A melancholic goodbye to neoliberalism and the era of ‘communisation’

These are very general and unsystematic thoughts after having read ‘Endnotes no.5 – The Passions and the Interests’. Reading it in the midst of the Corona lockdown was the optimal surrounding, as it gives you the required time and gets you in the right headspace (i.e. the feeling of atomisation and imminent doom! – only joking! Well, kinda…)

Perhaps I should look at my own passions and interests when it comes to reading the book. I guess a prime motive is the fact that some of the texts were written by people I feel friendly with, despite our political disagreements. Another reason is that some texts in the past were thought-provoking, although I found that the focus on ‘workers’ identity’ a pretty unreflected sign of elitism and an idealistic explanation for the limitations of working class movements in the 20th century. There is the contradictory feeling towards the wider readership of Endnotes. A feeling of attraction and rejection of the aura of the ‘chosen few’, of hip and attractive intellectual people. There is a political motivation to find some comrades amongst this crowd, who are up for going beyond Endnotes’ existentialism and engage in revolutionary class politics. As you can see, a varied mix of interests.

Before I briefly go through the chapters I want to describe the overall impression the book gave me, which was an impression of separation, primarily between the different articles. In the introduction the scene is set by describing the general situation: the working class has ceased to exist as a force that obtains its revolutionary potential through the fact that workers are not only exploited as individual wage workers, but cooperate practically under the command of capital. According to Endnotes’ perspective, the decline of capital and the supposed growth of ‘surplus population’ means that existing practical relations ‘as producers’ ceases to determine social formation. Society becomes an assembly of individuals either competing on the market or coming together in struggle, as individual proletarians with their various backgrounds. This view on ‘the individual and society’ is extended into the realm of the political milieu. We, ourselves, are just individuals who come together because of shared ideas and conversations and relate to the mass of individual proletarians as people who think together. This viewpoint – that practical social relations have ceased to be determining, that, e.g. capital or the family are not primarily contradictory social forms that arises from the way we plough fields, build and operate machines, make and raise babies etc. – results in a picture that these forms are primarily ‘external’. Capital and the family become different types of containers of individuals; revolution is reduced to a struggle to find ‘an exit’, rather than a process of transforming the existing material relations and dependencies to produce the world we live in.

This general view that ignores, or at least underestimates, the already existing practical relations between people runs through the different articles and creates awkward separations both within and between each article.

In the first article, ‘We unhappy few’, the author assumes that the relation between ‘politicos’ and ‘the working class’ is primarily a relation between people and their ideas, and that social processes are defined as ‘good or bad conversations’. This goes so far as to reduce property relations to something that is external to, or an expression of, the ‘roles’ we play in conversations:

“The formal recognition of freedom and equality continually reproduces relations of capital and labour, that is, of inequality, exploitation, and domination. This is accepted by Gunn and Wilding, but their argument is that what this means is that in capitalism we are dealing with a contradictory form of mutual recognition, contradicted by the existence of these role definitions and social institutions, most pronouncedly the social institution of property.” (P.64)

According to this view, capitalist property is presupposed as an institution and not an outcome of a production process, which in its material form of cooperation – which separates and combines at the same time – dispossesses the social producers. Equally, when referring to psychoanalysts like Bion in order to explain ‘subconscious’ group dynamics, it seems that practical and material dependencies slip out of the focus. So for example, the wider sexual and sexist division of labour, the necessity to stay in a group in order to get access to jobs, to get sexual or emotional rewards in an otherwise anonymising society etc are replaced with seemingly ahistorical models, such as ‘fight-flight’ or the focus on a messianic figure. Again we are told that a group is not defined within a wider social practice, but as as an assembly of individuals distinct from others. In theoretical terms, this application of psychoanalysis to understand group dynamics falls behind most feminist critiques of group hierarchies and rather helps to depoliticise the arena of intimacy. In political terms, this separation between ‘the revolutionary group’ and ‘the working class’ based on ideas, and the primary focus on the exchange of ideas as being the defining element of social processes (‘conversations’), leaves the author in a constant feedback loop: our ideas either put us in a vanguard position, which we reject; or become pretty irrelevant, given that they are just one set of ideas amongst billions. The conclusion is therefore not surprising: “wait and see”.

