In the wake of the ‘Occupy moment’, one of the more interesting criticisms of the activism described by David Graeber as ‘new anarchist’, was that it lacked ‘institutional memory’. One can find this charge in writings by influential figures on the UK left such as Jeremy Gilbert and the late Mark Fisher. Here I consider what is meant by this term and question whether it makes sense as a justification for the institutional turn (the movement away from street-based direct action to party politics associated in the UK with Corbynism).
I agree that some kind of "left-wing institution' as a prerequisite to avoid 'memory loss' isn't necessary.
Such 'memory' resides in all forms of collective action and struggle. In my lifetime these have ranged from housing ( rent strikes/ squats); resistance to many forms of discrimination (women's movement/ gay rights/disability); oppression of minority ethnic communities; not to mention struggle around anti-war/CND. Climate Change is currently the most high profile case.
Then there's the myriad of struggles relating to more local issues.
The vast majority of these struggles were born outside of ( or at best within the margins of) the confines of political parties - of whatever variety . So why should we expect any kind of 'institutional memory ' to be lurking there? All the more reason to be prepared to look elsewhere for answers.
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