Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

Real Dialectics


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 3 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.


Events are the real dialectics of history. They transcend all arguments, all personal judgements, all vague and irresponsible wishes. Events, with the inexorable logic of their development, give the worker and peasant masses, who are conscious of their destiny, these lessons. The class struggle at a certain moment reaches a stage in which the proletariat no longer finds in bourgeois legality, i.e. in the bourgeois State apparatus (armed forces, courts, administration), the elementary guarantee and defence of its elementary right to life, to freedom, to personal safety, to daily bread. It is then forced to create its own legality, to create its own apparatus of resistance and defence. At certain moments in the life of the people, this is an absolute historical necessity, transcending every desire, every wish, every whim, every personal impulse. Events present themselves as a universal fatality, with the overwhelming momentum of natural phenomena. Men, as individuals and en masse, find themselves placed brutally before the following dilemma: chances of death one hundred, chances of life ten, a choice must be made. And men always choose the chances of life, even if these are slight, even if they only offer a wretched and exhausted life. They fight for these slight chances, and their vitality is such and their passion so great that they break every obstacle and sweep away even the most awesome apparatus of power.

This is the situation which the real dialectics of history creates for men at certain moments - the decisive moments in the painful and bloody development of mankind. No human will can create situations of this kind; no little man, even if he puffs out his cheeks and distils from his brain the words which most touch hearts and stir the blood, can create situations of this kind. They are the blazing brazier in which flow together all the passions and all the hatreds which only the sight of violent death can arouse in the masses. Only this can be considered as a revolutionary situation in this historical period, which has as its immediate past experience the deeds of the Spartacists, Hungary, Ireland, Bavaria. In this situation, there is no middle term to choose; and if one fights, it is necessary to win.

Today, we do not find ourselves in such a situation. Today, we can still choose with a certain freedom. The freedom of choice imposes certain duties upon us, absolute duties which concern the life of the people and are inherent in the future of the masses who suffer and hope. Today, there exists only one form of revolutionary solidarity: to win. It therefore demands of us that we should not neglect any single element that might put us in a condition to win. Today, there exists a party that truly expresses the interests of the proletariat; that expresses the interests not only of the Italian proletariat, but of the workers' International as a whole. Today, the workers must have and can have faith. The Italian workers, maintaining an iron discipline, without a single exception, in response to the slogans of the Communist Party, will finally show that they have emerged from the state of revolutionary infantilism in which their movement has hitherto floundered. They will show that they are worthy and capable of victory.