A new Brand of Revolutionary?

By Nick Hart

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Photo by Eva Rinaldi

It always says something about the stability of the ruling elite when the court jester starts calling for the king’s head. This happened last month when the normally stuffy and rarefied confines of BBC’s Newsnight were shaken up by Russell Brand using an interview with Jeremy Paxman to call for revolutionary change.

In contrast to the usual parade of hapless career politicians and establishment ‘experts’, the boy from Essex attempted to speak for what he called ‘the disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass’. Or to put it in less wordy language, the working class, which he comes from and continues to identify with.

At the time of writing over 10 million people have viewed the uncut version on Youtube, with activists seeing many ‘normal’ friends share it online, showing the anger and disgust felt towards the vague notion of the 1% and their pals in parliament. Brand wore the fact that he’s never voted as a badge of honour, winding up his interviewer by seemingly sticking two fingers up to ‘democracy’ as Paxman sees it. But a third of the registered voters didn’t bother last time out either. Add in ‘protest votes’ for small parties, and ‘none of the above’ becomes the UK’s largest political party.

What this really shows that what ordinary people lack in this country is a party of their own. The politics graduate clique ruling New Labour seems embarrassed to have any links to working men and women through trade unions – also known as organised labour. Instead they try and target increasingly more bizarre sections of the population such as ‘Aldi Woman who lives in Loughborough with her left handed husband and 3.574 kids’, ‘fans of David Bowie, but only the pre-Berlin albums’ or ‘owners of a second hand silver Ford Focus’. Or in other words, anyone but the working class.

While Ed Milliband thought that pledging to cap energy prices and create more private gas and electric companies to spend half your Sunday comparing was a bold move, 68% of Brits think that they should be fully renationalised. The same goes for the railways, which 70% of the population would like to see publicly owned, or Royal Mail, where the selling of shares could’ve been made unworkable by a pledge to renationalise it if Labour get elected.

On these issues and many others statistical evidence and word of mouth show most people are well to the left of the current blue, red and yellow brands of pro-big business politics. This, along with the likes of Owen Jones, Mark Steel and now Russell Brand being raised on a pedestal by many young people looking for an alternative shows how a new party based in working class and poor communities putting forward demands in favour of the 99% could capture the imagination.

Rather than existing to provide it’s leading lights with a cosy job and ego massage it could stand candidates who will only take the wage of an average worker and devote their energy to helping to build the campaigns on the streets and the estates that can change things. Can’t be done? The West Midland’s very own Dave Nellist spent two terms as an MP in Coventry during the eighties, supporting the miners’ strike and the anti poll tax campaign that brought Thatcher down.

But more than just ‘fighting the good fight’, what’s really needed is mass action by the 99% to replace the current system of voting every four years whilst 147 mega-corporations will still control 40% of the world economy. In other words, a revolution. If by his own admission Russell Brand is unable to offer concrete examples of what this would mean, then as a start workers control of those 147 on a democratic basis could start planning of food production, energy, and the worlds resources to meet human need rather than shareholder profit.

Wether we should turn Brand into a figurehead or leader for the kind of mass movement we need to make that happen is questionable, not least due to his patronising attitude towards women (plus alleged sexual harassment) and the fact that his fame and £10m fortune has perhaps given him less of a handle on the problems of everyday life these days.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he was right that we need a revolution to stop the disgusting poverty and inequality that exists under capitalism. And if just a few young people watch the interview, google ‘socialist egalitarian system’ and decide to dedicate themselves to bringing that about, then he’ll have done a good job.