In particular after reading the first article, which focuses primarily on the question of the ‘we’, the separation between the self-presentation of the authors as ‘people who discuss and share their ideas’ and the fact that they don’t reflect on their wider practical social reality was the most stark. It would be interesting to reflect on, for example, how the fact that many of the individual comrades of Endnotes now work in academic jobs, where having to publish individual articles and ‘sell their ideas’ impacts on the group’s process. How the fact of having to raise children and financial obligations forces individuals deeper into the commercialisation and individualisation of intellectual work. How this might impact on their political views, where a ‘nihilist’ position of communisation clashes much harder with the struggle for day to day ‘improvements’. I feel that by saying that ‘our ideas are just ideas amongst many’, and proclaiming a simplistic ‘anti-vanguardism’ and ‘anti-militantism’, that the comrades also shy away from a debate about the ‘social obligations’ of intellectuals towards a class movement, e.g. by thinking of what kind of ‘intellectual ammunition’ current struggles need, what kind of empirical efforts would have to be undertaken in order to facilitate a clearer orientation of struggles in time and space.

I don’t want to say that our collective efforts in west London in the last six years found the holy grail or cracked the code of how ‘revolutionaries’ can relate to ‘the class’. I just find the categories developed in the article (‘willed groups’ vs. ‘spontaneous groups’) pretty abstract. We moved to west London because we thought that politically it would be more interesting and potentially fruitful to work in large warehouses rather than being isolated as a cleaner in east London or in an office. ‘Political ideas’ motivated us to change our practical surrounding and relationships. We meet other workers at work, we relate to some rebel workers and share common ideas and practices against management and mistrust towards the government. One of the rebel workers reads loads and is interested in politics and history. Over the barbecue grill on our flat roof we discuss, and the rebel worker, who is by now a friend and who came with us to Amazon workers meetings abroad, comes out with the vilest anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Surprise, surprise, although we share a lot of experiences as workmates, and even shared actions in our solidarity network, we still have to argue over ideas! But as workmates and kind of comrades in the solidarity network, we have a motivation to argue beyond ‘exchanging opinions’ – the battle of ideas becomes a battle of whether or not we can continue working together and being friends.

The same linkage between ideas and practice can be seen when it comes to the solidarity network. Of course we see it within a wider ‘political idea’ and strategy: we have to fight atomisation, politicise our ‘private problems’, break the dependency on middle-class middle-men. But ‘practical relations’ come out of it and they have a direct positive impact on people’s lives. If you help each other practically, and even if that help is sometimes more of a service, certain ideas, such as opposition towards the local council or government in general, are exchanged in a different way, because of a previous practical bond. And after a while of living and working together you even lose your fear of becoming ‘vanguardist!’ You discover the complex relation between daily life and worries of people and your own proposals of what collective action to take, be it a work-to-rule or whatever. In some situations your ‘ideas’ are just abstract and don’t correspond to the material situation. In other situations – and the more time you spend within the class the more you are able to detect them – your proposals become the needed spark. As communists we have a motivation to demonstrate that daily solidarity and its ‘usefulness’ is connected to a historical revolutionary struggle for ‘a better society’ – people might or might not see it that way, but at least we can let them know. Where is the fucking problem?

The second article, ‘Error’, starts from the opposite end from where the first article finished. Instead of looking at society through the lens of ‘social interactions’ and exchange of ideas this article wants to look at ‘things’: infrastructure, machines, soil. The text asks the question of how we can imagine a break from capitalism if the social relations are inscribed into, for example, the global energy system. If capitalism is a global totality, encompassing everyone and everything, then we can only imagine either some kind of ‘gradual transition’ or a complete break, neither of which make logical sense to the author – although he is definitely torn between the two. It would be more interesting to hear about his views on how he thinks that, e.g. the new Labour left fits into his political and private world.

“These contrary standpoints, for all the differences between a homely common sense and a rigouist zealotry, share a common framing – perhaps a necessary one – and in at least one sense have similar implications: insofar as the future is foreseeable on the basis of things as currently given, it is capitalism, or else.” (P.117)

We can see that the general viewpoint, which sees the proletariat primarily defined by their individual existence as labour power, not as collective producers, cannot solve this conundrum and has to resort to “impertinent metaphysical pedantry” (P.123). Technology is described as a means to ‘order’ society and as the ‘avatar of capital’. Here the author doesn’t distinguish between, for example, architecture that has social control inscribed into it and machinery, which relies on the social application, improvisation and subversion of workers. Endnotes’ ‘machine fetishism’, which treats the machine as an object/thing with intrinsic powers, will return in the fifth article, which discusses the differences between tool and machine in more detail.

