Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1924

Antonio Gramsci

The programme of L'Ordine nuovo

Antonio Gramsci on behalf of the editors, L'Ordine Nuovo, 1 and 15 April 1924.

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.

Let us begin with a material observation: the first two issues already published of L'Ordine Nuovo have had a circulation (a real circulation) greater than the highest circulation achieved in the years 1919-20. Several conclusions could be drawn from this observation. We will refer just to two: 1. the fact that a journal of the Ordine Nuovo type represents a need that is strongly felt by the Italian revolutionary masses in the present situation; 2. the fact that it is possible to ensure for L'Ordine Nuovo conditions of existence that make it financially autonomous from the general budget of our party - for which it is necessary only to organize the consent that has been spontaneously given, in such a way that it can continue to express itself even if reaction (as is likely) seeks to intervene to stifle it; to prevent any link between L'Ordine Nuovo and its readers; or even, at a certain point, to prevent the journal from being printed in Italy any longer.

The circulation reached by the first two issues can only be due to the position which L'Ordine Nuovo occupied in the first years of its publication, which consisted essentially in the following. 1. In having been able to translate into the historical language of Italy the main postulates of the doctrine and tactics of the Communist International. In the years 1919-20, this meant putting forward the slogan of factory councils and workers' control of production: i.e. the organization of the mass of all producers for the expropriation of the expropriators, and for the replacement of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat in the government of industry - and hence, necessarily, of the State. 2. In having supported within the Socialist Party, which at that time meant the majority of the proletariat, the integral programme of the Communist International and not just some part of it. For this reason, at the Second World Congress, comrade Lenin said that the Ordine Nuovo group was the only tendency of the Socialist Party which faithfully represented the International in Italy. For this reason too, the theses compiled by the Ordine Nuovo editors and presented to the Milan national council meeting of April 1920 by the Turin section, were indicated explicitly at the Second Congress as the basis for revolutionary reorganization in Italy. 112

Our present programme must reproduce, in the situation which exists in Italy today, the position taken up in the years 1919-20. It must reflect the objective situation of today, with the possibilities which are offered to the proletariat for autonomous action, as an independent class. It must continue, in present political terms, the tradition of faithful and integral interpreter of the programme of the Communist International. The urgent problem, the slogan that is necessary today is that of the workers' and peasants' government. It is a question of popularizing it; fitting it to concrete Italian conditions; showing how it springs from every episode in our national life, and how it resumes and contains in itself all the demands of the multiplicity of parties and tendencies into which fascism has disintegrated the political will of the working class, and above all of the peasant masses. This, of course, does not mean that we should neglect the more properly working-class and industrial issues, quite the contrary. Experience including in Italy - has shown how important the factory organizations have become in the present period, from the party cell to the internal commission, i.e. to the representation of the whole mass of workers. We believe, for example, that today there does not exist even a reformist who would argue that in factory elections only unionized workers should have the right to vote. Anyone who remembers the struggles which it was necessary to wage on this question, has a yardstick to measure the progress that experience has compelled even the reformists to make. All the problems of factory organization will therefore be brought back into discussion by us, since only through a powerful organization of the proletariat, achieved with all the methods that are possible under a reactionary régime, can the campaign for a workers' and peasants' government avoid becoming transformed into a repetition of the ... occupation of the factories.

In the article "Against Pessimism" which was published in the last issue., we referred to the line which our party should follow in its relations with the Communist International. This article was not the expression of a single individual, but the result of a whole process of agreement and exchange of opinions among the former editors and friends of L'Ordine Nuovo. Thus before it became a beginning, it was the end-result of the thinking of a group of comrades who must certainly be acknowledged to know the needs of our movement through direct experience and long practice in active work. The article provoked some reactions which did not surprise us, because it is unavoidable that three years of terrorism, and hence of absence of major discussions, should have created a certain sectarian and factional spirit, even among excellent comrades. This observation could lead to a whole series of conclusions: the most important seems to us the fact that a great deal of work is necessary, in order to bring the mass of our party members up to the same political level as has been achieved by the major parties in the International. We are today, in relative terms, as a result of the conditions created by white terror, a little party. But we must consider our present organization, given the conditions in which it exists and develops, as the element that is destined to provide the framework for a great mass party. It is from this point of view that we must see all our problems and judge even individual comrades.

The fascist period is often compared to that of the War. Well: one of the weaknesses of the Socialist Party was the fact that during the War it did not attend to the nucleus of 20 or 25,000 socialists who remained faithful; that it did not consider them as the organizing element for the great masses who would flood in after the Armistice. It thus occurred that in 1919-20 this nucleus was submerged by the wave of new elements; and the organizational practice, the experience, which had been won by the working class in the blackest and hardest years were submerged with it. We would be criminals if we fell into the same error. Each of the present members of the party, because of the selection process which has taken place, and because of the strength of sacrifice which has been shown, must be personally dear to us. He must be helped by the central leadership to improve himself, and to draw from the experience undergone all the lessons and all the implications which it contains. In this sense L'Ordine Nuovo aims to carry out a special function in the general framework of the party's activity.

