In this entry I will consider Left Unity, its possible future(s) its rather clunky past and its relationship with the Green Party ( see Left Unity & Left Unity) I will look at the most exciting unfolding political development in Europe, the Spanish Party, Podemos, and ask what we can learn from their meteoric rise (See Podemos: We Can - They Did) In addition, to fully address ‘What is going on?’ at least in my political reality right now, I will try and determine how Russell Brand (see Parking the Brandwagon) and the Tarpaulin Revolution fits into the current political landscape of the British left. First to give some context, a moment in 2011 and then a look at the key features of the #Greensurge.
In the years that followed Delingpole was discredited on many occasions (see Horizon interview). He continues to deny that scientific consensus has any validity. He wrote a book ‘Watermelons: How environmentalists are killing the planet, destroying the economy and stealing your children’s future’. He has since disappeared into obscurity, signing off from his Telegraph blog earlier in the year and bidding farewell to his fans, who he refers to as the knights of Delingpole. He is a self confessed ‘tea partier’ and one could expect that he’ll present in the future as an environmental advisor for UKIP.
The Green Party of England & Wales has had different fortunes since watermelongate; this TV moment that we can now recall with some affection. Caroline Lucas has just won an award for MP of the year. The Party has grown by a staggering 88% since the start of 2014, nearly 60% since the May elections, and now has over 26000 members, with a new person currently signing up every 10 minutes. The Scottish Greens have grown by 450% since the indyref up to approximately 7500. And The Welsh by 120% since the start of the year.
Back in 2011 when Caroline Lucas and James Delingpole were on the TV together, how ‘left’ the Green Party was, or should be perceived as, was a key and pivotal discussion point (neither left or right, just straight ahead, yawn). Now the ‘leftness’ of the greens is a given and it is this more overt leftward shift that is responsible for its rise.
Bizarrely the majority of other European Green Parties have failed to evolve and are too often practicing the politics of dullness and wasted opportunity. Josiah Mortimer reports: Ska Keller “We’re known for the environment – we should start from our core.” She argued that all our policies should come from that, half-joking that we should play on our ‘tree-hugger image’ through our PR.
Faced with the choice between far right anti-immigrationists and neoliberiberal technocrats, there is clearly space for a politics that is both populist and entirely concordant with Green political philosophy.
The new party leader Natalie Bennett has not been encumbered by a seat in Parliament and has been able to focus solely on Leadership duties. She stood to be re-elected earlier in the year and was unopposed. It seems that she has been almost everywhere in England over the past year, galvanising the party and delivering an increasingly resonant social justice/anti-austerity narrative.
This incorporates the best stances that were once, associated with the grey parties; with the Labour Party, a reversal of privatisation or privatisation process of public services, NHS, rail, energy and water, and with the Liberal Democrats, free tuition (No more broken promises). There is also backing for an EU referendum. There is much that is characteristically green; such as the wealth tax, rejection of TTIP (Corporatocracy), an increase in the minimum wage to £10, the introduction of a universal citizen’s income (with far reaching implications) the tobin tax, banking reform with removal of powers of banks to create money, transparency measures to prevent corporate tax avoidance and the cessation of the trident program with an immediate saving of £2.4 billion and £100 billion in total.
I can say all of this, whilst excluding so much, without mention of policies for worker ownership and control and without mentioning that other thing that Greens do. The environment, and I won’t because that’s a given.
There have been so many changes since ‘watermelongate’. Only a matter of months ago, Green party commentary was the preserve of a declining blogosphere (with the exception of Another Angry Voice) and the odd article in the Morning Star. Nowadays, if I pick up a discarded Independent or Guardian there is a good chance that a decent Green Party article will be in it. Online there are many Guardian Blogs and the Huffington Post has proved a reliable source. Open Democracy attracts many Green writers and on Monday of this week there was an article in the Sun (which may not be very pleasing for myriad reasons but still; the Sun) reporting that the Greens are polling at a record high for yougov at 8% and are once again ahead of the Liberal Democrats, a government party.
