Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

The two fascisms

Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 25 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 crisis of fascism, on whose origins and causes so much is being written these days, can easily be explained by a serious examination of the actual development of the fascist movement.

The Fasci di combattimento emerged, in the aftermath of the War, with the petty-bourgeois character of the various war-veterans' associations which appeared in that period. Because of their character of determined opposition to the socialist movement - partly a heritage of the conflicts between the Socialist Party and the interventionist associations during the War period - the Fasci won the support of the capitalists and the authorities. The fact that their emergence coincided with the landowners' need to form a white guard against the growing power of the workers' organizations allowed the system of bands created and armed by the big landowners to adopt the same label of Fasci. With their subsequent development, these bands conferred upon that label their own characteristic feature as a white guard of capitalism against the class organs of the proletariat.

Fascism has always kept this initial flaw. Until today, the fervour of the armed offensive prevented any exacerbation of the rift between the urban petty-bourgeois nuclei, predominantly parliamentary and collaborationist, and the rural ones formed by big and medium landowners and by the farmers themselves: interested in a struggle against the poor peasants and their organizations; resolutely antitradeunion and reactionary; putting more trust in direct armed action than in the authority of the State or the efficacy of parliamentarism.

In the agricultural regions (Emilia, Tuscany, Veneto, Umbria), fascism had its greatest development and, with the financial support of the capitalists and the protection of the civil and military authorities of the State, achieved unconditional power. If, on the one hand, the ruthless offensive against the class organisms of the proletariat benefited the capitalists, who in the course of a year saw the entire machinery of struggle of the socialist trade unions break up and lose all efficacy, it is nevertheless undeniable that the worsening violence ended up by creating a widespread attitude of hostility to fascism in the middle and popular strata.

The episodes at Sarzana, Treviso, Viterbo and Roccastrada deeply shook the urban fascist nuclei personified by Mussolini, and these began to see a danger in the exclusively negative tactics of the Fasci in the agricultural regions. On the other hand, these tactics had already borne excellent fruit, since they had dragged the Socialist Party on to the terrain of flexibility and readiness to collaborate in the country and in Parliament.

From this moment, the latent rift begins to reveal itself in its full depth. The urban, collaborationist nuclei now see the objective which they set themselves accomplished: the abandonment of class intransigence by the Socialist Party. They are hastening to express their victory in words with the pacification pact. But the agrarian capitalists cannot renounce the only tactic which ensures them "free" exploitation of the peasant classes, without the nuisance of strikes and organizations. The whole polemic raging in the fascist camp between those in favour of and those opposed to pacification can be reduced to this rift, whose origins are to be sought only in the actual origins of the fascist movement.

The claims of the Italian socialists to have themselves brought about the split in the fascist movement, through their skilful policy of compromise, are nothing but a further proof of their demagogy. In reality, the fascist crisis is not new, it has always existed. Once the contingent reasons which held the anti-proletarian ranks firm ceased to operate, it was inevitable that the disagreements would reveal themselves more openly. The crisis is thus nothing other than the clarification of a pre-existing de facto situation.

Fascism will get out of the crisis by splitting. The parliamentary part headed by Mussolini, basing itself on the middle layers (white-collar workers, small shop-keepers and small manufacturers), will attempt to organize these politically and will necessarily orient itself towards collaboration with the socialists and the popolari. The intransigent part, which expresses the necessity for direct, armed defence of agrarian capitalist interests, will continue with its characteristic anti-proletarian activity. For this latter part - the most important for the working class - the "truce agreement" which the socialists are boasting of as a victory will have no validity. The "crisis" will only signal the exit from the Fasci movement of a faction of petty bourgeois who have vainly attempted to justify fascism with a general political "party" programme.

But fascism, the true variety, which the peasants and workers of Emilia, Veneto and Tuscany know through the painful experience of the past two years of white terror, will continue - though it may even change its name.

The internal disputes of the fascist bands have brought about a period of relative calm. The task of the revolutionary workers and peasants is to take advantage of this to infuse the oppressed and defenceless masses with a clear consciousness of the real situation in the class struggle, and of the means needed to defeat arrogant capitalist reaction.