Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

Socialists and fascists


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 11 June 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 political position of fascism is determined by the following basic circumstances.

1. The fascists, in the six months of their militant activity, have burdened themselves with an extremely heavy baggage of criminal acts which will only remain unpunished as long as the fascist organization is strong and feared.

2. The fascists have been able to carry on their activities only because tens of thousands of functionaries of the State, especially in the public security forces (police, royal guards, carabinieri) and in the magistrature, have become their moral and material accomplices. These functionaries know that their impunity and their careers are closely linked to the fortunes of the fascist organization, and they therefore have every interest in supporting fascism in whatsoever attempt it may make to consolidate its political position.

3. The fascists possess, spread throughout the national territory, stocks of arms and ammunition in such quantities as to be at least sufficient to create an army of half a million men.

4. The fascists have organized a military-style hierarchical system which finds its natural and organic apex in the general staff.

It stands to reason that the fascists do not want to go to prison, and that instead they want to use their strength - all the strength which they have at their disposal - to remain unpunished and to achieve the ultimate aim of every movement: to hold political power.

What do the socialists and the leaders of the Confederation intend to do to prevent the Italian people from being subjected to the tyranny of the general staff, the great landowners and the bankers? Have they fixed upon a plan? Do they have a programme? It does not appear so. Might the socialists and the leaders of the Confederation have fixed upon a 11 clandestine" plan? This would be ineffective, because only an insurrection of the broad masses can break a reactionary coup de force; and insurrections of the broad masses, though they do need clandestine preparation, also need legal, open propaganda to give them direction, orient the spirit of the masses and prepare their consciousness.

The socialists have never seriously faced up to the possibility of a coup d'état, or asked themselves what provision they should make for defending themselves and going over to the offensive. The socialists, accustomed as they are to stupidly chewing over a few little pseudoMarxist formulae, reject the idea of "voluntarist" revolutions, "hoping for miracles", etc. etc. But if the insurrection of the proletariat were imposed by the will of the reactionaries, who cannot have "Marxist" scruples, how should the Socialist Party conduct itself ? Would it, without resistance, leave the victory to reaction? And if the resistance was victorious, if the proletariat rose in arms and defeated reaction, what slogan would the Socialist Party give: to hand over their arms, or to carry the struggle through to the end?

We believe that these questions, at this moment, are far from being academic or abstract. It may be, it is true, that the fascists, who are Italians, who have all the indecisiveness and weakness of character of the Italian petty bourgeoisie, will imitate the tactic followed by the socialists in the occupation of the factories: that they will draw back and abandon to the punitive justice of a government dedicated to the restoration of legality those of their own who have committed crimes and their accomplices. This may be the case. However, it is bad tactics to put one's trust in the errors of one's enemies, and to imagine one's enemies to be incapable and inept. Whoever has strength, uses it. Whoever feels that he is in danger of going to prison, will do the impossible to keep his freedom. A coup d'état by the fascists, i.e. by the general staff, the landowners and the bankers, is the menacing spectre which has hung over this legislature from the start. The Communist Party has its line: to launch the slogan of insurrection and lead the people in arms to their freedom, guaranteed by the workers' State. What is the slogan of the Socialist Party? How can the masses still trust this party, which confines its political activity to groaning, and proposes only to ensure that its deputies make "magnificent" speeches in Parliament?