Revolution is not guillotines, gulags and gangbangs

Higgs-Boson

Higgs-Boson: The Power of the Human Mind

Revolution is not guillotines, gulags and gangbangs

The Russell Brand-instigated debate on ‘revolution’ is timely and an important discussion for us to have. Before we go on, I want to make it clear that I do not stand by Brand as a political figure. His sexism and treatment of women is disgusting and inexcusable- feminism has to be the central pillar of any revolution! But I believe he was right to begin this discussion  on ‘Revolution’ with his authorship of last week’s New Statesman. He has indeed brought the concept to the mainstream and the reaction to this issue has been really interesting. Robert Webb (of Peep Show fame) then waded into the debate and offered a paltry response to Brand’s piece and re-joined the Labour Party (!) in response (so not Rainbow Rhythms).

Rainbow Rhythms

Rainbow Rhythms

‘Revolution’ is always a concept that I have found interesting and have wanted to engage with, and I have always felt it is a political concept that we have neglected and subsequently sunk into an age of apathy, austerity and nihilism, where revolution seems so farfetched and alien to our lives and our current conditions. But I think it is a concept that we need to reclaim and rebrand, and we should begin to use ‘revolution’ as a political concept in a positive and practical sense.

Below is a few excerpts from a Facebook conversation I had with a  friend who posted the Robert Webb piece, and I’ve added a few bits here and there; just to set out my ideas on ‘revolution’. It begins with me responding to Webb’s rejoining of the Labour party. Enjoy.

Well, firstly I think his whole argument is undermined by the fact he has rejoined the Labour Party, as if such a return is in some way radical or a demonstration of a commitment to democratic credentials. In fact, his move to do so, is laughable. The debate over the Labour Party is another debate entirely and we can discuss to what extent the Labour Party fulfils the ideals of its founding Labour Representation Committee (LRC)- i.e. that very wording- representing labour- workers; but what is Webb returning to?! He offers a paltry defence of the Labour party, which is overshadowed by Labour’s commitment to austerity, and its ongoing Blairite nightmare. But essentially, it doesn’t matter what the Labour party is, isn’t, was or wasn’t- the point is that no matter the character of a parliamentary party, no party can save us, no party can change the world in the ways that are needed.

Who does the Labour Party fight for today?

Who does the Labour Party fight for today?

The central question here of voting is a tricky one, as the Vote has been the source of great struggles and still is today in many countries. But that said I believe the anti-parliamentarian tradition to be a noble one and I think it is useful to draw a distinction between active and passive not-voting. I don’t like Brand as a figure, but the main tenet of his point is sound- to not vote must be an active choice. As he said to Paxman- not voting is not apathy on our point, it shows the apathy of the political class to us. There really is nothing left to vote for. To defend the act of voting as something noble or democratically virtuous is to be blinkered to the facade of vested and business interest that parliament has become. What is there left to vote for? A somewhat progressive Labour Party? A socialist party? A parliament of individuals? No makeup of parliament can make actual seismic progressive change- the change has to come from our way of thinking, our way of organising, our way of approaching ideas, our way of living socially.

To vote a ‘good’ government into power, would never achieve these ends. Our representatives can never represent us. The very concept of representational parliamentary systems has fallen into disrepute- i.e. the idea of a centralised body which makes decisions made on the mandate it receives from the electorate. Only a fool fills in their ballot paper, believing that their representative is acting on their individual behalf. For MPs, being elected is a means to an end. The language surrounding voting confuses the matter. We talk about ‘the right to vote’. But ‘rights’ are not given to us. Rights are innate. We do not need to vote to realise our rights.

To not vote, is not to give up hope. It is in fact one of the most powerful repertoires we have- just like workers withdrawing their labour. But like strikes have pickets, so must not-voting. To avoid the ballot paper must not be it, it must be coupled with solidarity grassroots politics. Just to give a wee example- in Edinburgh there is the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh which supports and gives advice to benefit claimants who are struggling to get by or are facing sanctions. This small at-the-source type of politics are really integral.

After the MP's Expenses Scandal- Who Trusts Our Representatives?

After the MP’s Expenses Scandal- Who Trusts Our Representatives?

Webb’s point about the Russian revolution is irrelevant and a distraction from the debate at hand. Again I don’t agree fully with Brand, but his point is that revolution has to be a shift in the way we think and understand societal phenomena. Revolution is not guillotines, gulags and gangbangs. It is a societal shift in thinking, understanding and ultimately caring. This cannot come through parliament. Parliament is a procedural chamber that works in its own interest and the interests of those that inhabit it. It is in constant survivalist mode, preparing for elections and the revolving door of MPs; it has no real interest in real political change, and in fact it is structurally incapable of providing political change.

We must reclaim the idea of ‘revolution’ from it’s attachment to brutality and death as Webb tries to do, and begin to construct a positive notion of revolution as something viable, something necessary and something achievable. Ra-ra revolutionists and revolutionary socialists talk about the revolution as if it is this single moment where some group seizes power and then everything is sorted, everything falls into place- all we have to do is have a revolution and it will all be ok.

But ultimately, revolution is not one static moment. It is not the storming of the Bastille, it is not occupying Wall Street, it is not voting for Tony Blair in 1997 and it wasn’t voting in Barack Obama. The revolution is dormant in our everyday lives- the way we consume, the way we live socially. So to begin to change the form of these social relations, is in fact revolutionary and can have far greater effects than ticking a box on a ballot paper. We are communists now, not after the revolution! Revolution is a spaciotemperal-mental shift- i.e. occurring in space and time at a historical material point, but ultimately driven by our changing perspectives and understanding. Revolutions do not come from nowhere, they are the result of the circulation of ideas which look to change the material circumstances of the present, and the circulation of these ideas shifts consciousness and perception within the collective or multitude or general public (basically us).

Voted in With Popular Approval and Hope- What Did It Really Change?

Voted in With Popular Approval and Hope- What Did It Really Change?

So what would a revolution look like today? Well, I’m hesitant to draw grand images of what a revolution would like, as I believe a revolution ultimately creates its own demands and its own nature, its own velocity. But what we can say is that a revolution today would be centred on the extreme inequality that pollutes society. This is the point on which the revolution would pivot on. I personally believe that it would involve the seizing of the productive elements of our society and running them collectively to the benefit of humanity not business. I believe that it would involve the breaking down of borders and allowing us to explore the world together in peace and solidarity. I believe it would be the prioritisation of our environment over profit and greed. And I believe it would begin a process of bringing power and decision-making closer to our communities and our workplaces. I ultimately believe a revolution today would be a process of beginning to reclaim our lives from Work. The dream of the 20 hour week will become laughable as we approach a world where we barely work at all! Yes, I know, it sounds very wishy-washy and utopian- but what do we have to lose in dreaming big? We in fact have so much to win by dreaming big. The reason I included the Higgs-Boson image at the top is to make this point. The human mind is capable of unbounded possibilities. If the human mind can break down and understand the complexity of the universe, then we surely can begin to build a fairer, Greener, more equal world. Surely?!

This is what Revolution is. And it’s already started. In fact it never ends. It is innate within us and always will be. And, rest assured, it sure as hell isn’t going to come from Westminster.

(If you have scrolled down to the bottom because you are bored, I apologise and sympathise. Here is what I’m saying in pictorial form)

image

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s