I recently watched Bill Maher’s complaint about voter apathy. BM aimed his rant at Russell Brand, who recently wrote a book where he advocated for not voting.
I am of two minds on this subject. I currently hold two conflicting views, and so I thought I might wrote about it so that I can gain some perspective on this issue.
I agree with both BM and RB. I think that voting in a rich leader to solve our problems and do our thinking for us is all but pointless. And yet I still vote. I vote because of many of the reasons that BM states in his rant against people like me, who say that voting doesn’t make much of a difference.
Here is BM: Bill Maher slams Russell Brand for telling people…: http://youtu.be/_tNZu2_SMY4
Here is RB: Russell Brand Democracy Now Interview 11/14/14 pt…: http://youtu.be/gg8eJd0m_ww
I am more in line with RB, than BM in most cases. But BM makes a really good case for voting for the lesser of two evils here.
But is he building a Stawman? I have studied anarchism for a number of years, and it looks like RB is on a path that leads toward solidarity and one big union — in modern term, something like this statement of Who We Are by an online anarchist group.
Now I have not read RB’s book. He may indeed be calling for something merely spiritual. If so, I chalk it up to Brand being young and still somewhat new to this stuff. And I will say that Brand does appear to be too in love with his own style, to follow his own logic all they way past the hard parts — the places in leftest thought that recognizes the limits of current democratic practice and the disasters of authoritarian communism. So, he recognizes that socialism needs to be democratic and the representative democracy has only been able to produce oligarchy — like many leftists. But how does one create a new option for democracy? We might, like Chomsky or Zinn, wish for a direct democracy, where laws are directly in control of the people and the means of production are owned by workers and not an elite minority nor a state. In deed, such a system would not have a state, but rather a true democratic system of equality distributed authority. There would also be markets without capitalism, proper.
But the question is, how do we get from A to B?
I can’t say I have the answer. But I think building new systems that seek to eliminate the oppression of the many by the few and slavery in all its forms is something worth theorizing about. And if we have to vote for the lesser of two evils while we build this thing, then that’s what we ought to do.
But what I hope to avoid is placing too much emphasis on Brand’s call to stop voting. The focus needs to be on building new networks of solidary between workers of all stripes. The focus needs to be on the fact that right-wingers won executive power in this last round of voting, but progressive measures passed. This proves that, at least in some way direct democracy has a real chance of working. The focus needs to be only learning how to get from A to B.
If Brand can only offer spiritual awakening at this point, then at least he can point to what is really wrong right now. Unlike Maher who can make us laugh, but can’t say anything new — just offer the same old lines about about voting for the lesser of two evils. I say we watch Brand evolve on this. I think he is an emerging voice, and he will come up with something new if he keeps getting challenged.
So maybe Brand will issue a response. That would be cool. But, if it’s all the same, I think we would be better to research this discussion on building solidarity in the 21st century and see where it takes us. Or we could send Brand copies of Rodulf Rocker (we know he reads Chomsky, but does he read the source material). Idk.
But I do think Brand is worth sticking with. And I don’t think it’s fair to stop listening when he says something that makes us uncomfortable. That goes double when the only advice we get is cliched lines about voting for the lesser of two evils.