Lines of Flight: Possibilities and Organisation

As many readers who follow me on Twitter may be aware, over the past few days I’ve been doing some reading, some thinking, and making wildly provocative and bold claims about how we should understand Marxist theory today. Twitter can be a great website, and I find it particularly helpful in being able to take a hunch or an idea and plunge head-first into throwing out ideas, taking on feedback and suggestions, and reworking them into better and more consistent proposals. It breaks down the barrier imposed by lengthier forms of online communication which necessitates both better planning and a more careful attention to the nuances of what is being communicated. But it’s also limited, partly because of the lack of an edit button (Give the people what they want, Twitter!), and because of the character-limit. I wanted here to take some of the ideas I’ve been playing with and articulating on Twitter and to try to flesh them out a bit more, to give them some greater substance and to speak to more concrete issues. This may in fact require several articles, but here I want to focus on a question which has been bugging me – like an itch I can’t get rid of – for years now. And it has to do with the way I so frequently see “debates” about leftist ‘ideologies’ played out across the internet. The problem might provisionally be stated as something like this: What has gone wrong such that questions of political organisation and mobilisation has been displaced (reduced) to debates over abstract notions of ‘Socialism’? We might have to clarify this question below. I should add, finally, that this is far from an attempt to ‘have the final say’, it is an attempt to push us towards a better discussion.

“There are two ways of rejecting the revolution. The first is to refuse to see it where it exists; the second is to see it where it manifestly will not occur.”

Félix Guattari, “Molecular revolutions” in Chaosophy

In the spirit of my recent tweets, I want to start with a provocation: Neither Socialism nor Communism are abstract propositions to be evaluated from one’s desk, to be argued in debating societies, contested on social media, or constantly fractured into ever-more identitarian internet ideologies. The Communist Hypothesis (to borrow a phrase from Badiou) is not a proposition to be evaluated, to be weighed up in order to consider, in turn, its merits and defects. We must recall the forcefulness with which Marx and Engels state in the German Ideology: “We call Communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”1 Both of these claims must be grasped in order to see how far removed so many of our discussions are from the heart of the matter. First, Communism must be grasped in all its negativity and in all of the possibilities that this negation affirms. But we must run this backwards, again: What we have to grasp is how the affirmation of what could be must take concrete form as the abolition of the present stage of things. Second, these possibilities are determined by “the premises now in existence.” Communism arises out of present conditions in order to abolish them.

We now have at least the start of an answer for how we got here, why it is that the left is riven not just with factionalism (there is perhaps nothing which defines the left so consistently as factionalism!), but with that dreadful odour of something which has begin to rot. So much of what is today clearly visible is political ideology as fan-fiction, violently forced through the neoliberal axiom which constructs a reciprocal relationship between identity and the commodity. We should examine this a little, examining each part of this in turn. Participants draw up their own unique utopian society, implicitly predicting their own position (or, sometimes on Twitter, explicitly) in that structure, and argue with each other about the merits and defects of certain models. “You’re an authoritarian!”, “You prioritise individualism over collectivism!”, “Fuck off, tankie!” On and on it goes; endless, dreary, utterly rudderless discourse. We will examine this more below. But perhaps much of the stench of this discourse is to be located in its enframing by neoliberal subjectivity. These ‘ideologies’ are really just so many products on shelves, each trying to outdo the other in their marketing: this one is less authoritarian, this one more pragmatic, yet another promises to liberate the individual or the collective or vice versa, and so on. There is nothing ‘living’ left in so many of these debates; they are historical relics, occasionally examined, prodded and considered. But they were products of particular circumstances which are no longer our own. Here we are seeing revolution where it manifestly will not occur.

I mean to be quite clear here: the problem is not that of privileging theory over praxis, and I’m not trying to dunk on teenagers engaging with important theoretical ideas with their global peers. Especially during times in which almost all of us are essentially stuck at home for months on end, the possibilities of political action are highly constrained, particularly for marginalised groups most at risk of both the virus and police discrimination. When Žižek says “Don’t act. Just think”, we must in fact be bolder and move beyond such a false binary. The question is not whether to theorise or whether to act; under our conditions, the question is ‘What kind of theory is required?’ I hope this article is some small contribution in this regard. We cannot provide, a priori, our ideal model of society in advance; at best, we can begin to put into practice our ideals through our political action. My point is, instead, that if there is to be a revolutionary theory it must be attentive to the real conditions of society (and societies, given combined and uneven development) and proceed from there, tracing the lines of flight, the new openings of capital’s delirious oscillations. The communicative and co-operative possibilities opened up by the internet are unprecedented and to a great extent unrealised in their total promise – but there is an enormous amount of highly worthwhile and productive discourse, even on social media.

