Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

Against terror


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 19 August 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 invitation which the Communist Trade-union Committee has addressed to the Italian working-class organizations for concerted action against the employers' offensive also refers to the need to check the brigandry of the white guards. It is necessary to stress this point particularly, in the propaganda which communists must carry out among the working masses, if we are to obtain the best possible outcome from the initiative of our trade-union committee. It has now become obvious that the tactic of compromises applied by the Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour vis-à-vis fascism, has only benefited the latter. The popular masses, tormented, continuously exposed to mortal danger from the punitive expeditions, without protection from the legal authorities, were rising violently against the white terror. Automatically, precisely because fascism had become a national scourge, an uprising of a national character was maturing, which would have had very great revolutionary significance. The Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour, with their pacifist attitude, succeeded in achieving: on the one hand, a collapse of the revolutionary energies which were developing progressively among the broad popular masses; on the other hand, an internal crisis of fascism, which is one not of decomposition but of reorganization and improved reactionary functioning.

By centring itself on Bologna in place of Milan, fascism is in fact freeing itself from elements like Mussolini - always uncertain, always hesitating as a result of their taste for intellectualist adventures and their irrepressible need for general ideologies - and becoming a homogeneous organization supporting the agrarian bourgeoisie, without ideological weaknesses or uncertainties in action. Compromise tactics must be adopted by revolutionaries to procure moments of respite for the proletariat, and to permit reorganization and improved use of the working-class forces. Socialdemocratic pacifism, however, only benefited the fascist movement. It procured a respite for the fascist movement. It permitted the fascist movement to reorganize itself and eliminate from its own commanding body the uncertain, wavering elements who, at the moment of action, endanger victory by their oppositional attitude.

The situation has become objectively clear. The preaching of nonresistance to evil by the Socialist Party after the Livorno Congress had created many illusions among the working-class masses. The workingclass masses, who conceive of the function of the political party concretely and positively and who continued to put their trust in the Socialist Party after the Livorno Congress, were convinced that the preaching of non-resistance to evil was a tactical camouflage, designed to allow meticulous and thorough preparation of a great strategic initiative against fascism. This explains the great enthusiasm with which the first appearances of the Arditi del popolo were greeted. It was believed by many workers that the preaching of non-resistance to evil had precisely served to allow the Socialist Party and the Confederation to organize meticulously the forces of the Arditi del popolo, and thus give the popular insurrection a solid and compact form. This illusion has now vanished. The great mass of the people must by now be convinced that behind the socialist sphinx there was nothing.

It is true that socialists too (even perhaps the most right-wing) took part in the creation of the first nuclei of the Arditi del popolo. It is nevertheless certain that the lightning speed with which the initiative spread was not the result of a general plan prepared by the Socialist Party, but was simply due to the generalized state of mind in the country - the desire to rise up in arms which was smouldering among the broad masses. This was resoundingly demonstrated by the pacification pact, which could not but cause the movement of proletarian resurgence to stagnate, and could not but bring about a reorganization of the reactionary elements and a new strategy on their part.

By now, the great mass of the Italian people must understand this. All the more so today, after the new events which have occurred in the fascist camp. The assembly of fascists opposed to the concordat at Bologna and the disavowal of Mussolini are clear indications of a renewal of the reactionary offensive on a large scale. Is it possible still to think of continuing with the tactic of non-resistance to evil? The broad proletarian masses must answer this question. What the Communist Party proposes to do is consult the will of the Italian workers and peasants.

There can be no doubt about the reply: battle or death; struggle or annihilation. This is how the problem is inescapably posed.