Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1922

The "Alleanza del Lavorno"

Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 21 February 1922.

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 leaders of the five most important trade-union organizations among which the Italian proletariat is divided have reached an agreement to set up a united national committee, with the task of realizing a programme of action drawn up on the basis of the minimum demands which form the most elementary connective substance of working-class organization. The Alleanza del Lavoro, thus constituted, represents an undeniable advance over the original conception, which sought to make it into a coalition not just of the various trade-union organizations, but also of the various so-called subversive parties and which thus sought to create in Italy a monstrous simulacrum of the English Labour Party. But despite this advance, for us communists the Alleanza only represents a first step towards realization of the united front programme.

The fact that the official leaders of the trade-union movement should reach agreement, and decide to give a permanent organizational form to their agreement by setting up a unitary national committee, is a historical fact whose importance for Italy we do not wish to belittle. But what would the agreement between the leaders be worth, if it were not based solidly on the agreement of the masses who fill the union ranks? In the case in question, we have seen that both the minority in the Confederation of Labour and the minority in the Unione sindacale italiana - i.e. in each, the supporters of their organization's adherence to the Red Trade-union International - were excluded from the constitutive meeting in Rome (and hence probably also from the committee that will be elected). The committee will have the following complexion: 5 reformists for the Confederation; 1 reformist and 1 anarchist for the Railwaymen's union; 2 anarchists for the Unione Sindacale; 2 syndicalists for the Unione italiana del lavoro; 1 reformist and 1 syndicalist for the Port-workers' Federation. In other words, the Alleanza del Lavoro will be made up of 7 reformists, 3 anarchists and 3 syndicalists. The communists, who certainly represent larger masses in the Italian workers' movement than do the anarchists or syndicalists, will have no representative in the Alleanza del Lavoro. The reformists, on the other hand, will have a majority from the first day. A rational distribution of mandates, in line with congress results, would give one 5 reformists, 2 communists, 2 anarchists and 4 syndicalists.

The fact that it produces situations of this kind is an additional reason why the agreement between the leaders can thus only be the beginning, the first step in an organizational activity that will culminate in the creation of the proletarian united front. Agreement among the leaders must be followed by agreement among the masses: what has happened at the leadership level must be reproduced at the bottom, in the heart of the proletariat, in all the centres where the working class and peasantry are struggling for their existence and their freedom. The national committee of the Alleanza del Lavoro must, if it wishes to live and develop, seek its organizational base in a system of local committees, directly elected by the masses organized in the various union federations. Only the formation of this new organizational system, in which all ideological tendencies which inhabit the working masses can find just representation, will signal the historical phase of the proletarian united front. This is the objective set for communist trade-union activity by the theses which the party's Central Committee will present to the next congress. To achieve it, the communists will work with all their energy as propagandists and organizers.