Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

The agrarian struggle in italy

Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 31 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.

As the policy being pursued by the landowners in Italy becomes more and more clearly defined, its significance for the workers grows accordingly. The landowners are not just arbiters of the situation in the countryside; indeed, this precisely serves them for other purposes, which are less well known, but far more important from the point of view of their class interests. It is a fact that the landowners today own the banks. To own the banks means, in a word, to hold in one's hands also the destiny of industry. This is how the working class is directly tied to the peasant class, and why the city proletariat must follow attentively all that happens among the workers on the land. The landowners, crushing the peasantry, aim also to obtain the subjugation of the city workers.

In this sense, when speaking of the rural fascism which is centred on the Bologna region, we have always maintained that the workers cannot be indifferent to the way in which the crisis of fascism is resolved. If the peasants continue to be terrorized in the countryside, the workers in their turn will feel the effects of this state of affairs. On the other hand, it is not just violence in the countryside which determines the crisis in the cities. Industry will only be able to take on a normal development, when it is freed from the influence of these adventurers from the land who have become captains of industry, without any specific merit of their own. Can this take place through an evolution of the State's internal policies, i.e. without causing violent clashes and conflicts? The attempt of the Popular Party to modify the relations between peasants and landowners, by seeking to associate labour with capital, can only be doomed to failure. The affair of the cancelled agricultural contracts too shows the impotence of the Popular Party - and of any other party which may follow in its tracks.

In comparison with the popolari, the landowner deputies only represent a small minority. But the effective strength of the landowner deputies in the actual spheres of government surpasses that of the popolari. This is not the place to speak again of the weakness of parliamentary institutions. It is enough to demonstrate that what counts today is not the number of deputies one may have, but the organized strength which one possesses in the country. The landowners are, in this respect, far stronger than the popolari. Does the Treviso episode not tell us that the popolari are prisoners of the landowners or, if not prisoners, impotent in the face of their activity? In Treviso, a Popular newspaper was destroyed; the actual headquarters of the Popular organizations were stormed and sacked. But the popolari, although they have several ministers in what is supposed to be the cabinet, including to cap it all, the minister of justice, did not dare take even the usual measures that are adopted for the most ordinary crimes. Thus the popolari can only defend the interests of the peasants up to a certain point. They can do so only transitorily, i.e. until they come up against the interests of the landowners. This is precisely the case with the cancellations.

Minister Micheli has granted a postponement. This postponement is also supported by the socialists. The attitude of the landowners may drive the two parties - Popular and Socialist - to adopt a clearer position in the sphere of parliamentary collaboration. But this will not stop the landowners from having a preponderant weight in determining the direction of domestic policies. The landowners have direct means at their own disposal for organizing their defence against the working class. They have given proof of this with the organization of fascism in the countryside. They can thus still impose their will upon the peasantry when they want to, even when this means opposing government decisions. Socialists and popolari may, for electoral purposes, show that they are very concerned for the welfare of the peasants. But they do not realize they cannot point to any concrete way of preventing the landowners from carrying through their plans.

The problem of the land is now coming back on to the agenda of Italian politics. Everywhere, the peasant classes are in ferment. A revolutionary party alone (and in Italy that means only the Communist Party) can today understand this problem and fight for a solution to it.

The problem of the land is the problem of revolution, which in Italy is only possible if it coincides with the interests of the peasants and workers. This coincidence is present today. As in April 1920, today once more workers and peasants are united by a common interest in the struggle against exploitation by the employers. The problem of the Italian revolution, therefore, is one of worker and peasant unity. It is essential that this important aspect of the revolution in Italy should not escape the communists.