communism of thought

Christian Baltauss, Gérard Depardieu, Dionys Mascolo

There is already something communist about thought itself – or, at the very least, of resolving to continue to think. This is the thesis of Dionys Mascolo, who, in his 1988 correspondence with Gilles Deleuze, quotes the mad romantic Hölderlin:

The life of the spirit between friends, the thoughts that form in the exchange of words, by writing or in person, are necessary to those who seek. Without that, we are by our own hands outside thought. (qtd. in Munro, 53)

Mascolo-Deleuze come to agree – distress precedes friendship (Mascolo) and friendship precedes distress (Deleuze). If friendship is “an internal condition of thought as such” (45), it’s only because there is a distress of the latter sort, however. Of course, there was the shared distress of Nazi occupation that incites the formation of the French Resistance. But then there was the distress of sharing internal to the French Resistance, the constant threats of betrayal, aphasia, amnesia – failures of trust, of communication, of memory, respectively. Distress of sharing gives friendship what Deleuze elsewhere calls “the claws of absolute necessity” capable “of an original violence inflicted upon thought […] which alone would awaken thought from its natural stupor” (Difference and Repetition, 139). But what could be communist about thought if it arises only out of failed friendship, in response to “trespass and violence, an enemy” (139)? Because “there is only involuntary thought” (139). Because, in other words, thought cannot begin or re-begin except through failing and being failed by your friends, over and over and over again. Deleuze, in a letter to Mascolo:

I no longer remember which German poet wrote of the twilight hour when one should be wary ‘even of a friend.’ One would go that far, to wariness of a friend, and all of that would, with friendship, put the ‘distress’ in thought in an essential way. (53-54)

If this distress is essential to thought, there is no possible individualism of thought, no thought without the fits and starts of unstable friendship. The communist-of-thought understands the distress of sharing is itself a shared distress. What is so communist about thinking? To renew our thought, we will after every betrayal have to perform the gesture of sharing the distress of sharing. Communism of thought names the capacity to share the distress of sharing^n. We suggest: forget the idyll of social harmony as a motive for collectivization and turn the failures of collectivization into a motor for collectivization itself.

The Communism of Thought, Michael Munro (2014)

Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze, trans. Paul Patton (1994)