Modernità Alternative - Il Novecento Di Antonio Gramsci: Antonio Gramsci's Twentieth Century 3030476707, 9783030476700

Antonio Gramsci lived the Great War as a “historic break,” a profound experience that left an indelible mark on the deve

418 33 2MB

English Pages 296 [289] Year 2020

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Modernità Alternative - Il Novecento Di Antonio Gramsci: Antonio Gramsci's Twentieth Century
 3030476707, 9783030476700

Table of contents :
Titles Published
Titles Forthcoming
Preface
References
Contents
Translators’ Note
Abbreviations Used in References to Volumes
Italian Publications in Volume Form of Gramsci’s Writings
English-Language Volumes of Gramsci’s Writings
1 The Concept of Hegemony
1 ‘Historical Breaks’: The Great War and the October Revolution
2 The Problem of the Revolution in Italy and the ‘Hegemony of the Proletariat’
3 The Essay on the Southern Question: First Draft of a Theory of Intellectuals
4 The Origin of the Notebooks
5 Gramsci the Theorist of ‘Revolution in the West’?
6 The Concept of Hegemony in the Notebooks
7 Interdependence, ‘Civil Hegemony’, ‘International Hegemony’
8 The Crisis of the Modern State and the Remedies: Political Cosmopolitanism and Supranationality
References
2 The Nature of Passive Revolution
1 Developments of the Concept of ‘Passive Revolution’
2 Gramsci’s Analysis of the History of Italy, from the War to His Arrest
3 Liberal Italy and Fascism in the Notebooks
4 The ‘Passive Revolution’ in the International Scenario. America, Europe, Soviet Union
References
3 From Historical Materialism to the Philosophy of Praxis: Foundations for a Processual Theory of the Subject
1 The Turin Factory Council Movement
2 The Research Programme of the Notebooks
3 ‘A Heresy of the Religion of Liberty’
4 Economism and Scientism
5 Socialism as the Process Generating a New Rationality
6 The Constitution of the Political Subject
References
4 Hegemony and Democracy
1 The Legacy of Liberalism
2 Crisis and Critics of Democracy
3 ‘The Modern Prince’
4 Europe After Fascism
5 Epilogue
References
5 Afterword
1 Gramsci Studies in Italy
References
Index

Citation preview

MARX, ENGELS, AND MARXISMS

Alternative Modernities Antonio Gramsci’s Twentieth Century

Giuseppe Vacca Translated by Derek Boothman · Chris Dennis

Marx, Engels, and Marxisms

Series Editors Marcello Musto York University Toronto, ON, Canada Terrell Carver University of Bristol Bristol, UK

The Marx renaissance is underway on a global scale. Wherever the critique of capitalism re-emerges, there is an intellectual and political demand for new, critical engagements with Marxism. The peer-reviewed series Marx, Engels and Marxisms (edited by Marcello Musto & Terrell Carver, with Babak Amini, Francesca Antonini, Paula Rauhala & Kohei Saito as Assistant Editors) publishes monographs, edited volumes, critical editions, reprints of old texts, as well as translations of books already published in other languages. Our volumes come from a wide range of political perspectives, subject matters, academic disciplines and geographical areas, producing an eclectic and informative collection that appeals to a diverse and international audience. Our main areas of focus include: the oeuvre of Marx and Engels, Marxist authors and traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries, labour and social movements, Marxist analyses of contemporary issues, and reception of Marxism in the world.

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14812

Giuseppe Vacca

Alternative Modernities Antonio Gramsci’s Twentieth Century

Giuseppe Vacca Fondazione Gramsci Rome, Italy Translated by Derek Boothman Perugia, Italy

Chris Dennis Modena, Italy

ISSN 2524-7123 ISSN 2524-7131 (electronic) Marx, Engels, and Marxisms ISBN 978-3-030-47670-0 ISBN 978-3-030-47671-7 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: © bellanatella/iStock/Getty Images Plus This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Titles Published

1. Terrell Carver & Daniel Blank, A Political History of the Editions of Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology” Manuscripts, 2014. 2. Terrell Carver & Daniel Blank, Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology” Manuscripts: Presentation and Analysis of the “Feuerbach Chapter,” 2014. 3. Alfonso Maurizio Iacono, The History and Theory of Fetishism, 2015. 4. Paresh Chattopadhyay, Marx’s Associated Mode of Production: A Critique of Marxism, 2016. 5. Domenico Losurdo, Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History, 2016. 6. Frederick Harry Pitts, Critiquing Capitalism Today: New Ways to Read Marx, 2017. 7. Ranabir Samaddar, Karl Marx and the Postcolonial Age, 2017. 8. George Comninel, Alienation and Emancipation in the Work of Karl Marx, 2018. 9. Jean-Numa Ducange & Razmig Keucheyan (Eds.), The End of the Democratic State: Nicos Poulantzas, a Marxism for the 21st Century, 2018. 10. Robert X. Ware, Marx on Emancipation and Socialist Goals: Retrieving Marx for the Future, 2018. 11. Xavier LaFrance & Charles Post (Eds.), Case Studies in the Origins of Capitalism, 2018. 12. John Gregson, Marxism, Ethics, and Politics: The Work of Alasdair MacIntyre, 2018. 13. Vladimir Puzone & Luis Felipe Miguel (Eds.), The Brazilian Left in the 21st Century: Conflict and Conciliation in Peripheral Capitalism, 2019. 14. James Muldoon & Gaard Kets (Eds.), The German Revolution and Political Theory, 2019. v

vi

TITLES PUBLISHED

15. Michael Brie, Rediscovering Lenin: Dialectics of Revolution and Metaphysics of Domination, 2019. 16. August H. Nimtz, Marxism versus Liberalism: Comparative Real-Time Political Analysis, 2019. 17. Gustavo Moura de Cavalcanti Mello & Mauricio de Souza Sabadini (Eds.), Financial Speculation and Fictitious Profits: A Marxist Analysis, 2019. 18. Shaibal Gupta, Marcello Musto & Babak Amini (Eds), Karl Marx’s Life, Ideas, and Influences: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary, 2019. 19. Igor Shoikhedbrod, Revisiting Marx’s Critique of Liberalism: Rethinking Justice, Legality, and Rights, 2019. 20. Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Resisting Neoliberal Capitalism in Chile: The Possibility of Social Critique, 2019. 21. Kaan Kangal, Friedrich Engels and the Dialectics of Nature, 2020. 22. Victor Wallis, Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories, 2020. 23. Alfonso Maurizio Iacono, The Bourgeois and the Savage: A Marxian Critique of the Image of the Isolated Individual in Defoe, Turgot and Smith, 2020. 24. Terrell Carver, Engels before Marx, 2020. 25. Jean-Numa Ducange, Jules Guesde: The Birth of Socialism and Marxism in France, 2020.

Titles Forthcoming Antonio Oliva, Ivan Novara & Angel Oliva (Eds.), Marx and Contemporary Critical Theory: The Philosophy of Real Abstraction Terrell Carver, The Life and Thought of Friedrich Engels, 30 th Anniversary Edition Kevin B. Anderson, Kieran Durkin & Heather Brown (Eds.), Raya Dunayevskaya’s Intersectional Marxism: Race, Gender, and the Dialectics of Liberation Paresh Chattopadhyay, Socialism in Marx’s Capital: Towards a De-alienated World Gianfranco Ragona & Monica Quirico, Frontier Socialism: Self-organisation and Anti-capitalism Stefano Petrucciani, The Ideas of Karl Marx: A Critical Introduction Vesa Oittinen, Marx’s Russian Moment Kohei Saito (Ed.), Reexamining Engels’s Legacy in the 21st Century Francesco Biagi, Henri Lefebvre’s Critical Theory of Space Kolja Lindner, Marx, Marxism and the Question of Eurocentrism Ryuji Sasaki, A New Introduction to Karl Marx: New Materialism, Critique of Political Economy, and the Concept of Metabolism Jean-Numa Ducange & Elisa Marcobelli (Eds.), Selected Writings of Jean Jaures: On Socialism, Pacifism and Marxism

TITLES PUBLISHED

vii

Adriana Petra, Intellectuals and Communist Culture: Itineraries, Problems and Debates in Post-war Argentina Marco Di Maggio, The Rise and Fall of Communist Parties in France and Italy George C. Comninel, The Feudal Foundations of Modern Europe James Steinhoff, Critiquing the New Autonomy of Immaterial Labour: A Marxist Study of Work in the Artificial Intelligence Industry Spencer A. Leonard, Marx, the India Question, and the Crisis of Cosmopolitanism Joe Collins, Applying Marx’s Capital to the 21st century Levy del Aguila Marchena, Communism, Political Power and Personal Freedom in Marx Jeong Seongjin, Korean Capitalism in the 21st Century: Marxist Analysis and Alternatives Marcello Mustè, Marxism and Philosophy of Praxis: An Italian Perspective from Labriola to Gramsci Satoshi Matsui, Normative Theories of Liberalism and Socialism: Marxist Analysis of Values Shannon Brincat, Dialectical Dialogues in Contemporary World Politics: A Meeting of Traditions in Global Comparative Philosophy Stefano Petrucciani, Theodor W. Adorno’s Philosophy, Society, and Aesthetics Francesca Antonini, Reassessing Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire: Dictatorship, State, and Revolution Thomas Kemple, Capital after Classical Sociology: The Faustian Lives of Social Theory Tsuyoshi Yuki, Socialism, Markets and the Critique of Money: The Theory of “Labour Note” V Geetha, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and the Question of Socialism in India Xavier Vigna, A Political History of Factories in France: The Workers’ Insubordination of 1968 Atila Melegh, Anti-Migrant Populism in Eastern Europe and Hungary: A Marxist Analysis Marie-Cecile Bouju, A Political History of the Publishing Houses of the French Communist Party Gustavo Moura de Cavalcanti Mello & Henrique Pereira Braga (Eds.), Wealth and Poverty in Contemporary Brazilian Capitalism Peter McMylor, Graeme Kirkpatrick & Simin Fadaee (Eds.), Marxism, Religion, and Emancipatory Politics Mauro Buccheri, Radical Humanism for the Left: The Quest for Meaning in Late Capitalism Rémy Herrera, Confronting Mainstream Economics to Overcome Capitalism

Preface

Antonio Gramsci’s thought has influenced the political choices I have made and the overall direction of my research starting from my years at university, although it was only in 1975 that I began a systematic study of it. This was the year that the Critical Edition of the Prison Notebooks was published, an edition which gave the public access to the chronological sequence of these prison writings. Reading the Notebooks diachronically persuaded me once and for all of the validity of the criterion suggested by Palmiro Togliatti for studying Gramsci. In Togliatti’s Notes for his speech at the first conference of Gramsci studies, in January 1958, he wrote. Gramsci was a theorist of politics but above all a practical politician, that is a combatant […] The whole of what Gramsci wrote should be approached with [this] in mind, but this task will only be accomplished by those having such a detailed knowledge of the concrete moments of his activity that makes it possible for them to see how these concrete moments correspond to each of his general doctrinal definitions and statements. They must also be sufficiently impartial to resist the temptation to let false doctrinal generalizations obscure the clear connection linking thought to concrete facts and real movements. (Togliatti 2001 [19581 ], pp. 213–4: cf. Togliatti 1979, pp. 161–2).

Since the mid-1970s I have, then, lent myself to reconstructing the life and thoughts of Gramsci through their insertion into the history of the twentieth century. ix

x

PREFACE

As is borne out by the online Bibliografia Gramsciana,1 from the 1980s onward, knowledge of Gramsci’s writings and studies devoted to his thought have been undergoing a continuing expansion at the international level. On becoming Director of the Fondazione Gramsci in January 1988 I therefore sought to give a new impetus to the dialogue between students of Gramsci in Italy and abroad, to acquire new documents and foster the necessary philological research for reconstructing his political and intellectual biography. Fundamental in this respect is the project of the National Edition of his writings, to which I shall return later. I flanked this polyphonic and choral undertaking by personal involvement in the clarification of Gramscian categories given that, faced with the expansion of their uses, a work of conceptual cleansing seemed to me useful. The intention to promote a new season of Gramsci studies took root in me for two reasons: the first was the need to get rid of the singular paradox that, while internationally Gramsci’s reputation was growing exponentially, there was an increasing conviction in Italy that his thought should be consigned to oblivion.2 The second reason was born from the development of my studies of the Notebooks, from which in my view there emerged new possibilities of reading them. Here I have in mind three essays recently republished but conceived during the 1970s and 1980s.3 1 This bibliography is available for consultation on the site of the Fondazione Gramsci,

www.fondazionegramsci.org. 2 To denounce this incongruence, in April 1987 the then head of the Cultural Commission of the Italian Communist Party, Giuseppe Chiarante, and I were responsible for a special number of the monthly Contemporaneo supplement to Rinascita devoted to the diffusion of Gramsci throughout the world. A short time afterwards, on becoming Director of the Foundation, I organized an international conference on the worldwide studies and translations of Gramsci. This conference was held on 25–28 October 1989 in Formia (where Gramsci had spent two years in a prison-approved clinic), the proceedings being published some time later in 1995 (Gramsci nel mondo, ed. Maria Luisa Righi, Rome: Fondazione Istituto Gramsci). During the conference John Cammett presented the brochure of the International Gramsci Bibliography, on which he had been working alone for years. This Bibliography was published in the Annali (Yearbooks) of the Foundation (Roma: Editori Riuniti, 1991), and then transferred on line and continued, again under the editorship of John Cammett, by Maria Luisa Righi and Francesco Giasi, who are still currently responsible for its update. 3 These correspond to the first three chapters of the volume edited by Marcello Musté: G. Vacca In cammino con Gramsci (Vacca and Musté, 2020), appearing under the titles ‘La “quistione politica degli intellettuali” nei “Quaderni del carcere”’, ‘Dal materialismo storico alla filosofia della praxis’ and ‘I “Quaderni” e la politica del Novecento’ respectively.

PREFACE

xi

The crisis of democracy, the subject of discussion in the whole of the West, took on in Italy the dimension of a crisis of the nation-State and, in reading Gramsci, it struck me as ever more obvious that this question had been at the centre of his research from the time of the First World War. My first essay on Gramsci had its origins in the preparation for the international conference on Gramsci Politics and History in Gramsci, held in Florence in 1977. The contribution was entitled ‘The “political question of the intellectuals” and the Marxist theory of the State in the thought of Gramsci’ (Vacca 1977) and was intended as a reply to the theses put forward by Norberto Bobbio. In maintaining that the theory of the State in Marx and Marxism did not exist, Bobbio provided an authoritative platform for the campaign of demolition launched by the socialist review Mondoperaio (Coen 1976, 1977). The essay introduced a significant innovation into Gramsci studies since it linked the revision of Marxism undertaken in the Notebooks to the centrality that the question of the intellectuals had assumed in Gramsci’s elaboration of the theory of politics and history. The second essay initially constituted the central part of the book Marxism and the Intellectuals (Vacca 1985). In the early 1980s I became convinced that a return to Italian Marxism, from Labriola to Gramsci, could be of use in the search for new answers to the crisis then underway. I had followed the passage from the 1970s to the 1980s from a privileged vantage point, that of the Board of Governors of the Italian State Radio and Television Network—the RAI—of which I was a member from Autumn 1978 to Summer 1983. From there, I had realized the inadequacy of the political cultures of the time, faced with the changes in the structure of the world that had begun with the shift in the technological paradigm of western industrialism and the growing international instability generated by the end of dollar standard and of the regime of fixed exchange rates. What to many in Italy seemed the renewal of a ‘general crisis of capitalism’ to me, on the other hand, presented itself as a new cycle of expansion of the world market founded on the ‘commodity form’ and its growing capacity of penetrating into the ‘worlds of life’, destroying or evading the barriers that had been erected by the political regulation of national economies and by the creation of the Welfare State in Europe. That experience had made the approach of the ‘national roads to socialism’, in which I too had been educated, emerge in all its narrowness, as well as highlighting the asymmetry between the horizon of the Prison Notebooks and the rhetoric of the transition to socialism in which I had

xii

PREFACE

been cradled. Rather than abandoning the theoretical heritage of Gramsci, I attempted to rethink it in the light of the most attentive analyses of the global transformations of the last few decades, singling out the nexus between internal domestic politics and international politics as the pivot of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. In other words, it seemed to me that the theoretical horizon of the Notebooks was marked by the perception that the Great War had heralded a crisis in the nation-State and caused an acceleration of the processes of globalization, by which the struggles for hegemony, while continuing to be carried out on the national territory, were configured as the ways in which the differing combinations of national life interlocked with the international conditionings of development. Marxism and the Intellectuals aimed at appraising the philosophical dimension of Marxism by developing the nexus between the ‘political question of the intellectuals’ and the conception of politics as the struggle for hegemony. In this way, an original figure of Marxism emerged, emancipated from the economic determinism and the sociological reductionism of the vulgate; and its theoretical autonomy was put to the test to provide its own narration of twentieth-century world history, challenging the hegemonic narrations of the ‘neoconservative revolution’. This involved the recovery of interdependence in the Marxist reading of the Modern, going beyond the dichotomic scheme that has connotated so much of the historiography of the twentieth century and bringing back into circulation a processual conception (politico-historical not sociological) of the subject. The idea that this new research programme could revitalize what was left of Italian communism appeared to find confirmation in the advent to power of Mikhail Gorbaˇcev and his project for reform in the USSR and of global politics. In going into depth into the ‘new way of thinking’ which lies at the base of Gorbaˇcev’s proposal of a ‘new world order’, it seemed to me that returning to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, in connection with the interdependence principle, could infuse new lifeblood into political projectuality in Italy and internationally. But, in drawing up a balance sheet of Eurosocialism and Italian communism, it seemed to me necessary to disengage Gramsci’s destiny from the vicissitudes of the political struggles in which he has been read up to then.4 4 I refer readers to my contribution ‘I Quaderni e la politica del Novecento’ in G. Vacca

(1991). As for the encounter with the ‘new way of thinking’, cf. G. Vacca and G. Fiocco (2019).

PREFACE

xiii

Work was thus begun on the National Edition 5 of Gramsci’s writings, to which I added my research on the editorial fortunes of his writings and on his biography during the years of his detention. Work in both of these fields aimed at clearing the ground of the long-accumulated publishing controversies and vicissitudes characterized by factional interests, the results being brought together in my essay ‘Togliatti editore di Gramsci’ (Daniele 2005, pp. 13–54) and my 2012 volume Vita e pensieri di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . This latter contains a careful reconstruction of the intertwining of the scientific programme of the Notebooks, the interpretation of twentieth-century world history and Gramsci’s political biography, the events of his personal life and his intellectual profile. It therefore constitutes an introductory study for the systematic exposition of the birth, development and connections between the fundamental conceptions of his thought, which the present volume deals with. Gramsci’s thought takes on a systematic form only in the Prison Notebooks, a posthumous work, it is well to remember, and one which now lives through the ever more detailed work of its editor-publishers.6 Its origins lie in the analysis of the political events, economic processes and cultural life of his time, with Italy as its main workshop; but right from the Great War onwards, Gramsci’s mind was projected onto the world scene. Already in the first years of his reflections, he began to conceive contemporary history as ‘world history’, furrowed by the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics. A style of thought was thus born which distinguishes Gramsci’s analyses even when—roughly speaking between 1916 and 1930—he had not as yet worked out a real narration of the twentieth century. This narration may be extracted from the Notebooks, by coming to grips with an overall interpretation of modernity, although it must be added that the Notebooks are 5 The National Edition got underway in 1999 and 2007 saw the publication of the Translation Notebooks (Quaderni di traduzioni), up to then unpublished, after which there followed the first two volumes of Correspondence (the Epistolario) between Gramsci and others, the 1917–1918 Writing s (Scritti), the Notes on Glottology (Appunti di glottologia), the first volume of the Miscellaneous Notebooks, and the 1910–1916 Writings, published in 2019. Currently underway are the two volumes of the Correspondence of Tat’jana Schucht, which contain her exchanges with Piero Sraffa and with her own family members. Regarding the plan of the entire series and the publication criteria used cf. Studi Storici 52(4), 2011. 6 Cf. G. Vacca (with Chiara Daniele) Togliatti editore di Gramsci (2005); F. Giasi ‘L’eredità di Antonio Gramsci’ in P. Togliatti (2014), pp. 919–962.

xiv

PREFACE

not solely this (Ciliberto 1982, 1999, 2016; Ciliberto and Vasoli 1991; Izzo 2009; Montanari 1997). In any case, the task that I set myself in the first chapter of this book was to follow the development of the concept of hegemony from when the term first appeared (in 1919) to the drafting of the ‘special notebooks’, attempting to shed light on the historical situations to which it referred. This seems to me the main highway for clarifying the meaning of the conception of politics as the struggle for hegemony, around which the philosophy of praxis is pivoted. And the same procedure is followed in the second chapter in analysing the concept of passive revolution which constitutes a historiographical complement to the concept of hegemony.7 From the 1970s onward, ‘hegemony’ and ‘passive revolution’ have been the concepts towards which the greater number of Gramsci’s interpreters have directed their efforts, together with those who have him as their point of reference for reconstructing national histories and world events. In this exceptionally wide literature, there appear conceptual couplings of the hegemony-‘counter hegemony’, passive revolution‘active revolution’ type which reveal quite evident misunderstandings of his thought. These are almost always born from an urgency to find recipes for immediate political use. The third chapter has, instead, the nature of an essay. Its aim is to bring out the more properly philosophical dimension of Gramsci’s thought by shedding light on the translatability of languages which he indicates as the distinctive feature of his own reflections. However I have not wished to give an exposition of the entire system of the philosophy of praxis, but rather bring into focus his fundamental problem, meaning that of the subject, around which the whole of modern philosophy revolves. In the Prison Notebooks this culminates in the question of how ‘permanent collective wills are in fact formed’ (Q8§195, p. 1057; PN Vol. 3, p. 346), giving rise to a processual conception of subjectivity: in other words, for Gramsci the subject is not given but is the result of ‘relations of force’ and dynamic combinations of the relations between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘masses’. In the theory of the constitution of subjects, hegemony, passive revolution and the translatability of languages are cardinal concepts and

7 For a corroboration of this way of posing the question see the introductions to the

anastatic edition of the Prison Notebooks (Gramsci 2009) by G. Francioni, G. Cospito and F. Frosini, which taken together comprise an illuminating history of the Notebooks.

PREFACE

xv

I have therefore oriented my research mainly towards their reconstruction. Generated by an original interweaving of historical analysis and strategic political thought, they give body to a narration of the twentieth century centred on ‘Americanism’, communism and fascism, investigated as alternatives to the liberal civilization that with the war had entered into crisis. The world history to which Gramsci turned his gaze covers only about two decades, but his analyses go beyond those of his contemporaries and comprise a vivid figure of the first half of the twentieth century. Between the 1970s and the 1980s, the progressive narrations of the history of the twentieth century were demolished, narrations which had upheld the diffusion of democracy in the West; their place was taken by ideological narrations—the century of the Holocaust, the century of ideologies and of totalitarianisms—which stopped time at the 1940s. But the nexus between past and present cannot be structured in an arbitrary manner. When this happens, it becomes aleatory, if not entirely impossible, to interrogate the present with one’s mind turned towards the future. If, then, one wishes to measure the ‘actuality’ of Gramsci, one has to start off from his perception of Americanism, communism and fascism as figures of antinomy of a new season of modernity and restore his gaze on the history of the twentieth century, which is still speaking to us. The last chapter of the book regards a crucial subject of the debate among the interpreters of Gramsci. It offers a precise corroboration of the nexus between politics as the struggle for hegemony and theory of democracy which sinks its roots in the morphology of modernity. Faced with the crisis of the modern subject —the twentieth-century nation-State, the working-class movement, and the political party—one cannot stop at the traditional procedures and thematizations of democracy. Thus, the proposal to read Gramsci as the theorist of civil society, advanced in 1967 by Norberto Bobbio, may be considered a typical example of passive revolution. The comparison between the reading of Marx, proposed by Benedetto Croce at the end of the nineteenth century, suggested in the ‘Afterword’ is by no means a polemical gesture. Bobbio’s thesis belonged to a historical period in which political struggle was characterized by the ‘war of position’ and, on a par with Croce’s reading of Marx, it seemed the conditioned reflex of a dominant culture which, in not contemplating the possibility of hegemonic challenges that went beyond its conceptual universe, ended up by crystallizing the western liberal democratic world. The comparison thus also constitutes a valid example of how the concept

xvi

PREFACE

of ‘passive revolution’ may be applied to experiences successive to those investigated by Gramsci, as long as one knows how to deal with the historical contexts. Rome, Italy March 2020

Giuseppe Vacca

References Ciliberto, M. (1982). La fabbrica dei Quaderni (Gramsci e Vico). In Filosofia e politica del Novecento italiano da Labriola a “Società”. Bari: De Donato. Ciliberto, M., & Vasoli, C. (Eds.). (1991). Filosofia e cultura. Per Eugenio Garin (Vol. II, pp. 759–788). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Ciliberto. (1999). Cosmopolitismo e Stato nazionale nei Quaderni del carcere. In G. Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento (Vol. II, pp. 157–176). Rome: Carocci. Ciliberto, M. (2016). Gramsci e Guicciardini. Per un’interpretazione “figurale” dei Quaderni del carcere. In Attualità di Gramsci (pp. 59–75). Rome: Bardi. Coen, F. (Ed.). (1977). Il marxismo e lo Stato, new series of the ‘Quaderni di Mondoperaio’, No. 4, 1976. Coen, F. (Ed.). (1977). Egemonia e democrazia, new series of the ‘Quaderni di Mondoperaio’, No. 7, 1977. Daniele, C. (Ed.). (2005). Togliatti editore di Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Ferri, F. (Ed.). (1977). Politica e storia in Gramsci. Proceedings of the International Conference on Gramsci (Florence 1977). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Turin. Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (2007). Prison Notebooks (J. A. Buttigieg, Ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (2009). Quaderni del carcere. Edizione anastatica dei manoscritti (18 Vols., G. Francioni, Ed.). Rome and Cagliari: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana-L’Unione Sarda. Izzo, F. (2009). Democrazia e cosmopolitismo in Antonio Gramsci(Chapters 2, 4, and 5). Rome: Carocci. Montanari, M. (1997). Introduzione a Gramsci, Pensare la democrazia. Turin: Einaudi. Togliatti, P. (1979). Leninism in the Theory and Practice of Gramsci. In id., On Gramsci and Other Writings (pp. 161–181). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Togliatti, P. (2001 [19581 ]). Il leninismo nel pensiero e nell’azione di A. Gramsci (appunti.) In id., (2001). Togliatti, P. (2001). Scritti su Gramsci (G. Liguori, Ed., pp. 213–234). Editori Riuniti.

PREFACE

xvii

Togliatti, P. (2014). La politica nel pensiero e nell’azione. Scritti e discorsi 1917– 1964 (M. Ciliberto and G. Vacca, Eds.). Milan: Bompiani. Vacca, G. (1977). La “quistione politica degli intellettuali” e la teoria marxista dello Stato nel pensiero di Gramsci. In Ferri (1977), Vol. I, pp. 439–480. Vacca, G. (1985). Il marxismo e gli intellettuali. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1991). Gramsci e Togliatti. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (2005). Togliatti editore di Gramsci. In Daniele (Ed.), (2005), pp. 13– 54. Vacca, G. (2012). Vita e pensieri di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . Turin: Einaudi. Vacca G., & Fiocco, G. (2019). La sfida di Gorbaciov. Guerra e pace nell’era globale. Rome: Salerno Editori. Vacca, G., & Musté M. (2020). In cammino con Gramsci. Rome: Viella.

Contents

1

2

The Concept of Hegemony 1 ‘Historical Breaks’: The Great War and the October Revolution 2 The Problem of the Revolution in Italy and the ‘Hegemony of the Proletariat’ 3 The Essay on the Southern Question: First Draft of a Theory of Intellectuals 4 The Origin of the Notebooks 5 Gramsci the Theorist of ‘Revolution in the West’? 6 The Concept of Hegemony in the Notebooks 7 Interdependence, ‘Civil Hegemony’, ‘International Hegemony’ 8 The Crisis of the Modern State and the Remedies: Political Cosmopolitanism and Supranationality References The Nature of Passive Revolution 1 Developments of the Concept of ‘Passive Revolution’ 2 Gramsci’s Analysis of the History of Italy, from the War to His Arrest 3 Liberal Italy and Fascism in the Notebooks

1 1 12 26 36 44 48 54 64 78 85 85 89 112

xix

xx

CONTENTS

4

The ‘Passive Revolution’ in the International Scenario. America, Europe, Soviet Union References

128 143

From Historical Materialism to the Philosophy of Praxis: Foundations for a Processual Theory of the Subject 1 The Turin Factory Council Movement 2 The Research Programme of the Notebooks 3 ‘A Heresy of the Religion of Liberty’ 4 Economism and Scientism 5 Socialism as the Process Generating a New Rationality 6 The Constitution of the Political Subject References

151 151 160 165 170 178 185 191

4

Hegemony and Democracy 1 The Legacy of Liberalism 2 Crisis and Critics of Democracy 3 ‘The Modern Prince’ 4 Europe After Fascism 5 Epilogue References

195 198 208 218 230 236 240

5

Afterword 1 Gramsci Studies in Italy References

243 243 259

3

Index

265

Translators’ Note

The list following this note contains the abbreviations used in the textual and bibliographical references for the most widely quoted selections of Gramsci’s writings used in the current volume. Taking account of the needs of an international readership, which may have access to either English or Italian publications but usually not both, the references give information in both languages for Gramsci’s writings. We use the citations given in Giuseppe Vacca’s Italian text for the pre-prison writings, but often readers may have access to these in other anthologies of Gramsci’s writings. For Togliatti’s articles on Gramsci, we normally use as the Italian source Guido Liguori’s 2001 anthology Scritti su Gramsci, as being the most widely available one, but readers can also find them in the 2014 Togliatti anthology La politica nel pensiero e nell’azione. Scritti e discorsi 1917–1964, edited by Michele Ciliberto and Giuseppe Vacca, used in the present volume when necessary. Note that the greater part of Gramsci’s newspaper and journal articles have not been translated into English and so, for them, only an Italian source can be mentioned. Titles of articles discussed by the author are given in English in the text, and found under that name in the alphabetically arranged references lists, followed by theoriginal title in Italian, with indications of where they were published. Given that the author normally follows a chronological reconstruction of the early writings, in particular, we include the date of their first publication. There then follow the reference to the volumes in which these articles may now be consulted, first

xxi

xxii

TRANSLATORS’ NOTE

in Italian and then, where possible, in English; for the latter, we give the translation used and, as help to readers alternative sources where these exist. As regards letters, in Italian we use for purposes of completeness the published volumes of correspondence between, as needed, Tanja (Tat’jana) Schucht and Gramsci (Gramsci-Schucht 1997) or Tanja and Piero Sraffa (Sraffa 1991). For Gramsci’s exchanges of letters with other members of the Italian communist leadership, use is made of Palmiro Togliatti’s 1962 volume Formazione del gruppo dirigente del partito comunista italiano nel 1923–1924; as with the newspaper articles, these may be accessed in other Italian anthologies. In English we use the most complete translation of the prison letters available, not listing other partial selections. For well-known Russian figures and organizations, we use the form of names familiar to Anglophone readers; elsewhere we follow the ISO rules for transliteration from the Cyrillic alphabet. Occasionally earlier ‘standard’ translations of Gramsci quoted have been ‘silently’ updated since a few lexical choices have now undergone modification in the light of later work; this is the case especially with ‘corporative’ rather than ‘corporate’ and the difficult term ‘determinate’, often previously glossed rather than translated. Sometimes readers will encounter ‘soviet’ written with a small initial letter; this occurs when the emphasis is on the meaning of the term as a council, hence the ‘republic of soviets’ means quite literally the ‘republic of councils’.

Abbreviations Used in References to Volumes

Italian Publications in Volume Form of Gramsci’s Writings CF CPC CT NM ON QdC SF

La Città futura (1917–1918) (1982) ed. S. Caprioglio, Turin: Einaudi. La costruzione del partito comunista (1923–1926) (1971) Turin: Einaudi. Cronache torinesi 1913–1917 (1980), ed. S. Caprioglio, Turin: Einaudi. Il nostro Marx (1918–1919) (1984) ed. S. Caprioglio, Turin: Einaudi. L’Ordine Nuovo 1919–1920 (1987) ed. V. Gerratana and A.A. Santucci, Turin: Einaudi. Quaderni del carcere (1975) ed. V. Gerratana, Turin: Einaudi. Socialismo e fascismo. L’Ordine Nuovo 1921–1922 (1966) Turin: Einaudi.

English-Language Volumes of Gramsci’s Writings FSPN GTW LfP PN Vol. 1

PN Vol. 2

Further Selections from the Prison Writings (1995), ed. and trans. D. Boothman, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Letters 1908–1926. A Great and Terrible World (2014), ed. and trans. D. Boothman, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Letters from Prison (1994), 2 Vols., ed. F. Rosengarten and trans. R. Rosenthal, New York: Columbia University Press. Prison Notebooks Vol. 1 (1992), ed. and trans. J.A. Buttigieg (with the assistance of A. Callari), New York: Columbia University Press. Prison Notebooks Vol. 2 (1996), ed. and trans. J.A. Buttigieg, New York: Columbia University Press.

xxiii

xxiv

ABBREVIATIONS USED IN REFERENCES TO VOLUMES

PN Vol. 3 PPW SPN

SPW 1910–1920 SPW 1910–1926

Prison Notebooks Vol. 3 (2007), ed. and trans. J.A. Buttigieg, New York: Columbia University Press. Pre-Prison Writings (1994), ed. R. Bellamy and trans. V. Cox, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Selections from the Prison Writings (1971), ed. and trans. Q. Hoare and G. Nowell-Smith, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Selected Political Writings 1910–1920 (1977), ed. Q. Hoare and trans. J. Mathews, London: Lawrence and Wishart. Selected Political Writings 1910–1920 (1978), ed. and trans. Q. Hoare, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

CHAPTER 1

The Concept of Hegemony

1 ‘Historical Breaks’: The Great War and the October Revolution World War I influenced the entire development of Gramsci’s thought; to reconstruct the origin of the concept of hegemony, which forms the basis of his analysis of the twentieth century; it will therefore be useful to start from how he perceived the Great War. Gramsci’s first important text, an article entitled ‘Active and Operative Neutrality’ (CT , pp. 10–15; SPW 1910–1919, pp. 6–9 and, with alternative title, PPW , pp. 3–7), published in the Turin socialist weekly Il Grido del Popolo on 31 October 1914, suggested to the Socialist Party the need to go beyond the formula of ‘absolute neutrality’. Whether this article contained a position that was favourable to Italy’s intervention in the war is a controversial question, long debated by historians and now clarified, in my opinion, in a well-documented contribution by Leonardo Rapone (Rapone 2007). But rather than his political position, our interest here is to reconstruct Gramsci’s thinking about the war and in this regard the most important analyses date from 1916. The ‘Maximalist’ majority of the Socialist Party, of which Gramsci was a member, was part of the European revolutionary socialism that conceived of socialism as the ‘coming of the International’. In their view, socialism presupposed the worldwide spread of capitalism, because that would have strengthened the proletariat even further, thus preparing the conditions for its rise to power. Revolutionary socialism was thus laissez-faire liberal in outlook © The Author(s) 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7_1

1

2

G. VACCA

since it intended, via the class struggle, to accelerate the achievement of capitalism’s historical ‘mission’, namely the antagonistic unification of a world divided between ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘proletarians’. Italian ‘Maximalists’ were laissez-faire liberals because they were solidly classist (Losurdo 1997); however Gramsci’s liberalism depended not only on his political position, but sprang also from his intellectual education, for which, as is known, Croce and Einaudi, Salvemini and Sorel, Bergson and the pragmatists had been fundamental (Paggi 1984; Rapone 2011). We therefore need to focus on the influence this culture had on how Gramsci analysed the phenomenon of war. Rapone and other scholars have suggested that his extraneousness to the socialist ‘war doctrine’ and his selective approach to theories of imperialism are due to these cultural influences: this theme calls for further enquiry. Gramsci analysed the situation from 1916 on from the viewpoint of the change in the subjectivity of the peoples that war was rapidly generating and the first phenomenon upon which he cast his eye was the re-awakening of colonial peoples. The article ‘War and the Colonies’ published on 15 April 1916, was his reaction to an article by Mario Girardon, the Paris correspondent of the Resto del Carlino, and it underlines the ‘universal’ character of the phenomenon. But of equal significance is the conception of colonialism that Gramsci reveals on that occasion. Clearly influenced by the interpretation of Antonio Labriola (Labriola 2012, pp. 97–127), he states that colonialism can be ‘the historical drive necessary for the social agglomerates who were behind the times of civilization to change, to become disciplined, to acquire the consciousness of their being in the world and of having to collaborate in the life of the world’. However this had not been the result of French and British colonialism, since both had ‘obeyed the impulse of their capitalisms and in the colonies [had] created capitalist enterprises, but not within a capitalist society’. The article contains two concepts that would turn out to be fundamental for Gramsci’s analysis of politics and history: the first concerns the corporativist character of nationalism; the second is that capitalism’s progressive ‘function’ is distorted or even deformed by the force with which restricted economic interests manage to dominate the field of politics. From the outset, therefore, Gramsci’s thought reveals the decisive influence of Marx, since the pathology that he denounced concerns not only the colonial phenomenon, but also the relations between the economy and politics in the contemporary capitalist world (Gualtieri

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

3

2007). To Labriola’s influence can also be ascribed the observation that ‘the European world’s contact with coloured people has not been without its consequences’, positive consequences since ‘even indirectly capitalism has succeeded in creating new needs, new wills, latent aspirations which (…) could overflow unexpectedly in a violent action’. (‘The War and the Colonies’, CT 1913–1917 , pp. 255–258)1 The way in which Gramsci initially conceived of capitalism reflects a widespread mentality. The ‘spirit of the time’ that inspired him is well represented by Norman Angell, an author who was very dear to the ‘intransigent’ Italian socialism of the 1910s. This British journalist’s most successful work, The Great Illusion, was published in Italian in 1913 and the actuality of his analyses of the globalization of the world economy between the end of the 1800s and the first years of the twentieth century is of great interest still today. In the preface to the Humanitas edition which we have before us, Angell is presented as the ‘discoverer’ ‘of the economic interdependence of civilized nations’. For Gramsci, ‘economic interdependence’ certainly did not constitute a ‘discovery’; yet the analysis of globalization developed in The Great Illusion was so persuasive as to make Angell one of his favourite authors.2 Gramsci accepted the thesis that economic interdependence favours peace among nations and may be an instrument for continually neutralizing if not altogether eliminating the phenomenon of war. He wrote this clearly on 24 July 1916 and reasserted it once more on 23 March 1918, referring explicitly to Angell (‘The Great Illusion’, CT , pp. 446–448; also ‘Norman Angell’ CF 1917 –1918, pp. 773–774). In particular, in the first article dedicated to The Great Illusion, he draws a distinction between Angell’s pacifism and humanitarian pacifism, which he did not appreciate at all, asserting that the former was ‘solid’ because it was ‘founded on the recognition of a new state of things, created unintentionally by capitalism, as a pure economic force, and not as the backbone of bourgeois nations’ (‘The Great Illusion’, CT , p. 446). The distinction between capitalism and

1 Cf. M. Girardon, ‘Le libertà coloniali dopo la guerra europea’, published in the Bologna daily paper Il resto del carlino on 9 April. 2 N. Angell, La grande illusione. Studio sulla potenza militare in rapporto alla prosperità delle nazioni (1913), with a preface (‘Proemio’) by Arnaldo Cervesato (Bari: Humanitas), pp. v–xii, here p. v; see also Cervesato’s preface to the Voghera (Rome) edition also of 1913, p. vii and Angell’s use of the words ‘economic interdependence’ on p. viii of his own ‘Synopsis’ of the book, enlarged edition of 1914 published by Heinemann (London).

4

G. VACCA

bourgeoisie not only anticipates the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics, shortly to become the key to explaining the war, but also evokes the possibility of politically radicalizing Marx’s well-known thesis about the global vocation of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism and bourgeoisie are complementary so long as the national market and the nation-State are indispensable to capitalist development. But Gramsci claims that the more capitalism develops as a global economic form, the less it requires the role of the State. Economic cosmopolitanism creates a need for supranational political institutions and at this ‘stage’ of historical development, capitalism and the bourgeoisie are separable or at least distinguishable from each other, thus providing the historical justification for revolutionary internationalism. But even more significant is the fact that Gramsci, in developing in an original manner his vision of laissez-faire liberalism, not only does not adhere to the theories of imperialism, but elaborates his own theory of war based on the perception that imperialism is not an economic category (it does not indicate a change in the nature of capitalism) but a historical and a political one. War is conceived of as ‘a necessity’ he writes, only by certain ‘economic groups’ and political forces, it is the offspring of protectionism and nationalism, which are both political phenomena, not the expressions of supposed ‘economic laws’ (‘The Sirens’ Song’ and ‘The Socialists for Tariff Freedom’, CF , pp. 382–387 and 402–405 respectively). The correlation with his analysis of colonialism, where we started from, is evident. This is the background to his approach to the project of the League of Nations, proposed by US president Woodrow Wilson on 8 January 1918. The approach culminates in the claim that if the League of Nations were to be set up following Wilson’s blueprint it would constitute the ‘prerequisite’ ‘for the advent of the socialist International’ (‘Wilson and the Socialists’ NM 1918–1919, p. 315). Limiting ourselves to the salient points of his analysis, the League of Nations, writes Gramsci on 19 January, ‘is an attempt to adapt international politics to the needs of international trade’; ‘it represents the squaring of politics with economics’; ‘it is the great bourgeois supranational State which has dissolved tariff barriers, broadened markets, changed the pace of free competition and makes possible great enterprises, great international capitalist conglomerates’ (‘The League of Nations’ CF , p. 571). These are remarks of great interest, since they contain the basis of the theory of crises and war elaborated by Gramsci in Notebook 15; but no less important is the perception

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

5

of supranationality as the main highway for bringing political spaces into line with the globalization of the economy. At this point however we need to focus on the categories that Gramsci developed as he analysed the Great War, when his thinking was dominated by his expectation of the ‘advent of the International’. We observe in rapid succession, the presence of ‘interdependence’ as an analytical category of the structure of the world (‘A Socialist Peace Programme?’, CF , pp. 694–697); his assessment of the British Commonwealth as the birth of a ‘new form of society’, thanks to the creation of a ‘colossal federation’ capable of solving ‘the problem of nationalities’; and his prediction that the League of Nations would rotate around an Anglo-American bloc made up of a ‘free federation [comprising] 500 million inhabitants and an immense territory, which would dominate and control the seas of the whole world’. ‘In all probability’ concludes Gramsci ‘it will be the new phenomenon that characterizes twentieth century history’, forcing ‘the Latin nations (…) to become satellites of this new formidable historical power which is coming into being’. And ‘it will be a good thing’ he adds, not only because the Latin nations will be obliged to modernize, but also because, perhaps, peace ‘will be ensured precisely by this emergence of a huge power, against which any other would be weak and would be destroyed in a conflict’ (‘The New Religion of Humanity’, in NM 1918–1919, pp. 175–176). Gramsci thus describes the emergence of a new hegemony in international relations, founded on the expansivity of the industrial, commercial and cultural power of the more advanced capitalist countries, which are capable of spreading development and promoting peace. The word used is not hegemony but pre-eminence; but the concept is already there and was soon to appear in the expression world hegemony which is present in ‘The Tasca Report and the Congress of the Turin Chamber of Labour’ (5 June 1920, in ON 1919–1920, p. 451; SPW 1921–1926, p. 258). In this piece, the first references to the Bolshevik debate on imperialism surface, irrefutably demonstrating the derivation of the term ‘hegemony’ from Leninism. But returning to ‘The New Religion of Humanity’, it is significant that originally, the concept of ‘international pre-eminence’ was linked to the fact of ‘economic interdependence’ and with an appreciation of Wilson’s project to create new political spaces that were adequate to the expansion of the economy:

6

G. VACCA

The League of Nations is the capitalist Cosmopolis, with a citizenship comprised of millionaires (…) it is the juridical fiction of an international hierarchy of the bourgeois class with the Anglo-Saxon individualists predominating over other bourgeois.

The article comments on the armistice with Germany and the start of the Paris Conference, where Gramsci sees a clash between two representatives of post-war capitalism, with the Wilson-Lloyd George ‘bloc’ destined to prevail over militarism à la Foch. To his mind this clash constituted ‘the supreme revolution of modern society, the genesis of the capitalistic unification of the world, under the discipline of a hierarchy of States, who are equals under a juridical fiction’. The prediction and presage of the prevalence of the Anglo-American bloc induced him to ask a radical question, i.e. whether perhaps the time was ripe for the supersession of the nation-State’s principal function, the construction of citizenship: Has capitalistic society become differentiated to the extent that, in its progressive development, it has entered once and for all into the supreme phase of the individual superior even to the State and the citizen of the League of Nations? (‘The Armistice and Peace’, NM 1918–1919, p. 539)

But when the Paris Conference concluded with the restoration of the irreconcilable contrast between French and German nationalisms, Gramsci’s thought underwent a sudden about-turn. Already mentally inserted into the newly-formed Communist International (March 1919), he saw in ‘Anglo-American capitalism’ a ‘global monopoly’ which proletarianized subaltern nations and above all destroyed all traces of sovereignty. In that year he wrote (15 May, referring to Italy) that the national State is dead, becoming a sphere of influence, a monopoly in the hands of foreigners. The world is “unified” in the sense that an international hierarchy has been created which is disciplining the entire world and controlling it in an authoritarian manner; there has been created the greatest concentration of private property, the whole world is a trust in the hands of a few score Anglo-Saxon bankers, ship-owners and industrialists. (‘The Unity of the World’ in ON 1919–1920, p. 20)

Gramsci’s period of communist militancy was beginning, but nevertheless he seemed to be even more convinced of the progressive value of economic interdependence, considering his enquiry as the premise for the

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

7

‘advent of the International’ and believing that the main problem raised by the war was that of adapting the ‘spaces’ and forms that regulated politics to the spaces of a world economy that was increasingly one and interdependent. His conviction sprang from the widening of the crisis of national economies. Gramsci was taking his cue from the wave of strikes and the depression that had struck the US economy, which was therefore no longer capable of financing a European economic recovery, and contrasting the globalization of the nineteenth century’s final decade with twentieth-century Europe’s nationalisms, which had been responsible for the catastrophic war: Before the war, a dense network of commercial relations had begun to be formed in the world; economically, the world had become a living organism with a rapid blood circulation (…) A multiplicity of arteries and veins, through which the life of the world circulated. (‘Italy and the United States’ ON 1919–1920, pp. 303–304)

This network had represented a great manifestation of the capitalist mode of production’s global vocation and of its progressive ‘spontaneity’. But then there had followed ‘the period of national economies moving as a complex, organized as military might in order to conquer world markets, to conquer the world. This period culminates in war (…) and destroys the conditions of capitalism for capitalism’. The asymmetries and antagonisms generated by the war had not been cured by the equilibria achieved with peace: ‘wars continue [against the working classes within States and among States themselves], trade embargoes continue; the bloody wound in the world body continues to be widened by hands rendered spasmodic by panic’ (loc. cit.). The conflict between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics had resulted in war and that huge catastrophe had demonstrated the need to eliminate the roots of nationalism. But as we have seen, the conclusion of the war had proposed anew, in an even more exasperated form, the contradiction that had generated the war and, by ushering in a proletarian revolution, brought to the forefront those forces that could remove it. We therefore need to direct our attention to the epochal changes that war had wrought on the position of the subaltern classes—workers and peasants—and their psychology. Immediately after the October Revolution, Gramsci had written two illuminating

8

G. VACCA

articles about the world that was coming into being. The first one, in a cultural and ethical tone, took no position on the Bolsheviks’ conquest of power and focused on the psychological changes occasioned by the war: Three years of war have certainly caused changes in the world. But perhaps the most significant change of all is this: three years of war have made the world sensitive to change. We feel the world, are sensitive to it; previously we simply thought it. We felt our little world, we took part in its sadness, in its hopes, in its wishes and in the interests of the little world in which we were most directly immersed. We welded ourselves to the wider collectivity only through the effort of thought, with an effort of abstraction. Now this weld has become more intimate. We see distinctly what before was indistinct and vague. We see people, multitudes of people where yesterday we saw only States or single representative people. (‘Readings’ in CF , p. 452)

In this way Gramsci set forth a theme that would characterize the entirety his thought: the nexus between understanding and feeling, the inspiring principle behind the philosophy of praxis.3 But no less important appears his emphasis on war as the accelerant of the globalization of the collective conscience. This argument had been developed in the celebrated article ‘The Revolution against Capital’ (CF , pp. 513–517; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 34–37 and PPW , pp. 39–42). The article is too well known for us to analyse it in detail but we would like to focus on one point. The October Revolution surprised and disconcerted European socialism because none of the currents of Marxist thought of the time, including Lenin up to the eve of the war, had predicted that the ‘socialist revolution’ could start in a backward country. But the war, by also involving Russia, had created the subjective conditions for a ‘proletarian revolution’ there. It had ‘aroused the popular collective will’, which ‘normally’ would have required a lengthy experience of capitalist development, class struggles, the creation of an industrial proletariat and the formation of a widespread socialist conscience. ‘In Russia’ Gramsci writes ‘the war has served to galvanize the people’s will. As a result of the sufferings accumulated over three years, they found themselves very rapidly in unanimity’ and the Russian proletariat, although it had not known European capitalist development, once in power ‘made use of the Western capitalist experiences to bring itself rapidly to the same level of production

3 Cf. here Chapter 3, pp. 151–193.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

9

as the Western world’ (‘The Revolution against “Capital”’, CF , p. 515; SPW 1910–1920, p. 36). It is worth noting that in the article there already appears the concept of the ‘collective will’, which in subsequent developments of Gramsci’s thought would come to designate the subjectivity that generates historical changes; but the salient point of the article is the justification of the Bolshevik revolution in the light of the unification of the mentality of peoples that was generated by the war. The text in which the historical determination of the phenomenon is most significant is the article of 2 August 1919, ‘Workers and Peasants’, centred on a comparison between Russia and Italy, in which the accent falls on the change in the peasants’ historical position and psychology: Four years of the trenches and exploitation of his blood have radically changed the peasant psychology. This change has occurred especially in Russia, and has been one of the essential factors in the revolution. What industrialism had not brought about in its normal process of development was produced by the war. The war forced those nations which were less advanced in capitalist terms, and hence less endowed with technological equipment, to enrol all available men and to oppose wave after wave of living flesh to the war instruments of the Central Powers. For Russia, the war meant that individuals who had previously been scattered over a vast territory came into contact with each other. It meant that humans were concentrated together uninterruptedly for years on end under conditions of sacrifice, with the ever present danger of death, and under a uniform and uniformly ferocious discipline. The lengthy duration of such conditions of collective living had profound psychological effects and was rich in unforeseen consequences (…) Within four years, in the mud and blood of the trenches, a spiritual world emerged that was avid to form itself into permanent and dynamic social structures and institutions. (‘Workers and Peasants’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 157–158)

These analyses underpin an ever more convinced adherence to Bolshevism, finally leading to two articles from 1920: ‘Two Revolutions’, of 3 July, and ‘Russia, a World Power’, of 14 August. The former demonstrates a critical approach that is precociously aware of the exceptionality of the ‘Russian experiment’. Written as the development of the Councils experience was in full swing, the article proposes a significant relativization of the October Revolution. In previous months revolutions had failed in Germany, Austria, Bavaria and the Ukraine. Gramsci’s reflection moves

10

G. VACCA

from there: ‘The experience of the revolutions’ he writes ‘has shown how, since Russia, all other two-stage revolutions have failed’. The possibility that arose in Russia for the proletariat, through the effect of the war, not only to conquer power, but also successfully to hold onto it, had not been replicated elsewhere. This showed that the ‘two-stage revolution’ could not provide a model for the proletarian revolution. Unlike what had happened in bourgeois revolutions, the proletariat could not plan to conquer the power of the State and then ‘construct’ a socialist society in a ‘second stage’. These failures therefore proved the anachronistic character of the ‘permanent revolution’ theory. The other salient theme of the article was European experiences with Councils, which Gramsci considered inconceivable without the pressure of the war and the October Revolution. As he wrote immediately afterwards in the article ‘The programme of L’Ordine Nuovo’, there were mainly two problems that had arisen from the founding of the weekly with Togliatti: first, whether the soviet was not ‘a purely Russian institution’, but instead, ‘a universal form’, that is to say, ‘wherever there are proletarians struggling to win industrial autonomy’, whether the soviet was not the most appropriate institution form for realizing it. The second concerned the possibility of identifying the equivalent of the soviet in Italy (‘The Programme of L’Ordine Nuovo’ ON 1919–1920, pp. 619–620; PPW , p. 179). The Turin experience with Councils constituted in his opinion the demonstration of the universality of the soviets inasmuch as they had ‘translated’ ‘the Russian experiment’ into an industrial situation among the most advanced in Europe. However it is useful to underline the motivation that Gramsci provides for these claims to demonstrate that the Turin experience had highlighted the possibility of separating capitalism and industrialism thus rendering superfluous both capitalist command over production and the very figure of the ‘capitalist’ (‘The Programme’, cit., ON 1991–1920, pp. 623–624 and 626–627; PPW , pp. 182–183 and 185–186). In the soviet, Gramsci recognized the organ of the working class’s ‘industrial autonomy’ and ‘historical initiative’, which however could only be acquired by means of adequate preparation under the guidance of communist parties (which found therein their principal justification), so as to create the conditions for socializing production before conquering power (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 569–574; PPW , pp. 168–172 and New Left Review I/51, pp. 45–48).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

11

In spite of this initial attempt at differential analysis, the consolidation of soviet power did provide Gramsci with a chance to identify the ‘universal’ elements of the ‘Russian experiment’. The first is that the working class ‘shows that it is capable of constructing a State’ inasmuch as ‘it manages to convince the majority of the population (…) that its immediate and future interests coincide with those of the majority itself’ (all the other classes ‘recognize the working class as the ruling class’). Its ‘leadership’ is exercised by ‘convincing’, thus establishing ‘a new hierarchy of social classes’. This reflection marks the moment when for the first time Gramsci comes close to Bolshevism’s concept of hegemony, predicating it as a combination of persuasion and command, and this in the year when for the Bolshevik élite the concept was tending towards coercion exerted on the peasants to make them accept the programme of the workers’ party. We do not know to what extent Gramsci was aware of that debate, but we shall have occasion to return to it later. As already mentioned however, the term hegemony does appear in his analysis of international relations and receives an initial specification in the article ‘Russia, a World Power’. ‘With its military victory’ over Poland, Gramsci writes optimistically, as the Red Army is just about to be halted at the gates of Warsaw, and ‘thanks to the courage of its army (…) the Russia of the soviets has become one of the greatest world powers’, placing itself ‘at the head of the system of the historical powers that are struggling against hegemonic capitalism’. The latter expression refers to Anglo-American capitalism which Gramsci, as we have seen, considered to be the real victor of World War I. Yet its ability to dominate seemed to him to be greatly limited by the failure of Wilson’s project and the strident incongruities of the Treaty of Versailles. Therefore Anglo-American power could be victoriously challenged by Soviet Russia, now the global reference point for proletarian revolutions, for defeated nations, and for nations like Italy which, although among the victors, had been ‘economically destroyed’ by the war; and finally by the ‘insurrection of the colonies, which had been bled to death by the metropolis’: The World War, won by the Entente, should have been able through the Peace of Versailles and the League of Nations to install a monopoly regime over the globe; an unchallenged hegemony ought to have succeeded to the system of inter-State equilibrium and competition. The Russia of

12

G. VACCA

the soviets, acceding to the position of a great power has breached the hegemonic system. (‘Russia, a World Power’, ON , p. 618)

It is no surprise that the concept of hegemony should appear for the first time in an analysis of a geopolitical nature. The article that we are examining follows two other articles with the same approach, ‘Russia and Europe’ of 1 November 1919 (ON 1919–1920, pp. 267– 271) and another one, a week later, entitled ‘Italy and the United States’ (ON 1919–1920, pp. 302–305), which contain an initial synthesis of the changes to the world equilibria generated by the war. We shall analyse them in Chapter 2 because they are mainly dedicated to the history of Italy’s foreign policy; but we should already mention that both are clearly geopolitical in nature. In its first reception then, the concept of hegemony appears to be combined with an already autonomously elaborated mechanism for analysing international relations, while the terrain upon which it would develop is above all that of domestic politics. To commence this analysis we must skip forward three years, to deal with the period in which Gramsci started to prepare his succession to Bordiga.

2

The Problem of the Revolution in Italy and the ‘Hegemony of the Proletariat’

After the Rome Congress (20–24 March 1922) Gramsci was sent to Moscow to represent the PCI on the Executive Committee of the International and he remained there from May 1922 to November 1923. There then commenced a period of intense theoretical and strategic elaboration which went from the summer of 1923 to the spring of 1924 and would bear its most mature fruits at the Lyon Congress (January 1926). His in-depth study of Bolshevism and direct knowledge of Soviet Russia and of the International confirmed his conviction about the ‘universal’ validity of the Russian experiment, but at the same time provided him with proof of the Comintern’s weakness, stemming in his opinion from how centralism functioned. The intensification of the conflict between the PCI and the Comintern, which Bordiga clearly intended to push to

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

13

breaking point, obliged Gramsci to overcome all ‘inertia’.4 Immediately after the Third Enlarged Executive (June 1923), he noted: The tactic of the united front, laid down with considerable precision by the Russian comrades, both technically and in the general approach to its practical application, has in no country found a party or the men capable of applying it in concrete terms. (…) Obviously, all this cannot be accidental. There is something that is not functioning in the international field as a whole, there is a weakness and inadequacy of leadership. The Italian question must be seen in this framework. (CPC, p. 457; SPW 1921–1926, p. 155)5

In this way Gramsci initiated a mid-period reflection on the ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of the Comintern’s policy. As is known, the first significant document of his research is the letter of 12 September 1923 to the Executive of the PCI in which he suggested the orientation and title for the new daily newspaper that the International had decided to launch in support of the fusion with the Maximalists. Its salient points regard the way in which the alliance between workers and peasants was to be approached and the need to specify the form of State that best suits a ‘workers’ and peasants’ government’: As a title I propose L’Unità pure and simple, which will be significant for the workers and have a more general significance. I am proposing this because I think that after the decision of the En[larged] E[xecutive] on the Workers’ and Peasants’ government, we must give importance especially to the southern question, that is, to the question in which the problem of the relations between workers and peasants is posed not only as a problem of class relations, but also and especially as a territorial problem, that is to say as one of the aspects of the national question. Personally, I believe that the watchword ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’ has to be adapted in Italy to the ‘Federal Republic of the Workers and Peasants’. (Gramsci Epistolario 2, p. 127; GTW , p. 171 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 162)6

4 The criticism of ‘inertia’ via-à-vis Bordiga was formulated by Togliatti in his letter to Gramsci of 1 May, 1923. Cf. P. Togliatti (1962, pp. 53–60); SPW 1921–1926, pp. 132– 137. 5 From manuscript notes, probably dating to June 1923 while Gramsci was still in Moscow. 6 Letter of Gramsci from Moscow to the PCI Executive (12 September 1923).

14

G. VACCA

The reasons why the tactic of the United Front made it necessary to specify the form of the workers’ State are not limited to the particularities of the ‘peasant question’. The main reason why the party needed to have its own position on the nature of the State was the presence of fascism. Although the government still maintained the political appearances of a parliamentary regime, fascism had achieved power thorough violence and, through the government, was continuing and intensifying its destruction of working class organizations and of democracy (Vacca 1994, pp. xxiii–xxv). The conditions for uniting the working classes and for leading them could only be created if the party adopted the strategy of a democratic revolution. In his letter from Vienna of 5 January 1924 to Mauro Scoccimarro, Gramsci wrote: Fascism has posed a very sharp and cruel dilemma in Italy, that is to say that of the revolution in permanence, and of the impossibility not only of changing the State form, but simply of changing government, except by armed force. (Togliatti 1962, pp. 152–153; GTW , pp. 199–200 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 176)7

The victory of fascism, its peculiarity of being a popular movement endowed with an armed organization that aimed to suppress its adversaries, and the rapid authoritarian transformation that it imposed on the State, induced bitter self-criticism in Gramsci: ‘The Livorno split (the separation of the majority of the Italian proletariat from the Communist International) was without a doubt the greatest triumph of reaction’ (Togliatti 1962, p. 102; SPW 1921–1926, p. 160).8 But the reunification of the Italian proletariat could not be resolved by a fusion between the PCI and the Maximalists, as called for by the Comintern; it required a revision of the party’s strategy to identify the weaknesses of fascism in order to attract to itself those forces that could detach themselves from fascism. In actual fact, Gramsci believed that fascism could not be stabilized and that a crisis was possible in the short term. But, in order to be able to stamp its mark on events, the party needed to formulate a realistic prediction of the possible course of the crisis and adopt an appropriate tactic. The most likely hypothesis was that the crisis of fascism would lead to a democratic revolution. The PCI therefore needed to elaborate 7 Letter of Gramsci to Scoccimarro of 5 January 1924. 8 One of three fragmentary drafts of notes or letters by Gramsci.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

15

transitory watchwords to enable it to be transformed into a proletarian revolution. That meant the party needed to develop a strategy suited to the Italian situation, where the watchword of the ‘workers’ and peasants’ government’ was insufficient: In the political field we have to establish with precision the theses on the Italian situation and on the possible stages of its future development. (…) I think that, in any revival, our Party will still be in a minority position, that the majority of the working class will go with the reformists and that the liberal bourgeois democrats will still have much to say. I do not doubt that the situation is actively revolutionary and that therefore, in a given period of time, our Party will have the majority on its side; but if this period will perhaps not be long in terms of time, it will undoubtedly be dense in secondary stages, which we shall have to foresee with a certain precision in order to be able to manoeuvre and not fall into errors that would prolong the experiences of the proletariat. (Togliatti 1962, pp. 199–200; GTW , pp. 229–230 and SPW 1921–1926, pp. 201–202)9

The concept of hegemony of the proletariat appeared for the first time during this research. As is known, when Gramsci wrote his letter from Moscow on founding L’Unità, he was preparing the plan for the first issue of the third series of L’Ordine Nuovo (Somai 1989, pp. 53–54), which appeared in March 1924. Together with the renowned editorial, ‘Capo’ (‘Leader’), dedicated to a comparison between Lenin and Mussolini, the fortnightly journal contained a biography of the recently deceased Soviet leader, translated from Russian but adapted by Gramsci to the Italian situation. The text which he drew on was Zinov’ev’s introduction to the first volume of his Works, comprising an ‘outline history of Bolshevism’ and written as a polemic against Trotsky (Paggi 1970, pp. 43–44). The originality of Bolshevism, wrote Zinov’ev, consists of the fact that for the first time, ‘in the international history of the class struggle’ it had ‘developed the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat and (…) addressed in a practical manner the principal institutional problems that Marx and Engels had explored in theoretical terms. The idea of the hegemony of the proletariat’, Zinov’ev continued, ‘for the very reason that it was conceived historically and concretely, brought with it the need to find an ally for the working class: Bolshevism found this ally in the mass of poor peasants’.

9 Letter of Gramsci from Vienna of 9 February 1924 to Togliatti, Terracini and others.

16

G. VACCA

Gramsci added that in this way, ‘theoretically and practically the historical task of the peasant class’ had been established, whereas international socialism had not yet succeeded in doing this. But what appears even more important from a theoretical viewpoint is that, in his reconstruction of the genealogy of the concept of ‘hegemony of the proletariat’, he based himself on the pamphlet Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, in which Lenin, elaborating the experience of the 1905 Russian revolution, had not only introduced that concept but had also put forward a conception of the democratic and socialist revolution, summed up in the slogan democratic dictatorship of the workers and the peasants. This was no casual choice. The salient point of the Bolshevik vision of the hegemony of the proletariat was the need for the working class to ‘make concessions’ of an economic nature to the peasants (Di Biagio 2008, pp. 397–402). That had indeed happened in the October Revolution, with the adoption of the Social-Revolutionaries’ agrarian policy, which aimed to assign the land to the peasants; and with the New Economic Policy (NEP), which introduced a limited market economy to the countryside. At the centre of Gramsci’s approach there was instead the need to ‘make concessions’ to the peasantry that were also political. Indeed, as we have seen, in the letter about founding L’Unità Gramsci proposed replacing the slogan ‘workers’ and peasants’ government’ with ‘Federal Republic of the Workers and Peasants’, thus placing the two classes on the same level. For Gramsci, the alliance between workers and peasants in Italy thus involved not only the problem of the government, but also the form of the State. The State of the dictatorship of the proletariat could not be solely the State of the workers, but needed, unlike the Soviet State, to be a workers’ and peasants’ State. Therefore the leadership function of the working class vis-à-vis its principal ally ought to assume the character of influence and political and intellectual leadership, not that of subordination and coercion. In an unpublished study, the much missed Anna Di Biagio reconstructed the variations of the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ concept in Lenin’s writings, from his What Is to Be Done? of 1902 to the last article On Cooperation of 6 January 1923: only in Two Tactics was the hegemony of the proletariat conceived of as the political leadership of an alliance between classes of equal importance and rank; instead, in his other writings where the concept appeared or was operationally present, hegemony of the proletariat assumed the character of predomination by the working class over the peasant masses and, from 1920, of more or

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

17

less flexible coercion exercised by the working class to induce the peasants to accept the programme of the workers’ party. Between 1920 and 1923, discussion on this point in the Russian Party had been very heated and after the launch of the NEP, had ended in favour of coercion of the peasants by the workers. The theses of the Comintern, instead, went in the opposite direction, especially after Lenin, in launching the ‘United Front tactic’, had invited ‘fraternal’ parties to study the Russian experience in-depth, but not to follow it slavishly, and instead to ‘adapt’ it to national particularities (Di Biagio, unpublished research). As already mentioned, in June 1923 Gramsci started to re-elaborate the ‘tactic of the United Front’ in order to adapt it to Italy. It is not surprising that in handling Lenin’s biography he should have taken Two Tactics as his point of reference: the proletarian revolution in Italy was to be at the same time a democratic and a socialist revolution, not only because of the presence of fascism but also because Italy is a western European country. The ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of the United Front tactic was not just the search for a ‘national way’, but part of a wide-ranging reflection on the differences between East and West as illustrated in his letter to Togliatti and Terracini of 9 February 1924. Commenting on the discussion that had commenced in the Bolshevik leadership immediately after the failure of the insurrection in Germany, Gramsci showed that while he shared Zinov’ev’s reaffirmation of the actuality of revolution (Pons 2008, pp. 403–407), the problem of the ‘intermediate phase’ was acquiring particular significance throughout western Europe: In central and western Europe, the development of capitalism has created not only broad proletarian strata but also, and for that very reason, an upper stratum, the working-class aristocracy, with its appendages of trade-union bureaucracy and social democrat groupings. The determination which in Russia was direct, and which launched the masses into the streets in a revolutionary assault, becomes complicated in central and western Europe by reason of all these political superstructures created by the greater development of capitalism. Indeed it slows down and urges caution on the action of the masses, and thus requires the revolutionary Party to have a strategy and tactics that are much more complex and of longer range than were necessary for the Bolsheviks between March and

18

G. VACCA

November 1917. (Togliatti 1962, pp. 196–107; GTW , p. 227 and SPW 1921–1926, pp. 199–200)10

In the course of 1923, Gramsci had reached the conviction that fascism was undergoing a process of dissolution (Somai 1989, pp. 805–824) and, for an effective intervention by the proletariat, he thought its alliance with the peasantry was indispensable. Attention has correctly been drawn to the impulse given by the Comintern to this reflection via the creation of the Krestintern (the Peasant International) and by the Soviet State’s transformation in a federalist direction (Paggi 1970, pp. 151–160). But Gramsci went beyond that impulse, evoking the West’s morphological complexity. The fusion between the PCI and the Maximalists was also the subject of a comparison which highlighted above all the differences with respect to the ‘Russian experiment’, attributing to the tactic of the United Front the significance of a ‘limiting idea’ (Togliatti, pp. 223–227; GTW , pp. 239–246).11 In fact workers and peasants, rather than as the levers for a revolutionary process on the Russian model, were considered as being the potential protagonists of a rationalization of the Italian economy in a productivist perspective which would remedy the nation’s fragile unity and weak competitiveness. Then, in August of 1924, in the very middle of the Matteotti crisis, Gramsci put forward the idea of a popular revolution that could reinsert Italy into the European circuit from which fascism had excluded it: Only by participating in a European and world revolution can the Italian people regain the ability to utilize fully its human productive forces, and to restore development to the national productive apparatus. Fascism has merely delayed the proletarian revolution, it has not made it impossible. Indeed, it has helped to enlarge and enrich the terrain of the proletarian revolution, which after the fascist experiment will be a truly popular one. (‘The Italian Crisis’—Gramsci’s report to the August 1924 Central Committee meeting: CPC, p. 31; SPW 1921–1926, p. 257)12

10 Letter of Gramsci from Vienna of 9 February 1924 to Togliatti, Terracini and others. 11 Letter of Gramsci from Vienna of 1 March 1924 to Scoccimarro and Togliatti. 12 At this meeting Gramsci’s nomination by the 5-strong Executive as the General

Secretary of the Party was accepted by the Central Committee.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

19

With the Lyon Congress, the characterization of the proletarian revolution as a ‘popular revolution’ became the PCI’s strategy until June 1929, when the Comintern forced the party to renounce it (Ragionieri 1971, pp. 108–170). The disagreement concerned not only the refusal to identify social democracy with fascism, but also the conception of the State which, the ‘popular revolution’ formula suggested, was not a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Going on however to the letter of 21 March 1924, Gramsci explained the complexity of the political unity of the proletariat by evoking the multiple articulations of civil society. In Western Europe the working class had long been inserted within the ganglia of the hegemonic system and it could neither be disentangled from it by force, nor rapidly reshaped in its political configuration: Do we make an alliance with the maximalists for a sovietist government, just as the Bolsheviks did with the left Social Revolut[ionaries]? It seems to me that, should this situation come about, it will not be as favourable for us as it was for the Bolsheviks. We have to take account of the tradition of the S[ocialist] P[arty], of its three-decade-long links with the masses, which cannot be resolved either by machine guns or by small-scale manoeuvres on the eve of the revolution. It is a big historical problem that can be resolved only if, as from today, we pose it in all its breadth and if, as from today, we begin to solve it. (…) [T]he Comintern tactic of the conquest of the majority of the S[ocialist] P[arty] (…) is, then, our horizon, our overall direction, certainly not something to be achieved in the here and now. (Togliatti 1962, pp. 246–247; GTW , p. 256 [translation corrected] and SPW 1921–1926, pp. 221–222)13

The tactic of the United Front implied a struggle for hegemony within the working class between communists and social democrats. Social democracy inverted the terms of the problem as regards Bolshevism, since these two rivals moved from contraposed visions of capitalism. For Bolshevism, the imperialist war had initiated a new historical epoch, characterized by a ‘general crisis of capitalism’ that could only be resolved by a proletarian revolution. Therefore the proletariat’s role was to accelerate the revolution. Social democracy did not accept this analysis and aimed to play a key role in stabilizing capitalism, subjecting it to a democratic civilizing process, albeit limited to the more developed countries. Seen 13 Letter of Gramsci from Vienna to Togliatti, Scoccimarro and Leonetti of 21 March 1924.

