The University of Sussex had been slowly grinding to a halt since the start of the UCU strike. Things...
Keir Millburn, Plan C Leeds.
To commemorate the writer, thinker, music commentator, father, revolutionary and Plan C member Mark Fisher we have been re-posting selections of his work, explaining why they mattered to us as his friends and comrades. I’ve chosen this talk given by Mark last year as it carries the most obvious influence of Mark’s engagement with Plan C. The organisation has been experimenting with the practice of consciousness raising groups, modeled on those that formed the organisational bedrock of the 1970s socialist feminist movement. Such groups provide a space in which we can talk about our experiences, problems and feelings aiming to recognise their commonalities and then link them to the wider structures of society that constrain our lives. After all, once we recognise that so many of the problems in our lives, which we might have previously blamed on our individual failings, are in fact quite common and shared, then it’s a short leap to conclude that they must have structural causes. The attempt to resurrect this practice is part of Plan C’s attempt to develop an antagonistic anti-capitalist politics that’s also based on a politics of care. This is a care without borders or boundaries. It’s a care that demands Everything for Everyone, a sentiment beautifully described by Mark in a blog post from 2015:
Real wealth is the collective capacity to produce, care and enjoy. This is Red Plenty.
Red belonging is temporal and dynamic. It is about belonging to a movement: a movement that abolishes the present state of things, a movement that offers unconditional care without community (it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, we will care for you any way).
Mark engaged, when he could, with the consciousness raising group formed by Plan C London and I think he found it a powerful experience. In this talk we can see hints of the impact it had on Mark and the impact that Mark had on us. While the rest of us were slowly trying to feel our way into an understanding of these groups and how they might spread, Mark, in characteristic style, was already making audacious leaps and connections, accelerating the idea way beyond anything we were thinking. We can see in the video how Mark brilliantly redefines his own concept of Capitalist Realism into a form of, what he calls, consciousness deflation. Indeed, he starts to identify the neoliberal turn as a conscious project by ruling elites to undo the effects of the different forms of consciousness raising found in the 1970s. Alongside feminist consciousness raising he also identifies the various ways in which class consciousness was raised. To these he then adds the consciousness changing effects of psychedelia, which worked through pop culture to embed a notion that reality is plastic and changeable. Wow, what a move. Before his death Mark was writing a book on post-capitalist desire called Acid Communism so we can see that this was no mere digression but an opening up of whole new areas of enquiry. Where can we find post-capitalist desire expressing itself today? How can we help that desire to be realised?
At his recent memorial a speaker suggested that we abstract a ‘Fisher Function’ from Mark’s mode of operating. That we isolate precisely what it was about Mark that made him so influential on so many people. I’d suggest that we then think about how addressing that function can be embedded in the practice of other lives and even organisations. So what can we learn from this talk? There have been many tributes to Mark which talk about his astounding intellectual generosity along with his tremendous capacity to care. The testimony from his students is particularly powerful in that regard. What I love about this talk is its showcasing of his sheer intellectual bravery. The bravery to make big leaps that could expose him to ridicule or dismissal. This is the very opposite of the academic function with its fear induced timidity and it’s obsession with provenance. It’s a bravery that comes from a firm belief that thinking is a collective endeavour even when undertaken on your own. Mark was part of the movement that abolishes the present state of things by thinking and doing differently. His intellectual generosity came form the firm belief that, given the right conditions, anyone could join this movement and so anyone could join in that collective intellectual endeavour of thinking. This means he thought anyone could do what he loved doing, picking up the batton of communist ideas and practice and carrying it in new directions. The obvious enthusiasm Mark shows in the video is a sign of the joy to be gained from immersion in the general intellect. It’s this joyfulness and bravery that I’d add to the definition of the Fisher Function. It’s something I’d like to see embedded into the practice of Plan C. But we should also strike a note of caution. As was made so tragically, heartrendingly clear this bravery also carries grave risk. To protect ourselves we must entangle it in practices of collective care. Collectivity, the real foundations for individuality. Let’s care for everyone, so that everyone can be brave.
Mark’s talk was given at the “all this is temporary” event organised by the CCI Collective.