Like the ‘ideas’ in the first article, as long as the ‘things’ remain detached from the social practice of millions of workers, the gordon knot of totality cannot be cut. As ideas and things remain separated if not seen as formed and constantly transformed by social practice, the two articles also remain detached from each other. The article could have been really interesting if the question of ‘transition’ would not have been put in the box of the ‘workers’ statist current’, but seen as a practical and material problem that the social producers would have to face in any revolutionary transition: it takes time to move, change, re-assemble things, dismantle knowledge hierarchies and reorganise how we use ‘things’ socially. This persepective however, would have to acknowledge both the central social power and knowledge of workers in the essential sectors, something which Endnotes does not seem to be willing to do. Instead of doing the work of looking into the intellectual and manual division of labour, the regional concentrations, the military state defence and already existing working class struggles within the global productive apparatus, Endnotes prefers to tie themselves into knots about totality. The article ends by saying in a round-about albeit poetic way: “I got no fucking clue”, which is perfectly fine, because who has, but this doesn’t have to be covered up by complicated language.

I skipped the third article on the ‘world commune’, as I had read it before in the German original – though I guess that together with the article on the family it will be the article that can contribute most to a collective debate.

With the fourth article, ‘Revolutionary Motives’, we move back into the world of subjectivity. The article is more accessible and makes some interesting remarks about how we can understand the difference between ‘interests’, often narrowly defined as being individual or immediate, and ‘motives’, which have a more dynamic and potentially transcending nature. The author makes clear that ‘ideas’ and ideologies will only go so far, as they can be ‘motivating’, but ideas and ideals won’t make up for hunger and lack of clothing and shelter in the long run. The question of how interests or motives of individual workers, which might indeed clash with the interest of other individual workers on the market-place, can unify into a ‘class interest’ is a tough one. It is particularly difficult to approach it with the author’s understanding of capitalism:

“In capitalism, these basic motives [the need for food, shelter etc.] fuel the fires of accumulation. The apparatus of the wage, for example, depends upon the motivated-yet-free action of proletarians, who, dispossessed of the means of production, voluntarily sell their labour power in order to survive. Proletarians are not gripped by capital at a neuromuscular level, their bodies directly recruited to produce things of value. Domination and power is everywhere, and its history thousands of years deep, but people are almost never the simple objects or tools of others.” (P.196)

It’s not surprising that after this paragraph the author is forced to add a footnote about the anti-Marxist Foucault, who always has to be wheeled in when the left is not really sure about how a power relation constitutes itself, but doesn’t want to admit it.

“In any case, capitalism is now a global phenomenon, and capitalism is, as indicated above, nothing if not a form of unfreedom that acts through reasoned choice, through a paper-thin freedom, constraining and limiting the autonomy of the exploited.” (P.198)

This sets the usual scene: the proletariat is primarily defined as dispossessed, competing with each other for jobs and shelter, enmeshed in a network of freedom and coercion. The starting point is the individual who potentially could form a group or mass with a common interest. The text then goes through various, more or less mainstream game-theories, which analyse and experiment with individual and group behaviour or electoral strategies. Some of these theories, such as those put forward by Offe and Wiesenthal in ‘Two Logics of Collective Action’, “are crucial sources for the important essay on the workers’ movement, “A History of Separation”, written by the Endnotes collective”.

“For Endnotes the question of class identity revolves around the problem of interest. In their view the formation of a working-class “identity” was a way for the workers’ movement to bridge, however shakily, the gap between serial and collective interests.”

