Tag Archives: labour

UNITE AND/OR FIGHT? THE LEFT RESPONSE TO RUSSELL BRAND’S REVOLUTION

By Owen Adams

WHAT is the left-wing best at? Surely slogans calling on us all to unite and fight against the privileged few?

The cruel irony is,  it’s the right-wing that has succeeded in being united to prop up the interests of the privileged few, while the left eats itself to near-oblivion with accusations and counter-accusations, some petty, others fundamental. Cries of “sell-out!”, “fake!”, “traitor!” ring out across the broad spectrum which now encompasses anything from mainstream Labour (which, according to the Political Compass, was planted in the centre-authoritarian-right when last measured in 2010) to anarcho-communist, aka libertarian socialist.

Many of us who identify as ‘left’ have a common goal, that of the emancipation of the people and end to exploitation, but how will we ever get anywhere if we don’t unite? And how can we get the message across to the masses struggling beneath the onslaught of the elite against us that the greed of capitalism, the morass of exploitation, is not human nature but moral injustice? That we’re trying to end a class war not of our making, while trying to save our planet from the ravages of the elite?

One problem is many people see revolutionary or any other sort of change as a Pandora’s box, they are gripped with fear of the unknown so continue on the same old path designated to us by the elite. And this notion was what inspired the latest FOIST track, which took us a gargantuan two months to create.

As I was uploading the track on to the internet, impatiently telling my Facebook friends to watch out for it, my newsfeed was full of a clip from BBC’s Newsnight, which just blew me away. A famous person given eight minutes of airtime seemed to be echoing the title of our latest FOIST oeuvre “all we are saying is give anarchy a chance”. All too often it seems many who call themselves anarchists are anything but, while numerous others advocate classical anarchism without using the term, and the latter seemed very much to be the case here. The A-list celebrity stated as my heart and soul cheered: “The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we’re exploiting poor people all over the world and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.”

Jeremy Paxman, while archly playing his establishment interviewer’s role, agreed “all those things may be true”. But what was the comedian-actor-presenter-writer’s scheme? “A socialist egalitarian system, based on the massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations and massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment… I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced. David Cameron said profit isn’t a dirty word, I say profit is a filthy word. Because wherever there is profit there is also deficit. And this system currently doesn’t address these ideas.”

He may not have used the A-word, but he did use the S-word.

I was exhilarated, particularly as I saw the initial positive reaction from not only committed anarchists but friends who rarely voice political opinions. The message was gaining ground, a call for revolution, and Channel 4’s Paul Mason wrote a piece largely applauding the messenger and his message.

As you’d expect, it was just a few hours before rightwing commentators began wading in to pick apart this extraordinary primetime television exchange. But at about the same time also came the first volleys from the left.

If it had been Noam Chomsky, David Graeber, Howard Zinn, Stuart Christie, Ian Bone, Mark Steel, Mark Thomas or the ghosts of Bakunin, Durutti, Malatesta, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman or even Karl Marx in the chair opposite Paxman making similar arguments, I doubt whether there would have been such a rumpus (then again, I doubt whether they would have got eight minutes on Newsnight). But this was Russell Brand, Marmite man. And this, I believe, has had a massive bearing on the response, the messenger in danger of overshadowing the message.

So what are people saying and what have I been saying back?

“I can’t stand Russell Brand.”

Until recently, nor could I. Narcissistic to the point of inducing revulsion, questions need to be asked about Brand’s attitude to women, which more than borders on the misogynistic. His self-adoration and his quest for stardom can partly be explained by his ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but his alleged sexist behaviour must be challenged.

Titling his autobiography My Booky-Wook annoyed me to the point of rage. What did anyone see in him apart from having the gift of the gab? But then I discovered his Nazi Boy documentary, made before he hit the big time, where he wholly showed up the BNP as sad, friendless losers, I started reading his prose in the Guardian, I saw his impressive performances mocking the Westboro Baptist Church, his telling-it-like-it-is on Question Time and his castigation of the sponsor of the GQ Awards. I’ve since seen his return to his former hometown of Thurrock in Essex, to support the mental health group, Mind.

His peacock mannerisms still annoy me (though admittedly some of that may be down to male envy), and stagey people often sound at their most pretentious when they strive to “keep it real”. Ooh, and I don’t like his hair either, his boots, nor his bared chest.

But I say forget the man, as what he’s saying is more important.

“Profit is filthy… says the man with $15 million.”