20

G. VACCA

in these terms, the struggle between social democracy and communism could only end in the victory of one or the other, but Gramsci thought that it should not turn into a ‘military’ clash, as was happening in various countries. This was neither Gramsci’s preferred option nor the line of the Italian communists, who until July 1929 continued to conceive of the duel with social democracy in terms of a struggle for hegemony. In any case, with the Matteotti crisis and the shift to the left of the French situation on the one hand, the victory of Labour and the long strike in Britain in 1926 on the other, the idea matured in Gramsci that ‘relative stabilization’ was about to come to an end, and that summer he formulated predictions that were more radical than those put forward by the Comintern at its Fifth Congress (1924) (Vacca 1999b, pp. 123–128). The signs that the end of capitalist stabilization was approaching involved Italy first of all, where Gramsci therefore saw a return to the theme of a constituent assembly.14 The fact that since the eve of the 1924 elections he had suggested that the PCI should adopt the constituent assembly watchword clearly shows how distant he was from the spirit of 1920–1921. In the well-known article ‘Against Pessimism’ which appeared on 15 March in the first issue of the third series of L’Ordine Nuovo, he had mercilessly criticized the Livorno split: We were - it must be said - overtaken by events. Without wanting to be, we were an aspect of the general dislocation of Italian society, which had become a burning crucible in which all traditions, all historical formations, all prevailing ideas were melted down, sometimes leaving no trace. (‘Against Pessimism’, CPC, pp. 16–19 and Togliatti 1962, p. 357; SPW 1921–1926, p. 215 and PPW , p. 257)

But already in his letter to Scoccimarro, Leonetti and Togliatti of 21 March he had proposed a careful examination of the possibility of linking up with the democratic opposition, and of seriously considering the prospect of a constituent assembly, as relaunched by Giovanni Amendola: We must illustrate all the probable solutions that the current situation may give rise to, and for each one of these probable solutions we must establish

14 As is known, this theme had been at the centre of political debate immediately after the end of the war: Cf. A. Tasca (1995).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

21

guidelines. I have, for example, read Amendola’s speech, which seems to me very important; there is a hint in it that could be developed. Amendola says that the constitutional reforms suggested by the fascists pose the problem as to whether, in Italy, it might be necessary to divide off constitutional activity from normal legislative activity. It is likely that what he says here contains the germ of the political orientation of the opposition in the next Parliament. Parliament, already discredited and deprived of any authority through the electoral mechanism on which it is based, cannot discuss constitutional reforms, which can only be done by a constituent assembly. Is it likely that the watchword of a constituent assembly could again come onto the agenda? (GTW , pp. 255–256 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 221)

Thus the ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of the watchword of the ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ government’ slogan was enriched not only by a State perspective (the ‘Federal Republic of the Workers and Peasants’), but also by a democratic slogan that was necessary to profit from fascism’s crisis. [O]ur party does not have an immediate programme, based on perspectives of the likely solutions which the present situation may have. We are for the workers’ and peasants’ government, but what does that mean concretely in Italy? Today? No one would be able to say, because no one has bothered to say. (Togliatti 1962, p. 245; GTW , p. 255 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 220)

The constituent assembly slogan could allow the party to overcome its strategic weaknesses and offer the proletariat a new opportunity to play its cards: there must be a political solution to the present situation: what is the most likely form for such a solution to adopt? Is it possible to think that we can go from fascism to the dictatorship of the proletariat? What intermediate phases are possible or probable? We have to carry out a political examination, we have to do it for ourselves, for the masses of our Party and for the masses in general. In my opinion, in the crisis that the country is going to go through, the party that comes out on top will be the one which has best understood this necessary process of transition. (Togliatti 1962, p. 246; GTW , p. 256 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 221)

A few weeks later, general elections sealed the victory of fascism but also the defeat of the liberal democrat and reformist oppositions,

22

G. VACCA

along with a certain amount of success for the PCI.15 Elected to parliament, Gramsci returned to Italy and had his first tests as a leader in dealing with the Matteotti crisis. The reaction of the country to the finding of Matteotti’s body, the attitude of all the anti-fascist parties and fascism’s initial discomfiture induced him to conclude that, from that time ‘the fascist regime entered its death-agony’ (‘The Italian Crisis’ CPC, pp. 28–39; SPW 1919–1926, pp. 255–266, here p. 258). The communists participated in the Aventine secession, proposing a fiscal strike and the mobilization of the masses to resolve in an anti-fascist direction the dualism of powers towards which the situation seemed to be tending. But power relations were extremely unfavourable, so we find Gramsci writing on 13 August, ‘we can only foresee an improvement in the political position of the working class, not a victorious struggle for power’ (SPW 1921–1926, p. 262). The Aventine secession was not willing to challenge fascism for fear that any intervention by the worker and peasant masses in the crisis would turn into a revolution. At the same time, the PCI could not detach itself from the other anti-fascist parties because it would have risked self-destruction. It had to manoeuvre in such a way as to attempt to modify the situation fighting on two fronts: against fascism, and within the anti-fascist camp, exposing the Aventine secession’s subalternity to fascism and trying to attract the majority of the proletariat to its side (op. cit.). The proposal that the party elaborated on the eve of the re-opening of parliament was an Antiparliament: a two-pronged proposal, aiming to legitimate the communists’ return to parliament if, as was more than likely, the other anti-fascist parties refused the proposal; and a weak proposal, because it also aimed to set the party apart from the substantially impotent and passive opposition bloc (the parties of the Aventine secession had placed their trust in Crown intervention) so as to have at its disposal a parliamentary platform from which to conduct the struggle on the two fronts. What was however realistic was the fear that, should the opposition parties not return to parliament, the PNF would be able to transform it into a ‘fascist Constituent Assembly’ (Spriano 1967, pp. 405–408).16 In any case, the Matteotti crisis clarified unequivocally the ‘Constituentism’ of 1924–1926. A Constituent 15 Compared with the 1921 elections the communists lost 10% of their votes, with the reformists and Maximalists losing three-fifths of theirs. On the character of the elections, cf. Spriano (1967, pp. 324–341). 16 Cf. Gramsci ‘The Italian Crisis’, CPC, esp. p. 37; SPW 1921–1926, p. 264.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

23

Assembly presupposed a crisis of fascism through the detachment from it of forces which supported it in 1922. The detonating element was identified in the crisis of the petty bourgeoisie—the social base of the fascist movement (‘The Italian Crisis’, CPC, pp. 30–32; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 257–258). The expectation was that the initiative would remain in the hands of the liberal opposition; the adoption of watchwords of the constituent type therefore had the aim of intervening in a situation dominated by other forces in order to re-open the prospect of winning over the majority of the proletariat. It is altogether obvious that Gramsci did not believe in a democratic revolution led by the intermediate forces, and he conceived of it as a form of transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat. The struggle was directed against fascism, but tended at the same time to unmask the other anti-fascist parties. On 15 March Gramsci published an important article in L’Ordine Nuovo entitled ‘The Mezzogiorno and Fascism’ (PPW , pp. 260–264) in which he commented on the inclusion of candidates representing Southern liberalism, such as Vittorio Emanuele Orlando and Enrico De Nicola, in fascism’s national list (‘listone’) of candidates. This episode confirmed his feeling that the Mezzogiorno was the area creating the most worries for fascism; it spurred him on to pursue his analysis in greater depth, and with an eye on the actions of the Union Nazionale Combattenti (National Union of Combatants), the party founded and led by Giovanni Amendola, he remarked: ‘The Mezzogiorno has become a reserve for the constitutional opposition’ and has ‘once again signalled its “territorial” diversity from the rest of the State, its determination not to allow itself to be absorbed unresistingly into an exaggeratedly unitary system’ (PPW , p. 260). In the composition of the listone he detected a continuity in the approach to the Southern problem between Mussolini and Giolittism, but he also underlined fascism’s difficulty in gathering all the dominant élites around itself: The Corriere and La Stampa (…) have not allowed themselves to be occupied because there are three categories of national “institutions” that have not been occupied or allowed themselves to be occupied: the General Staff, the banks (…) and the National Confederation of Industry. (CPC, p. 172; PPW , p. 261)

He then goes on to consider the alternatives to fascism ventilated by the two newspapers:

24

G. VACCA

The Corriere (…) would even form an alliance with the reformists, but only after having subjected many of them to humiliating conditions; the Corriere wants an “Amendola” government – that is, it wants the petite bourgeoisie of the South and not the working-class aristocracy of the North to be incorporated into the effectively dominant system of forces. It wants to see a rural democracy in Italy, with Cadorna as its military leader rather than Badoglio, as La Stampa would prefer, and with a kind of Italian Poincaré as its political leader, rather than a kind of Italian Briand. (CPC, p. 173; PPW , p. 262; translation modified)

The communist party’s action was supposed to insinuate itself into these manoeuvres, but the developments of the situation highlighted the need to frame the Southern question differently from how it had been formulated initially, i.e. as a ‘peasant question’ which the industrial proletariat would resolve automatically when it took power (‘The Week in Politics [xv]. ‘Workers and Peasants’, SPW 1910–1920, pp. 147–149). The article ‘The Mezzogiorno and Fascism’ shows that the objective of the reflection which initiated with the letter on the founding of L’Unità and continued in the correspondence on the formation of the new leadership, was the search for a new paradigm other than that of the ‘proletarian revolution’ (CPC, pp. 171–175; PPW , pp. 260–264). Therefore it seems to me that the theoretical nucleus of the article constitutes an intermediate link between the letter about founding L’Unità and ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’. However the general expectation was always that of a crisis of fascism in which the transitory objectives did not represent real, intermediate stages: they did not configure formulas for a government in which the proletariat could recognize itself, but rather slogans of political agitation aimed at achieving hegemony in the struggle on two fronts mentioned above (cf. ‘The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the Party [Lyons Theses]’ in CPC, pp. 495– 498 and 510–513; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 349–354 and 371–375). In conclusion, the ‘constituentism’ of 1924–1926 was closely linked to a perceived instability of fascism, to a hypothetical crisis threatening its dissolution, and to the possibility that, despite the enormously more complex conditions of a Western European country like Italy, the crisis might generate a process similar to that of the two Russian revolutions of 1917. In the course of 1926 this analytical and strategic apparatus would be further refined, based on a reading of the world crisis which,

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

25

as we have mentioned, induced Gramsci to contest the very idea of ‘relative stabilization’. But in that year, Gramsci’s thought also manifested further significant innovations, called forth by fascism’s evolution, by the developments of the international situation and by Soviet politics being taken over by Stalin’s vision of ‘socialism in one country’ (Vacca 1999b, pp. 84–140). The fundamental text in this respect is the report to the Executive Committee of the PCI of 2–3 August 1926, which we deal with in the next chapter. Here suffice it to note that Gramsci, in analysing the various crises that fascism went through between 1922 and 1926, turned his attention to the middle classes and was increasingly attentive to their shifts. He states: ‘[t]hese phases traversed by Italy, in a form which I would call classical and exemplary, we find in all those countries which we have called peripheral capitalist countries’ (CPC, p. 122; SPW 1921–1926, p. 410 and PPW , p. 299). The principal innovation that he introduced at this point concerns the inadequacy of the Comintern’s strategy. In fact he concludes that ‘for all the capitalist countries, a fundamental problem is posed – the problem of the transition from the united front tactic, understood in a general sense, to a specific tactic which confronts the concrete problems of national life and operates on the basis of the popular forces as they are historically determined’ (CPC, p. 123; SPW 1921–1926 and PPW , loc. cit.). It seems therefore that he was beginning to perceive the inadequacy of the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ formula, even though it remained the foundation of the transition strategy. Gramsci called for the tactic of the United Front to be developed in State-political formulas that would enable the nationalization of communist parties, which had not yet been achieved. For Italy, he proposed a deepening of the relations between the intellectuals (who constituted the politically most significant part of the middle classes) and the peasant masses, and he immediately went on to analyse them in his essay on the Southern question. But the framework of this text was also influenced by the USSR’s political evolution. ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’ is contemporary with the letter of 14 October 1926 to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. The point of intersection between the two texts appears to us to be the fear that the nationalist involution, common to all factions of the Bolshevik élite in their struggle for power, might be generated by a deficit of hegemony, which was blocking the international expansivity of the USSR, and that the notion of hegemony of the proletariat was unsuited to overcoming it, and indeed might lead to its crystallization.

26

G. VACCA

3 The Essay on the Southern Question: First Draft of a Theory of Intellectuals From Gramsci’s return to Italy until the Lyon Congress, deeper analysis of the agrarian question was one of the major commitments of the leadership group that had formed around him. A distinctive trait of the Lyon Theses was the approach to the ‘Southern question’ as a ‘national question’, according to which the southern peasants were considered a ‘driving force’ of the Italian revolution: ‘the function of the southern peasant masses in the evolution of the anti-capitalist struggle in Italy must be examined independently, and must lead to the conclusion that the southern peasants are – after the industrial and agricultural proletariat of northern Italy – the most revolutionary social element of Italian society’ (‘The Party’s First Five Years’, CPC, pp. 106–107; SPW 1921–1926, p. 396). He had reached this conclusion via an analysis of the ‘Italian social structure’. ‘The relations between industry and agriculture’—as said in Thesis 8 of the Lyon Theses—‘which are essential for the economic life of a country and for the determination of its political superstructures, have a territorial basis in Italy’. His analysis of the class makeup of the national population is not sociological in nature, but embraces all the relations between social groups and is based on the way in which the financial and industrial bourgeoisie had exercised its leadership of society and the State since unification. It is characterized by a ‘compromise’ between the different fractions of the industrial bourgeoisie concentrated in the North, and between these taken together and the agrarian bourgeoisie, principally to the detriment of the southern peasantry. Thus the South had taken on the character of an internal colony, making the unity of the nation permanently precarious since ‘economic exploitation and political oppression thus unite to make of the working people of the South a force continuously mobilized against the State’ (‘The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the PCI—The “Lyons Theses”’, CPC, p. 492; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 344–345). Yet Southern peasants were not an amorphous, passive mass like those of Tsarist Russia. From brigandage to the Sicilian Fasci, and from the occupation of the land to the formation of movements of former combatants in the post-war period, they had shown a more advanced capacity for initiative and political maturity than even the working class of the North in 1919–1920. However ‘colonial’ subordination of the peasants of the

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

27

South was not based solely on economic or even exclusively political relations of power, but depended on the specific function of the ‘intellectuals as a mass’ who provide the sinew of the relations between the classes in ‘civil society’. Gramsci started to go deeper into this subject between the summer and autumn of 1926, introducing a decisive variant to the dichotomy of historical materialism. The essay on the ‘Southern question’ is an investigation into how the problem of the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ was posed in Italy. As we have seen, for Gramsci the year 1926 marked a crisis in ‘capitalist stabilization’, which was proceeding differently along a centre–periphery axis. Italy was one of European capitalism’s peripheral countries, characterized by a significant presence of rural and urban middle classes; the strongest of these was the intellectual petty bourgeoisie because, faced with an acute social crisis, it was able to orient the peasant masses and prevent them from allying with the industrial proletariat. Naturally at the origin of this analysis was the experience of fascism, which demonstrated how the petty bourgeoisie too was capable of ‘historical initiative’; but from the report to the Executive of 2 August onward, Gramsci’s observations were placed within a wider analytical framework, where once again the theme of the morphological differences between East and West underlined the distance between the Italian situation and that of revolutionary Russia. The problem of the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ shifted even more significantly to the political terrain and Gramsci, accentuating the ideological role of the middle classes, for the first time mentioned the theme which in the Notebooks he would formulate as the ‘political question of the intellectuals’: … in the advanced capitalist countries, the ruling class possesses political and organizational reserves that it did not possess, for example, in Russia. This means that even the most serious economic crises do not have immediate repercussions in the political sphere. Politics is always one step behind – or many steps behind – economics. The State apparatus is far more resistant than is often possible to believe; and, at moments of crisis, it is far more capable of organizing forces loyal to the regime than the depth of the crisis might lead one to suppose. This is especially true of the most important capitalist States. In typical peripheral States, like Italy, Poland, Spain or Portugal, the State forces are less efficient. But in these countries one finds a phenomenon that merits the closest attention. This is what the phenomenon consists of, in my view: in countries like these,

28

G. VACCA

between the proletariat and capitalism there is a broad stratum of intermediate classes which seek to promote (and in a certain sense, succeed in promoting) policies of their own, with ideologies that often influence broad strata of the proletariat, but that have a particular hold over the peasant masses. (‘A Study of the Italian Situation’, CPC, pp. 121–122; PPW , pp. 297–298—trans. modified to read ‘stratum’ [‘strato’])

There is no one who does not perceive the originality of these analyses compared with the schemata of the Comintern (Pons 2008, pp. 420– 421), but in the essay on the ‘Southern question’ Gramsci made a further step forward, claiming that for the proletariat to be able to exercise its hegemony, it must achieve the ability to lead not only the peasants but also the intellectuals; its leadership function thus assumes ever more significance as opposed to the exercise of domination. Developing a crucial theme of the Leninist conception, according to which the proletariat should ‘sacrifice’ its ‘corporative’ interests (Di Biagio 2004),17 in ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’ Gramsci writes: The proletariat, in order to become capable as a class of governing, must strip itself of every residue of corporativism, every syndicalist prejudice and incrustation. What does this mean? That, in addition to the need to overcome the distinctions which exist between one trade and another, it is necessary – in order to win the trust and consent of the peasants and of some semi-proletarian urban categories – to overcome certain prejudices and conquer certain forms of egoism which can and do subsist within the working class as such, even when craft particularism has disappeared. The metalworker, the joiner, the building-worker, etc., must not only think as proletarians, and no longer as metal-worker, joiner, building-worker, etc.; they must also take a further step. They must think as workers who are members of a class which aims to lead the peasants and intellectuals. Of a class which can win and build socialism only if it is aided and followed by the great majority of these social strata. If this is not achieved, the proletariat does not become the leading class; and these strata (which in Italy represent the majority of the population), remaining under bourgeois leadership, enable the State to resist the proletarian assault and wear it down. (CPC, pp. 144–145; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 448–449)

17 This study, commenting on the origin of this concept, reconstructs the influence of Georgij Valentinoviˇc Plekhanov on Lenin due to the famine of 1887, which could not leave the working class indifferent to the dramatic plight of the peasant masses.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

29

Thus the main innovation of the essay consists in a deeper consideration of the problem of the intellectuals. The analysis of the role and function of intellectuals makes it possible to focus first of all on the peculiar morphology of Southern society, which appears as ‘a great agrarian bloc, made up of three social layers: the great amorphous, disintegrated mass of the peasantry; the intellectuals of the petty and medium rural bourgeoisie; and the big landowners and great intellectuals’. The decisive political role belongs to the intellectuals of the intermediate stratum, because the technical functions that these intellectuals perform and the ideological orientations that they irradiate shape the attitudes of the peasantry vis-à-vis the dominant classes and the State. However these ‘intermediate intellectuals’ are not autonomous, since they depend politically and ideologically on the dominant strata of the agrarian bloc. The latter is so structured that the ‘the big landowners in the political field and the great intellectuals in the ideological field centralize and dominate, in the last analysis, this whole complex of phenomena’ that derive from the ‘aspirations’ and ‘needs’ of the peasantry. Yet ‘it is in the ideological sphere that the centralization is most effective and precise’. ‘Giustino Fortunato and Benedetto Croce’ concludes Gramsci ‘thus represent the keystones of the Southern system and, in a certain sense, are the two major figures of Italian reaction’. However, he continues, they are ‘men of the highest culture and intelligence, who arose on the traditional terrain of the South but were linked to European and hence to world culture’. Their influence on the ‘intermediate intellectuals’ is exercised by detaching them from the ‘impulses’ of the peasant world and aiding the sublimation of their ‘their restless impulses to revolt against existing conditions, to steer them along a middle way of classical serenity in thought and action’ (CPC, pp. 150, 155 and 156; SPW , 1921–1926, pp. 454, 459 and 460 respectively). Anticipating a concept that would be elaborated in the Notebooks, it could be said that the influence of Croce and Fortunato on the South’s ‘intermediate intellectuals’ turned them into the protagonists of a ‘passive revolution’, the active agents of the continued existence of a fracture between theory and practice that generally speaking is unacceptable for a technical intellectual, who is the product of modern industry and is directly linked to the industrial proletariat. On the other hand, the fact that Gramsci judges Croce and Fortunato to be ‘the most active reactionaries of the whole peninsula’ (CPC, p. 155; SPW 1921–1926, p. 459) does not prevent him from considering that Crocean philosophy possesses great progressive value. In

30

G. VACCA

polemic with the ‘neo-protestant’ current close to the journal Conscientia of Giuseppe Gangale, the Bilychnis publishing house18 and even Gobetti’s Rivoluzione liberale, he observes that since ‘a mass religious reform’ was impossible in Italy, ‘the only historically possible reform’ had taken place ‘with Benedetto Croce’s philosophy’, due to which ‘the direction and the method of thought’ had been changed and ‘a new conception of the world ha[d] been constructed, transcending catholicism and every other mythological religion’. ‘In this sense’, he added ‘Benedetto Croce has fulfilled an extremely important “national” function’. This function was however ambivalent since, by detaching ‘the radical intellectuals of the South from the peasant masses’, and forcing them to ‘take part in national and European culture’ he had ‘secured their absorption by the national bourgeoisie and hence by the agrarian bloc’ (CPC, p. 156; SPW 1921– 1926, p. 460). If we add the fact that Gramsci attributed the leadership of the ‘agrarian bloc’ to the ‘intellectual bloc’ led by Croce and Fortunato, the innovation of marrying the theory of the intellectuals to the theory of hegemony appears even more evident. The architecture of hegemonic systems assigns to the intellectual élites and philosophies, which—thanks to their activity—become common sense, the task of providing cohesion and guiding political power. Thus it is not possible to conquer hegemony without ‘disintegrating’ the ‘intellectual bloc’ which confers legitimacy to, and orients the ‘dominant bloc’. This leads us to the theme of cultural hegemony, an indispensable premise of political hegemony: The proletariat will destroy the Southern agrarian bloc (…) but only if it has the ability to break up the intellectual bloc that is the flexible, but extremely resistant, armour of the agrarian bloc. (CPC, p. 158; SPW 1921– 1926, p. 462)

Therefore the task of the industrial proletariat is to promote the formation of new strata of intellectuals that are capable of seeing it as the new, historically progressive, social class, and of creating a new common sense: Intellectuals develop slowly, far more slowly than any other social group, by their very nature and historical function. They represent the entire cultural tradition of a people, seeking to resume and synthesize all of its history.

18 A Roman publishing house, then in operation, linked to the Baptist Theological School.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

31

This can be said especially of the old type of intellectual: the intellectual born on the peasant terrain. To think it possible that such intellectuals, en masse, can break with the entire past and situate themselves totally upon the terrain of a new ideology, is absurd. (CPC, p. 158; SPW 1921–1926, p. 462)19

Until the summer of 1926, Gramsci’s horizon of ideas was the ‘actuality’ of world revolution. As we have seen, albeit with all the variants suggested by the differences between East and West, the hegemony of the proletariat formula was inscribed within a transition strategy which, all things being equal, would repeat the sequence of the two Russian revolutions of 1917—the democratic one in February and the socialist one in October.20 But with the essay on the Southern question Gramsci seems to want to leave this approach behind him and it is possible to imagine that he did not publish this text immediately, not because he considered it incomplete (Giasi 2007), but because he was aware of the radical innovation that the ‘political question of the intellectuals’ introduced to the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ schema. Probably the new research that he had started was inspired by his preoccupation, which had been growing during 1926, about the turn being taken by the political struggle within the Bolshevik leadership and the ever more authoritarian and restrictive character that the Soviet State was assuming, in his view to the point of compromising the construction of socialism. As we have already mentioned, the essay on the Southern question was contemporary with his correspondence with Togliatti of October 1926. Towards the end of the essay there is a passage in which the overlap of themes between the two texts is particularly marked: ‘The proletariat, as a class’, writes Gramsci ‘is poor in organizing elements. It does not have its own stratum of intellectuals, and can only create one very slowly, very painfully, after the winning of State power’ (CPC, p. 158; SPW 1921–1926, p. 462). This concept is essential within the general conception of the letter. His fear, transparent and not to be underestimated, was that after the death of Lenin, the Bolshevik élite might be incapable of developing a cultural hegemony, of creating a new stratum of intellectuals capable of attacking 19 Cf. also CPC, pp. 144–145 and 150–158; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 448–489 and 453–

462. 20 On Gramsci’s collocation in international communism between 1924 and 1926, cf. Vacca (1999b, pp. 94–98 and 123–127).

32

G. VACCA

the ‘Asiatism’ of Russian rural society, of providing a backbone for civil society, and making Soviet power expansive. This fear is not made explicit; it can be however deduced from his polemics with the Tribuna, La Stampa and Il Mondo (cf. SPW 1921– 1926, p. 420 and ‘The Peasants and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, pp. 410–416) that had preceded his letter to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, by linking this letter to his reply to Togliatti of 26 October, and by reconsidering the essay on the Southern question in the light of these writings. In the letter of 14 October, written on behalf of the party, Gramsci’s main worry is that the fracture of the unity of the ‘Bolshevik nucleus’ could make all the factions of the Russian party regress to the ‘corporativism’ and ‘syndicalism’ of social democratic tradition, thus thwarting the party’s capacity to preserve the alliance between workers and peasants. Such a fracture would have made it impossible to maintain the hegemony of the proletariat, which had been achieved under Lenin’s leadership. Gramsci’s polemic was directed above all at the oppositions, which in June had united under Trotsky’s leadership, because they had gained traction thanks to the aversion of a significant part of the working-class base of the party towards the NEP, given the increasing inequalities that it was creating between the rich peasants and the workers. For Gramsci the only guarantee that the working class would accept these ‘sacrifices’ would be the certainty that they were necessary for the development of its own hegemony, and such faith could only be inculcated in the working class by maintaining the unity of the leadership, tangible proof of the validity of the party’s policy. Even in much more developed countries than Russia, he wrote, once the working class had taken power, it would have to put up with great economic sacrifices for a long time to maintain the alliance with the peasant masses, which constituted the majority of the population.21

21 A. Gramsci, ‘Political Bureau of the PCd’I to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party’ (14 October 1926): ‘The questions that today are being posed to you, may be posed tomorrow to our Party. In our country, too, the rural masses are the majority of the working population. Furthermore, we shall find ourselves faced with all the problems inherent in the hegemony of the proletariat in a form that will certainly be more complex and acute than in Russia itself, since the density of the rural population in Italy is enormously greater, since our peasants have a very rich organisational tradition and have always succeeded in making their specific weight as a mass felt very considerably in the political life of the nation. This is because in Italy the organisational apparatus of the

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

33

In Russia the sacrifice was far greater because the economic development and modernization of the countryside was a long-term task and the working class in power constituted but a tiny minority of the population. As he himself writes, the clash taking place within the Bolshevik élite allowed the adversaries of communism to make shrewd use of the social contradictions that were shaking Soviet power to undermine the Western proletariat’s trust in Soviet Russia, and in the possibility of constructing socialism (Daniele 1999, pp. 406–407; GTW , p. 371 and SPW 1921– 1926, p. 428). His condemnation of the harshness of the clash and alarm about the risks of a split in the party arose from his conviction that the NEP was indeed the right way forward, and from the acknowledgement that the processes of economic and social differentiation generated by the introduction of limited capitalist development in the countryside involved a small minority of the peasantry who, thanks to the workers’ State’s control over banks, industry and foreign trade, did not represent a real risk for the alliance between the proletariat and the immense masses of poor peasants. (‘In What Direction is the Soviet Union Developing?’, CPC, pp. 319–323; ‘The Peasants and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, CPC, pp. 324–328, SPW 1921–1926, pp. 412–416). Were the ‘Bolshevik nucleus’ to split however, the risks of economic and corporative regression would involve all its components; indeed, the tone of the discussion highlighted a fracture—common to all the factions—between the ‘Russian question’ and the destiny of world revolution, and this cast doubt upon both the possibility that Russia would continue with the construction of socialism, and upon the international proletariat’s orientation towards Russia. By placing majority and opposition on the same plane, Gramsci was attacking Stalin’s vision of ‘socialism in one country’ and accusing the entire Soviet leadership of ineptitude because to a varying extent it was saturated in nationalism: Comrades, in these last nine years of world history you have been the organisational element and driving force of the revolutionary forces of all countries. The role you have played has no precedent in the entire history of humankind that equals it in breadth and depth. But today you are destroying your own work, you are degrading and running the risk of nullifying the leading role that the CP of the USSR had gained through the

church has two thousand years of tradition behind it and is specialised in propaganda and the organisation of the peasants in a way that bears no comparison with other countries’.

34

G. VACCA

impetus of Lenin. In our opinion the violent passion of the Russian questions is making you lose sight of the international aspects of the Russian questions themselves, is making you forget that your duties as Russian militants can and must be carried out only within the framework of the interests of the international proletariat. (Daniele 1999, p. 408; GTW , p. 373 and SPW 1921−1926, pp. 429–430; emphasis in Gramsci’s original manuscript letter)

As is known, Togliatti concentrated his criticism on this passage in the letter, inviting the Italian comrades not to lose their nerve and instead to take a position on the ‘Russian question’ based on the validity of the political line of the majority of the Russian communist party, rather than the symbolic value of the unity of the leadership (Daniele 1999, pp. 421– 423).22 Gramsci responded harshly that the question concerned not only communist militants, who, via an extraordinary pedagogical commitment, could be enabled to understand the various passages of the internal political struggle within the Bolshevik leadership, but also the great masses of the international proletariat, and that only unity of the ‘Bolshevik nucleus’ could infuse in these masses the trust that the process initiated with the October Revolution would continue its course. The unity of the Bolshevik leadership was therefore not a symbolic value that could be surrendered, but the guarantee that the revolutionizing of the international proletariat and its socialist orientation could continue their course. In short, Gramsci feared that a split in the leadership, by compromising the alliance between workers and peasants, could prevent the construction of socialism in the USSR. He responded to Togliatti, who considered maintenance of Soviet power the main factor linking revolutionary Russia and the European proletariat, by expressing doubt that the line imposed

22 Although it is not fundamental here to examine in depth the elements of the differentiation that developed between Gramsci and Togliatti on the ‘Russian question’, it should be remembered that the clash within the Bolshevik élite concerned above all the prospects of the USSR’s foreign policy as the European political situation changed from Rapallo to Locarno, the differing perceptions of the ‘war risk’ and the different evaluations of the need, and the manner in which, to accelerate the construction of the Soviet State. Furthermore, their disagreement was based on differing evaluations of the prospects for a ‘world revolution’, which both Stalin and Bukharin thought was at that point blocked, at least in the short term. The differentiation between Gramsci and Togliatti derived above all from Togliatti’s adhesion to the positions of Stalin and Bukharin, which matured in an increasingly convinced manner in the course of 1926. Cf. Vacca, ‘Gramsci a Roma, Togliatti a Mosca’ in Daniele (ed.) (1999a); Pons (2009, pp. 209–228); and Vacca (2014).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

35

by Stalin on constructing socialism ‘in one country’ would allow it to continue: Today, nine years after October 1917, it is no longer the fact of the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks that can revolutionise the Western masses, because this is already taken for granted and has had its effect; today the conviction (if it exists) is politically and ideologically active that, once the proletariat has taken power, it can build socialism. The authority of the P[arty] is bound up with this conviction, that cannot be inculcated into the broad masses by the methods of scholastic pedagogy but only through revolutionary pedagogy, in other words only through the political fact that the R[ussian] P[arty] as a whole is convinced and is fighting in united fashion. (Daniele 1999, pp. 438–439; GTW , p. 381 and SPW 1921–1926, p. 440)23

The nationalist involution for which Gramsci had reproached all factions of the Russian party, and his denunciation of the corporative regression of not only the oppositions but also of the majority, involved the very nature of the Soviet State. By putting at risk the hegemony of the proletariat, majority and opposition alike were impressing upon the Soviet State, both internally and on the world stage, an increasingly authoritarian and non-expansive turn. As leader of a small, persecuted and yet, because it was involved in opposing fascism, internationally significant communist party, Gramsci could not limit himself to criticism or recrimination, but instead intended to contribute to the search for the causes of the Russian Party’s crisis. Naturally he did so following a method common to the parties of the International, and therefore investigated the problems of the hegemony of the proletariat in the Italian situation in order to find indications that might also be of use in explaining the difficulties of the alliance between workers and peasants in Russia and other countries. In the letter of 14 October to the All-Union Party he summarized the re-elaboration of the peasant question that he had performed in the preceding two years to signal that the Italians were aware of the complexity of the problem of the hegemony of the proletariat. Of course he could not go so far as to give the Bolsheviks operational suggestions, but he did not conceal his fear that the crisis of the Russian Party, which in the one-party regime

23 Emphasis and abbreviations in Gramsci’s original handwritten letter.

36

G. VACCA

directly involved the State itself, might have arisen from the difficulties inherent in the original approach to the alliance between workers and peasants. We have seen how Gramsci, in ‘translating’ that alliance ‘into Italian historical language’, had not limited himself to the economic content of the ‘concessions’ to be made to the peasants, but had projected them onto the form of the State. In the essay on the Southern question an awareness surfaces that Lenin’s theory of the hegemony of the proletariat, which arose on the terrain of backward Russia, posed the problem of the alliance between the workers and the peasants in simplified and inadequate terms. Of course, given the collapse of the Tsarist Empire, it had not been necessary to decipher and disaggregate the hegemonic scaffolding that bound the peasants to the Tsar’s power. But when the construction of the new State began, the ‘primordial and gelatinous’ society of peasant Russia had made its weight felt and Lenin’s embryonic outline of the hegemony of the proletariat had turned out to be inadequate. While no civil society even remotely comparable to that in the West had existed in Russia, in the construction of socialism—of an advanced industrial society based on an alliance between city and countryside—the problem of the relationship between State and civil society erupted in all its complexity. By introducing the theme of the intellectuals into the theoretical schema of historical materialism in his study on the Southern question, Gramsci was beginning to show his awareness of the inadequateness of the different currents of Marxist thought, including Bolshevism, regarding the problems of the State. Unequal development and differential analysis were paradigms of Leninism. But the ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of Leninism upset and complicated its parameters. The innovation of the theoretical schema of historical materialism had been elaborated on a national terrain and this emphasized its particularities; but it appears evident that Gramsci, spurred on by the crisis of the Russian Party, had undertaken a theoretical revision which concerned the international workers’ movement as a whole.

4

The Origin of the Notebooks

The Prison Notebooks provide confirmation that at this point the theory of the intellectuals constituted the dynamic nucleus of Gramsci’s thought. In the three indexes, compiled respectively on 8 February 1929 (beginning

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

37

of Q1), in November-December 1930 (beginning of Q8) and in MarchApril 1932,24 the theme of the intellectuals is always at the centre of his investigation. The innovations recorded in his last writings of 1926 and in his correspondence provide unequivocal evidence that the programme of research of the Notebooks was continuing, and included a profound revision of Leninism and the Marxist vulgate, which he had begun shortly before his arrest. In this way a heterodox thought was taking shape about which Togliatti and Sraffa, the prisoner’s direct interlocutors, were progressively informed. The correspondence is an essential source for reconstructing the formation of the Notebooks research programme, but it must be used with discernment. What is certain is that after he was confined on the island of Ustica, Gramsci chose Tanja and Sraffa as his correspondents, also as a way to remain in touch with the party, but his correspondence was subject to censorship and conditioned by judicial events, and by the attempts to have him freed that were already underway in 1927 (Vacca 2012). Until he was sentenced (4 June 1928) it is reasonable to think that he also wished to use his correspondence to influence the attitude of the fascist authorities regarding not only his judicial situation, but also regarding his chances of being released. Judicially, the court warrant for his arrest— previously he had been detained in pre-trial custody—was issued in Milan on 14 January 1927, while the initial stages of the Special Tribunal trial proceedings began on 9 February, when, in custody in the San Vittore prison from the seventh of that month, Gramsci was interrogated for the first time by the investigating magistrate Enrico Macis. As is known, the first attempt to have him freed of which we have certain knowledge took place in September–October 1927 (Ricchini et al. 1988, pp. 15– 26). However Gramsci may have thought from the very beginning of his detention that a prisoner exchange might be possible.25 This possibility was certainly influenced by the progress of the judicial investigation. It cannot therefore be excluded that Gramsci, by formulating an extensive

24 For dating of the second and third indexes, entitled Raggrupamenti di materia, see Francioni (1984a, p. 142). 25 In a letter to her family, datable to 12–16 November 1926, Tanja Schucht, sending detailed information about Gramsci’s last week in freedom, had already talked of the possibility of having him set free, as if in the milieux of the Russian Embassy (for whom she worked) and of the Italian party this was considered a matter of course: letter published in L’Unità, 7 November 2008, G. Vacca (ed.).

38

G. VACCA

plan of studies in his letters also wished to suggest to the investigating authorities, and above all to Mussolini, that in exchange for his freedom he could abandon political activity. An examination of the letter of 19 March 1927, which many scholars consider to have contained the first draft of the research programme of the Notebooks, suggests that this possibility should be borne in mind. This is the famous letter in which Gramsci tells Tat’jana that he wants ‘to do something für ewig ’, i.e. that he wished to occupy himself ‘intensely and systematically’, ‘following a predetermined plan (…) with some subject which (…) might absorb and centre his inner life’. At that moment, Gramsci neither knew whether he would be found guilty, nor how long his detention might last (though he anticipated that it would be very long). Moreover, he was not allowed to write while in his cell, and neither could he know whether the authorization he had requested would ever be granted. It is hard to believe that he was already thinking of a proper research plan as he would two years later in Turi. We are therefore faced with the problem of deciphering this letter, and in particular the mention of für ewig, which gave rise to a vulgate about the character of the Notebooks that was as misleading as it was hard to put to rest. Although Gramsci had specified that für ewig was to be interpreted ‘in accordance with a complex conception of Goethe’s, which [he remembered] had tormented our Pascoli’, ever since the publication of the first edition of the Lettere dal carcere (Letters from prison) the expression has been taken literally, as a manifestation of his will to devote himself to a ‘disinterested’ intellectual activity, distinct and remote from political matters. It is likely that Gramsci wanted the fascist authorities to believe this so as to facilitate his being authorized to study in his cell; however the metaphor contains a coded message that his captors could not decipher, though Sraffa and above all Togliatti could. If the decoding of für ewig suggested by Giancarlo Schirru and Roberto Gualtieri has a factual basis (Schirru 2007; Gualtieri 2007, p. 1030),26 Gramsci probably wanted to inform Togliatti that the theoretical revision that he had begun in the essay on the Southern question needed to be continued.

26 Both authors base upon new philological research the hypothesis that the reference to Pascoli is to his poem entitled Per l’eternità and that with the expression für ewig Gramsci wanted to inform the Party’s Foreign Centre that his intellectual research, of which he was beginning to perceive the heterodoxy, would be oriented toward continuing the struggle for communism.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

39

In addition, given the close link between the essay and the correspondence of October 1926, it is possible to imagine that he wanted to add new arguments to back up his position. The separation of the Notebooks from Gramsci’s political biography is a result of the criteria adopted for the first edition (1948–1951), and it was done on purpose, to render them less explosive vis-à-vis the dominant Stalinist orthodoxy. After the publication of the critical edition (1975), of the first editions of Gramsci’s correspondence and of that between his correspondents, this separation and the idea that the Notebooks contained thought that was disconnected from political matters have now finally been abandoned. Nevertheless, their isolation from Gramsci’s political biography warped their interpretation for a great length of time; the legacy of the thematic edition still weighs upon the reception of Gramsci’s thought (especially outside Italy); and the copious legends about für ewig accumulated over time have contributed to no small degree to this deformation. For me, the most likely hypothesis would seem that the plan of studies outlined in the letter to Tanja of 19 March 1927 was formulated in such a way as to suggest to a watchful gaoler (i.e. Mussolini) that Gramsci might abandon his political commitment, in order to facilitate his judicial situation and all the attempts to obtain his release. The reference to für ewig appears only twice in Gramsci’s letters, at the beginning of his detention. However after he was sentenced to twenty years in prison and was able to conceive of a ‘systematic’ programme of research, he made no further use of this metaphor. There is therefore more than one reason to suppose that his emphasis on ‘disinterested’ study and the reiteration of für ewig was a dual message, directed at both his political interlocutors and his captors, rather than the main characteristic of his subsequent prison writings. It is certainly true that the study topics announced in that letter are in the notes of the Notebooks and they all revolve around the history of the intellectuals. However I do not believe it possible to start the interpretation of the Notebooks (which Gramsci began to write two years later) from March 1927. As a source for the Notebooks project however, the correspondence can be used in a linear fashion, starting from when Gramsci was sentenced, after which his letters could no longer have any influence on the outcome of his trial; having received the authorization to write in his cell (January 1929), he was able to devise a real, long-term plan of studies. In our opinion the most important indication contained in the letter of 19 March 1927 is instead the reference to the essay on the Southern question. After having declared that he wanted to develop

40

G. VACCA

‘research on the formation of public spirit in Italy in the last century; in other words to research the Italian intellectuals, their origins, their groupings according to cultural currents, their different ways of thinking etc. etc.’, Gramsci writes: Do you remember my very hasty and quite superficial essay on southern Italy and on the importance of B. Croce? Well, I would like to fully develop in depth the thesis that I sketched out then, from a “disinterested”, “für ewig” point of view. (Gramsci and Schucht 1997, pp. 61–62; Gramsci LfP, p. 83)

Thus Gramsci presented his plan of studies as the development of the ‘thesis’ ‘outlined’ in the essay on the Southern question, which, as we have seen, had heterodox implications. What was his message? And to whom was it addressed? Tanja’s epistolary intermediation between Sraffa and Gramsci dates to the end of 1928 (Rossi and Vacca 2007, pp. 64– 66) but the letters sent to Tanja from Ustica show that she was aware of Sraffa’s role27 ; one can therefore suppose that her forwarding of Gramsci’s letters to Sraffa had started earlier, or that once she had established contact with Sraffa at the end of 1928, she had consigned to him previous letters, as yet not forwarded to the Foreign Centre. There are at least two indications to support this. The first is Sraffa’s letter to Tanja (for Gramsci) of 11 July 1931, in which Piero, requesting the dispatch of information about the development of the ‘programme’ ‘of studies and of reading’ which Gramsci was carrying out, refers precisely to the letter of 19 March 1927 (Sraffa 1991, p. 15).28 The second is in Gramsci’s own letter. After having presented the ‘four topics’ of his study plan, namely the history of Italian intellectuals in the 1800s, ‘a study of comparative linguistics’, which was probably an allusion to the translation of Finck’s Le famiglie linguistiche del mondo (Language families of the world) on which he had already started work (Gramsci 2007, Vol. 1, pp. 23–24), ‘a study of Pirandello’s theater’ and ‘an essay on the serial novel and popular

27 On the relations between Gramsci and Sraffa and on the political role of the latter, cf. Vacca (2012, pp. 47–62). 28 Sraffa’s wrote: ‘Some years ago Nino (…) wrote you a letter detailing his plan of readings and studies. It would be interesting to know how he developed that programme; and (…) to know what his present one is. Try asking him’.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

41

taste in literature’, Gramsci went on to add: ‘if you examine them thoroughly, there is a certain homogeneity among these four subjects: the creative spirit of the people in its diverse stages and degrees of development is in equal measure at their base’. He then asks Tanja: ‘What do you say of all this? (…) Let me know your impressions; I have great faith in your good sense and in the soundness the validity of your judgment’ (Gramsci and Schucht 1997, p. 63; Gramsci LfP, p. 84).29 We know that Gramsci had informed Sraffa of his studies and via him Togliatti, who continued to be his main interlocutor (Sraffa 1991, p. 225).30 It is hard to believe that Gramsci was interested in the opinion of Tat’jana on such complicated topics; in particular, the reference to ‘popular creative spirit’ anticipates a crucial theme of Gramsci’s thought on politics and the party: the reflections on the relation between ‘spontaneity and conscious leadership’ which recur in the Notebooks. As we will see later (Chapter 2), those notes foreshadow a sharp critique of the transformation undergone by the Soviet party between the end of the Twenties and the early Thirties. How can we not detect in that expression of March 1927 the will to confirm the positions expressed in the correspondence of October 1926 and the intention to explore in greater depth the themes outlined in the essay on the Southern question? And to whom could they have been addressed if not to Togliatti? Further, up until Gramsci’s arrest the essay had remained unknown to Togliatti, who at the time was in Moscow. But in March 1927 Togliatti was in Paris directing the party’s Foreign Centre, Grieco had taken charge of Gramsci’s essay and the leadership of the party must have studied it thoroughly. It is therefore possible to give credit to the hypothesis that Gramsci mentioned it because he thought it should be published and was asking the party to do it (Rossi and Vacca 2007, pp. 16–17). However I must repeat that if, as is correct, use is made of the correspondence to reconstruct the origin of the Notebooks, the first letter to which we can refer without excessive caution is that of 25 March 1929: this is both because it follows only a brief interval after the drafting of the list of 16 topics for study outlined on the first page of Notebook 1, and

29 Translation modified to read ‘good sense’ (‘buon senso’) rather than ‘common sense’ (senso comune’), often used by Gramsci with negative connotations. 30 Sraffa, letter to Palmiro Togliatti, 4 May 1932.

42

G. VACCA

because the topics are grouped into three lines of research which regard the most important innovations of the Notebooks. In fact Gramsci wrote: I’ve decided to concern myself chiefly and take notes on these three subjects: (1) Italian history in the nineteenth century, with special attention to the formation and development of intellectual groups; (2) the theory and history of historiography; (3) Americanism and Fordism. (Gramsci and Schucht 1997, p. 333; Gramsci LfP Vol 1, p. 257)

The first topic groups together points 2 and 3 of the initial index of the Notebooks: ‘Development of the Italian bourgeoisie up to 1870’ and ‘Formation of Italian intellectual groups: development, attitude’. The second topic is a literal reference to the first point of the index written at the beginning of Notebook 1, while the third refers to point 11 of the Index. It is hard to believe that the selection and ordering of the topics was casual. In the letter of 19 March 1927 Gramsci had already made it known that he wanted to ‘develop in an ordered manner the thesis’ ‘outlined’ in the essay on the Southern question, and two years later he was announcing that he was doing precisely that. Further, by placing ‘the theory of history and historiography’ at point 2, he was communicating in code that he intended to rethink the materialistic conception of history, with regard to which the topics mentioned in the essay of 1926 represented a significant innovation. Finally, by indicating ‘Americanism and Fordism’ as the third topic he signalled that his field of research was world history and that he intended to study the potentialities of American industrialism in greater depth as a possible answer to the emerging problems of the great crisis. There was enough here to arouse Togliatti’s interest, but a few months later the tenth Plenum of the International was held and the Italian party was forced to abandon Gramsci’s strategy. The ‘turning point’ of 1930 was rejected by Gramsci and, from the rediscovery of the two reports that his brother Gennaro wrote for the Foreign Centre of the Party after the visit to Turi, we know that Gramsci was requesting greater political communication with the party, but also that Togliatti was informed of Gramsci’s opposition to the ‘turning point’ and possessed sufficient elements to be able to guess his most profound motivations (Rossi and Vacca 2007, pp. 207–218). We also know that the subterfuge excogitated by Gramsci to inform Togliatti of how his research was proceeding was the suggestion that topics should be proposed to him on which they could communicate in code. The topics were proposed to

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

43

Gramsci by Sraffa, who had agreed them beforehand with Togliatti (Sraffa 1991, p. 225). This is the context in which on 11 July 1931, Sraffa began to ask Gramsci to inform him about the point of arrival of his research on the intellectuals and he asked again with insistence on 23 August (Sraffa 1991, p. 23). Gramsci replied on 7 September that at the centre of his reflection were the theme of hegemony and its connection with the theory of the intellectuals. The drift of his research had already been condensed in a note in Notebook 6, dated August 1931 and entitled ‘Concept of State’, where he had written that the ‘State does not mean only the apparatus of government, but also the “private” apparatus of hegemony or civil society’ (Q6§137, p. 801; PN Vol. 3, p. 108). In the letter to Tanja, he summed up his thought as follows: I greatly amplify the idea of what an intellectual is, and do not confine myself to the current notion that refers only to the preeminent intellectuals. My study also leads to certain definitions of the concept of the State that is usually understood as political Society (or dictatorship; or coercive apparatus meant to mold the popular mass in accordance with the type of production and economy at a given moment) and not as a balance between the political Society and the civil Society (or the hegemony of a social group over the entire national society, exercised through the socalled private organizations, such as the Church, the unions, the schools, etc.), and it is within civil society that intellectuals operate especially (Ben. Croce, for example, is a sort of lay pope and he is a very effective instrument of hegemony even if from time to time he comes into conflict with this or that government, etc.). (Gramsci and Schucht 1997, pp. 791–792; LfP Vol. 2, p. 67)

The letter continued listing further crucial topics of the Notebooks; but here we need to attend to the part concerning the theory of the intellectuals. It confirms that the focus of the Notebooks is the development of the theory of hegemony, that its cornerstones are the theory of the intellectuals, the theory of civil society and the theory of the State, and above all, it indicates the trajectory along which Gramsci was developing a general theory of hegemony. This trajectory is summarized at the end of the digression on the topics of study, where Gramsci signals that the concept of hegemony was being developed as a general analytical tool for politics and history: ‘I present these comments’ he wrote to Tanja ‘to convince you that every period of history that has unfolded in Italy,

44

G. VACCA

from the Roman Empire to the Risorgimento, must be viewed from this monographic standpoint” (loc. cit.). Compared with the Marxist vulgate, Gramsci’s research displayed its original and heterodox character writ large. The concept of State summarized in the letter, from a Leninist viewpoint, was momentous. The most immediate confirmation of this would appear to come from Sraffa’s response, in which he invited Gramsci to condense the results of his research on intellectuals into an essay so it could be transmitted to the party; on the theses illustrated in his letter, he limited himself to writing: ‘The latest letters from Nino, although very interesting, require no response’ (Sraffa 1991, p. 36). What reply could Togliatti have given to a letter in which Gramsci was informing him about his revision of Leninism? Yet Sraffa’s understatement makes it clear that the message had been received.

5 Gramsci the Theorist of ‘Revolution in the West’? In the Prison Notebooks Gramsci indicates the sources of the theory of hegemony. The first is Hegel, to whom in December 1931 he dedicates a highly significant note entitled ‘Intellettuali’: The position that Hegel ascribed to the intellectuals has been of great importance, not only in the concept of politics (political science) but also in the entire conception of cultural and spiritual life; (…) With the advent of Hegel, thinking in terms of castes and “States” started to give way to thinking about the “State”, and the “aristocrats” of the State are precisely the intellectuals. (Q8§187, p. 1054; PN Vol. 3, p. 343)

A few months later, starting Notebook 10, he evokes the Crocean conception of ethico-political historiography: Credit must be given to Croce’s thought for (…) forcefully [having] drawn attention to the study of the factors of culture and ideas as elements of political domination, to the function of the great intellectuals in political life, to the moment of hegemony and consent as the necessary form of the historical bloc. Ethico-political history is therefore one of the canons of historical interpretation that must always be borne in mind in the study and detailed analysis of history as it unfolds if the intention is

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

45

to construct an integral history rather than partial or extrinsic histories. (Q10Ixi, p. 1211; FSPN , p. 332)

Finally, polemicizing with Croce about the totally negative position assumed vis-à-vis Marxism from the time of the war onward, he quotes Lenin: One can say that not only does the philosophy of praxis not exclude ethicopolitical history, but that, indeed, in its most recent stage of development it consists precisely in asserting the moment of hegemony as essential to its conception of the State and in attaching ‘full weight’ to the cultural factor, to cultural activity, to the necessity for a cultural front alongside the merely economic and political ones. (Q10I§7, p. 1224; FSPN , p. 344)

The sources indicated call to mind his formative experiences in Turin (Rapone 2011, pp. 259–292) and in Russia in 1922–1923 (Schirru 1999; Carlucci 2014, pp. 122–128). He summarizes his thought at the time as follows: ‘Elements of ethico-political history in the philosophy of praxis: concept of hegemony, reappraisal of the philosophical front, systematic study of the function of intellectuals in historical and State life, doctrine of the political party as the vanguard of every progressive historical movement’ (Q10I§13, Note 1, pp. 1235–1236; FSPN , p. 358). Limiting ourselves for the moment to the intellectuals-hegemony nexus, it is worth repeating that Gramsci was not thinking about the sociology of intellectuals, but about cultural history as the milieu of political history. Indeed, Notebook 12, entitled ‘Loose Jottings and Notes for a Group of Essays on the History of the Intellectuals and of Culture in Italy’ (heading of Q12, p. 1511)31 he warns in a parenthesis on the reverse of the initial page (p. 1a of the anastatic reproduction of the Notebooks ) that his ‘research into the history of intellectuals will not be of a “sociological” character, but will give rise to a series of essays on cultural history (Kulturgeschichte) and the history of political science’ (Q12§1, p. 1515).32 However the concept of hegemony is, as we have seen, of political origin and its character is both analytical and strategic. It is therefore indispensable to recall

31 The heading given in Gerratana’s critical edition of the Notebooks (Gramsci 1975) omits the words after ‘Intellectuals’, here reinstated after consultation of the anastatic edition of Gramsci’s manuscript. 32 On this theme, Cf. E. Garin (1997).

46

G. VACCA

the change in the historical situation upon which Gramsci was reflecting between the end of the Twenties and the early Thirties. His salient data were as follows: the fall of the myth of the ‘world revolution’, the rise of the economic power of the United States, the consolidation of the Soviet State, the birth of the corporativist State and the strengthening of fascism thanks to the Lateran Pacts, the world crisis of 1929–1932 and the rise of Hitlerism in Germany. These events determined a shift in perspective which impacted on the conception of hegemony, linking it to the concept of ‘war of position’. The concept of war of position is brought into focus in a group of notes written between November 1930 and the end of 1931, and in a subsequent note in summer 1932, where the concept of ‘civil hegemony’ is introduced. The ‘war of position’ concept, Gramsci wrote in October 1931, ‘is also (if one can say so) the point of intersection of strategy and tactics, both in politics and in the art of war’ (Q6§155, p. 810; PN Vol. 3, p. 117 and SPN , p. 239). The military metaphors that characterized Bolshevik language from which Gramsci drew the notion of ‘war of position’ bear witness to the cultural influence exerted by the Great War (Procacci 1981; Pons 2012). In any case, he continues, ‘in politics the error’ of not understanding the passage to the ‘war of position’ as the present-day form of the struggle for power ‘stems from an inaccurate understanding of the nature of the State (in the full sense: dictatorship + hegemony)’ (Q6§155, pp. 810–811; PN Vol. 3, p. 117 and SPN , p. 239). This reflection is part of the revision of the concept of State about which Gramsci had informed the Foreign Centre in the already cited letter of 7 September 1931. But the concept of ‘war of position’ also redefines his relationship with Lenin and ‘Leninism’.33 Only a few days earlier he had written a note significantly entitled ‘Past and Present. The transition from the war of maneuver (frontal attack) to the war of position – in the political field as well’ (Q6§138, pp. 801–802; PN Vol. 3, pp. 109 and SPN , pp. 238–239),34 in which his critique of Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’—with Trotsky defined as ‘the political theorist of frontal assault, at a time when it could lead only to defeat’—would seem rather to be addressing Stalin’s policy and the Comintern’s strategy after 33 ‘Leninism’ is taken to mean the codification of Lenin’s thought performed by his successors after his death. 34 As often happens, the sequence of the title of the rubric and that of the note tends to signal its importance.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

47

the Sixth Congress (1928). Postponing in-depth analysis on this point (Chapter 2), it is worth directing attention here to the fact that the ‘passage to the war of position’ points to a general change in political action that had already become necessary from the end of the First World War. ‘This’ wrote Gramsci is ‘the most important postwar problem of political theory; it is also the most difficult problem to solve correctly’ (loc. cit.). There is an evident readjustment, made both with respect to the period between 1923 and 1926, and also to the way in which he had approached the ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of the tactic of the United Front: while then, his research centred on the differences between East and West, now Gramsci was talking about a global transformation of politics caused by the war and linked to the concept of hegemony. In fact the ‘war of position’ is equivalent to ‘siege warfare’ and ‘in politics, the siege is a reciprocal one (…) and the mere fact that the ruler has to muster all his resources demonstrates how seriously he takes his adversary’ (Q6§138, pp. 801–802; PN Vol. 3, p. 109 and SPN , p. 239). Even though he affirms that ‘in politics the “war of position”, once won, is decisive definitively’ (loc. cit.), it is clear that in the epoch of the ‘war of position’, defeats are not irreversible. Thus the concept of ‘war of position’ relocates his reflection on East and West, which in the Notebooks takes on a different meaning than in 1924–1926. In a previous note, ‘War of position and war of maneuver or frontal war’, written between November and December 1930, Gramsci had dealt more thoroughly with the confrontation between Trotsky and Lenin, centring it on the East/West paradigm. He had defined the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ as ‘a reflection of the general-economic-cultural-social conditions in a country in which the structures of national life are embryonic and loose, and incapable of becoming “trench or fortress”’. Obviously the country was Russia, where he says a little later that ‘the State was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous’ (Q7§16, pp. 865–866; PN Vol. 3, p. 169 and SPN , pp. 238–239). The tactic of the United Front had instead been formulated in relation to an overall vision of post-war capitalism based on the dynamic role of the more advanced countries. It is true that this vision was proposed first of all to the European communist parties but, for the communist movement of the Twenties, world history was substantially European history, and victory of the proletariat in Europe would have constituted not only the guarantee of the construction of socialism in the USSR, but also the victory of the ‘world revolution’ (loc. cit.). Further, the ‘war of position’ in the Soviet Union was the NEP which, as we

48

G. VACCA

have seen, for Gramsci constituted the link between the construction of socialism in Russia and ‘revolutionizing’ the masses of the world. We have drawn attention to this passage because Gramsci has been (and partially still is) interpreted as the theorist of ‘revolution in the West’ as much by those who posit his presumed conversion in prison to social democracy or liberalism (Tamburrano 1963; Anderson 1976; Lo Piparo 2012), as by those who have claimed that the theory of hegemony was nothing more than a cosmetic makeover of the dictatorship of the proletariat (Salvadori 1977; Pellicani 1977).35 But Gramsci’s revision of Marxism knew no geopolitical limits. Indeed, in a more advanced phase of his reflection, returning in Notebook 13 to the comparison between ‘war of position’ and ‘war of manoeuvre’, he wrote that the October Revolution constituted the last episode of a victorious ‘war of assault’, because at this point the ‘war of position’ should be considered the universal form of the struggle for power. ‘The last occurrence of the kind [‘war of manoeuvre’] in the history of politics’ he wrote ‘was the events of 1917. They marked a decisive turning-point in the history of the art and science of politics’ (Q13§24, p. 1616; SPN , p. 235). Clearly we have before us the reformulation of a concept that he had already put forward in the article ‘Two Revolutions’ in L’Ordine Nuovo, 3 July 1920; but while then, his preoccupation had been to relativize the Russian Revolution in order to enhance the movement of the Councils, now that world revolution was no longer on the agenda, ‘war of manoeuvre’ and ‘war of position’ designated not only geo-strategical differences but also two diverse historical periods. This conclusion is confirmed by another note in the same Notebook, which we shall have time to focus on in the final section, dedicated to summarizing the changes that had made the ‘permanent revolution’ formula anachronistic and led to its being replaced by the ‘civil hegemony’ formula (Q13§7, p. 1566; SPN , pp. 242–243).

6

The Concept of Hegemony in the Notebooks

Gramsci’s elaboration of the intellectuals-hegemony nexus takes as its starting point the 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The elaboration began in the same months during which he partially translated it (Gramsci 2007, Vol. 1, cf. p. 26), and is based 35 On the use of this interpretation by Latin American military élites in the cycle of dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s, cf. J. Aricó (2011).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

49

on the concept of ideology, which in that text Marx had only mentioned in passing.36 It concerns the assertion that since historical change arises from the contradiction between the development of the ‘material forces of production’ and ‘existing relations of production’, it is on ‘the terrain’ of ‘ideological forms’ that ‘men become conscious of this conflict and resolve it’ (Gramsci 2007, Vol. 2, p. 746). Reference to this principle first occurs in paragraph 15 of Notebook 4, and Gramsci, going beyond Marx’s thought, transforms it into the concept of the reality of ideologies;37 then, in August 1932, in polemic with Croce, he links it to the concept of hegemony. For Croce, he writes, ‘ideologies for the governed are mere illusions, a deception they are subject to, while for the governors they are a willed and conscious deception’. For the philosophy of praxis [on the other hand], ideologies are anything but arbitrary; they are real historical facts which must be combated and their nature as instruments of domination exposed, not for reasons of morality and so on, but precisely for reasons of political struggle so as to make the governed independent of the governors, in order to destroy one hegemony and create another as a necessary moment of the overturning of praxis. (Q10II§41xii, p. 1319; FSPN , p. 395)

In other words, of collective action capable of promoting political changes of historical importance (loc. cit.). The first observation that should be made is that, unlike in 1924–1926, the concept of hegemony is here no longer linked to the proletariat, but refers to the conquest and exercise of power by any class or social group. As we have seen, this extension was due to the insertion of the function of the intellectuals into the schema of historical materialism and established the direction in which Gramsci was developing the theory. It emerged, on the one hand, from the need better to articulate the bourgeoisie– proletariat polarity and, on the other, from the need, having restored a 36 It should be noted that Gramsci was not familiar with Marx and Engels’s German Ideology, written between 1845 and 1846 but published in Moscow in 1932, although he had read a summary of the first essay, made by Gustav Mayer for the anthology of texts by Marx that was published in Moscow in 1924, edited by Vladimir Adoratskij: cf. Antonini (2018). 37 ‘Marx explicitly states that humans become conscious of their tasks on the ideological terrain, (…) which is hardly a minor affirmation of “reality”’ (Q4§15, p. 437; PN Vol. 2, p. 157).

50

G. VACCA

role of primary importance in the historical process to intellectuals (“great intellectuals”, “intermediate intellectuals” and “intellectuals as a mass”), to prevent a return to a liberal conception of history. On the analytical plane Gramsci starts from the reconstruction of the Italian Risorgimento. His analysis unfolds through paragraphs 43 and 44 of Notebook 1, datable to February–March 1930. Re-elaborated in inverse order in paragraphs 24 and 26 of Notebook 19 (February 1934– February 1935), they constitute the main nucleus of his interpretation of the Risorgimento. Paragraph 43 of Notebook 1 links back to the structure of the Lyon Theses and to the essay on the Southern question, extending the analysis to the period 1849–1860 and establishing the first reference points for a characterization of the forces involved (the Moderates and the Action Party). His reflection develops using large schemata, extending to the crisis after World War I, and it is here that Gramsci inserts an initial formulation of the theory of the intellectuals: By “intellectuals” one must understand not [only] those strata commonly referred to by this term, but generally the whole social mass that exercises an organizational function in the broad sense – whether it be in the field of production, or culture, or political administration. (Q1§43, p. 37; PN Vol. 1, p. 133)

But in 1930 the Risorgimento had not yet been analysed in terms of hegemony; Gramsci tended rather to derive theoretical generalizations from the historical analysis of a national event, and this does not imply the emancipation of the concept of hegemony from its sociological bonds. Indeed paragraph 44, specifically dedicated to placing the Risorgimento within a wider historical context, is entitled ‘Political class leadership before and after assuming government power’. In the reelaboration contained in Notebook 19 the paragraph is instead entitled ‘The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and Development of the Nation and the Modern State in Italy’. Gramsci therefore places at the centre of his analysis the problem of the ‘connection between the various political currents of the Risorgimento, and of their relations with the homogeneous or subordinate social groups existing in the various historical sections (…) of the national territory’ (Q19§24, p. 2010; SPN , pp. 55–56). It is clear that this reformulation of the theme reflects a substantial evolution of the concept of hegemony. What Gramsci intends to emphasize is that deeper study of the ‘connection between the various

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

51

political currents of the Risorgimento’ brings to the surface the historical reasons why the Moderates prevailed, and why the democrats were not only led by them but also accepted their leadership. This means that the pre-eminence of the Moderates was based on objective reasons for domination thanks to which they established an asymmetrical interdependence via-à-vis the Action Party, using its contribution (classic example: the expedition of the Mille),38 but at the same time subordinating it. The theoretical innovation springs from the nexus between hegemony and interdependence, which reveals the decisive function of the intellectuals in defining relations of force. The hegemony of the Moderates sprang from the fact that their political élite, unlike that of the Action Party, was the expression of a complex of specific economic, social and cultural forces: The Moderates were “intellectuals” already naturally “condensed” by the organic character of their relations with those classes whose expression they were. (For a good number of them, an identity was realized between the represented and the representative, the expressed and the expressor; that is, the Moderate intellectuals were a real, organic vanguard of the upper classes because they themselves belonged economically to the upper classes: they were intellectuals and political organizers and, at the same time, heads of businesses, great landowner-administrators, commercial and industrial entrepreneurs, etc.). Given this organic “condensation” or concentration, the Moderates exercised a powerful attraction in a “spontaneous” way, over the whole mass of intellectuals who existed in the country, in a “diffuse”, “molecular” state. (Q1§44, pp. 41–42; PN Vol. 1, p. 137)

The most important conclusion that Gramsci draws from this analysis contains the nucleus of the theory of the intellectuals: Herein is revealed the truth – Gramsci continues – of a criterion of historico-political research: there does not exist an independent class of intellectuals, but every class has its intellectuals; however, the intellectuals of the historically progressive class exercise such a power of attraction that, in the final analysis, they end up by subordinating the intellectuals of the

38 Garibaldi’s “expedition of the thousand” (“spedizione dei mille”) volunteers in 1860 to bring the Bourbon Kingdom (Sicily and Southern Italy) into the new Kingdom of Italy, under Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy.

52

G. VACCA

other classes and creating an environment of solidarity among all the intellectuals, with ties of a psychological (…) and often of a caste character. (Q1§44, p. 42; PN Vol. 1, pp. 137–138)

But it is not our intention here to follow all the developments of this conception. Rather we are interested in taking note of its implications concerning the State and ‘civil society’. In a ‘B text’ (i.e. a single draft text) in Notebook 6, datable to December 1930, Gramsci writes that in his notes the concept of civil society is ‘… often used (…) in the sense of political and cultural hegemony of a social group over the whole of society, as the ethical content of the State’ (Q6§24, p. 703; PN Vol. 3, p. 20 and FSPN , p. 75). For Gramsci, unlike for Marx, civil society does not embrace all production relations, but is situated between them and the State: ‘Between the economic structure and the State with its legislation and its coercion stands civil society’ (Q10II§15, p. 1253; FSPN , p. 167). If the State is posited as the union between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’, the distinction between them must be clarified. Now, writes Gramsci, although ‘in actual reality, civil society and State are one and the same’, nevertheless the two concepts concern different aspects of the life of the State. Schematically they can be indicated as the moment of ‘force’ and the moment of ‘consent’, which however cannot be separated and exist intertwined in various ‘combinations’. The distinction between State and civil society is therefore ‘methodological’, and not ‘organic’ (Q13§18, pp. 1589–1590; SPN , p. 160).39 It is natural that, in developing the concept of hegemony, Gramsci should formulate a conception of the State which is neither that of the State as force of liberal ‘realism’, nor that of the State as machine of the Marxist and Leninist tradition: The State is seen as the organ of one particular group, destined to create favourable conditions for the latter’s maximum expansion. But the development and expansion of the particular group are conceived of, and presented, as being the motor force of a universal expansion, of a development of all the “national” energies. In other words, the dominant group is coordinated concretely with the general interests of the subordinate groups, and the life of the State is conceived of as a continuous process 39 For Gramsci the fundamental error of liberalism consists in the fact that it transforms the ‘methodical’ distinction between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’ into an ‘organic’ one.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

53

of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria (on the juridical plane) between the interests of the fundamental group and those of the subordinate groups – equilibria in which the interests of the dominant group prevail, but only up to a certain point, i.e. stopping short of narrowly corporative economic interest. (Q13§17, p. 1584; SPN , p. 184)40

Looking more closely at the nexus between theory of hegemony and theory of the State, Gramsci clarifies a little further on that a State—any State—is founded upon the compromise equilibrium of the dominant class with both the allied and the subaltern classes (Q13§18, p. 1591; SPN , p. 161). Some interpreters have underlined the originality of this conception in the development of Gramsci’s thought and his critical position vis-à-vis Stalin’s USSR (Buci-Glucksmann 1980 [19751 ]; Francioni ‘Egemonia, società civile, Stato’, in id., 1984b); indeed, it dates to October 1930, a crucial moment of the disagreements on the ‘turning point’ and the ‘conversations’ regarding the Constituent Assembly in the prison at Turi (Vacca 2012, Chapters vii and viii). In order to achieve this revision of the Marxist conception of the State, a reformulation of the theory of the class struggle was necessary, and it appears clear that in Gramsci’s view there was not only antagonism but also interdependence between the struggling classes. This acquisition too can be framed as a ‘return to Marx’, who had warned that it is necessary to prevent the class struggle leading to the ‘common ruin’ of the classes in struggle. In any case, the thesis that any type of State is founded on a ‘compromise equilibrium’ among social classes and social groups clearly shows that the concept of hegemony is based on the elaboration of the principle of interdependence (Vacca, I ‘Quaderni’ e la politica del ’900, in id., 1999a; Giasi 2007). The theory of the intellectuals is fundamental for the development of the concept since the ‘expansivity’ of the dominant classes and the elaboration of the ‘universal’ values connected with their domination—in other words, the interaction between the ‘economic-corporative’ and the ‘ethico-political’—specifically concerns their activity. The theory of the “organic intellectual” is based first of all on the historicization of the intellectual classes:

40 Q13§17 is entitled ‘Analysis of Situations: Relations of Force’, and is a re-elaboration of Q4§38, ‘Relations between Structure and Superstructures’.

54

G. VACCA

Every social group, coming into existence on the original terrain of an essential function in the world of economic production, creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields. (Q12§1, p.1513; SPN , p. 5)

The concept is a lucid definition of the morphology of complex societies: the performance of any technical activity implies either a directive or a subaltern function; any work is defined by its intellectual ratio as superordinate or subordinate; the exercise of any working activity therefore implies an asymmetrical relationship whereby the life of societies as a whole is configured as a system of relations between the governed and the governors, the rulers and the ruled.

7 Interdependence, ‘Civil Hegemony’, ‘International Hegemony’ The nexus between hegemony and interdependence comes over as particularly effective in the analysis of the Risorgimento because the birth of the Italian nation-State was accomplished at a time when the European panorama was already dominated by a constellation of states that had come into being thanks to the impulse of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The Italian Risorgimento therefore constitutes an emblematic case of the birth of a modern State within the framework of a ‘European nexus’—the ‘Concert’ of Nations—which made the Italian State possible but at the same time irremediably conditioned it. The note which we are about to examine, in its initial drafting, is entitled ‘The Conception of the State according to the Productivity [Function] of the Social Classes’. Gramsci emphasizes here the fact that, unlike in the processes of national State formation in other countries (especially France), the protagonists of the process in Italy had been not the economic bourgeoisie, but the intellectual strata, who thus became the interpreters of the most advanced political and economic situations in Europe (Q1§150, pp. 132–133; PN Vol. 1, pp. 229–230). In the re-elaboration contained in Notebook 10, the ‘European nexus’ is investigated more in detail and interdependence is analysed in greater depth.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

55

The conception of the State according to the productive function of the social classes cannot be applied mechanically to the interpretation of Italian and European history from the French revolution throughout the nineteenth century. Although it is certain that for the fundamental productive classes (capitalist bourgeoisie and modern proletariat) the State is only conceivable as the concrete form of a specific economic world, of a specific system of production, this does not mean that the relationship of means to end can be easily determined or takes the form of a simple schema, apparent at first sight. It is true that conquest of power and achievement of a new productive world are inseparable, and that propaganda for one of them is also propaganda for the other, and that in reality it is solely in this coincidence that the unity of the dominant class – at once economic and political – resides. But the complex problem arises of the relation of internal forces in the country in question, of the relation of international forces, of the country’s geo-political position. In reality, the drive towards revolutionary renewal may be initiated by the pressing needs of a given country, in given circumstances, and you get the revolutionary explosion in France, victorious internationally as well. But the drive for renewal may be caused by the combination of progressive forces which in themselves are scanty and inadequate (though with immense potential, since they represent their country’s future) with an international situation favourable to their expansion and victory. (Q10II§61, pp. 1359–1360; SPN , p. 116)

This was the case with the Italian Risorgimento, in which—Gramsci continues—the social group that best interpreted ‘the reflection of international development’ and the possibility of spreading its ‘ideological currents’ was ‘the intellectual stratum (ceto)’ (loc. cit.). Thus the hegemonic process that led to the birth of the modern State consists of the capacity of élites to ‘combine’ internal and international factors of development. Further, inserting into his arguments a parenthesis of much wider import, Gramsci calls into doubt the possibility of ‘thinking history as only “national history” at any given moment of historical development’ and asks himself ‘whether the manner of writing (and thinking) history has not always been “conventional”’. Then, recalling ‘the Hegelian concept of the “world spirit” which is impersonated in this or that country [as] a “metaphorical” or imaginative way of drawing attention to this methodological problem’,41 he enunciates a general theory according to

41 Q10II§61, p. 1359. This appears in a parenthesis, not included in the SPN translation (pp. 114–118) of this paragraph.