It is, therefore, necessary to organize the agreement which has already been demonstrated. This is the special task of the old friends of L'Ordine Nuovo. We have said that it will be necessary to collect 50,000 lire in the next six months, the sum necessary to guarantee the review's independent existence. To this end, it is necessary to form a movement of 500 comrades, each of whom will seriously aim to collect 100 lire over the next six months among his friends and acquaintances. We will keep a detailed list of all those elements who are willing to collaborate in our activity: they will be as it were our trustees. The collection of subscriptions can be made up as follows: 1. ordinary subscriptions, whether amounting to a few soldi or to many lire; 2. supporting subscriptions; 3. dues to meet the initial expenses of a correspondence course for party organizers and propagandists: these dues must not be less than 10 lire, and will give the right to have a number of lessons determined by the overall cost of printing and postage.

We think that through this system, we will be able to recreate an apparatus to replace that which existed in 191920 under the democratic régime, by means of which L'Ordine Nuovo kept itself in close contact with the masses in the factories and workers' clubs. The correspondence course must become the first phase of a movement to create small party schools, designed to create organizers and propagandists who are Bolsheviks and not maximalists: who in other words have brains as well as lungs and a throat. We will therefore maintain constant contact by letter with the best comrades - to inform them about the experiments which have been made in this field in Russia and other countries; to orient them; to advise them on books to read and methods to apply. We believe that in particular the comrades in exile should do a lot of work of this kind. Wherever there exists a group of ten comrades in a foreign country, a party school should be created. The older and more skilled elements should be the instructors in these schools. They should bring the younger comrades to share in their experience, and thus contribute to raising the political level of the mass of members.

Certainly, it is not with these pedagogic methods that the great historical problem of the spiritual emancipation of the working class can be resolved. But it is not some utopian resolution of this problem which we are aiming to achieve. Our task is limited to the party, made up as it is of elements who have already - simply by the fact of having joined the party - shown that they have reached a considerable level of spiritual emancipation. Our task is to improve our cadres; to make them capable of confronting the forthcoming struggles. In practice these struggles, moreover, will present themselves in the following terms. The working class, made prudent by bloody reaction, will for a certain time generally distrust the revolutionary elements. It will want to see them engaged in practical work, and will want to test their seriousness and competence. On this terrain too, we must render ourselves able to defeat the reformists, who are undoubtedly the party which today has the best and most numerous cadres. If we do not seek to achieve this, we will never take many steps forward.

The old friends of L'Ordine Nuovo, especially those who worked in Turin in the years 1919-20, understand very well the full importance of this problem. For they remember how, in Turin, we succeeded in eliminating the reformists from their organizational positions only pari passu as worker comrades, capable of practical work and not just of shouting "Long live the revolution", were formed from the factory council movement. They also recall how in 1921 it was not possible to seize certain important positions, such as Alessandria, Biella and Vercelli, from the opportunists, because we did not have organizing elements who were up to the job. Our majorities in those centres melted away, as a result of our organizational weakness. By contrast in certain centres, Venice for example, one capable comrade was enough to give us the majority, after a zealous work of propaganda and organization of factory and trade-union cells. Experience in all countries has shown the following truth: that the most favourable situations can be reversed as a result of the weakness of the cadres of the revolutionary party. Slogans only serve to impel the broad masses into movement and to give them a general orientation. But woe betide the party responsible if it has not thought about organizing them in practice; about creating a structure which will discipline them and make them permanently strong. The occupation of the factories taught us many things in this respect.

To help the party schools in their work, we propose to publish a whole series of pamphlets and a number of books. Among the pamphlets, let us mention: 1. elementary expositions of Marxism; 2. an explanation of the workers' and peasants' government slogan applied to Italy; 3. a propagandist's manual, containing the most essential data concerning Italian economic and political life, the Italian political parties, etc. - in other words, the indispensable materials for simple propaganda to be carried out through collective reading of the bourgeois press. We would like to publish an Italian edition of the Communist Manifesto, with comrade Ryazanov's notes: taken together, these notes are a complete exposition in popular form of our doctrines. We would also like to publish an anthology of historical materialism, in other words a collection of the most significant passages from Marx and Engels, to give a general picture of the works of these our two great teachers.

The results so far achieved authorize us to hope that it will be possible to continue confidently and successfully. To work then! Our best comrades must become convinced that what is involved is a political statement, a demonstration of the vitality and capacity for development of our movement, and hence an anti-fascist and revolutionary demonstration.