The corporate media have been quick to pounce on Russell Brand's comments that his Revolution has failed. But Brand is nothing if not a complicated and unpredictable character...

IT WAS IN HIS FAMOUS INTERVIEW with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman in October 2013 that comedian and bit-of-a-lad-about-town Russell Brand announced his politics to the world. It was a remarkable interview; here was an international celebrity announcing that capitalism was stuffed, that representative democracy had failed and that the only valid response was not to vote. "I don't want to legitimise any of these elitist parties with my vote,' he tweeted in 2014.

Paxman, used to interviewing media-trained politicians who said predictable things in handy sanitised sound bites, was clearly taken aback. Brand was not behaving like the usual self-serving celebrity. He wasn't playing by the rules and Paxman, as much a part of the establishment as the politicians he interviewed, was having none of it.

Brand later recounted the interview in his book Revolution, published in 2014:

'So...' he says in a voice so intoned with sarcasm I wonder whether it will come out of his nose, 'how, if you think people shouldn't vote, how are we going to change the world?'

'Through Revolution, ' I say.

'You want a Revolution?'


'You believe there's going to be Revolution?' He shunts the question at me like a billiard ball.

'Jeremy, I have no doubt,' I reply.

Less than three years later Brand appears to have had a dramatic change of heart. In an interview with The Sun he has declared that his Revolution has failed - ""I can't tell if it was spiritual enlightenment or mental illness."

These comments would of no doubt delighted the tabloid, that 'champion' of the political establishment, which was not so long ago was describing Brand as a raving loony. They now, on the surface at least, have captured Brand condemning himself.

Brand's foray into politics was curtailed after Labour's election defeat in 2015. He upset many by endorsing the cautiously centrist politics of Ed Miliband's Labour - a decision he later said he regretted.

He has clearly been chastened by the experience.

He told The Sun; "The next day when it turned out the Conservatives were elected more than ever before, I thought 'oh fuck' I've broken England, shit."

While Brand's latest observations might confirm for some - who don't like him or his politics anyway - that he is a narcissistic egoist, Brand is nothing if not a complicated and unpredictable character. For those eager to dismiss him as a wealthy git who toyed with left wing politics for a while before retreating back into his private life again, they will want us to forget that he has, in recent times, criticised the 'corporate politics' of Hillary Clinton and defended Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, he said, had been unfairly targeted 'simply because he is out in public talking on behalf of ordinary people".

But the political establishment , both its conservative and liberal wings, would like to rejoice in the 'defeat' of Russell Brand. His trenchant criticism of an economic system that serves only a few at the expense of the many upset those who seek to protect the status quo. And so did his criticism of representative democracy which he nailed as having been co-opted by the corporate elite through funding, lobbying and the revolving door. Nor did his frequent attacks on a corporate media that tamely does the bidding of its wealthy owners endear him with 'the commentariat'.

Like Paxman, they demanded what was his alternative and were further incensed when he dared to suggest that we needed a Revolution. I imagine they now think they've got Brand right where they want him now that he has 'admitted' his Revolution has failed.

But, in some ways, Brand has already won. Many of the folk - many of them young - who watched him slug it out with Paxman or watched him on his YouTube channel The Trews or have read his book have probably been inspired to continue the fight. They may well have joined the movement of Bernie Sanders or are defending Jeremy Corbyn from the attempt by the Blairite right to dislodge him. Perhaps they're involved in issues in their local communities that go unnoticed by the corporate media. Maybe they've gone on to read Marx. Or Luxemburg. Or Naomi Klein.
Of course Brand could legitimately be said to be over all the shop when it comes to how to achieve the Revolution he seeks. In his book he grapples for a revolutionary strategy, throwing in everything from new age spiritualism, to meditation, to quantum physics. Largely missing in his analysis is any place for Marxism, which Brand incorrectly assumes is purely concerned with economics.

But Brand continues to ask questions. What the corporate media have been quick to depict as Brand conceding that his Revolution has failed is probably no more than him continuing to drill down into what Revolution means in twenty-first century Britain.

I'll continue to defend Russell Brand because he continues to ask questions, even of himself. As Mark Steel has written of his fellow comedian:

"The most effective complaint about Brand's call to arms is that it's confused. He poses only questions but has no solutions," it's claimed. Which is also true, but in a world in which it's accepted by all major parties that banks and giant corporations and vast inequality are inevitable and can't be curtailed, the most radical act can be to ask why."

Indeed. In a world where neoliberalism has dominated to the extent that "it is now far easier for us to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism..", continuing to imagine the end of capitalism can be viewed as a revolutionary act.

And, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote, we must always struggle for new revelations.


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated.