to look past where our ideologies differ and listen to his overall message - a message that I too believe in, of tolerance, love and revolution. A fundamental piece of that world-view was, famously, that the political system is flawed, corrupt and only serves our corporate elite, and as such cannot be trusted and cannot be repaired from within; hence the futility of voting and the necessity for the massive rejection of the electoral and political systems. But as of today, that fundamental piece changed; changed because Mr. Brand says that there is now a figure worth voting for, if only to not let the other guy in.

The backlash against Brand has been substantial, and rightly so. In his interview with Jeremy Paxman in 2013, Brand defended his stance by stating:

It's not that I'm not voting out of apathy. I'm not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now, and which has now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system, so that's not something I'm offering up. - Russell Brand, 2013

While Mr. Brand has acknowledged that interview and his book, Revolution, in his Trews episode endorsing Miliband, something is amiss. What has caused this self-proclaimed revolutionary to so radically change his beliefs and support a mainstream candidate leading a party that has caused as much grief and anguish in its last turn at running the country as the Tories have in theirs? In its eighty-six page manifesto, the Labour Party outlines its populist mandate,Once a strong voice against the elite political class, he has now embraced at least a part of it, and that has disillusioned many of his followers and while it may look positive on its face, it is clear to any hardened political critic that it really only spouts so much rhetoric and it is clearly trying too hard to be everything to everyone. It mentions in one of its summary pages of key points for example, that it will "give football fans a voice in club boardrooms" yet by contrast the entire document only contains five short, luke-warm paragraphs about their stance on the environment, arguably any nation's biggest threat today, and it fails to mention the environment in its key summary page at all. While few would still argue that the Tories have been good for the UK, the Labour Party is hardly an alternative in the corrupt political landscape of Britain. And Mr. Brand knows this, so what gives? Once a strong voice against the elite political class, he has now embraced at least a part of it, and that has disillusioned many of his followers. And what of Mr. Brand's stance on conviction? Watch this excerpt from his 2009 New York stand-up special on the subject.

This seems all to familiar to those of us that were so hopeful for change during the 2008 US Presidential campaign that saw Barack Obama historically voted in. In a campaign year where so many opposed the Republican Party and its policies on war, terror and the economy, the Democrats leveraged this by promising radical change. Sadly, we all know how that has turned out.

So why does Brand feel that Miliband is any different? Is it only about getting the current tyrannical party out of power, and so desperate to do so that denying his deeply-rooted beliefs is the only way? How could one of our so-called leaders in this revolution make such an abrupt about-face, especially in the eleventh hour when so many who might have followed his previous advice cannot even register now in these final days preceding the election? As necessary as it is for the UK to ensure that the Tories do not gain a majority government in the coming election, turning one's back on one's fundamental beliefs to sway the election away from the Tories, however desirable that may be, is not the way of a revolutionary. Only a watered-down so-called champagne revolutionary could think that way.

You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves. - Joseph Stalin

No, one cannot make a revolution with silk gloves, and I, like many others, had a difficult time in the first place wrapping my head around the idea that Brand, a multi-millionaire comedian-turned-activist, could really be the voice of the revolution that clearly needs to happen. By his own statement, Brand is now tacitly complicit with the political system by his choice to endorse Miliband.

While Brand is sincere, and he may think that any vote for Miliband is a vote against the Tories, this type of dangerous thinking is what has lulled us away from revolution in the past and led us down the path of acceptance of corrupt power and the tolerance of tyranny. Brand is at risk of becoming another non-radical revolutionary, if he is not already, and his endorsement of Miliband is a red flag for many of his followers. He often speaks in strong language, and the reason that the voice of revolution can often contain such strong rhetoric is because revolution is, by its nature, a strong force. As Martin Luther King once said, "a riot is the language of the unheard," and it is revolution that makes that language heard and transforms it into change. But supporting the corrupt political system outright in any way is not how to effect a revolution, especially by endorsing mainstream political candidates, even if only to stop the more heinous option.

There are no more non-radical options left, to paraphrase a great Canadian writer. The argument that the lesser of two evils is still the better option is only valid if there truly are only two options. But there are other choices, and in the case of any power in the world, it is only as strong as its people allow it to be. This is serious business, the attempted remaking of a world gone mad, where psychopathic old white men wreak havoc on our world. When these greedy men destroy its systems, people and other inhabitants for profit, their sickness for power and wealth is all-encompasing. Anyone who says they are a revolutionary must know that while you may be forced to live within this system and find some way to be productive within the confines of its inherent sickness, you cannot support it without being complicit of it. To vote for the lesser of two evils and to think in that way is to be an accomplice to the crime.

The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. - Winston S. Churchill

As for the future of what Russell Brand thinks will bring the revolution, only time will tell and I would love to see the massive, fair, grassroots change that Miliband is selling take shape, but we all As it stands in society today, the people are and always will be secondary to the eliteknow it won't, because we know that governments around the world are no longer primarily for the people, if they ever were. As it stands in society today, the people are and always will be secondary to the elite, whether those elite be political or otherwise. While I still admire Brand for his efforts and success, Russell Brand will not lead the revolution, neither will Ed Miliband or even you or me. But that's ok; it should be led by all of us, the non-one-percent, the billions not in that category, we will lead the revolution.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Follow me on Twitter @craiganthonyiii
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