The author goes on to quote from that text:

“Insofar as they [the workers] made sacrifices in the name of the labour movement, workers generally were not acting in their immediate interests as isolated sellers in a competitive labour market, and, instead to act out of commitment to the collective project of the labour movement”. (P.213)

All this makes sense if we see capitalism as a market place of individual coercion and competition and not as a mode of production, which combines the labour of billions of people in order to reproduce billions of people, in a form that keeps them dispossessed and makes capital seem an independent productive power. The former view indeed has the difficulty of explaining ‘common motives’ as they seem fabricated externally, in order to bring every individual together. The latter ‘mode of production’-view discerns that the individuals are already in a practical relation and dependency together. The collective experience of ‘working together’, be it in a factory, on a construction site, in a hospital or to organise an event, is not just a mere ‘identity’ that is ideologically superimposed as some kind of glue to keep individuals together. It is the life-blood of society and human spirit, which is perverted and exploited by capital. We can see that the main material basis for ‘solidarity’ or ‘revolutionary common motives’ is not merely quantitative (“Together we are stronger”, “The more the merrier” etc.), but a qualitative necessity: the modern productive apparatus cannot be put in motion, taken-over or transformed individually, in small groups, by ‘communist zones’ – and here we don’t just talk about global trade of modern and perhaps superfluous gadgets, but about very basic day to day production of necessities. Rather than a fabricated ‘common interest’ we see a ‘mutual dependency’ determined by material practice, once it comes to the appropriation of the means for a better life. In contrast, and with Sartre, who the author refers to extensively, the text mainly imagines ‘groups’ either as ‘serial’ individuals (waiting in a bus queue) or mobs (having a riot). The shift from one to the other seems to happen primarily in spontaneous ways.

There are interesting thoughts in this text, including valid criticisms of trade unions and parliamentary parties which equally refer to workers as individuals, whether as members or voters. But the final part on ‘communist measures’ remains too general when saying that a revolution fails if it either cannot provide the basics for people’s material survival or lose their motivation regarding freedom and emancipated relationships.

“We do not know what a successful communist revolution looks like, but we can say for sure that it will definitionally involve a massive number of dispossessed people consciously reckoning that communism is the best path”. (P.240)

The revolution or ‘communisation’ is imagined as a chain reaction. One group might loot a warehouse, which then inspires another group to squat a house or take-over a factory. ‘Communist zones’ emerge or expand seemingly at random, depending on ‘communist measures’ and levels of ‘motives’, not, for example, because the particular region has a pretty self-sufficient energy or food supply which would make ‘motives’ of communisation feasible. There is no centre or other force that could coordinate these measures, either, for example, a ‘political force’ or a central industrial force, or both. Given the current structure of society, which is characterised by uneven regional distribution of wealth, interdependent production chains etc., I think such a ‘piece-meal’ and random approach to revolution is questionable and the ‘imperative of basic needs’ would quickly get into the way of the emancipatory and internationalist horizon. This doesn’t mean in turn that revolution can be ‘pre-planned’ by a central committee. It will require a politically organised force within the class that both comes out of and focuses on the essential and developed sectors and the marginalised and impoverished regions and is therefore able to bridge the gaps. This ‘political force’ does not develop as a separate political organisation, but only through previous struggles and the effort of political centralisation.

The recent form of ‘communisation’ theory operates without centre, without the question of material transition, without political agency and is therefore not primarily an expression of ‘infantile anarchism’, but of neoliberalism. During neoliberalism debt and credit money papered over the material and practical structure of society – everything felt like a network of individual bubbles. It feels that the current issue of Endnotes is a sort of melancholic goodbye to these times and their ideas and an expression of a reluctance to formulate the consequence: times are getting harder, there is a necessity to develop a more concrete strategy. One which questions one’s own role as someone who primarily interprets and whose organisational and political capacity is not required.

The question will of course be how the ‘inside/outside’ distinction between workers in the essential sectors and the wider class is broken down during a process of revolution; how marginalised sections of the class might have to enforce the socialisation of labour and means of production against the ‘self-management’ tendency of industrial workers etc.. But the fact that we already have knowledge about these structural challenges allows us, and compels us, to develop our theoretical work further than what ‘communisation theory’ permits revolutionary theory to be: an immediate tool for struggles. While I would always defend this humbleness against any leftist wannabe vanguardism (transitional demands etc.), I think we have to go further once we are amongst ourselves. We know about the enormous challenge in undermining the material, ideological etc. division between intellectual and manual labour, urban and rural labour etc. We can envisage these main chasms that will open in future class movements – not because the struggle might go this way or that way, but because the material world is structured and imposed on the class and onto the productive arteries that, once cut for more than a few days, will lead to mass starvation and counter-revolution. It is intellectually disingenuous and lazy to avoid the problem of both ‘organic vanguard’ of the class (and the challenge to socialise this vanguard position) determined by the structure of the social production process and the organisational consequences this has for us.