Moreover: What Communism is, or might be, or could be, is not determined by our ideas. History is neither moved nor mediated by the concept but by the material conditions of life: by the multiplicity of forms of life which exist in any given region or structure, the endlessly morphing productive processes at work, the flows and investments of desire and interest. Capitalism is never just Capitalism, it’s always mediated by combined and uneven development: flows and cuts distributed across a shifting topology, always and everywhere. Deleuze and Guattari write in A Thousand Plateaus that “We have often seen capitalism maintain and organize inviable states, according to its needs, and for the precise purpose of crushing minorities. The minorities issue is instead that of smashing capitalism, of redefining socialism, of constituting a war machine capable of counter the world war machine by other means.” Their commitment is clear. They continue: “the deepest law of capitalism: it continually sets and then repels its own limits, but in so doing gives rise to numerous flows in all directions that escape its axiomatic.” These ‘numerous flows’ tend to enter into connection with each other to delineate “a new Land”, “without their constituting a war machine whose aim is neither the war of extermination nor the peace of generalized terror, but revolutionary movement”.2

The question must always be: what, today, resists, breaks through and escapes capital’s neurotic recoding? What lines of flight can we trace in the movements of desire and interest today? It is worth quoting Deleuze and Guattari at length here:

There is in each case a constructivism, a “diagrammatism,” operating by the determination of the conditions of the problem and by transversal links between problems: it opposes both the automation of the capitalist axioms and bureaucratic programming. From this standpoint, when we talk about “undecidable propositions,” we are not referring to the uncertainty of the results, which is necessarily a part of every system. We are referring, on the contrary, to the coexistence and inseparability of that which the system conjugates, and that which never ceases to escape it following lines of flight that are themselves connectable. The undecidable is the germ and locus par excellence of revolutionary decisions. Some people invoke the high technology of the world system of enslavement; but even, and especially, this machinic enslavement abounds in undecidable propositions and movements that, far from belonging to a domain of knowledge reserved for sworn specialists, provides so many weapons for the becoming of everybody/everything, becoming-radio, becoming-electronic, becoming-molecular… Every struggle is a function of all of these undecidable propositions and constructs revolutionary connections in opposition to the conjugations of the axiomatic.

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), p. 550. Emphasis mine

Here is not the place for an analysis of what continues to escape capital’s axiomatic and obsessive recoding of codes. I have thoughts on this, and I would like to expand on this in relation to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s Assembly (2017) which engages directly with not just this question but many of those raised in this article. For now, I want to draw out a few threads from this, before returning to some provocative claims about concrete revolutionary movements, finally pulling this all back together again at the end.

First, I take it from Anti-Oedipus that Capitalism is never just the decoding of flows. Firstly because Deleuze-Guattari insist upon capital’s tendency towards reterritorialization as a kind of security measure against the instability produced by its own chaotic movements. But equally, the work of capital “presupposes codes or axioms which are not the products of chance, but which are not intrinsically rational either.”3 What capital decodes with one hand – territories, nations, religions, traditions – it recodes with the other in line with the axiomatic of money. Traditions, for example, are not recoded onto money – as if money could be anything other than alienated and alienating – money is recoded onto traditions, sold back to us as corporate mindfulness courses. “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”4 Capital abhors that which it cannot measure, what it cannot abstract away into an endlessly exchangeable and interchangeable series of items, to ‘linearize’ (as Guattari puts it). And as Deleuze-Guattari point out, capital “never stops crossing its own limits which keep reappearing further away. It puts itself in alarming situations with respect to its own production, its social life, its demographics, its borders with the third world, its internal regions, etc. Its gaps are everywhere, forever giving rise to the displaced limits of capitalism. […] it is the problem of the marginalized: to plug all these lines of flight into a revolutionary plateau. In capitalism, then, these lines of flight take on a new character, a new type of revolutionary potential.”5

