Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

Elemental forces

Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 26 April 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.

In an interview with the Le Temps correspondent, Hon. Giolitti has solemnly declared that he wants order to be re-established at all costs. The government has summoned the general who commands the carabinieri, the commander of the royal guards, the chief of the general staff-, and all the army corps commanders: the matter has been discussed, the necessary measures will be taken. With what means? Within what limits? Is it possible for the government, even if it wanted, to take the necessary measures? The circulars and meetings of the government are accompanied by orders, appeals and excommunications from the fascist authorities, who are also seriously concerned by the turn which events are taking and by the inevitable counter-blows. But it does no-. seem that even these authorities, highly "respected and feared" though they be, are succeeding in winning much obedience from the rank and file of their followers. Just as there does not exist a political State, just as there no longer exist any cohesive bonds of morale or discipline in the organisms and between the individuals who make up the State machine, so there exist no cohesion or discipline in the fascist "organization" either - in the unofficial State which today can at will dispose of the lives and property of the Italian nation.

It has now become obvious that fascism can only be partially interpreted as a class phenomenon, as a movement of political forces conscious of a real aim. It has spread, it has broken every possible organizational framework, it is above the wishes and proposals of any central or regional Committee, it has become an unchaining of elemental forces which cannot be restrained under the bourgeois system of economic and political government. Fascism is the name of the farreaching decomposition of Italian society, which could not but accompany the decomposition of the State, and which today can only be explained by reference to the low level of civilization which the Italian nation had been able to attain in these last sixty years of unitary administration.

Fascism has presented itself as the anti-party; has opened its gates to all applicants; has with its promise of impunity enabled a formless multitude to cover over the savage outpouring of passions, hatreds and desires with a varnish of vague and nebulous political ideals. Fascism has thus become a question of social mores: it has become identified with the barbaric and anti-social psychology of certain strata of the Italian people which have not yet been modified by a new tradition, by education, by living together in a well-ordered and well administered State. To understand the full force of these assertions, it is enough to recall: that Italy holds first place for murders and bloodshed; that Italy is the country where mothers educate their infant children by hitting them on the head with clogs - it is the country where the younger generations are least respected and protected; that in certain Italian regions it seemed natural until a few years ago to put muzzles on grapepickers, so that they would not eat the grapes; and that in certain regions the landowners locked their labourers up in sheds when the workday was over, to prevent meetings or attendance at evening classes.

The class struggle has always assumed an extremely harsh character in Italy, as a result of this "human" immaturity of certain strata of the population. Cruelty and the lack of simpatia are two traits peculiar to the Italian people, which passes from childish sentimentality to the most brutal and bloody ferocity, from passionate anger to cold-blooded contemplation of other people's ills. The State, though still frail and uncertain in its most vital functions, was with difficulty gradually succeeding in breaking up this semi-barbaric terrain. Today, after the decomposition of the State, every kind of miasma pullulates upon it. There is much truth in the assertion of the fascist papers that not all those who call themselves fascists and operate in the name of the fasci belong to the organization. But what is to be said of an organization whose symbol can be used to cover actions of the nature of those which disgrace Italy daily? The assertion, moreover, endows these events with a very much more serious and decisive character than those who write in the bourgeois papers would like to accord them. Who will be able to check them, if the State is incapable and the private organizations are impotent?

Thus we can see that the communist thesis is justified. Fascism, as a general phenomenon, as a scourge which transcends the will and the disciplinary means of its exponents - with its violence, with its monstrous and arbitrary actions, with its destruction at once systematic and irrational - can be extirpated only by a new State power, by a 11 restored" State in the sense which the communists understand this term, in other words by a State whose power is in the hands of the proletariat, the only class capable of reorganizing production and therefore all the social relations which depend on the relations of production.