On Sunday there was an article in the Guardian (“We’re like you – Labour Pitch for Green vote in bid to quell revolt on the left”) and Independent (“The Green Party is a growing threat to Labour - could its surge be the next big political story”) these articles are making it clear that Greens are shifting debate to the Left and posing a threat to Labour who have appointed Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary to prevent the leaks and win back support heading towards the Greens.
Natalie Bennett’s communications and press background has clearly been a significant factor. A Young Green, Josiah Mortimer has also been prolific, having articles published on many green & left wing sites and publications. He is now involved with a rejuvenated Bright Green. I can’t include all here but Georgia Elander is another writer and young green, whose name constantly presents when looking for good quality material. This piece published on tuesday was written from the heart called ‘There’s no need to apologise’ explaining that we must take the leap, even if it means more Tory government in the short term because “taking votes from Labour is not a case of splitting the left-wing vote but of creating one”
Technological Developments, TV Debate Petitions, Social Media, Online Votes, Crowd Funding
The young greens again, radical & left are approaching a 200% increase in members this year and in isolation are one of the fastest growing political groupings in Europe. They are as a group or as individuals, very much at the fore of the development of the new social media infrastructure. I understand the official green party page has now got more ‘likes’ than the Liberal Democrats for example and many discussion groups and local groups are lively.
Using techniques that have been key in the rise of Podemos; the Young Greens have just successfully conducted an online vote for its executive committee, setting a new precedent for e-democracy in this country. We are also seeing the rudimentary uses of crowdfunding, the first was rolled out successfully in Plymouth where 2 candidates are now able to stand and afford the production of various campaign materials.
Enhanced social media is funnelling member talents in a way that I have not seen before. There are some great grassroots collaborations occurring producing increasingly decent campaigns material. As more people get on board, it’s moving on from memes to video clips and even radio. The balance between open creativity, real word constraints (copyright infringements and the like) and quality enhancement seems to be being met with maximum collaboration and with feedback from official party sources. Great news for the cash strapped GPEW who don’t have to pay for these efforts.
Despite the undeniable need to keep developing in the technological sphere, independent media and social networking and transcend the need for establishment outlets, it is the ongoing denial of mainstream coverage and exclusion from the TV debates that has played such a significant role in the #greensurge; An unintended political gift. Whatever happens from now on in, the net effect of exclusion from the election debates has been positive.
To illustrate just how much more attention the Greens now receive, a government e-petition calling for inclusion in the election debates back in March 2013 received only 4385 names. Portia Cock’s petition (which I covered here) in June of this year had 50000 names. Before the big petition sites had taken off I wrote about the need to start lobbying the BBC, whilst I was occupying St Pauls way back in 2011. I think that article was seen at best by 500 people.
Contrast these earlier efforts with the c.270,000 (>1/4 million) strong petition just handed into the BBC by one of two deputy leaders (and more than happy to be called a watermelon) Amelia Womack.
Which Green leader should be put forward for the TV debates?
There is a danger that now the big petition is in, that the green surge will begin to wither. Natalie Bennett is due to appear on the ITV’s Live Leader debates series this coming Monday (26th). In each episode of this series 1 of the main party leaders will appear, taking questions from an audience of young people. The graph below shows membership surges in relation to key political moments. This TV show may create another spike and exert more pressure on the TV channels for Green inclusion in the Election leader debates. ·
It’s Controversial because it could be viewed as a loss of confidence in the Green Party of England and Wales leader. Therein lies a kind of arrogant assumption that I have been guilty of, that the representative for a UK election debate would be from a party representing only England and Wales (although the Welsh wing also has a leader) thus excluding the other UK Green Party leaders: Patrick Harvie & Maggie Chapman, Co-convenors from Scotland and Steven Agnew from Northern Ireland.
In any case, a decision has to be made, and that is most likely going to be made by an executive committee or just amongst the leaders themselves. Natalie Bennett you would assume is most likely to stand and in the default position.
