So, is Russell Brand right then? - Anarchist Federation

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.

Comments

2fast2war
Apr 25 2015 01:17

"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."

To be clear on this point, this slogan refers to a later stage of post-socialist development according to Marxist thought. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme after abolishing capitalism, society would transition to a system where "the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it" and subsequently "the same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another". Meaning Marx anticipated a disequilibrium based on amount worked, amongst other things, in the incipient stages of socialism.

Similarly, Bakunin advocates that workers' salaries be determined by democratic council, based on the difficulty of the work in question and time. Given that "money" is now simply the word we use to denote the abstract representation of exchange, what Brand is advocating sounds like collectivist anarchism, which most of us still consider to be a legitimate strand of anarchism.

We can debate quite seriously that anarcho-communism is superior, but his position is not prima facie an erroneous one to hold.

Spikymike
Apr 25 2015 15:42

2fast2war,

Well the AF is an anarchist-communist organisation in to-days world so they are presumably argueing their point of view here rather than the more traditional anarchist-collectivist view, despite their liking otherwise for Bakunin, and of course Marx's stab at an approach to the problems of a transition to communism in his day did not include the use of money as he understood that.

There is an extensive discussion of all this following a text by David Adam here;
http://libcom.org/library/marx's-critique-socialist-labor-money-schemes-myth-council-communism's-proudhonism
Edit: yet again this link reference doesn't seem to work on this site so just search David Adam and it will come up!

dark_ether
May 4 2015 19:11

Well, looks like he's changed his deep critique of our current political system to 'its ok to vote aslong as is for nice people like Lucas or people who really care and listen like Milliband' *face palm*.

Atleast we didn't write a positive article about him, but sounds like we should've been even more scathing.

Steven.
May 4 2015 22:12
dark_ether wrote:
Well, looks like he's changed his deep critique of our current political system to 'its ok to vote aslong as is for nice people like Lucas or people who really care and listen like Milliband' *face palm*.

Atleast we didn't write a positive article about him, but sounds like we should've been even more scathing.

yes, quite! Bit of a discussion about his U-turn here: http://libcom.org/forums/news/dont-vote-russell-brand-now-says-vote-laboursnpgreen-04052015

rat
May 5 2015 20:23
dark_ether wrote:
we should've been even more scathing.

We should've ignored him.

Chilli Sauce
May 6 2015 09:03

The thing is though, I do think it's worth engaging with Brand's arguments.

For better or for worse - and in his incoherent and contradictory way - he does speak to a certain section of the youth. I don't think we're going to make him an anarchist and I don't think we should try, but I do think certain people will come to anarchism via Brand. Having good, accessible articles to point out his misunderstanding of capitalism, social movements, and revolution is surely a good thing.

Anyway, any interesting non-anarchist links responsing to Brand's change of heart?

Art Vandelay
May 21 2016 17:42

It seem cavalier to be calling Julian Assange a rapist when one of the condoms presented as evidence did not contain his DNA, he has not yet been charged and, although I am not saying it is the case, with an individual hated by the US gov't as much as Assange, it seems ignorant not to acknowledge that it could be a honeytrap.

redsdisease
May 21 2016 17:56

Presenting an infowars link is not a great way to be taken seriously.

Jenre
May 23 2016 14:14
Art Vandelay wrote:
It seem cavalier to be calling Julian Assange a rapist when one of the condoms presented as evidence did not contain his DNA, he has not yet been charged and, although I am not saying it is the case, with an individual hated by the US gov't as much as Assange, it seems ignorant not to acknowledge that it could be a honeytrap.

He's a rapist because he had unconsensual sex with another person. Which he has not denied. Therefore he is a fucking rapist. End of.