By David Priestland
Ed Miliband’s late-night pilgrimage to Russell Brand’s loft apartment, days before the last election, was seen by supporters as a canny bid for the youth vote, and by critics as a cringe-worthy attempt to harness the Shoreditch Messiah’s charisma. Yet neither view captures its real significance as a sign of the profound weakness of mainstream social democracy and its desperate efforts to co-opt the energies of the most dynamic element of today’s left: anarchism. In their eagerness to ridicule Brand’s “ramblings”, commentators have ignored his strong identification with the left-anarchist tradition. For among the works he has recommended to his followers is a collection of writings by another charismatic figure who sometimes lived in London, the father of anarchist communism: Prince Peter Kropotkin.