Memory and forgetting in left politics… October 26, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.
Reading an old issue of Critique and a piece by Terry Brotherstone on 1956 and the Crisis in the Communist Party of Great Britain there was a particularly interesting section which contained interviews with former CPGB members from that period, some of whom had been members of the Historians’ Group.
But an almost random question at the end of that section really struck my attention.
I suggested that the failure of those historians who let the Party, but did not try seriously to settle its historical accounts, might be seen as a factor in allowing people to join later without paying attention thte historical lessons of the crisis. There is evidence that many of those who joined in the late 1960s and 1970s neither knew about, nor were educate about, what had happened.
TB: Even a historian [I know] could join after 1956 and seems to have known very little about it….
BP: We must face the fact that not everybody is… interested in the history of organisations, or with history in general. ‘History begins with us’, seems to be the attitude….
That last point really resonates, my own understanding of political activity and the history of political formations, whether the WP of which I was a member and other groups, was very limited with much of what there was to know gleaned from the odd party newspaper or pamphlet, some political science and political history books, and more usually oral histories from other comrades. All of which were problematic transmission processes in their own ways.
I wonder is that a feature of life on the left both specifically in relation to the position of individuals within any given organisation and more generally in relation to the left. Pre-internet knowledge about other formations could be very limited indeed beyond the broad brush strokes of policy and attitude, and some aspects of history. Although the amount of material available from competing formations is now much greater has that changed radically or in any substantive way, and if so are there any effects of that on the direction of the left?