If the definition of ‘Leader’ for ‘Leader debates’ is stretched beyond national determination (beyond that of Scottish co-convenors, Northern Irish leader, and possibly Welsh leader (although that is more cloudy), you could also include Caroline Lucas in the mix, as she is leader of the green parliamentary group. There are then, several ‘leaders’ that could go forward. If an internal, online vote were to happen it would be a good example of how the greens do things differently and a good demonstration of internal democracy.
In any case all of the national party leaders have enough experience and the backing of the most popular policy set to do well, as of course does Caroline Lucas.
Eyes to GE 2020.
This era of membership growth should mean significantly more ‘feet on the ground’ and the development of more rounded local groups. That is to say there are some underdeveloped local groups that act more like chapters of friends of the earth, with narrow focus, objecting to phone masts and the like, not representative of the full gamut of green political philosophy; social, economic and environmental justice.
Despite the many positive developments discussed here, there is a sobering possibility that there will be no Green MPs in 2015 and at this stage reasonably likely that there will be no more than one (It could be argued that if Greens get a chance in the TV debates that Caroline Lucas should go forward as this may secure her Brighton seat) But at this pivot point, if the overwhelming support for Green coverage continues and succeeds that anything up to 4 seats is possible, with most likely breakthrough seats in Norwich & Bristol.
What is certain is that there will be a significant increase in overall vote share and a much stronger foundation for the General Election in 2020. In a poll released on thursday of this week Greens were shown to have more potential support than UKIP, that is to say, despite relative media invisibility, there are signs that this foundation is well under construction already. The poll also implies that this potential support may not be converted into votes as it is largely scuppered by tactical voting due to First Past the Post.
In 2020 the current young green cohort will have had a further 6 years to progress. There is a likely hung parliament ahead, a fragmentation of 2 party politics and further deterioration of validity of the first past the post system, manifold possible coalition combinations and likely overall continuing rightward shift, taking Labour with it.
At this stage there appears to be enough wisdom in the party to be able to absorb new influences without compromise. Time will tell. If Labour fail to shift to the left, and if we have a conservative UKIP coalition in 2015, who could rule out the Greens having to evolve from a place of pressure politics to decision making politics come 2020.
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PODEMOS - WE CAN - THEY DID
You can never photocopy neatly the success of one party in one country into another. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it. It is also difficult to fully understand the conditions or collective consciousness of any country without being fully intimate with it. Spain has its staggering 50% youth unemployment, a generation of angry voices where being apolitical is a luxury the multitude cannot afford. Also the existing 2 party establishment formed after the fall of the Franco dictatorship, still has its roots, its birth, at that point in history.
Since Franco, social movements have persistently felt betrayed by the powers they helped to elect. Podemos then is ‘new’ and represents a kind of post-Franco post-Francoism. It refers to the political/corporate/revolving door establishment as the ‘caste’. It has its roots in the 15M/Indignados movements and was organised as a reformist project of the revolutionary Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anticapitalist Left). Many Spanish academics and celebrities came out in support of the new project, as they did with Left Unity in the UK.
I kept a blog ‘the ecosocialist’ back in 2011 at the time of the 15M movement and had an article mailed to me from a representative. The article was called “The Left at the Abyss of Democracy” It’s interesting reading and provides some insights in to the frustrations of the Spanish people and also insights as to what was to become the Podemos project, 3 years later: Here are some quotes:
“the recognition of the commons, the right to education and free movement”
“The left has taken on board concepts like cuts, reforms or austerity in order to return to economic “normality”. But we have already seen that this crisis is, above all, a crisis of politics as we know it”
“They have not attempted to think through other forms of democracy, other relations to the State or to the social body”
“Had (President Zapetero) understood that current tension between social powers and counter-powers was the condition of possibility of his victory, perhaps he would have tackled the economic crisis in a substantially different way. Perhaps he would not have negotiated with economic and supra-institutional powers such a set of undesirable measures––cuts designed to foreclose any hope in our future—he would not have waited until the last minute to look back at his voters, he would not have needed to trump everything on the fear of the right. Those who Zapatero failed to govern, social counterpowers, the potency for democratic mobilisation that is always latent in society, have regained their shape to say, this is enough!”
