As Russell Brand and his particular form of revolutionary politics has seemingly become the popular voice of the disillusioned left in recent months, disengagement from electoral politics among us seems more and more prevalent. Brand’s views on the current political system are legitimate, insightful even, but as many left wing commentators have written in recent months, his conclusions are at best incomplete and, at worst, highly dangerous. Given the rise of UKIP and the right across Europe and growing inequality, it is important for us to acknowledge that revolution and evolution are not mutually exclusive.
To be clear, what I’m not advocating is the kind of reformism that centre-left parties across Europe practise. These are politics that focus on stability for privileged groups above liberation for disadvantaged groups, that preach patience to those with the most urgent needs and that accept unpalatable right-wing policies on the grounds of pragmatism. We should oppose these politics in all their forms because they legitimate the right-wing argument and help to create the illusion of consent for a hegemonic set of values and economic policies which we on the left oppose.
we do have a duty to convince ordinary people of our argument before we even think about forcing it on them
However, instant revolution; the destruction of existing infrastructure and institutions in the hopes of building something better, rarely leads to a better society. Most of us strongly oppose authoritarianism when it is practised by the right, but seem to encourage it amongst the left. This is not to say that we have to wait for the consent of multinational corporations or conservative politicians, but that we do have a duty to convince ordinary people of our argument before we even think about forcing it on them. The requirement for a majority belief in the kind of society we wish to see means that instant, violent revolution is not justifiable.
I’ve always found it utterly distasteful to use people’s lives as tactics in a political fight.
Electoral politics is a dirty game and, some would argue, an integral part of the capitalist system, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try our hardest to use it to forward our beliefs. It’s a slightly simplistic, but nonetheless important, point to make that those who support UKIP’s attempts to push our country even further to the right and those who support maintaining our current system will turn out to vote in May 2015. I’m sure there are some who would argue that, in the long term, the election of UKIP MPs in 2015 would be good for us, as it would make life intolerable for disadvantaged groups and make them more likely to support revolutionary politics, but I’ve always found it utterly distasteful to use people’s lives as tactics in a political fight.
We are highly unlikely to build the kind of society we want to see through the established electoral system. In the long run, we should be using a diversity of tactics to undermine and delegitimate capitalism and privilege. However, just because we’re fighting for a better type of society, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight for the best version of what we have.