To bugger Marx, these lines of flight “result from the premises now in existence.” The lesson Althusser draws from Machiavelli is that we must take a view of things and of people as they are, not as we might wish they were. And if we take just two historical examples of revolutionary political action, we can perhaps get a clearer picture of how things stand. We can start with the Spanish anarchist militias during the civil war of 1936-39. And let me be provocative again here: the Spanish syndicalists did not spend years debating the details, merits, and defects of various models of utopian society, before deciding – in their moment of glorious reflective equilibrium – that on balance they ought to pursue a loose and horizontalist federation of largely autonomous unions. Their political practice was directly born out of their actual engagements with their conditions of life at the time: the complexities of the conflicts between the Fascists, Soviets, Republicans, and all their diverse micro-factions; the development and organisational resilience of their unions; the nation’s class-composition and level of technical development; their country’s own historical and cultural factors in the subjectivities in play. The organisational structure they developed was a response to their conditions of life. Mao’s reformulation of Marxist theory and development of a peasant-centered political praxis; Lenin’s relentless drive to industrialisation and proletarianisation against the backdrop of serfdom. The Zapatistas did not invent a theory from on high, articulating in advance the society to be endorsed; they did not seek to ‘persuade’ the people of the Chiapas region that their alternative was better. Their movement and organisational structure was a direct response to their conditions of life: lack of food, housing, security, and a state which lurched wildly between being unresponsive and brutally repressive. This should not be read as a historical determinism; quite the opposite. As Sonali Gupta and H. Bolin recently argue in e-Flux, ” there is no algorithm that prescribes the specific conditions that produce social rupture; there is no such thing as an engineered riot.” History can only be understood backwards.

The standard analysis not only puts the cart before the horse by continuing to privilege the role of the ‘revolutionary intellectual’ over the masses, it also passes over the ways in which each revolutionary movement is also always a response to their own conditions of life. We must stop refusing to see revolution where it is. If there is to be a communism for the west (and this is far from guaranteed!), it will not be born out of an abstract clash of ideas or this interminable proliferation of internet ideologies utterly cut off from reality; it will be born from the real conditions in which we live. And we can hopefully jettison the concept of the ‘intellectual’ entirely – is there anything more pretentious, so openly advertising a desire for power and authority? “Representation no longer exists; there’s only action: theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.”6 The task, then, seems to be the same that Deleuze and Guattari articulated so many years ago: To trace the lines of flight in capital’s contemporary conditions, to understand the ways in which capital not only pushes up against its own limits but also what escapes it; and to draw these together on a plane of consistency, to “plug all these lines of flight into a revolutionary plateau” in such a way as to construct “a war machine capable of countering the world war machine by other means.” What kind of revolutionary structures and modes of organisation are made possible under contemporary conditions? And how can they brought together on a plane of consistency such that they can constitute a war-machine adequate to the situation we face? This remains the question of organisation, and I hope to explore them in later posts.

  1. Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, available here: The German Ideology (
  2. “7,000 BC: Apparatuses of Capture” in Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (New York & London: Bloomsbury, 2019), p. 549
  3. “Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium” in Félix Guattari, Chaosophy (South Pasadena: Semiotexte, 2009), p. 35
  4. Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (London: Penguin Classics, 2002), p. 223
  5. “Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium”, p. 35
  6. Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, “Intellectuals and power”, available here: Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze (

Cover image: ‘boypoolrhuzome’ by Dr Mark Ingham

The Molecular Subject(s) of Revolution

Just a short post here today. I wanted to highlight a few really interesting sections of Richard Gilman-Opalsky’s excellent book ‘Specters of Revolt‘ and to expand on them with some further thoughts, particularly about the revolutionary subject(s), molecularity, and joyful rebellion. It’s been a bit of a revelation reading it, I have to say, though its exact ideological tenor I found a little ambiguous for whatever that’s worth. On the one hand, there are frequent (cheap) pot-shots at anarchists; on the other, he criticises Hardt and Negri’s return to the ‘Marxian revolutionary subject.’ I wonder what Marxism is without that notion, some minimal subject antagonistic to the interest of capital. I think maybe this is why Hardt and Negri’s attempt to theorise the Multitude in the way they do, and why I find it so interests insofar as it pushes, perhaps to the extreme, how Marxism can conceptualise contemporary movements and revolts. Certainly his interest remains in autonomy. But perhaps I’m playing the wrong game by worrying about this at all. What really matters is what the book says, and what it does! And it says and does a lot! Here’s some of the passages that stood out to me from his chapter on ‘Beyond Struggle.’

