Comrade:An Essay on Political Belonging

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When people say “comrade”, they change the world

In the twentieth-century millions of people across the globe addressed each other as “comrade”. Now, it’s more common to hear talk of “allies” on the left than it is of comrades. In Comrade, Jodi Dean insists that this shift exemplifies the key problem with the contemporary left: the substitution of political identity for a relation of political belonging that must be built, sustained, and defended.

In Comrade, Dean offers a theory of the comrade. Comrades are equals on the same side of a political struggle. Voluntarily coming together in the struggle for justice, their relationship is characterised by discipline, joy, courage, and enthusiasm. Considering the generic egalitarianism of the comrade in light of differences of race and gender, Dean draws from an array of historical and literary examples such as Harry Haywood, C.L.R James, Alexandra Kollontai, and Doris Lessing. She argues that if we are to be a left at all, we have to be comrades.


  • Jodi’s sharp analysis of the impasses of the left is also a kind of requiem for much of the 2.0 bluster of the last decade.

    Mark Fisher, author of Capitalist Realism
  • Comrade – both a nom de guerreand a sign of love. One which constructs political organisation and struggle, and which brings back from the grave the fallen heroes.

    Antonio Negri
  • Part speculative conceptual history and part militant political theory continuing in the same vein as her previous publications The Communist Horizon and Crowds and Party, this new book on the generic figure of the comrade as a form of address, an index of belonging, and a carrier of expectations presents Jodi Dean at her very best: witty from beginning to end, scathing as need be against those who would prefer to hamper, mock, or red-bait the prospects of egalitarian communist and socialist politics, and never less than urgently needed as a program for common struggle in these times of renewed authoritarianism, unabashed sexism, and emboldened racism.

    Bruno Bosteels, author of The Actuality of Communism