Kropotkin was a prince, Marx wasn’t skint, nor was Vanessa Redgrave. John Lennon performed Imagine and Working Class Hero in a mansion. The Chartists, Suffragettes and other progressive political movements were promoted and led by moneyed people. Does this negate them speaking up for the working class (particularly as Brand claims to have working-class roots)? This is the meme doing the rounds, but it’s a non-starter really. He hasn’t made his millions on the back of exploitation, tickets might cost £30 for his shows, but so what? Did anyone’s philanthropy ever fulfill the aims of a revolution? Maybe he’ll do benefits or maybe he funds causes already, who knows? The fact remains, profit IS filthy.

“He’s talking about revolution, but he isn’t saying how”

Many have seized on his comment: “Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here in an interview with you, in a bloody hotel room and devise a global, utopian system.” Yet he does flesh out his ideas on the sort of revolution he wants to see in the New Statesman: “Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me.” It’s long been said that the revolution must come from within – in his book The Fall, Steve Taylor advocates humanity getting back in touch with a ‘life-force’ or ‘life-spirit’ and connectedness with the planet and universe (which he argues is exemplified by some new age theories and Taoism). Brand is a fan of transcendental meditation (which he discovered when beating drug addiction about 10 years ago).

Surely it would be a mistake, one which he would be castigated for, if he offered a 12-step programme to ‘true’ socialism or anarchy? A revolution must be everyone’s revolution, or it will just revert to hierarchy and tyranny. We’ve been down the route of Leninist vanguardism (still advocated by the tiny left parties) and it only resulted in more oppression. As Bakunin (an imperfect man himself) said: “We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.”

The shape a revolution takes must be taken collectively and individually, without Brand or anyone else calling the shots.

However, he might have suggested horizontal organisation within communities…

“He’s just helping the Tories stay in power by telling people not to vote.”

I’m inclined to disregard a fresh conspiracy theory that the BBC and Brand concocted a ‘don’t vote’ message to ensure the Tories and UKIP will be in power forever. Besides, he repeated the call in the New Statesman: “As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.”

He’s right… and yet this is the big conundrum. By ticking the box, we are complicit in maintaining a parliamentary and electoral system designed by the elite, to maintain the elite. While Labour may have brought in a universal health care and welfare system in the late-1940s, it has helped to erode both ever since. The minimum wage may have been one of the few positive achievements of the Blair administration (though it falls short of the living wage), but we also saw a continuation of Thatcherism, privatisation, horrific wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (millions marched against it, and were ignored), and the scrapping of Labour’s socialist principles embodied in the original Clause IV.

So is Labour really no better than Tories? I think it is, albeit Labour offer only the occasional glimmer of hope; Labour wants to retain a nuclear arsenal, build more nuclear power stations, make cuts, be “tough on immigration” while promises such as renationalisation and bringing NHS services into public hands can readily be broken. It was Labour which bailed out the banks with trillions of taxpayers’ money, and continued the deregulation of the City. It was Labour which wanted us all to carry ID cards, brought tanks into Heathrow and curtailed civil rights in the guise of anti-terrorism.

But within Labour exists people with social justice in their hearts and yes, socialism (even Miliband says he is). I know some of these party activists, and I support their efforts.

Besides, Tories and fascists will always use their votes.

Even if Labour is a path towards disappointment, disillusionment and disenfranchisement, the evil visited on the poor is not as prevalent and all-encompassing as it is with the Tories.

Another friend said “why didn’t Brand advocate a vote for the Green Party?” Perhaps because he believes it’s a wasted vote. While Greens are far more left of mainstream Labour (see the Political Compass) they are still operating within the same elite institution and flawed first-past-the-post system.

Ultimately, how can we be living in a democracy when the monarchy still holds sway, vetoing laws they dislike and rubber-stamping those which steal from the people?

With reluctance that I will put an X next to Labour in 2015. About 60% of people, perhaps more, most likely will do as they did in 2010, and not vote.

Brand says: “I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?”

Maybe the onus is on Labour to now prove itself a genuine option for those outside the narrow franchise of regular voters which it appears to solely chase?

Brand has just voiced what many of us were thinking within our four walls. He should be lauded and applauded, not torn apart by the left, where he clearly has his affinity.

And putting an X on a sheet of paper every five years is not enough. It is not taking charge of our own lives, it is giving the job to a politician – highly unlikely to be working in any of our interests.

Perhaps a better idea would be for people to wake up to the fact that when a majority votes for nobody, nobody is in charge. The Tories seized control of the country with 20% of the vote, and in my locality UKIP took three out of eight council seats in May 2013 with 9.4% of the overall electorate’s vote (66.7% didn’t vote).

Our political system, as so many of us readily accept, is hopelessly flawed. Lao Zi wrote about 2,500 years ago: “No one rules, if no one obeys.” Words worth hanging on to, and echoing down the millennia, to still have resonance now through the latest conduit, Russell Brand.