Podemos have created a positive and engaging vehicle not quite like a traditional political party. It is very much 'of its time' and this is what other reformist 'lefts' or new lefts in particular have to be guided by.
It describes itself not as party but as a "a citizen’s initiative that aims to build democracy through citizen participation and popular unity". Democracy, participation and transparency are at its core, not just empty words. It wants the workings of the party to be the workings of society. It wants people to be able to participate first and foremost, it achieves participation with free membership and uses the internet and social media to its full. In the words of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias: "We want to build a political majority that reflects the social majority of Spain."
The emphasis is not on conferences, expensive venues, the hire of hotels to stay for the weekend and so on. Much can be achieved without money and has to be achieved without corporate influence. Political parties around the globe are woefully slow to catch on, perhaps such transparency and participation are a threat to party elites.
You can chart its rise through various social network milestones. In August Podemos already had 442,000 more supporters in Facebook than the "Likes" of the rest of the parties combined and they only formed in January.
It's not only an online entity of course, despite only having a fraction of the campaigns budget as the other parties and virtually no media coverage, It had 5 MEPs elected in May. Since then it has used online crowd funding techniques and raised enough to fund popular assemblies. Crowd funding is important because it keeps contributions down to what people can afford and allows the party to be free of big money corporate influence. Can you perceive of an American political system that kept big money out. A key Podemos focus is anti-corruption leaders constantly condemn 'revolving door’ politics.
Local groups are called circles, hence the circle in the Podomos graphic. Online voting has been used to establish and prioritize its core policies and its developing party structure. This is how it engages, how it empowers and forms its new relations of the party body to the social body. Tens of thousands of people voting from the comfort of their homes. Last month members voted for 5 resolutions. Any member could submit a resolution, 97 were put forward. The approved resolutions were on improving public education (45%), on anti-corruption measures (42%), on the right to housing (38%), on improving public healthcare (31%), and on auditing and re-structuring the debt (23%)
Embracing technology meant that Podemos did not get bogged down in bureaucracy from the beginning. Very different to Left Unity. It has a charismatic anti-politician type figurehead Pablo Iglesias, an MEP since May who has mistakenly been referred to as their leader in the British press over the course of the year. He was in fact only elected as secretary-general in an online poll of party members earlier this week.
He is an interesting character. His grandfather Manuel Iglesias was given the death penalty in the Franco era, though this was not carried out because the accusations against him were proven wrong. He is an honorary professor, with several degrees, covering a range of subjects including politics, law, psychiatry and media. He is 35 years old and has become a regular on Spanish TV over the course of the last decade, even presenting his own show. I don’t think there is an equivalent in the UK, Russell Brand will be discussed later, Owen Jones is closer to the mark navigating brilliantly an anti-establishment narrative whilst counter-intuitively remaining firmly glued to his Labour roots. There are of course many people in the UK that could have broken through to become this kind of political figurehead but the mainstream media here are very selective with who they let slip through the net. Hence the observation that if you cannot infiltrate the already existing you have to transcend it.
Despite his Marxist background (a member of the communist youth) he and Podemos avoid putting Marxism ‘on the tin’ or even Socialism for that matter. In addition he doesn’t suffer from the affliction that many academics suffer; he is able to talk plainly. When asked what the idea behind Podemos is:
“"It's citizens doing politics. If the citizens don't get involved in politics, others will. And that opens the door to them robbing you of democracy, your rights and your wallet."
Outside of the plain speaking & effective PR which side steps much of the old terminology of the left, it is nonetheless clearly a Socialist organisation, with optimum internal democracy. Iglesias has focused on the application of the 128th article of the Spainish constitution:
The entire wealth of the country in its different forms, irrespective of ownership, shall be subordinated to the general interest. Public initiative in economic activity is recognised. Essential resources or services may be reserved by law to the public sector especially in the case of monopolies. Likewise,State intervention in companies may be imposed when the public interest so demands.
