18 October 2019

In her book, Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging, Jodi Dean sees “[a]ttention to comradeship” as the antidote to tense, conflicted, suspicious, exhausting identity-driven Left politics, especially online. She is particularly critical of the recent focus on allyship: “the term ally appears more to designate a limit, suggesting that you will never be one of us, than it does to enable solidarity.” This is not to deny real differences of privilege: “comrade does not eliminate conflict. It names an aspiration not always fulfilled but one that comrades can be expected to recognize, to strive for. … The determinations of a sexist, racist, capitalist society unavoidably intrude, but comrade names a relation no longer determined by these factors, providing a site from which they can be judged and addressed.” Alliances are, by their nature, temporary alignments of interest. We should look beyond them for something deeper: “an ally with interests of [their] own that temporarily overlap with mine… might later come to be a comrade.” Comradeship goes further: “Comrades are those you can count on. You share enough of a common ideology, enough of a commitment to common principles and goals, to do more than one-off actions. Together you can fight the long fight.”