Guattari and Negri’s molecular point of view rejects any attempt to take distinct molecular revolutions as part of some unified revolutionary program. That is, their position reflects an honest acceptance of the smallness of certain revolts and a total rejection of the effort to make every movement appear as a self-conscious part of some ideological whole. For example, it would be an ideological sleight of hand to say that the revolution in Egypt in 2011 is orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, or by a Google marketing manager, or by anarchists, or by communists disaffected with capitalism. Guattari and Negri point out that desire, on a social terrain, does not express a cohesive ideological consensus. It can only be made to look ‘communist’ on the level of appearance, and this serves as a critical reminder to Hardt and Negri, who have retrieved the Marxian revolutionary subject position and refigured it in the multitude. I am afraid that the molecular point of view – more honest, less ideological – gets lost in the aggregate points of view of the multitude.

Specters of Revolt, p. 83

It’s interesting to me that in seeking to develop a molecular politics, Gilman-Opalsky returns not to Hardt-Negri but instead to that strange but fascinating assemblage Guattari-Negri (though he is at pains to not by any means lay the blame for this on Hardt!) This is of course drawn from their collaborative work, more a series of mutually-conducted interviews, in New Lines of Alliance, New Spaces of Liberty originally published in 1985. It isn’t actually entirely clear to me how far apart these two assemblages are, and that there are not clear and important connections branching out between them. But I’m sure Gilman-Opalsky would grant that if it were put to him, but there’s something he sees in Guattari-Negri which he finds missing in Hardt-Negri, which is an interesting notion by itself – I may end up reading a bit more by both to try and see where they come apart. But in particular, the notion that the desires which traverse the social space of a revolt lack an inherently political character at the level of desire seems common between both approaches; what perhaps changes in the 15 intervening years preceding the publication of Empire, is to ask ‘What can be done to articulate these desires in the shape of Communism? How can these desires be, perhaps, mediated via democratic and egalitarian means in order to amplify their force?’

But more importantly, the point here is a very legitimate and important one for contemporary radical elements. For those who still hold out hope for revolution and revolt, it is surely necessary to enter into a relationship of receptivity towards the actually-existing movements of our age. One of the most distasteful tendencies of many Marxist-Leninist groups in Britain is their opportunism, simply waiting around for some group or another to ‘kick off’, then to infiltrate and try to sway, pressure, recruit, organise on their behalf. And as Hardt and Negri point out in Assembly (2017), it is not a coincidence that so many of these movements are ‘leaderless’. It is not a mistake, a strategic misrecognition, a failure of organisational effectivity: it is a deliberate and strategic choice on their part to make democratic and egalitarian ethics and praxis immanent to their very movements, to their practical signification, their goals, and their procedural tools. I take a message of something like this: Attend to these movements, do not speak for them, do not lecture them, co-opt them, or exploit them: take part, demonstrate your solidarity, and listen.

In 1985, Guattari and Negri theorized the revolutionary subject from its singular characteristics instead of from generalizations, arguing that “[e]ach molecular movement, each autonomy, each minoritarian movement will coalesce with an aspect of the real in order to exalt its particular liberatory dimensions.” Thus, rather than prescribing or predicting how a cohesive revolutionary class may act as a critical mass, various subsets of the exploited, oppressed, neglected, and despised will show us directly how they act in their actual and diverse modes of revolt. This helps us to understand the conditions of each movement, and their respect proclivities for action. This perspective is critical to the theory of revolt developed in this book, because it does not seek to subordinate every uprising to an ideological format of class conflict, and rather, actively guards against such reductions.

Specters of Revolt, p. 89

These questions are of central importance today. Who is, today, the revolutionary subject? Is there one? Has there ever been? Are there still revolutionary subjects, pluralising elements of the body politic whose existence agitates against the constraints of liberal-democratic capitalism? Is it still a question of these subjects coming to a conscious awareness of their historical role, or is it now a matter of recalibrating our understandings? Mapping out the new flows of desire across these social terrains, watching where they reach certain intensities, resonating beyond and across multiple lines, cutting through and dissolving them. In other words: how can we understand the desires which come before any ideological expression, which traverse any movement, and the potentiality they may possess to stretch out across so many boundaries and lines to form something much larger?