"We're not going to travel to Brussels in business class. If any lobby group approaches us, we'll make that information public." & "not one of our MEPs will earn more than €1,930, an amount that's three times the minimum wage in Spain". The remainder of the salary goes either to the party or a chosen cause.
The Greens are clearly adapting to the technological advances mastered by Podemos. Also similar to Podemos the Greens are free of the revolving door and don’t have any big corporate donors. They too have refused monies that they could have accepted. Also they don't have whips, anyone can forward a motion and any one individual can openly disagree with policy. Greens are a well established political body, developed over decades, a complex organisation that does'nt have the opportunity to be new again with all the advantages that brings, but they can adapt and they are doing so.
LEFT UNITY & LEFT UNITY
Left Unity was never going to be this formation. None of the above criteria were met. It cut a negative narrative from its birth. It was formed to be a UKIP of the left, to shift debate to the left and as vehicle for the disenfranchised. It was like it was reluctantly forced in to being, it felt stale, it was defined not by what it was but rather by what it wasn’t . Podemos’ narrative was based on empowerment, it was about more than what had gone before, it was something new. The respective names of the two parties are a case in point.
The prospects of Left Unity have been tied to that of the Green Party, although the Green Party casts a wider net, it is fair to say that the continuing expansion of the greens has dampened the overall impact potential that Left Unity can have. Left Unity reached its membership of around 2000 in quick time. At the time greens were around 13000.* You could say it was ‘game on’ for the left. Left Unity stagnated quickly, holding on to the disenfranchised that it immediately attracted whilst leaking a few back to the Greens, and has since been acting like a kind of holding chamber in need of clomiphene. The greens went on to add a further 13000 to its ranks now at 26000.
At the time of formation we can imagine that there were two possible extreme outcomes for Left Unity: on the one hand a ‘Podemos moment’ a scenario in which it was to quickly ascend and become THE party of the left, surpassing Labour and competing for state power. Although it's hard to imagine that it could ever have achieved this as quickly as Podemos. On the other hand is a scenario that sees Left Unity either quickly disband, disintegrating as it combines a volatile mix of sectarian flavours or becomes a sect that exists only for the education of the left, providing seminars and publications, no electoral ambition, perhaps dismissing reformism, reverting to revolutionary politics, transitional demands and waiting for the right socio-political conditions.
Despite the Podemos moment being missed, if indeed it ever existed, it is impossible to rule out what may happen in the very long term, measurable perhaps in many decades. At such time, its newly founded position, from this weekend’s conference to call itself an ‘ecosocialist’ party will be entirely irrelevant. That is to say the biosphere isn’t going to wait many decades for Left Unity. A future ecosocialist coalition however…
The development of the Greens, who are clearly shifting debate to the left, starting to alter the political landscape, and now no longer a perceived empty space on the left for Left Unity to fill, requires that it has to adapt. Greens were not on Left Unity's radar initially, 'green blindspot' and focus was on Labour. Now however things have changed. A new focus could bifurcate in to:
1. A subordinate role to the Green Party, acknowledging that it is they that have the opportunity to achieve what it itself was formed to do: Shift debate to the left. Will not stand candidates where the Greens are standing and if there are isolated pockets where greens are weak it will play a supportive role. The focus is only ever based on discrete local areas. A pressure group, a unifying presence that may put forward its own members to stand only if absolutely necessary.
2. More optimistic, to keep its focus on Labour, and national, you can’t shift the debate to the left with a focus on a few local areas, the above approach therefore has no merit. There is a plan to grow over the medium term and gain seats in Westminster and surpass the Greens.
In reality there may be some middle way & there are signs in places like Wigan, that Left Unity could become a vehicle not 'for Left Unity’ but for ‘achieving Left Unity’ amongst the smaller groups and Greens. If this occurs along ecosocialist lines then we should be taking note.
