New times, new politics: history and memory during the final years of the CPGB
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-08, 17:07 authored by Emily RobinsonEmily Robinson
This article examines the relationship between collective memory, historical interpretation and political identity. It focuses on the dissolution of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) as constructed through collective narrative memory, and on Marxist interpretations of history. The divisions within the party and the wider Marxist community, stretching from 1956 until 1991, were often framed around questions of historical interpretation. The events of 1989–1991 created an historical and mnemonic crisis for CPGB members who struggled to reconcile their past identities with their present situation. Unlike the outward-facing revisionism of other political parties, this was an intensely personal affair. The solution for many was to emphasise the need to find new ways to progress socialist aims, without relying on a discredited grand narrative. In contrast, other Communist parties, such as the Communist Party of Britain, which had been established (or ‘re-established’) in 1988, fared rather better. By adhering to the international party line of renewal and continued struggle, the party was able to hold its narrative together, condemning the excesses of totalitarian regimes, while reaffirming the need for international class struggle.
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