PLEASE VOTE ON MAY 2 TO HELP STOP FASCISTS GETTING ON TO THE COUNCIL

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[sod all to do with music or FOIST but just felt this had to be published somehow, somewhere]

ORGANISATIONS such as Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate and the more direct-action group Anti-Fascist Action are celebrating the slow demise of the British National Party, English Defence League and a number of tiny nationalist splinter groups and parties. And they have just cause to do so.

The BNP only now exists tenuously and is heavily in debt; many of its members have left. The EDL is pretty much finished as a street-fighting force – its supporters were only some of the miserable 200 “patriot” thugs who turned up for the March For England on April 21, to be met by a wide coalition of opposition in Brighton. About 50 or 60 National Front supporters gathered in Swansea recently for a “White Pride” rally. Their rally didn’t go ahead because they were vastly outnumbered by anti-fascists, but they succeeded in sneaking off to a bikers’ club in the valleys for a Blood & Honour gig where two dressed as KKK Klansmen and lynched a grotesque gollywog dummy.  But on the whole, the “no pasaran” (“they will not pass”) method of Cable Street in 1936 of preventing fascists from marching down high streets and spreading hate and violence as they do so, seem to be working. Usually the police objective is to bus them in, and bus them out again in as short a time as possible.

But, and this is a big but, does the near-demise of these groups mean people are becoming enlightened and turning away from fascism/nationalism (the difference/overlap between the two political stances seems to be similar to communism/socialism – ie, not a lot)? Or does it mean they are getting their far-right-wing fix elsewhere? In the past month I have become increasingly embroiled into researching and watching UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) and campaigning against them where I live, the Forest of Dean.

Now UKIP is not 100% fascist, and its supporters/members are not all racists, fascists or xenophobes (depending on how you define these terms) – if you take a peek at those attending the “common sense” tour meetings, full halls everywhere but almost everyone appears to be a pensioner, and I’d imagine many would be horrified at the accusation of associating with fascists – but the EDL has called on all its supporters and other nationalist groups and parties to get behind UKIP as they have a chance of gaining power. “They are saying exactly what we say, just in a different way, do you know what I mean?” said the EDL leader, Tommy Robinson.

UKIP, for its part, bans anyone from joining if they have previously been a member of most of the fascist parties or the EDL. But it doesn’t ban members of the English Democrats (which, unlike UKIP, is listed as a ‘hate group’ by Hope Not Hate), and the EDL doesn’t operate membership lists. Besides, although in some places such as Cornwall, BNP defectors have been discovered and kicked out, elsewhere – including in Kent, where an ex-National Front member is a candidate for the county council – they have been allowed to remain. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has admitted that in the rush to put up 1,700 council candidates, the vetting procedure was non-existent in many cases.

But, for all its efforts to stem known fascists within its ranks, UKIP is openly nationalist – and proud of it. The party with its policies stands somewhere between Thatcherite and right-wing libertarian, and Enoch Powellite and culturally censorious – ie it supports laissez-faire, low taxation and cutting bureaucracy, but also wants to scrap workers’ and employment rights and ban things being taught which it disagrees with. One analysis finds UKIP  more than 60% fascist: http://www.scribd.com/doc/134276292/UKIP-Fascism-Analysis

A recent leaflet The Truth About UKIP has, at time of writing, been seen by 3,500 people – but I’ve yet to see UKIP managing to debunk any of it: http://www.scribd.com/doc/135716750/THE-TRUTH-ABOUT-UKIP

So, to conclude, the fascists from the EDL,  NF, BNP may have largely vanished from the streets with their respective banners, only to be biding their time and helping to promote UKIP, mostly less than overtly as they don’t want to wreck the party’s chances and bid at respectability by showing their moronic faces.

And UKIP is being given an easy ride by almost all of the media – it has the Sun, Mail, Times and Telegraph as its cheerleaders, and the Guardian and BBC are not doing much to criticise UKIP. Farage now seems to get as much prime-time coverage on programmes such as Question Time as Cameron and Miliband, and is quoted as much as the big-two party leaders. It’s almost as if the mainstream media is giving fascism a helping hand. And Hope Not Hate recently polled its members to ask whether it should oppose UKIP as it does the EDL et al, but it appears members voted not to.

The nub of UKIP’s current scaremongering – anti-Muslim sentiment having faded a little – is an apparent influx of Romanians and Bulgarians from January 2014 when the EU relaxes restrictions on their travel. But a Channel 4 News report followed Farage to Bulgaria where he was repeatedly told – even by his far-right Bulgarian ally – that no one had any wish to come to Britain. Still he and his growing number of supporters remain myopic and happy to continue their fever-pitch anti-foreigner propaganda.

