A Complete Revolution?

Luke Luby examines the sentiments behind the recent Million Mask March.

“Remember remember the fifth of November gunpowder treason, and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder, treason should ever be forgot.” It was with these sentiments that thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people took to the streets in over 400 cities worldwide this past November 5 as part of the Million Mask March. According to the event’s Facebook page, the march is a “Call for Anonymous, WikiLeaks, The Pirate Party, Occupy and Oath Keepers to Defend Humanity.” The protest took place on the 408th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes and a number of accomplices failed to blow up the English Parliament.

Those who took part were protesting in opposition to causes ranging from corruption, mainly political, corporations, and fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, and wore the masks first made famous in V For Vendetta, a thriller set in a dystopian London. The masks have more recently become synonymous with hacktivist group Anonymous, who were the originators of the event.

The event’s Facebook page, which was set up a little over a week before the march, as well as an associated website, claim that the people must “remember who your enemies are: billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians who enslave the people in injustice” while also claiming that “we are the 99%”.

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When the march reached Parliament Square, protesters burned energy bills in opposition to the rising cost of fuel.

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One of the biggest protests of the night appeared in London, where comedian Russell Brand participated while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Brand recently sparked some controversy when he wrote an open letter promoting political apathy and advocated for a “complete revolution” in a recent edition of The New Statesman. Just hours before turning up at the London part of the event, Brand had another article published in The Guardian, seemingly implying that democracy doesn’t work, and that there was a need for mass protest, whilst also commenting on the “insignificant” distinction between political parties.

Brand’s open letters, and appearance at the march, follow a Newsnight interview in which he claimed the political system was broken:

“I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. Alternate means, alternate political systems.”

Brand also took to Twitter before the event, tweeting “whatever party they claim to represent in the day, at night they show their true colours and all go to the same party”, referring to a party in which a friend of his attending not long ago where members of the British Parliament, such as David Cameron, and it’s opposition were in attendance, as well as former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When the march reached Parliament Square, protesters burned energy bills in opposition to the rising cost of fuel. Although a relatively peaceful event, there were reports of clashes with police in riot gear as a firework was launched towards Buckingham Palace. According to reports, up to 11 people were arrested.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, supporters of the cause gathered at the Washington Monument before marching to the White House in order to protest, and raise awareness more of, a number of causes, including genetically modified food, and the series of mass surveillance made public by Edward Snowden. When the protesters reached the White House, many slogans were chanted, the most prominent being “Obama. Come out. We’ve got some shit to talk about”.

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The Million Mask March could highlight the festering belief among the younger generations that current global politics may be tightening its own rope and coming to an end.

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The Million Mask March could highlight the festering belief among the younger generations that current global politics may be tightening its own rope and coming to an end. The vast amount of political activity that protesters held, and will still hold, to be wrong – be it constant, global surveillance, constant tax hikes and pay cuts for the poor, or the elitism innate in the political system – shows that there is little, if any, more that they are willing to take in the way of perceived wrongs.

As Brand has suggested, voting may not fix it, which is why he says that revolution may be the only way to hold people accountable, which it something that Anonymous – who spearheaded the mass protests – as well as Wikileaks, has been trying to do since their inception; something with which has been met with moderate success. As Brand notes in The Guardian:

‘The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right. The lazily duplicitous servants of The City expect us to gratefully participate in what amounts to little more than a political hokey cokey where every four years we get to choose what colour tie the liar who leads us wears.’