“At least facetiousness is funny.”

So says Russell Brand:

Brand condemns some rather old problems, among them inequality and “political disillusion”: only then, just as swiftly, to dismiss the point of addressing them. He is much too content to place himself in an intellectual vacuum.

Socialism makes the modest suggestion that welfare should not depend upon the charitable donations of the rich and religious to the deserving poor, a view that holds petty paternalism and charity as insults to human dignity – what Marx called the soothing of the heart-burned aristocrat. It’s why charges of hypocrisy are so ludicrous: “champagne socialism” is an attempt to vomit egalitarians out of public discourse with a pithy remark, alluding, apparently, to the miso soups and lattes over which they denounce the bourgeoisie. (I can only afford cava myself but we’ll let that pass.)

Is this really “hypocrisy”? Compare socialism with the sickly utopianism of so-called “compassionate capitalism”: a view – usually of the wealthy and often of the masochists whom they exploit – in which the accumulation of money by private individuals will only and inevitably operate to the benefit of wider society. It’s why the liberals who befriend this fatuous verdict are usually such chillingly dull specimens.

Now: whatever legitimate questions might be raised about the viability of economic rationalisation under socialism (usually envisaged as being without a monetary system), or the popular tyranny that any “revolution” would risk stirring, there’s at least a sense of commitment to this ideology. On the practical level, you might say, there’s the nationalisation of production; and more romantically there are distant visions of equality and internationalism. Neither scientific nor humanistic impulses can be separated from socialism.

Brand, on the other hand, has nothing to say on this tradition: instead he aligns himself with anarchism of the most vacuous sort. It is the political activism of weed and hedonism, having been arrested for public nudity in 2001 as though ventral modesty and complicity in child labour were inextricable accomplices. As a rule, anarchism doesn’t impress me; it’s a commitment to distaste rather than principle, the populism of idiocy and intellectual dishonesty plagued by the frivolous hypocrisy of which socialists have the right to be dismissive. In 1968, thousands marched through London demanding Harold Wilson take a moral lead in his foreign policy; while the Occupy Movement, four decades later, would say nothing beyond vaguely austere denunciations of capitalism and those Wall Street suits somewhat overly-sharp for the primate species that we are.

Social crises have to be confronted both for what they are and what they may become. It is not enough to complain about flooding in winter and then to stay silent when people march against building the flood gates in spring.


3 Comments on ““At least facetiousness is funny.””

  1. Glenn King says:

    Mark, I assume that it makes more sense to talk about socialism in the English as opposed to the American context. After all at one time the British Labor Party did identify itself as socialist; while in America the open espousal of socialism marks one as an enemy to be attacked or among people who are friendlier as the object of a condescending bemusement for ones naivety

    An important reason for this is that just as from the Bible several differing versions of Jesus can be drawn, so out of the historical socialist tradition a several substantially different socialist traditions can be drawn. Your post demonstrates that point. You define socialism Clement Attlee style as the nationalization of industries. You suggest that it is perhaps best described as an economic system without a monetary (money) system. Would it perhaps be without markets as well? Of Course such as system would have to be some sort of centrally administered system and would be justified as being more economically rational than is modern capitalism.

    The problem of all of this from my perspective is that my own political tradition which is much closer to the classical anarchists such as Jean Pierre Proudhon’s old French socialist conceptions, the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism, or early 20th century British guild socialism. These forms of socialism would bring to human beings a real economic autonomy and freedom which I do not believe that the statist systems do. Unfortunately the profoundly socialist concepts of workers control and ownership which have most successfully manifested themselves in the Mondragon cooperative system, are in this nation almost never thought of as being socialism. Thus I am seriously rethinking the possibility of returning to some earlier stages of my political life (I Am 63) in which I supported what I thought of as being the content of socialism without reference to the “s” word which is no longer communicates would it should.

    Note. I found your statements about the anarchist to be of considerable interest. Actually I agree which your analysis of much of contemporary anarchism. But I would argue that the classical anarchists such as Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, those anarchist who dominated much of the working class movement in France in the early 20th century and Spain through the Spanish Civil War in spite of their mistakes were human beings to be reckoned with.

    Glenn

  2. Poumista says:

    […] I don’t know why I haven’t been linking constantly to Mark Crawford’s blog, as it’s completely up my street and as I write this I notice I am on the small but perfectly formed blogroll. It’s from this side of the Atlantic, and I guess you’d characterise it more as centre-left. Mark (who tweets here) recently left the Labour Party in protest at Ed Miliband’s betrayal of the Syrian people, and his post (entitled “Not in My Name“) on his reasons for leaving is absolutely superb. Here are some sample passages from the blog. From a post on Russell Brand: […]

  3. […] I don’t know why I haven’t been linking constantly to Mark Crawford’s blog, as it’s completely up my street and as I write this I notice I am on the small but perfectly formed blogroll. It’s from this side of the Atlantic, and I guess you’d characterise it more as centre-left. Mark (who tweets here) recently left the Labour Party in protest at Ed Miliband’s betrayal of the Syrian people, and his post (entitled “Not in My Name“) on his reasons for leaving is absolutely superb. Here are some sample passages from the blog. From a post on Russell Brand: […]


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