Gilman-Opalsky takes us at least part way there, and certainly further than anyone else I’ve read so far. By returning to Guattari-Negri’s much-overlooked work together, he seems to try to recapture these elements of both singularity and molecularity in one and the same movement. Moreover, he also returns us to the question of theory and praxis. And I am in full agreement with him on this one: we theorists have very little to teach but perhaps a great deal to learn from actually-existing radical movements and uprisings. We must not assume an ideological conformity amongst revolutionary elements, nor can this be understood simply in terms of ‘false consciousness’ on their part. The flows of desire have never conformed to rigid ideological identifications, always escaping, breaking out from pre-determined and fixed frameworks of understanding. We must be attentive to the singularity of any revolutionary moment, not in order to isolate it, but in order to understand it and to see how these intensities may spiral outwards in a chain-reaction of sparks meeting powder-kegs. And when this happens, we should perhaps recall Deleuze’s formulation (in conversation with Foucault, who is in agreement) that “Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.”1

Autonomous action within the limits of capital – self-directed, micropolitical, and joyful – is the scream’s complement. We cannot simply choose between the screams of struggle, on the one hand, and pleasure, on the other, nor should we assert a hard separation between the two. The majority of the world’s people, living on the losing end of capital, are stuck with struggle as a kind of modus operandi. They do not need to commit to the struggle, since the struggle is inevitably always with them. However, for a sustainable and ongoing contestation of capital and its culture, we must oppose the total negation of our desires and talents in the here and now. Struggle may be necessary, but it is never enough. As long as the fight for a better future places our desires and talents in abeyance, the fight will tire too quickly, and power has the patience to wait it out. Some of the most inspiring saturnalias of social upheaval rise up and subside over the course of a long weekend. Struggle must be decentered. If struggle remains the centrality modality of revolution, then only the most ‘selfless’ and/or miserable among us will participate in revolution, and one wonders about the possibility, sustainability, and psychic health of such ‘selfless’ and miserable individuals, of such a sad and horrible politics.

Specters of Revolt, p. 96 (Emphasis mine)

This struck me as a really interesting, and quite moving, call for a more joyful and less self-valorising radical politics. Not only because it calls for a politics more open to the diversity of talents, skills, desires and loves of this mobile assemblage of discontents, but because it calls for us to reconsider whether – in our commitment to ‘the struggle’, to ‘struggling for/against …’ – we are in fact endlessly immiserating ourselves, and, purely tactically, putting others off from desiring in a similar way. What is perhaps calls for is a politics of affirmation, but in this case, then precisely what is required is a reconceptualisation of the relationship between affirmation and negation. What is necessary is to be capable of a double-movement of negation-affirmation; a first volley of destructive-negativity, an abolition of all that is, in order to be capable of affirming what could be; or perhaps, the affirmation of what could be over and against what is.

If we want a better society, we have to desire not just that better society but also to do the things that are necessary in order to achieve it. Desire has to enter into, to invest, our actual practices and join up that productive connection of desire-interest. The relation between means and ends, for Gilman-Opalsky, has to be understood in this way. In this respect, he stands much closer to the ‘naive anarchists’ he so frequently criticises in this book. For this is a central tenet of anarchist theory: that the means employed necessarily alter into a relation of transformation with the ends, distorting both until neither are any longer recognisable. It remains to us to consider whether history has vindicated such a formulation.

I am sure I will write more about this really excellent book in the very near future. I have not even touched upon perhaps the central claim of his book – that the revolt is itself a kind of intellect, an approach or form of philosophy. But I wanted to leave you with those three excerpts from the third chapter on ‘Beyond Struggle.’ I think there’s a lot of food for thought even within these relatively short passages.

  1. Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, “Intellectuals and Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze’ (1972), URL:

Antagonism, Class, and the Real Movement

I’ve recently been considering where my politics now stand, in light of studying a range of theorists and schools of thought beyond what I had previously had the time or opportunity to consider. In particular, I’ve been fascinated by the work — on the one hand — of groups like Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee, and — on the other hand — Antonio Negri and his collaborative work with Michael Hardt. Despite Tiqqun’s clear distaste for Negri (to put it mildly), it’s illustrative that much of their work nevertheless functions only in and through the concepts which Negri provides us, particularly that of Empire and its relation to the biopolitical, the police state, civil war, etc. I don’t think their positions are as irreconcilable as might appear on the surface, particularly given that — their many analytical and rhetorical strengths aside — Tiqqun’s understanding of Marxism is disappointingly shallow.