If we are truly strategic & reductionist we could argue that Left Unity have an opportunity right now to achieve what it originally set out to do. This would involve disbanding and as many members that see fit joining the Greens. The publicity and influx of new members into the Greens would arguably fulfil Left Unity’s mission. Cementing what is already occurring, shifting debate further to the left and strengthening the Green party. This would be a grand statement of its name sake ‘Left Unity’, and would prevent any splitting of the left vote in the future ( A distraction the political reformist wing of the ecosocialist movement cannot afford)
But that’s not going to happen is unrealistic, there are too many vested interests and historical associations now, and I don’t think it should. Yet. Left Unity may have a role to play in providing what the Greens are not always able to on a local level at this stage. They may have a role to play in the future in keeping the Greens ‘honest’.
We all have to hope that both groups can cooperate in the spirit of the greater Green left movement, acknowledging it is more important than individual parties and egos. Greens are expecting to stand in about 75% of constituencies for GE 2015. Many Left Unity members will vote green. At least I would hope they would. It is expected that only 12 LU candidates will stand in 2015.
The collaboration in parliament of Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn amongst others show that the ‘Party’ isn’t everything and this will become more the case as we head toward a new era of politics that is about much more than 2 (or 3) parties. Maybe one day we will see a Syriza type, ecosocialist coalition in this country, 'Ecosocialists Unite' but only if we can move away from viewing support for parties like support for a football team.
PARKING THE BRANDWAGON
"Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." —Will Rogers (said some time before 1935)
If we were to take a slightly awkward social networking determinist view, we would conclude that he is now one of the most influential political figures in the world. He has 8.59 million twitter followers. David Cameron a measly 846k and Ed Milliband 358k. If we try to extend the limits as far as possible as to what constitutes a political figure, we could include Leonardo DiCaprio for his climate speeches at 11.5 million but that's stretching the definition too thinly. If we accept that Russell Brand is a genuine political figure now, he is in fact, based on this line of enquiry, which is obviously a bit daft, second only to Barack Obama. Both of whom are trumped by Russell Brands ex Katy Perry and Justin Bieber.
So what happens to a movement when an A-List celebrity infiltrates the mainstream media and talks quite a lot of sense, the kind of sense we are only used to seeing within the confines of relatively small echo chambers?
A lot of people become confused.
Perhaps some remember the radio pranks that went wrong, or were never that taken with Russell Brand as an actor or stand up, or that american talk show and dismiss his opinion. Others may find a level: 'he's a narcissist, but he's our narcissist'. Others are less concerned with whoever the hell he is and actually focus on what he is saying, dismissing him because of the no vote thing, or ask who's revolution is it - ours or his? Some are perhaps a little bit awe struck, personality cult, whatever he says is pretty great.
I think now, over a year after the first newsnight interview, it is a good time to begin to park the brandwagon, that is to say we now know how it fits in to the political landscape.
I see Russell Brand move into politics as a mixed blessing, a nessesary one and one where the positives far outweigh the negatives. In addition I think that a breakthrough like this was both inevitable and would only happen if it were a mixed blessing. I think it was inevitable because the collective consciousness of a need for major change 'revolution', however you interpret the word, is augmenting and is inevitably going to manifest as it's tentacles multiply, grow larger and penetrate new arenas.
Based on my personal experience, I also think its no surprise that it was someone like Russell who grew up, working class in the 90s. That is to say he reminds me of people I knew, creative peoples, organic intellectuals, not politicized by Das Kapital, but by a mix of eastern philosophy, Zen for me, and by subversive pop culture. A generation who started primary school when a break down in the family unit seemed like a tragedy but by the the time they finished school it was odd if parents were not yet divorced. It was the trainspotting generation; think of the dissilusionment with the 9-5, lame consumerism, nihilism and inevitable solution (kind of) as posed by the character Renton:
Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?
A million crushed skulls of suckling infants who's tears come not with deprivation but with insanity and muted breath and dig deep with powdered talons
I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we've all been raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won't and we're slowly learning that fact. and we're very very pissed off.
