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Russel Brand’s Revolution

Russel Brand recently made an appearance on BBC’s Newsnight that seems to have struck a tone across the internet. He talks about revolution, political corruption, social transformation, and humor. The interview is really good to watch. I offer some analysis and thoughts below.

First, the video:

Second, the article:
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution

And now, my criticisms.

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  • He does have a keen grasp of class and power
  • He recognizes that profit is problematic and may understand some basics of Labor Theory of Value
  • His sharp criticism of the current system is very good (though he would gain developing his thoughts more, especially on what type of world we want)
  • He has an excellent criticism of the doldrum attitudes among the left when it comes , (which to me seem to focus on the Leninist left, largely – programmatic serial serious chanters, no sense of humor on the picket lines)
  • Sharp criticism of charity politics via his experience with Live Aid
  • Seems to grasp the concept of the social constructions
  • Understands that social change is not about a dogmatic adherence to ideology (this is important even though he rejects atheism and materialism in the same line).
  • An understanding of the spiritual root of socialism (imagine that)

PROBLEMATIC THINGS

  • He is AT BEST a social democrat in the “third way” sense.
  • His idea of “revolution” is limited at best, contains a tacit rejection of Marxist traditions
  • Puts “spirituality” at the center of revolutionary struggle, not recognizing how the social concept of the “human spirit” manifests through material means and operates as a social operand
  • He situates the center of the core of social crisis on economic inequality without digging to the root of that inequality.
  • He suggests massive taxation and regulation of capital as a possible solution (essentially third way SD, though certainly on the radical end of that)
  • He seems to encapsulate and appeal to some degree to the largely white working class anger about the state of their material lives (among liberal circles, not reactionary right-wing ones). I’ve heard similar comments by people of color for years without much of a response from the media
  • He assumes revolution is inevitable (if it is inevitable we don’t have to organize it)
  • Disconnects socialism with a connection between individuals and the world we live in (which may be a consequence of Leninism more than anything else).
  • Makes broad sweeping assumptions about “Pagan” societies (a term derived by early Catholics to define the other).
  • Seems to promote a rejection of internal criticism among the left (which leaves it open to replicating the same social problems that exist in broader society)
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Brand visited Kibera in Kenya during his experience with Live Aid. Photo: Getty

HIS CLOSING QUOTE

But we are far from apathetic, we are far from impotent. I take great courage from the groaning effort required to keep us down, the institutions that have to be fastidiously kept in place to maintain this duplicitous order. Propaganda, police, media, lies. Now is the time to continue the great legacy of the left, in harmony with its implicit spiritual principles. Time may only be a human concept and therefore ultimately unreal, but what is irrefutably real is that this is the time for us to wake up.

The revolution of consciousness is a decision, decisions take a moment. In my mind the revolution has already begun.”

MY THOUGHTS:

A Bit post-structuralist, but honestly true in many rights. His reliance on “spirituality” is a bit problematic, though he seems to reach towards a “spirituality” that is more in line or connected with the lived material existence of people than some abstract notions of “God” and righteousness. TBH the points he makes on spirituality seem more like they are coming from someone who rejects Leninist party purity models (doldrum, a-humorous left)  but accepts the basic nature of the socially defined materially manifested concept of “human spirituality” (IE there is not human spirit beyond our social connection to life we are surrounded by). That might be an incorrect assumption on my part, but he seems to understand some of the basics of this already. Brand seems to truly feel his politics and though they do have some troubles, these politics would be a great point of departure from which to move onto much bigger ventures.

My major problem with this objectively, however, is that plenty of people of color have been saying the similar/same things for YEARS and have yet to receive this media attention and Brand should address this in some regard if he truly believes what he says. That’s not a lot to ask IMO.

I would love to hear in detail what other people think about this.

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