56

G. VACCA

which history, in proper terms, is ‘world history’ and only ‘conventionally’ can ‘national histories’ be isolated, on condition that one is capable of identifying the nexuses with general history. Against this backdrop, world history is marked by a succession of hegemonic constellations centred on the pre-eminence of one or another national power. No less binding is the nexus between hegemony and interdependence in the interpretation of contemporary European history, and in the course of this analysis Gramsci introduces the concept of ‘civil hegemony’. This innovation became necessary upon consideration of the economic and social changes that had occurred in the previous half-century, both internationally and within the countries of Europe, significantly changing the formations of ‘collective wills’ and historical subjectivities. Interrogating himself of these changes Gramsci starts anew from Marx’s formula of ‘permanent revolution’ to bring synthetically into focus the historical changes that had rendered it anachronistic and upon them he bases the concept of ‘civil hegemony’: The formula [of “permanent revolution” elaborated by Marx after 1848] (…) belongs to an historical period in which the great mass political parties and the great economic trade unions did not yet exist, and society was still, so to speak, in a state of fluidity from many points of view: greater backwardness of the countryside, and almost complete monopoly of political and State power by a few cities or even by a single one (Paris in the case of France); a relatively rudimentary State apparatus, and greater autonomy of civil society from State activity; a specific system of military forces and of national armed services; greater autonomy of the national economies from the economic relations of the world market, etc. In the period after 1870, with the colonial expansion of Europe, all these elements change: the internal and international organisational relations of the State become more complex and massive, and the Forty-Eightist formula of the “Permanent Revolution” is expanded and transcended in political science by the formula of “civil hegemony”. (Q13§7, p. 1566; SPN , pp. 242–243)

The focus of his analysis is international interdependence, which had intensified to the point of generating a global mutation which was conditioning in an uncommon way both the life of States and political action. But attention should be drawn to the fact that Gramsci, in order to make a synthesis of this, felt the need to introduce a lexical innovation of such significance as to detach the concept of hegemony from the matrix provided by Lenin. There is no doubt that in the Notebooks he continued

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

57

to attribute to Lenin the merit of having replaced the ‘Forty-Eightist doctrine of “permanent revolution”’ with the ‘concept of hegemony’ (Q10I§12, p. 1235; FSPN , p. 357); but the fact that he introduces the concept of ‘civil hegemony’, which cannot be traced back exclusively to Lenin, has highly specific implications. In fact, when he returns to the defeat of the revolutions of the Twenties, Gramsci does not draw back from the task of pointing out the strategic limits of Lenin who, in launching the tactic of the United Front, had shown that he understood the change in politics generated by the Great War, but had been unable to theorize it. The theme relates to the transition from the ‘war of manoeuvre’ to the ‘war of position’ which we have already examined. Here we should recall the arguments regarding why Lenin did not go the whole way: In my view Ilyich understood the need for a shift from the war of maneuver that had been applied victoriously in the East in 1917, to a war of position, which was the only viable possibility in the West (…) This, I believe, is the meaning of the term “united front” (…) Ilyich, however, never had time to develop his formula. One should also bear in mind that Ilyich could only have developed his formula on a theoretical level, whereas the fundamental task was a national one. (Q7§16, p. 866; PN Vol. 3, pp. 168–169 and SPN , pp. 237–238)

Reading the rest of the note, it might appear that Gramsci is reiterating the relativization of Lenin’s work on the basis of the East-West paradigm; but in reality in the course of three years his thought had evolved so much that a lexical innovation was required to distinguish his theory of politics from that of Lenin. In fact the ‘historical break’ from which Gramsci now moves is war alone. The elements that characterize the change do not go back to the war-Russian Revolution coupling, but to the historical period of 1870–1915, and the accent falls on the degree of development achieved by the European workers’ movement in the pre-war decades. [e]verybody recognises that the war of 1914-18 represents an historical break, in the sense that a whole series of questions which piled up individually before 1914 have precisely formed a “mound”, modifying the general structure of the previous process. It is enough to think of the importance which the trade-union phenomenon has assumed, a general term in which various problems and processes of development, of differing importance

58

G. VACCA

and significance, are lumped together (parliamentarism, industrial organisation, democracy, liberalism, etc.), but which objectively reflects the fact that a new social force has been constituted, and has a weight which can no longer be ignored, etc. (Q15§59, p. 1824; SPN , p. 106)

This raises questions of capital importance: the first concerns the conception of the maturity of socialism, which Gramsci, in prison at Turi, claimed had existed for half a century—greatly disconcerting his comrades (Lisa 1971, pp. 81–90). To clarify the sense of this claim we need to return to his correspondence of October 1926. In replying to Togliatti that for the great masses the unity of the ‘Leninist nucleus’ was the sole guarantee of the continuity of the nexus between the construction of socialism in the URSS and the ‘revolutionizing’ of workers and peasants on a world scale, Gramsci had introduced an argument to which attention must be paid. ‘The question of unity, not only of the R[ussian] P[arty] but of the Leninist core, is (…) of utmost importance in the international field; from the point of view of the masses, this is the most important question in this historical period of the intensified contradictory process towards unity’ (CPC, p. 135; GTW , pp. 378–379 and SPW 1921–1926, pp. 437–438). The characterization of the historical period as an ‘intensified contradictory period towards unity’ clearly refers to world unity considered from the point of view of the subjectivity of its peoples. It seems evident to me that the passage from 1933 that we are analysing reconnects with the argument of October 1926, and if Gramsci at that time had been worried that the nexus between Leninism and world revolution might be broken, now that the nexus had dissolved he was trying to identify the reasons, even in the limits of Leninism. It seems to us that the point he had reached suggested to him that he should try to find a remedy by starting from a new perception of the relations between politics and the masses. The arguments which justify the concept of ‘civil hegemony’ would in fact seem to indicate that the war had intensified processes that had begun after 1870, and the significance of which is characterized by the following elements: the main actors of the struggle were all in the field, differently organized and positioned; therefore the political space was already occupied. What was at stake was not the organization of each actor on stage, but the overall political leadership of the masses, both nationally and internationally, and the struggle was at the same time over the economic, political, intellectual and moral leadership of society in its entirety. There was no before and

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

59

after demarcated by a ‘conquest of power’, or such a distance between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’ as to delimit the ‘spaces’ within which the political leadership could be conquered. It was politics as such, the whole of politics that was characterized by the struggle for hegemony. Indeed the elaboration of the concept of ‘civil hegemony’ corresponds also chronologically to the definition of the philosophy of praxis as a ‘conception of the world with a conformant ethic’ (Q10I§31, part i, pp. 1269–1273; FSPN , pp. 383–386).42 Gramsci came to a definition of these two concepts between February and June 1932, thus offering extremely significant testimony of the ‘translatability’ of the theory of hegemony into the philosophy of praxis and vice versa.43 The theory of hegemony thus corresponds to a particular view of history and while up to now we have examined its progressive liberation from the ‘class’ bond, now we need to proceed to its emancipation from economic determinism, the often unconscious foundation of contemporary historiography. Criticism of economism forms the ‘aroma’ of the Notebooks, but the theme upon which it is developed most fruitfully is that of ‘crisis’. On this theme too, Gramsci develops lines of research that he had already framed before his arrest. In the report to the Central Committee of 2–3 August 1926, his reflections on capitalism’s instability had achieved a vision of economic crises which we should recall: In the advanced capitalist countries – writes Gramsci – the ruling class possesses political and organizational reserves which it did not possess, for instance, in Russia. This means that even the most serious economic crises do not have immediate repercussions in the political sphere. Politics always lags behind economics, far behind. (CPC, p. 121; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 408–409 and PPW , p. 297)

But it is only in the Notebooks that he elaborates a real theory of crises. In general terms the problem is outlined in October 1930, in Q4§38 (‘Notes on Philosophy I’) entitled ‘Relations between Structure and

42 Chapter 3 in this volume is dedicated to the development of this theme. Cf. also Q10II§41v, p. 1308 (FPSN , p. 390) for the use of this specific phrase. 43 On these themes I suggest the writings of Francesca Izzo and Fabio Frosini which are analysed in the ‘Afterword’ (‘Gramsci studies in Italy’), the last part of the current volume.

60

G. VACCA

Superstructures’. Later on, however Gramsci poses the question of understanding ‘whether fundamental historical crises are directly determined by economic crises’, replying that [i]t may be ruled out that immediate economic crises of themselves produce fundamental historical events; they can simply create a terrain more favourable to the dissemination of certain modes of thought, and certain ways of posing and resolving questions involving the entire subsequent development of national life. (Q13§7, pp. 1586–1587; SPN , p. 184)44

His intention is clearly to dissolve economic crises into the wider notion of ‘historical crises’, thus avoiding the risks of causal determinism. The objective is reached in Q15§5, entitled ‘Past and Present. Crisis’, dating to February 1933. Analysing the crisis of 1929–1932, Gramsci starts out with a warning of a methodological character, the salient point of which is the need to avoid a monocausal explanation of the crisis: Whoever wants to give one sole definition of these events, or what is the same thing, find a single cause or origin, must be rebutted. We are addressing a process that shows itself in many ways, and in which cause and effects become intertwined and mutually entangled. To simplify means to misrepresent and falsify. (Q15§5, p. 1755; FSPN , p. 219)

In other words, it is a question of inserting all the manifestations of the crisis into a historical process which does not isolate the economy from politics and identifies moments and actors on the world stage. Therefore the first question that Gramsci asks himself has the aim of collocating the passages of the crisis within a historical perspective, thus establishing a periodization: ‘When did the crisis begin?’ He rejects the thesis that its beginning coincides with its most sensational manifestation, the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange, and in proposing his answer he outlines a true general theory of crises, of a historico-political nature: The whole post-war period is one of crisis, accompanied by attempts to obviate it that from time to time have had some success in this or that country, nothing more. For some (and perhaps they are not mistaken) 44 I am quoting here the re-elaboration in Q13§17, ‘Analysis of Situations: Relations of Force’.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

61

the war itself is a manifestation of this crisis, even its first manifestation; the war was in fact the political and organisational response of those who were also responsible for the crisis (…) One of the fundamental contradictions is this: that whereas economic life has internationalisation or rather cosmopolitanism as a necessary premiss, State life has developed ever more in the direction of ‘nationalism’, of ‘self-sufficiency’, and so on. One of the most apparent features of the ‘present crisis’ is nothing other than the intensification of the nationalistic (nationalistic State element) in the economy. (Q15§5, pp. 1755–1756; FSPN , pp. 219–220)

The first consideration regards the explanation of ‘world crises’, such as those in the 1890s and in 1929–1932. These were great economic crises in the epoch during which interdependence took hold not only as a fundamental resource of the productive activity of peoples, but also as a historical ‘law’ which conditioned State life and political action as never before. We are not dealing with ‘conjunctural crises’, which are part of the physiology of capitalist development, but of world crises, which were unsolvable using the existing forms of regulation. Gramsci’s thesis is that while economic life, thanks to the intrinsic vocation of the capitalist mode of production, developed in the direction of ‘cosmopolitanism’, it is not possible to stabilize its beneficial influence because ‘national life’ continued to be based on nationalist, or worse still autarkic, criteria. Therefore the problem is not economic, but historico-political; Gramsci suggests that the response to the crisis should be to adapt the forms of regulation to the world economy: an epochal task, which evokes the need to go beyond the identification between politics and the State, upon which the modern age was built. The second consideration is that not only the crisis, but the war too, sprang from the clash between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics. As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, for Gramsci the war was neither an inevitable consequence of imperialism (the ‘supreme phase of capitalism’), nor the umpteenth manifestation of the perverse nature of capitalism (‘capitalism bears within it war as a sleeping cloud bears the storm’ in Jean Jaurès’ motto) but ‘the political and organisational response of those who were also responsible’. Thus the Great War constituted a historical event, as such avoidable, for which the blame lay with the European ruling classes who, faced with the intensification of the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics, instead of reforming the function of the State, had

62

G. VACCA

unleashed a world war for the control over markets. Thus both in the case of the great crisis and that of the Great War, a deficit of political hegemony was evidenced and at the same time, the instrument to surmount it was identified in the principle of interdependence. Among the most significant consequences of this assumption was the change in the notion of ‘great power’, in which military force appeared to be a substitute for economic and cultural power. There are three ‘elements for calculating the hierarchy of power among States’ writes Gramsci: ‘1) extension of territory, 2) economic power, 3) military power’. The latter ‘sums the value of territorial extension (with an adequate population, naturally) and the economic potential’. But ‘military power’ is not a primary attribute of a ‘great power’, both because it is subordinate to economic power and because that which characterizes a ‘great power’ is its ‘ability to imprint upon its activities an autonomous direction, of which all other powers, great and minor, have to undergo the influence and repercussions’. The ranking of a power therefore derives not from military supremacy, but from the influence that the country succeeds in exerting over all the others. The concept of hegemony, projected onto the system of international relations, subtracts it from the presumed ‘anarchy’ of traditional ‘realism’. In the international arena, States do not act solely in the name of force but according to their capacity to influence and condition the life of other peoples. This renders consent decisive even in international relations; in fact ‘the great power is the hegemonic power’ inasmuch as it is at the head of ‘a system of alliances and accords of greater or lesser extension’ (Q13§19, pp. 1597–1598). The power factor cannot be separated from the logic of war; indeed Gramsci writes, ‘these elements are calculated within the perspective of a war’ (loc. cit.). But the application of hegemony to the system of international relations tends to exclude the inevitability of war. Gramsci’s knowledge of Clausewitz’s Vom Kriege was second-hand, but in the conception of war as the continuation of politics by other means, he finds confirmation of his political vision; therefore, in an only apparently paradoxical fashion, he reads into this a confirmation of the possibility of avoiding war.45 Moving in the same direction are the considerations on 45 I am referring to the singular comment on Emil Ludwig’s Wilhelm II in which he writes: ‘It should be recalled how Bismarck, following Clausewitz, maintained the supremacy of the political moment over the military; whereas Wilhelm II, as Ludwig records, scribbled furious notes on a newspaper in which Bismarck’s opinion was quoted.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

63

the concept of the ‘great power’, whose prerogative consists in being able to irradiate such economic, political and cultural influence as to achieve its objectives without needing to resort to war: ‘… to possess all the elements which, within the limits of the predictable, provide the certainty of victory, means having the potential of diplomatic pressure of a great power’ capable of ‘obtaining part of the results of a victorious war without needing to fight’ (loc. cit.). Finally, his attention towards cultural power must be underlined. ‘An “imponderable” element’ Gramsci observes ‘is the “ideological” position a country occupies in the world at any given moment, inasmuch as it is considered to represent the progressive forces of history’; and he cites the example of France ‘during the Revolution of 1789 and the Napoleonic period’ (loc. cit.). Thus in his eyes, the only country possessing the attribute of ‘great power’ then was the United States of America. As we have seen, in 1920, with President Wilson’s project defeated and the United States once again isolationist, Gramsci thought revolutionary Russia might exercise world ‘ideological’ primacy. But at that point, world history revolved around the dialectic between the United States and Europe, and in the heart of the great crisis it was the United States that emerged as the only power capable of representing ‘the progressive forces of history’. Gramsci, reacting in a celebrated note from Notebook 22 to the widespread anti-Americanism among the European cultured classes, claims that: America, through the implacable weight of its economic production (and therefore indirectly), will compel or is already compelling Europe to overturn its excessively antiquated economic and social basis. This would have happened anyway, though only slowly. In the immediate perspective it is presented as a repercussion of American super-power. (Q22§15, pp. 2178–2179; SPN , p. 317)

Let us attempt to sum up the effects of applying the concept of hegemony to international relations. At the beginning of the Thirties the world appeared as a hierarchical system, based not so much on the military strength, as on the economic strength and ‘ideological’ influence of

Thus the Germans won almost all the battles brilliantly, but lost the war’ (Q19§28, p. 2052, SPN , p. 88).

64

G. VACCA

the hegemonic power. The preponderance which underpinned the exercise of hegemony allowed the hegemonic power to extend its alliances as the vehicle of its economic and ideal influence, but also to make any recourse to war more remote, if not actually to eliminate it altogether. The exercise of international hegemony had therefore the aim of neutralizing adversaries, imposing upon them a lasting acceptance of their subalternity. It was an exercise based on being able to define one’s own role, but also to a more or less agreed extent to decide that of allies and adversaries. Rather than about the hegemony of a ‘great power’, we should be talking about hegemonic constellations, within which the leading country seeks and to some extent obtains the consent of the other countries thanks to a weighted calculation of the relations of force and their respective interests. The polemical content of this brief note vis-à-vis the ‘theory of war’, of the isolationism and of the militarization of politics that distinguished the Soviet Union is difficult to gauge; however it seems possible to assert that in international relations the nexus between hegemony and interdependence is even more stringent than in internal politics, since hegemony is substantiated in a country’s ability to create situations of asymmetrical interdependence which take into account the interests of the subaltern countries in such a way as to obtain lasting acceptance of its supremacy.

8 The Crisis of the Modern State and the Remedies: Political Cosmopolitanism and Supranationality The ‘intensified contradictory process towards unity’ of the world (letter to Togliatti of 26 October 1926, there referred initially to the ‘masses’, GTW , p. 379), which characterized the ‘historical period’ preceding and subsequent to the war, brought with it the crisis of the national State, but also provided the remedies. The way in which, at the beginning of the Notebooks, Gramsci outlines the post-war crisis fluctuates, but he treats it with particular emphasis. In Q1§76, at the beginning of 1930, commenting on an article by Filippo Burzio, he seems to believe that the solution to the crisis of liberal civilization will only be found in socialism: In our times there is almost no happy day (but is this crisis not linked, rather, to the collapse of the myth of limitless progress and the optimism that depended on it; in other words, is it not linked to a form of religion rather than to the crisis of historicism and critical consciousness? In

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

65

reality “critical consciousness” was restricted to a small circle, a hegemonic circle, to be sure, but a restricted one; the spiritual “steering apparatus” has broken down and there is a crisis, but it is also a widespread crisis which will bring about a new, more secure and stable “hegemony”). (Q1§76, p. 84; PN Vol. I, p. 181)

Instead a little later, reflecting on the authoritarian solution that fascism had brought, he summed up the sense of the crisis in an aphorism that would become famous: ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born: in this interregnum morbid phenomena of the most varied kind come to pass’ (Q3§34, pp. 311–312; PN Vol. 2, pp. 32–33 and SPN , p. 276). Shortly after, the crisis of the European national State would be at the heart of Gramsci’s reflection on the twentieth century and his analysis would centre upon it, but its origin was in the writings of 1919–1920, where he had analysed the postwar crisis in real time. Therefore we need to proceed to a preliminary recapitulation of its salient points. The crisis of the national State began with the war and exploded in the post-war period, assuming in Gramsci’s opinion an epochal character. It was generated both by changes in conditionalities external to the life of the State—disruption of the world economy—and by changes that took place within it. This dual motion is characterized by lacerations to interdependence in both spheres. The breakdown of the world market, which appeared beyond repair, stands out among the exogenous elements (‘A Break-Down and a Birth’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 3–4). To this must be added the crisis in national sovereignty caused by the exorbitant preponderance of the ‘world monopoly exercised [mainly] (…) by AngloAmerican capitalism’ (‘The Unity of the World’, ON 1919–1920, p. 20). It suffocated not only the defeated countries but Italy too, which saw in Germany’s destruction the removal of a pillar of its economic life, and the loss of an important actor within European political equilibria within which, by shrewdly ‘manoeuvring’, it had achieved its unity, independence and a significant role as a medium-sized power. These events favoured an anachronistic, revanchist spirit which increased the consensus around nationalism. Strengthened by intervention in the war and by ‘mutilated victory’ demagogy, nationalism took the field against the liberal State, creating armed militias and aiming to instal a military dictatorship (‘A Return to Freedom’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 105–108). But as we have seen, the exasperated disequilibrium in the structure of the world generalized

66

G. VACCA

the crisis of national economies, affecting even the heart of the world system, the United States, and the British Empire, which was shaken by uprisings by its colonial peoples (‘Italy and the United States’, ON 1919– 1921, pp. 302–305). The forms of economic and political dependence that had seemed to have taken the place of the system of interdependence existing before the war thus revealed themselves to be precarious and unsustainable. Given the degree of integration that had been achieved by the world economy, interdependence might be temporarily modified into exasperated forms of asymmetry, but these did not create a new system of equilibria, indeed they made the crisis of the structure of the world more widespread, more serious and longer lasting. A solution could only be found by reactivating the circuits of globalization. The manifestations of the crisis appeared even more numerous and complex within the State. The most significant of these concerns the political subjectivity of the worker and peasant masses analysed in the first section of this chapter.46 The changes mentioned exerted pressure in favour of socialism, which however could not be a force for the reconstruction of the State because socialism ‘is against the national economies, which stem from the national State and are conditioned by it’ (‘The State and Socialism’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 28 June–5 July 1920, ON 1919–1920, p.118; PPW , p. 102). What is more, the war had bureaucratized and militarized economic and civilian life, mobilized the petty bourgeoisie and conferred upon it undeserved command functions which it had no intention of giving up, and which is why it turned its weapons against the proletariat (‘The Events of 2–3 December. The Petty Bourgeoisie’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 350–352). The petty bourgeoisie lay at the origin of the Fiume [Rijeka] affair47 which unleashed the ‘civil war’, and it was preparing to become the mass base of fascism, with backing from State apparatuses and big capital, thus demonstrating that the liberal bourgeoisie’s ‘national function’ had evaporated (‘National Unity’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 230–233).

46 See above, p. 50. 47 On 12 September 1919 Italian military rebels, headed by the poet Gabriele

D’Annunzio (with Mussolini’s personal backing), occupied the Adriatic city of Rijeka, unilaterally proclaiming its annexation to Italy (contested by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). The 1924 Treaty of Rapallo finally assigned the city to Italy (with the name “Fiume”) in exchange for other territorial concessions.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

67

Lastly but no less important, the Councils movement had demonstrated, as we have seen, that capitalism and industrialism could be detached from one another, and that the figure of the capitalist entrepreneur was historically no longer necessary (‘The Factory Worker’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 432–433). This generated a crisis of legitimization that did not remain within the world of production but affected all representative institutions, including workers’ trade unions. The general election of 18 November 1919 with a Socialist victory and the strong showing of the Popular Party projected the crisis into the political system. The Socialist party’s success was made even more significant by the strong turnout of the peasantry. The good result of the two mass parties had a constitutive value because it highlighted the need to construct a democratic nation that was inclusive of the peasant masses (‘The Bourgeois Rout’ and ‘The Populars’, in ON 1919–1920, pp. 323–324 and 272– 274, respectively). Parliament, half of which was occupied by Socialist and Popular deputies, could no longer function as the place of political unification of the possessing strata of society. It meant the end of parliamentarism and of transformism as a typically Italian government formula (‘The Problem of Power’, ON 1919–1920, p. 338), but these analyses did not fuel optimism. Gramsci foresaw that the crisis could lead to an authoritarian conclusion, marked by a victory for nationalism and militarism (‘Towards a Renewal of the Socialist Party’, ON 1919–1920, p. 511; PPW , p. 156 and New Left Review I/51 pp. 51–52; and ‘The Communist Party’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 657–658, SPW 1919–1920, pp. 335–356 and PPW , pp. 193–194). Especially in Italy, the crisis of the national State showed itself as a crisis of the hegemony of the ruling classes to which the proletariat was incapable of responding. When Gramsci started writing the Notebooks, ten years had passed since the period during which he had outlined the analyses summarized up to this point, but the changes that had taken place in Italy and the world had not weakened their foundations; if anything they were favourable to decanting and refining them. The consolidation of fascism in Italy, the Weimar crisis, the further decomposition of colonial empires, the Soviet Union’s closing in on itself, the crisis of 1929 and the innovative power of Fordism all defined the context into which he now introduced the crisis of the State, turning this into the central theme of his analysis of the twentieth century. In November 1930 the first aspect upon which he reflected anew was how the crisis of the State manifests itself. At first glance it presents itself as

68

G. VACCA

a crisis of the parties and Gramsci took as his point of reference the Italian experience of the post-war period (Q4§69, p. 513; PN Vol. 2, pp. 241– 242). But when—two or three years later—he returned to the theme, framing it within a general reflection on politics, his analysis extended to include Europe and presupposed the development of the concept of hegemony as a general theory of politics and history. The paradigmatic form of the crisis of the State is the crisis of the hegemony of the ruling classes, and while the process presented in different ways in each country, the content was the same. At a certain point in their historical lives, social groups become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression. (…) These situations of conflict between “represented and representatives” reverberate out from the terrain of the parties (…) throughout the State organism, reinforcing the relative power of the bureaucracy (civil and military), of high finance, of the Church, and generally of all bodies relatively independent of the fluctuations of public opinion. How are they created in the first place? In every country the process is different, although the content is the same. And the content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution. A “crisis of authority” is spoken of: this is precisely the crisis of hegemony, or general crisis of the State. (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1603; SPN , p. 210)

The fact that the crisis happens in all countries more or less simultaneously is further proof of the pervasiveness of interdependence. The judgement configured by a crisis of hegemony, i.e. the loss of trust by those represented in the old élites of the representatives, brings us back to the nexus between the theory of intellectuals and theory of hegemony which constitutes the fulcrum of our reconstruction. However the crisis of the State is at the centre of the politics of the twentieth century not only because it manifests itself everywhere, but

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

69

also because it finds no solution. The main reason why it has no solution resides in the economic-corporative limit shared by the fundamental classes. In the case of the bourgeoisie, it derives from the crisis of the State, which determines the loss of the shell within which its ability to lead was formed: ‘The “normal” exercise of hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary regime’ writes Gramsci ‘is characterised by a combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent’. But ‘in the period following the World War, cracks opened up everywhere in the hegemonic apparatus, and the exercise of hegemony became permanently difficult and aleatory’ (Q13§37, p. 1638; SPN , p. 80, note). The reason is that in the post-war period the bourgeoisie was not, and no longer perceived itself as being, the hegemonic subject of world history. With the war, and because of the events that it sparked—from the Russian Revolution to the break-up of colonial empires—the globalization of capitalism reached a historical limit. On the other hand, the conflict between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics appeared to the liberal bourgeoisie to be insoluble, clinging as it was to the nation-State and to its traditional form of domination, namely oligarchic democracy. The ethical underpinning of the equilibrium between force and consent was the belief in the universality of bourgeois civilization and the worldwide projection of its élites in ‘a period in which the spreading development of the bourgeoisie could seem limitless, so that its ethicity or universality could be asserted: all mankind will be bourgeois’ (Q8§179, pp. 1049–1050; SPN , pp. 258–259). But with the war, this epoch came to an end because ‘competitive capitalism’ was finished and there was ‘a return to the concept of the State as pure force (…). The bourgeois class is “saturated”: it has not only stopped growing – it is breaking down; not only has it stopped assimilating new elements, but it is losing part of itself” (Q8§2, p. 937; PN Vol. 3, p. 234 and SPN , p. 260). Among those he holds responsible for this phenomenon are the ‘great intellectuals’, among whom the figure of Benedetto Croce stands out: terrified by the spread of mass society, he attempted to contrapose a new European cosmopolis of the cultured classes against the crisis of the nation-State; but in this way he assisted the detachment of the intellectuals from the dominant classes and contributed to making the crisis of the State ‘catastrophic’. For its part, the proletariat was also without historical initiative because the Soviet Union limited the proletariat’s action to the economic-corporative sphere:

70

G. VACCA

Generally speaking, the modern world is currently experiencing a phenomenon similar to the split between the “spiritual” and the “temporal” in the Middle Ages, a phenomenon that is far more complex now than it was then, to the extent that modern life itself has become more complex. Regressive and conservative social groups are shrinking back more and more to their initial economic-corporative stage, while progressive and innovative groupings are still in their initial phase – which is, precisely, the economic-corporative phase. The traditional intellectuals are detaching themselves from the social grouping to which they have hitherto given the highest, most comprehensive form and hence the most extensive and complete consciousness of the modern State. Their detachment is in fact an act of incalculable historical significance, and they are signaling and sanctioning the crisis of the State in its decisive form. (Q6§10, pp. 690–691; PN Vol. 3, pp. 8–9)

This poses the problem of whether these phenomena may be interpreted as ‘repercussions’ of the October Revolution and whether European post-World War I history may be compared to the ‘Age of Restoration’ (Q15§59, p. 1824; SPN , p. 106); but we shall return to this theme when we analyse the concept of ‘passive revolution’. At this point we need to examine the solution put forward by Gramsci for the crisis of the State. In the Europe of the post-war period, economic and political nationalism was, as we have seen, both an actor in, and a symptom of, the crisis of the State. What could the communist movement offer as an effective answer? Could it be the Comintern’s policy, which Gramsci considered to be a reflection of the ‘economic-corporative’ limit of the Soviet State? I think attention should be drawn to those notes in the Notebooks where he reflects on the theoretical and political limits of ‘internationalism’ and, bringing into play the concept of hegemony, suggests that it should be replaced by ‘a modern form of cosmopolitanism’. This should not surprise us since: if the world economic crisis and the crisis of the State spring from conflict between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics; if the progressive element is the former, and that which prevents it from irradiating its beneficial influence is the latter; then the only remedy can be to create new symmetries between the economy and politics. In a note which is contemporary to these reflections on the crisis of the State, Gramsci turns his attention to the limits of Italian socialism, evidently also bearing in mind its responsibilities for the post-World War I crisis. He identifies the basic defect as ‘poor understanding of the State’,

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

71

which ‘means poor class consciousness’: ‘understanding of the State’ he observes ‘exists not only when one defends it but also when one attacks it in order to overthrow it’. This is the recurrent theme of the responsibilities of the Socialist Party for not having wanted to mobilize the masses in support of the occupation of factories. But it is symptomatic that now these considerations are inscribed within a reflection on the ‘subversivism’ of the dominant and the subaltern classes, which Gramsci considers a distinctive trait of the history of Italy, and he equates the ‘subversivism’ of the subaltern classes with the ‘internationalism’ of the revolutionary socialism in which he had been a militant until 1920 (Q3§46, pp. 323– 327; PN Vol. 2, pp. 44–47, especially p. 47). The equivalence drawn between ‘internationalism’ and ‘subversivism’ highlights an organic limit of the Italian socialist tradition, consisting in its indeterminate ‘revolutionarism’, that is its inability to be a revolutionary force. This limit could be overcome only through the complete nationalization of the workers’ movement, that is, by it acquiring a national function of its own. In a note of February 1933, commenting on Stalin’s interview with the ‘first American labor delegation’ (Q14§68, p. 1729; SPN , p. 240), Gramsci reflects anew on the Stalin-Trotsky conflict. Perhaps this reflection was prompted by Hitler’s rise to power and by Trotsky’s criticisms of Comintern policy.48 Gramsci seems to have thought that the main problem of the communist movement resided not in the fact that Stalin had concentrated on the construction of the State power of the USSR, but in the lack of an international perspective in Soviet policy and Comintern policy. This is not only a continuation of the paradigm in the 1926 letter. Continuing in his revision of Marxism, which runs through the entire research of the Notebooks, Gramsci proposes a reformulation of internationalism based, precisely, on the national function of the working

48 As is known, of Trotsky’s work, Gramsci in prison was only able to read La mia vita [My Life], published by Mondadori (cf. ibid., pp. 365–366), but received a great deal of information about his activities and his thought from the press that he followed habitually. Among the daily newspapers he was allowed to read was Corriere della Sera, from which the articles from Moscow by Salvatore Aponte have been gathered together in volume form (Aponte 2010). But Gramsci habitually read the Foreign Ministry press review and until 1932 he was able to continue to read the daily newspapers. On Trotsky’s criticisms of the Comintern’s policy in that period see his 1931 pamphlet La chiave della situazione è in Germania (Germany, the Key to the International Situation), in L. Maitan (ed.) (1962, pp. 272–293) and in various English-language reprints.

72

G. VACCA

class. He dwells ‘on certain key points of the science and art of politics’ raised by the Stalin interview. The problem which seems to me to need further elaboration is the following: how, according to the philosophy of praxis (as it manifests itself politically) whether as formulated by its founder [Marx] or particularly as restated by its most recent great theoretician [Lenin] – the international situation should be considered in its national aspect.

But national politics is always the result of a ‘combination’ of national and international elements: In reality – Gramsci continues – the internal relations of any nation are the result of a combination which is “original” and (in a certain sense) unique: these relations must be understood and conceived in their originality and uniqueness if one wishes to dominate them and direct them. To be sure, the line of development is towards internationalism, but the point of departure is “national” – and it is from this point of departure that one must begin.

Therefore he rejects Trotskyist accusations of ‘nationalism’ against the USSR, because it could not be denied that in the ‘nucleus of the question’ Stalin was following Lenin’s concept of hegemony, having purged ‘internationalism of every vague and purely ideological (in a pejorative sense) element, to give it a realistic political content’. However, his ‘realism’ was insufficient because the communist movement needed effective internationalism: ‘the [general] perspective is international and cannot be otherwise’. He suggested the following formulation of this ‘perspective’: It is necessary (…) to study accurately the combination of national forces which the international class will have to lead and develop, in accordance with the international perspective and directives. The leading class is in fact only such if it accurately interprets this combination – of which it is itself a component and precisely as such is able to give the movement a certain direction, within certain perspectives. (Q14§68, pp. 1728–1729; SPN , p. 240)

The reader will recall that in 1923 the ‘translation into Italian historical language’ of the tactic of the United Front had started out from criticism of the Comintern’s centralism, to which Gramsci attributed at

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

73

least partially the incapacity of communist parties to transform the slogans of the International into effective political formulas in their respective countries. Then, in the Notebooks, claiming for Lenin the merit of having intuited the necessity of switching from the ‘war of manoeuvre’ to the ‘war of position’, he had stressed how Lenin’s work had remained a sketch not only because of his premature death, but above all because the task of developing it was the duty of the individual communist parties, each in its own country. But if the ‘centralism’ of the Comintern had not worked in the Twenties, it worked even less in the Thirties. Gramsci sought the explanation by developing a comparison between ‘democratic centralism’ and ‘organic centralism’. One of the most interesting notes in this regard is entitled ‘La battaglia dello Jutland’ (‘The Battle of Jutland’), dating to February 1930. Referring to Winston Churchill’s description of it in his memoirs, Gramsci observes: The English command had “organically” centralized putting into action the plan in the flagship: the fleet’s ships had to “wait for orders” every time. The German command, instead, had explained the general strategic plan to all the subaltern commanders and allowed the individual units that certain freedom of manoeuvre that could be required by circumstances. The German fleet accounted for itself very well. The English fleet on the other hand (…), in spite of its superiority, was unable to attain its positive strategic goals. (Q13§38, pp. 1650–1651)49

The metaphor seems to suggest the idea that the Comintern not only did not work, but could not work in any case because internationalism cannot be expressed through a centralized body. So how should the ‘international perspective’ be understood? Or the ‘international directives’ that define it? We need to turn our gaze towards the concept of ‘democratic centralism’, which in Gramsci’s opinion, … consists in the critical pursuit of what is identical in seeming diversity of form and on the other hand of what is distinct and even opposed in apparent uniformity, in order to organise and interconnect closely that which is similar, but in such a way that the organising and the interconnecting appear to be a practical and “inductive” necessity, experimental,

49 The first draft of this paragraph (Q1§54, p. 67), containing slight variations from the second one here, may be consulted in English in PN Vol. 1, p. 164.

74

G. VACCA

and not the result of a rationalistic, deductive, abstract process. (Q13§36, p. 1635; SPN , pp. 189)

In the international field this formula entails a ‘continuous effort to separate out the “international” and “unitary” element in national and local reality’; and this ‘effort’, concludes Gramsci, ‘is true concrete political action, the sole activity productive of historical progress’ (Q13§36, p. 1635; SPN , pp. 189–190). Can this differentiated and convergent action of the national parties be defined as the concept of ‘internationalism’? Gramsci seems to think not and proposes it be replaced by the concept of cosmopolitanism, as usual taking as his example the Italian situation. In a note entitled ‘The Italian Question’, the first draft of which dates to June 1932, he shows interest in a number of parliamentary speeches by Dino Grandi which had aroused wide discussion in the Italian and international press. Gramsci followed with attention the differentiations surfacing in the fascist polyarchy regarding how to deal with the consequences of the international economic crisis, not excluding that the currents opting for a ‘productivist’ line might prevail and that Mussolini might re-open the problem of agrarian reform and ‘industrial reform’. He thought the Communist Party, albeit reduced to organizational irrelevance since it was a national projection of the Soviet Union, could make its voice heard by supporting the ‘productivist’ line backed by the advocates of ‘integral corporativism’ (Santomassimo 2006; Vacca 2012, Chapter viii). For this reason he dedicated careful consideration to Grandi’s speeches. ‘The Hon. Grandi poses the Italian question as a world question that must of necessity be resolved, together with the others that constitute the political expression of the general post-war crisis, which in 1929 intensified in an almost catastrophic manner’. But the Italian foreign minister was only attempting to obtain international legitimization for the regime’s plans for colonial expansion, justified by the need to solve the problem of overpopulation. Gramsci replied that ‘there is no example, in modern history, of “settler” colonies because colonialism is based on the export of capital’, which is later followed by significant migratory flows; he then added ‘the “natural” relative poverty of individual countries in modern civilization (…) is of relative importance’, while what is important is the ability of the ruling classes to know how to grasp the opportunities offered by the international division of labour (Q19§6, pp. 1989–1991).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

75

This analysis gives rise not only to a productivist strand that could be used in the debate opened up among the currents of fascism and those of Italian economic thought, but also to a reconsideration of internationalism which, though based on ‘the Italian question’, assumed the value of an indication that was valid for the entire communist movement. Indeed Gramsci suggests cosmopolitanism as the true antidote to nationalism, and what is more important, links the national function of the proletariat to this concept. He denies that the Risorgimento ‘of necessity led to nationalism and militaristic imperialism’, recalling that the traditions of the Italian people are cosmopolitan and that Mazzini and Gioberti had even attempted to ‘graft the nationalist myth onto the cosmopolitan tradition (and) create the myth of reborn Italy’s mission within a new European and world Cosmopolis’. But above all to nationalists and fascists he objects that ‘the conditions of a military expansion in the present and the future do not exist and do not appear to be in the process of formation’. ‘Modern expansion is of a financial-capitalist nature’. Then, linking together ‘theory of war’ and the theory of crises, he continues: In present-day Italian “humanity” as an element is either “humanity-ascapital” or “humanity-as-labour”. Italian expansion can only be that of humanity-as-labour (…) Traditional Italian cosmopolitanism has to become a modern type of cosmopolitanism such, that is, as to ensure the best conditions for the development of Italian humanity-as-labour in whatever part of the world it is to be found. (…) One can therefore say that the Italian tradition is carried on in the working people and their intellectuals (…). The Italian people is that people which is “nationally” more interested in a modern form of cosmopolitanism. Not only the worker but the peasant and in particular the southern peasant. (Q19§5, p. 1988; FSPN , p. 253)

Summing up his argumentation, he then suggests an illuminating definition of ‘cosmopolitanism of the modern type’: To collaborate in the economic reconstruction of the world in a unitary fashion is in the tradition of the Italian people and of Italian history, not in order to dominate it hegemonically and appropriate the fruits of other people’s labour for itself, but in order to exist and in fact to develop as the Italian people. (loc. cit.)50 50 The FSPN translation is a very short excerpt from Q19§5, nowhere near Gramsci’s entire paragraph (trans. note).

76

G. VACCA

It is clear to me that this reasoning concerns not only the Italian ‘case’, but also the mission of the modern proletariat. The distance that separates this position from the catastrophic interpretation of the crisis and the bandying of the ‘risk of war’ that characterized the Comintern’s policy is abyssal (cf. Romano 1999; Di Biagio 2004) but we would see as even more important his assertion that ‘modern cosmopolitanism’ consists in the attempt ‘to collaborate in the reconstruction of the world in an economically unitary fashion’. This is the point of arrival of the reflection that began with the World War and sedimented in the analysis of the contradictions between the ‘cosmopolitanism of the economy’ and the ‘nationalism of politics’. It is a point of arrival that redefines the line of action of the workers’ movement because to ‘to collaborate in the reconstruction of the world in an economically unitary fashion’ is an effective response to the crisis of the post-World War I period both from a national point of view, and an international perspective. It is clear why the concept of cosmopolitanism is a better fit than that of internationalism: given the global dimension of the then-contemporary crises and wars, communist internationalism—the only internationalism that had a worldwide network—appeared unable to formulate definite proposals; indeed, it remained caught up in a vision of the inevitability of war, was forced to repeat the ‘Russian experiment’ and—despite the outward show of the ‘voluntarism of the third period’51 —inertly awaiting the recreation of those conditions. It is hardly necessary to underline how this reflection returns to the theme of the relation between the bourgeoisie and cosmopolitanism that we mentioned in the first section when analysing the 1916 article, ‘The Great Illusion’. The fact that Gramsci had finally decided to replace the formula of ‘proletarian internationalism’ with that of a ‘new cosmopolitanism’ would appear to confirm his conviction that globalization of the economy might mark the historical limit of the bourgeoisie. In fact the crisis of the nation-State raises the theme of superseding it: the theme of supranational sovereignty, not of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Returning to the considerations on the interview with Stalin, Gramsci specifies in terms of what, and to what extent, the proletariat must ‘nationalize’ itself:

51 On the politics of the ‘third period’ cf. A. Agosti (1979).

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

77

A class that is international in character (…) has to “nationalise” itself in a certain sense. Moreover, this sense is not a very narrow one either, since before the conditions can be created for an economy that follows a world plan, it is necessary to pass through multiple phases in which the regional combinations (of groups of nations) may be of various kinds. (Q14§68, p.1729; SPN , p. 241)

‘To collaborate in the reconstruction of the world in an economically unitary fashion’ means to participate in global processes with the awareness that such ‘reconstruction’ will only be made possible by creating ‘the conditions for an economy that follows a world plan’; this means by moving to a new system for regulating the world economy. But neither the proletariat nor the bourgeoisie could imagine ‘going it alone’ to achieve such an objective, and just as the life of the State is based on ‘a compromise equilibrium’ between antagonist classes, the same principle had to apply to the world economy. It is therefore realistic to imagine that its globalization could proceed by means of processes of economic regionalization and to believe that the working class should support these. There is today a European cultural consciousness – he writes in March 1931 – and there exists a long list of public statements by intellectuals and politicians who maintain that a European union is necessary. It is fair to say that the course of history is heading toward this union and that there are many material forces that will only be able to develop within this union. If this union were to come into existence in x years, the word “nationalism” will have the same archaeological value as “municipalism” today. (Q6§78, p. 748; PN Vol. 3, p. 61)

It is more than a provisional idea and it lends itself as conclusions to a number of considerations. In January 1918, while Wilson’s League of Nations project was beginning to call for the profound reflection on economic interdependence that we examined at the start of this chapter, Gramsci still appeared to be sceptical and derisive about the United States of Europe because its advocates were not founding the proposal upon a solid economic basis (Gramsci, ‘The League of Nations’).52 In the early Twenties, he had supported with conviction Lenin’s slogan on the ‘United Soviet States of Europe’ because he identified the USSR and the European proletariat as the driving forces behind it (Cf. Paggi 52 On the entire debate in 1918–1919, cf. G. Savant (2008).

78

G. VACCA

1970). With the end of the myth of ‘world revolution’ any Europeanist perspective seemed to have fallen away; instead in the Notebooks it resurfaces, based on an analysis of the processes of integration of the world economy stimulated by ‘Americanism’. I believe it can be said that it was the dialectic between the United States and Europe that drew Gramsci’s attention to the processes of economic regionalization as articulations of the new world economy, of which he was trying to pick up the premonitory signs. Supranational sovereignty is considered a concrete opportunity for overcoming the contradiction between the ‘cosmopolitanism of the economy’ and the ‘nationalism of politics’, and therefore also for resolving the crisis of the State.

References Agosti, A. (1979). La Terza Internazionale. Storia documentaria (Vol. III.i). Roma: Editori Riuniti. Anderson, P. (1976, November–December). The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci. New Left Review I/100, 5–78. Angell, N. (1910). The Great Illusion (original [1909] Europe’s Optical Illusion). London and New York: Putnam’s. Angell, N. (1913). La grande illusione. Studio sulla potenza militare in rapporto alla prosperità delle nazioni (Preface by Arnaldo Cervesato). Bari: Humanitas. Antonini, F. (2018). Gramsci, il materialismo storico e l’antologia russa del 1924. Studi Storici, 59(2), 403–435. Aponte, S. (2010). Il “Corriere” fra Stalin e Trockij 1926–1929 (L. Canfora, Ed.). Milano: Fondazione Corriere della Sera. Aricó, J. (2011). Il ruolo degli intellettuali argentini nella diffusione di Gramsci in America Latina. In Kanoussi et al. (Eds.), Gramsci in America Latina (pp. 93–130). Buci-Glucksmann, C. (1975). Gramsci et l’État. Paris: Fayard; Eng. trans. Gramsci and the State (1980). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Carlucci, A. (2014). Gramsci and Languages. Chicago: Haymarket. Daniele, C. (Ed.). (1999). Gramsci a Roma, Togliatti a Mosca. Il carteggio del 1926. Torino: Einaudi. Di Biagio, A. (2004). Coesistenza e isolazionismo. Mosca, il Comintern e l’Europa di Versailles (1918–1928). Roma: Carocci. Di Biagio, A. (2008). Egemonia leninista, egemonia gramsciana. In F. Giasi (Ed.), Gramsci nel suo tempo (Vol. I, pp. 379–402). Di Biagio, A. (unpublished). L’egemonia leninista. Roma: Fondazione Istituto Gramsci.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

79

Francioni, G. (1984a). Egemonia, società civile, Stato. In G. Francioni, L’Officina Gramsciana (pp. 147–228). Francioni, G. (1984b). L’Officina Gramsciana. Napoli: Bibliopolis. Garin, E. (1997). Con Gramsci (G. Liguori, Ed.). Roma: Editori Riuniti. Giasi, F. (2007, November 29–December 1). Egemonia e direzione politica nella “Quistione meridionale”. Unpublished paper read at the Conference “Gramsci a setenta años de la muerte”, IV Conferencia Internacional de Estudios Gramscianos, México, DF. Giasi, F. (Ed.). (2008). Gramsci nel suo tempo. Annali della Fondazione Istituto Gramsci XVI (2 Vols.). Roma: Carocci. Giasi, F. (Ed.). (2009). Pensare la politica. Scritti per Giuseppe Vacca. Roma: Carocci. Girardon, M. (1916, April 9). Le libertà coloniali dopo la guerra europea. Il Resto del Carlino. Gramsci, A. (1958). Scritti giovanili. Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1971a). La costruzione del partito comunista. Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1971b). Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Q. Hoare & G. Nowell-Smith, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1978a). Selections from Political Writings (1910–1920) (Q. Hoare, Ed. and J. Mathews, Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1978b). Selections from Political Writings (1921–1926) (Q. Hoare, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1980). Cronache torinesi (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1982). La Città futura (1917–18) (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1984). Il nostro Marx 1918–1919 (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1987). L’Ordine Nuovo (1919–1920) (V. Gerratana & A. A. Santucci, Eds.). Torino: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1992–2006). Prison Notebooks (3 Vols., J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans., with A. Callari [Vol. 1]). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994a). Letters from Prison (F. Rosengarten, Ed. and R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994b). Pre-prison Writings (R. Bellamy, Ed.; V. Cox, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gramsci, A. (1995). Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci A. (2007). Quaderni del carcere 1. Quaderni di traduzioni (1929–1932) (2 Vols.), part of the Edizione nazionale degli scritti di Antonio Gramsci (G. Cospito & G. Francioni, Eds.). Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana and Cagliari: Fondazione Banco di Sardegna.

80

G. VACCA

Gramsci, A. (2009). Quaderni del carcere. Edizione anastatica dei manoscritti (18 Vols., G. Francioni, Ed.). Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, in collaboration with L’Unione Sarda, Cagliari. Gramsci, A. (2011). Epistolario 2. gennaio-novembre 1923, part of the Edizione nazionale degli scritti di Antonio Gramsci (C. Daniele, Ed.). Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana and Cagliari: Fondazione Banco di Sardegna. Gramsci, A. (2014). Pre-prison Letters 1908–1926. A Great and Terrible World (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A., & Schucht, T. (1997). Lettere 1926–1935 (A. Natoli & C. Daniele, Eds.). Torino: Einaudi. Gualtieri, R. (2007). Le relazioni internazionali, Marx e la “Filosofia della praxis” in Gramsci. Studi Storici, 48(4), 1009–1058. Kanoussi, D., Schirru, G., & Vacca G. (Eds.). (2011). Gramsci in America Latina. Bologna: Il Mulino. Labriola, A. (2012 [19061 ]). Da un secolo all’altro. 1897–1903 (S. Miccolis & A. Savorelli, Eds.). Napoli: Bibliopolis. Lisa, A. (1971). Memorie. In carcere con Gramsci. Milano: Feltrinelli. Lo Piparo, F. (2012). I due carceri di Gramsci. La prigione fascista e il labirinto comunista. Roma: Donzelli. Losurdo, D. (1997). Antonio Gramsci dal liberalismo al ‘communismo critico’. Roma: Gamberetti. Maitan, L. (Ed.). (1962). L. D. Trockij Scritti 1929–1936. Torino: Einaudi. Marx, K. (1970). A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (S. W. Ryazanskaya, Trans.). In Marx-Engels, Collected Works (Vol. 29). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Paggi, L. (1970). Le strategie del potere in Gramsci. Roma: Editori Riuniti. Paggi, L. (1984). Antonio Gramsci e il moderno Principe. Roma: Editori Riuniti. Pellicani, L. (1977, July–August). Gramsci e il messianismo comunista. In Egemonia e democrazia. Gramsci e la questione comunista nel dibattito di Mondoperaio. Mondoperaio, 30(7). Pons, S. (2008). Il gruppo dirigente del PCI e la “questione russa” (1924–’26). In F. Giasi (Ed.), Gramsci nel suo tempo (pp. 403–429). Pons, S. (2009). Dopo Lenin. Una rilettura del dibattito sul socialismo in un solo paese. In F. Giasi, R. Gualtieri & S. Pons (Eds.), Pensare la politica. Scritti per Giuseppe Vacca. Roma: Carocci. Pons, S. (2012). La rivoluzione globale. Storia del comunismo (1917–1991). Torino: Einaudi. Procacci, G. (1981). La “lotta per la pace” nel socialismo internazionale alla vigilia della seconda guerra mondiale. In Storia del marxismo (Vol. 3, Part 2). Torino: Einaudi.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

81

Ragionieri, E. (1971). Togliatti, Grieco e Di Vittorio alla Commissione italiana del X Plenum dell’Internazionale (with attached minutes). Studi Storici, 12(1), 108–170. Rapone, L. (2007). Antonio Gramsci nella grande guerra. Studi Storici, 48(1), 5–96. Rapone, L. (2011). Cinque anni che paiono secoli. Antonio Gramsci dal socialismo al comunismo. Roma: Carocci. Ricchini, C., Melograni, L., & Santucci, A. A. (Eds.). (1988). L’ultima ricerca di Paolo Spriano. Dagli archivi dell’URSS i documenti segreti sui tentativi di salvare Antonio Gramsci. Roma: L’Unità. Romano, A. (1999). Contadini in uniforme. L’Armata Rossa e la collettivizzazione delle campagne dell’Urss. Firenze: Olschki. Rossi, A., & Vacca, G. (2007). Gramsci tra Mussolini e Stalin. Roma: Fazi. Salvadori, M. L. (1977, July–August). Gramsci e il Pci: due concezioni dell’egemonia. In Egemonia e democrazia. Gramsci e la questione comunista nel dibattito di Mondoperaio. Mondoperaio, 30(7). Santomassimo, G. (2006). La terza via fascista. Il mito del corporativismo. Roma: Carocci. Savant, G. (2008). Gramsci e la Lega delle Nazioni: un dibattito. In F. Giasi (Ed.), Gramsci nel suo tempo (Vol. I, pp. 155–174). Schirru, G. (1999). I ‘Quaderni del carcere’ e il dibattito su lingua e nazionalità nel socialismo internazionale. In G. Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento (Vol. 2, pp. 53–61). Schirru, G. (2007, November 29–December 1). Teoria della traduzione e filosofia della praxis. Unpublished paper read at the Conference “Gramsci a settenta años de la muerte”, IV Conferencia Internacional de Estudios Gramscianos, Universidad autonoma de la Ciudad de México - Fondazione Istituto Gramsci – International Gramsci Society, México, DF. Somai, G. (1979). Gramsci a Vienna. Ricerche e documenti 1922–24. Urbino: Argalia Editore. Somai, G. (1989). Gramsci al Terzo Esecutivo Allargato (1923): i contrasti con l’Internazionale e una relazione inedita sul fascismo. Storia Contemporanea, XX (5), 805–824. Spriano, P. (1967). Storia del Partito comunista italiano I. Da Bordiga a Gramsci. Torino: Einaudi. Sraffa, P. (1991). Lettere a Tania per Gramsci (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Roma: Editori Riuniti. Tamburrano, G. (1963). Antonio Gramsci. La vita, il pensiero, l’azione. Manduria: Lacaita. Tasca, A. (1995). Nascita e avvento del fascismo (S. Soave, S., Ed.). Firenze: La Nuova Italia.

82

G. VACCA

Togliatti, P. (1962). La formazione del gruppo dirigente del PCI . Roma: Editori Riuniti. Togliatti, P. (1994). Sul fascismo. Roma-Bari: Laterza. Trotsky, L. D. (1962 [19311 ]). La chiave della situazione è in Germania. In L. D. Trockij, Scritti 1929–1936 (L. Maitan, Ed., pp. 272–293). Torino: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (1991). I “Quaderni” e la politica del ’900. In id., Gramsci e Togliatti. Roma: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1994). La lezione del fascismo. In P. Togliatti, Sul fascismo. RomaBari: Laterza. Vacca, G. (1999a). Gramsci a Roma, Togliatti a Mosca. Introductory essay in Gramsci a Roma, Togliatti a Mosca (C. Daniele, Ed.). Torino: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (1999b). Gramsci e il Novecento (2 Vols.). Roma: Carocci. Vacca, G. (2012). Vita e Pensieri di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . Torino: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (2014). Togliatti e Gramsci. Raffronti. Pisa: Scuola Normale Superiore.

Newspaper and journal articles and transcripts of speeches by Gramsci (alphabetical order by first keyword, ignoring definite and indefinite articles and prepositions). Original Italian title follows after English title. Where there is an English translation, the source is given after the Italian reference sources Active and Operative Neutrality (Neutralità attiva e operante), Il grido del popolo, 31 October 1914, in Scritti giovanili, 3–7. Against Pessimism (Contro il pessimismo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 March 1924, in CPC, 16–19. The Armistice and Peace (Armistizio e pace), Avanti!, 11 February 1919, in NM , 538–541. The Bourgeois Rout (La disfatta borghese), Avanti!, 19 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 323–324. A Break-Down and a Birth (Vita politica internazionale [i]. Uno sfacelo e una genesi), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 May 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 3–10. The Communist Party (Il partito comunista), L’Ordine Nuovo, 4 September 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 651–661; SPW 1919–1920, 330–339 and PPW , 187–198. The Events of 2–3 December (Gli avvenimenti del 2–3 dicembre), L’Ordine Nuovo, 6–13 December 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 350–357 (written jointly with Palmiro Togliatti). The Factory Worker (La settimana politica [xviii]. L’operaio di fabbrica), L’Ordine Nuovo, 21 February 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 432–435.

1

THE CONCEPT OF HEGEMONY

83

The Great Illusion (La grande illusione), Avanti!, 24 July 1916, in CT , 446– 448. The Italian Crisis (La crisi italiana), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 September 1924 (report to the Central Commttee of the PCI of 13–14 August), in CPC, 28–39; SPW 1921–1926, 255–264. The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the PCI—The “Lyons Theses”, in CPC, pp. 488–513; SPW 1921–1926, 340–375. Italy and the United States (La settimana politica [xi]. Italia e gli Stati Uniti), L’Ordine Nuovo, 8 November 1919 (written jointly with Palmiro Togliatti), in ON 1919–1920, pp. 302–305. The League of Nations (La Lega delle Nazioni), Il grido del popolo, 19 January 1918, in CF , 569–572. The Mezzogiorno and Fascism (Il Mezzogiorno e il fascismo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 March 1924, in CPC, 171–174; PPW , 260–264. National Unity (La settimana politica [viii]. ‘L’unità nazionale’), L’Ordine Nuovo, 4 October 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 230–233. Norman Angell, Il grido del popolo, 23 March 1918, in CF , 773–774. The New Religion of Humanity (La nuova religione dell’umanità), Il grido del popolo, 13 July 1918, in NM , 172–177. The Party’s First Five Years (Cinque anni di vita del partito), L’Unità 14 May 1926, CPC, 89–113; SPW 1921–1926, 379–399. The Peasants and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Notes for Il Mondo) (‘I contadini e la dittatura del proletariat [Noterelle per il Mondo]), L’Unità, 17 September 1926, in CPC, 326–328; SPW 1921–1926, 412–416. The Populars (La settimana politica [x] I Popolari). L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 272–274. The Problem of Power (Il problema del potere), L’Ordine Nuovo, 29 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 338–343. The Programme of L’Ordine Nuovo (Il programma dell’Ordine Nuovo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 14 and 28 August 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 619–628; PPW , 178– 186. Readings (Letture), Il Grido del Popolo, 24 November 1917, in CF , 451–455. Towards a Renewal of the Socialist Party (Per un rinnovamento del partito socialista), L’Ordine Nuovo, 8 May 1920, ON 1919–1920, 510-517; PPW , 155–162, and New Left Review I/51, September–October 1968, 51–56. A Return to Freedom, Avanti!, 26 June 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 105–108. The Revolution Against “Capital” (La rivoluzione contro il “Capitale”), Avanti!, 24 December 1917, in CF , 513–516; SPW 1910–1921, 34–37 and PPW , 39–42. Russia and Europe (La Russia e l’Europa), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 267–271.

84

G. VACCA

Russia, a World Power (La Russia, potenza mondiale), L’Ordine Nuovo, 14 August 1920, ON 1919–1920, 616–618. The Sirens’ Song (‘Il canto delle sirene’), Avanti!, 10 October 1917, in CF , 382–387. The Socialists for Tariff Freedom (I socialisti per la libertà doganale), Il grido del popolo, 20 October 1917, in CF , 402–405. A Socialist Peace Programme? (Programma socialista di pace?) Il grido del popolo, 2 March 1918, in CF , 694–697. Some Aspects of the Southern Question (Alcuni temi della quistione meridionale), CPC, 137–158; SPW 1921–1926, 441–462. The State and Socialism (Lo Stato e il socialismo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 28 June–5 July 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 114–130; PPW , 107–112. A Study of the Italian Situation (Un esame della situazione italiana), in CPC, 113–124; SPW 1921–1926, 400–407 (Part I) and 408–411 (Part II) and PPW , 288–300. The Tasca Report and the Congress of the Turin Chamber of Labour (La relazione Tasca e il congresso camerale di Torino), 5 June 1920 in ON 1919–1920, 538–542; SPW 1919–1920, 255–259. Two Revolutions (Due rivoluzioni), L’Ordine Nuovo, 3 July 1920, in ON 1919– 1920, 569–574; PPW, 168–172; SPW , 305–309, and New Left Review I/51 September/October 1968, 45–48. The Unity of the World (L’unità del mondo), sub-section of Vita politica internazionale [ii] L’unità del mondo, L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 May 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 19–20. The War and the Colonies (La guerra e le colonie), Il grido del popolo, 2 April 1916, in CT , 255–258. In What Direction Is the Soviet Union Developing (In che direzione si sviluppa l’Unione Soviettista), L’Unità, 10 September 1926, in CPC, 319–323. Wilson and the Socialists (Wilson e i socialisti), Il grido del popolo, 12 October 1918, in NM , 313–317. Workers and Peasants, L’Ordine Nuovo, 2 August 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 156– 161; SPW 1910–1920, 83–88. Workers and Peasants (La settimana politica [xv] Operai e contadini), L’Ordine Nuovo, 3 January 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 376–378; SPW 1919–1920, 147– 149.

CHAPTER 2

The Nature of Passive Revolution

To the change in the way in which politics is conceived there corresponds a change in the way history is analysed and in the Notebooks, in order to go beyond a theory of history as the history of class struggles, Gramsci introduces the concept of ‘passive revolution’. This expression occurs for the first time in November 1930, but from the beginning of 1932, as the drafting of the Special Notebooks proceeds, the concept of ‘passive revolution’ can be considered a historiographical paradigm of the theory of hegemony. Before examining its concrete applications, we need to attend to the evolution of the concept as such.

1

Developments of the Concept of ‘Passive Revolution’

The concept appears in paragraph 57 of Notebook 4, entitled ‘Vincenzo Cuoco and the passive revolution’: Vincenzo Cuoco called the revolution that took place in Italy as a repercussion of the Napoleonic wars a passive revolution. The concept of passive revolution, it seems to me, applies not only to Italy but also to those other countries that modernize the State through a series of reforms or national wars without undergoing a political revolution of a radical-Jacobin type. Examine how Cuoco develops the concepts with regard to Italy. (Q4§57, p. 504; PN Vol. 2, p. 232)

© The Author(s) 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7_2

85

86

G. VACCA

Thus initially, the concept concerned only ‘the Age of Restoration’, but it was immediately also applied to the Risorgimento because, for Gramsci, that too is part of the cycle of European national wars which developed as a ‘repercussion of the Napoleonic wars’. In Italy’s case, the concept is closely linked to that of hegemony since, as we have seen, Gramsci believed that the salient feature of the Risorgimento was the Moderates’ ability to exercise lasting and complete leadership over the democrats, limiting their initiative, decapitating them and absorbing their cadres (Q8§36, pp. 862–864; PN Vol. 3, pp. 257–259). It should be noted that already in March–April 1930, when analysing the Age of Restoration, Gramsci had asked himself whether ‘this “model” for the formation of modern states [could] repeat itself” in other conditions. The concept of a ‘passive revolution’ was therefore thought of here to answer a question concerning the relations between the Russian Revolution and Europe. Gramsci’s response was problematic: it ‘can be excluded’ he wrote ‘at least as far as its magnitude and large States are concerned. But the question is of the greatest importance because the French-European model has created a particular mentality’ (Q1§151, p. 134; PN Vol. 1, p. 231).1 Thus we have further confirmation of the fact that, from the start, the research of the Notebooks revolves around pressing questions regarding Soviet Russia and the policy of the international communist movement. It is indispensable to bear in mind the world context of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ to understand its subsequent extensions, since it undergoes an evolution which runs parallel to that of all the research developed in the Notebooks. In fact in February 1933, re-elaborating the note of April 1930, Gramsci answers that same question affirmatively, asserting that the repetition of a process of ‘passive revolution’ such as that of the Age of Restoration cannot be excluded because ‘at least partially there can be similar developments in the form of the appearance of programmed economies’ (Q10II§61, p. 1358; SPN , p. 115, translation modified). In paragraph 25 of Notebook 8, entitled Risorgimento, and datable to January–February 1932, Gramsci compares Cuoco’s formula with Edgar Quinet’s thesis on the ‘equivalence of revolution-restoration in Italian history’ and observes that both

1 This paragraph bears the title ‘The historical relation between the modern French State created by the Revolution and the other modern European States’.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

87

… express the historical fact that popular initiative is missing from the development of Italian history, as well as the fact that “progress” occurs as the reaction of the dominant classes to the sporadic and incoherent rebelliousness of the popular masses – a reaction consisting of “restorations” that agree to some part of the popular demands. (Q8§25, p. 957; PN Vol. 3, p. 252)

Hence ‘“progressive restorations”, or “revolutions-restorations” or even “passive revolutions”’ (loc. cit.) are all possible. The concept assumes a positive character: in the contemporary era, the ‘popular masses’ cannot be ignored, even when they appear to be incapable of ‘historical initiative’, while to conserve power, the ‘dominant classes’ must at least ‘partially’ incorporate their demands. In other words, the dominant classes cannot continue to govern only by preserving what already exists, but must become the promoters of innovation. The contents of this innovation correspond in part to the demands of the ‘popular masses’, and are therefore of a ‘progressive’ nature. But this ‘progressive’ character is provided by the old dominant classes, which thus innovate the form of their domination by modifying the relations between the governors and the governed, which also allows the latter to ‘progress’. While maintaining the original formulation, created to underline absence of initiative of the popular masses in the Risorgimento, the concept thence extends to the historical process of the world, and aims at defining its morphology. But with regard to Italian history, a more perspicuous formulation is achieved in Notebook 15, datable to 1933, where Gramsci mentions as a hypothesis what the Risorgimento might have been, had the Action Party put the agrarian reform at the centre of its programme. In that case, he wrote, ‘the equilibrium which resulted from the convergence of the two men’s activities [of Cavour and of Mazzini] would have been different, (and) the Italian State would have been constituted on a less retrograde and more modern basis’ (Q15§11, p. 1767; SPN , p. 108). It seems clear to me that the evolution of the ‘passive revolution’ concept proceeds hand in hand with that of the concept of ‘hegemony’ and with a definition of the State as the framework of ‘a certain compromise equilibrium’ among classes and social groups (Q13§18, p. 1591 and cf. also Q13§17, p. 1584; SPN , pp. 161 and 182 respectively). Therefore the concept not only acquires a connotation that is shall we say objective, but also a broader general value. Gramsci wrote in 1933 that ‘one may apply to the concept of passive revolution (…) the interpretative criterion of molecular changes which in fact

88

G. VACCA

progressively modify the pre-existing composition of forces, and hence become the matrix of new changes’ (Q15§11, p.1767; SPN , p. 109). Thus formulated, the concept could embrace the entire modern epoch, but to me it seems to correspond specifically to the characterization of the period subsequent to 1870 (Q13§7, pp. 1566–1567; SPN , pp. 242– 243). At the level of world history, Gramsci appears to be referring to the epoch immediately prior and subsequent to World War I, distinguished by increasing interdependence (Q15§59, p. 1824; SPN , p. 106). So between 1930 and 1933 the elaboration of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ receives its maximum extension, and subsequent his historical specifications clearly manifest his intention to use it as an interpretive criterion for post-war world history. The concept must serve to enquire into ‘how within a given political shell, fundamental social relations change, and new effective political forces arise and develop, which, with slow but inexorable pressure, indirectly influence the official forces, which themselves change without or almost without realizing it’ (Q15§56, pp. 1818–1819). It is developed more in-depth in his analysis of the Risorgimento, but Gramsci immediately adds that it is valid as an interpretive criterion ‘of every epoch characterised by complex historical upheavals (…) in the absence of other active elements to a dominant extent’ (Q15§62, p. 1827; SPN , p. 114). It seems clear to me that he is thinking about world history in the Thirties, given that from 1933, he suggests it should be used as the interpretative criterion for Americanism (Q10I [Summary] point 9, p. 1209, and Q10I§9, pp. 1227–1229; FSPN , pp. 338 and 348–350, respectively), fascism and Stalinism (Q13§27, p. 1619; SPN , p. 219). It is not superfluous to recall once again that Gramsci is a ‘political combatant’, not an academic historian, and when he writes about history or historiography, he does so according to a political programme: If writing history means making history of the present, the great book of history is the one which in the present moment helps emerging forces to become more aware of themselves and hence more concretely active and effective. (Q19§5, pp. 1983–1984)

Furthermore, precisely in paragraph 62 of Notebook 15, which summarizes the point of arrival of the development of the passive revolution concept—not by chance the paragraph is entitled ‘Past and present. First epilogue’—he perceives the need to warn the reader: the passive revolution concept contains the ‘danger of historical defeatism, i.e. of

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

89

indifferentism, since the whole way of posing the question may induce a belief in some kind of fatalism, etc. Yet the conception remains a dialectical one—in other words, presupposes, indeed postulates as necessary, a vigorous antithesis which can present intransigently all its potentialities for development’ (Q15§62, p. 1827; SPN , p. 114). Therefore not only is the submission of subaltern classes reversible, but the elaboration of the concept has the aim of increasing their awareness of the reasons for their subjection and preparing their liberation from it. As with the concept of hegemony, we are in the ambit of a revision of Marxism elaborated via a reinterpretation of Marx’s philosophy. Indeed the concept of ‘passive revolution’ is deduced from the 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and while the concept of ‘hegemony’ is linked to the Marxian theory of ideology, that of ‘passive revolution’ arises out of the two other methodological canons contained in this text: The concept of “passive revolution” must be rigorously derived from the two fundamental principles of political science: 1) that no social formation disappears as long as the productive forces which have developed within it still find room for further forward movement; 2) that a society does not set itself tasks for whose solution the necessary conditions have not already been incubated, etc. (Q15§17, p. 1774; SPN , pp. 106–107)

Yet to apprehend the real extent of the innovation introduced with the concept of ‘passive revolution’ we need first of all to compare the analysis of the history of Italy developed in the Notebooks with the outlines contained in Gramsci’s writings prior to his arrest.

2 Gramsci’s Analysis of the History of Italy, from the War to His Arrest Gramsci’s first significant writing regarding the history of Italy is the article ‘The Mezzogiorno and the War’, published on 10 April 1916 in Il Grido del Popolo. ‘The Mezzogiorno’ writes Gramsci ‘does not need special laws or any special treatment. It needs a general policy, both external and internal, inspired by respect of the general needs of the country, and not by particular political or regional tendencies’. So from the outset he frames the ‘southern question as a national question’. Selecting this dualism as the paradigm of Italian history is not the prelude to formulating ‘special’ programmes for the Mezzogiorno, but

90

G. VACCA

defines the historical problem of the Italian nation, which despite becoming a unitary State remains territorially divided into a North and a South. ‘The newly-formed Italy had found in absolutely antithetical conditions the two stumps of the peninsula that were being unified after more than a thousand years’, but after Cavour’s policy was abandoned, both the internal and the external policy of the new State aggravated this dualism: ‘Industrial protectionism raised the cost of living for the Calabrian peasant without agricultural protectionism (…) being capable of re-establishing the equilibrium’, while the colonial wars of the previous thirty years had dissipated the remittances of emigrants, thus aggravating the public debt problem, a historical legacy of unification. The Mezzogiorno was abandoned to great landed estates (latifundia), while industrial development was concentrated in the North thanks to the ‘colossal profits’ of the war industry. To govern Italian dualism, Gramsci concluded, it was necessary first of all to abandon protectionism and secondly, to ‘ensure that the war for so-called political liberty (…), instead of punishing Germany, too strong and too well organized industrially to fear any harm, does not instead strike that part of Italy whose redemption and elevation is always the subject of so much lip service’ (‘The Mezzogiorno and the War’, CT 228–231).2 Consistent with this approach is his characterization of national political forces, both the traditional ones (liberals and socialists), and those that emerged shortly before or immediately after the war (the nationalists and the Popular Party). Let us start with the socialists. The historical function of Italian socialism is described in the article ‘Socialism and Italy’ (CF 350–351), published in Il Grido del Popolo on 22 September 1917. While the liberal ruling class had made the North—South dualism permanent, socialism had been the one unifying force of the nation, above all because of its role in the realm of ideas: Fifty years ago there was no such thing as an ‘Italian people’ – it was just a rhetorical expression. There was no social unity in Italy then; there was only a geographical unity. There were just millions of individuals scattered throughout Italian territory, each leading his own life, each rooted in his

2 More in-depth research is needed on the influence upon this schema of Antonio Labriola’s ‘fourth essay’, Da un secolo all’altro. Considerazioni retrospettive e presagi. Frammento (From One Century to the Next. Retrospective Considerations and Presages. A Fragment ), Labriola (1925, pp. 97–128) and of Labriola’s Storia di dieci anni (1975).

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

91

own soil, knowing nothing of Italy, speaking only his own local dialect, and believing the whole world to be circumscribed by his parish boundary. (…) Italy has become a political unity, because a part of its populace has united around an idea, a single programme. And socialism, socialism alone, was able to provide this idea and this programme. Socialism has meant that a peasant farmer from Puglia and a worker from Biella have come to speak the same language; that, in spite of the distance that separates them, they have come to express themselves in the same way when confronted by the same problem and to arrive at the same judgement of men and events. (‘Socialism and Italy’, CF , pp. 350–351; PPW , pp. 28–29)

The origin of the situation described resides in the fact that the bourgeoisie of the Risorgimento was not an ‘economic class’, as in Great Britain or the United States, but was weak, fragmented and corporativist owing to the ‘retarded’ capitalist development of the country. Whence the authoritarian character of the State and protectionism, the political projection of the ‘corporativism’ of the national bourgeoisie. In two highly important articles of 5 and 21 December 1917, ‘Bourgeois Reformism’ and ‘To Clarify Ideas on Bourgeois Reformism’, Gramsci turned his attention to the Nationalist Party, founded in 1910, suggesting a significant comparison with reformist socialism, since they seemed to be mirror-image manifestations of ‘corporativism’—bourgeois the former and working class the latter—united in their protectionism. But what was novel about the nationalists was that they gave the Italian bourgeoisie a unitary political conscience, in other words, for the first time, a party: ‘The development of nationalism in Italy’ he writes in the first article ‘has marked and continues to mark the rise of the bourgeois class as a combative, conscious body’. Nevertheless … the Italian bourgeoisie, in its development, had just reached the corporativist stage. The nationalists are the paladins of the “rights” of the bourgeois corporations, which they make coincide with the “rights” of the nation, just as many reformists identified a single category of workers with the whole of the proletariat, for whom they tried to obtain benefits. (‘Bourgeois Reformism’, CF , pp. 470–471)

The economic-corporative limit of the bourgeoisie derived from the manner in which the unification process took place:

92

G. VACCA

The split between politics and economics is the greatest cause of the confusion and the corruption of behaviour which have characterized the last fifty years of Italian history. The bourgeoisie has had no backbone, no clear and rectilinear programmes, because it was not a real class of producers, but an assembly of shabby politicians (…) Economic nationalism—Gramsci concludes—thus performs the same function in the bourgeois camp as reformism has performed in the proletarian one. (‘To Clarify Ideas on Bourgeois Reformism’, CF , pp. 481–482)

During the post-war crisis Gramsci’s attention was concentrated on Giolittism and on the eve of the general election of 18 November 1919 he dedicated ferocious articles to Giolitti’s so-called ‘Dronero speech’, concentrating his fire on Giolitti’s justification of the neutralism with which the elderly politician was attempting to legitimize his pursuit of an accord with reformist socialism (‘A Chain of Scoundrels’, and ‘The Defeat’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 242–245 and 250–253, respectively). Then between 5 November and 8 November he wrote four articles for the Piedmont edition of Avanti!, subsequently republished as a single piece in L’Ordine Nuovo entitled ‘Behind Giolitti’s Scenario’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 275–294. In the first two he accuses Giolitti, with his transformism, of having paved the way for interventionist forces and nationalism. Continuing his analysis, he targets the Giolittian ‘system’ (‘Giolittism’), highlighting its anachronism, given that post-war Italy had neither the economic margins nor indeed the international autonomy for reformist experiments. But what attention must be drawn to is his comparison of Giolitti and Cavour—a theme much loved by Giolittian propaganda— because it enables us to begin to bring into focus Gramsci’s thought on the Risorgimento. The first quality that he acknowledged in Cavour was that he was a passionate politician: ‘Cavour’s youth was a passionate youth, so full of idealistic motives as to be comparable without exaggeration to that of his tenacious adversary Giuseppe Mazzini’. The second was his profound knowledge regarding the capitalist development of his time: ‘all political, financial, economic and agricultural issues became material for conscientious, continuous study during his entire lifetime, and the social and political experiences of France and Great Britain found in him a careful and intelligent observer, with the result that he created a truly “cosmopolitan” culture for himself’. The latter combined with passionate intuition: Cavour ‘easily gave into first impressions, he was impulsive (…)

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

93

and his first reactions lingered on, because they gave rise to a whole series of reflections, research, and attempts which subsequently prepared meditated and well-ordered action’. Finally, he underlined the fact that Cavour ‘freely approached parties other than his own, did not retreat from intermediate solutions, nor disdain bargaining with his adversaries, yet in doing this he was never inspired by a generic desire to gag the opposition, to wear it down and to achieve senseless and servile unanimity, quite the opposite. (…) From Cavourian politics the parties exited better defined and more distinct while no politician of the time was thereby belittled’ (‘Behind Giolitti’s Scenario’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 290–291). While the liberals and nationalists are accused of corporativism, the birth of the Italian Popular Party (PPI) was hailed as a great progressive event—as the birth of a ‘national’ party which, flanking the socialists, favoured the development of the democratic nation with a backbone provided by big popular parties. A little after Don Luigi Sturzo’s speech in Milan, which heralded the founding of the PPI,3 Gramsci published a long article in the Piedmont edtion of Avanti! containing one of the most lucid and far-sighted analyses of his ‘early writings’. ‘That the Catholics should constitute a political party’ he writes ‘is the greatest event of Italian history after the Risorgimento’. The arguments underpinning so significant a judgement led to a prediction that the PPI would be able to take the Liberal Party’s place, thus offering the Italian bourgeoisie a modern party of government. In the crisis of the liberal State ‘the cadres of the bourgeois class break formation: domination of the State will be harshly contested, and it cannot be excluded that the catholic party, thanks to its powerful national organization concentrated in a few able hands might achieve a victory in the competition for the lay liberal and conservative strata of the bourgeoisie, who are corrupt, lack bonds of discipline in ideas, lack national unity, and constitute a noisy hornet’s nest of lowlife gangs and private interest cliques’. But even greater attention is deserved by his evaluation of the historical process that led to the founding of the PPI: in Gramsci’s opinion the emergence, with the birth of the unitary State, of the Roman question, had had deleterious consequences:

3 Don Sturzo’s speech on ‘post-war problems’ was made on 17 November of 1918 in Milan. On the process that rapidly led to the foundation of the PPI on 18 January 1919, cf. De Rosa (1977, pp. 191–195).