"You are a slave Neo, like everyone else you were born in to bondage"
"You have to understand most of these people are not ready to be unplugged and many of them are so inert so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it"
I say a mixed blessing and inevitable that it would be as such, because in our plastic anglo/american culture it would only be someone, that could prospectively be dismissed by the establishment that would be able to break through on a radical platform. The zapatistas don't get much airtime. If you lurch in to a more conspirational line of enquiry you could argue that this is by design, that these ideas have deliberately been allowed to funnell through a character, a kind of discrete revolutionary commodity that could be dismissed hence nullifying the threat to the establishment. I don't think that some intelligence agency that monitors the collective consciousness has set this up though. That's daft and ill judged.
What is more likely is that it is a mutally exploitative relationship. Russell Brand means ratings, hits and views. In turn he has an opportunity that we don't have to raise radical ideas with a mainstream audience. It's cat and mouse. He will simultaneously be 'type cast'. The second installment of news night interviews had a huge backdrop of that comedy red brand/che image. In the first he was told by the producers to talk about his history of no voting and Jeremy Paxman, increasingly lost for words, repeated it several times to discredit him.
If he were to simply have said, yep I vote for the Green Party, its doubtful that he could have developed this niche platform. I don't agree with the no voting thing, reformist politics has a place but I agree we need to develop spaces outside of the state, but its not that simple and in itself is a line of enquiry that can lead to dissilusionment. I live off-grid on a solar powered boat for example, the boat is called 'prefiguration'. In the absence of a Zapatista style movement in the UK, this was the next best thing.
Outside of the vote boycot and ideas tied to eastern philosophies, i.e. the elements that were his 'in' what remains is straightforward progressive, green politics; creative direct action, Saving the NHS, challenging corporate power, and dealing with ever increasing inequality.
So in summary I do cringe at a book called 'Revolution' with a picture of a celebrity's face on, released just in time for christmas. Who's revolution? does seem a reasonable reply, but these are the terms of engagement in this culture and if this is creating debate and delivering progressive ideas to new arenas surely the net effect is positive. Russell Brand is clearly aware of the games and is uniquely placed to be able to compete. The Trews is really popular and that response to the Parklife jibes was great.
Verbal dexterity plus estuary accent is what leads to the parody of PARKLIFE. but words used efficently can be a dangerous tool that slices through propaganda like a SHARP KNIFE we can’t get our heads around the fact that five families have as much dough as 12 million Brits, that can’t be right in any accent CLASS STRIFE You can’t be polysyllabic or talk about important things unless you went to school in a top hat and tails ETON I suppose we could just distract ourselves with trinkets from companies that exploit our resources and don't pay their taxes - STARBUCKS...........
Occupy Democracy #TarpaulinRevolution
The best thing about these movements, in particular occupations is that it opens a space for the discussion of radical ideas and new initiatives. Occupy university in 2011 was great for this. We have already discussed how Podemos had its roots in the 15M movement also in 2011.
Political party involvment in grassroots movements is always an awkward issue, Ken Loach spoke on behalf of left unity and creative direct action is in the DNA of Green politics. Green Party politicians attended, Caroline Molloy from our NHS, all the leaders and I understand that on the back of networking, deputy leader Amelia Womack is now involved in the birth of a new radio show.
New faces always emerge with a surge in protest. Green party activists were amongst those arrested, including uber proactive Pete Kennedy who is producing very popular propoganda and also Michael Holt who was interviewed by the artist taxi driver.
I asked Pete Kennedy to summarize what Occupy means to him:
The Occupy Movement is the physical manifestation of our objection to a political and economic regime that is causing destruction and misery across Britain and the World. It's a non-violent shock and awe campaign against the state, who at times outnumbered protestors with police by three-to-one, in an attempt to harass, intimidate and forcibly remove us from the square. Occupy Democracy found a tickly weak spot in the Establishment narrative - a peaceful, non-violent protest of pro-democracy ideas that laid bare the simple truth: Democracy has failed in Britain, and the State will go to all ends to stamp it out.
Certainly if the current ideological socio-economic conditions continue, and if there is some kind of right wing coalition government ahead, protest movements and progressive politics have the potential to surpass anything seen here in the UK for decades.
Which is a nice place to end this article.
If you stayed with me to the end - Thank you
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