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Nihilism and individualism replaced with solidarity and community?

ACCELERATIONISM / For the children of the new millennium, conservatism is a dead ideology. And above neoliberalism, a new communist realism is now taking shape among young Britons.


"There's no alternative!" Insisted Margaret Thatcher in the eighties. The slogan illuminates something central to the neo-liberal period that her over ten years in power both launched and accelerated in the UK. Any alternative vision for the future eventually got into trouble in a political landscape where services were privatized, people reduced to individualistic atoms – and history itself, at the cessation of the Soviet Union, declared over. Without ideological competitors, the neoliberalists gained a monopoly on political imagination, and a capitalist realism attached the grip on the mind – a picture of the reality where the world was finite, only capitalism eternal.

Sarkar struck back with the following viral sound byte: "I'm literally a communist, you idiot!"

With Capitalist Realism (2009), British critic Mark Fisher described the suffocating cultural atmosphere behind the financial crisis and the costly aftermath. Without alternatives, the system had to be revived, the experts "modernize", and the technocracy live – all at the expense of the community. Despite his pessimism, Fisher's classic points to radicalism that today breathes new life into the British left to the left of social democracy. A younger critic has established himself with Fisher as a role model. The goal is to build an alternative hegemony, something Fisher does in his collected and leftist writings, k-punk (2018), calls a communist realism. Released from the past neoliberal dogmatism, our imagination will no longer be dictated by Stalinism and its technocratic servants.

A new movement and a new community

The radicalization of young Britons has its roots in the 2010 parliamentary elections and the coalition government between the Conservatives by David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats by Nick Clegg. The breach of promise for the latter – by increasing the tuition fee from NOK 35 to NOK 000 per year – mobilized a generation that had grown up under Blair's third path, a political student movement.

Anti-depressants have become today's opium for the masses.

With soaring student loans, low wages and insecure contracts, the lives of millennials are often marked by stress, frustration and lack of faith in the future. Climate death and the health queue, debt burden and dairy jobs instill a general feeling of powerlessness. Young left-wing writers suggest liberating alternatives such as life-affirming drugs – intended to stimulate imagination. At the forefront, antidepressants have become today's opium for the masses, and today's most pressing political project to transform individual depression into collective political anger.

As Fisher's thinking was tried, spread and matured through the blogosphere's digital network, the new left in the United Kingdom, with Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn as paternal gallion figure, is also a social networking phenomenon. Novara Media, founded in the summer of 2011 by Aaron Bastani and James Butler as a kind of socialist evening school, has over time established itself as a central and powerful media channel for a young British reader, listener and viewer who is hungry for alternatives, political as well as cultural.

Aaron Bastani
Aaron Bastani

In this context, it is no coincidence that the manifesto of Novara co-founder Bastani, Fully Automated Luxury Communism (2018, see MODERN TIMES's August review), first presented as a YouTube clip and aimed at a viral meme. Conservative critics such as Lord Finkelstein have, for this reason, dismissed Bastani and his like-minded as ruthless opportunists who advocate naive hipster socialism. Behind the internet's solid layers of irony are hidden real, authoritarian intentions, Finkelstein claims in the review "Marx gets a millenial makeover" for The Times.

For the children of the new millennium, conservatism is a dead ideology. Finkelstein and his like are unable to immerse themselves in the psychological terror this generation is experiencing. As tested and stressed, exposed and exhausted, capitalism fails us on all fronts. But through this shared experience a new solidarity also arises around class, generation and common future, and on this basis a radical collective consciousness – a communist realism – can be built.


Among the new left-wing political lab workers of this new left are philosopher Nick Srnicek and sociologist Alex Williams, who with manifestos #ACCELERATE (2013) and Inventing the future (2015) has formulated an ambitious, accelerationist vision for the future. The idea of ​​Kong is that increased technological automation, and other forms of technological development, have the potential to both destabilize the capitalist order and to liberate the world's workers from work. The goal for Srnicek and Williams is to reclaim the idea of ​​historical progress and a utopian future for a defensive left that has lived in the past since the neoliberal revolution of the XNUMXs.

With soaring student loans, low wages and insecure contracts is the life of millennials
often characterized by stress, frustration and lack of faith in the future.

British accelerationism has its roots in the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) research group, which was founded by, among others, Sadie Plant, Mark Fisher and Nick Land at the University of Warwick in 1995. CCRU had a clear side to what they perceived as a sclerotic and antiquarian left, and was by no means an unambiguous project for the political left, something Land's later ties to the new alternative right-wing (alt-right) clarifies. With his fabrications of an anti-democratic, dark enlightenment, Land appears to be in direct opposition to younger left-wing radical writers such as Srnicek, Williams and Bastani, whose project is to revive modernity's progress and enlightenment. The difference between the CCRU of the nineties and these new radical voices is striking: Gone are the theorizations and concept jazz inspired by the nineties' technology and acid culture in the journalistic, educational and movement-building writing style of the latter. Nihilism and individualism have been replaced by solidarity and community. The goal is to break through, create a new consensus, not then pursue the weird and obscure.

Teen Vogue and Communist common sense. When she was invited to Good Morning Britain to discuss Trump's first British state visit, Novara editor Ash Sarkar was repeatedly interrupted by program manager Piers Morgan. In frustration at being referred to as an Obama supporter, Sarkar struck back with the following viral sound byte: "I'm literally a communist, you idiot!" In the extensive media coverage that followed, Sarkar was interviewed by Teen Vogue. The theme was the meaning of communism today. Sarkar quoted Marx's text Machine fragment and explained the unleashing potential of automation for the magazine's young, female readership. Sarkar's message, which was on a collision course with the left-hand side's traditional line of work, was that collective ownership of technology and redistribution of the technology's fruits will allow a new state. A time without demands to keep paid work, but with the freedom to live and realize oneself – where the very distinction between work and leisure breaks down. "In the past they called it communism," concluded Sarkar: "In the future, I think we must call it common sense."

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