94

G. VACCA

In the development of the new Italian national State a collaboration from the religious spirit, from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, was absent. Had it been present, it would have been the only one able to come into contact with the innumerable individual consciousnesses of a backward and opaque people, shot through with irrational and capricious drives, absent from any struggle over ideals and economic issues possessing organic characters of permanent necessity. Statesmen were tormented with the worry of devising a compromise with catholicism, of subordinating the still aloof catholic energies to the liberal State, and of obtaining some collaboration in the renewal of the mentality of the Italians and of their unification, of giving rise to or reinforcing national discipline through the religious myth. (The Italian Catholics’, NM , p. 456)

In this way a reciprocal opportunism arose between Church and State where the Liberal Party, with neither the will nor the strength to win direct control over the peasant masses, condemned itself to decomposition into the particularistic ‘gangs’ and ‘interest cliques’ which Gramsci had always denounced. No less important was the fact that the Roman Church, mainly because of the effects of the war, was setting to work on the authorization of a new catholic party. In the long term, secularization had corroded the religious ‘myth’, but in the end, it was the war that disintegrated it. Secularization had given birth to religious Modernism, which the Church had thought itself capable of extirpating via an act of authority. But the catholic world had continued to give modern, economic and associational forms of organization to the rural populations, thus developing a de facto modernism with a much wider and more incisive reach than the intellectual movement that the Church had wiped out. Here, then, in a nutshell is Gramsci’s estimate of the significance of the birth of the catholic party: The religious myth, as the widespread consciousness that informs the activities and organisms of individual and collective life with its values, dissolves – in Italy as elsewhere – and becomes a given political party. It becomes laicized, gives up its universality, in order to become the practical will of a particular stratum of the bourgeoisie which proposes, by conquering State government, not only the preservation of its general class privileges, but also the preservation of the particular privileges of its members. (‘The Italian Catholics’, NM , p. 459)

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

95

Starting with this text, the nucleus of his historical judgement on the Risorgimento comes through as highly articulated: ‘the absence of Jacobinism’ in the bourgeoisie of the Risorgimento period, denounced in the Notebooks, links the unsolved ‘peasant question’ to the unsolved ‘religious question’, the latter being divided in Italy into the ‘catholic question’ and the ‘Vatican question’. At the same time it must be noted that here, as in the Notebooks, although Gramsci exhibits a shrewd perception of the Church’s capabilities to ‘adapt’ to the modern world, for him, revealed religion remains a ‘myth’, destined to be eliminated by the advance of modernity, and the Church remains an anti-modern force.4 With the changing historical and political conjuncture, his opinion about the ‘Popular Party’ underwent variations. Thus, around a year later, when—with the Councils movement—Gramsci appears to be living the ‘actuality’ of a proletarian revolution in Italy and Europe, he published his most famous article on the catholic movement, ‘I popolari’ (1 November 1919), in which he radicalizes the contrast between catholicism and modernity. The article was written on the eve of the general election and was conditioned by the electoral struggle. His historical assessment is based on the same framework as the previous article, but it lacks lucidity, becoming so to speak ‘exasperated’. Gramsci goes so far as to affirm that the foundation of the Popular Party was equivalent to the Lutheran Reform but represented, as did the Socialist Party, just ‘a necessary phase in the process of the Italian proletariat’s development toward communism’: it was, then, a conjunctural, transitory phenomenon. This led him to make two utterly wrong predictions. The first concerns the fate of political Catholicism as such: ‘Democratic Catholicism does what socialism cannot not do: it amalgamates, orders, enlivens and commits suicide’. The second refers to the political phase of the moment and mechanically reflects the experience of the Russian Revolution: ‘The Popular Party is to the socialists as Kerenskij is to Lenin’ (‘The Populars’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 272–274). Gramsci’s analysis resumes a more thoughtful tone a few months later, when he again deals with the Popular Party phenomenon in his reflection on the Italian State and in the article of 11 February 1920, ‘Il potere in Italia’, he predicts that, following the changes generated by the war, which had definitively subjugated industrial 4 Cfr. E. Fattorini (1999), ‘Gramsci e la storia della chiesa novecentesca’, in Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento, pp. 145–156; id. (2008), ‘Gramsci e la questione cattolica’, in Giasi (Ed.), Gramsci nel suo tempo, Vol. I, pp. 361–378.

96

G. VACCA

capitalism to financial capitalism, political Catholicism’s strong presence in the banking system foreshadowed the Popular Party becoming the Italian bourgeoisie’s future party of government (‘Power in Italy’, ON 1919–1920, p. 411). 1919 was also the year of the birth of the National Fascist Party and Gramsci immediately identified its social base as the petty bourgeoisie: ‘The petty and middle bourgeoisie has emerged from the war with its value enhanced. In the war and by means of the war, the capitalist apparatus of economic and political government has become militarized (…) To achieve this monstrous construction the State and the minor capitalist organizations mobilized the petty and middle bourgeoisie’ entrusting them with ‘the government of masses of men, in the factories, cities, barracks, in the trenches at the front’ without their having matured the technical and moral capabilities. After the war, these petty bourgeois masses had no intention of returning to their previous life, nor did they wish to renounce the economic and status privileges they had acquired undeservedly. ‘They wish to continue to govern the masses of men’ and, identifying the impetuous growth of the Socialist Party as the main obstacle to their ambitions, they turned their violence against the proletariat: ‘they are organizng pogroms against the proletarians, against the socialists, they are maintaining a regime of terror in the squares and the streets’ (‘The Events of 2–3 December’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 351–352).5 Alongside the analysis of the political forces he continued his in-depth study of the structure of society and the State. Thus, returning to a Southernist approach to the history of Italy, in the article ‘Operai e contadini’ (‘Workers and Peasants’) of 3 January 1920 he formulates two fundamental theses: the idea that ‘the Northern bourgeoisie subjugated southern Italy and the islands [reducing them] to exploitation colonies’; and the idea, based on the example of the October Revolution, of an alliance between workers and peasants as the pressure lever for a revolutionary solution of the question (‘Workers and Peasants’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 377–378; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 147–149). It should be remembered that in this first reception of the ‘Russian experiment’, the sole protagonist of the solution of the problem is the Northern proletariat and the expectation is that of its ‘dictatorship’. 5 The article analyses popular reaction to the monarchist nationalist paramilitary squads against the socialist deputies who at the inaugural sitting of the 25th legislature had demonstrated against the monarchy.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

97

Another important theme is the relation between city and countryside in the formation of the unitary State. In the article ‘La funzione storica delle città’, of 17 January 1920, there is in fact a first examination of the driving forces behind the Risorgimento and the complementary leading role of Lombardy and Piedmont (‘The Historical Role of the Cities’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 386–390; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 150–153 and PPW , pp. 36–140). The analysis is strongly conditioned by his vision of the Italian revolution as a proletarian revolution, but when the polemic with Filippo Turati about comparing Parliamentarianism with the regime of the Soviets6 exploded, Gramsci immediately delved deeper in his analysis of the unitary State, attributing its classist character to the enormous imbalances between industry and agriculture at the moment of unification (‘The Italian State’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 403–408; PPW , pp. 141–145). Into this schema he inserts his judgement on the role of the Savoyard monarchy, which with its conquest of Italy had extended to the new State its traditional vision of power as ‘dynastic conquest’ (‘On the Centenary of a King’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 461–463); but the first elements of his subsequent vision of the Risorgimento as an exemplary case of a ‘passive revolution’ also appear: The people remained a passive, almost inert spectator, cheered Garibaldi, did not understand Cavour, waited for the King to solve its problem, the problem that beset them directly, that is the problem of poverty and economic and feudal oppression. (…) The new kingdom arose from the meeting of a dynastic interest with the interest of a shopkeeper class (…) Unity, which was claimed to have been resolved, was negated in its premises and was to be constantly contradicted in practice. (…) The economic activity of the Northern bourgeoisie was put in order organically and systematically, and even the exploitation of the other parts of Italy took on a systematic and organic form. (…) The crowning point of this work was the protectionist tariff barrier which split the country in two parts. (…) The people, the people who had believed and the people who had remained a spectator, rebelled, and their rebellion, called brigandage while in fact it was civil war, was cursed and fought in the name of unity and the monarchical principle. (‘Monarchical Tradition’, ON 1919–1920, p. 465)

6 Turati, commenting on a letter by Arturo Labriola in Critica Sociale of 16–31 January 1919, had asserted that the Italian parliamentary State was ‘to the republic of the Soviets as was the city to the barbaric hordes’.

98

G. VACCA

For ease of exposition we have left to one side the subject of foreign policy; yet it is perhaps more important than domestic policy because it is inscribed within a vision of world history that is inspired, as we have already seen (Chapter 1), by the global interdependence paradigm. The conditionalities of the international context become ever more binding for the life of nations and, qualitatively if not quantitatively, foreign policy assumed a preponderant role in the analysis of the history of Italy. Between 1919 and 1920 foreign policy was a crucial theme and first of all, Gramsci turns his attention to the international changes due to the war. We have already examined the question of the crises of national sovereignty generated by the formation of the Anglo-American ‘bloc’ and the consequences for Italy of the strangling of Germany. The other problems that Gramsci addressed in L’Ordine Nuovo concern the Balkan policy and relations with Russia, protesting against the nationalistic foreign policy of the senior ministers Sidney Sonnino and Vittorio Emanuele Orlando. The Balkan projection of Italy’s foreign policy was inspired by the ideas of Mazzini: equal international dignity, liberty, independence and solidarity among all European nations. But it was also justified by the economic needs of the country and the legitimate objective of exerting an equilibrating function in the ‘Europe of nations’. The project for a Danubian customs union, supported by France in an anti-German perspective and opposed by Italy for equally nationalistic reasons, provided him with the opportunity for the sarcastic article of 18 May 1920, ‘Pietà per i venturi nipoti’, Gramsci’s criticism is ferocious because, with the aim of exerting ‘imperialist’ influence in the Danubian and Balkan area, Orlando’s government had increased the isolation of Italy enshrined in the Treaty of Versailles. Gramsci observes that by ‘opposing the aspirations of the Danubian peoples to join in a customs union, opposing the national resurgence of Yugoslavia and Greece, Italy has come to find itself completely isolated in the Mediterranean area’, while it should have been making itself the paladin of the rights of the minor nationalities (‘Pity on the Grandchildren of the Future’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 28–30). The problem of relations with Russia was more complex. In this case his target was the Orlando government’s adhesion to the coalition formed by Great Britain, France, the United States and Japan to suffocate the republic of the soviets. In June 1919, Orlando had supported recognition of the counter-revolutionary government of Admiral Kolˇcak. Gramsci criticized this decision harshly not only for the ideology underlying it but because it ran counter to the geostrategic interests of Italy:

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

99

It would be in Italy’s vital interest for the Russian government of the soviets to be consolidated, for the Red Army to demobilize and return to the work of the fields and factories, for Russia’s grain harvest to reach the Black Sea and be sold, for the Donbass mineral and coal fields to be repopulated afresh with workers and for the possibility of raw materials to be sold in order to reactivate our industries. (‘Kolˇcak and Orlando’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 95–96)

The problem of relations between Italy and Russia is less about the Republic of the soviets and more about Russia as a great power, and can be inscribed within a highly significant vision of relations between Russia and Europe. Gramsci casts his gaze over the last two centuries and develops a geopolitical argument centring on two categories—land and sea. Joining the debate of the time, he sides with those who criticize the supremacy of the powers that dominate the seas. Here we find the first elements of the notion of ‘great power’ which, as we have seen, was to be the basis of his concept of international hegemony; in addition, he asserts that despite British ‘thalassocracy’, its maritime supremacy, Russia has been the decisive power for European equilibria since the time of Peter the Great. Peter had moved ‘the political axis of the North, by shifting primacy over that northern Mediterranean which is the Baltic Sea, from the Vasa ships of Sweden to the Romanovs of Russia’. Then, by opposing Islamic power in the eastern Mediterranean, ‘and in the regions of the major European rivers’ he had made Russia the dominant economic and political power of ‘this new line of force, which extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea’. Gramsci defines this as the ‘the line of internal seas, which are indeed the vital lungs of the continent’. Since then, Europe had been dominated ‘by the political and economic activity of the new social body of modern Russia, and therefore the entire European political and economic set-up had not ceased (…) to feel the influence of this formidable new power, which acted and exerted pressure from the east’. The validity of this analysis is proven by the decisive events of European history, from the Seven Years’ War to the Napoleonic wars, at the conclusion of which Russia had been the true arbiter of European equilibria. But if we look closer, Gramsci continues, this had also happened in the Great War, since Russia’s function had been decisive both at its beginning (‘without the Russian alliance, Great Britain would never have undertaken the struggle’ against Germany), and at its end, since ‘only the Russian collapse determined America’s effective and positive

100

G. VACCA

intervention. And when the armed conflict was over, the Russian Revolution took the place of the war as the decisive element in the present European situation’. He concludes his analysis with the hypothesis that the ‘Russian experiment’ might give rise to a historical cycle in Europe comparable with the Age of Restoration. Observing the influence of the Russian Revolution on the ‘proletariat of the Two Worlds’ and on European public spirit, Gramsci wrote: ‘Something similar took place in the spirits of the European middle and cultured classes in reaction to the events of revolutionary France, which marked the third estate’s attack on the privileged orders and monarchical absolutism’ (‘Russia and Europe’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 267–271). ∗ ∗ ∗ On 24 December 1920, the weekly Ordine Nuovo ceased publication. The Turin edition of Avanti! inherited its masthead and Gramsci took over as the editor of the new daily newspaper. From 1 January 1921, when the paper started publishing, until his move to Moscow, the main theme to which he devoted his attention was the analysis of fascism. These writings have the merit of framing within a historical perspective a new political phenomenon which during 1921, the year when the forces supporting fascism’s taking of power coalesced, was proceeding in an uncertain and febrile manner. These are real-time analyses, and we limit ourselves to mentioning the elements that were destined to subsequent development, but also underwent significant corrections. The focus on fascism stabilized, in reality, at the end of 1920 and the analysis of the new ‘political phenomenon’ was immediately grafted onto the analysis of post-unitary Italy. In the article ‘Cos’è la reazione?’ of 24 November, fascism is considered a political movement which was attempting to make the permanent use of squadrist violence ‘legal’ and ‘stable’, with the aim of disorganizing and subjugating the proletariat. But even more significant is his opinion that fascism was grafting itself onto the history of the unitary State in order to ‘restore’ its character of violent and brutal ‘class dictatorship’, together with the ‘reactionary’ character it had assumed ‘ever since the Italian government, after abandoning the free trade programme of Cavour and of the old Right, [had] become protectionist and “reformist”’, i.e. a direct expression of the capitalist bourgeoisie which had been unable to ‘dominate the productive forces’ of the country. Thus his portrayal of ‘Giolittism’ as a more perfected form

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

101

of ‘transformism’ and ‘protectionism’ became more radical, with Giolitti judged to be ‘the typical exponent of Italian reaction’. No less important was the consideration that fascism was not only an Italian phenomenon but represented an international tendency created by the fact that capitalism was no longer able to control productive forces at the world level. Gramsci, all things considered, extracts from these phenomena an explanation for the benevolence and open support of the State (magistracy, army, police and bureaucracy) vis-à-vis the systematic use of squadrist violence, such that the ‘armed militia’ becomes an ineliminable element of fascism (‘What Is Reaction?’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 765–767). But this also explains why Giolitti, instead of combating fascism, attempted to tame it in order to bring the situation within the framework of the old liberal order. The result was the cooperation of different forces in disintegrating the State (‘The Force of the State’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 776–779).7 In analysing this process Gramsci looked for a structural explanation of the fact, already mentioned, that the social base of fascism was the petty bourgeoisie, and identified it in the loss of the petty bourgeoisie’s productive functions and its bureaucratization, as from the last decade of the 1800s. Thus within the social polarization that had developed after the war the petty bourgeoisie was ‘attempting in all ways to conserve a position of historical initiative’ by a ‘monkey-like imitation’ of the working class; but the only role that it was offered was that of providing an armed organization of a ‘private’ nature to defend agrarian, financial and industrial capitalism. The fascist movement was thus a reaction against the proletarian revolution, having deep roots in interventionism. In fact interventionism had been the first manifestation of petty bourgeoisie’s illusion of gaining a role of its own by ‘killing off’ the class struggle, dividing the working class from the peasantry and replacing the ‘socialist idea (…) with a strange and weird ideological mixture of nationalist imperialism, “true revolutionism” and “national syndicalism”’. Yet delegating fascism to defend the capitalist classes made the crisis of the State unsolvable and the political framework permanently unstable (‘The Monkey-People’, SF , pp. 9–12).8 Comparison with the nascent fascism in Spain anticipates the thesis that this form of reaction involves the ‘peripheral’ countries of 7 In this article Gramsci draws attention to the role of D’Annunzio, Giolitti and naturally of fascism. 8 Gramsci, ‘Il popolo delle scimmie’. The title is a reference to the monkey people (‘Bandar-log’) of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, one of his favourite authors.

102

G. VACCA

European capitalism (‘Italy and Spain’, SF , pp. 101–103). In addition, Gramsci interprets the first manifestations of ‘rassismo’9 as proof that fascism itself could not be stabilized (‘Elemental Forces’, SF , pp. 150– 151). This theme is investigated more deeply in the article ‘I due fascismi’, which analyses the dualism between rural and urban fascism, which had burst upon the scene after Mussolini had shown willingness to collaborate with the Bonomi government; the perception that agrarian capitalism could not renounce squadrist violence induced Gramsci erroneously to predict that the fascist party was destined to split (‘Two Fascisms’, SF , pp. 297–299; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 63–65). Consequently he underestimated Mussolini’s role, considering him an epiphenomenon (‘a will o’ the wisp’) of fascism rather its midwife (‘Reactionary Subversiveness’, SF , pp. 204–206; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 46–47; and ‘Between Reality and Arbitrariness’, SF , pp. 300–302). Finally, underlining agrarian capitalism’s domination of finance, he considered rural fascism to be hegemonic, maintaining that this is fascism’s true nucleus. Fascism is thus characterized as an ‘agrarian reaction’ and its need to destroy the legality of the liberal State leads him to an early identification of its totalitarian vocation. His analysis is however dynamic, just as the progress of fascism is fluid within the changing political conjuncture and Mussolini’s manoeuvring. His tendential equating of fascism with capitalism does not prevent Gramsci from predicting the sweeping defeat of the Popular Party and the Giolitti government (‘Legality’, SF , pp. 304–307; ‘The Agrarian Struggle in Italy’, SF , pp. 311–313; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 66–67). The next month, in an article ‘Parties and Masses’ of 25 September 1921, he analyses the ‘constitutional crisis’ of the Socialist Party; the dynamics of the political struggle in the preceding three-year period; the orientations of the petty bourgeoisie, distributed within all the fundamental political forces; and attributes importance to the defeat of the Councils movement, underlining that it had accelerated the gathering of petty bourgeois ‘officialdom’ under the command of military power. He goes on to provide an initial outline of the post-war crisis, later to be developed in the Notebooks as a crisis of the hegemony of the ruling classes,

9 The system of leadership of local fascist squads by a ‘ras’, a word used in Italian from around the time of Menelik II’s anti-imperialist victory, and borrowed from the Ethiopian title for a leader or dignitary.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

103

i.e. an ‘organic crisis’ (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1613; SPN , pp. 210–218 [last part on pp. 167–168]).10 Politically, the broad masses only exist insofar as they are organized within political parties. The changes of opinion which occur among the masses under pressure from the determinant economic forces are interpreted by the parties, which first split into tendencies and then into a multiplicity of new organic parties. Through this process of disarticulation, neo-association, and fusion of homogeneous entities, a more profound and intimate process of decomposition of democratic society is revealed. This leads to a definitive alignment of classes in conflict for the preservation or conquest of State power and power over the productive apparatus. (‘Parties and Masses’, SF , p. 353; SPW 1921–1926, p. 71)

This initial period of the analysis of fascism concludes with the article published in La Correspondance Internationale on 20 November 1922, when Gramsci had already been in Moscow for six months, in which he comments on the success of the March on Rome. The principal causes of the advent of fascism are identified in the fusion between industrial capitalism and agrarian squadrist violence, and in the manner in which the army was demobilized by Bonomi, who channelled the entire officer class, discharged with four-fifths of their salaries, towards squadrist organizations. Fundamental events are the birth of the Confindustria (General Confederation of Italian Industry) in March 1920, in reaction to the occupation of factories and to prevent agrarian capitalism from gaining the upper hand; the return of Giolitti and the formation of a new bloc between industrial and agrarian capitalism, guaranteed by a reprise of a policy of compromise with the ‘working-class aristocracies’ alongside the legitimization of fascist violence (cf. reprint ‘The Mussolini Government’, International Gramsci Journal, 1(3), 2011, p. 30).11

10 Gramsci gave this paragraph the title ‘Osservazioni su alcuni aspetti della struttura dei partiti politici nei periodi di crisi organica’ (‘Observations on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis’). 11 The original English translation is in International Press Correspondence (Inprecorr)

3(102), 1922: 824 (now republished online as indicated in the text). The Italian version referred to is a retranslation into Italian from the French (La Correspondance Internationale, 20 November 1922) as ‘Le origini del gabinetto Mussolini’, SF , pp. 528–30. There is also an English translation from the Italian, in turn retranslated from the French, under the title ‘Origins of the Mussolini Cabinet’, SPW 1921–1926, pp. 129–131.

104

G. VACCA

∗ ∗ ∗ Gramsci returned to the analysis of fascism on the eve of his move to Vienna, in the article ‘Il nostro indirizzo sindacale’ where he focuses on a further basic element of his approach to fascism: the recognition that fascism, while violently suppressing organizations that embody the working class’s political and trade-union autonomy, within firms had however allowed some of its representational interests to survive, with the clear aim of incorporating them into the corporativist State (‘Our Trade-Union Orientation’, CPC 1923–1926, pp. 3–7). But even more significant seems the correction of a number of earlier opinions about the responsibility of liberal forces for the coming to power of fascism and about Mussolini’s political capabilities. Gramsci shifts the burden of responsibility to the House of Savoy, and to socialist reformism, because of its subalternity to the industrial bourgeoisie. Instead, he acknowledges both in Bonomi, and in Nitti and Giolitti an authentic will to combat fascism: in particular he acknowledges that Giolitti’s government had an ‘antifascist’ inspiration that was thwarted by the Confindustria and the Crown (‘Parlamentarismo e fascismo in Italia’, La Correspondance Internationale, 23 December 1923, in CPC, pp. 517–520).12 During 1924 Gramsci followed the evolution of fascism and the attitude of social and political forces towards it. In an article of his on 3 January, he analyses fascism’s failures up to that point in its attempt to incorporate the industrial proletariat within fascist union organizations, at the same time as underlining the importance of this attempt at incorporation of the proletariat within its own organizations after having destroyed those of the socialists (‘Fascism: A Letter from Italy’, CPC, pp. 520– 522; International Gramsci Journal, 1(3), p. 31). Two months later, in the letter of 1 March to Scoccimarro and Togliatti he draws attention to the ‘bourgeois forces which are not letting themselves be “occupied”’ by fascism, in part a reflection of the international situation, and underlines the position of La Stampa, which was continuing to support a Giolittian stance, and that of the Corriere della Sera, oriented towards Nitti (Gramsci 1992, pp. 257–258; GTW , pp. 240–241). In these attitudes

12 The CPC version is retranslated from the French text published in La Correspondance Internationale on 28 December 1923; English volumes of International Press Correspondence are incomplete and this article is unfortunately missing from those we have been able to consult in specialist libraries.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

105

he perceives fascism’s difficulty in uniting the whole of the bourgeoisie around itself by the use of violence and coercion (‘The Elections’, CPC, pp. 162–165). He is particularly attentive to detecting the new power system’s polyarchic structure and to tracking its dynamics. He calls attention to the Vatican of Pius XI: ‘Fascism, before attempting its coup d’état had to come to an agreement with it’ but ‘it is said that the Vatican, though highly interested in fascism’s taking power, sold at a high price’ its support, and as an example cites the rescue of the Banco di Roma (‘Il Vaticano’, CPC, pp. 523–525).13 In Bonomi’s return to the fray, in Turati’s rapprochement with Bonomi, and in the support given them by the press ahead of the election, he sees the persistence of a significant distinction among the forces gathered around the military General Staff, and fascism (‘Bonomi and His Friends’, L’Ordine Nuovo, March 1924, CPC, pp. 169–171). In an article of 15 March 1924, ‘Il Mezzogiorno e il fascismo’, which we have already analysed (Chapter 1), he points out that La Stampa and the Corriere della Sera ‘have not allowed themselves to be occupied’ by fascism because they represent ‘three categories of national “institutions”: the ‘general staff of the army, the banks (or rather the bank – the Banca Commerciale, which exercises an uncontested monopoly), and the General Confederation of Industry’ (‘The Mezzogiorno and Fascism’, L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 March 1924; CPC, p. 172; PPW , p. 261). On 17 April, commenting on the results of the election, he realizes that Mussolini’s victory ‘will have many very notable consequences. The new Chamber will assume a true and proper character of a fascist Constituent Assembly, but this means it will legalize Fascism by reforming the National Constitution and by formally abolishing the democratic liberties’ (‘The Results of the Elections in Italy’, International Gramsci Journal, 1(3), p. 34).14 Finally having been elected

13 Gramsci’s article ‘The Vatican’, published in March 1924 is missing from the collections of International Press Correspondence that we have been able to consult. 14 The original English translation, the extract of which is reproduced here verbatim was first published in International Press Correspondence, 4(25), p. 231 and is somewhat different from the retranslation from the French of La Correspondance Internationale, which reads: ‘The new Chamber will seek to assume the nature of a Constituent Assembly, to create a fascist legality, to abrogate the Statute and the democratic liberties’. Variations in translation and editorial freedom in this journal lead to different versions of the same original text transmitted for publication. The ‘Statute’ referred to by Gramsci is the one granted in 1848 by Carlo Alberto of Savoy, king of Sardinia, which then became the National Constitution when the unified Kingdom of Italy came into being in 1861.

106

G. VACCA

a deputy for the Veneto constituency, he returned to Italy and set in motion the task of giving the party a new orientation and a new majority. On 10 June, the assassination of Matteotti initiated fascism’s worst crisis and Gramsci, formally party secretary from that Summer, faced his first and greatest political challenge as leader. Spurred on by the developments in the Matteotti crisis, he began to systematize his reflection on fascism and Italian history. Analysing a rapid surge of antifascist sentiment in public opinion, he identified the cause of fascism’s permanent instability in the fact that the petty bourgeoisie fluctuated between the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but at the same time he underlined the fact that the crisis of fascism could not lead to a lasting democratic solution because, through its creation of the Voluntary Militia for National Security (MVSN), fascism had definitively characterized itself as a state organization ‘of armed forces operating directly on behalf of the capitalist plutocracy and the landowners’ (‘The Crisis of the Petty Bourgeoisie’, CPC, p. 27). As the Matteotti crisis progressed, the instability became a crisis of fascism because ‘it has not merely failed to halt, but has actually helped to accelerate the crisis of the middle classes initiated after the War’ and in Italy, given the ‘scanty development of industry’ and its ‘regional’ character, ‘not only is the petty bourgeoisie very numerous, but it is also the only class which is “territorially” national’ (‘The Italian Crisis’, CPC, p. 29; SPW 1920–1926, p. 256). Yet from Mussolini’s capacity to resist the Aventine opposition Gramsci also deduced the PNF’s tendency to emancipate itself from its dependence on big capital and to act according to a logic of its own, with the sole aim of maintaining its hold on power through the force of arms (‘The Fall of Fascism’, CPC, pp. 208–210; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 273–275). After Mussolini’s speech in parliament of 3 January 1925,15 Gramsci analysed the proposals for the new electoral law, hypothesizing that Mussolini aimed to transform the National Fascist Party (PNF) into a big conservative party so as to strengthen relations with the industrialists, and free himself from being conditioned by the squadrismo movement. Almost all the elements of Gramsci’s analysis

15 A speech in which Mussolini, assumed ‘political, moral and historical responsibility’ for the climate in which the secretary of the reformist socialist party, Giacomo Matteotti, had been assassinated in June of the previous year. That month, the majority of opposition deputies withdrew from parliamentary work in protest, forming the ‘Aventine opposition’ referred to in the text.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

107

of fascism that he developed after his return to Italy were initially systematized in the sole speech he made in the Chamber of Deputies (16 May 1925), in which he linked the crisis of the middle classes to the phases that international capitalism was going through. The crisis was characterized by a deepening of the ‘general crisis of capitalism’ and harshened stabilization policies. In Italy, as in Great Britain with the Conservative government and in Germany with the Hindenburg presidency, the equilibrium among the forces then in power shifted to favour agrarian reaction while the middle classes were affected ever more seriously. This situation favoured the authoritarian turn of European political regimes and Gramsci interpreted the draft bill on dissolving secret associations as proof that the more fascism consolidated its power, the more it would incorporate freemasonry within its ranks; therefore the law’s real function was to dissolve workers’ organizations (‘Origins and Aims of the Law on Secret Associations’, CPC, pp. 75–84; Cultural Studies, 2007, 21(4/5), 779– 795). Over the years he had accumulated analytical elements that enabled the identification of fascism’s tendency to transform itself into a regime. Thus, in an article in L’Unità on 24 November 1925, he summed up the evidence and delineated the salient features of a vision of the PNF that communist tradition would sculpt into the formula of ‘a new type of party of the bourgeoisie’, indicating in the creation of the corporativist State the means for organizing and controlling the masses: Fascism continues with ever greater determination to carry through its plan of organic unification of all the forces of the bourgeoisie under the control of a single centre (leadership of the Fascist Party, Grand Council and government), and has achieved results in this sense which cannot be doubted. (…) In the economic field, the plan of unification and centralization is being accomplished through a series of measures which aim to guarantee the unchallengeable supremacy of an industrial and land-owning oligarchy, ensuring its control over the whole economy of the country (restoration of the duty on grain; unification of banking; changes in mercantile law; agreements for payment of debts to America, etc.). The second aspect of fascist policy concerns the repression that is exercised upon the workers, in order to prevent any kind of organization of their forces and to exclude them systematically and permanently from any participation in political life. (‘Elements of the Situation’, CPC, pp. 86; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 306–307)

In this regard Gramsci cites the law on trade unions, the law on associations, at this point already approved by the Senate, the introduction of the

108

G. VACCA

podestà 16 in rural communes, together with the designation of ‘municipal consultative bodies’ by the corporations and the exclusion of ‘subversives’ from municipal councils in cities (loc. cit.). His interpretation, matured over a decade, of the history of Italy from unification to fascism is then summed up in the congress document of the new majority entitled ‘La situazione italiana e i compiti del PCI’ (‘The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the PCI’), drafted with Togliatti in August 1925 (known as the Lyon Theses). Since this is a political document, the analysis is highly simplified, and its salient points are a Southernist approach and the place of fascism in Italian history. The key word is ‘compromise’. Unification of the country had resulted not in a capitalist development that physiologically required the creation of a national market, but in Piedmont’s ability to exploit ‘factors of international politics (so-called Risorgimento)’ (SPW 1921–1926, p. 344). As a consequence, the ‘structure of Italian society’ arose out of an initial compromise between the industrialists of the North and the great landowners of the Mezzogiorno, and was conditioned by the appropriate economic policy, i.e. protectionism. The only resource the country had at its disposal in abundance was its agricultural population. Protectionism aimed to exploit it by going to extremes, but this hindered the spread of industrial development, blocked the Mezzogiorno’s development and made permanent the problem of the budget deficit inherited from the creation of the unitary State. The North–South dualism thus became permanent and the Mezzogiorno assumed the role of an internal ‘colony’. This made the country’s unity intrinsically precarious and weakened its international standing. The industrialist-landowner ‘compromise’ was of a corporativist character, and acted first for one and then for the other on the basis of the relative predominance of either industrial or financial capitalism, but never in the interests of the country. Further, since industry and agriculture were not in competition with each other, there was also little chance of any turnover in the ruling classes. However the principal weakness of the unitary State stemmed from the dominant classes’ need to prevent permanently any autonomous organization of the working classes, which imbued the State with a marked authoritarian character. This happened above all during the Crispi decade, during which ‘the bourgeoisie boldly tackled the problem of organizing its own dictatorship,

16 The person nominated to substitute the democratically elected council.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

109

and resolved it through a series of political and economic measures which determined the subsequent history of Italy’. The beginning of a colonialist foreign policy which strengthened the protectionist compromise between industrialists and landowners, offered the prospect of externalizing development problems, and restricted ‘the right to vote, so reducing the electorate to little more than one million voters out of a population of 30 million’ (‘The Italian Situation’, CPC, p. 493; SPW 1921–1926, p. 347). The Vatican’s opposition and its ideological control over the peasant masses were a fundamental factor in the weakness of the State. Crispi’s policy ‘prised away’ from the Vatican one part of the forces that ‘it had gathered around itself, especially the landowners in the Mezzogiorno’. The competition that ensued induced the Church to modernize17 and the liberal ruling classes to react by ‘giving themselves a unitary organization with an anticlerical programme, in the form of freemasonry’ (loc. cit.). It was a decade of development, in which for the first time the ‘Southern question’ gave rise to an explosive manifestation in the ‘Fasci siciliani’ episode.18 Capitalist development and the pressure of the masses (the PSI was founded in 1892 and the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro [CGdL] shortly afterwards) assisted Giolittian ‘reformism’ which however did not solve, indeed worsened the country’s structural problems—North–South dualism and the lack of mass bases for the State. Industrial and agrarian concentration sparked a huge growth of the agricultural proletariat and the development of socialism alarmed the Vatican which, in order ‘not to lose control of the masses’, founded Catholic Action, abolished the non expedit 19 and supported the Gentiloni pact, i.e. an agreement with the liberal ruling classes. This system of compromises and equilibria was overturned by the war, which generated ‘the greatest economic concentration in the industrial field’ (‘The Italian Situation’, cit., CPC, p. 494; SPW 1921–1926, p. 348) and a new subjectivity of the masses. The awakening of the peasant masses 17 An obvious reference to the Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891. 18 The ‘Fasci siciliani di lavoratori’ were Sicilian workers’ organizations that came into

being on a democratic, libertarian and socialist basis mainly among the urban, rural and sulphur-mining proletariat in the early 1890s. 19 The Vatican, refusing to recognize the unitary Italian State, decreed that it was ‘not expeditious’ for catholics to vote in national political elections; the ban did not however extend to local elections.

110

G. VACCA

convinced the Vatican to authorize the birth of the PPI. The situation seemed to favour a ‘reformist’ solution to the post-war crisis. But in a poor and disunited country like Italy, the appearance of a “reformist” solution to the problem of the State inevitably provokes a disintegration of the cohesion of State and society; for this cannot resist the shock of the numerous groups into which the ruling classes themselves and the intermediate classes fragment. (‘The Italian Situation’, CPC, pp. 494–495; SPW 1921–1926, p. 349)

In this situation the defeat of the Factory Councils movement in 1919– 1920 favoured the coming of fascism: The victory of fascism in 1922 must be seen, therefore, not as a victory won over the revolution, but as a consequence of the defeat suffered by the revolutionary forces through their own intrinsic weakness. (‘The Italian Situation’, cit., CPC, p. 495; SPW 1921–1926, p. 349)

Fascism ‘fitted into the framework of traditional Italian ruling-class polices’, but ‘the fact that it found an ideological and organizational unity in the military formations in which wartime tradition lives again (arditismo)’ (…) has allowed fascism to conceive and carry out a plan of conquest of the State, against the old ruling strata’. ‘The new categories which are regrouped around fascism however [petty bourgeoisie and the agrarian capitalism of the post-war Po Valley] derive from their origin a homogeneity and a common mentality of “nascent capitalism”’, and this explains fascism’s antiliberal ideology and the replacement of the old tactic of equilibria and compromises by the ‘project of realizing an organic unity of all the bourgeoisie’s forces’ (‘The Italian Situation’, CPC, p. 495; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 349–350). Yet this aggravated the country’s division, highlighted also by the suppression of the Southern banks, and generated potential opposition to fascism of the entire Mezzogiorno. Finally, All the ideological propaganda and the political and economic activity of fascism are crowned by its tendency to “imperialism”. This tendency expresses the need felt by the industrial/landowning ruling classes of Italy to find outside the national domain the elements to resolve the crisis of Italian society. It contains the germs of a war which in appearance will be fought for Italian expansion, but in which fascist Italy will in reality

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

111

be an instrument in the hands of one of the imperialist groups which are striving for world domination. (‘The Italian Situation’, CPC, p. 497; SPW 1921–1926, p. 352)

The analysis of fascism evolved significantly during 1926 in relation with what the Comintern and Gramsci himself considered an acceleration of capitalism’s ‘general crisis’, and culminated in the report of 2–3 August to the party Executive dedicated to an examination of the Italian situation. As we have already seen (Chapter 1), Gramsci believed that the ‘relative stabilization’ of capitalism was about to end and he here introduces a differentiation among capitalist States based on the centre–periphery paradigm. With Italy classified among the ‘peripheral capitalist’ countries, the superabundance characteristic of the middle classes increased fascism’s instability because the crisis of the petty bourgeoisie represented the epicentre of the ‘general crisis’ of Italian society. The crisis of the middle classes was precipitating because of the centralization of capitalist power pursued by fascism and its economic policy. Gramsci’s analysis of fascism thus becomes more detailed. He introduces the theme of the external constraint on the Italian economy, which was being asphyxiated by the policy of allowing the lira to appreciate; this was being pursued for reasons of international policy (fascist Italy’s prestige in Europe), and in deference to financial capital, which at this point Gramsci considers to be the branch of capitalism that was tendentially dominating the entire economy. Further, he examines the cut-throat conditions for the American loan, which Mussolini’s government had contracted without guarantees in order to liquidate the war debt, concluding that Italy has been turned into an American vassal-State. Further impacts were due to the block on transoceanic emigration and the collapse of tourism. Gramsci asked himself whether given such a situation, fascism could take the path of ‘high politics’: in other words whether, given the scarce impact of exports in the Italian economy it had the option of going towards industrial development and a strengthening of its production base and domestic market. This he ruled out, because of the scarcity of raw materials and the country’s technological backwardness, while increased imports of raw materials and machinery would create inflationary tensions which Italian capitalism, based on low wages and low consumption, would not be able to stand. He then goes on to examine the strategic differentiations surfacing within fascism, identifying the two fundamental ones as being the line of the nationalists and the Crown, on the one hand, and that of

112

G. VACCA

the party on the other. Of the former he highlights the plan to liquidate the PNF or at least to neutralize it, by making fascism coincide with the State, with Catholic Action acting as its mass base. The corollary of this strategy was the solution of the ‘Roman question’. The party’s strategy instead corresponded to pressure from its petty bourgeois base and aimed to weld the party totally to the State. The upshot of this tendency might be an exasperation of nationalism and of fascism’s ‘imperialist’ vocation (‘A Study of the Italian Situation’ [Part I], CPC, pp. 113–120; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 400–411).20 Until the summer of 1926 his analysis of the history of Italy was mainly based on the materialistic conception of history, that is to say, on a ‘class analysis’. Moreover, his vision of fascism was determined by his conviction of its instability. As we saw in the previous chapter, this schema started to crumble in the essay on the Southern question, but its coordinates would change profoundly only in the Notebooks, thanks to the introduction of the concept of ‘passive revolution’, which enabled him to elaborate an organic vision of Italian history, and to revise many of his previous opinions.

3

Liberal Italy and Fascism in the Notebooks

In the Prison Notebooks the history of Italy is an integral part of European history, and so the analysis of the Risorgimento, of liberal Italy and of fascism proceeds from this ‘nexus’. As we have already seen (Chapter 1), the study of the history of nineteenth century Italy became one of the principal themes of Gramsci’s research programme following his arrest. Whereas prior to the Notebooks his writings provide no overall analysis of the Risorgimento, in the Notebooks he develops one in a wide-ranging manner, collecting his results in a ‘special’ notebook (Q19) which gathers together the results of a more than five-year interaction with Raffaele Ciasca’s volume, L’origine del ‘Programma per l’opinione nazionale italiana’ del 1847 –48, with Adolfo Omodeo’s L’età del Risorgimento, with Gioacchino Volpe’s L’Italia in cammino and with Croce’s ‘two histories’:

20 Part I of the preliminary text for Gramsci’s report, A Study of the Italian Situation, to the PCI Executive Committee of 2–3 August 1926; this part was first published in Lo Stato Operaio, March 1928 while Part II saw the light only in Rinascita, 14 April 1967.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

113

La Storia d’Italia dal 1871 al 1915 and the Storia d’Europa nel secolo decimonono.21 The ‘loose notes’ and ‘jottings’ that he made each day soon ended up in a ‘monographic’ interpretation of the Risorgimento sketched out in paragraphs 43, 44 and 150 of Q1 (December 1929–May 1930). These allow us to shed light on the epistemological depth of the ‘passive revolution’ concept and its heuristic effectiveness. A first sign of the innovation that sprang from combining the concepts of ‘hegemony’ and ‘passive revolution’ can be seen in the changes to the titles and collocation of those notes in the subsequent drafts of Q19 and Q10. In Q1§43 the heading was ‘Types of Periodicals’. The re-elaborated parts of Q19§26 are instead entitled ‘The City-Country Relationship during the Risorgimento and in the National Structure’ (SPN , pp. 90– 102). Even more significant is the difference between the headings of Q1§44 and of Q19§24: in the first draft the heading was ‘Political Class Leadership before and after Assuming Government Power’ (PN Vol. 1, pp. 136–51), in the second ‘The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and Development of the Nation and the Modern State in Italy’ (SPN , pp. 55–84). Finally, Q1§150 was entitled ‘The Conception of the State from the Standpoint of the Productivity [Function] of the Social Classes’ (PN Vol. 1, pp. 229–230), while in the subsequent draft, the text is incorporated into the final paragraph of Q10§61, entitled ‘Material for a Critical Essay on Croce’s Two Histories, of Italy and of Europe’ (SPN , pp. 115–118). But before we analyse the variants more closely, we should observe that these modifications bear witness to a progressively more nuanced historiography compared to his original approach, which had been faithful to the materialistic conception of history (the class standpoint). This is not only a symptom of a more detached attitude, of the progression of thought that is less influenced by an immediate polemical urgency and is aimed at lasting analytical results. It is a sign that the ‘passive revolution’ concept introduces a very real paradigm shift. This is apparent above all in Q19§24, which contains the point of arrival of his

21 The book by Ciasca, published in 1916, was in Gramsci’s possession before his arrest;

he requested it from Tanja during his preventive arrest on Ustica and second time after he had started writing the Notebooks, so it was in his possession again; L’Italia in cammino is among the books that Gramsci had with him in the San Vittore prison; he had the 1931 third edition of Omodeo’s book with him in prison; and had the 1928 edition of Croce’s Storia d’Italia and the 1932 second edition of Storia d’Europa.

114

G. VACCA

interpretation of the Risorgimento. Different from the first draft, Gramsci starts from the ‘connection’ between the various political currents of the Risorgimento and describes their ‘relations with each other’ and ‘their relations with the homogenous or subordinate social groups existing in the various historical sections (or sectors) of the national territory’ (SPN , pp. 55–56). In other words, he intends to demonstrate that the Risorgimento had not been the work of one side alone, but the result of a struggle and a correlation of forces: the concept of ‘passive revolution’ serves to explain why the moderates and not the democrats got the upper hand. As we have seen (Chapter 1), the concept of hegemony presumes that the subordinate social groups recognize the leadership exercised by the dominant social groups. This implies a more or less ample degree of consent guaranteed by the reversibility of the given relations of power. Gramsci intends to clarify upon which ‘compromise equilibrium’ the unitary State had been constructed. The independence and the unity of Italy undoubtedly have a progressive value, but the manner in which the hegemony of the Moderates was obtained explains the negative aspects of subsequent Italian political life. Indeed the ‘gradual but continual absorption (…) of the active elements produced by allied groups – and even of those which came from antagonistic groups’, into ‘an ever more extensive ruling class within the framework established by the Moderates after 1848’ (Q19§24, p. 2011; SPN , pp. 59 and 58 respectively) had been the origin of ‘transformism’. But this criticism does not have the recriminatory flavour of a political, and less still moral, denunciation. Its aim is to highlight the fact that the supremacy of the moderates had been so crushing as to distort their own hegemonic function over time, since hegemony had transformed itself into domination and this had deformed the life of the State and of the nation. In fact for Gramsci, the exercise of hegemony requires acknowledgement of the adversary’s arguments, otherwise it weakens or loses a fundamental prerequisite. The fall of the historic Right, Gramsci writes, meant that reciprocity among the forces in the field was lost and ‘political leadership became merely an aspect of the function of domination – in as much as the absorption of the enemies’ élites means their decapitation, and annihilation often for a very long time’ (loc. cit.). But if the epilogue of the Risorgimento was transformism, Gramsci had no intention of blaming the Moderates. On the contrary, to them he attributes the merit of having been capable of removing, with the strength of their

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

115

ideas, even the theocratic foundation of Vatican policy, which constituted the greatest obstacle ‘to the possibility of a unitary Italian State’: That the liberal movement succeeded in arousing the catholic-liberal force and managed to get Pius IX to put himself – albeit for a short time – on the terrain of liberalism (which was enough to disintegrate the politicalideological apparatus of catholicism and take away its self-confidence) was the political crowning point of the Risorgimento and one of the most important points in disentangling the old knots that up to then had impeded any concrete thought of the possibility of a unitary Italian State. (Q19§3, p. 1967)22

It would be interesting to investigate to what extent the misunderstanding of the concept of passive revolution,23 both by his admirers and his detractors, has contributed to ascribing to Gramsci an interpretation of the Risorgimento as an ‘agrarian revolution manqué’. I believe that neglect of that concept delayed comprehension of the fact that Gramsci’s criticism was directed towards the democrats rather than the Moderates: ‘If in Italy a Jacobin party was not formed, the reasons are to be sought […] in the relative weakness of the Italian bourgeoisie and in the different historical climate in Europe after 1815’. In 1848 the ‘spectre’ of communism was in the air and the ‘bourgeoisie could not (perhaps) extend its hegemony further over the great popular strata – which it did succeed in embracing in France’ (Q19§24, p. 2032; SPN , p. 82). In other words, the agrarian question was no longer a theme of Jacobin reforms, but an integral part of proletarian policy. Moreover Austria was taking advantage of the agrarian reform ‘to incite the peasants against the patriotic landowners’ and therefore ‘the conservative liberals (…) were attempting only to win the sympathies of the artisans and the few working-class nuclei in the cities’ (Q19§5, p. 1986).24 But this urban corporative limit was shared by the democrats; in fact Mazzini was addressing the same social 22 Cf. F. Traniello (2007), Dal Risorgimento al secondo dopoguerra, Bologna: Il Mulino, pp. 157–178. 23 Cf. G. Vacca, Gramsci interprete del Risorgimento: una presenza controversa (1949– 1967), in Farsi italiani. La costruzione dell’idea di nazione nell’Italia repubblicana, Atti del Convegno ‘La nazione vissuta, la nazione narrata’, Cortona, 2–4 December 2010: A. Bini, C. Daniele, S. Pons (Eds.), Milano: Feltrinelli (2011), pp. 67–108. 24 Gramsci also recalls here that ‘the General Association of Workers of Turin numbered Cavour among its founders’.

116

G. VACCA

base and the only person who intuited the importance of the agrarian question was Carlo Pisacane (Q19§24, p. 2016; SPN , p. 65).25 Besides, Gramsci did not think that the democrats, by calling on the peasant masses to act, would have been able to lead the Risorgimento; instead he believed—as we have seen in writings from before the Notebooks —that if they had done so, the ‘compromise’ of the Risorgimento would have been realized on more advanced bases (Q15§19, p. 1776; cf. Carlucci, 2014, p. 21 and note 119, p. 50). Therefore the fundamental reasons why the leadership of the Risorgimento was firmly in the hands of the Moderates can be obtained from the way Gramsci interprets their ‘European nexus’, from consideration of the role played by Piedmont, and lastly from the ideological content of the Moderates’ hegemony. The Risorgimento took place during the Age of Restoration. In polemic with Omodeo, Gramsci argues that ‘from a European viewpoint, it is the age of the French Revolution, not of the Italian Risorgimento, of laissez-faire liberalism as a general conception of life and as a new form of State and cultural civilization, and not only of the “national” aspect of liberalism’ (Q19§2, p. 1961). Re-elaborating Q1§150 and inserting it into Q10§61, he defines the Age of Restoration as the exemplary cycle of passive revolutions. All the ‘modern States of continental Europe’ which came into being during that period were formed ‘by “successive waves” of reform (…) made up of a combination of social struggles, interventions from above of the enlightened monarchy type, and national wars – with the latter two phenomena predominating’. This had allowed the bourgeoisie to ‘to gain power without dramatic upheavals’, without any need of Jacobin terror, and if it had had to come to terms with ‘the old feudal classes’, they had been ‘demoted from their dominant position to a “governing” one’ (Q10II§61, p.1358; SPN , p. 115). The Italian Risorgimento was one of the last episodes of the period; therefore the ruling class could only have been the liberal bourgeoisie. Moreover, political direction of the unification process had been in the hands of a State, not a ‘social group’, not the bourgeoisie, but Savoyard Piedmont; and this, Gramsci underlines, had given rise to its own peculiar form of ‘passive revolution’, both because the delegation of leadership to Piedmont was a consequence of the particularistic character of 25 The writings of Marx and Engels were an important influence on Gramsci’s approach: cfr. F. Giasi, ‘I giudizi di Marx and di Engels sul Risorgimento e la loro fortuna’, in F. Rocchetti (Ed., 2011), pp. 43–60.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

117

the bourgeoisie existing in the various States of the peninsula, and because one State’s urge to play the leading role, a State endowed with a dynasty, an army and a diplomatic corps, had given an authoritarian character to the ‘historical bloc’ of the Risorgimento: ‘the fact that a State replaces the local social groups in leading a struggle of renewal […] is one of the cases in which these groups have the function of “domination” demoted from their dominant position to a “governing” one without that of “leadership”: dictatorship without hegemony’ (Q15§59, p. 1823; SPN , pp. 105–106). Finally, the Moderates had unchallenged influence over the democrats since, after 1848, ‘independence and unity’ had become the shared objectives of all the forces of the Risorgimento, and therefore also oriented the action of the democratic intellectuals (Q19§20, pp. 2006– 2007). To conclude, ‘[i]n any case Cavour acted eminently as a party man. Whether in fact his party represented the deepest and most durable national interests, even if only in the sense of the widest extension which could be given to the community of interests between the bourgeoisie and the popular masses, is another question’ (Q19§24, p. 2034; SPN , p. 84). Gramsci warns that the ‘criteria’ ‘for investigating the respective political “wisdom”’ of the Moderates and the democrats were obtained from ‘the analysis of certain elements of Italian history after unity’ (Q19§24, pp. 2023–2024; SPN , p. 74). The need to explore the history of the Risorgimento in greater depth stems from the need to understand the origins of fascism better; let us see then how he reassesses the figures of Crispi and Giolitti. Of Crispi’s period, he no longer limits himself to criticizing the protectionism and anachronistic colonialism, but justifies them, because they were consequent on the progressive aim of accelerating the North’s industrial development. Crispi’s characteristic trait was his unitary ‘obsession’, shared by the greatest Southern intellectuals of the Risorgimento. Thus the true objective of his exasperated tariff protectionism was the creation of a strong industrial base that could make Italy more independent of international conditioning. Crispi, writes Gramsci, ‘did not hesitate to plunge the South and the Islands into a terrifying commercial crisis, so long as he was able to reinforce the industry which could give the country a real independence and which would expand the cadres of the dominant social group’; this decision appears to be justified because ‘it is the policy of manufacturing the manufacturer’, unlike that of the historic Right which had ‘merely, and timidly, created the general external conditions for economic development’. Despite the price paid by

118

G. VACCA

the Mezzogiorno, Gramsci recognizes that ‘Crispi gave the new Italian society a real heave forward: he was the true man of the new bourgeoisie’ (Q19§24, pp. 2017–2018; SPN , p. 67). In a more reflective vision of the history of Italy, less conditioned by anti-Giolittian polemics and the struggle against fascism, Gramsci is thus able historically to justify not only protectionism but also, to some extent, Crispi’s colonial policy, because although Crispi had been unable to give land to the peasants, he had involved them in the unification of the country with the mirage of the colonies. Gramsci’s change of mind extends to Giolitti, whom he considers to have continued Crispi with ‘some corrections’ regarding economic and colonial policy (Q19§24, pp. 2018–2019; SPN , pp. 67–69). His picture of Giolitti appears rather bland compared with that of Crispi, but the virulence of his post-war writings gives way to a more balanced judgement. Crispi’s merits regarding the Mezzogiorno are instead the result of a heterogenesis of ends. Industrial growth in the North had made the ‘misery’ of the rural masses of the Mezzogiorno incomprehensible to the urban classes and fed the stereotype of the Southerners’ ‘biological inferiority’, which had been popularized by positivist sociology. It was not the last among the reasons for neoidealist reaction, and for its influence, which spread rapidly all over the country among the new generations of a liberal and democratic orientation. With a noteworthy change of position compared with ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’, Gramsci acknowledges that Croce and Fortunato had the merit of attempting ‘to pose the Southern Question as a national problem capable of renovating political and parliamentary life’ (Q19§24, pp. 2022–2023; SPN , p. 72), and downplays his accusation that they detached the petty bourgeois intellectuals of the Mezzogiorno from the peasant masses. This outcome is instead attributed to Giolitti’s policy, which used State machinery to support ‘ascarism’, that is, Giolitti’s control over the liberal deputies of the Mezzogiorno, while Croce and Fortunato were blocked by a ‘fetishist conception of unity’ (Q19§26, pp. 2038–2039; SPN , p. 95). This seems to us a particularly significant change of opinion: it can be framed within more general reflection on the centres of political leadership of the intellectuals: compared with his position in the essay on the ‘Southern question’, he retrenches the role of ‘great intellectuals’. His change of opinion is due to the development of the theory of hegemony, which led him to explain the moderates’ political supremacy in the Risorgimento by the fact that, unlike the democrats, they were ‘condensed intellectuals’.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

119

Extending this approach to liberal Italy, the function of Croce and Fortunato comes over as organic to Giolitti’s policy and subordinate to his leadership. Instead, in the essay on the ‘Southern Question’, Croce and Fortunato were the hegemonic figures of the Giolittian bloc and inasmuch as they were ‘great intellectuals’, they appeared to be superordinate to it. This representation suffered from the limits of the traditional sociology of the intellectuals, which Gramsci had removed from his research programme in the Notebooks (Q19§26, p. 2041 and Q19§27, pp. 2046– 2047; SPN , pp. 93 and102–103, respectively).26 In conclusion, his vision of Risorgimento and post-unitary Italy becomes more balanced. Reconsidering the ‘Southern initiative’ both in the Risorgimento and in the political struggles of unified Italy, Gramsci now asserts that ‘the relative synchronism and simultaneity’ between the political dynamics of North and South ‘on the one hand shows the existence ever since 1815 of a relatively homogeneous politico-economic structure; on the other it shows how in periods of crisis it is the weakest and most marginal sector which reacts first’ (Q19§26, p. 2037; SPN , p. 93). The definition of the ‘structure of Italian society’ therefore appears to be much more nuanced than that outlined in the ‘The Lyon Theses’ and in ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’. ∗ ∗ ∗ The application of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ to fascism is valid, naturally, for the 1930s: for fascism as a regime, not as a movement. The idea of its instability, which had dominated the writings of 1923– 1926, had turned out to be wrong and now Gramsci set himself the task of analysing the corporative State and its totalitarian form. How fascism succeeded in stabilizing itself did not pose a great problem: a politico-military movement, which even though initially in the minority, had managed to neutralize the autonomy of the masses by violent means, can instal itself stably at the head of a State, at least for a certain period.27 What the application of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ enables us to 26 See also the letter to Tat’jana of 19 March 1927, in Gramsci (with T. Schucht), Lettere. 1926–1935, op. cit., pp. 61–62; in English: Gramsci, Letters from Prison (1994a) Vol. 1, pp. 83–84. 27 This theme is dealt with in great detail with a wealth of metaphors and analogies in a paragraph written in 1933 and entitled Passato e presente. Storia dei 45 cavalieri ungheresi (Past and Present. Story of the 45 Hungarian knights ); Q15§35, pp. 1788–1789.

120

G. VACCA

understand is whether the corporative State is capable of performing a ‘reformist’ function, or in other words, whether within the armour of the totalitarian State ‘molecular changes’ are taking place ‘which in fact progressively modify the pre-existing composition of forces, and hence become the matrix of new changes’ (Q15§11, p. 1767; SPN , p. 109). A first reason why fascism may represent a form of ‘passive revolution’ emerges from the ‘Summary’ of Notebook 10, Part I, written between mid-April and mid-May 1932. Pondering the success of the first Soviet five-year plan, Gramsci asks himself: Are we now living through a period of ‘restoration-revolution’ to be put in order permanently, to be organised ideologically, to be exalted lyrically? Is Italy to have the same relation to the USSR as the Germany (and Europe) of Kant and Hegel had with the France of Robespierre and Napoleon? (Q10I [Summary, point 9], p.1209; FSPN , p. 330)

The implicit comparison between Lenin–Stalin and Robespierre– Napoleon is worthy of note because, as we shall see, Gramsci considers Soviet totalitarianism a form of ‘progressive Caesarism’. Returning to fascism, a little later he formulates a reply as follows: The ideological hypothesis could be presented in the following terms: a passive revolution would be constituted by the fact that, through the legislative intervention of the State and through organisation in corporations, more or less far-reaching modifications would be introduced into the economic structure of the country in order to accentuate the ‘production plan’ element; in other words, stress would be laid on the socialisation of and co-operation in production, without thereby affecting (or at least not going beyond regulating and controlling) the individual and group appropriation of profit. In the concrete framework of Italian social relations this could be the sole solution for developing the productive forces of industry under the leadership of the traditional ruling classes, in competition with the more advanced industrial formations of countries which have a monopoly over raw materials and have accumulated huge amounts of capital. (Q10I§9, p. 1228; FSPN , p. 350)

He then extends the concept of ‘passive revolution’ from Italy to Europe:

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

121

This ideology [corporativism: G. V.] would serve as an element of a ‘war of position’ in the international economic field (whereas free competition and free trade would here correspond to a war of manoeuvre), just as ‘passive revolution’ does in the political field. In the Europe of 1789 to 1870 there was a (political) war of manoeuvre during the French Revolution and a long war of position from 1815 to 1870. In the present era, the war of manoeuvre took place politically from March 1917 to March 1921, to be followed by a war of position whose ideological representative for Europe, as well as its practical one (for Italy), is fascism. (loc. cit.)

It should be borne in mind that the last two dates mark the beginning of the Russian Revolution and the failure of the ‘March Action’ in Germany, and as Gramsci was writing these notes, Hitler was about to take power. In any case, here Gramsci defines the conceptual frame within which the analysis of fascism takes place in the Notebooks, and the centre of his attention is corporativism. At the world level, Gramsci perceives a way out of the crisis through the growth of American economic power and the spread of Fordism; his analysis of fascism is therefore connected to that of ‘Americanism’. The passage we have quoted was written at the same time as, and perhaps as a comment on, the second Ferrara conference28 : corporativism appears to Gramsci to be the economic policy with which fascism could guide Italy towards a form of ‘programmed economy’ that would not upset the fundamental inter-class relations of power and, even though it did not give rise to any unambiguous and effective policies (Aquarone 2003, Chapters iii and iv; Santomassimo 2006, Chapters iii and vi), he took it seriously and studied it with attention. The first considerations on corporativism appear in a note that can be dated to between December 1929 and February 1930, shortly after the New York Stock Exchange crash. Gramsci hypothesizes that, through the then ‘current corporativism’, fascism might realize a way of leading the masses and the economy that was more unifying and modern than the

28 The second Conference on trade-union and corporativist studies, organized by

Giuseppe Bottai, the Minister for the Corporations, in Ferrara, 5–8 May 1932, passed into history above all because of the conflict over the theses of the ‘proprietary corporations’, put forward by Ugo Spirito in his contribution. The most detailed historical reconstruction is in Santomassimo (2006, Chapter iv, pp. 141–180); but see also I. Stolzi (2007, pp. 97–200), and A. Gagliardi (2010).

122

G. VACCA

one followed by the ruling classes of the Giolittian era (Q1§43, pp. 35– 36; PN Vol 1, p. 131).29 Q1§135, the first devoted to Americanism, in which Gramsci begins to analyse precisely in relation to corporatism also dates from the same period. The idea came from two volumes by N. Massimo Fovel, Rendita e salario nello Stato sindacale (1928) and Economia e corporativismo (1929) about which he had learned from an article by Carlo Pagni, ‘A proposito di un tentativo di teoria pura del corporativismo’ (in Riforma Sociale, September–October 1929). In 1919 Fovel had tried to collaborate with L’Ordine Nuovo and was now writing for the Corriere Padano of Ferrara, supporting corporativism as the ‘premise for the introduction into Italy of the most advanced American systems of production’. In a note of Spring ’31, Gramsci defines him as ‘that well-known political and economic adventurer’ (Q6§82, p. 754; FSPN , p. 436), but precisely for this reason he paid particular attention to his writings, because Fovel might be ‘backed (practically, not only theoretically) by economic forces which support him and spur him on’ (Q1§135, p. 123; PN Vol. 1, p. 220). It is not easy to specify who they might have been, but in any case the Corriere Padano was surrounded by a coterie of supporters of the most dirigiste version of corporativism and some of them, starting with Giulio Colamarino and Nello Quilici, who edited the paper, were familiar with the Turin experience of the Councils as a possible solution for the problems of industrial modernization (Santomassimo 2006, pp. 68–73). ‘What I find interesting in Fovel’s thesis’ writes Gramsci ‘is his conception of the corporation as an autonomous industrial-productive bloc destined to resolve in a modern way the problem of the Italian economic apparatus in an emphatically capitalist manner, opposing the semi- parasitic elements of society which take an excessively large cut of surplus value and the so-called “producers of savings”’. Thus he seems to find in Fovel a supporter of Fordism in tune with the positions adopted in his scattered notes on Americanism, later collected in Notebook 22:

29 ‘… the current corporativism, with its consequent diffusion on a national scale’ of the ‘social type’ represented ‘by the trade-union organizers and political parties’, was creating a link between the masses and the State ‘in a more systematic and consistent way than the old trade-unionism could have achieved’ thus realizing ‘an instrument of moral and political unity’ between North and South.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

123

The production of savings should (…) be a function of the productive bloc itself, through a growth in production at lower costs and through the creation of greater surplus value, which would allow higher wages and thus a larger internal market, workers’ savings, and higher profits, and hence greater direct capitalization within firms – and not through the intermediary of the “producers of savings” who, in reality devour surplus value. (Q1§135, p. 124; PN Vol. 1, p. 221)

Gramsci does not believe that fascism is capable of promoting an economic policy that is effectively productivist because fascism was designed to impose permanent downward pressure on wages: Fovel’s error consists in his failure to take into account the economic function of the State in Italy and the fact that the corporative regime had its origins in economic policing, not economic revolution. (loc. cit.)

However, as we have seen, this does not mean corporations cannot create ‘the conditions in which industrial innovations can be introduced on a large scale, because workers can neither oppose it nor can they struggle to be themselves the bearers of this change’. It is therefore necessary to analyse the contrasts that surface in the bourgeois field between industry and agriculture, financial and industrial capital, and innovative and stationary industries. The conflict is unlikely to manifest itself in an open and radical manner because the corporativist system is designed to safeguard the bloc made up of big capital and the ‘producers of savings’, not to rationalize and promote industrial development. ‘The disappearance of rentiers in Italy is a condition of industrial change, not a consequence’ (Q1§135, p. 126; PN Vol. 1, p. 222), and fascism was unlikely to adopt an economic policy with this objective. But it could not be ruled out that, under pressure from the world crisis, it might have pursued reform policies. This is why Gramsci devotes a great deal of attention to the debate on corporativism, which develops with increasing intensity between 1931 and 1934. The reason for his interest in the proponents of ‘integral corporativism’ is his perception that in Italy the developments of a ‘programmed economy’ might also take place thanks to an evolution of the ‘corporative State’. The writings of Ugo Spirito encouraged him to investigate in greater depth the theoretical foundations of classical economics (Maccabelli 1998, pp. 73–114), with decisive results, as we shall see, for the elaboration of the ‘philosophy of praxis’. Observing the

124

G. VACCA

heated exchanges between the theorists of corporativism, mainly jurists and philosophers, and liberal economists, from ‘syndicalists’ to ‘corporativists’, he follows the conflicts between the diverse souls of fascism and notes down possible alternatives to its economic policy. His hypothesis that a productivist solution to the crisis might emerge from the net of the corporativist system was not unfounded: Mussolini himself appeared to be seriously tempted (Santomassimo 2006, pp. 171–175). But when the crisis overwhelmed the industrial apparatus and the stock market, fascism took a different path, more traditional and more similar to that followed by other European countries: by creating the IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale) and the IMI (Istituto Mobliare Italiano), and nationalizing the major banks it laid the foundations of a ‘mixed economy’, and for Gramsci this solution was a significant step towards a ‘programmed economy’. Furthermore, this not only did not rule out the possibility of a productivist economic policy, but made it more likely and necessary. ‘The system whose application the Italian government has intensified in the last few years’ he wrote between February and March 1934 ‘appears the most organic and rational, at least for a certain group of countries. But what are its consequences likely to be?’ Even only by guaranteeing savings, the State ‘finds itself invested with a primordial function in the capitalist system’ since ‘it concentrates the savings to be put at the disposal of private industry and activity, (…) as a medium and long-term investor’. ‘But once, through unavoidable economic necessity, the State has assumed this function, can it fail to interest itself in the organisation of production and exchange?’ Gramsci believes that it will be ‘led necessarily to intervene in order to check whether the investments which have taken place through State means are properly administered’ (Q22§14, pp. 2175–2176; SPN , pp. 314–315). It is therefore clear why ‘the theoretical discussions about the corporative regime’ which constitutes the politico-ideological framework within which the ‘Beneduce system’ was inserted (Ciocca 2015: Chapters i and ii), were so heated, and what interests were at stake. Gramsci believed that the State would not be able to limit its action to propping up the existing economic set-up by just ‘nationalizing the losses’ and rescuing failed banks and ailing industries: ‘[b]ut control by itself is not sufficient. It is not just a question of preserving the productive apparatus just as it is at a given moment. It is a matter of reorganising it in order to develop it in parallel with the increase in the population and in collective needs’ (loc. cit.). Therefore he formulates the hypothesis that the problem of an ‘agrarian reform’ and an

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

125

‘industrial reform’, which up to this point fascism had managed to avoid, could be re-opened: If the State were proposing to impose an economic direction by which the production of savings ceased to be a “function” of a parasitic class and became a function of the productive organism itself, such a hypothetical development would be progressive, and could have its part in a vast design of integral rationalisation. But for that it would be necessary to promote both agrarian reform (involving the abolition of landed income of a nonworking class, and its incorporation into the productive organism in the form of collective savings to be dedicated to reconstruction and further progress), and an industrial reform. One could thus reduce all income to the status of technico-industrial functional necessities and no longer keep them as the juridical consequences of pure property rights. (Q22§14, pp. 2176–2177; SPN , pp. 314–315)

Fascism’s alternatives for dealing with the crisis obviously involved not only domestic but also foreign policy. As we have already seen (Chapter 1), the former for Gramsci is only a ‘combination’ of domestic and international policy, conditioned in the final analysis by the robustness of the economy and the ability of the ruling classes to use it to improve the country’s position in the international hierarchy. This conception is summarized emblematically in pages written in February 1933 (Q14§68, pp. 1728–1730; SPN , pp. 240–241). For fascism the alternative lay between strengthening the tendency to turn Italy into a factor of equilibrium within the European concert and a policy of colonial expansion, which might instead overturn this equilibrium. These two lines of action had been present in fascism since 1923, and while the former presupposed a reform of Italian capitalism, capable of backing up fascism’s European ambitions, the latter brought with it the confirmation of its fragility and therefore of the country’s international subalternity. As the reader will recall, the problem had already been focused on in the Lyon Theses and the colonialist option was now gaining strength. In 1932, having completed the conquest of Cyrenaica, fascism was accelerating its preparations for war in Abyssinia. In September that year, quoting a speech by Lord Balfour at the Washington Conference (23 December 1921), Gramsci annotated the geopolitical reasons why Italy, were there a war, could only play a subaltern role, no matter which alliance it joined (Q19§12, pp. 1999–2000). On the previous 4 May and 3 June Dino

126

G. VACCA

Grandi, foreign minister since 1929, had illustrated to the Chamber and Senate the strategic lines of fascism’s international policy, posing the Italian question as a world one that had, of necessity, to be solved alongside the others that constitute the political expression of the general post-war crisis, which in 1929 deepened to the point of near catastrophe. These questions were: the French security problem, the German equal rights problem and the problem of a new set-up for the Danube and Balkan states. (Q19§6, p. 1989; FSPN , p. 237)

As we have already observed (Chapter 1), in this scenario the ‘Italian question’ could be summed up as the international legitimization of a tardy colonialism, motivated by the imbalance between demographic pressure and domestic resources of the country and by a ‘hardening’ of international relations because of the closure of the safety valve of emigration, of the rapid spread of economic nationalism and of the crisis in international commerce. Gramsci harshly refutes the conceptions used to attempt to justify fascism’s colonial policy: both the slogan ‘settlement colonies’ and the thesis that they might contribute to solving the structural weakness of Italian capitalism. ‘There is no example in modern history’ he writes ‘of colonies being created by merely “peopling” a region these colonies have never existed. Emigration and colonisation follow the flow of capital invested in the various countries and not vice versa’. Moreover the demographic pressure derived not from Italy’s ‘natural’ poverty, but from its ruling classes’ economic policy, from their inability to increase national wealth and rationalize the social composition of the country. At this point, Gramsci lays out the fundamentals of his vision of Italy’s foreign policy: National wealth is conditioned by the international division of labour and by having known how, within the possibilities offered by this division, to choose the most rational and profitable one for each given country. We are therefore dealing essentially with the ‘directive capacity’ of the dominant economic class, with its spirit of initiative and organisation. If these qualities are lacking, and the economic undertaking is essentially based on sheer exploitation pf the productive and working classes, no international agreement can heal this situation. (Q19§6, pp. 1990–1991; FSPN , p. 239)

The problem goes back to the unification of the country, which took place, as we have seen, more under international than domestic pressure

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

127

(cf. Q1§150, pp. 132–133; PN Vol. 1, pp. 229–230). Consequently a ‘historical bloc’ formed in which ‘the State (…), where by State we mean (…) not only the administration of state services, but also the ensemble of classes which comprise it in the strict sense dominate it (…), cost too much’. It is not possible to think, he concludes, ‘that, without a change in these internal relations the situation can change for the better even though internationally the relations were to change’. But while the discussion on corporativism made the problem of a productivist policy emerge forcefully, the regime’s macroeconomic policy continued along traditional lines: ‘the policy towards the national debt (…) continually increases the weight of “demographic” passivity, just when the active section of the population is being forced to contract due to unemployment and the crisis’. From the manner in which Gramsci delineates the ‘Italian question’ it can therefore ‘be observed that the projection of the question onto the international field can represent a political alibi to demonstrate to the country’s masses’ (Q19§6, pp. 1989–1991; FSPN , pp. 237–239). In both foreign and domestic policy the element that prevails is that of demagogy, which is organic to fascism; in the first case this fed the risk of dangerous adventurism and, in the second, confirmed the spirit of ‘nascent capitalism’ already evidenced in the Lyon Theses. Thus corporativism does not seem to go beyond the limits set by a clever ‘cultural policy’ (Santomassimo 2006, pp. 101–105, note 7). However, given the great crisis, the ruling classes of world capitalism faced the need to go beyond the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics; here the more radical theorists of corporativism, like Ugo Spirito, appear to concur. While the philosophers and economists are ferociously critical of him, Gramsci takes the idea of ‘integral corporativism’ seriously as a ‘sign of the times’ regarding both the Italian and the international situation. In March 1932 he writes: … the tendency represented by Spirito and other members of his group is a “sign of the times”. The demand for an economy “based on a plan” – not just on a national level but on a world scale – is interesting in itself, even if the justification for it is purely verbal: it is a “sign of the times”. It is the expression, albeit still “utopian” of the developing conditions that call for an “economy based on a plan”. (Q8§216, p. 1077; PN Vol. 3, p. 366 and FSPN , p. 180)

128

G. VACCA

Gramsci’s most optimistic prediction, upon which he bases his political hypotheses, is that, thanks to the influence of the United States, the process of globalization of the world economy will recommence. In that case there would be development even of its ‘regionalization’ and, as we have already seen (Chapter 1), Gramsci thought that Europe could be its most important pole. This hypothesis was present in the international debate and even the supporters of ‘integral corporativism’ had the ambition of tracing a path that was valid not only for Italy but also for Europe (Santomassimo 2006, Chapters iv and v). This raises the question of whether the concept of ‘passive revolution’ might characterize the world situation of the Thirties.

