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Sex Pistols' John Lydon on Russell Brand's 'Revolution': 'He'll Make You All Homeless'

Lydon v. Brand: The erstwhile Johnny Rotten comments on Russell Brand's politics. Screen shot from The Guardian.


Actor, comedian and budding political commentator Russell Brand may have been surprised to hear that onetime Sex Pistol John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, is no fan of anarchism — or of Brand, for that matter.

In fact, as Lydon tells The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee in this video interview posted last week, Brand’s recommendation that young people refuse to vote is rubbish.

Lydon argues that, while the political system in the United Kingdom is deeply flawed, and that voters are given “lousy options,” they are better than “nothing at all.” What’s more, suggesting that youngsters skip out on voting is tantamount to abdicating to older voters whatever power can be gained through the polls and “demanding that you be ignored.”

Voting, Lydon says, is still a fairly recently gained privilege, “and to have that so easily, flippantly ignored in that lazy-ass, I-take-drugs-and-tell-not-funny-jokes way — it’s just very poor.”

Also surprising is that Lydon, whose former band produced the pre-millennial punk anthem “Anarchy in the UK,” actually thinks “anarchy is a mind game for the middle classes — really impractical.” As he tells Toynbee, “anarchists can’t get anywhere without motorways.”

As for Brand’s ideas about upending the existing system, as he details in his forthcoming book with the matter-of-fact title “Revolution,” Lydon is decidedly dismissive, warning the younger set that Brand’s brand of “collectivism and anarcho-syndicalism,” as the funnyman puts it in this episode of “The Trews,” will “make you all homeless.” What’s more, Lydon claims, drawing on a little old-school working-class rhetoric, Brand is “preaching all this from a mansion. Lovely, innit?”

Lydon’s words might strike some as the inevitable justifications of a onetime rebel-turned-sellout getting soft in his autumn years, and they apparently struck Brand as misconstrued, as The Independent reported Tuesday:

“What I said was, ‘There’s nothing worth voting for.’ That’s why I don’t vote,” Brand countered during an episode of The Trews last week.

“If there was someone worth voting for, I’d vote for it and I’d encourage other people if they think that there is a political party that represents their views; if they think there are politicians that are speaking on their behalf, by all means vote for them.”

“It’s a complicated issue,” he continued, “and I can see why John Lydon might have trouble to get that in a tiny little interview space particularly when he’s got to promote a show about bugs.”

As for Brand’s wealth, a quick search on the Internet yields information about his net worth as hovering somewhere in the $15-$20 million range, but he claims he’s aware of the public and personal impact of his own economic standing. He also claims, as The Independent story cited above pointed out, that he’s willing to sacrifice his life for his ideal of “utopian revolution.”

Meanwhile, he has another prominent British musician from Lydon’s generation, Bob Geldof (but not fellow comedian Robert Webb) in his corner. So difficult to keep track of all these political entertainers.

And speaking of ideas, Brand’s book is now up for review. Early word from his homeland finds The Guardian registering a bit of an eye-roll and The Independent granting that he has an “authentic voice.” What isn’t up for debate is that Brand is demanding to be heard.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

Kasia Anderson
Executive Editor
Dr. Kasia Anderson is Truthdig's executive editor. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1997 with a degree in English literature and sociology, she worked as a Web journalist in San Francisco until…
Kasia Anderson

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