Mark Fisher was a writer, music critic, and theorist based in London. After initially achieving acclaim for his k-punk blog in the early 2000s, Fisher published several books including the highly influential Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (2009) which popularized Fredric Jameson’s remark, “It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” Fisher argued that since the fall of the Soviet Union, capitalism is not only seen as ”the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.”
When Fisher died by suicide in January 2017 he was said to be planning a new book titled Acid Communism: On Postcapitalist Desire. In early 2018, the transmediale festival in Berlin presented the workshop, “Building Acid Communism,” with other Plan C members which aimed to explore Fisher’s unfinished concepts. Essentially, Fisher’s notion of acid communism reconstructs neoliberal “capitalist realism” as a kind of intentional “consciousness deflation” and draws from the experimental attempts of Plan C to reinvent consciousness-raising groups, as borrowed from 70s socialist feminism, for contemporary conditions.
Through his reassessment of Western countercultures of the 1960s and 70s, Fisher identified three modes of consciousness that have been “deflated”: class, feminist, and psychedelic consciousnesses. In retrospect, he argues, we can see the social movements of that period as “consciousness-raising” efforts to develop expanded notions of the working class, pioneer new ways of living, bring awareness to the way structural problems are internalized as individual failings, and inspire collectivized action. Additionally, the “acid” in Acid Communism refers not only to the role LSD specifically had in countercultural movements but also the ripple effects of psychedelia; for example, through unprecedented cultural phenomena such as The Beatles who linked experimentation (and popularity) with a “key notion of the plasticity of reality.” Here, “acid” is understood more as an adjective that describes the potential to expand social and political possibility beyond the dominant reality, “and expose it as provisional, as just one form of organization of which there could be others.”
Plan C summarizes that “the Acid Communism project involves the reinvention of consciousness-raising techniques for the purpose of identifying where post-capitalist desires are being produced by contemporary life.” While incomplete, a collection of transcripts published in 2021 from Fisher’s final series of lectures, “Postcapitalist Desire,” provides a rough roadmap from which to build, “an active project of identifying those desires…whose fulfillment cannot be achieved within a world dominated by capitalist social relations [in order to] discover the most potent areas for anti-capitalist politics.” In other words, Fisher reminds us that we need to re-investigate the past towards expanding our desires in the present in order to “feel what we know and know what we feel,” before we can truly construct a postcapitalist future. And while this is a long process which requires expanded timelines and “revolutionary patience,” it is also immediately transformative.