4

The ‘Passive Revolution’ in the International Scenario. America, Europe, Soviet Union

As we have seen, the concept of ‘passive revolution’ extends, in the end, to ‘every epoch characterised by complex historical upheavals (…) as a criterion of interpretation, in the absence of other active elements to a determinate extent’ (Q15§62, p. 1827; SPN , p. 114). I would therefore have no doubt that Gramsci intended to verify its applicability to the world situation. To clarify whether he considered the Thirties a period of global ‘passive revolution’30 we need to analyse the position of Europe and the Soviet Union vis-à-vis the United States. While the hegemonic potentialities of the United States sprang from the innovations introduced into production, for Gramsci nevertheless Fordism could not initiate a new form of civilization, because its aim was to modernize capitalist production relations, not to change them. In the index to Notebook 22 he defines it as the ‘ultimate stage in the process of progressive attempts by industry to overcome the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ (Q22§1, point 7; SPN , p. 280). This definition is based 30 I intend in the following pages to correct this thesis, with which previously I was in agreement. It was put forward in dubitative form by Franco De Felice in a contribution to the conference ‘Politica e Storia in Gramsci’ in 1977 (Id., ‘Rivoluzione passiva, fascismo, Americanismo in Gramsci’, esp. pp. 162–163 and 174–175), in Ferri (Ed.) (1979), and then radicalized by Mario Telò in his contribution, ‘Note sul futuro dell’Occidente and la teoria delle relazioni internazionali’, at the 1997 conference Gramsci e il Novecento, in Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento, Vol. I (1999b), pp. 51–74; but I believe I also contributed to its diffusion with my 1991 essay ‘I “Quaderni” e la politica del 900’, pp. 67–68 and 71–74.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

129

on study of the third volume of Capital which Gramsci had been able to read in prison immediately after its publication (Q10II§36, pp. 1281– 1282; FSPN , pp. 430–433), and is therefore founded on further study of Marx’s theory of relative surplus value as an explanation for so-called ‘technical progress’. Moreover, a detailed study of Capital had helped him to confute Croce’s thesis on the theoretical unsustainability of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, considered an ‘elliptical comparison’, and it was precisely the polemic with Croce that sparked the intuition that ‘Americanism’ could be interpreted as a reaction to the increasing difficulty for capitalist enterprises to maintain a rate of exploitation adequate for accumulating profits and competing with other enterprises (Q7§34, pp. 882–883; PN Vol. 3, p. 184).31 The ‘American phenomenon’ cannot therefore be compared with the sequence French Revolution-Napoleonic Wars, which generated the spread of liberal civilization in Europe; it is only an effective but not decisive reaction to the contradiction between the development of productive forces and capitalist relations of production. The fact that Gramsci considers it to be an ‘ultimate stage’ of the attempts to neutralize the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, implies that Fordism, even if it should turn out to be the most effective vehicle for spreading industrialism on a world scale, could only accelerate the formation of the premises for a new mode of production. This does not detract from the fact that Fordism is an extremely progressive phenomenon because it is based on a wider and more advanced use of scientific rationality in labour processes (Taylorism), on improving—with productivist aims—the living conditions for workers (‘high wages’), and on more advanced technical skills of the labour force. ‘The problem arises’, Gramsci writes, of ‘whether the type of industry and organisation of work and production typical of Ford is rational; whether, that is, it can and should be generalised, or whether, on the other hand, we are not dealing with a malignant phenomenon which must be fought against through trade-union action and through legislation’. Continuing, he says ‘[i]t seems possible to reply that the Ford method is rational, that is, that it should be generalised’. In the same paragraph, entitled ‘High Wages’ (Q22§13, pp. 2171–2175; SPN , pp. 310–313) he points to the comparison with Europe and the Soviet Union, where

31 Taken up again in the second draft ‘C’ texts Q10II§§41vi and vii; FSPN , pp. 426– 428 and 435–437.

130

G. VACCA

the character of industrialization was extremely coercive and the rationalization of work took place via the introduction of Taylorism, but with entrepreneurial systems in no way comparable with the American model. The debate on trade unions in the Russia of the early Twenties (Carr 1966, pp. 207–229)32 comes to mind and Gramsci confirms that the tendency towards the militarization of work, supported by Trotsky in 1921 at the third All-Russian Conference of Trade Unions, carried with it the risk of Bonapartism and for that reason had rightly been terminated (Q22§11, p. 2164; SPN , p. 301). But as we have argued elsewhere, the polemical references directed against Trotsky in the Notebooks seem in truth to be against Stalin (Vacca 1999a, pp. 218–222) and in the note on ‘High Wages’, as also in other notes in Notebook 22, Gramsci expresses indirectly the thesis that it should be the responsibility of the communist movement to promote the spread of Fordism and therefore the Soviet Union should go beyond forced industrialization which, instead, was in full swing in the early Thirties. Indeed, he writes, for the ‘Ford method’ to become generalized …a long process is needed (…), during which a change must take place in social conditions and in the way of life and the habits of individuals. This however cannot take place through coercion alone, but only through tempering compulsion (self-discipline) with persuasion. (Q22§13, p. 2173; SPN , p. 312)

To this end he also imagines different models of worker representation, reviving the experience of L’Ordine Nuovo which ‘upheld its own type of “Americanism” acceptable to the working masses’ (Q22§2, p. 2146; SPN , p. 286; translation rendered more literal). The more progressive elements of Fordism concern the regulation of the economy and the formation of a new social subjectivity which can develop over the entire area of the industrial countries. Regarding the first aspect, Americanism and Fordism answer the ‘necessity’ for ‘the passage from the old economic individualism to the programmed economy’: In generic terms one could say that Americanism and Fordism derive from an inherent necessity to achieve the organisation of a

32 On the militarization of the trade unions between war communism and the beginning of the NEP, cf. E. H. Carr (1966, esp. p. 217).

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

131

programmed economy, and that the various problems examined here should be the links of the chain marking the passage from the old economic individualism to the programmed economy. (Q22§1, p. 2139; SPN , p. 279; translation rendered more literal)

A ‘programmed economy’ (‘economia programmatica’) means a regulated economy, not a planned economy.33 The ‘programmed economy’ is an open economy, integrated into the world market and characterized by a combination of forces which ‘collaborate in the formation of an economy based on a world plan’. In other words, it is a premise for going beyond the conflict between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics. A necessary condition is the development of an international civil society founded on such widespread advances in economic and cultural interdependence as to neutralize political nationalism and spread democratic capitalism. So what Gramsci is interested in emphasizing is above all ‘the importance, significance and objective import of the American phenomenon, which is also the biggest collective effort to date to create, with unprecedented speed, and with a consciousness of purpose unmatched in history, a new type of worker and of man’ (Q22§11, p. 2165; SPN , p. 302). It is highly significant that, in his underlining the progressive character, extending across ‘nations or even continents’, of processes of ‘standardization of ways of thinking and of behavior’ deriving from the American type of industrialization, Gramsci should call our attention to the subsequent changes in politics: Today’s collective man is formed essentially from the bottom up, on the basis of the position that the collectivity occupies in the world of production. (Q7§12, p.862; PN , Vol. 3, pp. 164–165 and FSPN , p. 276)

This observation implies a correlation between consumption and democracy, since Fordism shifts the accumulation of capital from savings to investment. The change of subjectivity hypothesized by Gramsci would favour the possibility of shifting the ‘compromise equilibrium’ upon which the State is founded towards conditions that are ever more favourable to the governed. In other words, ‘Americanism’ sets out more advanced premises for the development of democracy. 33 On Fordism as a form of regulation of industrial economies cf. Boyer and Mistral (1985).

132

G. VACCA

The most important economic aspect of Fordism, i.e. the ‘replacement of the current plutocratic stratum by a new mechanism of accumulation and distribution of financial capital directly based on industrial production’ (Q22§1, p. 2139–2140; SPN , p. 279), emphasizes the role that its extension could have in Italy (Q22§2, pp. 2142–2145; SPN , pp. 281– 285). But the need to bring financial capital back to being a function of industrial capital concerned the whole of Europe, where the prevalence of financial capital was a residue of the compromise between the liberal bourgeoisie and the old feudal strata. Thus Gramsci sees with favour the pressure exerted by Americanism on old Europe, although he does not believe that ‘Americanization’ represents Europe’s future (Q22§15, pp. 2178–2179; SPN , pp. 316–317). The ‘American phenomenon’ tended to transform the ‘material bases of European civilization’, to overwhelm its antiquated form of civilization, forcing Europe to create a new form of civilization; but it did not per se constitute a new civilization able to transmit itself to Europe via direct or indirect influence. In the summary of Notebook 22 Gramsci poses the question of … whether Americanism can constitute an historical “epoch”, that is, whether it can determine a gradual evolution of the same type as the “passive revolution” examined elsewhere and typical of the last century or whether on the other hand it does not simply represent the molecular accumulation of elements destined to produce an “explosion”, that is, an upheaval on the French pattern. (Q22§1, p. 2140; SPN , p. 279)

The answer comes in paragraph 15, ‘American and European civilization’: In the case of Americanism, we are not dealing with a new type of civilisation. This is shown by the fact that nothing has been changed in the character of and the relationships between fundamental groups. What we are dealing with is an organic extension and an intensification of European civilisation, which has simply acquired a new coating in the American climate. (Q22§15, p. 2180; SPN , p. 318)

The rise of a new civilization would be favoured by the spread of Taylorism and Fordism because they change, it is well to repeat it, ‘the position occupied by the collectivity in the world of production’ and this in turn changes the processes of formation of the ‘collective will’.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

133

But the birth of democratic capitalism does not, as such, constitute a new civilization; at most it lays out the premises for one: ‘It is not from social groups “condemned” by the new order’ writes Gramsci, referring to Europe, ‘that reconstruction is to be expected, but from those on whom is imposed the burden of creating with their own suffering the material bases of the new order. It is they who “must” find for themselves an “original”, and not Americanized, system of living, to turn into “freedom” what today is “necessity”’ (Q22§15, p. 2179; SPN , p. 317). It seems obvious that this projection embraces equally the proletariat of western Europe and that of the USSR, while as regards the United States we may conclude that even if Fordism constituted the most advanced reaction to the tendential fall of the rate of profit, it was however not sufficient to lay the bases for world unification under American leadership. The analysis thus shifts to Europe and here, as we have seen, the question is posed, in connection with the Soviet challenge, of whether a phenomenon similar to that of the ‘passive revolutions’ was taking place. In Europe, under the blows of the world economic crisis, the appeal of Soviet planning was very strong and the ‘immanent necessity to achieve the organization of a programmed economy’ was compelling. But in the given situation this could only happen under the leadership of the old dominant classes and for this reason ‘the ideological agent’ of passive revolution would appear to be fascism: in 1930s Europe, Gramsci could not perceive other competitors beyond fascism and communism (Telò 1999, pp. 67–68). On a world scale, however, the USSR was not a force capable of launching challenges for hegemony. The United States seemed capable of determining a form of asymmetrical interdependence with Europe which could be good for Europe by forcing it to modernize; the USSR on the other hand was now closed in on itself, subaltern even if not subordinate. What was the form of the overall historical process? It was not characterized by a world hegemonic constellation, so it cannot be defined using the ‘passive revolution’ concept. To specify the character of the epoch we must look more closely at Gramsci’s thinking about the USSR. ∗ ∗ ∗ The international position of the USSR is analysed starting from the policy of the Comintern. As is known, the United Front tactic had begun to be abandoned at the fifth Congress of the Communist International (1924) where the question of the ‘relative stabilization’ of capitalism was

134

G. VACCA

raised and social democracy was defined as being ‘the left wing of fascism’; it was then abandoned altogether at the sixth Congress (1928) which declared that social democracy and fascism were identical (the theory of social fascism) and instituted the ‘class against class’ tactic (Agosti 1976, pp. 67–97 and 879–931). The Comintern’s strategic change had started with the rise to power of Stalin, who in 1927 (at the Eighth Plenum of the International), with the aim of consolidating internal consensus and his own personal power, had begun to emphasize the risks of a war of aggression of the Western powers (Di Biagio 2000, pp. 83–102). At the Sixth Congress Bukharin’s ‘Report on the World Economy’ had provided the coordinates of the ‘catastrophic’ interpretation of the great crisis and predicted a ‘new 1914’ (Procacci 1981, pp. 555–557). During the Tenth Plenum (July 1929) this policy was even imposed on the PCI and from January 1930 Togliatti started applying it with rigour (Spriano 1969, pp. 244–261; Agosti 1996, pp. 131–146). Gramsci reacted strongly to the abandonment of the Lyon strategy and in the Autumn of 1930 initiated a series of ‘conversations’ with his comrades of the Turi ‘collective’, contesting the analyses and slogans of the new strategy. As we now know, his aim was to communicate his opinion to the Foreign Centre of the party (Rossi and Vacca, pp. 75–80) and during the ‘conversations’ with his comrades a harsh confrontation took place which led to his exclusion and perhaps to a temporary expulsion (Vacca 2012, pp. 119–126). This did not induce Gramsci to change his position and, after relations were resumed, he continued to confirm it, recommending his comrades who were released from prison because they had served their time, or thanks to the amnesty of the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome, to let his thought be known to the party. It cannot be excluded that this was the situation that induced Togliatti to turn Gramsci into an iconic martyr of fascism at the Cologne Congress of the PCI (April 1931) in order to safeguard both him and the party; but it irritated the prisoner intensely not least because it made his release impracticable (Vacca 2012, pp. 253– 258). In any case, this was the context in which Gramsci, between the beginning of 1930 and mid-1932 wrote the first notes on the policy of the Comintern and the USSR. It goes without saying that above all on these themes his language was ‘Aesopian’ (as Tanja Schucht wrote to her

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

135

family), i.e. in code,34 and it needs decoding on the basis of the categories which form the network of his thoughts. The first category is ‘economic-corporative’, which applied to a political movement indicated its inability—whether because of primitivism or erroneous policies—to struggle for hegemony. The note from which we can start is Q6§10, ‘Past and present’, datable to between November and December 1930 (the months of the disputes at Turi), which we have already analysed in connection with the crisis of the modern State. The passage which attention is now drawn to is the one in which Gramsci considers the crisis of the State to be ‘catastrophic’, because neither the liberal ruling classes nor the communist movement had a solution: ‘The regressive and conservative social groups are shrinking back more and more to their initial economic-corporative phase, while progressive and innovative groupings are still in their initial phase – which is, precisely, the economic-corporative phase’ (Q6§10, p. 690; PN Vol. 3, p. 9). His view seems unequivocal: the Soviet Union had adopted an unexpansive political form—as Gramsci had feared four years earlier—and the political line of the Comintern was economistic: neither were on the terrain of the struggle for hegemony. Obviously, the cause was the nature of Soviet power, of which the Comintern was only a projection. But before dealing in more depth with this point let us look at his assessment of the policy of the International. The theme is analysed in greater depth in Q13§23, ‘Observations on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis’, of January 1933, which in the section we are considering here is the second draft of Q9§40, dating back to June 1932. The first observation concerns the slogan ‘class against class’ and ‘the aversion on principle to compromise’. These are clear manifestations of ‘economism’ because their basis is the conviction of the catastrophic character of the world crisis. The gravest consequence, says Gramsci, is inertia, masked by propaganda about an imminent revolution; thus a ‘belief in a predetermined teleology like that of a religion’ which made ‘political initiative’ useless. One point which should be added to the paragraph on economism as an example of the so-called intransigence theories is the rigid aversion on principle to what are termed compromises—and the derivative of this, which 34 On the communication and writing of codes for the Letters and the Notebooks, cf. Vacca (2012, pp. 105–118).

136

G. VACCA

can be termed “fear of dangers”. It is clear that this aversion on principle to compromise is closely linked to economism. For the conception upon which the aversion is based can only be the iron conviction that there exist objective laws of historical development similar in kind to natural laws, together with a belief in a predetermined teleology like that of a religion: since favourable conditions are inevitably going to appear, and since these, in a rather mysterious way, will bring about palingenetic events, it is evident that any deliberate initiative tending to predispose and plan these conditions is not only useless but even harmful. (Q13§23, pp. 1611–1612; SPN , pp. 167–168)

The corollary to this way of thinking is the reduction of politics to military action with no given project. ‘Side by side with these fatalistic beliefs however, there exists the tendency “thereafter” to rely blindly and indiscriminately on the regulatory virtue of armed conflict’, which however, without the support of a political plan, is incapable of balancing destruction and reconstruction: it is thought that ‘the intervention of will is useful for destruction, not for reconstruction (…). Destruction is conceived of mechanically, not as destruction/reconstruction’ (Q13§23, p. 1612; SPN , p. 168). It is unnecessary to produce further examples to demonstrate that these passages refer to the so-called ‘third period’ policy of the Comintern: it is absolutely obvious that Gramsci is thinking about this policy and the ideological presuppositions of Soviet foreign policy (Di Biagio 2004). The following passage deserves our attention, a passage in which he explains the foreign policy, identifying as the origin of the reduction of Soviet politics to brute force the change that had taken place in the social bases of the State: An appropriate political initiative is always necessary to liberate the economic thrust from the dead weight of traditional policies—i.e. to change the political direction of certain forces which have to be absorbed if a new, homogeneous politico-economic historical bloc, without internal contradictions, is to be successfully formed. And, since two “similar” forces can only be welded into a new organism either through a series of compromises or by force of arms, either by binding them to each other as allies or by forcibly subordinating one to the other, the question is whether one has the necessary force, and whether it is “productive” to use it. If the union of two forces is necessary in order to defeat a third, a recourse to arms and coercion (even supposing that these are available) can be nothing more than a methodological hypothesis; the only concrete possibility is compromise. Force can be employed against enemies, but not against a

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

137

part of one’s own side which one wishes rapidly to assimilate, and whose “good will” and enthusiasm one needs. (Q13§23, pp. 1611–1613; SPN , pp. 167–168 [in part])

These words reveal not only his extreme disapproval of the manner in which the alliance between workers and peasants had been liquidated and the ‘extermination of the Kulaks as a class’ (cf. Romano 1999) had been put into operation, but also his opposition to the authoritarian form assumed by the Soviet State. In several notes transparently comparing the Soviet and fascist regimes, Gramsci defines the USSR as a totalitarian State. The definition is based on the single party system, on the internal regime of the party and the identification of the party with the State. However he distinguishes between ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’ totalitarianism, based on the opposite function of the Soviet Communist Party and the National Fascist Party: A totalitarian policy (…) attempts: (1) to ensure that the members of a particular party find in that one party all the satisfactions that they had previously found in a multiplicity of organizations, that is, to sever all ties these members have with extraneous cultural organisms; (2) to destroy all other organizations or to incorporate them into a system regulated solely by the party. This occurs: (1) when the party in question is the bearer of a new culture – this is a progressive phase; (2) when the party in question wants to prevent another force, bearer of a new culture, from becoming itself “totalitarian” – this is a regressive and objectively and reactionary phase. (Q6§136, p. 800; PN Vol. 3, p. 108 and SPN , p. 265)

The distinction is analytical in character and does not entail his embracing Soviet totalitarianism. The paragraph quoted is from the summer of 1931 and is followed by paragraph 137, ‘Concept of State’, in which Gramsci enunciates the conception of the State as the unity of ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’ which in those same days he had communicated to Sraffa in his already cited letter to Tanja of 7 September (Q6§137, p. 801; PN Vol. 3, pp. 108–109).35 This concept expressed criticism of Lenin’s conception of the State and even more of the form that the Soviet state had assumed after the end of the New Economic

35 Cf. also Gramsci (with Schucht), Lettere. 1926–1935, p. 791 and LfP Vol. 2, p. 67.

138

G. VACCA

Policy. Indeed, a little earlier, pointing to the change of the social bases of the Soviet Union, Gramsci had described it as ‘an extreme form of political society’ (Q7§28, p. 876; PN Vol. 3, p. 178) and, as is known, this formula denotes power based on a fracture between those who govern and the governed, and the authoritarian compression of civil society. To these judgements must be added the observation that in totalitarian States the single party no longer has ‘functions that are directly political, but merely technical ones of propaganda and public order, and moral and cultural influence’; and since they are mass parties, the masses ‘have no other political function than a generic loyalty, of a military kind, to a visible or invisible political centre’ (Q17§37, pp. 1939–1940; SPN , pp. 149–150). It is however true that in Q14§34, ‘Machiavelli. Political Parties and Policing Functions’, dating to January 1933, Gramsci justifies, in principle, the ‘policing functions’ of the Communist Party in the USSR since they are necessary ‘to keep the dispossessed reactionary forces within the bounds of legality, and to raise the backward masses to the level of the new legality’ (Q14§34, pp. 1691–1692; SPN , p. 155). These are observations of merciless realism if seen in relation to his personal history. From October 1922 Julija Schucht, who had become his partner, started to collaborate with the GPU (Gosudarstvennoe Politiˇceskoe Upravlenie), the intelligence body of the Soviet government, and continued that activity until the end of 1930, when she was forced to give up work because of a serious illness. From the outset Gramsci was aware and consented, and in any case it would have been strange that a functionary of a communist party, already under consideration for becoming its leader, should not have justified historically the need for police control in the Soviet State, even with regard to imself. But when he was writing those notes, his suspicions were at their peak regarding the possibility that Julija, perhaps because of the political conditioning she was undergoing, had been an involuntary accomplice in his failure to be released, even to the point of writing as much in the tragic letter to Tanja of 27 February 1933.36 In any case, while condemning the policy of the USSR, he attempted to justify its origin, and from this viewpoint his notes on Soviet Marxism, the dominant economic culture in the USSR and the role of ideology are

36 Gramsci and Tat’jana Schucht, Lettere. 1926–1935, pp. 1209–1213; in English, Gramsci (1994a), Vol. 2, pp. 274–278. See also Vacca (2012, Chapters xiii and xiv).

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

139

illuminating. In Q8§185, ‘The Economic-Corporative Phase of the State’ (December 1931), he writes: If it is true that no type of State can avoid passing through a phase of economic-corporate primitivism, one can deduce that the content of the political hegemony of the new social group that has founded the new type of State must be predominantly of an economic order: This would entail the reorganization of the structure and of the real relations between people and the sphere of the economy or of production. The superstructural elements will inevitably be few in number; they will typify struggle and farsightedness, though the component parts of “plans” will still be meager. The cultural plan will be mostly negative: a critique of the past aimed at destruction and erasure of memory. Constructive policy will still be at the level of “broad outlines”, sketches that could (and should) be changed at all times in order to be consistent with the structure as it takes shape. (Q8§185, p. 1053; PN Vol. 3, p. 342)

Probably Gramsci was thinking back to the Proletkult movement, his membership of which dated to the time of L’Ordine Nuovo 37 ; but he certainly had before him the book by Fülöp-Miller Il volto del bolscevismo, published by Bompiani in 1930 which, although it stopped at 1926, provided ample information on the way in which the construction of scientific and literary academies dedicated to promoting proletarian culture had been approached. Furthermore, precisely in 1931 the Academy of Sciences had become a State organism, controlled by the party.38 Finally there was the success of the first five-year plan, which had reached its objectives a year in advance. What did Gramsci mean by asserting that the Soviet State was in a phase of economic-corporative primitivism? Before examining the analyses which substantiate this definition, we need to specify his political position. In Q8§130, ‘Encyclopedic Notions and Cultural Topics. Statolatry’ (April 1932), he writes: Some social groups rose to autonomous State life without first having had an extended period of independent cultural and moral development of their

37 See the letter on Futurism to Trotsky of 8 September 1922, in Gramsci, A., Epistolario I , pp. 248–250. In English GTW , pp. 121–123, and alternative translation in Gramsci (1994b, pp. 244–246). 38 S. Tagliagambe (1978, Chapters ii and iii), and the documents published on pp. 261–298; see also D. Kanoussi (2007, pp. 80–82).

140

G. VACCA

own (…). [F]or such social groups a period of statolatry is necessary and indeed appropriate. Such “statolatry” is nothing other than the normal form of “State life” or, at least, of initiation into autonomous State life and into the creation of a “civil society” which it historically could not be created before the ascent to independent State life. Nevertheless, this kind of “statolatry” must not be abandoned to itself, it must not become theoretical fanaticism or come to be seen as “perpetual”. (Q8§185, p. 1020; PN Vol. 3, p. 310)

Although his critique of Soviet power is very harsh, Gramsci seems to believe that it is reformable: his critique seems aimed at ‘theoretical fanaticism’ and the risk of crystallization of the authoritarian State rather than at its nature, which, at least for the initial phase of Soviet power, was historically justified. However it appears clear that he is concerned about the formation of an autocratic power, whose roots he identifies in the planning model and the incapacity of the Soviet élite to address the ‘political question of the intellectuals’. He concentrates his attention on Soviet Marxism, as much on the aspect of its economic culture as on the ideology that inspired the construction of the State. Regarding the first aspect he takes aim at the Précis d’économie politique by Lapidus and Ostrovityanov, a manual of political economy which he knew in the translation by Victor Serge published in Paris in 1927, and which constituted a sort of official handbook (cf. in English: Lapidus and Ostrovityanov 1929). His observations are included in ‘Points to Reflect on for a Study of Economics’ in Q10II and form part of his further study of theoretical economics which had been suggested to him by the discussions in Italy initiated by Ugo Spirito. He reproaches the two Soviet economists for having based planning on the concept of socially necessary labour, ignoring the fact that Marx had elaborated the concept to make the working class aware of the fact that labour ‘is first and foremost an “ensemble” and that as an “ensemble” it determines the fundamental process of economic motion’. Socially necessary labour is a critical concept, as all Marx’s economic research is critical; therefore it cannot be taken as the foundation of a political economy, for which a theory of costs and prices is needed. When the working class takes power and its historical position has changed, says Gramsci, it will have to take account of ‘questions of specific utilities and comparisons between them in order to draw from them initiatives as regards movement forwards’, and indeed the Soviet government had

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

141

instituted ‘competitions’ to raise the productivity of individual labour (Q10II§23, pp. 1261–1262; FSPN , pp. 169–170). That the two authors of Précis were not familiar with volume III of Capital was justified on the basis of the fact that in 1927 it had not yet been published; but even on the basis of volumes I and II they should have understood the need to incorporate into Marxist economics the price theory elaborated by the marginalists (Q10II§23, pp. 1262 and Q10II§37i, p. 1285; FSPN , pp. 169–170 and 165–166 respectively). However what worried him most was the ‘dogmatic’ character of the Précis, because it revealed the way in which scientific life was proceeding in the Soviet Union. The manual was evidence that only those … possessed of the herd instinct, who basically could not care less about the question [under consideration – author’s note] are launched on the study of economic problems, any scientific development thus being made impossible.

Gramsci continues in this paragraph, noting that Marx’s thought had therefore ‘become the monopoly of narrow-minded, jabbering wretches who, only by reason of the dogmatism of their position, manage to maintain a place not in science itself but in the marginal bibliography of science’ (Q15§45, pp. 1805–1806; FSPN , p. 176). In the Summer-Autumn of 1931 Gramsci’s reading of an excerpt from The Economist on Soviet planning and of reports by Prince Mirskij on the philosophical debate taking place in the USSR, published in the review Labour Monthly, had induced him to believe that the predominant economic determinism in Soviet ideology was about to be abandoned and that the voluntarism of the planning might give rise to a turning point in intellectual life (Q7§44, p. 892–893 and Q8§205, p. 1064; PN Vol. 3, pp. 193–194 and FSPN , pp. 270–271; and PN Vol. 3, p. 353, respectively). But his hopes were soon dashed and from February 1932 he intensified his criticism of Bukharin’s Manual which, although its author had been excluded in 1929 from the party’s Political Bureau, continued to be the basic text of Soviet Marxism. As we shall see later (Chapter 3), the salient point of Gramsci’s critique concerned the manner in which the unity of theory and practice was conceptualized, and it involved not only Bukharin, but also Soviet Marxism in its entirety and thus also Lenin. In Bukharin’s Manual ‘the exploration and refinement of the concept of the unity of theory and practice is still only at an early stage: (…)

142

G. VACCA

people speak about theory as a “complement”, an “accessory” of practice, or as the handmaid of practice’ (Q11§12, p. 1386; SPN , p. 334). This constitutes the basis of judgement on the USSR as an ‘economiccorporative phase of the State’. The original hegemonic nucleus of Leninism, consisting of the alliance between workers and peasants, had not been developed because the ‘political question of the intellectuals’ had not been addressed. Therefore the creation of a new culture and a new civilization had never begun, and this explained the closure of the USSR in upon itself, and its impossibility to play a world hegemonic role.39 Three years later, the ‘liquidation’ of Trotsky suggested to him a number of reflections on the ‘hypocrisy of self-criticism’ and on ‘black parliamentarism’ which constituted a strong opposition to Stalin’s ‘absolutism’, the escalation of which he described as a symptom of insecurity and instability (Q14§§74–77, pp. 1742–1745; SPN , pp. 254–257 [§§74 and 76]).40 What was then, in Gramsci’s eyes, the world situation? The scenario of the Thirties is dominated by the great crisis. The only progressive response appeared to be the spread of American industrialism. But its expansivity was limited to Europe, where, however Nazism was on the rise and the decisive struggle seemed that between Bolshevism and fascism. Hence between the United States and Europe a conflictual fault opened up which could not give birth to a world hegemonic nucleus. The USSR, for its part, no longer appeared to be the ‘world power’ launching a new hegemonic challenge based on the ideals of socialism that Gramsci had perceived in the first phase of his adherence to communism. Of course, it was a power not subordinated to any of the capitalist ‘great powers’; but closed in on itself and enveloped in iron-hard political and economic forms, it was totally excluded from the challenges of globalization. The world system could not be classified as a unitary configuration, governed, as the ‘passive revolution’ concept postulates, by a hegemonic constellation and a certain degree of collaboration among all the actors. The concept is however valid for a characterization of the United States, Italy 39 The lack of expansivity of the USSR through the inability of the Bolshevik élite to construct a new type of hegemonic power and the nexus with the theory of the intellectuals and the conception of Marxism had been a theme for Gramsci immediately before his arrest: cf. G. Vacca (2012, pp. 23–38). 40 Paragraphs 75 and 77 are not as yet in a standard English translation in English of the Notebooks.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

143

and the USSR of the Thirties considered singly since, in each of the three countries, there were ‘molecular changes which in fact progressively modify the pre-existing composition of forces, and hence become the matrix of new changes’ (Q15§11, p. 1767; SPN , p. 109). In the same days that he had drawn attention to the ‘catastrophic’ character of the crisis of the modern State, Gramsci was describing the phenomenon in another note in even simpler and clearer words. In Q7§12, ‘Man as Individual and Man as Mass’, which we have already mentioned, he wrote: The old intellectual and moral leaders of society feel the ground giving way under their feet; (…) Since the particular form of civilization, culture, morality that they have represented is decomposing, they shriek at the death of all civilization, of all culture, of all morality and they demand that the State take repressive measures, or, secluded from the real process of history, they constitute themselves into groups of resistance and by so doing prolong the crisis (…). The representatives of the new order now in gestation, full of “rationalistic” hatred for the old, are disseminating utopias and crackpot schemes. (Q7§12, pp. 862–863; PN Vol. 3, p. 165, and FSPN , p. 276)

The subsequent development of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ seems not to have changed his vision of the overall historical process. The distinctive trait of the world situation between the two wars is a crisis of hegemony. As he writes in Q3§34 (p. 311 of the Critical Edition of the Notebooks; PN Vol. 2, p. 33): ‘The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum morbid phenomena of the most varied kind come to pass’.

References Agosti, A. (1976). La Terza Internazionale. Storia documentaria (Vol. II). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Agosti, A. (1996). Palmiro Togliatti. Turin: UTET. Aquarone, A. (2003 [19651 ]). L’organizzazione dello Stato totalitario. Turin: Einaudi. Boyer, R., & Mistral, J. (1983 [19781 ]). Accumulation, Inflation, Crisis. Paris: PUF. In Italian: Accumulazione, inflazione, crisi (1985) (S. Scotti, Trans.). Bologna: Il Mulino. Carlucci, A. (2014). Gramsci and Languages. Chicago: Haymarket.

144

G. VACCA

Carr, E. H. (1966 [19521 ]). The Bolshevik Revolution 1917 –1923 (Vol. 2). Harmondsworth: Pelican. Ciasca, R. (1916). L’origine del “Programma per l’opinione nazionale italiano” del 1847–’48. Milan: Dante Alighieri. Ciocca, P. (2015). Storia dell’Iri. Rome and Bari: Laterza. Croce, B. (1928). Storia d’Italia dal 1871 al 1915. Bari: Laterza. Croce, B. (1932). Storia dell’Europa nel secolo decimonono. Bari: Laterza. De Felice, F. (1977). Rivoluzione passiva, fascismo, Americanismo in Gramsci. In F. Ferri (Ed.), Politica e storia in Gramsci (pp. 161–220). De Rosa, G. (1977). Luigi Sturzo. Turin: UTET. Di Biagio, A. (2000). Moscow, The Comintern and the War Scare 1926–1928. In S. Pons & A. Romano (Eds.), Russia in the Age of Wars, 1914–1928. Milan: Feltrinelli. Di Biagio, A. (2004). Coesistenza e isolazionismo. Rome: Carocci. Fattorini, E. (1999). Gramsci e la storia della chiesa novecentesca. In G. Vacca (Ed.) (1999b), pp. 145–156. Fattorini E. (2008). Gramsci e la questione cattolica. In F. Giasi (Ed.), (2008), Vol. I, pp. 361–378. Ferri, F. (Ed.) (1977). Politica e storia in Gramsci (2 Vols.). Proceedings of the International Conference on Gramsci, Florence. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Füllöp-Miller, R. (1930). Il volto del bolscevismo. Milan: Bompiani. Gagliardi, A. (2010). Il corporativismo fascista. Rome-Bari: Laterza. Giasi, F. (2007). Egemonia e direzione politica nella “Quistione Meridionale”. Speech at the conference Gramsci a setenta años de la muerte, IV Conferencia Internacional Estudios Gramscianos, Città del Messico, 29 novembre–1 dicembre 2007, awaiting publcation. Giasi, F. (Ed.). (2008). Gramsci nel suo tempo (2 Vols.). Rome: Carocci. Giasi, F. (2011). I giudizi di Marx and di Engels sul Risorgimento e la loro fortuna. In F. Rocchetti (Ed.), Con gli occhi di Gramsci. Letture del Risorgimento. Gramsci, A. (1966). Socialismo e fascismo (1921–1922). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1971a). La costruzione del partito comunista 1923–1926. Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci A. (1971b). Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Q. Hoare & G. Nowell-Smith, Eds. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1980). Cronache torinesi (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1982). La Città futura (1917–18) (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1984). Il nostro Marx 1919–1920 (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1987). L’Ordine nuovo 1919–1920. Turin: Einaudi.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

145

Gramsci, A. (1992). Lettere 1908–1926 (A. A. Santucci, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1994a). Letters from Prison (F. Rosengarten, Ed. and R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci A. (1994b). Pre-prison Writings (R. Bellamy, Ed. and V. Cox, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gramsci A. (1995). Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci A. (1996). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 2, J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci A. (2007). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 3, J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (2011). Epistolario 1. 1908–1922, part of the Edizione nazionale degli scritti di Antonio Gramsci (D. Bidussa, G. Luzzatto Voghera, & M. L. Righi, Eds.). Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana; and Cagliari: Fondazione Banco di Sardegna. Gramsci, A. (2014). Pre-prison Letters. A Great and Terrible World (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A., & Schucht, T. (1997). Lettere. 1926–1935 (A. Natoli & C. Daniele, Eds.). Turin: Einaudi. International Gramsci Journal. (March 2011), 1(3). International Press Correspondence (1922–1924). Leningrad, Berlin and Vienna. Kanoussi, D. (2007). Los Quadernos filosóficos de Antonio Gramsci. De Bujarin a Maquiavelo. México, DF: Plaza y Valdés. Labriola, A. (1925 [19061 ]). Da un secolo all’altro. Considerazioni retrospettive e presagi (unpublished fragment of a projected fourth essay, reconstructed by L. Dal Pane and published posthumously). Bologna: Cappelli; now in id., Da un secolo all’altro. 1897–1903 (2012) (S. Miccolis & A. Salvatorelli, Ed.). Naples: Bibliopolis. Labriola, A. (1975). Storia di dieci anni, repr. Milan: Feltrinelli of the 1910 posthumous edition. Milan: Il Viandante. Lapidus, I., & Ostrovityanov, K. (1929). An Outline of Political Economy. London: Martin Lawrence. Maccabelli, T. (1998). Gramsci lettore di Ugo Spirito. Economia pura e corporativismo nei “Quaderni del carcere”. In Il pensiero economico italiano (no. 2, pp. 73–114). Omodeo, A. (1931). L’Età del Risorgimento. Messina: Principato. Pons, S., & Romano, A. (Eds.). (2000). Russia in the Age of Wars, 1914–1928. Milan: Feltrinelli. Procacci, G. (1981). La “lotta per la pace” nel socialismo internazionale alla vigilia della seconda guerra mondiale. In Storia del marxismo (Vol. 3, Part 2). Turin: Einaudi.

146

G. VACCA

Rocchetti, F. (Ed.). (2011). Con gli occhi di Gramsci. Letture del Risorgimento. Rome: Carocci. Romano, A. (1999). Contadini in uniforme. Florence: Olschki. Rossi, A., & Vacca, G. (2007). Gramsci tra Mussolini e Stalin. Rome: Fazi. Santomassimo, G. (2006). La terza via fascista. Il mito di corporativismo. Rome: Carocci. Spriano, P. (1969). Storia del Partito comunista italiano. Vol. II, Gli anni della clandestinità. Turin: Einaudi. Stolzi, I. (2007). L’ordine corporativo. Poteri organizzati e organizzazione del potere nella riflessione giuridica dell’Italia fascista. Milan: Giuffré. Tagliagambe, S. (1978). Scienza, filosofia, politica nell’Unione Sovietica 1924–39. Milan: Feltrinelli. Telò, M. (1999). Note sul futuro dell’Occidente e la teoria delle relazioni internazionali. In G. Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento. Rome: Carocci. Traniello F. (2007). Dal Risorgimento al secondo dopoguerra. Bologna: Il Mulino. Vacca, G. (1991). I “Quaderni” e la politica del ’900. In id., Gramsci e Togliatti. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1999a). Appuntamenti con Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (1999b). Gramsci e il Novecento. Rome: Carocci. Vacca, G. (2011). Gramsci interprete del Risorgimento: una presenza controversa (1949–1967). In A. Bini, C. Daniele, & S. Pons (Eds.), Farsi italiani. La costruzione dell’idea di nazione nell’Italia repubblicana. Proceedings of the Conference ‘La nazione vissuta, la nazione narrate’, Cortona, 2–4 December 2010. Milan: Feltrinelli. Vacca, G. (2012). Vita e Pensieri di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . Turin: Einaudi. Volpe, G. (1927). L’Italia in cammino. L’ultimo cinquantennio. Milan: Treves.

Newspaper and other articles by Gramsci arranged under the English title used in the text. Articles are listed in alphabetical order according to the first keyword, i.e. not taking into account the definite and indefinite articles. The original Italian title is found in parentheses after the English one, followed by journal and date of original publication, then where it may be consulted in volume form in Italian and, where available, in English The Agrarian Struggle in Italy (La lotta agraria in Italia), L’Ordine Nuovo, 31 August 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 311–313; SPW 1921–1926, 66–67. Behind Giolitti’s Scenario (Dietro lo scenario del Giolittismo), Avanti!, 5–8 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 275–294.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

147

Bonomi and His Friends (Bonomi e i suoi amici), L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 March 1924, in CPC, 169–171. Bourgeois Reformism (Il riformismo borghese), Avanti!, 5 December 1917, in CF , 470–472. On the Centenary of a King (Nel centenario di un re), Avanti!, 13 March 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 461–463. A Chain of Scoundrels (Una catena di ribaldi), Avanti!, 13 October 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 242–245. To Clarify Ideas on Bourgeois Reformism (Per chiarire le idee sul riformismo borghese), Avanti!, 11 December 1917, in CF , 481–484. The Crisis of the Petty Bourgeoisie (La crisi della piccola borghesia), L’Unità, 2 July 1924, in CPC 1923–1926, 25–28. The Elections (Le elezioni), in L’Ordine Nuovo, third series, Vol. 1(1), March 1924, in CPC 1923–1926, 162–165. Elemental Forces (Forze elementari), L’Ordine Nuovo, 26 April 1921, in SF. ON 1921–1922, 150–151; SPW 1921–1926, 38–40. Elements of the Situation (Elementi della situazione), in CPC 1923–1926, 85–88; SPW 1921–1926, 306–309. The Events of 2–3 December (Gli avvenimenti del 2–3 dicembre), L’Ordine nuovo, 6–13 December 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 350–357 (written jointly with Palmiro Togliatti). The Fall of Fascism (La caduta del fascismo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 November 1924, in CPC 1923–1926, 208–210: SPW 1921–1926, 273–275. Fascism: A Letter from Italy (Il fallimento del sindacalismo fascista), in CPC, 520–522: International Gramsci Journal, 1(3), March 2001, 31: originally in International Press Correspondence, 4(1), 3 January 1924. The Force of the State (La forza dello Stato), Avanti!, 11 December 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 776–778. The Historical Role of the City (La settimana in politica [xvi]. La funzione storica della città), L’Ordine Nuovo, 17 January 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 386–390; SPW 1910–1920, 150–153. The Italian Catholics (I cattolici italiani), Avanti!, 22 December 1918, in NM , 455–460. The Italian Crisis (La crisi italiana), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 September 1924 (report to the Central Committee of the PCI of 13–14 August), in CPC 1923–1926, 28–39; SPW 1921–1926, 255–264. The Italian Situation and the Tasks of the PCI (La situazione italiana e i compiti del PCI), Part I, in CPC 1923–1926, 488–498; SPW 1921–1926, 340–375. The Italian State (Lo Stato italiano), L’Ordine Nuovo, 7 February 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 403–408; PPW , 141–145. Italy and Spain (Italia e Spagna), L’Ordine Nuovo, 11 March 1921, in SF. ON 1921–1922, 101–103.

148

G. VACCA

Kolˇcak and Orlando (Kolciak e Orlando), L’Ordine Nuovo, 21 June 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 95–97. Legality (Legalità), L’Ordine Nuovo, 28 August 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 304–307. The Mezzogiorno and Fascism (Il mezzogiorno e il fascismo), L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 March 1924, in CPC 1923–1926, 171–175; PPW , 260–264. The Mezzogiorno and the War (Il Mezzogiorno e la Guerra), Il Grido del Popolo, 10 April 1916, in CT , 228–231. Monarchical Tradition (Tradizione monarchica), Avanti!, 14 March 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 464–466. The Monkey-People (Il popolo delle scimmie), L’Ordine Nuovo, 2 January 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 9–12. The Mussolini Government (Le origini del gabinetto Mussolini, 20 November 1922, retranslated into Italian from the French translation), SF: ON 1921– 1922, 528–530: International Press Correspondence (Inprecorr), 3(102), 824: republished online in the International Gramsci Journal, 1(3), March 2011, 30. Origins and Aims of the Law on Secret Associations (Origini e scopi della legge sulle associazioni segrete), in CPC 1923–1926, 75–84: in Cultural Studies, 2007, 21(4/5), 779–795. http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals, https://doi. org/10.1080/09502380701322158. Our Trade-Union Orientation (Il nostro indirizzo sindacale.), in Lo Stato operaio, 18 ottobre 1923, Vol. 1(8), in CPC 1923–1926, 3–7. Parlamentarismo e fascismo in Italia, in La Correspondance Internationale, 28 December 1923, retranslated into Italian in CPC 1923–1926 (Turin: Einaudi, 1978), 517–520. Parties and Masses (I partiti e la massa), L’Ordine Nuovo, 25 September 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 353–356; SPW 1921–1926, pp. 71-74. Pity on the Grandchildren of the Future (Pietà per i venturi nipoti), Avanti!, 18 May 1919, ON 1919–1920, 28–30. The Populars (I popolari), L’Ordine nuovo, 1 November 1919, in ON 1919– 1920, 272–274. Power in Italy (Il potere in Italia), Avanti!, 11 February 1920, in ON 1919– 1920, 409–412. Reactionary Subversiveness (Sovversismo reazionario), L’Ordine nuovo, 22 June 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 204-206; SPW 1921–1926, 46–47. Between Reality and Arbitrariness (Tra realtà e arbitrio), L’Ordine nuovo, 26 August 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 300–302. The Results of the Elections in Italy (‘Le elezioni in Italia’), in CPC 1923– 1926, 525–527: International Press Correspondence, 4(25), 231, reprinted in International Gramsci Journal, 1(3) (March 2001), 34.

2

THE NATURE OF PASSIVE REVOLUTION

149

The Rout (La disfatta), L’Ordine nuovo, 18 October 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 250–253. Russia and Europe (La Russia e l’Europa), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 November 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 267–271. Socialism and Italy (Il Socialismo e l’Italia), Il Grido del Popolo, 22 September 1917, in CF , 350–351. A Study of the Italian Situation [Part I], (Un esame della situazione I), in CPC 1923–1926, 113–120; SPW 1921–1926, 400–411. The Two Fascisms (I due fascismi), L’Ordine Nuovo, 25 August 1921, in SF: ON 1921–1922, 297–299; SPW 1921–1926, 63–65. Il Vaticano, La Correspondance Internationale, 12 March 1924, in CPC 1923– 1926, 523–525. What Is Reaction? (Cos’è la reazione?), Avanti!, 24 November 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 765–767. Workers and Peasants (La settimana in politica [xv]. Operai e contadini), L’Ordine nuovo, 3 January 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 376–378; SPW 1910–1920, 147–149.

CHAPTER 3

From Historical Materialism to the Philosophy of Praxis: Foundations for a Processual Theory of the Subject

Did Gramsci have an original conception of twentieth-century socialism? In my view there are valid reasons to claim this. In the Prison Notebooks his thought is characterized by the claim that there is an inseparable link between socialist transformation and the process generating a new rationality. As a starting point, however, we may take the Ordine Nuovo writings, where that conception is anticipated in the way in which he brings together production and politics.1

1

The Turin Factory Council Movement

The first reason regards the vision of the ‘general crisis’ of capitalism, a founding category for the Communist International, which initially counted among its adherents even the party of which Gramsci was then a member, namely the Italian Socialist Party. For Gramsci the origin of the ‘crisis’ lay in the war, which had destroyed the network of international interdependencies thanks to which capitalism was performing the progressive role of world economic unification: The war has irremediably ruptured the global equilibrium of capitalist production. Before the war, a dense network of commercial relations was 1 My reading of Gramsci’s writings in the weekly L’Ordine Nuovo owes much to Franco De Felice (1971).

© The Author(s) 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7_3

151

152

G. VACCA

being constructed in the world; economically the world had become a living organism with a rapid blood circulation (…) [In destroying] the conditions of existence of the liberal economy, [the war] is destroying the conditions of existence of capitalism. (‘Italy and the United States’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 303–304)

The crisis consists in the impossibility for the bourgeoisie to reconstruct the unity of the world market since, following the war, a hierarchy of overwhelming power had been installed which caused ‘the death of the State’: The myth created in the war – world unity in the League of Nations – has been realized in the ways and forms in which it could be realized under a regime of private and national property: in the global monopoly exercised and exploited by the English-speaking world. The economic and political life of States is under the close control of Anglo-American capitalism (…) This is the death of the State, which exists in so far as it is sovereign and independent; national capitalism is reduced to a vassal status (…) The world is ‘unified’ in the sense that a global hierarchy has been created which disciplines and controls the whole world in an authoritarian fashion. (‘The Unity of the World’, ON 1919–1920, p. 20)

The epoch-making nature of the crisis is determined by the unsustainability of such a situation faced with the growing subjectivity of the peoples that the war had generated: One might say that, in this period of the life of the world, there no longer exists any individual person undisturbed by political anxiety, in other words there is no one who does not understand and does not feel how the destiny of every single individual is linked to the form of the national State, to the form of the international equilibrium within which States are coordinated and subordinated. (‘A Breakdown and a Birth’, ON 1919–1920, p. 3)

In the analytical declension of the revolutionary nature of the era that began with the war, the accent falls on the fracture between the masses and the institutions. This in turn gives birth to the crisis of the old productive order, shown in the impossibility of self -reproduction: The period of history we are passing through is a revolutionary period because the traditional institutions for the government of the human masses, institutions which were linked to the old modes of production and

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

153

exchange, have lost any significance and useful function they might have had. The centre of gravity of the whole society has been removed to a new field: the institutions have been left as mere shells, devoid of any historical substance, or animating spirit. The bourgeois class no longer governs its vital interests through parliament. The working class is trying out new avenues in search of its institution of government, outside the trade union; it has found that institution of its government in the Factory Council and system of Councils. (‘Proletarian Unity’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 439–440; SPW 1919–1920, pp. 174–175)

The crisis is therefore a well-defined historical and political phenomenon, not an inevitable catastrophe having its origins in the ‘nature’ of capitalism. In his report on the Turin factory council movement, sent to the Executive Committee of the Third International in July 1920, Gramsci underlines one aspect in particular: For the first time in history, there was an example of a proletariat which engaged in struggle for control over production, without being driven into action through hunger or unemployment. Furthermore, it was not just a minority, a vanguard of the working class which undertook the struggle, but the entire mass of the workers of Turin took to the field and brought the struggle, heedless of privations and sacrifices, right to the end. (‘The Turin Factory Council Movement’, ON 1991–1920, pp. 599–600)2

The determining element in the crisis is, then, the change in subjectivity which regards as much productive forces as social relations and institutions. And Gramsci was not loath, in polemics with Angelo Tasca, to emphasize that for the Ordine Nuovo group the recognition of changes generated by the development of finance capital and by the war constituted one of the most important conditions for the industrial independence of the working class, a condition which consisted in the fact that the

2 [The version quoted (from L’Ordine Nuovo, 14 March 1921) differs somewhat from the one that Gramsci sent to the Comintern journal Communist International (no. 14. 1920), which in SPW 1919–1920 is retranslated from other non-English languages of the journal. The wording used here is taken from the abridged translation (by M. Carley, Marxists Internet Archive: https://www.marxists.org/archive/gramsci/1921/03/turin_ councils.htm) of the later newspaper article. Gramsci’s original manuscript is available online in its full Italian transcription (‘Il movimento comunista a Torino’) and English translation from the Italian (‘The Turin Communist Movement’) in the International Gramsci Journal, 2(2), 2017, here pp. 17 and 40 respectively—trans. note.]

154

G. VACCA

transformations of capitalism had made the role of capitalists redundant. The industrial workers could therefore observe empirically the progressive weakening of capitalist appropriation and assume ‘the initiative over production’: In the imperialist phase of the historical evolution of the bourgeois class, the industrial power of each factory is divorced from the factory and is concentrated in a trust, a monopoly, a bank, the State bureaucracy. Industrial power does not have to answer for what it does and becomes more autocratic, ruthless, and arbitrary. But the worker, freed from the boss’s subjection, and from the servile spirit generated by a hierarchy (…) achieves priceless gains in terms of autonomy and initiative. In the factory the working class has become a given ‘instrument of production’ (…): [Each worker] is a cog in the division-of-labour machine (…). If the worker achieves a clear consciousness of this given necessity that he represents, and builds upon it a representative apparatus that has all the hallmarks of a State (…) [The working class] begins a new history, the era of workers’ States that must coalesce to form a communist society. (‘The Factory Council’, ON 1919–1920, p. 535; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 262–263 and New Left Review, I/51, pp. 33–34)

The ‘actuality’ of the revolution has its origin in the fact that industrialism and capitalism tend to separate from each other and new social hierarchies, a new system of relations between the rulers and the ruled, between the governors and the governed, may be constructed (‘The Factory Worker’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 432–435). The analysis of the ‘morbid’ phenomena generated by finance capital in the ‘demographic composition’ and organization of the State is also very detailed, but it is of use to draw attention to the fact that, in Gramsci’s view, in order to respond to the needs of an extreme centralization and of an unheard-of productive effort, the war had accelerated and intensified the split between industrialism and capitalism. The change in subjectivity had extended far beyond the direct producers: on the one hand it had involved the ‘intellectuals of production’ and, on the other, it had radically changed the historical position of the peasant masses. The former had undergone a progressive assimilation with the workers: The figure of the technician too has changed. His relations with the industrialist have been completely transformed. He is no longer a trusted employee, an agent of capitalist interests: since the worker can do without

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

155

the technician for a great number of jobs, the technician becomes redundant as a disciplinary agent. The technician too, is reduced to the status of a producer, linked to the capitalist via the naked and savage relationship of exploited to exploiter. (‘The Instruments of Labour’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 414–415; SPW 1910–1920, p. 164)

As for the peasants, the war had dragged them out of the countryside and brought them into contact with the world of industry. It had connected them to the working class and made them aware of their role in the State, transforming them into an active mass which would no longer be disposed to return to the old social and political conditions. Four years of the trenches and of exploitation of his blood have radically changed the peasant psychology (…). The peasants came to see the State in all its complex grandeur, in its measureless power, in its intricate construction. They came to see the world no longer as something infinitely vast like the universe and small as the village bell-tower, but as a concrete reality consisting of States and peoples, social strengths and weaknesses, armies and machines, wealth and poverty. Links of solidarity were forged which otherwise would have taken decades of historical experience and intermittent struggles to form. Within four years, in the mud and blood of the trenches, a spiritual world emerged that was avid to form itself into permanent and dynamic social structures and institutions. (‘Workers and Peasants’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 157–158; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 84–85)

The breakdown in the world market, the oppressive nature of AngloSaxon domination and the alteration in mass subjectivity put the proletarian revolution on the agenda: During the war and as a result of the necessities of the war, the Italian State took over regulation of the production and distribution of material goods as one of its functions. A sort of industrial and commercial trust has been set up, a sort of concentration of the means of production and exchange, an equalization of the conditions of exploitation of the proletarian and semi-proletarian masses – which have had their revolutionary effect. (‘Workers and Peasants’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 156; SPW 1910–1920, p. 83)

The revolution is ‘imposed’ not ‘proposed’, since it succeeds ‘only in so far as it advances and promotes the expansion and systematization of proletarian and communist forces’ formed within capitalist society

156

G. VACCA

and is able to build a new order of production and distribution (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 569–570; PPW , pp. 168–169, SPW 1919–1920, p. 305, and New Left Review I/51, p. 45). On the surface it appears that we are dealing with the basic concepts of Marx’s theory of revolutions, reintroduced by the Bolsheviks, but we shall soon see that this is not the case. The link between production and politics is a particular feature of the Ordine Nuovo experience and concerns the search for a way that differed from the Russian Revolution and the European insurgencies of 1919–1920. Let us begin with an examination of Gramsci’s conception of the Council as the institutional nucleus of a workers’ State: Since all sectors of the labour process are represented in the Council, in proportion to the contribution each craft and each labour sector makes to the manufacture of the object the factory is producing for the collectivity (…) [i]ts raison d’être lies in the labour process, in industrial production, i.e. in something permanent. It does not lie in wages or class divisions, i.e. in something transitory and, moreover, the very thing we are trying to supersede.

Therefore, he continues, the ‘Factory Council is the model of the proletarian State’ (‘Unions and Councils’, ON 1919–1920, p. 238; SPW 1910–1920, p. 100 and New Left Review I/51, pp. 36–37). His opinion is that in this way the risks both of a ‘trade-union State’ of a corporative nature and of a defeat such as that suffered by the council republics in Bavaria and Hungary may be avoided. The link between production and politics tried out by the Turin factory council movement thus leads him to assert that the ‘two-stage revolution’ defined by the conquest of State power and successively by its use to ‘subject’ the economy in an authoritarian fashion is anachronistic: the experience of revolutions [the European ones of 1919-1920] has shown that, since Russia, all other two-stage revolutions have failed and the failure of the second revolution has plunged the working classes into a state of prostration and demoralization. This has allowed the bourgeois class to reorganize in strength and begin a systematic extermination of the communist vanguards trying to regroup. (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919– 1920, p. 572; SPW 1919–1920, p. 308, PPW , p. 171, and NLR I/51, p. 47)

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

157

The conviction that, after the October Revolution, it became necessary to develop a new protagonist of proletarian revolution dates back, then, to the times of L’Ordine Nuovo. If the political revolution and the reorganization of the economy are separated logically or chronologically into two different moments, the revolutionary process is interrupted, laying the road open to reaction. The council revolutions of 1919–1920 had reproposed the asynchrony between politics and economics of the ‘Russian experiment’ and had therefore failed. In Russia this had not happened, thanks to quite exceptional conditions, such as the extreme backwardness of the country, the international situation created by the war and the collapse of the Tsarist Empire. Gramsci saw instead in the European revolutions the lack of a conception of politics that was appropriate for the transformations that the proletariat should have been able to introduce in the sphere of production. He wrote that in Germany … social democracy (…) effected the paradox of violently forcing the process of the German proletarian revolution into the form of its own organization, believing that it was thereby dominating history. It created its own Councils, by fiat, and made sure its own men should have a majority on them. It shackled and domesticated the revolution. Today it has lost all contact with historical reality, save for the beating of Noske’s fist on the workers’ nape, and the revolutionary process pursues its own uncontrolled and still mysterious course, to well up again from unknown depths of violence and pain. (‘The Party and the Revolution’, L’ON 1919–1920, p. 368; SPW 1910–1920, p. 143, and New Left Review I/51, pp. 42–43)

More generally, in Austria and Germany, in Bavaria, in Ukraine, in Hungary, the revolution as a destructive process was not accompanied by the revolution as a constructive process, and it was because of this that these revolutions failed: The presence of these external conditions – a communist party, the destruction of the bourgeois State, powerful trade union organizations and an armed proletariat – was not sufficient to compensate for the absence of another condition: the existence of productive forces tending towards development and growth, a conscious movement on the part of the proletarian masses to substantiate their political power with economic power, and a determination on the part of these proletarian masses to introduce proletarian order into the factory, to make the factory the basic unit of the new State, to build the new State as an expression of the industrial relations

158

G. VACCA

of the factory system. (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 570–571; SPW 1910–1920, pp. 306–307, PPW , p. 170, and New Left Review I/51, p. 46)

In conclusion, then, ‘the revolution is not a thaumaturgical act, but a dialectical process of historical development’ (‘The Development of the Revolution’, ON 1919–1920, p. 207; SPW 1910–1920, p. 92) in which the proletariat’s conquest of the power of initiative over industry is the first step of a transformation destined to occupy an entire historical period. Communist society can be conceived only as a ‘natural’ formation, merged with the instruments of production and with the network of exchange; and the revolution can be founded only by recognizing the ‘historical necessity’ of this formation. The revolutionary process is therefore resolved into a ‘spontaneous’ movement of the working masses generated by the contradictions that strike at collective human life under a regime of capitalist property. Gramsci’s sarcasm and polemics against any form of ‘spontaneity’ are well-known. But in this case ‘spontaneous’ stands for ‘organic’, meaning not something lacking in form but capable of being organized in institutions in which productive functions and political functions blend coherently. These organizations are the Factory Councils which at one and the same time, through a unitary dialectical development, can realize the destruction of the old productive apparatus and its substitution by a new order: The revolution as the conquest of social power on the part of the proletariat can only be conceived as a dialectical process, in which political power makes possible industrial power and industrial power makes possible political power. The soviet is the instrument of revolutionary struggle that provides for the autonomous development of the communist economic organization (…) The Factory Council, as an expression of the autonomy of the producer in the industrial sphere and as the basis for communist economic organization, is the instrument for the final struggle to the death with the capitalist order. (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919–1920, p. 573; SPW 1910–1920, p. 308, PPW , pp. 171–172 and New Left Review I/51, p. 46)

It seems obvious to me that in these reflections there are all the elements for the successive critique of the ‘permanent revolution’. But, returning to 1919–1920, the link between production and politics leads to another specific aspect of Gramsci’s thought: the conception of the party.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

159

The nature of the communist party stems directly from that of the proletarian revolution. The protagonist of the process is the mass of producers, which has reached a level of ‘industrial autonomy’ and ‘historical initiative’ such as to be able to shape a new economic and State order. It is a mass in fusion which in the course of the process acquires a new ‘psychology’, recognizing and asserting itself as part of a whole constituted concretely by a new ‘power of initiative over production’. The party is therefore configured as the mind of the process which, on the one hand, can carry out a leading role putting itself in a dialectical relation with the mass and avoiding crystallization in the bureaucratic apparatuses of the new State and, on the other, working continuously to foster the political conditions of the process itself. Under the first of these aspects, ‘the party remains the superior hierarchy of this irresistible mass movement’ on condition that it does not attempt to ‘fix in mechanical forms of immediate power an apparatus governing the masses in movement’ (‘The Party and the Revolution’, ON 1919–1920, p. 370; New Left Review I/51, pp. 43–44, and SPW 1910–1920, p. 144).3 Under the other aspect, In so far as it can shape reality, the party must create conditions in which there will not be two revolutions, but in which the revolution against the bourgeois State will find organized forces capable of beginning the transformation of the national productive apparatus from an instrument of plutocratic oppression to an instrument of communist liberation. (‘Two Revolutions’, ON 1919–1920, pp. 573–574; SPW 1910–1920, p. 309, and New Left Review I/51, p. 48)

In order to lead the proletarian revolution, the party must be ‘the instrument and historical form of the process of inner liberation through which the worker is transformed from executor to initiator, from mass to leader and guide, from pure brawn to brain and a will’ (‘The Communist Party’ ON 1919–1920, p. 652; PPW , p. 191, and SPW 1910–1920,

3 [The New Left Review translation quoted here follows more exactly the Italian wording—trans. note.]

160

G. VACCA

p. 333).4 But the single moments of the process cannot be foreseen in advance since they are an original creation of the mass in action: Who can imagine and foresee what the immediate consequences will be, when the countless multitudes who today have no will and power finally make their entry into the arena of historical destruction and creation? (…) They will find everything that exists mysteriously hostile and will seek to destroy it utterly. But it is the very immensity of the revolution, its quality of being unforeseeable, its boundless freedom, that makes it impossible to hazard so much as a single definitive hypothesis on what feelings, passions, initiatives and virtues are being moulded in such an incandescent furnace. (‘The Communist Party’ ON 1919–1920, p. 652; PPW , p. 188, and SPW 1910–1920, p. 331)

The party can guide the revolutionary process to the extent that it assumes a mass character and follows the principle at the basis of the proletarian revolution: the progressive formation of a ‘will of the protagonists’ among the ‘producers’, of an attitude of ‘initiators’ and ‘leaders’. In carrying out its role as guide, then, it strives for a general modification of the relations between leaders and led, and for the creation of new ways of life.

2

The Research Programme of the Notebooks

Despite the limits of an experience that was limited both in time and to a small part of the industrial proletariat of the era, as was the Turin Factory Council movement (cf. Spriano 1975), the subjects singled out in 1919– 1920 were destined to come again to the fore in the research carried out in the Prison Notebooks. But between the experience of L’Ordine Nuovo and the Notebooks historical events of a decisive importance intervened: the defeat of the workers’ movement and the advent of fascism in Italy; the failure of the revolution in Germany and the crisis of the Bolshevik leadership; the coming to power of Stalin, the ‘revolution from above’ and the radical shift in policy of the Comintern; the world economic crisis and the self-imposed isolation of the USSR; the failure of the Weimar Republic. These events pushed Gramsci into a thoroughgoing reappraisal 4 [Here we prefer the literal ‘will’ of the PPW translation to the one of ‘purpose’ in SPW 1919–1920, given the prominence that the concept of ‘will’ has acquired in Gramsci’s prison writings: see also below in this chapter—trans. note.]

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

161

of the perspectives for socialism through an analysis of Marx’s work which up to then he had not developed (cf. Izzo 2009, pp. 23–74; Rapone 2011a, pp. 974–991).5 The three series of the Notes on Philosophy, written between May 1930 and May 1932 define the programmatic horizon and conceptual laboratory of the Prison Notebooks. That their most important contribution to contemporary thought was the conception of politics as the struggle for hegemony was perceived right from their first appearance; on the other hand, the perception of the close connection with the philosophy of praxis—which in Gramsci’s conception becomes a theory of the constitution of historical subjectivity—was much slower in arriving. The road was long due to the ways in which the Notebooks were published and due to the lexis with which he developed his own original revision of Marxism. The language of the Prison Notebooks constituted a problem from the very first edition. Their editor, Felice Platone, was at pains to point out that, in order to get round the prison censor, Gramsci had frequent recourse to metaphors and cryptic expressions that had to be deciphered. Then, in the preface to Il materialismo storico e la filosofia di Benedetto Croce, which as is known inaugurated the first edition of the Notebooks, a glossary was included in which it was asserted that Gramsci had used the expression ‘philosophy of praxis’ instead of ‘historical materialism’ to avoid ‘arousing the suspicions of the censorship’, but that the two referred to the same thing. In the index of subject matters of the critical edition of the Notebooks, published 27 years later, the two entries are instead separated and at the end of the entry ‘philosophy of praxis’ we read that … under the entry “historical materialism” the expression “philosophy of praxis”, used in the “C texts” [i.e. the second draft texts – trans. note] has been included, when in the corresponding “A texts” [i.e. the first draft texts – trans. note] the term “historical materialism” is found. (Gramsci 1975, p. 3197)

The ‘C texts’ constitute the Special Notebooks that Gramsci began to write in mid-1932, transferring, reworking and grouping together

5 Both Izzo’s and Rapone’s essays give a periodization of Gramsci’s political thought; Rapone’s covers in detail the 1914–1920 period.

162

G. VACCA

according to monographic criteria the notes contained in the Miscellaneous Notebooks. In writing the notes Gramsci was faced not only with the problem of evading the censorship, but that of creating a lexis that corresponded to the developments of his thought. This may be easily demonstrated by following through the transformation of the main subject of the Notebooks from its original formulation of the ‘relations between structure and superstructures’ (‘Notes on Philosophy’, Q4§38 [end of 1929–February 1930], pp. 455–65; PN Vol. 2, pp. 177–188) to the final question ‘how does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’ (Q11§22, p. 1422; SPN , p. 431), in other words ‘how permanent collective wills are in fact formed’ (Q8§195, p. 1057; PN Vol 3, p. 346, and SPN , p. 194). The substitution of the expression ‘historical materialism’ by ‘philosophy of praxis’ corresponds to the change in the fundamental problem of the subject. The ‘philosophy of praxis’ developed in the Notebooks cannot be considered as merely a reworking of Antonio Labriola’s ‘materialist conception of history’—even though Gramsci argued that it was necessary to bring his thought ‘back into circulation’ in order to ‘make his way of posing the philosophical problem predominant’ (Q11§70, p. 1509; SPN , p. 388)–and even more so the ‘philosophy of revolution’ as promulgated between the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1919, in other words in the period of the first assimilation of the ‘philosophy of Marx’ (Paggi 1974, 1984).6 As already mentioned, Gramsci was induced to approach Marx’s thought in a more systematic way by the October Revolution and by his first acquaintance with the writings of the ‘Bolsheviks’ who had re-asserted its ‘normative’ value in the light of their own experience. Before this ‘encounter’, because of the positivistic deformations of Marxism predominant in Italian socialism and in the Second International, Gramsci had not declared himself a ‘Marxist’ (Rapone 2011b, pp. 261 et seq.; Salvadori 1970, pp. 213 et seq.). But even when he began to declare himself as such, the first mention of the ‘philosophy of praxis’ 6 The interpretation of Gramsci’s thought as a ‘philosophy of the revolution’ was argued most of all by Leonardo Paggi on the basis of a reading en bloc of his writings—the ‘early writings’ and the Prison Notebooks —which considered these latter as an ‘autobiographical’ re-working of his political and cultural experience in the 1916–1926 period. Systematically argued in Paggi’s ‘La teoria generale del marxismo in Gramsci’ (Paggi 1974), this thesis was underlined, albeit with significant variants, as Appendix II to the same author’s 1984 volume Le strategie del potere in Gramsci, under the title ‘From Lenin to Marx’ (‘Da Lenin a Marx’).

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

163

appeared in a transcription of the theoretical nucleus of Labriola’s essays. It is the well-known passage in polemic with Balbino Giuliano carried out in the pages of Piero Gobetti’s review, Energie nove [New Energies], in February 1919. In this polemic, in evoking ‘praxis’ as the ‘continual bringing into line of the empirical individual with spiritual universality’, Gramsci defines ‘the doctrine of historical materialism (…) [as] the critical organization of knowledge on the basis of the historical necessities that give substance to the process of development of human society’ (‘State and Sovereignty’, NM , p. 521). In order to characterize Gramsci’s assimilation of Marx, the starting point is ‘The Revolution Against “Capital”’ where, starting from the lesson of the ‘Russian maximalists’, he spells out a ‘philosophy of revolution’ founded on the conviction that their wrench from history had its origin in their ability to forge a ‘collective popular will’ (‘The Revolution Against “Capital”’, CF , p. 514; SPW 1919–1920, p. 35 and PPW , p. 40). The influence of Labriola may instead be documented beginning with the polemic with Claudio Treves on the Russian Revolution, in which the references to the Holy Family (‘Critical Criticism’, CF , pp. 554–8; PPW , pp. 43–46) announce in advance the importance that this text would then assume in the Notebooks as regards the ‘translatability of scientific and philosophical languages’. But, while in the years that passed between the October Revolution and 1922, the subject onto which an ‘organized collective will’ (Q8§180, p. 1050; PN Vol. 3, p. 338)7 was to be grafted was already given, and was no other—in the wake of Labriola (Vacca 2016)—than the modern proletariat generated on an ever vaster scale by the developments in the mode of capitalist production, in the Notebooks, however, and specifically as from 1932, Gramsci would pose the subject problematically. Between 1917 and 1922 the historical horizon of his thought was marked by the ‘actuality of the revolution’ but when, between 1923 and 1924 he began the translation ‘into Italian historical language’ of the ‘tactic of the United Front’, it would be difficult to argue that he was still thinking and acting in this perspective. From the proclamation of ‘peaceful coexistence’ to the start of the New Economic Policy and thence to the launching of the ‘United Front tactic’ it was Lenin who was to consider the ‘war of movement’ as finished following the defeat of the Red Army in Poland. Neither can one inscribe into the ‘actuality

7 [By an oversight the word “will” is omitted from the PN translation—trans. note.]

