Class Wars: No New Hope
Russell Brand struck a nerve recently. Whether you agree with him or not, we saw a surge in Britain’s top form of political activism, sharing videos on Facebook. Russell was able to bring people to the point of radical politics but then, through no fault of his own, everyone was surrounded by a forest of annoying points and had no idea how to proceed with their newly realised outrage. For me, Russell Brand revealed that we tend to be able to identify problems but are at a loss when it comes to confronting them given how entrenched the problems are.
In terms of identifying the problem, Russell Brand was looking at the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg, and that was the concentration of wealth. This is where Russell didn’t go far enough in his rhetoric in identifying the divisions in the class system as the cause of many of the ills plaguing people.
The working classes are being hit hard by the austerity that’s deemed necessary by ruling classes in order to maintain the economic system in which we live. The idea of austerity seems to imply that people having the decadent desire to eat and not freeze to death in their homes somehow caused the financial crisis, and not the contradictions and structures of global capitalism.
George Osborne recently said that Britain needs a return to the can-do attitude of Victorian era Britain. I don’t so much think it’s the can-do attitude that appeals to him but the class system of a Charles Dickens novel as a horde of street orphans are a potential welcome boost to job numbers.
We are actually seeing the realisation of the neo-Victorian dream of Cameron and Osborne. The heightened economic and social poverty of the bygone era is reflected today as someone who has recently lost their job can, on their way to the job centre walk past a recently closed library and a bustling food bank; this is before returning to their freezing home to be greeted by an ever increasing energy bill. Whilst this happens bankers are given massive bonuses. And who says life isn’t fair?
Working class votes are becoming as useless as they were in the day of Queen Victoria, as the only body close to government willing to listen to them are GCHQ. Many would say we can address these issues by voting, but Russell Brand certainly had the right idea when he said he didn’t vote. A lot of people will say that Labour is the best that the left and the working class have, and in some respects this is true, but only because the alternatives are effectively heartless super villains. Labour did rule from 1997-2010, overseeing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whilst beginning a creeping privatisation of the NHS with their private finance initiative. Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he wants to make capitalism work for working people, despite the fact that working people are the ones who are exploited in a capitalist system. Even saying this, Miliband is still branded ‘Red Ed’ and a Marxist by elements of the British press due to the persisting idea that Labour are a leftist party and not just another neo-liberal group.
It would be wonderful if Labour was a genuine alternative but the reality is that they would still champion free markets and continue the boom and bust cycle of capitalism that keeps the wealth divided as it is.
So, the problems can be identified, even if they’re not accepted as problems by everyone. But once you’ve identified the problems you can do little more than shrug. The problems do have a tendency of massively outnumbering the solutions. If you can’t vote effectively in a democracy, how do you change the political landscape? That’s the problem with this sort of political analysis; it says what it believes to be the problems but can’t really offer any real solutions, and that’s incredibly frustrating. Simply calling for revolution seems redundant if the voice of the opinion is not willing to do anything themselves and fails to offer a means of revolution. Often when someone like Russell Brand manages to tap into a vein of discontent, the discontented often find themselves with no viable options for an outlet. What is effectively needed then to attempt to solve or alleviate the problems highlighted in this article is a vehicle that dissatisfied masses can use to improve their situation, at this current moment in time there appears to be very little hope of one appearing.