Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

The old order in turin


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 18 May 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.


Avanti!'s correspondent, the archangel with the clyster, signor Mario Guarnieri, is right: the old order has triumphed in Turin. It is certain that even the 22,323 socialist votes cannot be considered as an affirmation of revolutionary will. The Turin socialists have moved so far to the right, they have shown such a frenzied desire to ruin the proletarian organization, that they have permanently secured the sympathies and the political support of the petty bourgeois - and the latter certainly do not want the proletariat to instal a new order. The 22,323 socialist votes can be added in with the 10,150 votes for the Popular Party, not with the 12,509 communist votes. And the significance of the Turin elections clearly emerges: a majority asserted by the middle parties (32,473 votes) against fascist capitalism (31,555 votes for the bloc), to protest against the uncivilized "excesses" of those who burned the Chamber of Labour and, by means of the civilized weapon of the ballot, to proclaim the possibility for the magnificent and progressive destiny of the working people to be realized within the framework of bourgeois legality and the old capitalist order.

The Popular Party, since the share-croppers' strike, has lost the support of the old landed nobility. The socialists, since the split from the communists, have lost the support of the revolutionary proletariat. Together, they have given political expression to the feelings of sharecroppers, sacristans, shop-keepers, foremen, clerks and a percentage (around 20 per cent of more skilled workers, who want to blackleg while still claiming to be socialists. It is noteworthy that the socialists achieved respectable votes in the wards of the city centre; and it is still more noteworthy that Hon. Casalini should have won 250 write-in votes on the Popular list. The links of the chain which now bind Turin socialism to the bourgeoisie have been revealed: Turin socialism - Casalini (250 write-in votes on the Popular list) - Popular Party (400 write-in votes for Hon. Facta and Hon. Rossi on the Popular list) Giolittism. 24 La Stampa did not oppose the socialist list and only gave the bloc tepid support. All La Stampa's propaganda during the municipal election campaign against the Communists; the fact that in the last few days La Stampa has been arguing that it was only due to the wisdom of the reformists that the occupation of the factories did not culminate in "Bolshevik madness"; the fact that La Stampa has always maintained (including in the last few days) that since the split the Socialist Party has become a party of right-thinking men and model citizens - these factors combined to produce the 22,323 votes for the socialists.

The communists were defeated. We do not hesitate to acknowledge it. Of the 48,000 votes won in the last administrative elections, 40,000 at least were cast by communist proletarians and could have been cast in these elections too. Why was there such a high degree of abstention in the proletarian camp? It is not hard to explain such abstention, even if it is not justified from the point of view of a high level of political education, such as might have been presumed and hoped for in an industrial centre like Turin. In Turin, we are passing through a terrible crisis of discouragement and demoralization. The communists are persecuted in the factories, two thirds of the members in the section have been subjected to "reprisals". The electoral struggle, because of the general interpretation given it by popular sentiment, had the significance of an affirmation of bourgeois legality against fascist barbarism and ferocity; the Turin proletariat believed that such an affirmation was of no interest to it. This apathy is not a sign of political capacity, it is a sign of dissolution and mental confusion. An electoral result has the same value as a big rally; it serves as a demonstration of numerical strength and a document of the popular consent to an idea and a programme. Just as occurs with big rallies and public meetings, so too the results of an election can have the virtue of raising the spirits and the enthusiasm of the popular masses - hence the results of an election can even become a revolutionary factor. Not to understand this little truth of political life means not to know the ABC of political struggle. That is why abstention cannot ever be viewed as proof of political capacity, but is only proof of dissolution and moral degradation.

The small enthusiasm of the masses is justified by the small enthusiasm and the lassitude of the organized communists. A huge job of reorganization must be carried out by the best and most conscious elements. However, the communists must not get tangled up in investigations to determine the formal responsibility. The best way of establishing who was responsible is to construct a more solid organization. The best way of eliminating the weary, the hesitant and the undisciplined is by mobilizing the energetic, the decisive, the disciplined, and those who are aware of the immense work of organization and propaganda which lies before the Communist Party, if it wishes to become the party of the broad masses and to be capable of leading the revolutionary proletariat to accomplish its historic mission.