Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

England and Russia


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 18 March 1921

Text from Antonio Gramsci "Selections from political writings (1921-1926)", translated and edited by Quintin Hoare (Lawrence and Wishart, London 1978), transcribed to the www with the kind permission of Quintin Hoare.


The trade agreement between England and Soviet Russia, considering the moment in which it has been concluded, represents an undoubted political victory for the Moscow workers' government. The Kronstadt revolt, staged by international reaction to wreck the negotiations, failed to induce Lloyd George's government to change direction. The Soviet State has been recognized by England as the sole legitimate authority, alone capable of giving permanent guarantees for the fulfilment of international contracts. But this political victory of our Russian comrades must not encourage over-rosy illusions or engender indolence. It is not international communism which stands to gain by this agreement, but capitalism and imperialism.

The fact that England recognizes politically the stability of the workers' government, and comes to accept the idea of trading with it, is an event in the realm of common sense; but it does not change by one hair's breadth the existing economic relations between communism and capitalism. England, an eminently industrial nation, maintains its superiority over Russia, an eminently agricultural nation. The peasant class in Russia will indeed be enabled to restore its economy, ruined by six years of war and destruction. But it will not be the Russian proletariat which offers the peasants the possibility of restoring production; it will be capitalism - and a foreign capitalism at that. The very foundations of the workers' State are damaged and corroded by this fact, and the Russian comrades do not hide it either from themselves or from others. They hoped in the world revolution; they hoped that the aid necessary to their existence would be fraternally offered them by the international Commune, rather than usuriously by a capitalist state; and they have not yet lost that hope. For the Russian comrades, until the world revolution, the question is one of surviving, gaining a breathing-space, and preserving the elementary conditions for communism - i.e. political power in the hands of the workers. It cannot be one of deep or permanent achievements.

The agreement with England does not have and cannot have any other significance. Having won power, the working class has succeeded in showing that it is the only social force capable of saving the Russian nation from foreign bondage, and the Russian economy from total ruin. But the strength of the Russian proletariat has been diminished economically by the agreement. Only in the world revolution, and in the solidarity of the workers' International become arbiter of the productive forces, can the Russian and other proletariats hope for a resolution of the conflicts and crises which are rending society today, and for their salvation from utter ruin.