At the core of what I’ve been trying to think through, and I think this is understood as an important problem by most of the contemporary left, is the relation between class and politics. There are also other issues which we will consider below. On the orthodox Marxist analysis, one’s class is a function of one’s position within the objective economic system, and can be reduced down to a relatively simple question: Must you sell your labour for a wage in order to survive? Of course, my characterisation is necessarily somewhat simplistic, even the most orthodox of Marxists recognise that difficulties endure in the petit-bourgeois, lumpenproletariat, etc. This is the question I have been rethinking.

One of the great virtues of Marxist theory is its central conviction that theory must be guided both by praxis and the world we really see before us. It’s the reflexivity of Marxist theory which marks it out as such a powerful tool of analysis; if the thesis is disconfirmed by empirical observation, the thesis must be eliminated or revised. This procedure was exemplified by Marx himself, both in the writing of Capital and, for example, in his analysis of the Paris Commune. Lukacs was correct therefore to consider orthodox Marxism a commitment to the method, rather than the specific conclusions, provided us by Marx. And it is in this sense that I think we — and by we, I mean Communists — need to take a rethinking of class quite seriously. This is far from a new assertion, of course, and I think we’re all quite tired of the unending stream of theoretical texts denouncing the inadequacy of Marxism in interpreting some radical new development in the development of Capitalism. And this is where Tiqqun, The Invisible Committee, Hardt and Negri enter the picture.

What Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee show, I think, is the inadequacy of a ‘class analysis’ reliant upon the orthodox Marxist conceptualisation of class; it brings back to the forefront the now somewhat unfashionable diagnoses of the havoc capitalism is wreaking upon human society and the individual; and that contemporary Communists need to shake off the last remnants of the notion that emancipation awaits only after the revolution which up-ends the class conflict by transforming the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie into the dictatorship of the proletariat. Beyond this, they are also — as anarchists — highly skeptical of the very notion of ‘seizing state power’, and distrustful of the insistence that ‘this time it will be different.’ I think we can also take from them a lesson to be attendant to the real, existing movements out there on the streets today and learning from them, not legislating in advance how they must act, how their praxis must conform to our ideas, etc. Let me rephrase one of the central points here: if we are to conceptualise antagonism within contemporary capitalist societies, a reliance upon the notion of ‘the working class’ will not get us very far. In their words,

Historical conflict no longer opposes two massive molar heaps, two classes — the exploited and the exploiters, the dominant and dominated, managers and workers — between which, in each individual case, it would be possible to differentiate. The front line no longer cuts through the middle of society; it now runs through each one of us…

In a sense, this is to overstate the case. Certainly they are right in diagnosing the way in which capital has penetrated to the very core of our subjectivities — the role of any political-economic regime in subjectivisation having been long understood already, of course. But their analysis in the text poses almost existential questions about the character of late-capitalist subjectivities – the profusion of anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions; the rugged individualism and endless incitement to self-improvement, efficiency, productivity, optimising your ‘free time’, and so on. Further, it does not seem that the antagonism between the dominant and the dominated has been in any meaningful sense weakened; if anything, it has continued to grow in intensity over the preceding decades. What has changed is the composition of the classes involved in this antagonism. And this is perhaps where I find Negri and Hardt most useful.

