OK Russell, let’s get this done.
I’m in Europe and the crisis is everywhere. I landed in Greece and it hit me in the face: people trying to generate an income in any way they can; road works half complete and not touched for months (if not years); teachers on strike against austerity; people sleeping rough, shops with no customers; fascists in parliament; and demonstrations full of angry people (and, worryingly, tired and apprehensive people). It was there in Berlin as well. Sure the roads and bike paths are immaculate, and the public infrastructure incredible, but too many are living a much more difficult existence. I queued to get into Berghain nightclub while an older and younger man collected cans and bottles from those waiting, to earn a living. They worked through the night in the cold while standing in the rain and mud. I caught the bus to a market in the local square and watched as skinheads walked along the footpath. And when I was leaving Berlin and caught a taxi to the airport, the driver’s anxiety overwhelmed me as she criticised Merkel’s economic policies at home and abroad — ‘it is harder now than thirty years ago’ she lamented (all the while knowing her relative privilege). She damned Thatcherism and noted that the same privatisation policies carry on ‘whenever Frau Merkel visits Greece’.
Over the last two days my social media has been awash with the You Tube of you being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. Perhaps it is more accurate to say the footage of you taking on Paxman, who seems more to want to belittle you than interview you at times. While I do vote, I understand why you say you don’t — that you think all politicians are the same. And I agree that we shouldn’t support a system that is run for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of many. The Occupy idea of the 1% versus the 99% rings true for me – both within nations and at the global level. That places like ‘your’ England and ‘my’ Australia can even have an underclass, alongside their enormous wealth, is criminal. And it was excellent you repeatedly mentioned that the 1% isn’t serious about the global environmental catastrophe it has created. We have just had a ‘labour’ government that basically did shit.
But the question for me is also, where to now Russell? Where to if we really want to get this done?
To revolutionise the global political economy, we need to talk about how we do that. I don’t know that you are right in saying that a revolution will happen. Struggle will happen, we know this from the history of capitalism. But the 1% and the governments who serve them have been maintaining their position of privilege for a while now, and it would be wrong to think that they will fall without a concerted and strategic effort on our part. We need to get organised and we need to take them on. You are right that we should not demand something only a little better from them, but ourselves create the sort of permanent changes people and the planet need. It needs to be the sort of change that will last.
We also need a diverse movement of the majority. So while it is great you took on the homophobic dicks from Westboro Baptist Church, I think you need to get serious about equality and inclusion if we are really going to get this done. Your sexism has to stop. I want to stand with you, but you need to cut that shit out — it’s not funny, it’s offensive.
On Occupy, wasn’t it great to see that sort of fight back in the belly of the beast! But I think Occupy hit an impasse and many people know it. It is not enough to just call out the 1%, or to call out the police for their repression of those who fight back, we need to go further and we need a strategy. That strategy has to take on the state, and that means building a social movement that can not only provide an alternative to the existing politicians, governments and ‘democratic’ systems, but one that can sweep away the machineries of power that stand behind them. We need to replace them with a completely new way of organising society in the interests of the vast majority by the vast majority.
The 1% and their politicians we rightly hate, as well the police and military that do their bidding around the world, will only be successfully tackled if we get organised around such a strategy — one that doesn’t simply end up replicating the problems you have identified in a new form. A social revolution is never automatic or inevitable. The only inevitability is that the 1% will fight us, and so we need to be thinking about how we carry out that fight and for what aims.
Thanks for megaphoning this discussion of revolution in a way I can’t. But for now, let’s get clear on how we can make that revolution happen and let’s get it done.