164

G. VACCA

of the revolution’ the passage to the accumulation, country by country, of revolutionary forces entrusted to the ‘United Front tactic’. As seen in Chapter 1, in 1926, in going further into the problem of the ‘hegemony of the proletariat’ in Italy, Gramsci set in motion a revision of the basic schemes of ‘historical materialism’ (Vacca 2012, pp. 23–27). Then, when—three years later—he formulated the research programme of the Notebooks, the perception of the international situation was so different as compared with 1926, and so discordant with the ‘turn’ imposed by Stalin on the construction of socialism in the USSR and the Communist International,8 that Gramsci would assume as an overall horizon for his research a revision of Marxism from the foundations.9 I would argue however that the ‘philosophy of praxis’ cannot be considered either as taking up again Labriola’s thought, or as an updating of the ‘philosophy of revolution’. In the research programme of the Notebooks Gramsci allows the ‘actuality of the revolution’ to drop, and sets up a wholly new ‘plan of work’ in order to define with what conceptualization of the historical period—the one that opened between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s—the perspective of communism could be reformulated. On the other hand, modern philosophical thought is entirely imbued with the problem of the subject and one cannot properly speak of a philosophy of Gramsci’s before his research took on a systematic nature, that is before the writing of the Prison Notebooks. The Notebooks are characterized above all by the elaboration of a new lexis and, as from September 1930, Gramsci shows a full awareness of this as when in a note entitled ‘Apropos of the appellation of “historical materialism”’ he transcribed a passage from a letter of Pietro Giordani to Charlotte Bonaparte, in which the former quotes a thought that Napoleon expressed on the occasion of his visit to the Academy of Sciences of Bologna (1805) where he is said to have pronounced the words

8 As Silvio Pons (2012) has amply demonstrated, after Stalin’s advent to power ‘the construction of socialism in one country’ presupposes abandoning the perspective of a ‘world revolution’. This does detract from the fact that the growth of the international communist movement constituted a basic resource for Soviet ‘power’, and the spectre of world revolution therefore not only survived in international communism but continued at length to feed its rhetoric. 9 In this regard Q4§3, entitled ‘Two Aspects of Marxism’, is fundamental and will be the subject of analysis later on.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

165

I believe that, when something really new is discovered in the sciences, one must adopt an entirely new term for it so that the idea remains precise and clear. If you give new meaning to an old term – no matter how strongly you profess that the old idea attached to the term has nothing in common with the idea newly assigned to it – human minds can never be expected to refrain entirely from thinking that there is some resemblance or connection between the old idea and the new one. This confuses science and leads to useless controversies. (Q4§34, pp. 452–453; PN Vol. 2, p. 174)

The new lexis chosen by Gramsci for the revision of Marxism is the ‘philosophy of praxis’ and it is not by chance that the above passage is taken up again two years later, without variation, in concluding paragraph 27 of Notebook 11, entitled ‘The Concept of “Orthodoxy”’, dedicated to posing the subject of the philosophical autonomy of Marxism (Q11§27, pp. 1434–1438; partially in SPN , pp. 462–465).10

3

‘A Heresy of the Religion of Liberty’

The first series of the ‘Notes on Philosophy’, written between May and November 1930, start from a radical critique of ‘official Marxism’: Marxism had two tasks: to combat modern ideologies in their most refined form; and to enlighten the minds of the popular masses, whose culture was medieval. This second task, which was fundamental, has absorbed all its strength, not only “quantitatively” but also “qualitatively”. For “didactic” reasons, Marxism became mixed with a form of culture that was somewhat superior to the popular mentality but inadequate to combat the other ideologies of the educated classes; yet, at its inception, Marxism actually superseded the highest cultural manifestation of the time, classical German philosophy. What has emerged is a “Marxism” in “combination” (…) inadequate for creating a broad cultural movement that embraces the whole of man, whatever his age or his social conditions, and that brings about the moral unification of society. (Q4§3, pp. 422–423; PN Vol. 2, p. 141)

The ‘combination’ regarded above all the positivist scientism that characterized Soviet Marxism, whose main texts, Historical Materialism:

10 [This is a ‘C’ text, identical in Gramsci’s wording to the ‘A’ text: see SPN , p. 452 footnote 99 for a partial translation with slightly alternative wording to the PN translation—trans. note.]

166

G. VACCA

A System of Sociology by Bukharin, and the An Outline of Political Economy by Lapidus and Ostrovityanov (Bukharin 1926; Lapidus and Ostrovityanov 1929) are subject, as we have seen, to Gramsci’s harsh criticism (Q15§45, pp. 1805–1806; FSPN , p. 176). But in general the target of his criticism is ‘economism’ which includes various philosophies of action influenced in their turn by Marxism (Bergson, Sorel, pragmatism and anarcho-syndicalism, of which the highest expression is considered to be Rosa Luxemburg). In particular, syndicalism for Gramsci shares the same theoretical error as free-trade liberalism, confusing the ‘methodological’ distinction of State and civil society with an ‘organic’ distinction (Q4§38, p. 460; PN Vol. 2, p. 182). The attitude of the philosophy of praxis towards idealism and especially towards Benedetto Croce is, on the other hand, different. After having read the first chapters of Croce’s History of Europe, Gramsci stated that Croce was a ‘leader of world culture’ (Gramsci-Schucht, pp. 975–976; Gramsci LfP Vol. 2, p. 164),11 adopting his philosophy as the necessary standard of comparison for the regeneration of Marxism: … just as the philosophy of praxis was the translation of Hegelianism into historicist language, so Croce’s is to a quite notable extent the retranslation into speculative language of the realist historicism of the philosophy of praxis. (…) Croce’s philosophical conception has to be adapted in the way Hegel’s was by the first theorists of the philosophy of praxis. This is the sole historically fruitful way of carrying through an adequate renewal of the philosophy of praxis, of raising this conception – which due to the necessities of day-to-day practical life has been getting ‘vulgarised’ – to the heights it must reach for the solution of the more complex tasks demanded by the current development of the struggle. That is to say it must be elevated to the level of creating a new integral culture …. (Q10I§11, p. 1233; FSPN , p. 355)

Putting this succinctly, one may say that in his turn Gramsci, overturning Croce’s ‘reduction’ of Marxism to a methodological ‘canon of historical research’12 proposes doing likewise with the ‘ethico-political’ 11 Letter to Tat’jana of 18 April 1932. 12 [The term “canon”, referred to historical research or interpretation and often with

the adjective ‘empirical’ attached to it, is found frequently in the key special Notebooks 10 (on Croce) and 11 (largely a critique of Bukharin), as well, on a number of occasions, as in the preparatory ‘A’ texts, especially Q4—trans. note.]

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

167

conception of history. The reply to the question ‘How does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’ is evinced from the general principles outlined in the 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which we may here fruitfully recall: 1. Society does not set itself problems for whose solution the necessary and sufficient conditions have not already been realized 2. No form of society disappears before having exhausted all its possibilities of development 3. Men acquire consciousness of the conflicts of their time on the terrain of ideologies From these principles it follows that the ‘fundamental problem’ of Marxism is simply that of the specification of the problem of liberty that Gramsci evokes with the term catharsis: ‘the term “catharsis” can be employed to indicate the passage from the purely economic (or egoisticpassional) to the ethico-political moment’ (Q10II§6, p. 1244; SPN , p. 366). But the ‘philosophy of praxis’ is located at the antipodes of the ‘philosophy of liberty’ of Croce. Gramsci defines the ‘philosophy of praxis’ as a ‘“heresy” of the religion of liberty’ (Q10I§13 Notes, p. 1238; FSPN , p. 361) since it aims at subverting the crystallized relationships between ‘intellectuals’ and the ‘simple’ starting from a different conception of the individual. The basic reason why he maintains that Croce ‘at the present time represents the worldwide moment of classical German philosophy’ (Q10I§11, p. 1234; FSPN , p. 356) is found in the ‘intellectual and moral reform’ that he promoted vis-à-vis the catholic religion at the start of the twentieth century, and which the philosophy of praxis must not lose (Gramsci-Schucht, p. 764; LfP Vol. 2, p. 56).13 Indeed, by elevating liberalism to a new form of ‘religion’ Croce had arrived at the identification of philosophy, ideology and politics that constitutes a postulate of the philosophy of praxis. However if, as much for Croce as for Gramsci, every ‘philosophy with a conformant ethic’ is a ‘religion’, Croce’s ‘religion of liberty’ remains limited to the intellectual groupings and fossilizes their scission from the people-nation. ‘In one of his books Croce has written something to the effect that “One cannot deprive the man in the street 13 Letter of Gramsci’s of 17 August 1931 to his sister-in-law, Tat’jana.

168

G. VACCA

of religion without immediately substituting it with something that satisfies the same needs for which religion was born and still persists”. There is some truth in this assertion – Gramsci comments – but does it not contain a confession of the impotence of idealist philosophy for becoming an integral (and rational) world outlook?’ (Q10II§41i, p. 1294; FSPN , p. 408)14 : For Croce a religion is any concept of the world that puts itself forward as an ethic. But has this happened for “liberty”? Liberty was a religion for a limited number of intellectuals but among the masses it took on the appearance of one of the elements constituting an ideological meld or amalgam, whose main constituent was the old-style catholic religion and of which another important – if not decisive – element, from the secular point of view, was one’s “fatherland”. (Q10I§10, p. 1230; FSPN , p. 352)

The ‘popular’ religion that liberalism substituted for Catholicism or, rather, combined with it, was, then, that of ‘“patriotism” and nationalism’ (Q10II§13, note 4, p. 1237; FSPN , p. 359—emphasis added [G.V.]). The ‘philosophy of praxis’ intended on the other hand to be the ‘great reform of modern times, it is an intellectual and moral reform which carries out on a national scale what liberalism only managed to do for restricted strata (ceti) of the population’ (Q10II§41i, p.1292; FSPN , p. 406). At the philosophical level Gramsci’s critique strikes most of all at the whole of methodological individualism. The struggle against individualism is one against a particular type of individualism with a particular social content, and, to be precise, against economic individualism in a period in which this has become anachronistic and anti-historical (though it is not to be forgotten – Gramsci adds – that it was historically necessary and represented a stage of progressive development). (Q9§23, p. 1111; FSPN , p. 270)

For the philosophy of praxis this is a fundamental aspect of the struggle for hegemony. Liberal individualism is founded on the naturalistic notion of the homo oeconomicus. In actual reality, the formation of the individual is the result of a cultural development which is reached through 14 Gramsci paraphrases opinions of Croce’s expressed in the latter’s History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century, trans. H. Furst, New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1934; here p. 25.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

169

the liberation of the individual consciousness from the external influences that block it. These originate from the fact that individual consciousness, initially corresponding to ‘common sense’, appears as a field of ideal forces, heterogeneous, mutually antagonistic and in tension, and only by resolving these antinomies can the sphere of liberty be attained. ‘The active man-in-the-mass has a practical activity, but has no clear theoretical consciousness of his practical activity, which nonetheless involves understanding the world in so far as it transforms it. His theoretical consciousness can indeed be historically in opposition to his activity’ (Q11§12, p. 1385; SPN , p. 333) because it chains him to ‘a specific social group’ which influences the direction of his will up to the point of paralysing it. These considerations, with which Gramsci even interpreted the causes of depression in his far-off wife (Vacca 2012, pp. 167–175), led him to conclude that individual liberty coincides with the conscious choice of the ‘hegemonic force’ of which he was part: Critical understanding of self takes place (…) through a struggle of political “hegemonies” and of opposing directions, first in the ethical field and then in that of politics proper, in order to arrive at the working out at a higher level of one’s own conception of reality. Consciousness of being part of a particular hegemonic force (that is to say, political consciousness) is the first stage towards a further progressive self-consciousness in which theory and practice will finally be one. (Q11§12, p. 1385; SPN , p. 333)

At the philosophical level Gramsci unites freedom with necessity, rather than with authority, since authority is only the crystallization of specific relations of force. To clarify the concept one may start from its anthropological foundation: The basic innovation introduced by the philosophy of praxis into the science of politics and of history is the demonstration that there is no abstract “human nature”, fixed and immutable (…), but that human nature is the totality of historically determined social relations, hence an historical fact which can, within certain limits, be ascertained with the methods of philology and criticism. (Q13§20, pp. 1598–1599; SPN , p. 133)

At the socio-historical level, instead, the formation of the ‘collective man’ is the task of the ‘modern Prince’ and postulates, as we shall better see later on, a strict coherence between ‘economic reform’ and ‘intellectual and moral reform’.

170

G. VACCA

Can there be cultural reform, and can there be a civil improvement of the depressed strata of society be improved in the civil sector – Gramsci asks himself – without a previous economic reform and a change in their position in the social and economic fields? Intellectual and moral reform has to be linked with a programme of economic reform – indeed the programme of economic reform is precisely the concrete form in which every intellectual and moral reform presents itself. (Q13§1, p. 1561; SPN , p. 133)15

The philosophy of praxis is therefore ‘a new conception intimately fused with a political programme and a conception of history that the people recognizes as the expression of its absolute necessities’. (Q10II§41i, p. 1295; FSPN , p. 409)

4

Economism and Scientism

To the formulation of the question of freedom as just described, there correspond the theory of the ‘historically determinate abstraction’ as the gnoseological paradigm of Marxism, and the critique of scientism as corresponding philosophically to what in political theory is economism. The former of these has its origin in the meaning that Gramsci attributes to the primacy of politics. This concept means that historical knowledge is really only attained when one arrives at determining situations on the basis of their relations of force and thus defining, for each of the forces in play, conditions and possibilities, necessities and liberties as the results of the political struggle (Q13§17, pp. 1578–1579; SPN , pp. 175–185).16 The primacy of politics evokes the determining incidence of social reproduction given that, if capital is a social relation of production, the presupposition of the relations of production is their reproducibility. Capital is not only the motive force of modern economic development, but also a historical formation that, in order to fulfil its functions, must see the reproduction of the whole of the relations of production on which the production of commodities is founded. It almost goes without saying that, if men become conscious of structural conflicts on the terrain of ideologies, there are to be included among the resources to be reproduced above all the 15 [Translation adjusted to follow more closely Gramsci’s original—trans. note.] 16 The English heading of this paragraph, following the original Italian, is ‘Analysis of

Situations: Relations of Force’.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

171

‘intellectual and moral’ ones, in other words values, culture, the ideologies that give symbolic form to the relations between the dominant and the dominated, the leaders and the led. In short, the asserting of the primacy of politics contains the nucleus of a critical theory of social reproduction. Fundamental, then, to the philosophical autonomy of Marxism is the concept of ‘determinate market’: How did the founder of the philosophy of praxis arrive at the concept of regularity and necessity in historical development? (…) Concept and fact of determinate market: i.e. the scientific discovery that specific decisive and permanent forces have risen historically and that the operation of these forces presents itself with a certain “automatism” which allows a measure of “predictability” and certainty for the future of those individual initiatives which accept these forces after having discerned and scientifically established their nature. “Determinate market” is therefore equivalent to “determinate relation of social forces in a determinate structure of the productive apparatus”, this relationship being guaranteed (that is, rendered permanent) by a determinate political, moral and juridical superstructure. (Q11§52, p. 1477; SPN , p. 401)17

As is known, Gramsci draws the concept of ‘determinate market’ from the thought of David Ricardo, considering classical economy a historical social science because he is aware of the extra-economic origin of its subject matter. The discovery has a philosophical value, since it implicitly contains a new conception of ‘necessity’ and ‘freedom’, a conception that is translatable into other scientific languages (linguaggi) and had already been ‘translated’ by the ‘philosophy of praxis, which has universalised Ricardo’s discoveries, extending them in an adequate fashion to the whole of history and thus drawing from them, in an original form, a new conception of the world’ (Q10II§9, p. 1247; SPN , p. 401). However, between Ricardo and Marx, between ‘pure economy’ and ‘critical economy’ there is a fundamental difference. While the former fixes historical determinations of the market with the aim of isolating their ‘automatisms’ and then investigates them as though they were ‘eternal’, the latter

17 [There is a lack of standardization of translation terminology between ‘determined’ and ‘determinate’, as applied to ‘market’, and a subtle distinction in meaning; we here follow both FSPN (by one of the present translators) and Section 8.5 of The Gramscian Moment by Peter D. Thomas in opting for the latter and modifying the SPN wording— trans. note.]

172

G. VACCA

on the other hand assumes as the object of investigation and critique not only the economic consequences of determinate relations of force but also the historical conditions that generate them. The critique sets off from the conditioned and moves to the conditioning situation, assuming as historical problem the reproduction of the prerequisites of production: The “critique” of political economy starts from the concept of the historical character of the “determinate market” and of its “automatism”; (…) the critique analyses in a realistic way the relations of forces determining the market, it analyses in depth their contradictions, evaluates the possibilities of modification connected with the appearance and strengthening of new elements and puts forward the “transitory” and “replaceable” nature of the science being criticized; it studies it as life but also as death and finds at its heart the elements that will dissolve it and supersede it without fail, and it puts forward the “inheritor”, the heir presumptive who must yet give manifest proof of his vitality. (Q11§52, p. 1478; SPN , p. 411)

The principle of historical determination is extended to a criterion of investigation of any social analysis and therefore is a gnoseological paradigm. For a science that proposes to answer the question ‘how does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’, there then arises the problem of determining historically all the abstractions used: Abstraction will always be the abstraction of a historically determinate category, seen in fact as a category and not as multiple individuality. Homo oeconomicus, too, is historically determinate albeit as an ensemble remaining indeterminate: he is a determinate abstraction (…). A determinate market in pure economics is an arbitrary abstraction, having a purely conventional value for the scope of a pedantic and conventional analysis. A determinate market for critical economy, on the other hand, will be the ensemble of concrete economic activities of a particular social form, assumed according to the laws governing their uniformity, i.e. ‘abstracted’ but without this abstraction ceasing to be historically determined. One abstracts the individual multiplicity of the economic agents of modern society when one speaks of capitalists, but in point of fact the abstraction lies within the historical domain of a capitalist economy and not of a generic economic activity that in its categories abstracts all the economic agents who have ever appeared in world history, reducing them generically and indeterminately to biological man. (Q10II§32, pp. 1276–1277; FSPN , p. 172)

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

173

The theoretical form of Marxism distinguishes it from all other sciences both because it constructs its object in a different way, and because it poses this object in relation to a protagonist who is not the ‘individual philosopher’, nor the scientific community as such, but a collective subject generated by the development of determined antagonisms and distinguished by determinate finalities. The problem is thus posed of clarifying the position of Marxism as compared with the dominant conceptions of science. This is of paramount importance since it regards the conception of the productive forces, of which the sciences are the most highly evolved and dynamic part, and it is not by chance that Gramsci discusses this most of all in Notebook 11, in the notes dedicated to the critique of Bukharin’s Popular Manual [Historical Materialism]. In the Marxism of the Second International the materialist conception of history had taken as its model the paradigm of the natural sciences. This position had been taken over into Soviet Marxism through Plekhanov and even through Lenin (Q3§31, p. 309 and Q11§12, p. 1386; PN Vol. 2, pp. 30–31, and SPN , p. 334, respectively). The salient point in Gramsci’s critique of Bukharin is the assertion that Marxism cannot passively accept the concepts of laws and predictions that attain in the natural sciences. In the first place he criticizes the reduction of scientificity to the models of the natural sciences, and in the second place he rejects the idea that one can extract from the different sciences a scientific method valid in itself and applicable universally in mechanical fashion: [I]t is the concept itself of “science”, as it emerges from the Popular Manual, which requires to be critically destroyed. It is taken root and branch from the natural sciences, as if these were the only sciences or science par excellence, as decreed by positivism. (…). It has to be established that every research has its own specific method and constructs its own specific science, and that the method has developed and been elaborated together with the development and elaboration of this specific research and science and forms with them a single whole. To think that one can advance the progress of a work of scientific research by applying to it a standard method, chosen because it has given good results in another field of research to which it was naturally suited, is a strange delusion which has little to do with science. (Q11§15, p. 1404; SPN , pp. 438–439)

This does not mean that there is no common denominator for the empirical sciences, but that this is conceivable only as a ‘generic and

174

G. VACCA

universal methodology’, of no heuristic use in any direct and specific way. It constitutes the accumulated heritage of experience, experiment and techniques that define the culture of scientists. We are dealing with an ensemble of attitudes that connect the history of science to the history of society: The most generic and universal methodology is nothing more than formal or mathematical logic, i.e. the ensemble of those abstract instruments of thought that have continuously been discovered, improved and refined throughout the history of philosophy and culture. (Q6§180, p. 826; PN Vol. 3, p. 131 and FSPN , p. 296)

The methodological problem of science must therefore be posed historically, in order to specify both the features common to the sciences, and the traits that distinguish each of them, together with the elements of a cultural, instrumental and ideological nature that link them to overall historical development. From the historical stance, the development of the sciences is consubstantial with the development of capitalism since ‘the scientific experience (esperienza) is the first cell of the new method of work, of the new form of active union between man and nature’. Under this aspect historical materialism, too, developed on a par with the sciences as the ‘consummation (…) of the experimental (sperimentale) method’. (Q4§47, p. 473 and Q11§34, p. 1449; PN Vol. 2, p. 197 and SPN, p. 446, respectively)18 The most important effect of the development of the sciences is to have produced as much the unification of a significant part of humankind (the international scientific community, which constitutes the most advanced part), as the method that may favour its integral unification. The first result is born from the unceasing struggle to know reality, which runs through the entire history of the sciences: Scientific work has two facets: one is tirelessly rectifying the method of knowledge, and it rectifies or reinforces the organs of sensation; the other applies this method and these increasingly refined organs in order to establish what is fundamentally present in the sensations as opposed to what is arbitrary and transitory. Thus one establishes what is common

18 The two quotations come from the ‘A’ and ‘C’ texts covering the same argument; ‘esperienza’ in the original Italian covers both ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’—trans. note.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

175

to all humans, what all humans can see and feel in the same manner, provided that they all adhere to the scientific conditions of verification. (…). (Q4§41, p. 466–467; PN Vol. 2, p. 189)

But in order for scientific rationality to be extended to the entire human species, one must take account of the fact that ‘this process of historical unification takes place through the disappearance of the internal contradictions which tear apart human society’. Up to now experimental science has been (has offered) the terrain on which a determinate cultural unity has reached its furthest extension. This has been the element of knowledge that has contributed most to rendering the “spirit” uniform and making it become more universal. (Q11§17, p. 1416; SPN , p. 446)19

But, also in order for it to bring its work to full fruition, it must be incorporated into the process of the political unification of humankind, which constitutes the mission of communism and Marxism. It therefore becomes necessary to examine the position of the sciences as the object of analysis of the philosophy of praxis. Gramsci poses the problem through a discussion of the concept of ‘matter’ present in Bukharin’s Popular Manual, by defining identity and difference of method and contents in historical materialism and in the natural sciences. While in the individual sciences ‘matter’ is considered in relation to its dynamic, physical, chemical, etc. particularities, Marxism takes into consideration the properties that show up as the product of the activity of the sciences. Thus it considers those properties ‘only to the extent that they become a “productive economic element”. Matter as such therefore is not our subject but how it is socially and historically organised for production, and natural science should be seen correspondingly as essentially an historical category, a human relation’ (Q11§30, p. 1442; SPN , pp. 465–466). Marxism takes the sciences into consideration only in that they are ‘material forces of production’: In reality the philosophy of praxis does not study a machine in order to know about and to establish the atomic structure of its materials or the

19 The translation has been adjusted to bring it more into line with Gramsci’s original— trans. note.

176

G. VACCA

physical, chemical and mechanical properties of its natural components (which is the business of the exact sciences and of technology) but only in so far as it is a moment of the material forces of production, is an object of property of particular social forces, and expresses a social relation which in turn corresponds to a particular historical period.

But the productive forces are not separate from the social relations of production, and therefore their theory consists in the acknowledgment of the antagonisms that run through them and of the forms of consciousness that condition their dynamics: The ensemble of the material forces of production is at the same time a crystallization of all past history and the basis of present and future history: it is both a document and an active and actual propulsive force. But the concept of activity applied to forces of this kind must not be confused or even compared with activity in either the physical or the metaphysical sense. (Q11§30, p. 1443; SPN , p. 466)

The productive forces, which may be classified and investigated by the individual sciences, are as much the result of the historical process as they are the presupposition of its further development. Their ‘variability’ is intimately linked with the ways in which they may be converted into effective forces of development. But this passage from quantity to quality happens through political and social struggle and cannot be considered equivalent to an evolutionary process. This is the salient point of Gramsci’s critique of positivistic sociologies and the reason why Marxism cannot be reduced to a sociology. This does not mean that the passage from quantity to quality may not be the object of a specific form of knowledge: The philosophy of praxis is realised through the concrete study of past history and through present activity to construct new history. But a theory of history and politics can be made, for even if the facts are always unique and changeable in the flux of movement of history, the concepts can be theorised. Otherwise one would not even be able to tell what movement is, or the dialectic, and one would fall back into a new form of nominalism. (Q11§26; p. 1433; SPN , p. 427)

It is therefore necessary to define the conditions that make this form of knowledge possible, but Gramsci limits himself to establishing its political

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

177

conditions, since the modalities and contents of knowledge, united to collective action, cannot be anticipated by the ‘individual thinker’. Here there comes into play the difference between the concept of prediction of the natural sciences and that of the philosophy of praxis: [In historical action] one can “scientifically” foresee only the struggle, but not the concrete moments of the struggle, which cannot but be the results of opposing forces in continuous movement, which are never reducible to fixed quantities since within them quantity is continually becoming quality. In reality one can “foresee” to the extent that one acts, to the extent that one applies a voluntary effort and therefore contributes concretely to creating the result “foreseen”. Prediction reveals itself thus not as a scientific act of knowledge, but as the abstract expression of the effort made, the practical way of creating a collective will. (Q11§15, pp. 1403– 1404; SPN , p. 438)

One may add that this type of knowledge, inseparable from the action of a collective subject, is part of political action: The nature of the philosophy of praxis is in particular that of being a mass conception, a mass culture, that of a mass that acts in a unitary fashion, i.e. one that has norms of conduct that are not only universal in idea, but “generalised” in social reality. And the activity of the “individual” philosopher cannot therefore be conceived except in terms of this social unity, i.e. also as political activity, in terms of political leadership. (Q10II§31i, p. 1271; FSPN , p. 385)

The theoretical position of Marxism is inseparable from the political goals of the historical movement of which it is part. These goals may be summarized in the aim of raising ‘the simple’ to ‘a higher conception of life (…) in order to construct an intellectual-moral bloc which can make politically possible the intellectual progress of the mass and not only of small intellectual groups’ (Q11§12, pp. 1384–1385; SPN , pp. 332– 333). This is the historical content that corresponds to the theoretical postulate of the unity of theory and practice. The point is particularly sensitive. As we have seen, in the critique of Soviet Marxism Gramsci had denounced the reduction of theory to a ‘handmaid’ of practice, considering it a manifestation not only of its philosophical primitiveness, but also of the incapacity of Soviet power to pose adequately the ‘political

178

G. VACCA

question of the intellectuals’. On the solution to this problem there thus depends the possibility of a different conception of socialism.

5 Socialism as the Process Generating a New Rationality The theory of the intellectuals, around which the entire reflection contained in the Prison Notebooks is concentrated, has first of all a historiographical basis. The intellectuals are not always the same, do not carry out crystallized and unchangeable functions, and above all are not ‘autonomous’, as instead they consider themselves to be as a consequence of an important historical continuity of their strata (ceti). The history of the intellectuals is marked in particular by the history of economic forms, from the Middle Ages to the modern era: Every social group, coming into existence on the original terrain of an essential function in the world of economic production, creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields. (Q12§1, p. 1513, SPN , p. 5)

For the modern proletariat the creation of its own ‘organic intellectuals’ is posed on both the economic terrain and the political terrain. Under the first aspect, the sphere of industrial production is paramount, and at this point Gramsci calls to mind the Ordine Nuovo experience, indicating this as an exemplary case of such a creation. But, passing on to the political terrain, the problem of the creation of the proletariat’s own intellectuals is the problem of the party: The political party, for all groups [i.e. social groups – G.V.], is precisely the mechanism which carries out in civil society the same function as the State carries out, more synthetically and over a larger scale, in political society. In other words it is responsible for welding together the organic intellectuals of a given group – the dominant one – and the traditional intellectuals. The party carries out this function in strict dependence on its basic function, which is that of elaborating its own component parts – those elements of a social group which has been born and developed as an “economic” group – and of turning them into qualified political intellectuals, leaders [dirigenti] and organisers of all the activities and functions inherent in

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

179

the organic development of an integral society, both civil and political. (Q12§1, p. 1522, SPN , pp. 15–16)20

The creation of ‘organic intellectuals’ and the ‘assimilation’ of the ‘traditional intellectuals’ are two moments of the self-same process. The ‘traditional intellectuals’ embody the most widespread functions in a given society, and are in their turn born from a process of ‘assimilation’ of the intellectuals inherited from previous social formations. The proletariat cannot attract to its field and assimilate to its own goals the intellectual groups of a capitalist society just as they are. These latter ‘experience through an ‘esprit de corps ’ their uninterrupted historical continuity and their special qualification’, putting ‘themselves forward as autonomous and independent of the dominant social group’ (Q12§1, p. 1515; SPN , p. 7). However, this does not mean that they cannot be ‘attracted’ by the proletariat, on condition that this latter is able to produce within the traditional intellectuals a rupture of the esprit de corps, and to foster a thoroughgoing transformation both of technical contents and of the ideal framework of their knowledge. From the asserted unity of production and politics, and from its corollaries in terms of the theory of the intellectuals, the concept of the party is then born as the ‘the proclaimer and organiser of an intellectual and moral reform’. The main criticism levelled against this conception is that of its supposed totalitarian nature, and the most frequent quotation in this respect is taken from the first paragraph of Notebook 13, where Gramsci claims that The modern Prince, as it develops, revolutionizes the whole system of intellectual and moral relations, in that its development means precisely that any given act is seen as useful or harmful, as virtuous or as wicked, only in so far as it has as its point of reference the modern Prince itself, and helps to strengthen or to oppose it. In men’s consciences, the Prince takes the place of the divinity or the categorical imperative, and becomes the basis for a modern laicism and for a complete laicisation of all aspects of life and of all customary relationships. (Q13§1, pp. 1560–1561; SPN , p. 133)

20 [Note that here as in the next quotation, the translation “qualified / qualification” might, as in many contexts, be rendered more exactly as “skilled / skill”—trans. note.]

180

G. VACCA

One sees, quite evidently a particular (and more acute) method way of structurally describing the processes of laicization of modern societies that has nothing to do with totalitarianism. For the moment, delaying a broader treatment until Chapter 4, it is worth noting here that the sense of these statements cannot but locate the ‘modern Prince’ at the centre of the ‘intellectual and moral reform’ that characterizes the transition to socialism as conceived by Gramsci; it is therefore of use to clarify the contents of this by now celebrated, and almost always misunderstood formula. The passage quoted above cannot be isolated from the two statements, already met with, which precede it. The first is Gramsci’s rhetorical question ‘can there be cultural reform, and can there be a civil improvement of the depressed strata of society be improved in the civil sector without a previous economic reform and a change in their position in the social and economic fields?’. The second is that ‘intellectual and moral reform has to be linked with a programme of economic reform – indeed the programme of economic reform is precisely the concrete form in which every intellectual and moral reform presents itself’ (loc. cit.). ‘Intellectual and moral reform’ thus is a metaphor, borrowed from Ernest Renan, to emphasize that socialism is a process of historical transition in which, starting from the sphere of production and permeating every sphere of society and of the State, the entire network of relations between the dominant and the dominated, between the leaders and the led, is transformed. This requires that, in the concrete manifestations of life, there should be a change in the mode of being both of the ‘intellectuals’ and of the ‘simple’. Putting this another way, a new ‘common sense’ should be formed that promotes their unity, constituted by an uninterrupted communicative and representative circuit. The unity between a programme of the economic, the political and the cultural can be guaranteed only by a ‘general vision of the world’, by a ‘philosophy with a conformant moral’, in other words by the diffusion of a shared and stable way of thinking, whose ‘proclaimer’ is the political party. This is the sense in which Gramsci states that in human consciousness, the ‘Prince takes the place of the divinity or the categorical imperative’. One should stress – he writes – the importance and significance which, in the modern world, political parties have in the elaboration and diffusion of conceptions of the world, because essentially what they do is to work out the ethics and the politics corresponding to these conceptions and act as it were as their historical “laboratory”. (Q11§12, p. 1287; SPN , p. 335)

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

181

We may observe that, in posing the question in this way, it becomes difficult to define the limits of the field of action of the political party and we may also add that this perhaps leads Gramsci to exaggerate their mission. It is however a fact that in modern societies, any political project turns out to be effective if there corresponds to this a coherent economic programme and a coherent cultural programme. And it is a proven fact that this coherence is given by the ‘visions of the world’ that inspire them, whose centre of irradiation are the parties, if for party one understands not only a given functional organization—the political party as understood in sociology—but a centre of elaboration and diffusion of a political, economic and cultural programme capable of changing or influencing the situation. On the other hand, we may say that for Gramsci, the parties constitute ‘the private “fabric” of the State’ and are part of ‘civil society’ (Q1§47, p. 56 and Q6§24, p. 703; PN Vol.1, p. 153 and PN Vol. 3, pp. 20–21, with also FSPN , pp. 75–76 for the latter). As we have seen in the previous chapters, he refuses the identification between Party and State. How are we to understand, then, the statement that ‘the modern Prince, as it develops, revolutionizes the whole system of intellectual and moral relations’? It is of use to return briefly to Gramsci’s critique of sociology. In refusing the ‘reduction of the philosophy of praxis to a sociology’ Gramsci observes that the law of statistics ‘can be employed in the science and art of politics only so long as the great masses of the population remain (or at least are reputed to remain) essentially passive’ (Q11§25, p. 1429; SPN , p. 428.). But after the birth of the big modern parties this ‘law’ became anachronistic. The ‘modern Prince’ belongs to a precisely determined era: the one that was born as a result of the great war, in which there was a morphological change in subjectivity caused by the mobilization of the masses and their entry into ‘big history’. In this situation ‘political action tends precisely to rouse the masses from passivity’: ‘human awareness replaces naturalistic “spontaneity”’ and the political parties become the protagonists of the struggle for hegemony: With the extension of mass parties and their organic coalescence with the intimate (economic-productive) life of the masses themselves, the process whereby popular feeling is standardized ceases to be mechanical and casual (that is produced by the conditioning of environmental factors and the like) and becomes conscious and critical. Knowledge and a judgment of the importance of this feeling on the part of the leaders is no longer the

182

G. VACCA

product of hunches backed up by the identification of statistical laws, which leaders then translate into ideas and words-as-force. (This is the rational and intellectual way and is all too often fallacious.) Rather it is acquired by the collective organism through “active and conscious co-participation”, through “compassionality”, through experience of immediate particulars, through a system which one could call ‘living philology’. In this way a close link is formed between great mass, party and leading group; and the whole complex, thus articulated, can move together as “collective-man”. (Q11§25, p. 1430; SPN , p. 429)

No one can fail to see that Gramsci does nothing other than theoretically elaborate the experience of the mass parties, already very advanced in the first decades of the twentieth century, rejecting the theory of charisma of Max Weber and Robert Michels, and anticipating the modes of existence and meaning of the ‘party democracies’ that would come to characterize the life of western Europe in the ‘thirty glorious years’ that succeeded World War Two. For a communist party, the emergence of the masses from passivity is equivalent to their development of human awareness in the government of the economy and of society according to determinate goals, synthesized in the mission to collaborate in the historical and political unification of humankind. The first step is the ‘fusion’ within it of intellectuals and ‘the simple’, in order to foster new relations between intellectuals and people in society. This implies a radical change in the function and role of the intellectuals, and only in this sense does the task of the party have a ‘totalitarian’ nature: The parties recruit individuals out of the working mass, and the selection is made on practical and theoretical criteria at the same time. The relation between theory and practice becomes even closer the more the conception is vitally and radically innovatory and opposed to old ways of thinking. For this reason one can say that the parties are the elaborators of new integral and totalitarian intelligentsias [intellettualità totalitarie] and the crucibles where the unification of theory and practice, understood as a real historical process, takes place. (Q11§12, p. 1387; SPN , p. 335)21

21 [The translators of SPN correctly add here that the use of totalitarie ‘is to be understood not in its modern sense but as meaning simultaneously ‘unified’ or “all absorbing”’—trans. note.]

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

183

If one purges the term ‘totalitarian’ of the negative emotive nature that it assumed after the experience of fascism, Nazism and Soviet communism, if one gets rid of the ‘passionality’ with which it was charged during the ‘age of extremes’, one may soberly admit that the political party, especially one that aims at the formation of a new type of society, cannot absolve its task and cannot even be born and last without being inspired by a general vision of the world, without a general theory of history and politics, and without extreme coherence between theory and practice, programmes and behaviour. We are dealing, no more and no less, with the rendering rigorous of processes that are a natural corollary of the birth of mass parties, in so far as their advent in itself brings about a profound modification in the modus operandi of the mentality of the ‘educated’ and the ‘simple’. The birth of these parties reveals a change in the relations between intellectuals and masses, a change in common sense. Different from the process of transition to bourgeois society, in which—as Gramsci underlines—the archetype of the ‘organic intellectual’ is the capitalist entrepreneur (Q12§1, p. 1513; SPN , pp. 5–6),22 in the transition to socialism there appear different types of ‘organic intellectuals’. In complex societies the elaboration of ‘organic intellectuals’ involves the whole of their functions incorporated into productive and cognitive roles. But the task of the ‘modern Prince’ is not that of dictating the contents of this molecular and unpredictable process of transformation. That task is allotted to the protagonists of the process, who are the direct producers and the ‘intellectuals as a mass’, while the communist party has the task of promoting and orienting it so as to arrive at the formation of a new ‘historical bloc’. This concept is frequently confused with that

22 The ‘capitalist entrepreneur’ is the archetype of the modern intellectual not only because he ‘creates alongside himself the industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture, of a new legal system, etc.’ but also because ‘he must have a certain technical capacity, not only in the limited sphere of his activity and initiative but in other spheres as well, at least in those which are closest to economic production. He must be an organiser of masses of men; he must be an organiser of the “confidence” of investors in his business, of the customers for his product, etc. If not all entrepreneurs, at least an élite amongst them must have the capacity to be an organiser of society in general, including all its complex organism of services, right up to the state organism, because of the need to create the conditions most favourable to the expansion of their own class’.

184

G. VACCA

of a ‘social bloc’, which instead designates the ensemble of forces necessary for attaining determinate conjunctural political goals: governmental conquest, the realization of a shared programme and so on. But as we have seen in Chapter 2, the concept of ‘historical bloc’ designates the fusion between structure and superstructures, which marks the birth of a new State. In the Notebooks, the classic example is the formation of the ‘Risorgimental historical bloc’ analysed in paragraph 61 of Notebook 10 (‘The State According to the Productive Function of the Social Classes’, pp. 1359 et seq.; SPN , pp. 114–118) and in the already-mentioned Q19§24 (pp. 2010–2024; SPN , pp. 55–84). The concept is developed to designate the formation of the national market and its ‘fusion’ with a specific type of State in order to make its set-up permanent, its compromise between social groups and classes stable, and the dominant class’s hegemony solid. Putting this very briefly indeed, a determinate type of ‘fusion’ between State and market. The process thus includes establishing over time a specific system of relations between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘the simple’, rulers and ruled, leaders and led, in other words the ‘constitution in a material sense’ of the State, which comprises the economy, politics, culture and history in a specific synthesis. The formation of a new ‘historical bloc’ is founded on the possibility of changing this form radically, by overturning the paradigm that supports it. The point of attack cannot but be the status of the intellectuals. We are dealing with a general change in leading roles and, within the perspective of socialism, the salient point is the dissolution of the corporative ideology of the intellectual strata (ceti). Under this aspect, the notion of ‘historical bloc’ is nothing other than another version of ‘intellectual and moral reform’, inspired mainly by the welding together of intellectuals and people-nation: The intellectual’s error consists in believing that one can know without understanding and even more without feeling and being impassioned (not only for knowledge in itself but also for the object of knowledge): in other words that the intellectual can be an intellectual (and not a pure pedant) if distinct and separate from the people-nation, that is, without feeling the elementary passions of the people, understanding them and therefore explaining and justifying them in the particular historical situation and connecting them dialectically to the laws of history and to a superior conception of the world, scientifically and coherently elaborated—i.e. knowledge. One cannot make politics-history without this passion, without this sentimental connection between intellectuals and people-nation. In the absence of such a nexus the relations between the intellectual and

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

185

the people-nation are, or are reduced to, relationships of a purely bureaucratic and formal order; the intellectuals become a caste, or a priesthood (…). If the relationship between intellectuals and people-nation, between the leaders and the led, the rulers and the ruled, is provided by an organic cohesion in which feeling-passion becomes understanding and thence knowledge (not mechanically but in a way that is alive), then and only then is the relationship one of representation. Only then can there take place an exchange of individual elements between the rulers and ruled, leaders [dirigenti] and led, and can the shared life be realized which alone is a social force—with the creation of the ‘historical bloc’. (Q11§67, pp. 1505–1506; SPN , p. 418)

The distinctive feature of socialist society lies, then, in the different forms of corporativism both of the intellectuals and of ‘the simple’, i.e. in the re-elaboration of all the crystallized forms of relationship between the rulers and the ruled, the intellectuals and the masses. In other words, it lies in the integral historicization of the economy and politics, with an indissoluble interweaving between them. The ‘first element’ of the science and ‘art’ of politics is that ‘there do exist rulers and ruled, leaders and led’. The whole science and art of politics is based on this primordial and (in certain general conditions) irreducible fact. However In the formation of leaders, one premise is fundamental: is it the intention that there should always be rulers and ruled, or is the objective to create the conditions in which this division is no longer necessary? In other words, is the initial premise the perpetual division of the human race, or the belief that this division is only an historical fact, corresponding to certain conditions? (Q15§4, p. 1752; SPN , p. 144)

6

The Constitution of the Political Subject

The years in which Gramsci was writing the Prison Notebooks were dominated by the dissolution of liberal civilization. His reflection thus centred around the crisis of the State. Initially perceived as a crisis of parliamentarism (Q1§48, pp. 58–59; PN Vol. 1, pp. 155–156), at the end of 1930 it was theorized as the crisis of the national State: The modern world is currently experiencing a phenomenon similar to the split between the “spiritual” and the “temporal” in the Middle Ages (…). Regressive and conservative social groupings are shrinking back more and

186

G. VACCA

more to their initial economic-corporative phase, while progressive and innovative groupings are still in their initial phase – which is, precisely, the economic-corporative phase. The traditional intellectuals are detaching themselves from the social grouping to which they have hitherto given the highest, most comprehensive, and therefore the widest and most perfect, consciousness of the modern State. Their detachment is in fact an act of incalculable historical significance; they are signalling and sanctioning the crisis of the State in its decisive form. (Q6§10, pp. 690–691; PN Vol. 3, pp. 8–9)

In January 1932, Gramsci dated the origin of the crisis back to the great war, but by June 1933 he was considering the war itself as a consequence of the crisis generated by the growing initiative of the masses organized within the European States, who as from the end of the nineteenth century had disrupted the equilibria of bourgeois society (Q15§59ii, p. 1824; SPN , p. 106). The different periodization represents the outcome of the elaboration of a general theory of crises which he arrived at in February 1933 by observing the developments of the crisis of 1929. Among the salient points of his theory there stand out the repudiation of the doctrine of the ‘inevitability of war’ propounded by the ‘official Marxism’ of both the Second and the Third International. As we have already seen (Chapter 1), for Gramsci war is not the unavoidable consequence of capitalism or imperialism, but is caused by the specific political choices made by the ruling classes, such as protectionism and nationalism. The explanation of the war and the crises may be summarized, then, in the incapacity or the refusal of the ruling classes to resolve the ever more strident asymmetries between the cosmopolitan nature of the economy and nationalism in politics, transcending the horizon of the national State as the hegemonic subject of the political sphere (Q15§5, pp. 1755–1756; FSPN , pp. 219–220). It is of use to emphasize that, in posing the subject of supranationality (Rapone 2011b, pp. 189–258), Gramsci is here elaborating theoretically an interpretation of the origin of the great war that he had already advanced in 1916–1918. Then, the question of supranationality came to him as the alternative between the League of Nations put forward by Woodrow Wilson and the world revolution prefigured by Lenin. Now the problem was formulated in different terms: world history was now characterized by the intensification of economic ‘cosmopolitanism’ as much as it was by political nationalism, and the question of the equipollence of

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

187

politics and economics was put forward as a problem of the government of increasing interdependencies and their still more stringent asymmetries. The economic unification of humankind (which appears ever less a utopia) could only be envisaged in stages, and the aim, which seemed ever more concrete, was that of promoting the regionalization of the world economy: There is today a European cultural consciousness, and there exists a long list of public statements by intellectuals and politicians who maintain that a European union is necessary. It is fair to say that the course of history is heading towards this union and that there are many material forces that will only be able to develop within this union. If this union were to come into existence in X years, the word “nationalism” will have the same archeological value as “municipalism” has today. (Q6§78, p. 748; PN Vol. 3, pp. 60–61, and FSPN , p. 119)

But rather than a real and proper profession of Europeanism, Gramsci’s reflection is directed to a revision of the perspectives of communism. He does not see forces in the European bourgeoisie capable of prevailing over the nationalisms then becoming rife and assigns to the proletariat the mission of constructing supranationality. If you will, this is a reelaboration of the watchword ‘Soviet United States of Europe’ of the early 1920s in a gradualist key, aimed at reformulating the nationalinternational nexus in the programmes of the European communist parties. Indeed in the note devoted to commenting on Stalin’s ‘Interview with the First American Workers’ Delegation’ in 1927, after having emphasized the concept that the terrain of the struggle for hegemony is the national territory, he adds A class that is international in character has [the proletariat – G.V.] – in as much as it guides social strata which are narrowly national (intellectuals), and indeed frequently even less than national: particularistic and municipalistic (the peasants) – to “nationalise” itself in a certain sense. Moreover, this sense is not a very narrow one either, since before the conditions can be created for an economy that follows a world plan, it is necessary to pass through multiple phases in which the regional combinations (of groups of nations) may be of various kinds. (Q14§68, p. 1729; SPN , p. 241)

The support given to the perspective of European supranationality dates to March 1931. In February 1933 he also expressed himself in

188

G. VACCA

favour of economic regionalization, and presupposed a generalization of the concept of ‘passive revolution’, which we have already dealt with (Chapter 2). His reflection on the national-international nexus concludes in the proposal, dating to November 1932, for a ‘modern form of cosmopolitanism’, with ‘humanity-as-labour’ as protagonist. It may be said that here lies the high-point of Gramsci’s revision of the policies of the Comintern in assigning to the working classes the task of collaborating ‘in the economic reconstruction of the world in a unitary fashion’ (Q19§5, p. 1988; FSPN , p. 253).23 The concept of a ‘modern form of cosmopolitanism’ refers to the Italian ‘tradition’ and, as we have seen, seems clearly be directed towards replacing the concept of internationalism. This poses the need to reformulate the question of the political subject, which we shall deal with more at length in Chapter 4, but here it is of use to introduce in advance the philosophical core of the problem. The question originates from the ever more critical reflection on the structure-superstructure coupling which, as we have seen, he finishes by abandoning (cf. G. Cospito 2016): at first (‘Notes on Philosophy I ’, written in October 1930) Gramsci considers the ‘relations between structure and superstructures (to be) the crucial problem of historical materialism’ and tries to bend the principles of Marx’s 1859 Preface to a non-deterministic ‘historical methodology’(Q4§38, pp. 457 et seq.; PN Vol. 2, pp. 179 et seq.)24 ; in February 1932 (‘Notes on Philosophy III ’) he takes up again the ‘proposition that “society does not set itself problems for whose solution the material preconditions do not already exist”’ and makes the following comment: This problem immediately raises that of the formation of a collective will, which depends immediately on this proposition. In analyzing critically what this proposition means, it is important to study how permanent collective wills are in fact formed and how these wills set themselves concrete goals that are both immediate and intermediate – in other words how they set themselves a collective course of action. This has to do with processes of

23 [In English, this long paragraph of Q19 is excerpted and not yet translated in its entirety—trans. note.] 24 The initial phrase defining the relations between structure and superstructures as the crucial problem of historical materialism is found on p. 455 of the Quaderni and p. 177 of the PN English translation.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

189

development that are more or less long; sudden, “synthetic” explosions are rare. (Q8§195, p. 1057; PN Vol. 3, p. 346)25

The rejection of the structure-superstructure coupling coincides with the beginning of the drafting of Notebook 12. It therefore seems to us that, having abandoned the previous attempts to give a non-deterministic answer to the problem of the formation of a ‘collective will’, Gramsci detaches himself from the first part of the 1859 Preface too, and translates the problem of historical causation into that of the unification of theory and practice. This latter however is not then formulated as a philosophical problem but rather as the historical problem of the creation of a determinate type of intellectuals: the unity of theory and practice is not (…) a matter of mechanical fact, but a part of the historical process (…). A human mass does not “distinguish” itself, does not become independent in its own right without, in the widest sense, organising itself; and there is no organisation without intellectuals, that is without organisers and leaders, in other words, without the theoretical aspect of the theory-practice nexus being distinguished concretely by the existence of a group [strato] of people “specialised” in conceptual and philosophical elaboration of ideas. (Q11§12, pp. 1385–1386; SPN , pp. 333–334)

In the modern world the protagonists of this creation are the political parties (Q11§12, p. 1387; SPN , p. 335). Gramsci’s conception of the political party is not sociological but historico-philosophical. The task of the party is in fact to promote the unity of theory and practice by selecting the leading strata (ceti) of the different social groups. The concept of ‘party’ is closely connected with that of ‘collective will’ of which it constitutes, rather, a function; we are not however dealing with separate entities but with two moments of a processual conception of the subject as the result of multiple interactions between intellectuals and the masses. Indeed the functions of the political party may also be absolved by other protagonists, as for example newspapers or great, particularly active, intellectual figures such as Benedetto Croce was in Italy (Q1§116, p. 104; PN Vol. 1, pp. 200–202). Gramsci defines the party as a ‘complex element of society in which a collective will, which has already been recognized and has to 25 The translation is here integrated to include the phrase at the end of the first sentence, possibly not thought necessary in the original translation.

190

G. VACCA

some extent asserted itself in action’ (Q13§1, p. 1558; SPN , p. 129). The fundamental role of the political party is, then, to foster the development of a collective will that is capable of unifying the people-nation (Q13§33, p. 1630; SPN , pp. 150–151). We have already mentioned the national function of the political party in regard to the ‘modern form of cosmopolitanism’; here it is worth specifying the way in which the party has to operate to foster the best combination of national and international factors in the life of the State. Its action consists in the critical pursuit of what is identical in seeming diversity of form and on the other hand of what is distinct and even opposed in apparent uniformity, in order to organize and interconnect closely that which is similar, but in such a way that the organizing and the interconnecting appear to be a practical and “inductive” necessity, experimental, and not the result of a rationalistic, deductive, abstract process—i.e. one typical of pure intellectuals (or pure asses).

The ‘modern Prince’ is thus a national-international political subject by definition: This continuous effort to separate out the “international” and “unitary” element in national and local reality is true concrete political action, the sole activity productive of historical progress. It requires an organic unity between theory and practice, between intellectual strata and popular masses, between rulers and ruled. (Q13§36, p. 1635; SPN , pp. 189–190)

The philosophy of praxis culminates in a theory of the constitution of political subjects founded gnoseologically on the concept of hegemony and historiographically on that of passive revolution. Gramsci puts it forward as the ‘crowning point of this entire movement of intellectual and moral reform’ of the modern era, corresponding to the ‘nexus Protestant Reformation plus French Revolution (…) made dialectical in the contrast between popular culture and high culture (…) a philosophy which is also politics, and a politics which is also philosophy’ (Q16§9, p. 1860; SPN , p. 395).

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

191

References Bukharin, N. I. (1926). Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology. London: Allen and Unwin. Cospito, G. (2011). Il ritmo del pensiero. Naples: Bibliopolis. Cospito, G. (2016). The Rhythm of Thought in Gramsci: A Diachronic Interpretation of Prison Notebooks. Leiden and Boston: Brill; Chicago: Haymarket (Original Cospito, 2011). Croce, B. (1934). History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century (H. Furst, Trans.). New York: Harcourt and Brace. De Felice, F. (1971). Serrati, Bordiga, Gramsci e il problema della rivoluzione in Italia 1919–1920. Bari: De Donato. Gramsci, A. (1948). Il materialismo storico e la filosofia di Benedetto Croce (F. Platone). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1977). Selections from Political Writings 1910–1920 (Q. Hoare, Ed. and J. Mathews, Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1984). Il nostro Marx (1919–1920) (S. Caprioglio, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1987). L’Ordine Nuovo 1919–1920 (V. Gerratana & A. A. Santucci, Eds.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1994a). Letters from Prison (F. Rosengarten, Ed. and R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994b). Pre-prison Writings (R. Bellamy, Ed. and V. Cox Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gramsci, A. (1995). Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A., & Schucht, T. (1997). Lettere. 1926–1935 (A. Natoli & C. Daniele, Eds.). Turin: Einaudi. Izzo, F. (2009). Democrazia e cosmopolitismo in Antonio Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Izzo, I Marx di Gramsci (Gramsci’s Marxes). In id., Democrazia e cosmopolitismo in Antonio Gramsci, Rome: Carocci. Lapidus, I. A. & Ostrovityanov, K. V. (1929). Précis d’économie politique (L’économie politique et la théorie de l’économie sovietique) (V. Serge, Trans.). Paris: Editions sociales internationales. English translation: An Outline of Political Economy (London: Martin Lawrence). Marx, K. (1976). A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (S. W. Ryazanskaya, Trans.). In Marx-Engels Collected Work (Vol. 29). Paggi, L. (1974). La teoria generale del marxismo in Gramsci. In Annali Feltrinelli xv 1973 (pp. 1319–1370). Milan: Feltrinelli. Paggi, L. (1984). Da Lenin a Marx. In Le strategie del potere in Gramsci (pp. 427–498). Rome: Editori Riuniti.

192

G. VACCA

Platone, F. (1946). Relazione sui “Quaderni del carcere”. Per una storia degli intellettuali italiani. Rinascita, III (4), 81–90. Pons, S. (2012). La rivoluzione globale. Storia del comunismo (1917–1991). Turin: Einaudi. Rapone, L. (2011a). Gramsci giovane: la critica e le interpretazioni. Studi Storici, 52(4), 974–991. Rapone, L. (2011b). Cinque anni che paiono secoli. Antonio Gramsci dal socialismo al comunismo. Rome: Carocci. Salvadori, M. L. (1970). Gramsci e il problema storico della democrazia. Turin: Einaudi. Spriano, P. (1975). The Occupation of the Factories (G. A. Williams Trans.). London: Pluto. Original: Spriano, P. (1964). L’Occupazione delle fabbriche. Turin: Einaudi. Thomas, P. D. (2010). The Gramscian Moment. Chicago: Haymarket. Vacca, G. (2012). Vita e Pensieri di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . Turin: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (2016). Il Marx di Croce e quello di Gentile. In Croce e Gentile. La cultura italiana e l’Europa. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.

Newspaper and journal articles and transcripts of speeches by Gramsci (listed in alphabetical order by first keyword, ignoring definite and indefinite articles and prepositions). The original Italian title follows after the English title. Where there is an English translation, the source is given after the Italian reference sources A Break-Down and a Birth (Vita politica internazionale [i]. Uno sfacelo e una genesi), L’Ordine Nuovo, 1 May 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 3–10. The Communist Party (Il Partito Comunista), L’Ordine Nuovo, 4 September 1920 and 9 October 1920 (Parts I and II, respectively), in ON 1919–1920, 651–661; PPW , 187–197, and SPW 1910–1920, 330–339. Critical Criticism (La critica critica), Il Grido del popolo, 12 January 1918, in CF , 554–558; PPW , 43–46. The Development of the Revolution (Lo sviluppo della rivoluzione), L’Ordine Nuovo, 13 September 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 203–207; SPW 1910–1920, 89–93. The Factory Council (Il consiglio di fabbrica), L’Ordine Nuovo, 5 June 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 532–536; SPW 1910–1920, 260–264, and alternative translations in New Left Review I/51, September–October 1968, 33–34 and PPW , 151–154. The Factory Council, L’Ordine Nuovo, 5 June 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 532– 537: SPW 1910–1920, 260–264 and New Left Review, I/51, 1968, 31–35.

3

FROM HISTORICAL MATERIALISM TO THE PHILOSOPHY …

193

The Factory Worker (La settimana politica [xviii]. L’operaio di fabbrica), L’Ordine Nuovo, 21 February 1920, ON 1919–1920, 432–435. The Instruments of Labour (Lo strumento del lavoro), L’Ordine Nuovo, 14 February 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 413–416; SPW 1910–1920, 162–166. Italy and the United States (La settimana politica [xi]. Italia e gli Stati Uniti), L’Ordine Nuovo, 8 November 1919 (written jointly with Palmiro Togliatti); ON 1919–1920, 302–305. Il movimento comunista a Torino, Internazionale comunista 14 (1920), in International Gramsci Journal, 2(2), 2017, 17–39. The Party and the Revolution, L’Ordine Nuovo, 27 December 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 365–372; New Left Review I/51, pp. 42–45, and SPW 1910– 1920, 142–146. Proletarian Unity (L’Unità proletaria), L’Ordine Nuovo, 28 February–6 March 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 438–443; SPW 19191–1920, 173–178. The Revolution Against “Capital” (La rivoluzione contro il “Capitale”), Avanti!, 24 December 1917, in CF , 513–516; SPW 1910-1921, 34–37 and PPW , 39–42. State and Sovereignty (Stato e sovranità), Energie Nove I(7–8), 1–28 February 1919, in NM , Turin: Einaudi, 518–523. The Turin Communist Movement, Internazionale Comunista 14 (1920); English translation of Gramsci’s original manuscript in International Gramsci Journal, 2(2), 2017, 40–51. The Turin Factory Councils Movement (Il movimento torinese dei consigli di fabbrica), L’Ordine Nuovo, 14 March 1921, in ON 1919–1920, 596–611: SPW 1919–1920, 310–320. Two Revolutions (Due rivoluzioni), L’Ordine Nuovo, 3 July 1920, in ON 1919– 1920, 569–574; PPW , 168–172, SPW , 305–309, and New Left Review I/51 September/October 1968, 45–48. Unions and Councils (Sindacati e consigli), L’Ordine nuovo, 11 October 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 236–241; SPW 1910–1920, 98–102 and New Left Review I/51, 35–38. The Unity of the World [Vita politica internazionale [ii] L’unità del mondo], L’Ordine Nuovo, 15 May 1920, in ON 1919–1920, 19–20. Workers and Peasants (Operai e contadini), L’Ordine Nuovo, 2 August 1919, in ON 1919–1920, 156–161; SPW 1910–1920, 83–88.

CHAPTER 4

Hegemony and Democracy

If a survey were to be carried out regarding the figure of Gramsci, probably most people interviewed would reply that he was the theorist of hegemony, in that he placed the greatest importance on the consent of the ruled. This judgment originates from an interpretation of his thought due to Norberto Bobbio who, after the death of Togliatti, had a long-standing influence on the reading of Gramsci, not just in Italy but on the international cultural scene. I am here referring to his paper on ‘The Concept of Civil Society in Gramsci’, which dominated events at the international conference on Gramsci in Cagliari in 1967.1 Gramsci was not one of Bobbio’s authors. One certainly cannot say of Gramsci’s presence in Bobbio’s research what he said of Marx in his 1984 ‘Congedo’, or ‘Valediction’, to his favourite authors—that he had ‘read and re-read many works of Marx, especially the historical and philosophical ones’ but had not ‘studied Marx as [he had] the other [classical]

1 The proceedings of the conference ‘Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea’ [‘Gramsci and Contemporary Culture’] were published by Editori Riuniti (Ed. P. Rossi) in 1969. Regarding the nature of the conference, cf. F. Izzo (2000, pp. 201–212). In the Appendix to the present volume we draw attention to the influence of Bobbio’s essay on Gramsci studies in Italy; as regards international culture see, for example, two recent volumes in the series Studi gramsciani nel mondo (Gramsci Studies throughout the World): Kanoussi, Schirru and Vacca (Eds.), Gramsci in America Latina, and Boothman, Giasi and Vacca (Eds.), Gramsci in Gran Bretagna, 2011 and 2015 respectively.

© The Author(s) 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7_4

195

196

G. VACCA

authors listed’ (Bonanate and Bovero 1986, pp. 246–247).2 Testimony to his interest in Gramsci may however be seen in his writings of the early 1950s, where he was careful to distinguish the then only recently published Notebooks from the canons of Marxism-Leninism (Bobbio 1955, pp. 125, 245, 259). How much importance he then attributed to the Cagliari speech is then documented in the essays published in 1985 in Stato, governo, società, in which he emphasizes that it was precisely by a thoroughgoing reading of the subject in Gramsci (as well as in Marx and Hegel) that he had re-worked the State-civil society dichotomy, making it a pivot of his ‘general theory of politics’ (Bobbio 1985, p. vii). The nub of the Cagliari speech is the derivation of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony from the notion of ‘civil society’ as contained in the Notebooks. Bobbio writes: ‘[t]o reconstruct Gramsci’s political thought the key concept – the one which forms the necessary starting point – is that of civil society’. Different from Marx, ‘civil society in Gramsci does not belong to the structural moment but to the superstructural moment ’ (Bobbio 1988, p. 82). His source is indicated as Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and, paraphrasing Marx, Bobbio goes on to say it would be tempting to say that for Gramsci civil society comprises not ‘the whole complex of material relations’ but the whole complex of ideological-cultural relations; not really ‘the whole complex of commercial and industrial life’ but the whole complex of spiritual and intellectual life. (Bobbio 1988, p. 83)

For Gramsci too, Bobbio observes, as for Marx, it is not the State but civil society that is ‘the true focus and the theatre of all history’ (Marx and Engels 1976, p. 50). Taken by itself the observation would not have particular importance since for any Marxist thinker the history of the State is part of the history of society. But, in Gramsci, according to Bobbio, by changing the sphere of the relations that belong to civil society, the ‘active and positive moment of historical development (…) is superstructural’ (Bobbio 1988, p. 83) and in the sphere of the superstructures ‘the relation between institutions and ideologies, though remaining within 2 Bobbio had earlier (p. 246) listed in a bibliography he had prepared for the conference in his honour a first group of authors comprising Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, followed by a second group of more modern ones—Cattaneo, Pareto, Croce, Weber and Kelsen, saying he was uncertain whether or not to put Marx among the classical authors.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

197

a framework of a reciprocal action, is inverted: the ideologies become the primary moment of history and the institutions the secondary one’ (Bobbio 1988, p. 88).3 It is beyond doubt that ‘ideologies’ have a greater weight for Gramsci than for any other Marxist thinker, but to claim that they ‘become the primary moment of history’ is equivalent to taking his thought back into the conceptual framework of the ‘philosophy of the spirit’ of Benedetto Croce. It is true that Bobbio applies to Gramsci’s thought a dichotomic paradigm (structure/superstructure) which, as we have seen, Gramsci explicitly rejects in his Notebooks. The ‘distinction between political society and civil society’ Gramsci writes, is ‘methodological’ not ‘organic’. ‘In actual reality civil society and State are one and the same’. This is one of the best-known passages in Notebook 13, elsewhere Gramsci enters into polemics with liberalism since, by considering as ‘organic’ what ought to be a ‘methodological’ distinction, it contraposes the market to the State, ignoring the fact ‘that laissez-faire too is a form of State “regulation”, introduced and maintained by legislative and coercive means’ (Q13§18, p. 1590; SPN , p. 160). Furthermore, for Gramsci, even the distinction between structure and superstructure is of a ‘methodological’ nature, so much so that the ‘architectural metaphor’ at a certain date gives way to other conceptualizations. Gramscian studies based on a diachronic reading of the Notebooks have for quite some time now shown that the ‘philosophy of praxis’ contains a theory of knowledge and an analytic of history which delineate in an original fashion the theory of hegemony. This originates a thinking in which the distinction between structure and superstructure is ‘only a metaphor to provide an encouragement to further methodological and philosophical research’ (Q10I§13, note 5; FSPN , p. 360). As already seen in Chapter 3, Gramsci’s ‘philosophy of praxis’ aims at responding to the question ‘how does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’ (Q11§22, p. 1422; SPN , p. 431), and hence to elaborate a theory of the constitution of political subjects. But if Gramsci is approached with the intention of using his thought to derive classifications of collective or individual

3 [Cf. the Italian text regarding civil society in Marx, in Hegel and in Gramsci in Bobbio’s collected essays on Gramsci (Bobbio 1991, pp. 42–55); the translation published in (Bobbio 1988) is modified to reinstate the Hegelian term ‘moment’ and uses Bobbio’s 1967 original (including Bobbio’s emphasis), rather than a slightly modified later one— trans. note.]

198

G. VACCA

action, the sense of his research escapes us. This sense lies instead in the assumption that ‘the concrete analyses of the relations of force’, which are the heart of political science ‘cannot and must not be an end in themselves (…), but acquire significance only if they serve to justify a particular practical activity, or initiative of will’ (Q13§17, p. 1588; SPN , p. 185). For Bobbio instead, ‘knowing’ and ‘willing’ belong to two separate spheres and the method of political science is that of the natural sciences (Bobbio 1985, Chapter 1). It is from here, I believe, that his misunderstanding of Gramsci’s concepts is born. To understand Gramsci’s thought, the point of departure is the theory of hegemony, not the conception of ‘civil society’. But it is only in a conception of politics that starts from the crisis of the State, and which is able to explain the expansion of the State beyond the conventional sphere of the institutions that the definition of the State—as the unity of political society and civil society—assumes all its significance. In Gramsci, then, the conception of ‘civil society’ is part of the theory of hegemony and not vice versa. By inverting this logico-historical nexus, through the concept of ‘civil society’ Bobbio erases its originality. Everything is then reduced to recognizing that Gramsci gave great importance to the problem of consent. It is true that in the exercise of power the problem of consent functions as a dividing line; but if the whole of Gramsci’s political reflection were to reduce to this, the Notebooks would be of little value and those who maintain that there is a ‘totalitarian’ nature to his thought would in part be correct.4

1

The Legacy of Liberalism

The density of the concept of hegemony emerges from the way in which Gramsci analyses the dissolution of liberal civilization. ‘Political democracy – Gramsci writes – tends towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled’ (Q12§3, p. 1547; SPN , p. 40). Its basis cannot therefore be the exercise of ‘“direct domination” or command that is expressed through the State and “juridical” government’. It is necessary instead to perform a function of leadership, of a guide of society, which is shared 4 This characterized the debate, initiated by Bobbio a decade after the Cagliari conference (see the Quaderni di Mondoperaio, n. 7, 1977), in which the interventions of Lucio Colletti, Ernesto Galli della Loggia and Massimo L. Salvadori were distinguished by the attempt to demonstrate the ‘totalitarian’ nature of Gramsci’s thought.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

199

to differing degrees by the ruled (Q12§1, pp. 1518–1519; SPN , p. 12). This is created when the dominant groups arrive at the awareness ‘that one’s own corporative interests, in their present and future development, transcend the corporative limits of the purely economic class, and can and must become the interests of other subordinate groups too’. Gramsci goes on ‘[t]his is the most purely political phase’ in which a class or a bloc of allied social forces succeeds in making prevail, among its own interests, those which in part can be shared by contraposed social groups, thereby putting them ‘on a “universal” plane, and thus creating the hegemony of a fundamental social group over a series of subordinate groups’ (Q13§17, p. 1584; SPN , pp. 181–182). These concepts are appropriate for societies in which ‘nobody is unorganized and without a party’ (Q6§136, p. 800; PN Vol. 3, p. 107 and SPN , p. 264), in which therefore politics is based on representation. In Gramsci’s view it therefore follows that the State must base itself on a ‘democratic compromise’ that allows a circulation and turnover between rulers and ruled, otherwise it cannot carry out its function: It is true that the State is seen as the organ of one particular group, destined to create favourable conditions for the latter’s maximum expansion. But the development and expansion of the particular group are conceived of, and presented, as being the motor force of a universal expansion, of a development of all the “national” energies. In other words, the dominant group is coordinated concretely with the general interests of the subordinate groups, and the life of the State is conceived of as a continuous process of formation and superseding of unstable equilibria (on the juridical plane) between the interests of the fundamental group and those of the subordinate groups – equilibria in which the interests of the dominant group prevail, but only up to a certain point, i.e. stopping short of narrowly corporative economic interest. (QdC, Q13§17, p. 1584; SPN , p. 182)

The democratic state is based on ‘the parliamentary regime’: ‘The “normal” exercise of hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary regime – writes Gramsci – is characterized by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent. Indeed, the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the majority’. The war had however precipitated the crisis of the liberal

200

G. VACCA

State: ‘In the period following the World War, cracks opened up everywhere in the hegemonic apparatus, and the exercise of hegemony became permanently difficult and aleatory’ (Q13§37, p. 1638; SPN , p. 80, note 49 [emphasis added—G.V.]). What was the origin of the crisis? Gramsci has it date back to the Great War, analysing its sources in an original manner. As we have been at pains to point out more than once, he does not share either Lenin’s view of imperialism as ‘the highest stage of capitalism’ or the historical vision of the communist movement that justified its mission with the theory of the ‘general crisis of capitalism’. Gramsci instead develops a politico-historical interpretation of the origins of the war. With the creation of a ‘world economy’ in the last decades of the nineteenth century, political history had begun to be marked by the growing contrast between the ‘cosmopolitanism of economic life’ and the ‘nationalism of the life of the State’. The war had been generated by the incapacity of the ruling classes to bring the latter into line with the former and to ensure that the beneficial effects of the ‘cosmopolitanism’ of the economy were propagated through the promotion of ever more advanced forms of world unification. The ‘order of Versailles’ had brought back that contrast, aggravating the situation. How had the characteristics of politics changed? Since when had they begun to change and for what reasons? Gramsci argues that the whole of the period after the French Revolution must be reconsidered and locates the morphological change of politics in the passage to the ‘epoch of imperialism’. But he proposes a non-conventional vision of this. In the period that goes from the French Revolution to 1870 the European liberal-democratic élites had had the experience of Jacobinism as their model, re-worked ‘scientifically’ in the ‘political concept of the so-called “permanent revolution”’ (Q13§7, p. 1566; SPN , p. 242). The ‘formula’ had ‘found its juridical constitutional “completion” in the parliamentary regime. The latter, in the period in which “private” energies in society were most plentiful, realized the permanent hegemony of the urban class over the entire population in the Hegelian form of government with permanently organised consent’ (Q13§37, p. 1636; SPN , p. 80, note 49). It was possible for the exercise of hegemony to be consolidated since the dominant class was able to renew and expand the conditions of its domination: ‘The economic base for industrial and commercial development was continually enlarged and reinforced. Those social elements which were most highly endowed with energy and spirit of enterprise rose from

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

201

the lower classes to the ruling classes. The entire society was in a continuous process of formation and dissolution, followed by more complex formations with richer potentialities’. But this ‘lasted until the epoch of imperialism and culminated in the world war’ (loc. cit.).5 The golden era of the ‘parliamentary regime’ presupposed a ‘historical context’ which began to dissolve around 1870: ‘In the period after 1870, with the colonial expansion of Europe, all these elements change’. The reasons for this change are of both an internal and an international order: ‘the internal and international organisational relations of the State become more complex and massive’. In the internal life of the State we have the formation of ‘massive structures of the modem democracies, both as State organisations, and as complexes of associations in civil life’; in international relations the change consists in a greater dependency ‘of the national economies [on] the economic relations of the world market’, that is to say there is a growth of various aspects of interdependence which characterize the development of an effectively world economy (Q13§7, pp. 1566–1567; SPN , p. 243).6 The post-World War I crisis was a ‘crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony’ (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1603; SPN , p. 210) and of ‘the massive structure of the modern democracies’ (Q13§7, p. 1567; SPN , p. 243): the rupture of an equilibrium between rulers and ruled that could not be rebuilt on the old bases and was manifested as the crisis of a fossilized political nomenclature: At a certain point in their historical lives, social groups become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognized by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression. (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1603; SPN , p. 210)7

5 [The first part of the quotation is integrated to bring the English into line with the original—trans. note.] 6 [The wording ‘civil life’, following the Italian ‘vita civile’, here replaces that of ‘civil society’ of the SPN translation—trans. note.] 7 [Translation modified to replace the SPN gloss “classes” with “groups”, corresponding to Gramsci’s original—trans. note.]

202

G. VACCA

But, Gramsci asks himself how, in the first place, do there arise ‘these situations of conflict between ‘represented and representatives’ [which] reverberate out from the terrain of the parties (…) throughout the State organism?’ (loc. cit.). The response is ‘to be sought in civil society’ and therein ‘one cannot do without studying’ the developments of ‘the tradeunion phenomenon’. This expression does not refer solely to the diffusion of ‘organizations of special interest’ but also to the emergence of ‘newly formed social elements, which previously had no say in affairs and, by the sole fact of uniting together, modify the political structure of society’ (Q15§47, p. 1808). And in a note penned only a little later,8 he brings together in the ‘trade-union phenomenon’ the whole development of democratic life of the three pre-war decades. This is an ensemble of processes that the war had accelerated and intensified, which were destined, more than the war itself, to ‘mark a watershed’ since thanks to these processes the peoples’ subjectivity had become a permanent fact lodged within them and, beyond a certain extent, not subject to coercion (Q15§59, p. 1824; SPN , p. 106). The crisis is generally ‘presented’ as a ‘crisis of the principle of authority [and] dissolution of the parliamentary regime’. These are in Gramsci’s view the ‘most trivial’ representations (Q13§37, p. 1638) since they ignore the fundamental aspect, namely that the crisis [of power] ‘is also widespread [and] will bring about a new, more secure and stable “hegemony”’ (Q1§76, p. 84; PN Vol. 1, p. 181); but they are ‘trivial’ above all because they describe ‘only the “theatrical” manifestations on the terrain of parliament and political government’ (Q13§37, p. 1638).9 They do not however see the phenomenon of deeper historical importance, generated by the underlying changes in world structure (i.e. by the increasing contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics). Gramsci thus poses at the centre of his analysis the crisis of the nation-State which we analysed in Chapter 1 (Q6§10, pp. 690–691; SPN , pp. 270–271).

8 For the dating of the paragraphs in the Notebook, readers are referred to Gianni Francioni, L’officina gramsciana (1984) which, taking as its starting point Gerratana’s chronological edition, goes into greater depth as regards the chronology itself; see, furthermore, Vacca (2011). 9 [The whole of Q13§37 is not in a standard English translation; here see PN Vol. 1, p. 156 for the first draft (‘A’ text) which differs from the later ‘C’ text in the use of ‘common’ for ‘trivial’ and ‘central’ for ‘“theatrical”’—trans. note.]