At the same time, many on the left seem blind to the danger UKIP poses. Many I’ve spoken to shrug and say “they will just split the Tory vote, which can only be a good thing”. Maybe, but what’s the likelihood, when UKIP have pushed ahead of the LibDems, they and the Tories will team up for the next coalition government? Also, to take this stance is not opposing the rise of fascism, the cancer of the extreme-right wing which is spreading rapidly now through our communities.

We should all be getting out there and persuading people that UKIP is a bad thing, not a fresh change – but more of the same, and a whole lot worse.

TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE, THAT IS THE QUESTION…

I consider myself an anarchist and traditionally anarchists don’t vote because it perpetuates a faulty system which they oppose. If you are against being governed, why vote for a politician? However, and this brings me into dispute with other anarchists, I believe that some politicians are worse than others. In the past I’ve held my nose and voted Labour in a bid to keep the Tories out. Now we need to keep both the Tories and UKIP out – and UKIP have candidates in all 8 wards.

For the county council elections on May 2 I will be voting for an Independent: basically because he was a champion against the Forest of Dean being sold off, leading a delegation to the Houses of Parliament, and has been doing all he can to oppose a 200-acre corporate land-grab just down the road from me, which is supported and promoted by local Labour councillors: savenorthernunited.wordpress.com

Therefore, I can’t bring myself to support Labour at all as they are pushing for a large area of public land, a wildlife haven, to be concreted over with a road, business development, housing, a hotel and college. The perfectly decent college down the road, much to the chagrin of campaigners there, is earmarked for demolition and the land including the fields sold for housing development. We need new, affordable housing (probably in addition to the many empty and derelict homes being made available for living in) and jobs must be created, but there is plenty of land ripe for this kind of development that is already in a built-up area. Destroying virgin land – and public land – however would seem to be more of a money-spinner for all involved.

I’ve even given the candidate Claude Mickleson, standing in Cinderford for the Trade Unionists and Socialists against Cuts (TUSC), a hand leafleting. Claude, it should be said, is 89 years old but has more fire, energy than most a quarter of his age and maximum integrity as a man of the people.

For those in the ward Blakeney and Bream, the only candidates besides UKIP standing are the Lab-Lib-Con formation – but it’s the branch chairman Richard Leppington they’re up against, and I believe having someone as your county councillor who helps promote Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech on Facebook, sharing it from the Infidels of Britain page (which he did on April 25) might well not be a good thing.

Also standing in the Cinderford ward is UKIP’s Ann Guyton, a former accountant, and (a source tells me) ex-police officer from Teesside. Her husband, Colin Guyton, also an ex-copper from Teesside, is standing for UKIP in Lydbrook & Drybrook. He made it on to his local parish council a couple of years ago unopposed. Both the Guytons are well into “zero tolerance” to crime.

But that stance doesn’t prevent them from aligning themselves with Lydney’s UKIP candidate and convicted shoplifter Alan Preest, who was thrown out of the district council’s Tory group, and off the council’s police liaison group for thieving. Preest, who has also been reported staggering home from the pub in the middle of the road and shouting at passing traffic, managed to narrowly win a byelection to Lydney Town Council where 15 per cent of the electorate turned out. A cautionary tale of what you can end up with if you don’t turn up and vote.

Another of the UKIP FoD eight is John Sullivan – outspoken to the point of foolishness, who – like Leppington – openly admires Enoch, but also US white supremacist Bob Whitaker’s cult White Rabbit Radio, the National Front, and has even alienated some of his own party with his homophobia. Boarding-school educated (he recently published a story detailing his regular canings and resulting buttock welts), the main ticket he is standing on is more grammar schools, reinstatement of the student grant and EMA. For those who know nothing of him beyond his electoral statement published in the local newspaper, he could almost be a socialist… that is, if no one was aware of UKIP’s policy of privatising state schools.

Perhaps the other UKIP candidates are less extreme, I don’t know either way. It’s only those who like to broadcast their extreme views that attract attention.

So who can you vote for besides UKIP, Tory or LibDem? Here are my suggestions:

Cinderford – Claude Mickleson (Trade Unionist and Socialists Against Cuts)
Coleford – Paul McMahon (Labour) or Ian Whitburn (Independent)
Newent – Jan Royall (Labour)
Lydney – James Greenwood (Green)
Sedbury – Chris McFarling (Green)
Blakeney & Bream – Bill Evans (Labour)
Mitcheldean – Ken Power (Green)
Drybrook & Lydbrook – Andrew Gardiner (Independent)

In France, where they have two rounds of voting in national elections, several years ago the fascist Front National came close to getting into power after the first round of voting; thus many shocked people who’d not bothered voting in the first round came out to ensure they wouldn’t get in for the second round. In Britain, we only get one round of voting, one chance to ensure fascists are not running our local services. The Tories are awful, UKIP would be worse than awful!