We live in strange, frustrating and paradoxical times. Like other trends on the left, Marxism is immobilised by theoretical confusion and practical ineffectiveness just when a relentless state-led war against the working class is nearing the end of its second decade, the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in human history has reasserted the centrality of class with a vengeance, the international capitalist financial system teeters on the edge of collapse, whole countries are bankrupt, and hundreds of millions of people are undergoing absolute immiseration and devastating attacks on their standard of living. The gap between what the objective situation demands and what the Left has to offer is so profound that public affairs has become little more than a debate between a powerful right and an eviscerated ‘centre’ – all this at a time of unprecedented crisis and opportunity. Indeed, we do not even seem to know what to talk about. Reminders of how theoretical blind alleys and historic openings have often gone hand in hand may help us orient ourselves to broad trends, but they only underline how essential it is that we begin addressing the profoundly important questions of contemporary life. Until we do, we should not be surprised that people put their trust in angels, consult soothsayers, and are not interested in what we have to say.