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“There is no heroic revolutionary figure in whom we can invest hope, except for ourselves as individuals together”, he says, in his book entitled ‘Revolution’ having the front cover plastered with a close up, retouched shot of his own face. His twitter avatar is a deliberate play on Che Guevara, an Argentinian revolutionary, executed with the assistance of the CIA. He might even be running for London Mayor (don’t worry, it turns out he isn’t). So, who is this radical force coming to dismantle all the systems of oppression in this world? Is it Marx resurrected? No, it’s Russell fucking Brand. Comedian, actor, and ‘activist’ (apparently).
The socialist uprising many of us were hoping for has had a questionable wardrobe revamp and has been handed to us in the form of Russell Brand. A celebrity who claims that the revolution is about us individuals together, has succeeded in making the entire thing about himself.
Before I’m accused of trying to sabotage the ‘revolution’, let it be known that much of what Brand says I find agreeable. I want radical change. I want the poverty gap eliminated, and I want our democratic institutions to be extensively reformed. I want real equality between all genders, perhaps an elimination of ‘gender’ itself. I nodded in agreement with Brand’s comments on the Islamophobia that was seen in the recent halal meat controversy. And if he’s making young people engage with politics more than they currently are, that really can’t be faulted. But the first and biggest of many problems that I had with Russell Brand – when people were practically spamming my Facebook newsfeed last year with his ‘takedown’ of Paxman – was his advocation and romanticising of not voting. I think that instructing people, especially young and impressionable people, not to vote, is frankly naïve and bordering on moronic.
A celebrity who claims that the revolution is about us, has succeeded in making the entire thing about himself.
There is the option not to vote as a protest – anarchists amongst us are well aware of this. But Brand seems to portray the idea that it’s UKIP, Conservative, Labour, maybe the Lib Dems (pre-fees fuck up), or nothing. Either vote for that, or don’t vote. Makes sense, right? Except that there’s countless more parties in the UK. Yes, there’s a two or three party domination, which urgently needs to be challenged. But there are parties out there that many politically disengaged people desperately need to know about in order to change this paradigm. People seem to think they’re only choice as of now is UKIP, Conservative, Labour or The Russell Brand Party. What about the Green Party, Russell? What about the Communist Party, since you seem so intent on getting the revolution going? Given that the majority of people who do still turnout to vote will influence the decision themselves, I don’t feel that discouraging people from exercising their democratic right because ‘Russell Brand said not to do it’ is wise.
As a woman, a woman of colour and a child of an immigrant, the rise in popularity of parties like UKIP scare the shit out of me, so I definitely will be voting, Russell. Your position as a white, privileged man certainly gives you the luxury of choice not to vote. You say you’re not voting because you’re exhausted by the political class – but know that there is much more to politics than Dave and Nick sitting in their ill fitting suits. You do have the power to change things drastically, but I just don’t think viral Facebook posts of Russell Brand talking at us for ten minutes a pop is the way it’s going to happen.
We seem to get carried away with the culture of celebrity and forget that there is a narcissistic element to this – a hell of a lot of self-promotion.
Just look at the front cover of his ‘revolutionary’ book. This is a man who bases many of his ‘Trews’ posts just talking about what Fox News have said about him (are we seeing the ‘me me me’ element here?), who compares himself to Che Guevara, who tells impressionable people that hang on to his every word that the be all and end all of politics is the three party system. It’s not. And whilst I completely advocate not voting in protest if you genuinely do not feel that a single party represents you at all, I ask you to at least look through the manifestos of each one before you jump on the Brandwagon. You won’t vote, everybody else will, the status quo will remain.
Revolution for me is gradual, considered and thoughtfully implemented, it’s not reading a subpar book edited and researched by a known plagiariser (read: Johann Hari) and then thinking ‘fuck it, not gonna vote’. Radical changes, at least the changes that Brand are calling for, take time. I guess I’m just a Menshevik at heart.