Class remains the determining factor at work in the antagonism which plays out across the social field today. But Hardt & Negri provide a reconceptualisation of what class has to be understood as today. The Multitude (their concept) is an irreducible multiplicity in the properly Deleuzian sense; it is the molar mass of all those exploited and dominated by capital and who, in multiple forms, push back against it. Where there is power, there is resistance. It is a multiplicity – it is composed not just of the traditional working class but feminists, people of colour, activists fighting against anti-immigrant violence, sexual violence, exploitation of workers, racism, anti-ableism, etc. And it is in the nature of an irreducible multiplicity that these ‘axes’ cannot be reduced to each other. We cannot understand capitalism without understanding how it’s supported by, and reinforces, patriarchy, white supremacy, white supremacy without seeing how capitalism requires it, etc. And this needn’t be resolved into the usual liberal identity politics in which criticism of programmes for universal healthcare are lambasted as ‘insufficiently intersectional.’ It is a problem, as Hardt points out, the diagnosis of which goes back to Rosa Luxemburg and even further back still; as Luxemburg, Iris Young and pointed out, what is needed is not an external solidarity between Communists and Feminists, and so on; but an internal solidarity which fully recognises the necessary co-constitution of their struggles. This is still, unfortunately, an insufficient characterisation of their long and arduous work filling out the notion of the multitude, but it must do for now.

There are a number of points across these thinkers which strike me as persuasive and important. The first is the mutual refusal to lecture actual social movements on how they ought to organise their struggles, the proper objectives, methodological frameworks, tactics in pursuit of the ends, etc. We should learn from these movements, not lecture them. Doubtless they were and are flawed, but so is any movement. It should not be forgotten that, for all of the horrors which later ensued, the Russian Revolution was – as China Mieville points out – in many ways sparked by Russian feminists marching in the streets on International Women’s Day. The test of your theory is its practical results – for Marxists, or anyone indebted to it, this must be central. There can be no clear separation between theory and practice. And in a world, today, where Leninists sit on the sidelines, in ever-dwindling numbers, filled with nostalgia for the past, jaded and bitter at the clear indifference in which they are regarded by ‘the working class’, this must be the decisive test for the question of whether the Leninist analysis still holds purchase on, is still adequate to, contemporary capitalism.

If you’re wondering where the resistance to capitalism is, you’ve got your eyes closed. It’s already there, out on the streets. The Real Movement is visible, out in force, denouncing racism, police violence, sexual violence, exploitation of workers, anti-migrant violence, authoritarianism, inequality, ecological collapse. You just have to open your eyes and see it. They don’t need lecturing about the proper role of the vanguard, or how – if they just saw clearly – they’d realise not just that class is the overdetermining factor but that the working class is the only possible agent of true change. What we need to do is take a step back and learn from them. One of the critiques levelled against the so-called ‘New Social Movements’ is the lack of meaningful, lasting change, what Srnicek and Williams deride as a ‘folk politics’ obsessed with nostalgia, petit-bourgeois values and an almost neurotic obsession with the relation between means and ends. We can meaningfully ask two questions in response to this, however: First, to what extent Marxist-Leninism has been able to meaningfully and lastingly overturn the global development of capitalism and its destructive consequences; Second, whether the technocratic social democracy proposed by Left Accelerationists represents any meaningful departure from what we’ve already seen over the hegemonic neoliberal consensus of the past few decades.

The Real Movement is not simply protesting, in a futile demonstration of its own political impotence. This is to misunderstand the entire character of revolt. Aside from the assumption that protest itself is meaningless and unimportant, it relies upon a near-deliberate ignorance of the ways in which non-electoral strategies operate. These movements which we see today – against everything from police violence and racism to anti-immigrant rhetoric, sexual violence and the changing role of education – are setting up communities, support networks, reading groups, sit-ins and takeovers, redistributing resources, providing legal aid and healthcare, protecting public and common spaces. And what has to be understood is the transformative elements contained within these forms of dissent.If there is to be the possibility of any Communism worthy of its name, it must embody, protect and further what it is that we hold in common, against the forces of a Neoliberal Capitalism which increasingly emphasises precisely what is “unique” to each of we entrepreneurial individuals, but which is really nothing “unique” at all. And if we are to form any meaningful praxis which takes us closer to that goal, we first need to stop seeing it as a goal to be achieved in the sense that before the revolution we had capitalism, after the revolution we have Communism. What is needed is the intensive multiplication and proliferation of non-capitalist, of Communist, social relations between individuals and groups; perhaps what we could call groupuscules. And it precisely in the commons and in the public spaces which so many of these movements champion, defend, and weaponise that these relations can be nurtured, developed and broadened. The process of engaging in these kinds of processes – of staging an occupation, or joining a picket line, volunteering at street kitchens, and so on – is always already to act against the prevailing capitalist social relations. If Capitalist domination cuts across us, then it is through acts such as these that an anti-capitalist collective subjectivity can be formed.