Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1922


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 5 May 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 conclusions to be drawn from the way in which this year's First of May demonstration went are comforting.

The demonstration succeeded as an intervention by the masses and an extension of working-class solidarity. It showed that the Italian proletariat is still red, despite reaction. And it also succeeded as a proof of the spirit of combativity reawakening among the ranks of the toilers.

The fascists were concerned to show by their attitude, and by their actual statements, that this was an anti-fascist demonstration. And such indeed was the meaning of the fact that large masses stayed away from work and turned out for the rallies, from one end of Italy to the other, without excepting the areas most hit by fascism. If there were no processions, this was due to the government ban. Had it been possible to hold them, today we would be counting a greater number of workingclass dead, but also a greater number of fascist dead.

However, we must accompany this comforting recognition of the huge size and impressive character of the demonstration, and the high morale of the masses, with a recognition too of what its organization generally left to be desired.

This was not accidental: the united front tactic adopted on this First of May by all the proletarian organisms, as a test of the Italian Alleanza del lavoro, has had one good result and at the same time one disadvantage. Both must be carefully considered by the communists. We shall limit ourselves here to a brief allusion to the question, in connection with the statement put out by the Alleanza del lavoro's Committee after the First of May.

By means of the united front tactic, it was possible to draw great masses of workers to the First of May rallies, even where it was perfectly clear to every individual attending that what was involved was not the habitual and tradition choreography, but a day of struggle. But this demonstration of the proletariat's aversion to reaction and to fascism, and of the class spirit which still animates the broad mass of toilers, is not enough in itself to overcome fascism and reaction. Fascism will not be stifled by platonic expressions of unanimity. Pistols and fists will not be rendered powerless by throwing a mattress over them. Fascism does not have the numbers, but it has organization, united and centralized, and in this lies its strength, integrated into the centralization of the official bourgeois power.

The Alleanza del lavoro, which has today made it possible to assemble vast masses, must become able to organize these and give them a unitary discipline. This is the task of the communists: to achieve this result, towards which only the first step has been taken. When it is possible for major rallies to count on a mass proletarian attendance, and at the same time on a rational preparation of our forces, then the proletariat will be able to dominate its enemies. On this First of May, it was evident that the meetings and demonstrations arranged by the allied organizations suffered from the absence of a little organizational preparation, even simply for the purpose of protecting them from enemy attacks. This circumstance was due to the fact that it was not really clear who had organized the meetings, or worked out the detailed plan for how they should proceed. The local committees of the Alliance have only recently been formed, and they do not have either a clear organizational structure or adequate powers.

Nevertheless, it is already a great advantage to have been able to hold united gatherings of the masses, because this raises proletarian morale and permits the communists to reach the whole proletariat with their plain speaking. If there is a whole further development of this interesting Italian experience of the united front tactic, it will have the effect of complementing this first undeniable advantage by a second: organizational unity of a real and intimate kind.

Some extremely important considerations arise in relation to this question. For the time being, we will only note that the trade-union terrain upon which the Alleanza has been set up allows the communists to press for it to become tighter and tighter organizationally, until it achieves the proletarian tradeunion unity which we have always invoked and which the programme of the Communist Party alone can and must fill with revolutionary content.

For the present, it is necessary to react against the indolent and wavering character which the leadership of the Alleanza del lavoro has had up to now. The communists have already formulated, precisely and concretely, proposals for the development, revitalization and strengthening of the Alleanza - which could, if this campaign is not vigorously prosecuted in parallel with the eloquent experiences of proletarian action, degenerate into bureaucratic and cumbersome diplomacy on the part of hesitant, opportunistic leaders. The urgency of the communist proposals is shown by the Alleanza's passive attitude in the face of the extremely serious provocations to which the workingclass masses were subjected on the First of May. It is also shown, in spite of the invitations to action which reached it from all sides, by its insensitivity to the pressure coming today from the Italian proletariat, which is ready to proceed rapidly along the path of a counteroffensive. And it is shown by that extremely eloquent document, the statement put out by the national committee, which with its flat, banal phrases rejects what the masses panting for struggle suggest. We do not wish to make any further comment on the statement, confident that since the question is now irrevocably placed before the masses, the latter will not fail to make their own comment and judgement - and will draw from this fresh disappointment a new reason to proceed along the arduous but certain road to their resurgence.