Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

The "arditi del popolo"

Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 15 July 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.

Hon. Mingrino's declarations to the press about his joining the Arditi del Popolo serve magnificently to highlight the Communist Party's statement on the same subject. Mingrino's declarations correspond to the obsolete, worn-out psychology of the Socialist Party, which on other occasions we have baptized as neo-Malthusianism. If this conception were accepted, the Arditi del Popolo movement would inevitably lead to a repetition of the events of September 1920, when the metal-working proletariat was led on to the terrain of illegality, placed in a situation where it could not resist without arming itself and violating the most sacred privileges of capitalism, and then, suddenly, everything came to an end because the occupation of the factories only set itself ... trade-union objectives.

Hon. Mingrino is joining the Arditi del Popolo. He is giving that institution his name, his rank as a socialist deputy, his personal prestige as someone liked by the revolutionary proletariat for his conduct during the fascist attack on comrade Misiano. But what is the mission of the Arditi del Popolo, according to Hon. Mingrino? It should be limited to achieving a counter-weight to fascist violence; it should be one of pure resistance; in short, it should have purely ... trade-union objectives.

Does Hon. Mingrino then believe that fascism is a superficial manifestation of post-war psychosis? Has he not yet been persuaded that fascism is organically linked to the present crisis of the capitalist order and will only disappear with the suppression of that order? Has he not yet been convinced that the patriotic, nationalistic, reconstructionist ideology of Mussolini and Co. is of purely marginal significance? That instead fascism must be seen in its objective reality, outside all predetermined schemas or abstract political models, as a spontaneous pullulation of reactionary energies which coalesce, dissolve and come together again, following the official leaders only when their directives correspond to the inner nature of the movement? For this is what it is, notwithstanding Mussolini's speeches, Pasella's official statements and the hurrahs of all this world's idealists.

To launch, or join, a movement of popular resistance, while setting in advance a limit to its expansion, is the most serious error of tactics that can be committed at this moment. It is essential not to sow illusions among the popular masses, who are suffering cruelly and are led by their sufferings to delude themselves, to believe that they can alleviate their pain simply by shifting their position. It is essential not to make them believe that a little effort will be enough to save them from the dangers which loom over the entire working people today. It is essential to make them understand, it is essential to compel them to understand, that today the proletariat is confronted not just by a private association, but by the whole State apparatus, with its police, its courts, its newspapers which manipulate public opinion as the government and the capitalists please. It is essential to make them understand what they were not made to understand in September 1920: when the working people leaves the terrain of legality but does not find the necessary spirit of sacrifice and political capacity to carry its actions through to the end, it is punished by mass shootings, by hunger, by cold, by inactivity which kills slowly, day by day.

Are the communists opposed to the Arditi del Popolo. movement? On the contrary: they want the arming of the proletariat, the creation of an armed proletarian force which is capable of defeating the bourgeoisie and taking charge of the organization and development of the new productive forces generated by capitalism.

The communists are also of the opinion that when one wishes to launch a struggle, one should not wait for victory to be guaranteed by a notary's certificate. On many occasions in history, peoples have found themselves at a crossroads: either to languish day by day in starvation and exhaustion, strewing their paths with a few deaths each day - which, however, in the course of weeks, months and years become a host; or else to take a chance. This could mean to die fighting in an allout effort; but it could also mean to win, to halt the process of dissolution at a single blow and initiate the enterprise of reorganization and development which will at least ensure a little more tranquillity and well-being for future generations. Those peoples who had faith in themselves and their own destinies, and who faced up to the struggle with audacity, were the ones who saved themselves.

But if the communists are of this opinion - as regards the objective elements of the situation; as regards the relation of forces with the enemy; as regards the ways in which the decadence and chaos created by the imperialist war can be overcome; as regards all those elements which cannot be inventoried, and concerning which it is not always possible to make an accurate calculation of probabilities - they nevertheless at least want the political objectives to be clear and concrete. They do not want what happened in September 1920 to be repeated today, at least so far as what can be foreseen is concerned what can be assessed, and predetermined by political activity organized in a party.

The workers have the means to express their opinions. The socialist workers, who are revolutionaries and have drawn certain lessons from the experience of these last months, have the means to exert pressure on the Socialist Party, forcing it to abandon equivocation and ambiguity, and obliging it to take up a clear and precise position on this problem in which the actual physical safety of the worker and the peasant is at stake. Hon. Mingrino is a socialist deputy. If he is a sincere man, as we believe, let him take the initiative in bringing the masses which still follow his party out of their torpor and indecision. But let him not put limits on their expansion, if he does not wish to bear the responsibility of having brought the Italian people a new defeat and a new fascism, compounded by all the vengeance which reaction implacably wreaks upon the waverers and hesitaters, after it has massacred the assault troops in the vanguard.