Progressives are buzzing after British comedian-turned-revolutionary Russell Brand released his revolutionary manifesto as guest editor of the latest issue of New Statesman and went on an anti-capitalist rant when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight.
The editorial is worth reading in its entirety. It wanders quite a bit but combined with the interview identify the core complaint that galvanized the support behind the 2011 London Riots, the Quebec protests, and the Occupy Movement: The system is broken and it won’t be fixed from within.
It’s easy enough to criticize Brand’s idealism (as he points out the left is quick to do). He doesn’t vote and offers little prescription for how to change things for the better. There are a lot of sound bites and clichés and he’s quick to switch from a serious tone to derisive satire.
But the emotion and passion he taps into is genuine. Perhaps not for him, being an actor and comedian, it may just be an act to promote his latest Messiah Complex comedy tour which lists Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Gandhi, and Malcom X as co-stars, yet for many the struggle is real enough.
Youth unemployment is still high. Real, long-term job security isn’t a prospect anymore. Home ownership is now an unattainable dream. Tuition and student debt are at record highs. And governments are doing nothing to stop climate change. Meanwhile, the corporate crooks who took the world into the latest recession are seemingly richer for it.
So when Brand talks about not voting and cheers for the revolution, he has listeners.
Consider Justin Trudeau, the saviour of Canada’s Liberal Party.
Today in Washington, he re-iterated his personal support for the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Texas, in spite of the continued opposition from environmental groups pushing for a shift away from a carbon-based economy. It also ships Canadian refinery jobs south and risks future gulf oil spills.
Meanwhile, the NDP government of Nova Scotia recently lost to their Liberal adversaries while offering no significant progressive policies during their single term in office. Instead, Darrel Dexter’s biggest claim is that he reduced the deficit. Even Canada’s socialists are talking the language of the neo-conservative parties. Similarly, Adrian Dix’s BC NDP offered piecemeal progressive policies while offering no substantial change from the right-wing BC Liberals. Manitoba’s long-standing NDP government similarly represents a slower path to corporate cronyism than their political opponents.
America is clearly bipolar, with two right-wing parties continually being pulled further extreme by the Koch-funded Tea Party fringe.
Here in Britain, Labour likes to pretend it’s the defender of the socialized medicine and welfare, but instead is promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on welfare. Portions of the party still swing further left but they are relegated to the back benches. Instead, the party has moved to the right of the place traditionally held by the Conservatives (who in turn went even further right), according to The Political Compass.
The story is the same among the major parties in Australia as well.
So while I will still vote, perhaps merely out of faith and blind optimism that things will improve under the right leadership, Brand makes a strong case that none of the current parties in most of these countries are offering a substantive change.
Vive la révolution!