The fifth text, ‘Life against Nature’ was the most interesting, (together with the final short piece, ‘Notes from the Chemo Room’), about a ‘left-communist primitivist Jewish current’ interested in tribal mythology in the 1920s. The text was the most informative for me because I had no prior knowledge of this subject matter. At the same time, I have a similar feeling when talking to vegans or primitivists today: these are highly metropolitan people whose view on ‘tribes’ or ‘nature’ is so extremely tied up with their own alienation and is therefore fetishising (and often plainly wrong). I think the author could have warned more explicitly of the current fascist, religious and sexist tendencies which promote a similar ‘anti-modern’ perspective: the ‘will/idea’ can change and overdetermine social need. ‘Myth as a material force that changes life and biology itself’. While this sounds radical when it is coming from a marginal left-communist tribal current, how is it much different from the wishy-washy Gramscian bullshit about using the super-structure and hegemony to enforce material change in the class relations? The position of this article, that ‘ideas’ can over-determine ‘material motives’, also stands unrelated to, e.g. the previous text on ‘revolutionary motives’, which clearly states the opposite.

I only want to pick out a central point which connects this article to the ‘Error’ text, which is the question of machinery. Caspary in the 1920s, whose position seems to be shared by the author to a certain degree, distinguished ‘tool’ and ‘machinery’ as follows: a tool is a basic instrument to make work easier, while machines were invented and are only operable a) within and for a global market and b) not in order to make work easier, but to increase the output in production and create ‘additional needs’. In this sense machines don’t increase social productivity, as they require large amount of labour, e.g. mining of raw materials or maintenance. Machine production also leads to a division into ‘machine proletarians’ and those who benefit from higher consumption levels. The left has to demystify their ‘machine fetishism’ and their idea that machines could be used to reduce necessary social labour time and for emancipatory purposes. Similar to the ‘Error’ article, the machine is presented here as ‘embodiment of capital’ as an apparatus.

I think there are two main problems here. The first problem is mainly empirical: I think even if we take mining and maintenance etc. into account, the social necessary labour time for the production of essential goods has been reduced drastically thanks to the use of industrial machines. The fact that we still work similar hours is not materially determined by the machines themselves, but by the wider social formation. Secondly, I don’t think that the picture of a clear division between ‘machine proletarians’ and consumers is correct. Industrialisation has led to a shrinkage of the ‘middle classes’ and ‘machine proletarians’ tend to be able to afford the consumer goods they produce after a generation of struggle, as e.g. car workers in Japan, Mexico, South Korea have demonstrated. Not only machines, but tools, as well, created new needs and desires, e.g. for colourful blown glass or nice clothes.

The main problem here though is political. Of course, machines in their current form are also objects to subjugate workers, but their relation to the worker is not like gun vs. prisoner. Here we have to destroy the real ‘machine fetishism’: by transferring the individual skills of a tool-using artisan to an apparatus, a machine, capital lifts the contradiction onto a higher social plane. Machines are a form of socialisation of labour, the primary ‘power of capital’ doesn’t sit in the individual machine itself (any worker can understand and change them after a while), but in the fact that an industrial apparatus combines and separates labour and confronts the individual with their social dependency. Here we see another example of the running thread of ‘separation’ throughout the book: ignoring the ‘practical side of the work process’ as constituting social practice, the ‘object’ is seen as detached from ‘the human’ and the ‘individuals’ detached from each other. And when the author demands we should go and ‘turn machines into tools again’, we should not forget that ‘tools’ were not an embodiment of freedom either: tools required skilled labour, and that was more often than not defended as male and white labour. Machines were the social leveller within the working class.

Still, I agree with the proposal on the text’s last pages:

“This could imply the creation of organisations not unlike the philosophical schools that the circle wanted to build in order to examine new ways to think about the history of our species and the possibilities of life and technology. These academies could perhaps generate a joint perspective beyond simple minded radicalism by bringing together those perspectives that contain the technological know-how needed to alter our entropological relation to nature, but which currently reproduce the machine utopia of capital, with those currents that criticise every attempt at the self-administration of the industrialised world, but which have no real answers on how we ca find a way to leave that world behind”. (P.358)

But rather than an ‘academy’ of engineers and Extinction Rebellion activists (though these people might want to join too), I would imagine this academy as a working class communist party (with small c and p). A party which not only creates bridges between struggles of programmers in Silicon Valley and manual workers in Shenzhen, but takes on bourgeois science by breaking the division between, for example, the ‘critical health experts’, who are currently alienated by the way the political and economic system deals with the Corona crisis, and the struggling nurses.

