Article – 10 Steps To A British Revolution

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, December 2000)

Our constitution-less Britain has so far managed to avoid the indignity of a full-blown revolution. Why is this? Perhaps nobody has ever bothered to offer the sound advice we present here.

Have you ever woken up in the morning, seen the rain outside, thought about the crappy job you’re about to set off to and wondered, “when are the enslaved going to overthrow their Capitalist oppressors?” Well, judging by the recent Anti-Capitalist demonstrations there are plenty of people who think the same as you, although they usually haven’t got jobs. From the tooled-up Class War warrior hiding in an underground bunker and waiting for ‘the call’, to that bloke with dreadlocks who sells the Socialist Worker on the corner of Bold Street, everybody says they want a revolution.

But how does one go about fomenting revolution in this country? After all, we don’t exactly have a good record of it. The Peasants’ Revolt was put down by a 14 year old. Oliver Cromwell had a decent go, but his revolutionary fervour was more caused by news that Royalists were treating the Irish as human beings than a need to make things ‘better’. Let’s face it, in our thousand-year history the only revolution we can lay claim to is the Industrial one. And that didn’t exactly help the proles. Even Denmark can do better than that.

A change, as that social commentator Sheryl Crow so rightly said, may do you good and Britain is in dire need a kick up its tight sphincter. So here’s a hand guide to the realities for any potential putsch-ists who have made it this far into this tortured prose.

1. Have An Ideal

Revolution has got a great ring to it. It’s got all those hard consonants and that sexy ‘v’. But you can’t start a revolution just because it’s a cool word. Well, lots of people involved in the music world – from agit-pop combos to Steven ‘Seething’ Wells – do this, but it would be best to disassociate yourself from these losers as quickly as possible. You want to be taken seriously, after all, and bands who can sing their manifestos are, however looked up to by their adolescent fans, akin to those people who can set the periodic table to music. Bob Dylan may have spoken for a generation but the truest thing he ever said related to the need to carry lightbulbs. You need a reason to want to completely dismantle the fabric of democratic government, and you need it to be written down.

2. Plotting For the Future

The first stage in any revolution is a manifesto. Ideally, this should be written in a dank prison cell somewhere but, failing that, a bedsit or squat containing nothing but a mattress, a bare lightbulb and an ancient typewriter will do. Manifestos can be written on computers but the facility to do spellchecks is not going to look as impressive in retrospect. But it shouldn’t matter; if your revolution succeed the story of your life if going to be as prone to re-writing as Jeffrey Archer’s CV. As to what you should put in your manifesto there are two ways you can go:

3. For and Against

Your intentions, as laid down in your manifesto, can either be reacting against the current situation or suggesting a way to improve the current situation. Most manifestos fall into the second category. When you’ve got nothing to do all day but type and play with yourself, inspirations for how to make the world a better place are easy to come by. ‘Improvements’ also make for manifestos the size of doorsteps – as with the works of Marx – whereas ‘reactions’ usually wind up as a couple of heated pages of A4. However, it must be noted that most successful revolutions are ‘reactions’ and, besides, people like a succinct read. Save the big stuff for after you’ve been installed in the government palaces.

4. Getting Your Views Across

You may know what this country needs but that’s not necessarily something shared by your fellow oppressed. In Russia and France they had the advantage of brutality, starvation and arrogant ‘have’s to fight against. In modern Britain, despite what the Daily Mail says, you will not be so lucky. Whilst most people in this country are miserable bastards, you will be hard pressed to re-direct this unhappiness into any kind of concerted revolutionary force. A large majority of these people think that happiness lies within the pages of an Argos catalogue rather than in the struggle to fulfil your plans for an ideal state.

5. Don’t Get Too Excited

There is also the fact that the population of this country are naturally resistant to ‘pushy’ people (hello Richard Branson) and, even if you’ve got a perfect plan to overthrow the government with hardly any effort at all, they’ll automatically react against any jumped up upstart who thinks they know better. We don’t follow leaders, we grudgingly tolerate them. This national unwillingness to follow any idealogue – on the grounds that anyone who wants to be leader must be an arrogant little squirt with emotional problems – is one of the main reasons why there has never been a revolution in this country. That said, it has given us a healthy cynicism for evangelists, aggressive sales tactics and party politics. You must overcome this; wishy-washy declarations against such insubstantial and impervious notions as ‘capitalism’ may motivate a few crusties but it won’t get the masses behind you.

