FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Russell Brand’s Revolutionary Change

by ELLIOT SPERBER

Russell Brand’s recent calls for revolutionary change (in his BBC interview and in his article in the New Statesman) have raised a considerable degree of discussion and controversy. Predictably enough, those on the right have reacted by generally dismissing the message. Not only do they characterize its substance as unrealistic, they question the capacity of the messenger; that this is an ad hominem is neither discussed nor, apparently, comprehended.

Although largely agreeing with the message, those on the left tend to either uncritically root for the messenger, or fall into arguments over leaders and structure and organization, not to mention what the parameters of an international revolutionary subject would encompass. This is not to say that these general tendencies of the left and right are rigid or not fluid. Plenty on the radical left are criticizing Brand. Among other things, his objectification of “beautiful women” is – as Musa Okwonga, among others, have pointed out – patently sexist. (That the name New Statesman is patently sexist as well is, as far as I know, not under discussion.) In the end, however, Brand’s character flaws have little to do with the validity of his arguments.

Though they may mitigate his persuasive “power” – and point to weaknesses in his thinking – they in no way diminish the need for the elimination of, among other injustices, global pollution, poverty, inequality, and the other systemically produced conditions Brand argues should be eliminated. His character flaws, however, are relevant to the extent that they cast light on the claims of proponents of “leaderless” social movements. For in invoking Brand’s flaws, some proponents of leaderlessness – like Natasha Lennard (who, ironically, has over 7,000 Twitter “followers”) – undermine their own positions. Writing in Salon, Lennard asks that “we temper our celebrations of [Brand] according to his very pronounced flaws.”

Yet the argument against celebrating and raising people to the status of leaders has little, if anything, to do with a person’s “pronounced flaws.” Even flawless people should not be leaders. According to the anti-leader argument not even gods, those flawless beings, should be leaders. “No gods, no masters”, right?Among the more problematic aspects of the Political Leader Question is the fact that the term “leader” is particularly ambiguous. Does it mean ‘one who gives commands’ (i.e., a dictator)? Or is it limited to the sense of “spokesperson” (which means dictater in a more benign, but still problematic, sense)? Or does it simply mean one who “leads by example”? Or one who influences by charm and guile? Or does it mean “organizer”? For their part, pro-leader people don’t seem to see how one could even have a political movement without leaders.

Meanwhile, anti-leader people seem incapable of recognizing the clandestine leaders influencing strategies, priorities, agendas, etc., within their own ranks. Neither side seems to discuss what Jean Baudrillard, in his essay The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media, described as “the modern enigma of politics”: the 16th century thinker Etienne de la Boetie’s insight that political leaders derive their power less from taking it from those they rule over than by the subjected population’s own renunciation of their own power.

In other words, the Leader Question is the Power Question (not to mention the ideology question, the hegemony question, the autonomy/heteronomy question, and the coercive versus non-coercive power question, inter alia). Leaders and followers not only simultaneously reproduce one another in a mutually reinforcing dynamic, this dynamic arises whenever a person has influence over another. And Russell Brand, with his eloquence and celebrity visibility, has no small measure of influence over millions. That is, at least for the time being, he is already a type of leader.

To be continued…

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and contributor to hygiecracy.blogspot.com He lives in New York City, and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewable of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail