Russell Brand`s now famous call for people not vote will be tested in next week`s European elections, where if currently polling data is accurate, will see Ukip gain the largest share of the vote. One can debate whether Ukip is institutionally racist or fascist, but what is unquestionable is that racists and fascists will celebrate a Ukip victory. The leaders of the major political parties appear powerless to prevent Ukip from winning, leaving a peculiar situation where Brand is potentially the most influential political figure, since were he to reverse his views and call for a mass vote against Ukip, he could potentially derail their victory.
Brand`s choice of popularising non-voting in favour of alternative forms of democratic action - ranging from online petitions, to all out revolution - comes from ideas popular in the Occupy movement, and other direct action groups. Yet when scrutinised, abandoning voting appears a brittle concept.
The self-professed anarchist, professor Noam Chomsky - one of Brand`s favourite political philosophers - eloquently describes his reasons for voting in a political system whose fundamental structures he opposes, stating "(the) small differences in a very powerful system can have large outcomes", and regarding those most affected "if you don`t care about what happens to those people, and you want to live in some abstract seminar somewhere, then you don`t care, but it`s a fact, and we can`t deny it."
At the European elections the argument for not voting is even more "abstract", since unlike in the US presidential elections Chomsky was referring to, there are large differences in the political parties. The Green Party in no way resembles Ukip. Brand being a white, successful multimillionaire comedian and actor, is insulated from the most serious impacts of the political decisions, and a Ukip victory would not have the direct effects on him that it would for the victims of far-right and fascist movements.
This is not to suggest Brand`s interventions into politics are unwelcome: he has used his celebrity to draw attention to environmental destruction, global wealth inequality, and a failed 'War on Drugs'; but the systems remain, and influencing young people not to vote will entrench them further, leading politicians to ignore the young in favour of older more conservative voters.
Brand has already experienced difficult questions from Jon Snow over the perceived inconsistencies of his actions: backing a petition lobbying parliament, and being supportive of The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. This may intensify as the general election gets closer, since current polls predict a close contest. This being the case, progressives who were supportive of Brand when the election was distant, may find his influence around election time counter-productive and marginalising.
As a result of this I have started an online petition calling on Brand to encourage young people to vote, and prevent a Ukip victory. He has written that "The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change". This is could not be a more clear case of a situation where it does.
If you feel the same please sign and share it.