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

203

The crisis of the modern State is the most significant manifestation of the decline of the bourgeoisie through the exhaustion of its expansive capacities. As we have seen, Gramsci singles out Hegel as the highest theoretical expression of bourgeois civilization because of his conception of the ‘ethical or cultural State’, according to which … one of its most important functions is to raise the great mass of the population to a certain cultural and moral level, (…). [Hegel’s conception] belonged to a period when the widespread growth of the bourgeoisie might have seemed limitless, and therefore one could affirm its ethical and universal character: the entire human race will be bourgeois. (Q8§179, p. 1049; PN Vol. 3, p. 338)

The explosion onto the scene of the First World War demonstrated on the other hand that ‘when things come to a standstill [of the development of the hegemonic capacities of the bourgeoisie] there is a return to the concept of the State as pure force’: The bourgeois class is “saturated”: it has not only stopped growing, it is breaking down; not only has it stopped assimilating new elements, but it is losing a part of itself (or at least the losses are much more numerous than the assimilations). (Q8§2, p. 937; PN Vol. 3, p. 234)

It therefore seems to me obvious that with his concept of hegemony Gramsci intends to elaborate, theoretically above all, the whole historical development of liberalism. He has a positive vision of it which takes on concrete form in the evolution of the State from an instrument of dominance to the ‘ethical State’ which does not limit itself to safeguarding the life of the citizens but fosters their culture and well-being. For Gramsci the contemporary State … is the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules. (Q15§10, p. 1765; SPN , p. 244)

It intervenes in civil society through the instrument of coercion, but also those of education and a code of legal reward. His ‘ideal type’ is the ‘minimal State’ (Q6§88, pp. 763–764; PN Vol. 3, pp. 75–76, and

204

G. VACCA

SPN , pp. 262–263), a State which is the regulator of the economy which operates indirectly on it by intervening in the organization of society: the State must be conceived of as an “educator”, in as much as it tends precisely to create a new type or level of civilisation. (…) [It] is an instrument of “rationalisation”, of acceleration and of Taylorisation. It operates according to a plan, urges, incites, solicits, and “punishes”. (Q13§10, pp. 1570–1571; SPN , p. 247)

A ‘maxim of government’ that is valid not only for the civilizing mission of the State, but also for its power reads as follows: ‘if in fact the dominant classes [exploit] the popular masses to the extreme limit of their strength (that is reduce them to a mere vegetative biological state)’ this means that they ‘have failed to move beyond the economic-corporative stage’ and that ‘one cannot speak of the power of the State but only of the camouflaging of power’ (Q6§75, p. 743; PN Vol. 3, pp. 56– 57). The most significant aspect of Gramsci’s attitude towards liberal civilization is the relation between the State and ‘individuals’. Whatever the dominant social group, its task is ‘to construct within the shell of political society a complex and well-articulated civil society in which the individual governs himself, provided that his self-government does not enter into conflict with political society, but becomes, rather, its normal continuation, its organic complement’ (Q8§130, p. 1020; PN Vol. 3, p. 310, and SPN , p. 268). The basic instruments through which the ‘self-government’ of the citizens may be realized are the trade unions and parties,10 and, in order to understand how they constitute the physiology of modern societies, it is not enough to conceive of democracy only

10 Perhaps the most significant passage on this score is devoted to the dialectic between complexity and (the necessity for) organization. This is contained in Q6§109 (pp. 780– 781), a paragraph entitled ‘Past and Present. The Individual and the State’, where Gramsci writes: ‘How the economic situation has changed to the “detriment” of the old liberalism: Is it true that very individual citizen knows his own affairs better than anyone else in today’s environment? Is it true that meritocracy prevails under the present circumstances? The “individual citizen”: insofar as he cannot know (and, most important, cannot control) the general conditions in which business is conducted given the size of the world market and its complexity, in reality he does not know his own affairs, either – the need for big industrial organizations, etc.’ (PN Vol. 3, p. 90 and FSPN p. 247; the italicized words here seen are taken from the FSPN translation to integrate the PN one for a phrase inadvertently omitted—trans. note).

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

205

under the technico-procedural aspect, but one must also have a realisthistorical notion that may be ‘extracted’ only in relation to the concept of hegemony: Among the many meanings of democracy, the most realistic and concrete one, in my view, is that which can be brought into relief through the connection between democracy and the concept of hegemony. In the hegemonic system, there is democracy between the leading group and the groups that are led to the extent that the development of the economy and thus the legislation which is a development of that expression favours the molecular transition from the groups that are led to the leading group. (Q8§190, p. 1056; PN Vol. 3, p. 145, and SPN , note 5 to pp. 56–57)

It seems to me there can be no ambiguity regarding these concepts. They have nothing to do with the contraposition between ‘formal democracy’ and ‘real democracy’ of the Marxist vulgate, but rather re-elaborate the experience of the bourgeoisie in the era of its expansion.11 Neither can one gloss over the debt towards liberal thought and in particular towards élitism (Mangoni 1976; Sola 2001).12 Can one say, as maintained by the ‘Cassandras of Mondoperaio’ in the 1970s13 that Gramsci’s democracy excludes pluralism or that it is repugnant to him? It is either an idle question or one that has been posed badly. For Gramsci the modern State and the political science that is created with it arise when there has already been formed a pluralism of classes and social groups which, in order to develop must be territorially unified. The basis of the nation-State is the modern ‘division of labour’ between the city and the countryside. And, unless one has a restricted and formal notion of pluralism, one cannot but share Gramsci’s interpretation of Machiavelli according to which the ‘Florentine secretary’ posed the question of unifying city and countryside, and the unification could only come about through the hegemony

11 Above all else, the whole of modern public law. Indeed, Gramsci writes ‘the revolution that the bourgeois class brought about in the concept of law and therefore in the function of the State consists primarily in the will to conformism (hence the ethical character of law and the State)’ (Q8§2, p. 937; PN Vol. 3, p. 234). 12 For the link between hegemony and pluralism at the origins of modernity, cf. Gramsci (1997), Pensare la democrazia. Antologia dei “Quaderni del carcere” (Ed. M. Montanari). 13 Cf. footnote 3, above [‘Cassandras’ was the term used by the Mondoperaio authors as a self-description—trans. note].

206

G. VACCA

of the ‘urban forces’. But the city can lead the countryside only by realizing a balanced exchange with it and fostering its economic development. For this reason, Gramsci observes acutely that Machiavelli anticipates in politics the thought in economics of the physiocrats (Q8§162, pp. 1038– 1039; PN Vol. 3, pp. 326–327, and FSPN , pp. 163–164). If then we go on to the contemporary era, there cannot be any doubt regarding his thought: the concept of democracy is contraposed to that of dictatorship: The modern State substitutes for the mechanical bloc of social groups their subordination to the active hegemony of the directive and dominant group, hence abolishes certain autonomies, which nevertheless are reborn in other forms, as parties, trade unions, cultural associations. The contemporary dictatorships legally abolish these new forms of autonomy as well, and strive to incorporate them within State activity: the legal centralisation of the entire national life in the hands of the dominant group becomes “totalitarian”. (Q25§4, p. 2287; SPN , pp. 53–54 footnote 4)

This theme leads into the study of the totalitarian regimes present in Europe between the two world wars: fascism, Stalinism and Nazism. But Gramsci cannot be aligned with the theorists of ‘totalitarianism’. All three of these regimes are based on a single party and on the identification with the State, but they are contraposed and in order to understand them one cannot limit oneself to cataloguing their institutional analogies. Gramsci considers the fascist regimes to be ‘regressive’ and the Soviet State to be ‘progressive’ (Q6§136, p. 800; PN Vol. 3, pp. 107–108, and SPN , pp. 264–265); he does not however approve of the general structure. For Gramsci, dictatorship, whatever the ruling class, is the expression of a hegemonic incapacity, and represents a ‘primordial’ form of politics corresponding to an ‘economic-corporative’ stage of the ruling group and is not only pathological but also necessarily transitory. It is of use in this context to quote a note on the ‘actualism’ of Giovanni Gentile. In Gramsci’s view, the difference between Gentile’s thought and Croce’s philosophy is that while the latter ‘wants to maintain a distinction between civil society and political society’, Gentile on the other hand dissolves the former within the latter since for him ‘history is entirely history of the State’. Apparently this represents an advantage for Gentile’s actualism, since ‘“unity in the act” allows Gentile to recognize as “history” that which for Croce is “antihistory”’, in other words fascism. But, if ‘it is impossible to distinguish political society from civil society’, the notion of

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

207

the State becomes impoverished: only the State exists and. of course. [it is] the State-as-government, etc.’ ‘Hegemony and dictatorship [become] indistinguishable, force is no different from consent ’. There thus comes about a regression of the ‘ethical phase’ to the ‘[economic]-corporative phase’ of politics (Q6§10, p. 691; PN Vol. 3, pp. 9–10 and SPN , p. 271). ‘Totalitarianism’ is born from a State of exception and thus cannot constitute a rule of life of the State. In this State of exception the ‘single party’ carries out the functions normally attributed to the Head of State (Q13§21, p. 1601; SPN , pp. 147–148): it functions as an ‘element that balances the various interests’ in conflict, ‘[w]ith the difference however that in terms of traditional constitutional law the political party juridically neither rules nor governs: it has “de facto power”, it exercises the hegemonic function, and hence the function of balancing various interests in “civil society”’, which obviously no totalitarian State can suppress. Civil society ‘is in fact so intertwined with political society that all citizens feel instead that the party rules and governs’. Under this aspect, the ‘totalitarianisms’ are identical and for them the assertion is valid that ‘it is not possible to create a constitutional law of the traditional type based on this reality which is in continuous movement’ (Q5§127, p. 662; PN Vol. 2, p. 382). In the totalitarian State even the (totalitarian) party ends up by losing its political function. ‘Is political action (in the strict sense) necessary – Gramsci wonders in a late note in Notebook 1714 – for one to be able to speak of a “political party”?’. His reply is obviously in the affirmative, and refers back to the ‘normal’ situation of democratic regimes. ‘In countries where there is a single, totalitarian governing party’ its functions are ‘no longer directly political, but merely technical ones of propaganda and public order, and moral and cultural influence’. Gramsci further notes that in the parties that govern them, the predominance of ‘cultural functions’ gives rise to ‘political language becom[ing] jargon’, which deadens the perception of reality: ‘political questions are disguised as cultural ones, and as such become insoluble’ (Q17§37, p. 1940; SPN , p. 149). Hence there is no hegemony without democracy, nor can there be democracy if the ‘“normal” exercise of hegemony’ is interrupted or begins to crumble. The presupposition of democracy is pluralism of modern societies (not only of social groups but of their economic and political 14 In its reference to totalitarian mass parties this paragraph (Q17§37, p. 1939) should also be borne in mind in the consideration of the experience of Nazism.

208

G. VACCA

organizations too). The development of subjectivity from the ‘economiccorporative’ to the ‘ethico-political’ presupposes the articulation between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’. Political action itself is representation, not only decision, and is made by communication between the rulers and the ruled, the leaders and the led.

2

Crisis and Critics of Democracy

Gramsci cannot, then, be assimilated to the critics of democracy, nor be considered hostile or indifferent to democracy, as almost all the communist movement was in the course of its brief history. Gramsci’s criticism is not levelled against parliamentary democracy, but aims instead at making the representative principle more articulated and free from economic conditioning. Although he is obviously critical of the limits of liberal parliamentarism (a restricted electoral suffrage, ‘property qualification’), he defends parliamentary democracy. In a note written in 1932, written polemically against the journal Critica Fascista, he writes: ‘One of the most banal commonplaces which get repeated against the elective system of forming State organs is the following: that in it numbers decide everything’, a position against which his retorts ‘[b]ut the fact is that it is not true, in any sense, that numbers decide everything, nor that the opinions of all electors are of “exactly” equal weight. Numbers (…) are simply an instrumental value, giving a measure and a relation and nothing more’. The votes measure ‘the effectiveness, and the expansive and persuasive capacity, of the opinions of a few individuals, the active minorities, the élites, the avant-gardes, etc.—i.e. their rationality, historicity or concrete functionality (…). The counting of “votes” is the final ceremony of a long process’ (Q13§30, pp. 1624–1625; SPN , pp. 192–193). Representative democracy presupposes modern ‘civil society’ and the ‘normal’ functioning of ‘public opinion’.15 ‘What is called ‘“public opinion” – Gramsci writes – is tightly connected to political hegemony; in other words, it is the point of contact between “civil society” and “political society”, between consent and force’ (Q7§83, p. 914; PN Vol. 3, p. 213). And perhaps this note is enough to clarify unambiguously the relation between hegemony and democracy. But it is no other than a

15 For the concept of ‘public sphere’ cf. Habermas (1992); original 1962 and Italian translation 1971; see also Williams (1961).

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

209

terrain of struggle, of conflicts and of initiative, like any other sphere of modern societies: Public opinion is the political content of the public’s political will that can be dissentient; therefore, there is a struggle for the monopoly of the organs of public opinion – newspapers, political parties, parliament – so that only one force will mold public opinion and hence the political will of the nation, while reducing the dissenters to individual and disconnected specks of dust. (Q7§83, p. 915; PN Vol. 3, p. 213)

In this dissentient and discordant ‘public political will’, some ideas impose themselves on others through the organs of ‘public opinion’ and are diffused throughout the whole of society, competing to shape the consent of the ruled. In this way the coherence between prevalent interests and shared values, which is a condition for the unity of the dominant groups is asserted. This unity is founded on the correspondence between the economic, political and cultural programmes that these groups pursue, giving an overall direction to the whole of society. This is hegemony, which therefore presupposes democracy (pluralism, the parliamentary regime, the expansion of the various forms of representation, unions, parties, etc.), and gives it strength and sinew. In complex societies the exercise of the leadership function is fulfilled through ‘the ideological structure of a dominant class’ which, Gramsci goes on to say, is ‘material organization meant to preserve, defend, and develop the theoretical or ideological “front”. Its most notable and dynamic part is the press in general’. This is the ‘system’ of ‘trenches’ and ‘fortifications’ which Gramsci had singled out as long ago as 1924 as the main difference between East and West.16 But the emphasis on the ‘power’ of the dominant class does not change the way in which the subaltern classes must struggle to obtain their ends. ‘What can an innovative class set against the formidable complex of trenches and fortifications of the dominant class?’ Gramsci’s answer is ‘[t]he “spirit of cleavage” – that is, the progressive acquisition of one’s historical identity’. Whatever the power of the dominant classes may be, if their dominance is exercised in a democratic State that possibility is not excluded but, rather, it

16 Cf. Gramsci’s letter from Vienna to Togliatti, Terracini (Urbani) and others of 9 February 1924 in Togliatti (1961, p. 197) (Gramsci GTW , p. 227, and SPW 1921–1926, p. 199).

210

G. VACCA

constitutes the fundamental condition for developing the ‘consciousness of one’s historical identity’ on the part of the subaltern classes since this cannot be constituted except by developing a ‘complex ideological work, the first condition of which is an exact knowledge of the field that must be cleared of its element of human mass’ (Q3§49, p. 333; PN Vol. 2, p. 53)17 ; hegemony is fought through political initiative and the democratic State is the ‘normal’ terrain of struggle between the contenders. ‘Subalternity’ is not so much a social condition as, rather, the (reversible) exclusion from the sphere of freedom and responsibility imposed through cultural instruments more than through force. As confirmation of what we have been saying we may recall the way in which Gramsci judges the liberal and conservative critics of democracy. In the polemic against Critica fascista cited above, he draws attention to how the criticism of the representative principle formulated by this review was of an ‘oligarchic’ and not an ‘élitist’ origin. But the ‘rightist’ critics of democracy on whom he dwells more at length are precisely the ‘élitists’ Gaetano Mosca and Robert Michels, whose dependence on Croce is underlined by Gramsci. The subject is of particular interest because the trait common to both of them is their aversion to the political party which, for Gramsci instead, is the main protagonist of democracy and its eventual developments. He reproves Mosca for not dealing ‘with the problem of the “political party” in its entirety’, for factiousness and for his conservative spirit, with the result that he was unable to give a precise definition of the concept of ‘political class’ which in Gramsci’s view ‘has to be placed alongside Pareto’s concept of the élite’ (Q8§24, p. 956 and Q13§6, p. 1565; PN Vol 3, p. 252, and SPN , p. 6 footnote, respectively). On Michels however Gramsci gives a more articulated analysis. Here he underlines the derivation of Michels’ writings from Max Weber’s political sociology, which in turn is subject to the criticism both of its restricted notion of politics as pure force (and of parties as associations that aim at power for power’s sake and for the advantages that they can gain for their affiliates and clientele) and of the tendency to reduce the party’s directive function to the charisma of the leaders themselves (Q2§75, pp. 230–231; PN Vol. 1, p. 318). Gramsci rejects the so-called ‘iron law of oligarchy’

17 [Here, in reference to ‘trenches and fortifications’, we prefer the literal ‘dominant class’ for the PN translation of ‘ruling class’ since ruler(s )/ruling tends to be used where Gramsci’s Italian has governante(i)—trans. note.]

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

211

and the notion of the ‘charismatic party’, considering them to be anachronistic and as political-polemical formulas, not scientific concepts (Q2§75, pp. 236–237; PN Vol. 1, pp. 323–324). The point of greatest interest is the denial that political sociology is a valid replacement for what up to the nineteenth century had been ‘the science and art of politics’ based on the dialectical relationship between science and action, knowledge and will. The development of mass parties, Gramsci writes, brings it back to an honored position since it makes the very idea of ‘laws’ of society constructed on statistical bases inoperative (Q11§25, pp. 1429–1430; SPN , pp. 428–429). But it is above all Croce who receives Gramsci’s pungent criticism both because his philosophy had had an enormous influence and because Croce’s criticism of democracy had ended up in the refusal of the political party, thereby revealing the innermost reasons underlying his moral philosophy. Croce is assimilated to ‘German historicism’ in so far as his conception of politics as a ‘passion’ was influenced by the Weberian theory of charisma. This influence is shown even more directly in the conception of the political party since, as Gramsci observes, ‘Croce reduces the political act to the activity of the individual “party leaders”. So they can satisfy their own passion they construct for themselves, in the parties, the instruments appropriate to ensuring victory’ (Q10II§41v, p. 1309; FSPN , p. 391). There are different aspects of the critique of politics-as-passion. First of all it brings to the fore the ‘irrationalistic’ nature of Croce’s philosophy. The concept of politics-as-passion stems from the ‘subsumption of history under the general category of art’18 and is bound up with the denial ‘of the “predictability” of social facts’. But ‘[i]f social facts cannot be predicted, and the very concept of prediction is meaningless, then the irrational cannot but be dominant, and any organization of men must be anti-historical, a “prejudice”’. The practical consequences of this theory are basically quite ‘trivial’ since ‘[t]he only thing left to do’ would be ‘to resolve each individual, practical problem posed by the movement of history as it comes up, and with extemporaneous criteria; opportunism [would be] the only possible political line’ (Q13§1, p. 1557; SPN , pp. 127–128 footnote). Furthermore, it is contradictory because 18 [Croce’s first published essay (1893), defining much of his subsequent output was the paper read before the Pontanian Academy in Naples, ‘La storia ridotta sotto il concetto generale dell’arte’ (‘History subsumed under the general concept of art’)—trans. note.]

212

G. VACCA

politics involves collective ‘permanent’ actors and therefore cannot be only ‘passion’. The contradictory nature of Croce’s thesis is shown clearly by the comparison between parties and the mode of being and working of armies, and with the role of ‘diplomacy’. Armies as much as diplomacy are organizations that have a rational order, and which function through plans and given objectives in a way that is anything but passional (Q10II41v, pp. 1307–1310; FSPN , pp. 389–392). Hence the hidden meaning of Croce’s thesis cannot be other than the reduction of politics to a ‘will to power’, to pure ‘force’, thereby confirming that ‘Crocean philosophy’ is ‘the matrix for Gentile’s “actualism”’ (Q10I§7, p. 1223; FSPN , p. 344). Croce’s article on ‘The Party as Judgment and as Prejudice’, published in 1912 on the eve of the first elections on an enlarged suffrage in a climate of fierce criticism of democracy, is the most frequent reference point for Gramsci’s own criticism. His hypothesis is that the conception of politics-as-passion has its origin in the fact that Croce, who had come towards politics ‘in a serious way by becoming interested in the political action of the subaltern classes’, had been conditioned by the way in which they acted. Since indeed the subaltern classes had been forced ‘onto the defensive’, as a norm they lacked ‘historical initiative’ and the capacity for hegemony. However, even for Croce ‘political science must explain […] not only the action of one side, but also the action of the other side’ and under this aspect his vision is indirect confirmation that the political struggle is the struggle for hegemony: If one makes a careful examination of this Crocean concept of “passion” devised in order to provide politics with a theoretical justification, one sees that in its turn it can only be justified by the concept of permanent struggle, for which ‘initiative’ is always ‘impassioned’ since the struggle is uncertain and one is continually on the attack not only to avoid being beaten but also to hold down the adversary which “could win” if not continually persuaded that he is the weaker, i.e. continually defeated. (Q10II§56, p. 1349; FSPN , p. 392)

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

213

But if ‘passion’ is but one aspect of the struggle for hegemony,19 is the reduction of the whole of politics to ‘passion’ a ‘disinterested’ theoretical error or is it born from a contingent practical conditioning? In actual fact, Gramsci notes, Croce’s conception is directed against the subaltern classes since only they have the ‘need’, in order to conquer power, for ‘permanent’ voluntary organizations (parties, trade unions, etc.); the ruling classes, instead, already have in their hands the State, the market and ‘hegemonic apparatuses’. They have all the armament necessary for exercising power and therefore for them ‘political initiative’ can even be only of an ‘individual’ and ‘molecular’ nature.20 Croce, like all the upholders of ‘politics-as-power’ argues that the subaltern classes should never be transformed into ruling classes and, if they intend to do this, they represent a serious threat to society. The locus where this aspect of his philosophy is most evident is the conception of the different role played by ideologies for the élite and for the mass. Indeed, as Gramsci observes, ‘political

19 Although Gramsci rejects the identification of ‘passion’ with politics, he does however recognize an essential value in Croce’s concept. The ‘reduction’ operated by Croce ‘runs into difficulties when it comes to explaining and justifying permanent political formations, such as the parties and, even more so, the national armies and General Staffs, since it is impossible to conceive of a permanently organized passion that does not become rationality and deliberate reflection – in other words, that ceases to be passion’. Hence the solution to the problem ‘can be found only in the identification of politics and economics’. Expressed in other words, Croce’s ‘passion’ is to be understood as ‘interest’. The ‘translation’ of Croce’s thesis into Gramsci’s language brings the problem back to the dialectic between the ‘economic-corporative’ and the ‘ethico-political’ and. in this, ‘passion’ occupies an essential role as the mainspring which leads to the transcendence of the economic-corporative interest given that it introduces disinterest into the action, which can go as far as the sacrifice of one’s life. Indeed, if politics, in so far as it is rational calculation and utilitarian action, is identified with economics, it is however distinct from it by the intervention of passion’: ‘it is possible to speak of economics and politics separately. One can speak of “political passion”, that it is an unmediated impulse toward action that is born on the “permanent and organic” terrain of economic life but goes beyond it, bringing into play emotions and aspirations in whose incandescent atmosphere even the calculations of individual human life will follow laws different from those of individual profit, etc.’ (Q8§132, p. 1022; PN Vol. 3, p. 312, and SPN , pp. 139–140). What specifies politics is therefore its ethical nature, its intrinsic relation on the one hand with economics and, on the other, even stronger, with ethics. The latter ‘supersedes’ the former and introduces a universalistic tension into political action. 20 This subject is clarified in an exemplary manner in the analysis of the action of the ‘Moderates’ and ‘democrats’ in the Italian Risorgimento (Q19§24, pp. 2011–2013; SPN , pp. 59–61.)

214

G. VACCA

ideologies’ in Croce’s view are nothing other than ‘practical constructions, instruments of political leadership’. In the ‘philosophy of distincts’, politics is a purely instrumental practice and thus even the ideas that justify it are pure instruments of struggle. Gramsci therefore concludes ‘one might say [according to Croce] that ideologies for the governed are mere illusions, a deception they are subject to, whereas for the governors they constitute a willed and conscious deception’ (Q10II§41xii, p. 1319; FSPN , p. 395). The instrumental conception of ‘political ideologies’ provides the link between the ‘right’ and ‘left’ critics of democracy and hinges around the figure of Sorel. He constitutes the main vehicle by which Croce’s influence made itself felt in the socialist movement through which Croce managed to become ‘the intellectual leader of the turn-of-the-century revisionism’.21 Gramsci criticizes Sorel’s ‘theory of myths’ while at the same time recognizing that he had the merit of having created an effective criterion of analysis regarding some of the aspects of the political action of the workers’ movement. But the Sorelian ‘myth’ is nothing other than ‘Croce’s “passion” studied in a more concrete manner’ since it also includes ‘what Croce calls “religion”, i.e. a conception of the world with a conformant ethic’ (Q10II§41v, p. 1308; FSPN , p. 390). For Sorel the incarnation of the myth is trade union action: not the trade union as the ‘organisation of a collective will’ but its ‘practical action, was to have been the general strike’. As a ‘political ideology’ Sorelianism remains stops short of the problems of hegemony, it is subaltern since trade union action as conceived by him is an activity ‘of a negative and preliminary kind, […] which does not envisage an “active and constructive” phase of its own’ (Q13§1, pp. 1556–1557; SPN , p. 127). Sorel is the highest expression of the retreat of the French intellectuals into anti-politics after the ‘national defeat’ of Sedan and the ‘popular’ defeat of the Paris Commune. The ‘popular blood-letting of 1871 severed the umbilical cord between the “new people” and the tradition of 1793’ and

21 This judgment is found in various places scattered through the Prison Letters and

Notebooks. For the Letters, see Gramsci’s of 18 April 1932 and Tanja’s of 5 July 1932; for the April letter, see Gramsci (1994a, Vol. 2, p. 164), while Tanja’s is in Gramsci-Schucht (1997, pp. 1041–1042). For references in the Notebooks, on the other hand, see Q10I Sommario [Summary], p. 1207 and Q10I§2, pp. 1213–1214 in Gramsci (1975); FSPN , pp. 328 and 335 respectively.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

215

created an ‘anti-Jacobinism—sectarian, mean and anti-historical’ whose champion was Sorel (Q11§66, Note I, p. 1498; FSPN , p. 459). A salient point of Gramsci’s criticism is the clarification of Sorel’s dependency on the thought of Croce. In ‘[t]heoretical syndicalism […] the transformation of the subordinate group into a dominant one is excluded’ and this therefore hinders ‘the independence and autonomy of the subaltern group which it claims to represent’ sacrificing it ‘to the intellectual hegemony of the ruling group’. This theoretical syndicalism is ‘merely an aspect of laissez-faire liberalism’ and in fact this form of ‘economism’ stems from a literal reading of the distinction between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’ as if they were two separate spheres of human activity. This is precisely the liberal conception of the relation between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’, a conception according to which ‘a distinction between political society and civil society […] is made into and presented as an organic one, whereas in fact it is merely methodological’. The subalternity of theoretical syndicalism’ to liberalism is made manifest in the inability to understand that ‘laissez-faire too is a form of State “regulation”, introduced and maintained by legislative and coercive means. It is a deliberate policy, conscious of its own ends, and not the spontaneous, automatic expression of economic facts’ (Q13§18, pp. 1589–1590; SPN , p. 160). It is however very significant that for Gramsci the ‘radical “liberalism” (or theory of spontaneity)’ of Sorel ‘hinders any conservative consequence to his opinions’ and maintains ‘a constant tendency of popular radicalism’ (Q17§20, p. 1923). These judgments stem from the open and dialogic approach adopted by Gramsci towards liberalism which, as we shall see, exerted a positive influence on his conception of parties (in the relation between spontaneity and leadership) and his development of a political programme for a post-fascist Italy. In any case, the salient point of his critique of syndicalism is his attribution to it of ‘economism’, a criticism which is also valid for the ‘left’ critics of democracy. Among the adherents of revolutionary socialism, his foremost target is Rosa Luxemburg, whose ‘“economistic” and spontaneist prejudice’ is based on the theory of the ‘collapse of capitalism’: Gramsci is very harsh in his judgment of her conception of the ‘general strike’: it was a ‘form of iron economic determinism, with the aggravating factor that it was conceived of as operating with lightning speed in time and in space. It was thus out and out historical mysticism’ (Q13§24, pp. 1613–1615; SPN , p. 233). And to this position of Rosa Luxemburg’s, he assimilates that of the permanent

216

G. VACCA

revolution of Trotsky,22 who in Gramsci’s view can be ‘considered the political theorist of frontal assault, at a time when it could only lead to defeat’ (Q6§138, pp. 801–802; PN Vol. 3, p. 109, and SPN , p. 238). The error in his case is caused by ‘an inaccurate understanding of the nature of the State’ which in its integral meaning cannot be reduced to pure force but is ‘political society + civil society, that is, hegemony protected by the armor of coercion’ (Q6§155, pp. 810–811, and Q6§88, pp. 763–764; PN Vol. 3, pp. 75 and 117, and SPN , pp. 239 and 263, respectively). As we saw in Chapter 2, there are good reasons for supposing that the real target in the criticism of Trotsky is Stalin.23 One can therefore complete the examination of the ‘left’ critics of democracy by re-examining the salient features of Gramsci’s critique of Stalinism. The critique of Soviet communism pervades the contents of the Notebooks and I think that, if one reconstituted in detail Gramsci’s research programme, it would turn out to be its driving force. As we have drawn attention to several times, Gramsci considered the USSR to be a ‘primordial’, ‘economic-corporative’ form of workers’ State; and, taking back in hand the central motif of the criticism of the joint opposition expressed in his letter to the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of October 1926, he considers as an evident manifestation of ‘economism’ the leading group’s lack of understanding that, in order to give leadership to the whole of society it was necessary for them to ‘make sacrifices of an economic-corporative kind’, and should instead think that ‘the concrete posing of the problem of hegemony should be interpreted as a fact subordinating the hegemonic group’ (Q13§18, p. 1591; SPN , p. 161).24

22 ‘Bronstein’s theory can be compared to that of certain French syndicalists on the general strike, and to Rosa’s theory’ (Q7§16, pp. 866–867; PN Vol. 3, p. 169, and SPN , p. 238). 23 The hypothesis that I put forward in 1988 (L’URSS staliniana nei “Quaderni del carcere” ), expressed in condensed form in my 1999 Appuntamenti con Gramsci (pp. 31– 32), is shared by Francesco Benvenuti and Silvio Pons who have reconstructed a wideranging map of the notes in the Notebooks devoted to an analysis of the USSR; cf. F. Benvenuti and S. Pons (1999) ‘L’Unione Sovietica nei Quaderni’ in G. Vacca (Ed.) 1999, pp. 93–124. 24 Q13§18, p. 1591; in English SPN op. 161. [The SPN translation is here modified to have ‘the hegemonic group’ rather than ‘the group seeking hegemony’, bringing the English into line with the original Italian—trans. note]. The passage from the letter 14 October 1926 letter to the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party, to

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

217

The ‘peasant war’ had therefore fatal consequences for the Soviet State and demonstrated that Stalin’s ruling group had a military conception of politics. Gramsci emphasized above all its anachronism given that in the era of the ‘war of position’ the military element in the real and proper sense had a secondary and uncertain role, the power of arms being eminently dissuasive (Q13§24, pp. 1615–1616; SPN , pp. 235– 236). But the militarization of politics also brings out another side of ‘economism’ to which we have already drawn attention. This regards the ‘so-called intransigence theories’ characterized by the ‘rigid aversion on principle to what are termed compromises – and the derivative of this, which can be termed “fear of dangers”’. That the ‘aversion on principle to compromise is closely linked to economism’ is in his view clear ‘[f]or the conception upon which the aversion is based can only be the iron conviction that there exist objective laws of historical development similar in kind to natural laws’. This therefore involves ‘a belief in a predetermined teleology like that of a religion’ which nullifies ‘any deliberate initiative tending to predispose and plan these conditions [for success]’ (Q13§23, pp. 1611–1612; SPN , pp. 167–168). Apparently the criticism of the ‘so-called intransigence theories’ is retrospective in so far as it refers to the conceptions of Bordiga, which Gramsci had already defeated between 1924 and 1926. But it is known that in the ‘Third Period turn’ of 1930, he recognized a regression of the whole communist movement to those positions. The target of his criticism was therefore Stalin. Militarization concerned both the domestic policy of the USSR and the Comintern, now firmly in Stalin’s grasp. Gramsci refers to the PCI but probably has the German situation in mind. The 1930 ‘turn’, the ‘class against class’ policy (Agosti 1976, Vol. III) is considered as the cause of ‘collective disasters’ and ‘useless sacrifices’ (Q15§4, p. 1753; SPN , p. 240): a line based on a mistaken analysis of the Italian situation (Q15§35, pp. 1788–1789) which originated from the ‘political

which Gramsci here makes reference, reads as follows ‘it has never been seen in history that a dominant class, in its entirety, has been subject to living conditions that were lower than given elements and strata of the subjected and dominated class […] And yet the proletariat cannot become the dominant class if, through the sacrifice of its corporative interests, it does not transcend this contradiction, it cannot maintain its hegemony and its dictatorship if, even when it has become dominant, it does not sacrifice these immediate interests for its general and permanent class interests’ (P. Togliatti 1961, pp. 129–130; GTW , pp. 374–375, the emphasis being shown there belonging to the original manuscript letter; see also SPW 1921–1926, p. 431 and PPW , p. 311).

218

G. VACCA

Cadornism’ (Q13§24, p. 1616; SPN , p. 235) which then reigned in the International (Q15§4, p. 1753; SPN , p. 240).25 At the base of all this was the deterioration of the internal regime of the Soviet Party, which had degenerated into ‘bureaucratic centralism’ and ‘fetishism’ through a ‘deterministic and mechanical conception of history’ that ‘had wide currency’ and was ‘bound up with the passivity of the great popular masses’ traditional in Russia and temporarily imposed in the West too (Q15§13, pp. 1769–1771; FSPN , pp. 14–16, and cf. SPN , p. 187, note 83). Gramsci however did not limit himself to a criticism of the USSR’s renunciation of an international policy to which the communist parties could link their national policies, but indicated that at the base of ‘Soviet isolationism’ (Di Biagio 2004) lay a conception of the State founded on power politics. Although this was justifiable for defensive reasons, it generated solely attendisme and passivity; the initiative expected was to arrive from Russia, which in other words was an ‘anachronistic and anti-natural form of “Napoleonism”’, an offspring of the ‘old mechanicism’ (Q14§68, pp. 1728–1730; SPN , pp. 240–241). Most of all this represented a blow struck at the theoretical autonomy of the communist movement. The ‘organic crisis’ which had begun with the war thus developed as a ‘struggle between “two conformisms”’, i.e. between two general conceptions of the world and of history, without these being resolved, and if in the ‘old intellectual and moral leaders of society’ this was the cause of ‘reactionary and conservative tendencies’, the ‘representatives of the new order now in gestation […], full of “rationalistic” hatred for the old, are disseminating utopias and crackpot schemes’ (Q7§12, pp. 862–863; PN Vol. 3, pp. 164–166).

3

‘The Modern Prince’

The focus of Gramsci’s thought is therefore to be found in the way of conceiving the relation between theory and practice. ‘In the most recent developments of the philosophy of praxis’ Gramsci writes, alluding to

25 Luigi Cadorna was the general held responsible for the catastrophic defeat of Italian

army forces at Caporetto in the World War I. An authoritarian who, once he had decided on a plan, adhered to it and expected his men do so unquestioningly, despite a real situation that might give contrary indications. His name is used metaphorically by Gramsci to describe leaders who expect their followers to carry out plans worked out in advance, whatever the reality or the cost.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

219

Stalin26 ‘people speak about theory as a “complement” or an “accessory” of practice, or as the handmaid of practice’. This strikes him as an evident manifestation of the hegemonic incapacity of power in the Soviet Union. As we have already said, when Gramsci speaks of hegemony he always means struggle of hegemonies. His starting point for the conquest of intellectual, personal or collective autonomy, is always a form of consciousness, contradictory since it is conditioned by different influences. ‘Critical understanding of self takes place therefore through a struggle of political “hegemonies” and of opposing directions, first in the ethical field and then in that of politics proper, in order to arrive at the working out at a higher level of one’s own conception of reality’ (Q11§12, pp. 1385–1386; SPN , pp. 333–334). Given these premises, the political party has a fundamental role. Not the party of the working class, but the party in general, that ‘complex element of society in which a recognized collective will, has already begun to take on concrete form, and has to some extent asserted itself in action’; hence an organism that historical development ‘has already provided’ and which constitutes ‘the first cell in which there come together germs of a collective will tending to become universal and total’ (Q13§1, p. 1558; SPN , p. 129). The concept is taken from the observation of contemporary societies and of the way in which the leading roles and overall political direction are formed within them. The principles just recalled do not form a normative for the ‘revolutionary party’ but are the generalization of a given historical experience: that of complex societies in which parties are the protagonists in the struggle for hegemony. The exemplary experience of hegemony realized by a party is, as we have seen, the action of the ‘Moderates’ in the Risorgimento which had conditioned Italian political life right up to the Great War (Q19§24, pp. 2010–2014; SPN , pp. 55–62). On the other hand, over the more than six decades that have passed since the first international conference on Gramsci, we have already also seen what importance he attached to the development of mass parties in Europe. In contemporary societies the parties have attained this development and exercised such an important role that the crisis itself of the State is shown up through the fact that ‘social groups become 26 Gramsci here refers to the positions maintained by Stalin in the philosophical debate in the Soviet Communist Party in 1930–1931. He had read (and appreciated) a summary in D. P. Mirsky [Mirskij], ‘The Philosophical Discussion in the CPSU in 1930–31’ in The Labour Monthly, October 1931.

220

G. VACCA

detached from their traditional parties’ (Q13§23, pp. 1603–1604; SPN , pp. 210–211).27 The crisis following the First World War had demonstrated that the working class had not yet learned the lesson. How can a party be created that elevates the working class to being the ruling class? The reference point is Lenin, whom Gramsci contraposes not only to Trotsky but also to Bukharin and Stalin. Lenin, however, is only a starting point, valid because he demonstrated in practice what politics is as the struggle for hegemony, but did not elaborate the concept. The theory of hegemony was still entirely to be developed and the political parties could be its interpreters only under certain conditions, not by the simple fact of their existence and being a ‘nomenclature’ for one class or the other. Lenin remains for Gramsci a point of reference since, by basing the programme of Russian social democracy on the alliance between workers and peasants, and forging the party as the ‘organism’ of that alliance, he brought into being a new national ‘hegemonic apparatus’ (Q10II§12, pp. 1249– 1250; SPN , p. 365), thereby also providing an answer to ‘revisionism’. With the thesis that ‘the movement is everything and the aim is nothing’ Bernstein had (indirectly) placed the accent on the need for the ‘ends’ of the proletariat to be immanent in its political action (Q15§26, pp. 1898– 1899).28 It should be noted that ‘revisionism’ is the only pre-First World War current of socialism that Gramsci does not accuse of ‘economism’; its weakness lay in its renunciation of the autonomous development of a programme of reforms that would also include the State and therefore in limiting its action to the ‘resistance and conservation’ of the movement— in other words a form of ‘passivity’. Lenin had on the other hand resolved the problem concretely and Gramsci therefore attributes ‘an affirmation of epistemological […] value’ to the ‘theoretical-practical principle of hegemony’, comparable to that of the principles of the philosophy of praxis put forward by Marx in the 1859 Preface (Q10II§12, pp. 1249–1250; SPN , p. 365). But, with one voice, Gramsci’s critics claim that his ‘ideal type’ of party is quite evidently ‘totalitarian’. They refer to what is perhaps the most

27 [The quotation here follows the original Italian wording by using “groups” instead of SPN ’s gloss of “classes”—trans. note]. 28 [Bernstein’s words are cited by Gramsci in the form given here—trans. note.]

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

221

celebrated passage from Notebook 13, which it is of use to quote here in its entirety: The modern Prince, as it develops, revolutionizes the whole system of intellectual and moral relations, in that its development means precisely that any given act is seen as useful or harmful, as virtuous or as wicked, only in so far as it has as its point of reference the modern Prince itself, and helps to strengthen or to oppose it. In men’s consciences, the Prince takes the place of the divinity or the categorical imperative, and becomes the basis for a modern laicism and for a complete laicisation of all aspects of life and of all customary relationships. (Q13§1, p. 1561; SPN , p. 133)29

In my view the meaning of this passage cannot be understood in isolation from the ‘system’ of the ‘philosophy of praxis’, that is from the context of the epistemology and the analytic of hegemony developed in the Notebooks (Vacca 1991, pp. 5–116).30 Certainly, there is here an emphasis that may sound excessive to us, but the tasks that he assigns to the parties regard the ‘development of a national-popular collective will’ (of which the modern Prince is at one and the same time the organizer and active promoter) and the promotion of an ‘intellectual and moral reform’ (Q13§1, p. 1561; SPN , p. 133). It is therefore of use to go further into the meaning of these formulas. We shall deal with the former in the pages that follow and the latter in the next section. To give life to a ‘national-popular collective will’ the immanent task that the party must propose is that of its own intellectual autonomy and that of the social groups represented. In other words, it must above all propose a philosophical task.31 ‘In the modern world’ the parties have a great importance in the ‘elaboration and diffusion of conceptions of the world, because essentially what they do is to work out the ethics and the politics corresponding to these conceptions and act as it were as their historical “laboratory”’ for different Weltanschauungen (Q11§12, 29 [What in SPN appears as “conscience” could also be rendered “consciousness”— trans. note] 30 I have sought to reconstruct the basic lines of this in my 1991 essay ‘I “Quaderni” e la politica del ’900’—G. V. 31 The relation that Gramsci established with the thought of Antonio Labriola is essential for clarifying this subject (Q11§70, pp. 1507–1509; SPN , pp. 386–388). On this question I refer readers to my 1983 essay ‘Il marxismo e la questione degli intellettuali. Da Kautsky a Lukács e da Labriola a Gramsci’—G. V.

222

G. VACCA

p. 1387; SPN , p. 335). This does not mean that political action must stem from a philosophical system but, if the parties do not have their own theory of history and politics, they cannot develop. The basic question, I repeat, is ‘How does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’ (Q11§22, p. 1422; SPN , p. 431). That is to say, how does the constitution of the hegemonic subjects and in particular the parties come about? The principles indicated in the ‘Preface’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy are insufficient, but from the ‘reflection on these two principles, one can move on to develop a whole series of further principles of historical methodology’ (Q13§17, pp. 1578–1579; SPN , p. 177). In Gramsci’s view the philosophy of praxis and the theory of hegemony can only develop through a permanent juxtaposition with liberalism. The idea is not new, but rather a principle of the Marxist tradition according to which ‘It is affirmed that the philosophy of praxis was born on the terrain of the highest development of culture in the first half of the nineteenth century, this culture being represented by classical German philosophy, English classical economy and French political literature and practice’. Thus, ‘[t]hese three cultural moments are at the origin of the philosophy of praxis’ (Q10II§9, p. 1246; SPN , p. 399).32 But Gramsci draws attention to the risk of dissolving this philosophy into the genealogy of its sources, making it subaltern to other philosophies. According to Gramsci this happened with Lenin and probably, when he sheds doubt on this formula, he has in mind Lenin’s Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (Q11§27, pp. 1436–1437; SPN , pp. 464–465). As was already noted in Chapter 3, for Gramsci the fundamental innovation in the philosophy of praxis consisted in the fact that Marx had singled out what was also the ‘epistemological value’ of the Ricardian concepts of the ‘law of tendency’, the ‘homo oeconomicus’ and the ‘determinate market’, and had thus ‘universalised Ricardo’s discoveries, extending them in an adequate fashion to the whole of history’. In other words he had drawn from this principles ‘a new “immanence”’ and a ‘new concept of “necessity” and of freedom’. The claim that ‘the philosophy of praxis equals Hegel plus David Ricardo’ (Q10II§9, pp. 1246–1247; SPN , pp. 400–401) implies a new interpretation of Hegelian philosophy and of 32 [The SPN translation is here modified twice to read “economy” rather than “economics”—the latter being a later nineteenth century positivistic interpretation of the science, alien to the Marxist tradition—and to reinstate “moment” rather than SPN ’s “movement”, a distinction between the two being made by Gramsci—trans. note.]

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

223

the heuristic value of classical economy. As regards Hegel, Gramsci refers to the ‘spirit of the world that becomes reality in this or that country’ and interprets it as ‘a way of drawing attention by “metaphor” or image’ to the fact that modern history is world history; thus the way of ‘thinking history solely as “national history” in whatever moment of historical development’ has ‘always been “conventional”’ (Q10II§61, p. 1359).33 More in general the Hegelian concept of ‘spirit’ lies in the intuition, albeit ‘speculative’, of the question of the ‘cultural unification of the human race’ by a philosophical elaboration of the results of ‘experimental science’ which constitutes the ‘terrain on which a cultural unity of this kind has [up to now] reached its furthest extension’ (Q11§17, p. 1416; SPN , pp. 445– 446). These are concrete contents in the conception of the world as the history of liberty, which however cannot be reduced to the history of liberalism (Q10I§10, pp. 1229–1232; FSPN , pp. 351–354). But in order to develop a new principle of ‘immanence’, the Ricardian economy is even more important since its fundamental concepts … are connected (…) to the development of the bourgeoisie as a “concrete world class” and to the subsequent formation of a world market which was already sufficiently “dense” in complex movements for it to be possible to isolate and study necessary laws of regularity. (It should be said that these are laws of tendency which are not laws in the naturalistic sense or that of speculative determinism, but in a “historicist” sense, valid, that is, to the extent that there exists the “determinate market” or in other words an environment which is organically alive and interconnected in its movements of development. (Q10II§9, pp. 1247–1248; SPN ,, p. 401)

Proceeding therefore in the polemic against the dissolution of the philosophy of praxis into the genealogy of its sources, Gramsci claims that for the philosophy of praxis the fundamental concept of classical economy is not the theory of value, but that of ‘determinate market’ since Ricardo ‘was also “philosophically” important and ha[d] suggested a way of thinking and intuiting history and life’ (Q11§52, p. 1479; SPN , p. 412). This consists essentially in the

33 [The wordings quoted in these lines in inverted commas are included by Gramsci in a bracketed addition in the margin of Q10II§61 and unfortunately not included in the English translation (SPN , pp. 114–116) of the rest of this paragraph—trans. note.]

224

G. VACCA

… scientific discovery that specific decisive and permanent forces have risen historically and that the operation of these forces presents itself with a certain “automatism” which allows a measure of “predictability” (…) “Determinate market” is therefore equivalent to “determinate relation of social forces in a determinate structure of the productive apparatus”, this relationship being guaranteed (that is, rendered permanent) by a determinate political, moral and juridical superstructure. (Q11§52, p. 1477; SPN , p. 410)

In Gramsci’s lexis this means a determinate ‘historical bloc’, a certain combination of State and market (Q10II§41vi, pp. 1310–1311; FSPN , pp. 426–428), a weld between ‘structure and superstructures’ that has been realized in practice. The epistemological value of Ricardo’s discovery is, as we have seen, resolved into the fundamental concepts of the analytic of hegemony—‘passive revolution’, ‘war of position’ and ‘historical bloc’—which allow us to elaborate ‘political science’ as the ‘analysis of situations, relations of force’, and therefore respond in concrete terms to the question ‘how does the historical movement arise on the structural base?’. The philosophy of praxis ‘in that it is science, is useful both to the rulers and the ruled for their mutual understanding ’ (Q13§33, p. 1689; emphasis added—G.V.). Despite the extraordinary changes that came about in the first decades of the twentieth century, the historical background for Gramsci’s reflections was still that of Marx’s research, and therefore the philosophy of praxis not only had to develop in a constant juxtaposition with liberalism but also had the task of translating its own universalism into concrete historical language. It intended to be a philosophy of liberty for humankind, unified not only culturally but also in its ‘material’ conditions of life. It is the ‘heir [who] continues its predecessor’s activity, but does so “in practice”’ since from the idealistic concept of the ‘spirit’ it has deduced ‘an active will, capable of transforming the world’ (Q10II§31i, p. 1271; FSPN , p. 385). The philosophy of praxis, as we have seen, is ‘a “heresy” of the religion of liberty’ (Q10I§13 note 8, p. 1238; FSPN , p. 361). But in what way does the ‘heir continue its predecessor’? Who in the historical situation of the 1930s could incarnate the ‘heresy of the religion of liberty’? It could be incarnated only in ‘national-popular collective will’ capable of changing the nature of the development of a given country. It

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

225

is a ‘struggle between two hegemonic principles’ (‘between two “religions”’) (Q10I§13 note 4, p. 1236; FSPN , p. 359), in which the one able to address the problems of ‘national development’ in a more ‘useful’ manner is destined to prevail. The struggle regards above all else the concept of nation, intimately linked with in the modern era with that of development (Q19§3, p. 1969). In fact, the unity of the nation forged by the State is most of all the creation of a national market. Since this comes about on the basis of capitalist development, national unification can be realized through the initiative of already sufficiently developed capitalist groupings, or otherwise through ‘the combination of [national] progressive forces which in themselves are scanty and inadequate (though with immense potential, since they represent their country’s future) with an international situation favourable to their expansion and victory’ (Q10II§61, p. 1360; SPN , p. 116). If the unity of the nation is conditioned by the intertwining of international political and economic relations, if the concept of nation is inseparable from that of development, the nation is a plural historical creation which changes according to the combination of internal and international factors which the forces in the field succeed in making prevail. The nation is the territorial unit of different social groups which propose different combinations of the national-international nexus. Gramsci thus delineates—most of all in Notebook 19—the historical framework of the bourgeois revolutions in Europe, taking note of the unitary nature of the process in its national variations34 and in this way establishes the terrain for the struggle for hegemony which was also valid for his own time. The struggle to make one or the other form of national interest prevail defines the concrete contents of hegemony. Gramsci therefore introduces

34 This variation, Gramsci writes, ‘in the actual process whereby the same historical development manifests itself in different countries [has] to be related not only to the differing combinations of internal relations within the different nations, but also to the differing international relations’, going on to state that ‘international relations are usually underestimated in this kind of research’ (Q19§24, p. 2033; SPN , p. 84). Gramsci also says in an even clearer way—in his critique of Adolfo Omodeo’s Età del risorgimento italiano (1931)—that the fulcrum of world historical processes is the national-international nexus: ‘National personality (…) is a mere abstraction if it is considered outside the international context. National personality expresses a “distinct” of the international complex and is therefore bound to international relations’ (Q19§2, p. 1962).

226

G. VACCA

into his programme a clearly liberal option, linking it to the ‘rationalisation of the demographic composition’ (cf. Q22§1 and §2, p. 2140; SPN , p. 280) of the country and to a productivist perspective. These choices are consistent with the analysis of the crisis (as a consequence of the contrast between the cosmopolitan nature of the economy and the nationalism of politics) and with the struggle against the autarky to which fascism tended. In polemic with Dino Grandi, as we have seen, he questions whether ‘the individual low rate of national income [is] due to (…) a particular choice of political direction’. And again rhetorically he asks ‘[i]s it therefore possible to think that without a change in these internal relations the situation could change for the better even though internationally the relations were to improve?’ (Q19§6, pp. 1990–1991; FSPN , p. 238). ‘An effective political force for “free trade”’ can therefore only be the expression of a ‘bloc among the popular classes under the hegemony of the historically most advanced one’ (Q8§72, p. 983; PN Vol. 3, p. 276) and its task is ‘to collaborate in the economic reconstruction of the world in a unitary fashion’ (Q19§5, p. 1988; FSPN , p. 253). In the Italy of the early 1930s this meant breaking up the ‘agrarian bloc’ and breaking the alliance between the northern industrialists and the southern landowners. The necessary condition for realizing this aim was the construction of a party capable of bringing up to a ‘certain level of historico-political culture’ the ‘social groups which have [already] attained an adequate development in the field of industrial production’ so that ‘the great mass of peasant farmers [could burst] simultaneously into political life’ (Q13§1, pp. 1560–1561; SPN , p. 132). The passage on the ‘modern Prince’ which we have taken as starting point concludes this reflection and its emphasis mirrors the radical nature of the task that Gramsci assigned to the communist Party in Italy, while his conception of the political party in general does not come over in a similar fashion as charged with totalitarian drives. As already seen, the political party is a ‘complex element of society’, in other words it forms part of ‘civil society’, which, although intimately linked to ‘political society’, is however the ‘theatre of all history’. ‘This organism’ produced ‘by historical development’ constitutes the ‘first cell in which there come together germs of a collective will’ (Q13§1, p. 1558; SPN , p. 129). What relationship between parties and State shapes the statement that they must tend ‘to become universal and total’? Gramsci’s answer is that ‘the parties may be considered as the schools of State life’ since they educate (should educate) to the ‘spirit of the State’; but

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

227

they are different in principle from the State since they are voluntary organizations whose specific functions are the development of ‘political orientation’, the fostering of a ‘collective will’ that supports it, and the selection of the ruling classes. These functions are exercised in civil society rather than in the State If the State represents the coercive and punitive force of a country’s juridical order, the parties – representing the spontaneous adherence of an élite to such regulation, considered as a type of collective society that the entire mass must be educated to adhere to – must show in their specific interior life that they have assimilated as principles of moral conduct those rules that in the State are legal obligations. Within the parties, necessity has already become freedom …. (Q7§90, pp. 919–920; PN Vol. 3, p. 217, and SPN , p. 267)

The argument clearly refers to parliamentary regimes, but the party must be distinct from the State even in totalitarian regimes since ‘parliamentarism’—that is the idea of political representation—cannot be eliminated without suppressing the economic form that produces it.35 Neither can the functions of the parties be confounded with that of the government which, when it acts like a party (Gramsci quotes the example of Italian ‘transformism’), hinders or deforms the development of democracy and thus does not act as a ‘national factor’ (Q3§119, p. 387; PN Vol. 2, pp. 105–106). Altogether, the party is ‘part of a whole’ (Q7§99, p. 926; PN Vol. 2, p. 223)—civil society and political society taken together—and must remain so. The tendentially ‘universal and total’ nature of the ‘germs of a collective will’ that begin ‘to take form’ in it indicate that it tends to lead (direct, influence) every other ‘organism’ of civil society, not to subordinate this organism in hierarchical fashion to it. In this respect, the relationship between party and trade union is very significant. Gramsci is critical both of the Labourist formula of an ‘alliance pact’ between party and union, and of that of the ‘transmission belt’ that dates to the 1908 Stuttgart Congress of the SPD. He refuses the idea that the ‘unions must be subordinate to the Party’. ‘The question – he writes – must be formulated as follows’:

35 On this question Gramsci’s observations regarding ‘“black” parliamentarism’ (Q14§§ 74 and 76, pp. 1742–1744; SPN , pp. 254–257) are quite significant.

228

G. VACCA

every member of the party, no matter what place or office he might occupy, remains a member of the party and subordinated to its leadership. There cannot be subordination between trade union and party; if the union has voluntarily chosen a member of the party to be its leader, it means that the union [freely] chooses the directions of the party and therefore freely accepts (indeed desires) the party’s [political – G.V.] control over its officials. (Q3§42, p. 321; PN Vol. 2, p. 42)

How, then, is the definition of the parties as ‘nomenclature of classes’ to be understood? Here we may profitably return to the relationship between State and ‘classes’. For Gramsci, the State is not the instrument of domination of one class but the territorial organization of the community which takes shape from the ensemble of the ‘complex superstructures’, through which the hegemony of one part is exerted over the whole of the nation, and hegemony is always the result of a struggle, it presupposes a plurality of subjects that are fighting for the political leadership of the country and in principle is in contention and reversible. The party fosters the ‘formation of a national-popular collective will’ but is not identified with it. Therefore, ‘if it is true that the parties are nothing other than the nomenclature of classes, it is also true that the parties are not merely mechanical and passive expressions of the classes themselves but react energetically with the classes to develop them, solidify them, universalize them’ (Q3§119, p. 387; PN Vol. 2, p. 105). They are in other words the fundamental ‘organism’ through which the classes supersede their ‘primordial’, ‘economic-corporative’ state and form new intellectual élites who extend new visions of politics and history. The one party, one class scheme expresses a limiting idea that is useful for understanding why, in modern societies, it is the parties and not other associations who elaborate the specifically political leading roles, but it is not the premise for a sociology of political parties.36 The formula of parties as the ‘nomenclature of classes’ thus brings to the fore the ideal typology of a state of exception, the situations which take place when political systems disintegrate, the social groups go back to their ‘economic-corporative phase’ or alternatively ‘decisive’ situations in the struggle for power come about, as for example civil war, for which it is appropriate to use exclusively the 36 The critique of the sociology of the political party is carried out mainly in Notebook 12 (Q12§§15 and 25, pp. 1403–1404 and 1429–1430 respectively; SPN , pp. 437–439 and 429–430 respectively), but in a slightly later note, datable to February 1933 (Q14§29, pp. 1687–1688), Gramsci again takes up the descriptive value.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

229

coupling enemy-friend. In the philosophy of praxis the relations between the fundamental classes are antagonistic but cannot be reduced to the enemy-friend relationship since capital is a social relation: bourgeoisie and proletariat are interdependent and classes cannot be suppressed, like an enemy is suppressed in war. However ‘in the decisive turning points’, when the struggle for power becomes incandescent, ‘the theoretical truth that every class has a single party is demonstrated (…) by the fact that various groupings, each of which had up till then presented itself as an “independent” party, come together to form a united bloc’ (Q15§6, p. 1760; SPN , p. 157). The ‘decisive moments’ are not resolved militarily, but through a ‘new national-popular collective will’ that prevails and is able to reconstruct the physiology of the political system, consisting of its ‘normal’ functioning, which is composed by a struggle for hegemony that breaks up the old equilibria and creates new ones. Although there may be some sociological residue in Gramsci’s lexis the concept of party does not form part of a sociology of classes but of the theory of ‘collective will’. To understand the Gramscian notion of the political party we have to go back to the basic principles of the philosophy of praxis and specifically to the methodological criterion by which ‘society does not set itself problems for whose solution the material preconditions do not already exist’. Gramsci goes on straight away to state that ‘the proposition immediately raises the problem of the formation of a collective will: in analyzing critically what this proposition means, it is important to study how permanent collective wills are in fact formed’. ‘This is an issue that in modern times is expressed in terms of party or coalition of kindred parties: how a party is initially formed, how its organizational strength and social influence grow, etc.’. The parties are the result of ‘longer or shorter processes’ of formation of ‘molecular’ and ‘capillary’ ‘collective wills’. They are part of this and when they are capable they make them ‘permanent’ by orienting and guiding them. They are nothing more than the organisms through which cohesive relationships of representation between rulers and ruled, leaders and led are formed (Q8§195, pp. 1057–1058; PN Vol 3, p. 346). The parties work on possible alternatives of national development, on the different combinations of internal and international factors of development, on the national-international nexus. In this patient work they select and centralize the economic, intellectual and moral energies of the country. One may then accept Togliatti’s claim that ‘Gramsci’s prince’ is not to be understood so much as a specific form of organization as much, instead, as ‘the advanced consciousness of

230

G. VACCA

humanity, which wishes to assert itself as leader of the whole process of history’ (‘Rileggendo L’Ordine Nuovo’, Togliatti 2001, pp. 303–304). As is known, the formula into which Togliatti translated Gramsci’s conception of the party is that of the collective intellectual. I think we may share his affirmation that Gramsci’s conception of the party tended to be ‘a complete theory of politics’ that was original and different from ‘Leninism’ (Togliatti 1979, p. 155; 2001, p. 207).

4

Europe After Fascism

But, Togliatti says, Gramsci is not a ‘scientist of politics’, he is ‘an active politician’ (cf. Q13§17, p. 1577; SPN , p. 172) who is seeking to develop a new theory of politics conducive to the creation of a new society. As Norberto Bobbio emphasized in the Mondoperaio debate in 1977, he operated in a Europe tendentially dominated by fascism, in which the problem of overthrowing it was posed to all antifascists. Gramsci was however a communist who, as well as combatting fascism, was fighting for the advent of a new society and therefore, in Bobbio’s view, could not be a democrat. This affirmation does not stand up to objective scrutiny. For Gramsci the ‘revolution’ is a process of ‘destruction’ and ‘reconstruction’ that, if not simultaneous, is in any case, conceived of in a unitary fashion (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1603; SPN , p. 168; emphasis added—G.V.). The nexus between destruction and reconstruction evokes the concept of reform rather than that of revolution, a concept that is stronger (denser, more complex and potentially of greater innovation) which corresponds much better to the theory of hegemony. The Notebooks are pervaded with this awareness and the whole subject of ‘intellectual and moral reform’ is the proof of this. To say then that Gramsci could not have in his programme the creation of a democratic State is simply a gratuitous assertion. In Gramsci’s thought, analysis and project, theory and strategy go hand in hand. As we have seen the theory of hegemony moves from the historical experience of liberalism in the age of its apogee. To delineate the new society of which Gramsci is thinking, it is of use to go back to his analyses of the crisis of the ‘parliamentary regime’ and examine how he seeks a solution capable of collecting and assessing its legacy. The masses whom the war had made irrupt into State life, ‘put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

231

revolution’ (Q13§23, pp. 1602–1603; SPN , p. 210; emphasis added— G.V.). But bringing them together, selecting them, translating them into a programme of new economic and State set-ups does not lead to the destruction of the ‘parliamentary regime’, but rather its radical reform and the creation of new parties, representative of the new ‘situation’ and of the ‘new relations of force’. The critique of ‘parliamentarism’ accepted by Gramsci is that of Weberian origin, which identifies as its limit its ineptitude regarding control over the burgeoning bureaucratization of society and the State. The point is to establish whether the representative and party system, instead of being a suitable mechanism for choosing elected functionaries to integrate and balance the appointed civil servants and prevent them from becoming ossified, has become a hindrance and a mechanism which operates in the reverse direction— and, if so, for what reasons. (Q14§49, p. 1708; SPN , p. 254)

Gramsci goes on to add that in this respect ‘it must be allowed that parliamentarism has become inefficient and even harmful’. But the remedies are, on the one hand, that of ‘modifying the training of technical political personnel, completing their culture in accordance with the new necessities’ (Q12§1, p. 1532; SPN , p. 28) and, on the other, that of bringing the State officials, including those at the summits of the bureaucratic apparatuses, up to the needs of social complexity, by using different criteria of election. The model is British self-government which is not however easy to export to other European countries, since ‘each type of society has its own way of posing or solving the problem of bureaucracy; each one is different’. ‘[I]n non-Anglo-Saxon countries’ self-government may be realized by challenging the ‘centralism of the higher echelons’ of the bureaucracy with the expansion of ‘institutions that are controlled directly from below’ (Q8§55, p. 974; PN Vol. 3, p. 268).37 ‘It has to be considered whether parliamentarism and representative system are synonymous, and whether a different solution is not possible – both for parliamentarism and for the bureaucratic system – with a new type of representative system’ (Q14§49, SPN , p. 254). The new State that Gramsci is thinking of must conform to the ‘great transformation’ that was underway in Europe between the two wars and 37 [Cf. also the extracts from this paragraph in SPN , p. 186, note 32—trans. note.]

232

G. VACCA

is linked to the predictions that he was formulating on the future of Europe. As seen, Gramsci foresaw that the new industrialism in America (Taylorism and Fordism) would spread in Europe, causing a profound transformation (Q22§15, pp. 2178–2179; SPN , pp. 316–317). Gramsci’s favouring of an ‘Americanization’ of Europe is born from his foreseeing that Taylorism and Fordism would cut down to size the importance of finance capital and parasitic landed income, causing a ‘rationalisation of the demographic composition’ and destroying the economic bases of economic nationalism and Statism (Q22§2, pp. 2140 et seq.; cf. SPN , pp. 280 et seq.). The ‘Americanization’ imposes on the new European national economies a productivist perspective, of interest as much to the bourgeoisie as it is to the industrial proletariat, but we are not in the presence of an economy like that of the United States, something that in any case would have been impossible. The social progressive groups ‘had’ therefore to ‘find for themselves an “original”, and not Americanized, system of living, to turn into “freedom” what today is “necessity”’ (Q22§15, p. 2179; SPN , p. 317). These are not far-off predictions, since America was already ‘forcing Europe’ into a rapid transformation, perceptible even in Italy, where, through the creation of a ‘mixed economy’ and the corporative State, things were proceeding ‘by very slow and almost imperceptible stages to modify the social structure’ (Q22§6, p. 2158; SPN , p. 294). The nub of Fordism lies in a new form of regulation of the economy (Boyer and Mistral 1978), based on the antagonistic cooperation between industrial bourgeoisie and working class with the scope of increasing the productivity and competitiveness of the national economies. The crucial problem regards the ‘environment’ necessary for the spread of ‘Americanism’: Americanisation requires a particular environment, a particular social structure (or at least a determined intention to create it) and a certain type of State. This State is the liberal State, not in the sense of free-trade liberalism or of effective political liberty, but in the more fundamental sense of free initiative and of economic individualism which, with its own means, on the level of “civil society”, through historical development, itself arrives at a regime of industrial concentration and monopoly. (Q22§6, p. 2157; SPN , p. 293)

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

233

Gramsci, then, foresaw a new stage of liberal democracy after fascism. In the 1930s the relations between State and market in Europe were changing. The creation of the ‘mixed economy’, economic policies that afterwards would be called Keynesianism, the conception of accumulation as a ‘role of the public sphere’ was spreading everywhere. The drive towards the creation of a ‘programmed economy’ was general. But the adaptation of European ‘social structures’ to ‘Americanism’ could not take place without a change in the functions of the State (Q22§14, pp. 2175–2178; SPN , pp. 313–316). What type of society did Gramsci hope for or foresee? For what type was he fighting? He claims that after fascism ‘the return to traditional “parliamentarism”’ would not be possible; indeed if we take account of the transformations that had come about in the organization of the masses and the government of the economy, that ‘return to traditional “parliamentarism” would be an anti-historical regression, since even where this “functions” publicly’, i.e. in the liberal States, ‘the effective parliamentarism is the “black” one’ (Q14§74, p. 1743; SPN , p. 255). To clarify the meaning of this expression it is useful to refer to the notes on the ‘crisis of the parliamentary regime’. With the organization of the masses and the impetuous growth of their subjectivity, the old liberal order had disappeared for ever. The State could no longer be the organ of domination of the possessing classes, and neither could the market remain the instrument of indirect government of the masses through their dispersion. In the liberal State the capitalist bourgeoisie ‘had its trade union in parliament, while the wage earners could not coalesce and bring to bear the force given by the collectivity to each single individual’ (Q10II§41vi, p. 1311; FSPN , p. 427). This is a situation that could not be recreated. The economic situation had moreover induced the industrialists as much as the wage earners to come together freely to the stage of organizing their representation monopolistically. In Europe, after fascism, the most probable solution would be that of a new corporativism, ‘not in the ancien régime sense, but in the modern sense of the word, in which the “corporation” cannot have closed and exclusivistic limits as was the case in the past’: a ‘corporativism of “social function” without hereditary or any other restriction’ (Q14§74, p. 1743; SPN , pp. 255–256). For the future of Italy and the transformation of Europe Gramsci therefore foresaw and hoped for the development of a ‘societal corporativism’ and ‘corporative pluralism’ (Cf. Q10II§41vi, p. 1311; FSPN , pp. 426–428, esp. p. 427.). In this perspective he also sees the possibility of transcending the difficulties of parliamentarism,

234

G. VACCA

enriching the criteria of representation and rendering them more complex through other forms of ‘electionism’ linked to the expansion of industrial democracy (Q13§30, pp. 1625–1626; SPN , pp. 192–194). The protagonists of ‘societal corporativism’, bringing with it an expansion of hegemony (Q14§74, p. 1743; SPN , p. 255), would be the new parties. Post-liberal and post-fascist democracy would be a party democracy. ‘The principle once posed that [in every State] there are leaders and led, rulers and ruled, (…) parties have up till now been the most effective way of developing leaders and the capacity of leadership’ (Q15§4, p. 1753; SPN , p. 146).38 Already in the liberal State, with the extension of the suffrage, the development of political orientation was ever more shifted towards ‘civil society’. In the ‘normal functioning of national political life’ this development was the task of the parties which ‘were the organisms that in civil society elaborated not only the political orientations but educated and put forward the people supposedly able to apply them’. That the parties, because of the disintegration of the parliamentary regime had become inept and unable to fulfil this role, had ‘not annulled the task of doing such, neither ha[d] it shown a new road towards the solution’ (Q15§48, p. 1809). To ‘corporativist pluralism’ there thus corresponded the ‘democracy of the parties’. But evidently they had to undergo a profound transformation. Gramsci thought first and foremost of the creation of new communist parties. Since the mission of the ‘modern Prince’ was to give rise to a ‘new collective will’, with the extension of industrialism of the American type his ‘reference point’ could only be the ‘world of production, labor’ and its orientation could only be strictly productivist (Q7§12, p. 863; PN Vol. 3, p. 165, and FSPN , p. 276). The new ‘collective will’ did not however regard solely the working class but society as a whole, since not only the worker but today’s ‘collective man is formed essentially from the bottom up, on the basis of the position that the collectivity occupies in the world of production’ (Q7§12, p. 862; PN Vol. 3, p. 165, and FSPN , p. 277). It therefore penetrates the whole life of the nation and must be a ‘national-popular collective will’. For a detailed analysis of these concepts it is of use to return to the situation that had been created in Italy by the general election held immediately after the end of the First World War. For a ‘national-popular 38 [Translation integrated with the words ‘the capacity of’, not included in the SPN text—trans. note.]

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

235

collective will’ to be expressed, free elections of universal suffrage are necessary, as is the existence of parties rooted in the whole territory of the nation, which have homogeneous programmes, and are representative—each for its own part—of the territorial unity of the nation. These conditions allow the wills of the citizens to be synchronized by fusing them in a ‘collective will’: a plural will as regards the solution of the problems of the country, but a will formed in relation to a shared political agenda. In the 1919 election the ‘unifying factors’ were exceptional because they had been generated by the war. But, looking at it more closely, the exceptionality concerns their genesis, not the contents in which these elements had been developed. Gramsci goes on to say that ‘the war was a unifying factor of the highest degree in that it gave the great masses the consciousness of the importance that the construction of the government apparatus has for the destiny of each and every single individual, while at the same time it posed a series of concrete questions – general and particular – which reflected national-popular unity’ (Q19§19, p. 2005). In ‘normal’ conditions the development of these contents is a pre-eminent function of the parties (Q7§90, pp. 919–920 and Q15§4, pp. 1754–1755; PN Vol. 3, p. 217, and SPN , pp. 146–147). To regard hegemony and democracy as antithetical is therefore a non-sense. It is true that Gramsci has a strongly ‘interventionist’ conception of the State on account of which, as already seen, he does not hesitate to rework in his own terms the notion of the ‘ethical State’. But the instrument with which the ethical State functions is the law, Gramsci’s conception of which reflects the ‘democratic utopia of the eighteenth century’ according to which ‘all citizens (…) must freely accept the conformity set down by the law (…) in that they can become members of the ruling class’(Q6§78, p. 773; PN Vol. 3, p. 84). This is the conception of the nascent bourgeoisie, which had a mobile and open idea of society and classes, beginning with the notion of itself as an ‘organism in continuous movement, capable of absorbing the whole of society, assimilating it to its cultural and economic level’ (Q8§2, p. 937; PN Vol. 3, p. 234). The sphere of intervention of the law is ‘civil society’ and it is not foreseen that among the functions of the State there should be ‘interference in the economy’. Gramsci leans towards a ‘“juridical” continuity’ (of the State) not ‘of the Byzantine-Napoleonic type (that is a code conceived as permanent, but of the Roman-Anglo-Saxon kind, whose essential characteristic consists in its method, which is realistic, always in touch with concrete life in perpetual development’ (Q6§84, p. 757; PN Vol. 3, p. 69, and SPN ,

236

G. VACCA

p. 196). It is therefore apparently paradoxical for him to indicate as the best realization of an ‘ethical State’ the State as veilleur de nuit, the State as ‘night-watchman’, and for him to consider it the most appropriate State form to favour the formation of a ‘regulated society’ (Q6§88, p. 764; PN Vol. 3, pp. 75–76, and SPN , p. 263); even the most penetrating ‘interventionism’ must not interfere with the physiological articulation of the relations between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’, and hence the function of the State must always and only be regulatory.

5

Epilogue

Between hegemony and democracy there is therefore a reciprocal implication, so much so that in Gramsci’s view the theory of democracy can only be fully developed within a conception of politics as hegemony. Here we refer to the above-mentioned Notebook 8, paragraph 191 (Gramsci 1975, p. 1056) entitled precisely ‘Hegemony and Democracy’, in which—as seen—he writes that ‘among the many meanings of democracy, the most realistic and concrete one’ may be determined in connection ‘with the concept of hegemony’ since there exists ‘democracy between the leading group and the groups that are led to the extent that the development of the economy and thus the legislation (…) favors the molecular transition from the groups that are led to the leading group’ (PN Vol. 3, p. 345). Up to what limit may social ‘mobility’ be extended? This is a problem that subjects democracies to a radical tension: But democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that an unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean that every “citizen” can “govern” and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this. Political democracy tends [therefore] towards a coincidence of the rulers and the ruled (in the sense of government with the consent of the governed), ensuring for each non-ruler a free training in the skills and general technical preparation necessary to that end. (Q12§2, pp. 1547– 1548; SPN , pp. 40–41 [emphasis added—G.V.])