The sixth article, ‘To Abolish the Family’, is the most readable, concrete and informative. We are in the process of writing a text on the limits of the category of ‘gender’ to understand women’s and sexual minority oppression, so I will keep it short here. I think that similar to the other texts, which see ‘capital’ not primarily as inverted social practice, but as a commodifying shell, this article underestimates the specific material practical relations that constitute ‘family’. it portrays family largely as an economic, emotional (the text writes about ‘care’, but not what this means materially) and normative unit. The text doesn’t say much about the issue of ‘natural division of labour’ when it comes to gestation, pregnancy, lactation, early child-rearing and how this natural division of labour changed over time – and how this impacted on the relation between men, women and children ‘as family’. ‘Motherhood’ and ‘childhood’ are at the centre of the family and they are more than mere ‘identitarian cages’ – it will need the socialisation of bodily functions and practice to socialise emotions. There is also not much focus on how housework itself was transformed massively, e.g. with the proliferation of washing machines and other labour-time saving devices.

At the turn of the 20th century, with no to little contraception, milk powder, labour saving devices or social welfare institutions available, having children tied you to the home ‘more naturally’. There might still be a political dimension to why the state didn’t ‘industrialise social reproduction’ on a mass scale (see interesting part about the Russian Revolution), but otherwise the fact that working class men would go to work and working class women, once they had children (!), worked at home was less due to the ideological influence of the ‘workers’ movement’, but more due to the fact that capitalists were not willing to invest in ‘levelling out’ the natural disadvantage of women – unless labour shortages forced them to. This ‘sexual division of labour’ has seen massive changes, but is still relevant, in particular once we look beyond the western metropolis. While the official labour movement might have adopted the bourgeois nuclear family ideal ideologically, the various institutions (workers sports clubs, allotments, consumer cooperatives etc.) were also a main way to socialise beyond the family.

I feel the article underestimates this aspect in favour of a ‘gender explanation’. Striving for ‘full gender expression’, while simultaneously criticising ‘workers’ identity’ seems odd – but as I said, we will address this in a future article.

Another interesting contradiction to the rest of the Endnotes articles is the fact that the article states that women’s waged labour increased massively at a point in history when Endnotes would normally locate the onset of ‘surplus labour’, in the 1970s and 1980s. When it comes to ‘alternative to families’ I felt the text focuses too much on sexual subcultures, rather than on how the wider working class adjusts under current conditions of, e.g. overcrowding, separation due to migrating family members, and austerity. The article also does not mention whether there are cracks opening up that not only result in the demise of the family structure, but open up space for (partial) collectivisation of reproductive labour – as well as the limits to that collectivisation once it is not combined with technological leaps, changes in architecture and other material transformations beyond queer love. And some final words on Fourier, whose interesting utopian visions the author defends against Marx and Engels: let’s not forget that Heinrich Heine saw him walking up and down in front of the Palais Royal in Paris, waiting for a rich person to give him money to finance his utopian ‘phalanx’. He didn’t address the working class, but appealed to Napoleon, Rothschild and other members of the ruling class, who ignored him for obvious reasons. The good man starved to death in his attic room.

The final text, ‘Notes from the Chemo Room’, was moving and thought provoking and a reminder that we have to re-politicise our experience with the medical system and ‘illness’.

To conclude: this little summary might not be an example of a ‘good conversation’, as there were many thoughts in these texts that would merit deeper and detailed reflections. The summary is more of a despaired call to focus our debates more on a concrete analysis of the current relation between the working class and the general productive apparatus in its contradictory forms, e.g. the current division of intellectual and manual labour or regional concentration of agriculture. The Corona crisis has opened up the debate about ‘essential sectors’ in times of economic deprivation, and here the ‘communisation’ understanding of the ultra-left, which refuses to talk about central sectors within the class, political agency and transition, has little to offer. We are looking forward to a collective debate about new concepts and welcome your thoughts: