Zero Books and Acid Communism

I was informed this morning by a lovely Facebook follower that my essay on Acid Communism, written for Krisis Journal last year, gets a shout-out in the latest Zero Books video: “Acid Communism, Philip K Dick, and the New Culture.”

This was a surprise, not least because my conversation with this person had been about how little I personally got out of the previous Zero video on Acid Communism. It seems the disinterest is somewhat reciprocated though. Mr. Douglas Lain does not seem to agree with my conclusions.

To quote Lain’s citation in full:

In an article for the journal Krisis, a writer named Matt Colquhoun wrote that Acid Communism is a project for seeking the outside of sociopolitical hegemony, and that such a questing after an exit from this society is likely to disrupt normal life in ways that Fisher thought would be “inherently disturbing“, but Fisher also argued that such “terrors are not all there is to the outside”. I would argue that there is no outside to this current global society. That is, even if we take heroic doses of psychedelics, we’ll still trip and hallucinate within the logic of the present.

I’ve said this before but I think this applies very well to this notion of Acid Communism. Our goal should not be to wake up from the nightmare we’re in but to dream differently.

I’ve written so much about Acid Communism here that I’m reluctant to repeat myself but I think this question of there being no outside is a common misunderstanding of what is at stake in Mark’s late thought. After all, Fisher himself said that “the inside is a folding of the outside” and it’s the sort of understanding that goes back to the German Idealists, rendered anew in the pulp world of weird fiction.

The absence of this from Lain’s understanding feels like the result of his particular obsession with Hegel. A dash of Schelling, a bit more Marx and a dollop of Spinoza and Lain might find that the objections he’s making are already preempted in Fisher’s own writings — and long before the Acid Communism project even properly started to take shape.

On this issue of the outside, I’d point to this old post of mine: “Notes on the Communist Horizon as an Immanent Outside.”

Regarding Fisher’s own writings, I’d point towards two key proto-Acid Communist posts that appeared on the k-punk blog back in 2004: “Psychedelic Reason” and “Psychedelic Fascism“. Taken together they completely undermine Lain’s fixation on psychedelics — another Jeremy Gilbert hangover that wasn’t Mark’s bag.

The trap that Lain has fallen into — and run away with for two long YouTube videos (eek!) — echoes Gilbert’s own microfascist reduction of the Acid Communism agenda in not knowing where Gilbert ends and Mark begins (which Gilbert doesn’t seem to know either).

The point about microfascism is an important one. It’s something which feels pretty common at the moment too in our various circles. Gilbert and Zero Books are only perpetuating the kind of thought I think Mark was trying to resist.

For example, in his video Lain tells a rambling stoner story about being “high as a kite” in a friend’s car and explaining that politics should be about giving people the power to rearrange their realities. Sounds like Fisher’s overarching political project, huh? Whilst Lain acknowledges this, it is apparently the sort of idea that people are only capable of believing in if they’re “sufficiently stoned”.

It’s a twisted argument which ends up unwittingly using Fisher to poke holes in himself, conflating his arguments around the constitution of psychedelic reason and psychedelic fascism into a flat blob, and this is based on little more than Lain’s own anecdote of having a Fisherian thought whilst stoned. It ends up echoing the sort of critique of experimental music being music for and/or made by people on drugs, delegitimising the creativity and aesthetic explorations of another based on nothing more than your own woefully cloistered imagination.

Further to this, Lain’s reading of PKD is very bizarre and also tellingly selective. I’d point again to another k-punk post: “Ubik as petit objet a“, which offers a reading of Dick’s work in relation to fictioning as consciousness raising which seems wholly contrary to Lain’s own.

As readers of this blog may already be aware, it’s my opinion that The Weird and the Eerie is integral to any understanding of Mark’s Acid Communism project. I’ve written on this in an exploratory way here and here.

We can also look to the lectures he gave before his death (and the lectures anticipated going forwards) to get a sense of what Acid Communism (The Book) was going to contain. (Whilst I’ve heard of various plans for different chapters that aren’t represented here, it does seem to be very close to the general trajectory that the book itself would take.)

All this stuff is readily accessible and available online. It’s the sort of thing we can start exploring easily with nothing more than a Google search. It’s that fact that makes Gilbert’s readings of Acid Communism so frustrating to me. They are so easily refutable but no one seems bothered about seeing what Mark himself had to say. We deserve — and Mark deserves — far better engagement than that offered by Jeremy Gilbert’s ego. And Zero Books, in extending that line, really isn’t helping.


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