This has been the line of tendency of all European democracies since the Second World War. Gramsci however poses not only the problem of the ‘coincidence of the rulers and the ruled’, but that of creating the conditions in which the ‘necessity’ of the division of humanity into rulers and rules may be superseded.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

237

The first element is that there really do exist rulers and ruled, leaders and led. The entire science and art of politics are based on this primordial, and (given certain general conditions) irreducible fact. [But] (…) in the formation of leaders, one premiss is fundamental: is it the intention that there should always be rulers and ruled, or is the objective to create the conditions in which this division is no longer necessary? In other words, is the initial premiss the perpetual division of the human race, or the belief that this division is only an historical fact, corresponding to certain conditions? (Q15§4, p. 1752; SPN , p. 144)

He therefore adopts the ‘democratic utopia of the eighteenth century’ and singles out as premise for a unification of humankind, more advanced than the one fostered by liberalism, the creation of the conditions ‘for an economy that follows a world plan’ (Q14§68, p. 1729; SPN , p. 241). The problem was posed at the end of the Second World War, by generating a world structure that favoured the processes of economic regionalization and the construction of supranationality. But to liberal universalism Gramsci contraposed a communist universalism and in this perspective took in hand Marx’s ‘withering away of the State’: ‘In a theory that conceives of the State as inherently liable to wither away and dissolve into regulated society (…) [i]t is possible to imagine the State-coercion element withering away gradually, as the increasingly conspicuous elements of regulated society (…) assert themselves’. The process implies overcoming the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and nationalism in politics, and brings to the fore the concept of regulation as a criterion of organization as much for economic life as for State life: In the theory of State → regulated society (from a phase in which State equals government to a phase in which State is identified with civil society), there must be a transition phase of State as night watchman, that is, of a coercive organization that will protect the development of those elements of regulated society that are continually on the rise and, precisely because they are on the rise they will gradually reduce the State’s authoritarian and coercive interventions. (Q6§88, p. 764; PN Vol. 3, pp. 75–76; cf. also SPN , p. 263)

The link between the conception of ‘civil society’ as the ‘theatre of all history’ and the theory of politics as the struggle for hegemony indicates the perspective in which the idée-force of the ‘withering away of the State’ can

238

G. VACCA

become history in action. It is the proletariat, the ‘heir of classical German philosophy’, which links up to the ‘democratic utopia of the eighteenth century’ (Q6§98, p. 773; PN Vol. 3, p. 84) and ‘carries it through’. ‘This is not to say that one should think’ Gramsci warns ‘of a new “liberalism”, even if the beginning of an era of organic freedom were at hand’ (Q6§88, p. 764; PN Vol. 3, p. 76). We are dealing with an idée-force not with a definite political project.39 The philosophy of praxis cannot but have a processual vision of the institutions, not because it is indifferent to political and juridical ‘technique’, but because it considers even the institutions from a historical viewpoint. If you wish, this is a radicalization of the historicism of the Enlightenment,40 which thought and proposed to act very much in the long term. This was a perspective in which the contraposition between ethics and politics may be eliminated by superseding the nation-State since their separation, based on ‘reasons of State’ gradually becomes superfluous as the ‘new progressive social groupings’ make their conception of politics felt as ‘a process that will culminate in a morality’; in other words they should create such a unity of humanity in which ‘politics and hence morality as well are both superseded’ (Q6§79, p. 750; PN Vol. 3, p. 63). This perspective regards the conception of the party too, since ‘it is obvious that the party which proposes to put an end to class divisions will only achieve complete self-fulfilment when it ceases to exist because classes, and therefore their expressions, no longer exist’ (Q14§70, pp. 1732–1733; SPN , p. 152). Bobbio’s judgment on the utopian nature of Gramsci’s thought must therefore be overturned. As we have seen, Gramsci re-elaborates the utopia of the Enlightenment by basing it on the existence of a world market that is ever more ‘intense’ and interdependent. Its ‘utopia’ is therefore based on the idées-forces that are historically justifiable in a very long but not indefinite time dimension. The unification of humanity is a real possibility for which capitalism has laid the premises. But that goal does not generate an idea of an undifferentiated world. The perspective 39 On the concept of idée-force as an key for interpreting Gramsci’s ‘utopianism’, see Nicola De Domenico’s article on D. P. Mirskij, The Philosophical Discussion in the C.P.S.U. in 1929–30: De Domenico (1991, pp. 25–26). On the origin of the idée-force in ‘Sorelianism’ (especially in Sorel’s critique of La philosophie de Socrate by Alfred Fouillet), cf. Gervasoni (1977, pp. 26 et seq). 40 On the historicist nature of the ‘philosophy of the Enlightenment’, in so far as it had a political programme to which it conformed, cf. Gramsci Q8§195, p. 1058 (PN Vol. 3, pp. 346–347, and SPN , pp. 194–195) and Q11§62, pp. 1488–1489 (SPN , pp. 406–407).

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

239

in Gramsci’s mind is that of a world of nations, which unifies since within them, new social groups spring up, ‘interested’ in providing national development with a cosmopolitan perspective: the point of departure is “national” – and it is from this point of departure that one must begin. Yet the perspective is international and cannot be otherwise. Consequently, it is necessary to study accurately the combination of national forces which the international class will have to lead and develop, in accordance with the international perspective and directives. The leading class is in fact only such if it accurately interprets this combination – of which it is itself a component and precisely as such is able to give the movement a certain direction, within certain perspectives. (Q14§68, p. 1729; SPN , p. 240)

Communist universalism, different from that of liberalism, sets off from the unification of the people-nation in ‘civil society’, not only in the State. This is possible only in a perspective in which the world order is regulated according to the principles of interdependence and reciprocity.41 The basic difference between communist universalism and liberal universalism lies in the fact that the former, following the ‘democratic utopia of the eighteenth century’ foresees a ‘necessary’ relationship between the progress of democracy as a State set-up and the creation of a supranational democracy.42 Gramsci, certainly, is not a theoretician of democracy in the sense in which political science or the philosophy of law now understand it, but it is difficult to deny that he singled out the fundamental problems of the democracy of our times and indicated a perspective for their resolution.

41 The thesis of the incoercibly ‘anarchic’ nature of the international order, stemming from so-called ‘political realism’ is argued by Norberto Bobbio but effectively challenged in a review article by Luigi Bonanate (1979) and again by Bonanate (1992). On this question, I refer readers to my essay ‘Tertium non datur. Norberto Bobbio e il dilemma della liberaldemocrazia’, in Vacca (1994). 42 Cf. paragraph 61 of Notebook 10, pp. 1358–1361 (partially in SPN , op. cit., pp. 114–118), devoted in the main to the ‘conception of the State according to the productive function of the social classes’ and the critique of the book Età del Risorgimento by Adolfo Omodeo in Q19§3, pp. 1961–1963.

240

G. VACCA

References Agosti, A. (1976). La terza Internazionale. Storia documentaria (Vol. III). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Benvenuti, F., & Pons, S. (1999). L’Unione Sovietica nei Quaderni. In G. Vacca (Ed.), Gramsci e il Novecento (pp. 93–124). Rome: Carocci. Bobbio, N. (1955). Politica e cultura. Turin: Einaudi. Bobbio, N. (1969). Gramsci e la concezione della società civile. In P. Rossi (Ed.), Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea (Vol. I, pp. 75–100). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Bobbio, N. (1979). Il problema della guerra e le vie della pace. Bologna: Il Mulino. Bobbio, N. (1984). Congedo (Valediction). In L. Bonanate & M. Bovero (Eds.) (1986), pp. 243–253. Bobbio, N. (1985). Stato, governo, società. Per una teoria generale della politica. Turin: Einaudi. Bobbio, N. (1988). Gramsci and the Concept of Civil Society (C. Mortera, Trans.). In J. Keane (Ed.), Civil Society and the State (pp. 73–100). London and New York: Verso. Bobbio, N. (1991). La società civile in Gramsci. In Saggi su Gramsci (pp. 42– 55). Milan: Feltrinelli. Bonanate, L. (1986). Review: ‘Un labirinto in forma di cerchi concentrici, ovvero: guerra e pace nel pensiero di Norberto Bobbio’ of Bobbio (1979). In Bonanate & Bovero (1986), pp. 15–47. Bonanate, L. (1992). Etica e politica internazionale. Turin: Einaudi. Bonanate, L., & Bovero, M. (Eds.). (1986). Per una teoria generale della politica, Essays in honour of Norberto Bobbio. Firenze: Passigli. Boothman, D., Giasi F., & Vacca G. (Eds.). (2015). Gramsci in Gran Bretagna. Bologna: Il Mulino. Boyer, R., & Mistral, J. (1978). Accumulation, Inflation, Crises. Paris: PUF. In Italian: Accumulazione, inflazione, crisi (1985) (S. Scotti, Trans.). Bologna: Il Mulino. De Domenico, N. (1991). Una fonte trascurata dei Quaderni del carcere. Il “Labour Monthly” del 1931. Atti della Accademia Peloriana de Pericolanti, LXVII , 1–34 (preprint). Di Biagio, A. (2004). Coesistenza e isolazionismo. Mosca, il Comintern e l’Europa di Versailles (1918–1928). Rome: Carocci. Francioni, G. (1984). L’officina gramsciana. Naples: Bibliopolis. Gervasoni, M. (1977). Georges Sorel. Una biografia intellettuale. Socialismo e liberalismo nella Francia della Belle Époque. Milan: Edizioni Unicopli. Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Q. Hoare & G. NowellSmith, Eds. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi.

4

HEGEMONY AND DEMOCRACY

241

Gramsci, A. (1978a). Selections from Political Writings (1910–1920) (Q. Hoare, Ed. and J. Mathews, Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1978b). Selections from Political Writings (1921–1926) (Q. Hoare, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1987). L’Ordine Nuovo (1919–1920) (V. Gerratana & A. A. Santucci, Eds.). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (1992–2006). Prison Notebooks (3 Vols., J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans., with A. Callari [Vol. 1]). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994a). Prison Letters (F. Rosengarten, Ed. and R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994b). Pre-prison Writings (R. Bellamy, Ed. and V. Cox, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gramsci, A. (1995). Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1997). Pensare la democrazia. Antologia dei “Quaderni del carcere” (M. Montanari, Ed. and Introduction). Turin: Einaudi. Gramsci, A. (2014). A Great and Terrible World. The Pre-prison Letters (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Habermas, J. (1992). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (T. Burger, Trans. with the assistance of F. Lawrence). Cambridge: Polity Press. Original: Strukturwandel der Oeffentlichkeit (1962). Berlin: Luchterhand; In Italian: Storia e critica dell’opinione pubblica (1971). Bari: Laterza. Izzo, F. (2000). Tre convegni gramsciani. In F. Lussana & A. Vittoria (Eds.), Il “lavoro culturale” (pp. 217–238). Rome: Carocci. Kanoussi, D., Schirru G., & Vacca G. (Eds.). (y). Gramsci in America Latina. Bologna: Il Mulino. Keane, J. (Ed.). (1988). Civil Society and the State. New European Perspectives. London: Verso. Lenin, V. I. (1977 [1913]1 ). Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism. In Collected Works (Vol. 19, pp. 23-28). Moscow: Progress Publishers. Mangoni, L. (1976). Cesarismo, bonapartismo, fascismo. Studi Storici, 17 (3), 40–61. Mangoni, L. (1977). Il problema del fascismo nei “Quaderni del carcere”. In F. Ferri (Ed.), Politica e Storia in Gramsci (pp. 391–438). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1976). The German Ideology. In Marx-Engels, Collected Works (Vol. 5). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Mirsky, D. P. [D.P. Svjatopolk-Mirskij]. (1931). The Philosophical Discussion in the CPSU in 1930–31. The Labour Monthly, 13(10), 649–656. Omodeo, A. (1931). Età del risorgimento italiano. Messina: Principato.

242

G. VACCA

Rossi, P. (Ed.). (1969). Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea. Proceedings of the 1967 International Conference on Gramsci. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Sola, G. (2001). Scienza politica e analisi del partito in Gramsci. In S. Mastellone & G. Sola (Eds.), Gramsci: il partito politico nei “Quaderni”. Centro Editoriale Toscano: Firenze. Togliatti, P. (1957). Attualità del pensiero e dell’azione di Gramsci. in Togliatti (2001), pp. 193–212. Togliatti, P. (1961). La formazione del gruppo dirigente del PCI nel 1923–1926. Turin: Einaudi. Togliatti, P. (1964). Rileggendo L’Ordine Nuovo, Rinascita 18 January 1964. In Togliatti (2001), pp. 296–306. Togliatti, P. (1979). The Present Relevance of Gramsci’s Theory and Practice (English translation of Togliatti 1957). In Palmiro Togliatti. On Gramsci and Other Writings (pp. 193–212). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Togliatti, P. (2001). Scritti su Gramsci (G. Liguori, Ed.). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1983). Il marxismo e la questione degli intellettuali. Da Kautsky a Lukács e da Labriola a Gramsci. Critica Marxista, XXI (5), 45–128. Vacca, G. (1988). L’Urss staliniana nei “Quaderni del carcere”. Critica Marxista, XXVI (3–4), 129–146. Vacca, G. (1991). I “Quaderni” e la politica del ’900. In id., Gramsci e Togliatti (pp. 5–116). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1994). Tertium non datur. Norberto Bobbio e il dilemma della liberaldemocrazia. In id., Pensare il mondo nuovo. Verso la democrazia del xxi secolo (pp. 23–96). Turin: Edizioni San Paolo. Vacca, G. (1999a). Appuntamenti con Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (1999b). Gramsci e il Novecento. Rome: Carocci. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (2011). L’edizione nazionale e gli scritti gramsciani (The National Edition and Gramsci’s Writings). Studi Storici, monographic number, 52(4), 787–789. Williams, R. (1961). The Long Revolution. London: Chatto and Windus.

CHAPTER 5

Afterword

1

Gramsci Studies in Italy

In a brilliant monograph on the role of linguistics in Gramsci’s thought, Alessandro Carlucci wrote that 2007 marked the beginning of new developments in Gramsci studies ‘especially in Italy’ (Carlucci 2013, p. xii). Carlucci attributes particular importance to the five volumes then issued of the National Edition of the Writings of Antonio Gramsci which began that year with the publication of the Translation Notebooks, until then unpublished (Gramsci 2007a). His observation seems well-founded since the undertaking of a new integral Critical Edition of Gramsci’s writings, begun laboriously in the 1990s, has contributed both to the formation of a new generation of scholars, and to a thoroughgoing renewal of the way of studying Gramsci. It is however useful to bear in mind the contribution, beginning in 2001, made by the seminars on the lexis of the Notebooks organized by the Italian section of the International Gramsci Society, seminars whose participants include a number of people now collaborating with the National Edition.1 The new season of Gramsci studies has given rise to a growing number of books, essays and journalistic articles which it is difficult to assess. In the revised and amplified version of his Gramsci conteso, Guido Liguori gives a broad, balanced and 1 They have published both significant individual contributions, such as those of F. Frosini (2003) and R. Finelli (2006), as well as a first collective volume edited by G. Liguori and P. Voza, the Dizionario gramsciano 1926–1937 (2007).

© The Author(s) 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7_5

243

244

G. VACCA

accurate run-down of the picture, even when he is dealing with literature of dubious value (Liguori 2012). Here, instead, I should like to pause for a moment just on a number of Italian authors who, in my view, have introduced significant innovations into Gramsci research. The volumes in question are in fact few as compared with the number published over the last decade, but I have chosen them because they share the most suitable criteria for the advancement of knowledge of Gramsci, meaning a diachronic analysis of the prison writings and the reconstruction of his biography. These publications have made a decisive contribution towards eliminating the most serious distortions of Gramsci studies in the recent and more distant past, introduced by dissociating his life from his thought.2 In other words, they are historiographical works that have in common the awareness that Gramsci was ‘a theorist of politics but above all […] he was a practical politician, that is to say a combatant’ and that it is ‘in politics that one must seek the unity of [his] life: the departure point and the arrival point’ (Togliatti 1979, p. 161; 2014a, p. 1121).3 The authors with whom we shall deal also share the conviction that Gramsci’s figure ‘transcends the historical vicissitudes’ of the Italian Communist Party and represents ‘a nexus, both of thought, and of action, in which all the problems of our time are present and are intertwined’ (Togliatti 2014a, pp. 1188–1189).4 In these few pages of the Afterword, it would be impossible to reconstruct their background. It is however of use to recall some of the moments of a long work of interpretation without which the project of the National Edition would not even have been born. Immediately after the publication of the Critical Edition of the Notebooks in 1975, a diachronic study began to produce new researches rendering ever more unusable almost all the preceding literature on Gramsci. To give a résumé of what this literature had produced up to then, we may quote a passage from the Storia d’Italia (History of Italy) published in that very same year by Einaudi. Drawing his conclusion from twenty-five years of study, Alberto Asor Rosa wrote: 2 For a detailed discussion of this subject, I refer readers to my Vita e pensiero di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 (Vacca 2012). 3 Translation modified; contribution ‘Leninism in the Theory and Practice of Gramsci’ during the first International Conference on Gramsci in ‘Studi gramsciani’ (Togliatti et al. 1958). 4 ‘Gramsci, un uomo’, review of Ferrata and Gallo (1964).

5

AFTERWORD

245

Gramsci found the ‘historical bloc’ in Georges Sorel, the theorization of the permanent distinction between rulers and ruled in Mosca and Pareto, the concept of intellectual and moral reform in the entire Italian idealist tradition from De Sanctis to Croce and Gentile (…); the relationship between force and consent, Machiavelli’s figure of the Centaur, in Mosca and Croce; the concept of ethico-political history, politics as passion, and many other things in Croce; several elements of suggestion regarding the theory of the modern political party in Michels; the free-trade sympathies in Einaudi and in the other theorists of free exchange. And again, one must recognize that his Marxism is strongly dependent on this tradition of Italian bourgeois thought. No one would dare to argue that Gramsci was an attentive and continual reader of Das Capital (…) The self-same convinced reprisal of the definition of Marxism as philosophy of praxis reveals Gramsci’s deep relationship with this previous tradition. One may indeed quite justifiably say that he here rescues and takes up the most authentic part of Antonio Labriola’s thought. But without a shadow of doubt, he returns to him by-passing through the idealist re-reading that he had enacted for Croce and Gentile, in what is however a process of constant theoretical reversal, which constitutes a great part of his activity as a thinker. (Asor Rosa 1975, pp. 1556–1557)

At nearly half a century’s distance from this piece, I believe that, while allowing for exaggerations in this author’s cultural position,5 it faithfully reflects a trait common to Gramsci studies in the period preceding the Critical Edition of the Notebooks, that is to say the prevalent inclination to dissolve Gramsci’s thought in the genealogy of his sources following an inveterate combinatory custom of an academic type. The thematic edition of 1948–1951 did not impede a diachronic reading of the Notebooks but made it very difficult and to the best of my knowledge it was only Franco De Felice who succeeded in so doing (De

5 Asor Rosa’s reading of Gramsci retraced the lines of Mario Tronti’s essay ‘Tra materialismo dialettico e filosofia della praxis: Gramsci e Labriola’ (Tronti 1959), a valid link between criticism, originating from Galvano della Volpe, of ‘Crocio-Gramscism’ and the elaboration of the philosophical bases of workerism. Together with the essay by Emilio Agazzi (1959), ‘Filosofia della praxis e filosofia dello spirito’, Tronti’s essay constituted the most clearly philosophical contribution in the volume edited by Alberto Caracciolo and Gianni Scalia (1959) La città futura., whose aim was to offer an alternative to the direction mapped out by Palmiro Togliatti in the First International Conference of Gramsci Studies, in January 1958.

246

G. VACCA

Felice 1972b).6 The Critical Edition instead clearly solicited a comparison between the first drafts of the notes and their successive versions, thereby creating the conditions for bringing out the conceptual framework of Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis. A fundamental element here has been the refinement of the criteria of dating of the Notebooks by Gianni Francioni,7 while his in-depth analysis of the concept of ‘passive revolution’ changed the interpretation of the theory of hegemony.8 But the period leading up to the National Edition began in 1989, not just because that year marked the end of ‘actually existing socialism’ and that of the PCI, but also because of a number of concomitant events specifically regarding Gramscian studies.9 The first was the conference on ‘Gramsci in the world’ held at Formia, 25–29 October 1989 (Righi and Aricó 1995) which saw the participation of several translators and publishers of Gramsci’s writings coming from the world’s main linguistic areas. That conference gave an impetus to the organization of international studies 6 In this pioneering essay, Franco De Felice revolutionized the perception of the research programme followed in the Notebooks (De Felice 1972b). 7 See Francioni (1979), a contribution elaborated on in his 1984 volume that outlined the results of his philological research (Francioni 1984). Francioni also took seriously into consideration Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s Gramsci et l’État (1975; in English 1980) which, although coming out slightly before the Critical Edition of the Notebooks (1975), was able to use it, and demonstrated the untenability of the interpretation of the Gramscian conception of both ‘civil society’ and ‘hegemony’ as put forward by Norberto Bobbio in one of the main speeches at the 1967 Cagliari International Congress of Gramscian Studies (Rossi 1969, Vol. I, pp. 75–100), for an English version of which see Bobbio (1988); cf. also the Gramscian conception of hegemony as argued by Perry Anderson (1976 and, in Italian, Anderson 1978). 8 To quote only a few of the essays of that period, I recall here F. De Felice (1977) and L. Mangoni (1977), both in conference proceedings edited by Franco Ferri (1977, Vol. I, pp. 391–438 and pp. 161–220 respectively), while that of M. R. Romagnuolo (1987– 1988, pp. 123–166) put an end to the interchangeability of the two terms, demonstrating that from the middle of 1932 onward, with the expression ‘philosophy of praxis’, Gramsci intended to stress the originality of his own thought. 9 From the 1980s, I limit myself to recalling the essay by M. Ciliberto (1982 [19801 ]), La fabbrica dei Quaderni. Gramsci e Vico, which compared the various drafts of the notes devoted to this subject; to a volume of mine, which analysed the category of ‘world history’ in the Notebooks, singling out the paradigm of the theory of hegemony within the national-international nexus (Vacca 1985); and to Luisa Mangoni’s contribution at the Gramsci studies conference of 1987, which shed light on the importance of the ‘Catholic question’ following the concordats in Germany and Italy, regarding as much the developments of Gramsci’s interpretation of fascism as the elaboration of the theory of hegemony (Mangoni 1987).

5

AFTERWORD

247

on Gramsci by launching John Cammett’s Bibliography (Cammett 1989) and giving birth to the International Gramsci Society. The second was Aldo Natoli’s study of the letters between Gramsci and Tat’jana (Tanja) Schucht. Although Tanja’s letters had been in the possession of the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci from the 1970s, they had never been carefully examined, given that her figure had been considered inessential for the biography of the ‘prisoner’. Natoli’s research, published the year afterwards in his volume Antigone e il prigioniero. Tania Schucht lotta per la vita di Gramsci (Natoli 1990) put an end to this deplorable silence by bringing to light the figure of a woman of great intellectual merits and strong moral temperament who had sacrificed over ten years of her life for Gramsci. ‘In actual fact’, Piero Sraffa wrote to her as soon as he had received the news of Gramsci’s death, ‘it is only through your dedication and through the more than fraternal assistance that you have given uninterruptedly that he was able to survive all these years’ (Sraffa 1991, p. 180).10 But the importance of Tanja in the life of the prisoner began to be perceived fully the year after Natoli’s volume came out, through the publication of two other sets of letters: those of Tanja to the Schucht family (together with some to Gramsci’s family) and the ones from, and some also to, Piero Sraffa. The first set of letters was part of the family papers, while the second was donated to the Foundation by Sraffa in 1974. Although Tanja’s ‘Russian’ letters stopped in 1934 and her letters to Sraffa were used partially and then only in note, taken together the three books played a fundamental role in reorienting Gramsci studies. First of all they helped the work of Chiara Daniele who published Gramsci and Tanja’s entire correspondence, accompanying it with an impressive critical apparatus (Gramsci 1997). In the second place, they turned out to be indispensable for the reconstruction of events regarding the publication of the Letters and the Notebooks, which was brought to completion a few years later (Daniele 2005). The progression of studies that we have sketched out here would not have been possible without the recommencement of research by the Gramsci Institute Foundation at the Comintern Archives in Moscow, starting in 1988. This was motivated most of all by the perspective of a National Edition, and, although this work has not yet been brought to its conclusion, it has contributed to filling in fundamental gaps in our knowledge of Gramsci’s biography for

10 Letter of 27 April 1937.

248

G. VACCA

the 1922–1937 period (cf. Daniele 1999; Rossi and Vacca 2007; Vacca 2012, 2014).11 Taken as a whole, the research begun in 1988–1989 and the results obtained in over fifteen years of work have confirmed the criteria that lay behind the National Edition (cf. Cospito 2010; Vacca 2011) and favoured the maturing of a new season of Gramsci studies. If we return to considering our starting point, the work of Alessandro Carlucci, it is of use to recall that 2007, the seventieth anniversary of Gramsci’s death, saw the start not only of the National Edition of his writings, but the Foundation bearing his name devoted the traditional ten-yearly conference to the subject of ‘Gramsci in his time’. The conference proposed a political and intellectual reconstruction of Gramsci’s biography, and called into the arena contributions not only from students of his thought but students of political history, of economic history, of cultural history and of linguistics, all with the aim of restoring the different contexts. The choral and polyphonic nature of the research presented does not allow us here to summarize the results, but it is sufficient to leaf through the contents of the two volumes to realize how the framework of Gramsci studies has changed: if we go back to the catalogue compiled by Asor Rosa in 1975 (op. cit.), we can easily see how, for each subject matter, we no longer proceed by suggestion, assonance and analogy (Gramsci’s Sorelianism, Bergsonism, Croceanism, etc.); the different contributions bring sources, comparisons and combinations into the reconstruction of a historical individuality, to the formation of a culture and a character that outlines the uniqueness and unitary nature of the figure of Gramsci (cf. Giasi 2008a). Among the most significant results of the previous research, there was first of all the possibility of separating Gramsci’s thought out into distinct and well-characterized periods. The majority of these researches were dedicated to a diachronic reading of the Notebooks and, by reconstructing the lexis, the semantic shifts and the progressive refinement of his basic categories, brought to light the formation of an original, open but systematic, thought which could not be read in continuity with the preceding period. In its turn Gramsci’s thought between 1914 and 1926 no longer lent itself to being looked at teleologically with the aim of defining real

11 The basic points regard the differences with the Comintern, the break with the PCI and Gramsci’s suspicions about the failure to free him; among the references given here in the text I draw attention to my introductory essay to Daniele (1999).

5

AFTERWORD

249

or assumed anticipations of the Notebooks. As long ago as 1958, Togliatti had warned against the risk of people treating ‘Gramsci’s work, and especially the contents of the Notebooks, by doing their best to set pieces artificially together virtually—if not quite—as though they were intent on producing (…) a manual, of the perfect communist thinker and man of action’ and had suggested as a criterion of historicization the search for the nexuses between ‘the concrete moments of his activity’ and ‘each of his general doctrinal definitions and statements’ (Togliatti 1979, p. 162; 2014a, p. 1122). In other words he had suggested linking the study of the thought of Gramsci to a reconstruction of the events of Italian and world history, which Gramsci had come to grips with from his youth up to his death. If, in the readings of the Notebooks, this advice had already led to innovatory results (cf. also Vacca 1991), the first monograph on the ‘young Gramsci’ that kept rigorously to these criteria was Leonardo Rapone’s volume Five Years that Seem like Centuries. Antonio Gramsci from Socialism to Communism (1914–1919) (Rapone 2012). Forty years on from Leonardo Paggi’s pioneering volume (Paggi 1970), the teleological reading of the ‘early writings’ and the emphasis on cultural genealogies had an anachronistic and at times misleading sound to it. Rapone instead follows a distinctively historiographical approach which could perhaps be synthesized as such: given that Gramsci’s membership of the Socialist Party as from 1913 was experienced as a choice to give an order to his intellectual and moral formation, what are the sources on which this choice fed and how do they characterize the socialist ideal? In the second place, until October 1917, when Gramsci became secretary of the Turin section of the Socialist Party (PSI) and in effect took over the editorship of the Grido del Popolo newspaper, his formation had been more that of an intellectual than that of a political activist; and neither was this characteristic to change in any substantial way right up to his participation in the Turin Factory Council movement, on the eve of which Rapone’s volume finishes. I would thus say that its distinctive feature is the reconstruction of the formation of an intellectual who, between Autumn 1917 and April 1919, gradually became a ‘professional revolutionary’, but whose basic activity was journalism. There is no one unaware of the peculiarity of the interweaving between the aspects of Gramsci’s political biography and his intellectual formation in an itinerary centred around his socialist engagement, in a period in which, however, his vocation and destiny were not as yet decided. This criterion allows Rapone to

250

G. VACCA

filter the sources that flow profusely into his formation, allowing the originality of the ‘translations’ and the combinations in which Gramsci reworks them in developing his own thought. If the Marxian matrix of the nexus between laissez-faire liberalism and ‘intransigent socialism’ has already for some time been clear,12 the complete reconstruction that Rapone makes of the ‘doctrine of war’ is totally new. This is a crucial theme in Gramsci’s formation, both for its influence that his reflection on the Great War had in the succeeding developments of his thought, and because it lay at the base of a way of analysing history founded on the dynamics of international relations. But it is of use to draw attention to the originality of Gramsci’s position in the panorama of European socialism for the absence from his thought both of a theory of imperialism and of the thesis of the inevitability of war. In Gramsci’s analysis of capitalism from the end of the nineteenth century to the outbreak of the Great War, together with the Marx of the Manifesto and Capital, there is the liberal thought à la Hobson and Norman Angell rather than the Marxism of Kautsky, Hilferding or Jaurès. The accomplishment of a world economy for him constituted the infrastructure of a global and interdependent world in which the task of the socialists was that of challenging capitalism and fully completing its mission since the more capitalist relations of production were extended the faster the conditions would be created for the advent of the International. War therefore was not the inevitable consequence of imperialist capitalism but had its origin—as he would emphasize in the Notebooks —in the contrast between the cosmopolitanism of the economy and the nationalism of politics (Q15§5, pp. 1755–1759; FSPN , pp. 219– 223). Expressed in other words, it was the consequence of economic protectionism and political nationalism, stemming from the ‘economiccorporative’ regression of the European ruling classes and the incapacity to bring together the ‘spaces’ of politics and those of the economy. We cannot take account here of all the innovatory aspects of Rapone’s volume but we should draw attention to the fact that chapter on the war, with its pre-publication version in Studi storici (Rapone 2007), gave rise to various contributions at the 2007 conference on ‘Gramsci in his time’ (see above). Among these, there was that of Roberto Gualtieri who, adopting the paradigm of international history, brought out the influence of Capital on Gramsci’s thought from the ‘early writings’ to those of 12 To Paggi’s book cited above, we may add F. De Felice (1972a), M. L. Salvadori (1973), and D. Losurdo (1997).

5

AFTERWORD

251

the Notebooks, and proposed, on sound foundations, a separation of his biography in three periods, only for the second of which (1920–1926) may one speak of an adhesion to the strategy of the Comintern (Gualtieri 2007). The position of Gramsci vis-à-vis Bolshevism before his arrest was focused on in the contributions at the same conference by Anna Di Biagio (2008) and Silvio Pons (2008). The periodization referred to has been confirmed by the most accurate analysis currently available of the presence of Marx in Gramsci’s thought, Francesca Izzo’s ‘I Marx di Gramsci’. This research, too, was occasioned by the 2007 Conference13 and argues why, up to the October Revolution, Marx was not one of Gramsci’s fundamental authors. Over the succeeding three years and in the first years of the PCI’s life, he furthered his knowledge of Marx for essentially polemical reasons, stemming from the necessity to combat economic determinism, as much that of positivist socialism as that of Bordiga’s ‘abstentionism’. This deepening of Gramsci’s approach was non-systematic and conditioned by the needs of immediate political struggle, of which we must however draw attention to his reading, in 1918, of The Holy Family, a text that was fundamental for the development of the ‘philosophy of praxis’ in the Prison Notebooks (Rapone 2012, pp. 267–280).14 But it was only in the pages devoted to the ‘translatability of languages’, elaborated on in the Notebooks and taking as a starting point The Holy Family, that Gramsci succeeded in liberating the ‘philosophy of praxis’ not only from economic determinism but also from the sociological reductionism in which ‘historical materialism’ had remained embroiled (Izzo 2008, pp. 568–576). Light had been shed on the importance of the concept of ‘translatability’ in the ‘system’ of the Notebooks some years previously by Dora Kanoussi (Kanoussi 2000), and Francesca Izzo went further into its influence on the framework of the ‘philosophy of praxis’. In a succeeding volume, indeed, the latter author analysed the ways in which Gramsci had dealt with the crisis of the modern subject. The spread of nineteenth-century industrialism was eroding the bases of territorial sovereignty and there was a rising need 13 But to give an exact picture of Gramsci’s 1926 position, it is also of use to recall Francesco Giasi’s essay ‘I comunisti torinesi e l’egemonia del proletariato nella rivoluzione italiana. Appunti sulle fonti di “Alcuni temi della quistione meridionale” di Gramsci’, in A. D’Orsi (2008, pp. 147–186). 14 On the nexus between the Russian Revolution and Gramsci’s more detailed inquiry into Marx, one should also see Rapone (2012, pp. 267–280).

252

G. VACCA

to re-elaborate internationalism in a ‘cosmopolitanism of a new type’. The historicization of the political thought of Gramsci was thus linked up to the crisis of the nation-State and anchored to the constellation of those thinkers who, in the first half of the twentieth century had raised the question of the possibility of a supranational sovereignty (Izzo 2009b). The systematic study of Marx, begun in 1930 in prison at Turi, is the response to several motives of a theoretical and politico-historical order. Three and a half years after his removal from the political struggle, Gramsci found himself faced with new epoch-making historical factors such as Soviet isolationism and the ‘territorialization’ of socialism, the sterilization of the Comintern, the consolidation of fascism and the explosion of the 1929 crisis. And underlying all was the bankruptcy of ‘official Marxism’ and the lack of plausible interpretations of the ‘great transformation’. The revision of Marxism through a ‘return to Marx’’ which, between May 1930 and May 1932 (referring here to the three series of Notes on Philosophy of Notebooks 4, 7 and 8) established the bases for the Special Notebooks, are evidence that the progressive differentiation of the ‘philosophy of praxis’ from ‘historical materialism’ was becoming the ‘guiding thread’ that ran through the prisoner’s researches.15 But, in order to proceed step by step and analyse the concepts of his ‘revision’, it is of use to look at Giuseppe Cospito’s volume, which brings together the results of twenty-five years of philological research on this question (Cospito 2011; in English Cospito 2016). By analysing Gramsci’s lexical innovations and the shifts in his categories, Cospito reconstructs the itinerary that leads Gramsci to dismantle the ‘structure-superstructure’ coupling and finally replace it with the concept of ‘relations of force’. For a brief mention of the importance of this ‘discovery’, suffice it to recall the evolution of the queries posed by Gramsci regarding the 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, the starting point for his re-reading of Marx. In October 1930, in the first of his series of Notes on Philosophy, Gramsci writes that ‘the crucial problem of historical materialism’ is that of defining the relationship between structure and superstructures (Q4§38, p. 455; PN Vol. 2, 1992, p. 176); in February

15 In those years, amongst the ex-‘Ordinovisti’, it was not only Gramsci who proposed a revision of Marxism by returning to Marx. Between 1930 and 1934, Angelo Tasca, too, starting from the same problems but arriving at different conclusions, was involved in a re-reading of the works of Marx and Engels. Cf. G. Berti (1968), A. Tasca (1934), and D. Bidussa (1987, pp. 81–119).

5

AFTERWORD

253

1932 on the other hand, in the third series, he asserts that the problem pose by Marx in the Preface was that of finding out ‘how (…) collective wills are in fact formed’ (Q8§195, p. 1057; PN Vol. 3, p. 346). The change in the problem indicates the distance between the beginning of a revision of Marxism that still assumes the subject as a given and the point of arrival which, instead, considers the subject as a process which requires a theory of its constitution. The guiding thread of Cospito’s research is the progressive liberation of Gramsci’s thought from all forms of determinism, up to the point of dismantling the ‘architectural metaphor’ of base and superstructure, while—as regards the concept of ‘historical bloc’—his merit is that of having shown its marginal and provisional presence, and finally its disappearance after the middle of 1932 (Cospito 2011, pp. 218–225; 2016, pp. 162–167), with however the reservation that its abandonment regards solely its theoretical use, while it remains in operation as a historiographical category. For example the paragraphs in the Notes on Philosophy and Notebooks 9 and 19 devoted to the Risorgimento in Italy revolve around the thesis that the hegemony of the ‘Moderates’, who led the movement, gave birth to a fusion between a national—dualistic and asymmetrical—market, and a corresponding form of State which crystallized the relations of force between social groups, transforming the hegemony of the victors into a lasting domination. There is no one here blind to the appropriateness in this case of the concept of a ‘historical bloc’ of the Risorgimento. But it is useful to recall that from the Spring of 1932, deepening the Marxian concept of the ‘translatability of languages’ (economic, political, philosophical) Gramsci had worked out as an alternative to the various applications of the ‘architectural metaphor’ the concept of ‘regulation’. Cospito takes this as a cue in reconstructing Gramsci’s critique of the ‘command economy’, of the despotic nature and the cultural primitivism of the USSR of the 1930s (Cospito 2011, pp. 127–182; 2016, pp. 91–132). The concept of ‘regulation’ is a very wide-ranging one and leads us directly into the heart of the ‘philosophy of praxis’. As we know, Gramsci was stimulated to deepen the understanding of the concepts of classical political economy by his study of fascist corporativism and the disputes given rise to by the theorists of the ‘proprietary corporation’ (Maccabelli 1998, 2008). A second-hand knowledge of the Principles of David Ricardo led him to formulate the hypothesis that the concepts of ‘determinate market’, ‘law of tendency’ and ‘homo oeconomicus’ [‘economic man’], categorizing the historical conditions that made the postulates

254

G. VACCA

of ‘pure economy’ plausible, had also had a decisive influence not only on the critique of political economy but on Marx’s philosophy. Starting off from these notes of April–May 1932 (Q10II§9, pp. 1246–1248, Q10II§32, pp. 1276–1278, and Q11§52, pp. 1477–1478 [Autumn 1932]; SPN , pp. 399–402, FSPN , pp. 170–71, and SPN , pp. 410–412, respectively),16 in which Gramsci concludes that the notion of ‘determinate market’ implies a general theory of consciousness founded on the concept of ‘determinate abstraction’, Fabio Frosini concentrated his reflection on Gramsci’s translation of the Marxian concept of ‘materialism’ into that of ‘immanence’ and makes it the Leitmotiv of his research (Frosini 2010). Frosini’s is the most organic work on Gramsci’s ‘philosophy of praxis’ currently available. The phrase lends itself to various misinterpretations both through the difficulty of distinguishing ‘praxis’ as used by Gramsci from its use, for example, by Labriola or Mondolfo, and because ‘praxis’ may also mean ‘action’, ‘act’ or ‘experience’, and if one does not shed light on the specificity of Gramsci’s thought it is difficult to challenge the tendencies to dissolve it in the genealogy of its sources, real or presumed as may be. From Frosini’s reconstruction it clearly emerges that for Gramsci praxis is equivalent to politics, but in the historical period immediately following the Great War and the October Revolution, in which the modern political subject—the State—entered into crisis, and neither the traditional riling classes nor the working class movement were able to resolve it, the foundation of the new political subject could not be entrusted to ‘particular sciences’: it was a specifically philosophical problem. Frosini poses it by looking closely at the existing Italian and international literature that emerged from the publication of the Critical Edition of the Prison Notebooks onward and offers us a work that in many aspects constitutes the crowning achievement of the research we have dealt with up to now. The identification of praxis with politics does not make this latter into the object of a philosophy; it instead postulates the equation between politics and philosophy. Equation, however, is does not mean identification, but translatability, in a historically determinate era and environment, namely those of capitalist modernity. In the philosophy of praxis, the principle of truth is therefore the political effectiveness of its postulates. But that does not mean that the philosophy of praxis is

16 See also the letter to Tanja of 30 May 1932: Gramsci (1994, pp. 177–179).

5

AFTERWORD

255

a philosophy of action: for Gramsci the relationship between theory and practice is not solely a philosophical problem but also and above all a historical problem. It is, he says, the problem of the creation of determinate types of intellectuals capable of guaranteeing the coherence between an economic programme, a political project and a system of values. As we saw in Chapter 1, this thesis presupposes the criteria developed in Notebook 1217 for the historicization of the intellectual groups. These criteria are born from the fundamental principle in Marx’s philosophy, defined by Gramsci as the reality of ideologies, deducing this from the 1859 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. For Gramsci this principle contains in a nutshell the theory of politics as the struggle for hegemony. Indeed the struggle for hegemony would not be possible without the creation of categories of intellectuals (entrepreneurs, philosophers, legal experts, economists, organizational theorists, in general ‘functionaries of the superstructures’) who develop its contents at a technical level. Thus, the unity of theory and practice has nothing to do with the identity of thought and action, and neither is it resolved into a ‘philosophy of action’; instead it poses the problem of developing a way of thinking in which the analytical categories are also ones of strategy. For example, Gramsci’s concept of hegemony contains both a theory of history and a political strategy.18 When Gramsci writes that in order to develop the philosophical autonomy of Marxism one must re-do in respect of Croce the ‘operation’ that Marx carried out on Hegel, he is indicating in the ‘philosophy of distincts’ the most resistant ideological crystallization of the fracture between subject and object, intellectuals and people-nation. For that reason, he considers Croce the theorist of the ‘passive revolution’ of the twentieth century, in so far as Croce recognizes that the socialist

17 [Editorially headed in the Critical Edition of the Notebooks ‘Appunti e note sparse per un gruppo di saggi sulla storia degli intellettuali’ (‘Notes and Loose Jottings for a Group of Essays on the History of the Intellectuals’). Notebook 12 is found in English translation (editorially rearranged) in the sections of SPN , pp. 5–23, headed ‘The Intellectuals. The Formation of the Intellectuals’, and pp. 26–43 by ‘On Education’. The remainder of Notebook 12 is found in FSPN (pp. 145–147) in a note on ‘Universities and Academies’ which, in Gramsci’s original, follows after the SPN sub-section that finishes on p. 33— trans. note.] 18 As is known, the most representative passages on this are Q19§24, pp. 2010–2034, and Q19§26, pp. 2035–2046 (SPN , pp. 55–84 and 90–102 respectively), devoted to the Italian Risorgimento.

256

G. VACCA

movement represents a new historical subject, but seeks to insert it in a subaltern condition within the hegemonic system of liberalism, denying it the legitimation to contest the bourgeoisie’s leadership of the State. The interpretation of Gramsci put forward by Bobbio, too, is framed as a new project of ‘passive revolution’. If Croce’s project was founded on the reduction of Marxism to a methodological canon of historical research, to reduce Gramsci to a ‘theorist of civil society’ has the effect of circumscribing the struggle for hegemony to a competition for electoral consensus, ignoring at a philosophical level the dialectical interaction (the interdependence) between ‘political society’ and ‘civil society’.19 The dominance of Bobbio’s interpretation remained unchallenged in Gramscian studies until a diachronic reading of the Notebooks showed that, as its background, the concept of hegemony was rooted in the crisis of the nation-State and had as its object the foundation of new forms of sovereignty. It cannot therefore be limited to the ‘national territory’ but is founded instead on the rivalry between different combinations of internal and international politics. Politics as the struggle for hegemony therefore goes beyond the sphere of the State and acquires a global character, whose outcome cannot be predetermined. Frosini indicates in this the distinctive trait of Gramsci’s ‘translation’ of Marx’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’, namely the core of a ‘constituentist’ vision of politics that incorporates and at the same time transcends the procedural and institutional dimension of democracy. The publication of the Translation Notebooks made obvious the superficiality of the long-held conviction that Gramsci had devoted an important part of his energies to translation exercises only to pass the time, deepen his linguistic knowledge and ‘keep his hand in’. And yet it would have sufficed to reflect on the writings of Marx that he translated to realize the correlation between the texts selected and the foundations of the ‘philosophy of praxis’ which he was developing. However, if the researches that I have been dealing with share the idea that the ‘translatability of languages’ is the fundamental concept for understanding the philosophy of praxis (the ‘rhythm of thought as it develops’ in the Notebooks ) this is also due to the understanding of how far his original linguistic interests had influenced his formation. The first monograph on this was, as

19 On this subject the fundamental pages of the Notebooks are those dealing with the critique of economism (Q13§18, pp. 1589–1597; SPN , pp. 158–167).

5

AFTERWORD

257

we know, that of Franco Lo Piparo, published in1979 with the authoritative commendation of Tullio De Mauro (Lo Piparo 1979). However, it took its place in a cultural context dominated by the conviction that one had to completely dissociate Gramsci’s intellectual biography from his political biography in order to ‘liberate his thought’,20 and this was not of any help. Lo Piparo’s research was vitiated by a preconceived thesis and by an arbitrary analogical methodology: in his view Gramsci’s concept of hegemony had its origin in linguistics, not politics, since if it could not be denied that Gramsci had borrowed the term from the language of the Bolsheviks, it could however be demonstrated that its contents (‘supremacy’, ‘prestige’ and other similar terns) had been developed by the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century European neolinguistics that had formed his mind.21 I have made mention of Lo Piparo’s book not only because, despite its failings, it has had the merit of drawing attention to the subject by exercising a lasting influence of Gramsci studies, but also because the book by Alessandro Carlucci, to which I would like to return in conclusion, is the point of arrival of an antithetical line of research to that of Lo Piparo, developed in the process of forging the appropriate hermeneutic instruments for understanding Gramsci. On this line of research, I should like here to recall a number of publications by Giancarlo Schirru who, by making use of a detailed knowledge of Gramsci, of contemporary glottology and of the history of communism, has put back on the right track the problem of the relationship between Gramsci’s political thought and his linguistic training (Schirru 1999, 2008a, b, 2011, 2016; see also Boothman 2004).22 Schirru has in particular demonstrated how Gramsci’s youthful interest in linguistics had a clearly political interest since the linguistic discussions at the turn of the twentieth century, in which Gramsci’s teacher Matteo Bartoli was involved, were intimately linked to

20 Readers are referred to the Cagliari conference of 1967 (Rossi 1969), on which see Izzo (2009a, pp. 192–194). 21 It is not by chance that Lo Piparo operated within the reading of Gramsci that Bobbio had proposed ten years beforehand (Bobbio 1969, pp. 75–100; 1988, pp. 73– 100) and did not take into account either the political biography or the historical events in which Gramsci’s thought had had its origin. 22 Through his illuminating Introduction Schirru put his researches to fruitful use in editing Gramsci’s transcription of the Notes on Glottology 1912–1913 of Matteo Bartoli: see Schirru (2016).

258

G. VACCA

the problems of nationality, a subject which engaged liberalism as much as social democracy around the time of the First World War. Further, Schirru has documented Gramsci’s participation, during his stay in Moscow, in the linguistic reform that accompanied the birth of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Carlucci’s book constituted, under many aspects, a confirmation and development of Schirru’s researches. That the problem of the ‘translatability of languages’ had been imposed on Gramsci during his stay in Moscow (May 1922–November 1923) had been clear for some time. The problem had been raised by Lenin in concluding the Fourth Congress of the International (1922). Gramsci assumed it explicitly in June 1923 when he faced the task of ‘translating into national historical language’ the watchword of the ‘workers’ and peasants’ government’ launched by the Comintern at its Third Enlarged Executive (Plenum) (Vacca pp. 90–108 in Daniele 1999). On the other hand the ‘translatability of languages’ joins up conceptually with the paradigm of the differential analysis enunciated as from 1921 to justify both the ‘Russian experiment’ and the tactics of the Comintern. If one ignores this context it is not possible to understand Gramsci’s adopting the concept of hegemony from the language of the International, the successive development undergone and the role that it took on in the framework of the ‘philosophy of praxis’ (Vacca 2014; Vacca, pp. 5–114 in Daniele 1999). But among the distinctive features of Carlucci’s book there is above all the broadening of the direct and indirect knowledge that Gramsci had of the debate on the linguistic policy of the Soviet government in 1922– 1923, occasioned by the nationality problems in the construction of the federative Union. His reconstruction has been favoured by the publication of the first volumes of the Epistolario (Correspondence) which allow us to know much more than before regarding Gramsci’s stay in Moscow (Gramsci 2009 and Gramsci 2011; cf. GTW 2014). Carlucci’s research is based on two premises: the linguistic sensitivity and the political thought of Gramsci. These are two aspects that continually interact in his biography, from the years at university to the Prison Notebooks. This interaction demonstrates that in order to understand Gramsci’s political thought, it is impossible to leave to one side his linguistic studies; in particular this includes the ‘linguistic’ origin of the dialectic between multiplicity and unification persuasively proposed by Carlucci as a key to reading the concept of hegemony. A special merit of his monograph is, then, the way in which he reformulated three nodal questions for the political, intellectual and human biography of Gramsci:

5

AFTERWORD

259

the importance of his Sardinian origins, the influence of Italian and European glottology in his formation, and the encounter with Lenin’s thought and with Bolshevism. These are not only three periods but three aspects of Gramsci’s biography which characterize its entire itinerary.

References Agazzi, E. (1959). Filosofia della praxis e filosofia dello spirito. In A. Caracciolo & G. Scalia (Eds.), La città futura (pp. 187–269). Milan: Feltrinelli. Anderson, P. (1976). Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci. In New Left Review I/100, pp. 5–78; in Italian (1978), Ambiguità di Gramsci (I. Pedroni, Trans.). Bari: Laterza. Asor Rosa, A. (1975). La cultura, Vol. IV.ii of Storia d’Italia. Dall’unità ad oggi. Turin: Einaudi. Berti, G. (Ed.). (1968). Problemi del movimento operaio. Milan: Feltrinelli. Bidussa, D. (1987). Alla ricerca di Marx. Angelo Tasca e la riflessione sul marxismo negli anni del fuoriuscitismo (1930–1934). Quaderni della Fondazione Micheletti (3), 81–119. Bobbio, N. (1969). Gramsci e la concezione della società civile. In P. Rossi (Ed.), Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea (pp. 75–100) Rome: Editori Riuniti. Bobbio, N. (1988). Gramsci and the Concept of Civil Society (C. Mortera, Trans.). In J. Keane (Ed.), Civil Society and the State (pp. 73–100). London and New York: Verso. Boothman, D. (2004). Traducibilità e processi traduttivi. Un caso: A Gramsci linguista. Perugia: Guerra. Buci-Glucksmann, C. (1980). Gramsci and the State (D. Fernbach, Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart; Original (1975): Gramsci et l’État. Pour une Théorie Matérialiste de la Philosophie. Paris: Fayard. Cammett, J. M. (1989). Bibliografia gramsciana. Rome: Fondazione Istituto Gramsci. Caracciolo, A., & Scalia, G. (Eds.). (1959). La città futura Saggi sulla figura e il pensiero di Antonio Gramsci. Milan: Feltrinelli. Carlucci, A. (2013). Gramsci and Language. Unification, Diversity, Hegemony. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Ciliberto, M. (1980). La fabbrica dei Quaderni. Gramsci e Vico; Republished (1982) in Filosofia e politica nel Novecento italiano. Da Labriola a “Società” (pp. 263–314). Bari: De Donato. Ciliberto, M., & Vacca, G. (Eds.). (2014). Togliatti: La politica nel pensiero e nell’azione. Scritti e discorsi 1917–1964. Milan: Bompiani. Cospito, G. (Ed.). (2010). Gramsci tra filologia e storiografia, Scritti per Gianni Francioni. Naples: Bibliopolis.

260

G. VACCA

Cospito, G. (2011). Il ritmo del pensiero. Per una lettura diacronica dei “Quaderni del carcere” di Gramsci. Naples: Bibliopolis. Cospito, G. (2016). Gramsci. The Rhythm of Thought in Gramsci (A. Ponzini, Trans.). Leiden and Boston: Brill. Daniele, C. (Ed.). (1999). Gramsci a Rome, Togliatti a Mosca. Il carteggio del 1926. Turin: Einaudi. Daniele, C. (Ed.). (2005). Togliatti editore di Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. De Felice, F. (1972a). Serrati, Bordiga, Gramsci e i problemi della rivoluzione in Italia 1919–1920. Bari: De Donato. De Felice, F. (1972b). Una chiave di lettura in “Americanismo e Fordismo”. Rinascita [supplement Il contemporaneo], 29(42), 33–35. De Felice, F. (1977). Rivoluzione passiva, fascismo, americanismo in Gramsci. In F. Ferri (Ed.) (1977), pp. 161–220. Di Biagio, A. (2008). Egemonia leninista, egemonia gramsciana. In F. Giasi (Ed.) (2008a), Vol. I, pp. 379–402. D’Orsi, A. (2008). Egemonie. Proceedings of the conference ‘Egemonie. Usi e abusi di una parola controversa’, Naples and Salerno 27–28 October 2005. Naples: Dante & Descartes. Ferrata, G., & Gallo, N. (Eds.). (1964). 2000 pagine di Gramsci (2 Vols.). Milan: Il Saggiatore. Ferri, F. (Ed.). (1977). Politica e Storia in Gramsci (2 Vols.). Proceedings of the International Conference on Gramsci, Florence 9–11 December 1977. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Finelli, R. (2006). Tra moderno e postmoderno. Saggi di filosofia e di etica del riconoscimento. Lecce: Pensa Multimedia. Francioni, G. (1979). Per la storia dei “Quaderni del carcere”. In Politica e storia in Gramsci II (pp. 369–394). Roma: Editori Riuniti. Francioni, G. (1984). Egemonia, società civile, Stato. Note per una lettura della teoria politica di Gramsci. In id. L’officina gramsciana. Ipotesi sulla struttura dei “Quaderni del carcere” (pp. 147–228). Naples: Bibliopolis. Frosini, F. (2003). Gramsci e la filosofia. Saggio sui Quaderni del carcere. Rome: Carocci. Frosini, F. (2010). Le religione dell’uomo moderno. Politica e verità nei “Quaderni del carcere” di Antonio Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Gagliardi, A. (2008). Il problema del corporativismo nel dibattito europeo e nei Quaderni. In F. Giasi (Ed.) (2008a), Vol. 2, pp. 631–656. Giasi, F. (Ed.). (2008a). Gramsci nel suo tempo (2 Vols.). Rome: Carocci. Giasi, F. (2008b). I comunisti torinesi e l’egemonia del proletariato nella rivoluzione italiana. Appunti sulle fonti di “Alcuni temi della quistione meridionale” di Gramsci. In A. D’Orsi (Ed.), Egemonie (pp. 147–186). Gramsci, A. (1975). Quaderni del carcere (V. Gerratana, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi.

5

AFTERWORD

261

Gramsci, A. (1992). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 1, J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans. [with the assistance of A. Callari]). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1994). Letters from Prison (2 Vols., F. Rosengarten, Ed. and R. Rosenthal, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (1995). Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (1996). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 2, J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (2007a). Quaderni del carcere, Vol. I. Quaderni di traduzioni 1929– 1932 (G. Cospito & G. Francioni, Eds.) Edizione nazionale degli scritti di Antonio Gramsci. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana. Gramsci, A. (2007b). Prison Notebooks (Vol. 2, J. A. Buttigieg, Ed. and Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Gramsci, A. (2009). Epistolario 1 (January 1906–December 1922) (D. Bidussa, F. Giasi, G. Luzzatto Voghera, & M. L. Righi, Eds.). Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana. Gramsci, A. (2011) Epistolario 2 (January 1923–November 1923) (D. Bidussa, F. Giasi, & M. L. Righi, Eds.). Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana. Gramsci, A. (2014). A Great and Terrible World. The Pre-prison Letters (D. Boothman, Ed. and Trans.). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Gramsci, A. (2016). Appunti di Glottologia 1912–1913. Un corso universitario di Matteo Bartoli redatto da Antonio Gramsci. In G. Schirru (Ed.), Edizione nazionale degli scritti di Antonio Gramsci. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana. Gramsci, A., & Schucht T. (1997). Lettere 1926–1935 (A. Natoli & C. Daniele, Eds.). Turin: Einaudi. Gualtieri, R. (2007). Le relazioni internazionali. Marx e la “Filosofia della praxis” in Gramsci. Studi Storici, 48(4), 1009–1058. Izzo, F. (2008). I Marx di Gramsci. In F. Giasi (2008a), Vol. II, pp. 551–580. Izzo, F. (2009a). Tre convegni gramsciani. In id., Democrazia e cosmopolitismo in Antonio Gramsci. Izzo, F. (2009b). Democrazia e cosmopolitismo in Antonio Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Kanoussi, D. (2000). Una introducción a “Los Cuadernos de la carcel” de Antonio Gramsci. Mexico, DF: Plaza y Valdés. Keane, J. (Ed.) (1988). Civil Society and the State. New European Perspectives. London and New York: Verso. Liguori, G. (2012). Gramsci conteso. Interpretazioni, dibattiti e polemiche. Rome: Editori Riuniti University Press. Liguori, G., & Voza, P. (Eds.). (2007). Dizionario gramsciano 1926–1937 . Rome: Carocci.

262

G. VACCA

Lo Piparo, F. (1979). Lingua, intellettuali, egemonia in Gramsci. Rome and Bari: Laterza. Losurdo, D. (1997). Antonio Gramsci dal liberalismo al “comunismo critico”. Rome: Gamberetti. Maccabelli, T. (1998). Gramsci lettore di Ugo Spirito: economia pura e corporativismo nei “Quaderni del carcere”. Il pensiero economico italiano, V (2), 73–114. Maccabelli, T. (2008). La “grande trasformazione”: i rapporti tra Stato ed economia nei “Quaderni del carcere”. In F. Giasi (2008a), Vol. II, pp. 609– 630. Mangoni, L. (1977). Il problema del fascismo nei “Quaderni del carcere”. In F. Ferri (Ed.) (1977), pp. 391–438. Mangoni, L. (1987). La genesi delle categorie storico-politiche nei “Quaderni del carcere”. Studi Storici, 28(3), 565–579. Natoli, A. (1990). Antigone e il prigioniero. Tania Schucht lotta per la vita di Gramsci. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Paggi, L. (1970). Antonio Gramsci e il moderno principe. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Pons, S. (2008). Il gruppo dirigente del Pci e la “questione russa” (1924–26). In F. Giasi (2008a), Vol. I, pp. 403–429. Rapone, L. (2007). Antonio Gramsci nella grande guerra. Studi Storici, 48(1), 97–106. Rapone, L. (2012). Cinque anni che paiono secoli. Antonio Gramsci dal socialismo al comunismo (1914–1919). Rome: Carocci. Righi, M. L., & Aricó, J. (Eds.). (1995). Gramsci nel mondo. Rome: Fondazione Istituto Gramsci. Romagnuolo, M. R. (1987–1988). Questioni di nomenclatura. Materialismo storico e filosofia della praxis nei Quaderni gramsciani. Studi filosofici, X –XI, 123–166. Rossi, P. (Ed.). (1969). Gramsci e la cultura contemporanea. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Rossi, A., & Vacca, G. (2007). Gramsci tra Mussolini e Stalin. Rome: Fazi. Salvadori, M. L. (1973). Gramsci e il problema storico della democrazia. Turin: Einaudi. Schirru, G. (1999). I “Quaderni del carcere” e il dibattito su lingua e nazionalità nel socialismo internazionale. In G. Vacca (1999b), Annali della Fondazione Istituto Gramsci (Vol. II, pp. 53–61). Rome: Carocci. Schirru, G. (2008a). La categoria di egemonia e il pensiero linguistico di Antonio Gramsci. In A. D’Orsi (2008), pp. 397–444. Schirru, G. (2008b). Filosofia del linguaggio e filosofia della prassi. In F. Giasi (2008a), Vol. II, pp. 767–791. Schirru, G. (2011). Antonio Gramsci studente di linguistica. Studi Storici, 52(4), 925–973.

5

AFTERWORD

263

Schirru, G. (2016). Introduction to A. Gramsci (2016). Schucht, T. (1991). Lettere ai familiari (Ed. and introduction by Mimma Paulesu Quercioli with preface by Giuliano Gramsci). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Sraffa, P. (1991). Lettere a Tania per Gramsci (Ed. and introduction by V. Gerratana). Rome: Editori Riuniti. Tasca, A. (1934). De la démocratie au socialisme. Imprimerie des coopératives réunies: La Chaux-de-Fonds. Togliatti, P. (1964). Gramsci, un uomo (review of 2000 pagine di Gramsci), Paese Sera, 19 June 1964. In Togliatti (2014a). Togliatti, P. (1979). Leninism in the Theory and Practice of Gramsci. In id., On Gramsci and Other Writings (pp. 161–181). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Togliatti, P. (2014a). La politica nel pensiero e nell’azione. Scritti e discorsi 1917– 1964 (M. Ciliberto & G. Vacca, Eds.). Milan: Bompiani. Togliatti, P. (2014b [19581 ]). Il leninismo nel pensiero e nell’azione di A. Gramsci (appunti). In id., (2014a). Togliatti, P., et al. (1958). Studi gramsciani. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Tronti, M. (1959). Tra materialismo dialettico e filosofia della praxis: Gramsci e Labriola. In A. Caracciolo & G. Scalia (Eds.), La città futura (pp. 139–162). Milan: Feltrinelli. Vacca, G. (1985). Il marxismo e gli intellettuali. Dalla crisi di fine secolo ai “Quaderni del carcere”. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1991). Gramsci and Togliatti. Rome: Editori Riuniti. Vacca, G. (1999a). Introduction to Gramsci a Rome, Togliatti a Mosca (C. Daniele, Ed.). Turin: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (1999b). Gramsci e il Novecento, Annali della Fondazione Istituto Gramsci. Rome: Carocci. Vacca, G. (Ed.). (2011). L’edizione nazionale e gli scritti gramsciani. Studi Storici, monographic number, 52(4). Vacca, G. (2012). Vita e pensiero di Antonio Gramsci 1926–1937 . Turin: Einaudi. Vacca, G. (2014). Togliatti e Gramsci. Raffronti. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale.

Index

A Adoratskij, Vladimir Viktoroviˇc, 49 Agazzi, Emilio, 245 Agosti, Aldo, 76, 134, 217 Amendola, Giovanni, 20, 21, 23, 24 Anderson, Perry, 48, 246 Angell, Norman, 3, 250 Antonini, Francesca, 49 Aponte, Salvatore, 71 Aquarone, Alberto, 121 Aricó, José, 48 Asor Rosa, Alberto, 244, 245, 248 B Badoglio, Pietro, 24 Balfour, Arthur James, 125 Bartoli, Matteo Giulio, 257 Bellamy, Richard, xxiv Beneduce, Alberto, 124 Benvenuti, Francesco, 216 Bergson, Henri, 2, 166 Bernstein, Eduard, 220 Berti, Giuseppe, 252 Bidussa, David, 252

Bini, Annalisa, 115 Bismarck, Otto von, 62 Bobbio, Norberto, xi, xv, 195–198, 230, 238, 239, 246, 256, 257 Bonanate, Luigi, 196, 239 Bonaparte, Charlotte, 164 Bonaparte, Napoléon, 164 Bonomi, Ivanoe, 102–105 Boothman, Derek, 195, 257 Bordiga, Amadeo, 12, 13, 217, 251 Bottai, Giuseppe, 121 Bovero, Michelangelo, 196 Boyer, Robert, 131, 232 Briand, Aristide, 24 Buci-Glucksmann, Christine, 53, 246 Bukharin, Nikolaj Ivanoviˇc, 34, 134, 141, 166, 173, 175, 220 Burzio, Filippo, 64 Buttigieg, Joseph A., xxiii C Cadorna, Luigi, 24, 218 Cammett, John M., x, 247 Caracciolo, Alberto, 245

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 G. Vacca, Alternative Modernities, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47671-7

265

266

INDEX

Carley, Michael, 153 Carlo Alberto di Savoia (King of Sardinia), 105 Carlucci, Alessandro, 45, 116, 243, 248, 257, 258 Cattaneo, Carlo, 196 Cavour, Camillo Benso (Conte di), 87, 90, 92, 93, 97, 100, 115, 117 Cervesato, Arnaldo, 3 Chiarante, Giuseppe, x Churchill, Winston, 73 Ciasca, Raffaele, 112, 113 Ciliberto, Michele, xiv, xxi, 246 Ciocca, Pierluigi, 124 Clausewitz, Carl von, 62 Coen, Federico, xi Colamarino, Giulio, 122 Colletti, Lucio, 198 Cospito, Giuseppe, xiv, 188, 248, 252, 253 Cox, Virginia, xxiv Crispi, Francesco, 108, 109, 117, 118 Croce, Benedetto, xv, 2, 29, 30, 43–45, 49, 69, 112, 113, 118, 119, 129, 166–168, 189, 196, 197, 206, 210–215, 245, 255, 256 Cuoco, Vincenzo, 85, 86 D Daniele, Chiara, xiii, 33–35, 115, 247, 248, 258 D’Annunzio, Gabriele, 66, 101 De Domenico, Nicola, 238 De Felice, Franco, 128, 151, 245, 246, 250 della Volpe, Gaetano, 245 De Mauro, Tullio, 257 De Nicola, Enrico, 23 De Rosa, Gabriele, 93 De Sanctis, Francesco, 245

Di Biagio, Anna, 16, 17, 28, 76, 134, 136, 218, 251 D’Orsi, Angelo, 251

E Engels, Friedrich, 15, 49, 116, 196, 252

F Fattorini, Emma, 95 Ferrata, Giansiro, 244 Ferri, Franco, 128, 246 Finck, Franz Nikolaus, 40 Finelli, Roberto, 243 Fiocco, Gianluca, xii Foch, Ferdinand, 6 Fortunato, Giustino, 29, 30, 118, 119 Fouillet, Alfred, 238 Fovel, Nino Massimo, 122, 123 Francioni, Giovanni, xiv, 37, 53, 202, 246 Frosini, Fabio, xiv, 59, 243, 254, 256 Fülöp-Miller, René, 139 Furst, Henry, 168

G Gagliardi, Alessio, 121 Galli della Loggia, Ernesto, 198 Gallo, Niccolò, 244 Gangale, Giuseppe, 30 Garibaldi, Giuseppe, 51, 97 Garin, Eugenio, 45 Gentile, Giovanni, 206, 212, 245 Gentiloni, Vincenzo Ottorino, 109 Gerratana, Valentino, 45, 202 Gervasoni, Marco, 238 Giasi, Francesco, x, xiii, 31, 53, 95, 116, 195, 248, 251 Gioberti, Vincenzo, 75

INDEX

Giolitti, Giovanni, 92, 93, 101–104, 117–119 Giordani, Pietro, 164 Girardon, Mario, 2, 3 Gobetti, Piero, 30, 163 Gorbaˇcëv, Mikhail Sergeeviˇc, xii Gramsci, Gennaro, 42 Grandi, Dino, 74, 126, 226 Grieco, Ruggero, 41 Gualtieri, Roberto, 2, 38, 250, 251

H Habermas, Jürgen, 208 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 44, 166, 196, 197, 203, 222, 223, 255 Hitler, Adolf, 71, 121 Hoare, Quintin, xxiv Hobbes, Thomas, 196

I Izzo, Francesca, xiv, 59, 161, 195, 251, 252, 257

K Kanoussi, Dora, 139, 195, 251 Kant, Immanuel, 120, 196 Kautsky, Karl, 250 Kelsen, Hans, 196 Kerenskij, Aleksandr Fëdoroviˇc, 95 Kipling, Rudyard, 101 Kolˇcak, Aleksandr Vasil’eviˇc, 98

L Labriola, Antonio, 2, 90, 162, 221, 245 Labriola, Arturo, 97 Lapidus, Iosif Abramoviˇc, 140, 166

267

Lenin (Uljanov), Vladimir Il’iˇc, 8, 15–17, 28, 31, 32, 34, 36, 45–47, 56, 57, 72, 73, 77, 95, 120, 137, 141, 162, 163, 173, 186, 200, 220, 222, 258, 259 Leonetti, Alfonso, 19, 20 Leo XIII (Vincenzo Pecci), Pope, 109 Liguori, Guido, xxi, 243, 244 Lisa, Athos, 58 Lloyd George, David, 6 Locke, John, 196 Lo Piparo, Franco, 48, 257 Losurdo, Domenico, 2, 250 Ludwig, Emil, 62 Lukács, Georg (György), 221 Luxemburg, Rosa, 166, 215 M Maccabelli, Terenzio, 123, 253 Macis, Enrico, 37 Maitan, Livio, 71 Mangoni, Luisa, 205, 246 Marx, Karl, xi, xv, 2, 4, 15, 49, 52, 53, 56, 89, 116, 129, 140, 141, 156, 161–163, 171, 188, 195–197, 220, 222, 224, 237, 250–256 Mathews, John, xxiv Matteotti, Giacomo, 18, 20, 22, 106 Mayer, Gustav, 49 Mazzini, Giuseppe, 75, 87, 92, 98, 115 Menelik II (Emperor of Ethiopia), 102 Michels, Roberto (Robert), 182, 210, 245 Mirskij (Mirsky), Dmitri Petroviˇc (also Svjatopolk-Mirskij), 141, 219, 238 Mistral, Jacques, 131, 232 Mondolfo, Rodolfo, 254 Montanari, Marcello, xiv, 205

268

INDEX

Mosca, Gaetano, 34, 210, 245 Mussolini, Benito, 15, 23, 38, 39, 66, 74, 102–106, 111, 124 Musté, Marcello, x

N Natoli, Aldo, 247 Nitti, Francesco Saverio, 104 Noske, Gustav, 157 Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, xxiv

O Omodeo, Adolfo, 112, 113, 116, 225, 239 Orlando, Vittorio Emanuele, 23, 98, 99 Ostrovitjanov (Ostrovityanov), Konstantin Vasil’eviˇc, 140, 166

P Paggi, Leonardo, 2, 15, 18, 77, 162, 249, 250 Pagni, Carlo, 122 Pareto, Vilfredo, 196, 210, 245 Pascoli, Giovanni, 38 Pellicani, Luciano, 48 Peter (Pëtr) ‘the Great’ (Tsar), 99 Pirandello, Luigi, 40 Pius XI (Achille Ratti), Pope, 105 Plekhanov, Georgij Valentinoviˇc, 28, 173 Poincaré, Raymond, 24 Pons, Silvio, 17, 28, 34, 46, 115, 164, 216, 251 Procacci, Giuliano, 46, 134

Q Quilici, Nello, 122 Quinet, Edgar, 86

R Ragionieri, Ernesto, 19 Rapone, Leonardo, 1, 2, 45, 161, 162, 186, 249–251 Renan, Ernest (Joseph-Ernest), 180 Ricardo, David, 171, 222–224, 253 Righi, Maria Luisa, x Robespierre, Maximilien, 120 Rocchetti, Francesco, 116 Romagnuolo, Maria Rosaria, 246 Romano, Andrea, 76, 137 Rossi, Angelo, 40–42, 248 Rossi, Paolo, 195, 246, 257 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 196

S Salvadori, Massimo L., 48, 162, 198, 250 Salvemini, Gaetano, 2 Santomassimo, Gianpasquale, 74, 121, 122, 124, 127, 128 Savant, Giovanna, 77 Scalia, Gianni, 245 Schirru, Giancarlo, 38, 45, 195, 257, 258 Schucht, Julija (Jul’ka), 138 Schucht, Tat’jana (Tatiana, Tanja), xiii, xxii, 37–41, 43, 119, 134, 137, 138, 166, 167, 247 Scoccimarro, Mauro, 14, 18–20, 104 Serge, Victor, 140 Sola, Giorgio, 205 Somai, Giovanni, 15, 18 Sorel, Georges, 2, 166, 214, 215, 238, 245 Spirito, Ugo, 121, 123, 127, 140 Spriano, Paolo, 22, 134, 160 Sraffa, Piero, xiii, xxii, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 44, 137, 247 Stalin (Džugašvili), Iosif Vissaronoviˇc, 25, 33, 35, 46, 53, 71, 72, 76,

INDEX

120, 130, 134, 142, 160, 164, 187, 216, 217, 219, 220 Stolzi, Irene, 121 Sturzo, Luigi, 93

T Tagliagambe, Silvano, 139 Tamburrano, Giuseppe, 48 Tasca, Angelo, 5, 20, 153, 252 Telò, Mario, 128, 133 Terracini, Umberto, 15, 17, 18, 209 Thomas, Peter D., 171 Togliatti, Palmiro, ix, xxii, 41, 245 Traniello, Francesco, 115 Treves, Claudio, 163 Tronti, Mario, 245 Trotsky (Bronštejn), Lev Davidoviˇc, 15, 32, 46, 47, 71, 130, 139, 142, 216, 220 Turati, Filippo, 97, 105

269

V Vacca, Giuseppe, x–xiii, xxi, 14, 20, 25, 31, 34, 37, 40–42, 53, 74, 95, 115, 128, 130, 134, 135, 138, 142, 163, 164, 169, 195, 216, 221, 239, 244, 246, 248, 249, 258 Vittorio Emanuele II, 51 Volpe, Gioacchino, 112 Voza, Pasquale, 243 W Weber, Max, 182, 196, 210 Wilhelm II (Kaiser), 62 Williams, Raymond, 208 Wilson, Woodrow, 4–6, 11, 63, 77, 186 Z Zinov’ev (Apfelbaum), Grigorij Evseeviˇc, 15, 17