On the 5th March 1933 the Nazis were elected in Germany on 43% of the vote. They did not achieve the overall majority they were expected to win but were able to form a coalition with the conservative German National People's Party and took power. Hitler became Chancellor and shortly afterwards enacted legislation to outlaw all other political parties, shut down all opposing newspapers and silence free speech. The rest is history with 55,000,000 men women and children (including my grandfather) dead as a result.
28.4% of the population did not vote, had they voted for the SPD or KPD the history of the 20th century might have been very different. So what if more than 28.4% had abstained? Would that have changed things? What if everyone opposed to the Nazis abstained, would that have changed anything?
The answer is not complicated; the first thing Hitler did when he came to power was to abolish democracy, silence any opposition and imprison or murder his opponents. Hitler only needed the elctions to achieve office, to get into power, once there he did not care about democracy or the opinions of anyone opposed to him, his only intention was to become dictator of Germany. For him power was an end in itself, not something to be used for the greater good, not something to help improve people's lives, power was everything, democracy was simply a means of achieving power, to be abolished as soon as power had been won.
This tends to be the case with right-wing political parties; power is the ultimate goal, and concomitantly preventing left-wing parties from obtaining power. The further right you go on the political spectrum the more politics is about power rather than policy, and the less scrupulous parties are about how they get power.
So where does this leave Russell Brand's idea that abstaining is the route to real change? Will abstentions make any difference? You have to say that history is not on his side. The right always craves power above anything else, the need for legitimacy diminishes the further right you go on the political spectrum. So we see the rise of BBCUkip, triumphant in its supposed Earthquake in British politics. We must remember that political Earthquakes are not necessarily good things, as history has shown us.
The thing to remember is that Russell Brand's "abstention" party was actually the runaway winner of the Euro elections, He achieved a landslide of more than 60% of the vote, compared with Ukip getting less than 10%. Russell Brand is therefore the winner of the Euro elections by a long way. But will it make any difference, will he be able to marshall his supporters behind his agenda?
Well the answer has got to be a resounding no. He has not claimed victory, he has no power to do anything with that 60%+ of the population who voted for his abstention party, and in any case they probably all abstained for different reasons, from apathy to disillusionment. He has no manifesto, no mandate, and most importantly no power to do anything. Because that is what politics is about most profoundly, it is about power. Of course left and right treat power in different ways; the left to work for more social justice and to empower citizens and the right to entrench its own power and disempower citizens (despite what it would like us to believe).
Ultimately Brand's naive and half-baked idea crumbles in the face of well-organised right-wing opposition that is just going to take power and ignore abstentions. Ultimately abstaining benefits Ukip and the Tories, there is no fence to sit on in politics. People would like to think they can escape from politics, they don't have to sit down and make the hard choices it takes to have a political point of view that does not crumble in the face of argument. There is no abstention, abstention is a vote for the right or the far right. Any people who think otherwise are deluding themselves. The NHS will not be protected by abstaining only by voting for a party that will defend it.
The result of the Euros show that Brand's 'don't vote' call has won the day. Now he has to deliver on the social and political change he has said will follow the majority of us not voting. Come on Russell, tell us what is going to happen now? How will politics change, how will society change? How will anything change as a result of more than half the population no voting? We are waiting to hear from you.