6. Motivational Skills

Whilst most people you try to persuade will agree in principal that revolution could be a good idea, they will also balk at the idea of getting off their flabby arses and doing anything about it. Revolutions are not easy things to achieve after all. Not for nothing are they often referred to as ‘struggles’. Generally speaking, people aren’t stupid: they will be aware that revolutions aren’t just a matter of going up to the parliament building and politely asking to be let in. Revolutions usually involves lots of fighting, killing and listening to interminable speeches. To make people go through all that things had better be pretty bad. “We’re all three meals away from anarchy,” as somebody clever once observed. As seen in 5, it is vitally important not to come off as a big head offering what you think id the only right way, which is why what you’re kicking against has to be pretty substantial. Mismanaging the health service or joining the Euro are not really enough, although an arrogant government ignoring the will of the people it represents can be useful and that usually happens once a week

7. What You’re Up Against

In this country there is no secret strike force monitoring the underground and ready to defend the establishment’s interests at the first sign of revolutionary fervour, although MI5 comes pretty close. If you want to organise a serious blood ‘n’ guts revolution, you’re not only going to be up against the general apathy of the people – who will cheerfully vote for a leader just because he’s had a baby in his forties – you will also be up against the army, police and media. The army is the traditional tool of the authoritarian state but its power is much lessened these days, what with all the good work they do for the UN. The police are a different matter, as they exhibit all the overpaid cronyism of the Praetorian Guard at its Emperor-making height. When people can get put in prison for 18 years just for playing cards and being Irish, what chance have your bloody revolutionary ideals got? The media, aside from their vested interest in keeping everybody as paranoid as possible , is a reflection of the people and they’re just as likely to be slavering over a glimpse of Liz Hurley’s knickers than supporting your cause. And yes, I’m talking about the broadsheets here. Only with sheer people-power can you hope to go against the wall of resistance.

8. Have A Figurehead

In 1958, Charles de Gaulle successfully organised a coup in France which brought to an end the Fourth Republic without a drop of blood being spilled. But then, it’s likely you’re not a nationalist hero of the Resistance, or that the government you depose will be as weak as a new-born kitten with influenza, or that the army will be fighting a hugely unpopular war against a sovereign colony (Algeria). In all likelihood you will just be a spotty youth with no history of popular support, so it might be wise to get someone on your side with a serious history of opposing the status quo and succeeding. At the moment, there is only one person in the country who embodies this: Ken Livingstone. So develop an interest in newts and Doctor Who and chum up to him.

9. Creating Unrest

De Gaulle’s ‘revolution’ would be the ideal but you’re more than likely to want something like the original French or Russian models, with lots of people charging through the streets and killing aristocrats left, right and centre. But mostly right. To do this you’re going to have to create something to kick against. In light of the ‘three meals’ destroying the country’s entire supply of food is a start. But then just blockading a few fuel depots will work just as well as it tends to get the old dears stripping Kwik Save dry. Other methods you could try are to surreptitiously give the upper classes the right to shoot whomever they like; infiltrate MI5 and turn them into a secret army along the lines of the SS or NKVD; or organise a terror campaign. The object of this campaign is irrelevant as long as everyone is nice and frightened.

10. Be Lucky

A successful coup is 99% down to luck. Given the right circumstances a paranoid, dithering government will do the job for you. Despite all the re-writing of Russian, French, American and Chinese history, all of their revolutions were essentially down to accidents. Heroism plays a part as well, but heroes will be your disposable foot soldiers. If all the right potential stars correctly align – you having a message that people can follow, an unpopular government acting shifty, a general realisation amongst the masses that insurgency will be ‘worth it’ – then you could have giant posters of yourself on every street corner. Be warned though: bloody revolution is usually the call for bloody counter-revolution, and if you don’t start throwing your weight around immediately you could find yourself swinging from the nearest lamppost. Good luck!

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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