Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1925

Report to the central committee:

6 february 1925 [158]

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.

Political Situation

At the last meeting of the Central Committee, it was said that the political and general situation was such as to permit the conclusion that the slogan of workers' and peasants' committees might be transformed from an agitational into an action slogan: in other words, it might enter the phase of concrete realization. [159] We stated that the activity of the party and all party bodies must be concentrated on realizing it; but so far we have not achieved any great results in this field.

How then has the political situation developed in this period of time? The opposition forces genuinely thought to bring about an anti-fascist movement, planned to culminate in Milan, which was to overthrow fascism and instal a military dictatorship. But when it became a question of facing up concretely to the execution of this plan, divergences and disagreements appeared within the Committee of Opposition, these were naturally hard to overcome, and in reality nothing serious was accomplished. Fascism, aware of this plan of the opposition forces, reacted With an activity whose culminating point was Mussolini's famous speech. [160] And the government, with new press measures which made it impossible to publish the sensational documents which the opposition had utilized for its campaign among the popular masses, stripped the Aventine of its only strength and beyond any question liquidated the opposition. [161]

The opposition forces had placed hopes in the king; but through their actions, they in fact drove the king to link himself more closely with Mussolini. For the king was afraid of the situation which the opposition was bringing about, so much so that some court elements even advised against the publication of the Rossi Memorandum, which marked the beginning of the fascist counter-offensive. With the hopes of the oppositions thus dashed, their activity was taken over by Giolitti, Salandra and Orlando, who took up a position against the electoral law and around whom there was formed a great democratic -Popular bloc, headed by Giolitti.

Today, the Aventine has finished its historical function. The bourgeois part of it is adopting a new position of its own, and creating a liberal-constitutional centre with its own physiognomy and political programme. Within the Aventine, there still remain elements who want a different outcome. These elements know that the constitutional forces of the Aventine only want to succeed Mussolini, and that they will make use of the Action Committee of the Opposition only as a committee of provocation (which, however, will do very, very little, since Giolitti wants to avoid any violent action). But they think they can remain with the constitutional opposition forces, in order to make use of their financial and material resources, and in order conspiratorially to enlarge and intensify their activity, so as to channel it towards different solutions from those which the constitutional forces are aiming at. Such elements have spoken with us in these terms, and even made us some proposals. We have no confidence in these elements. However, we think it necessary to follow their activity closely, to confront them with concrete problems, and to put to them clearly what our platform of action could be. The forces at the command of these groups are in any case very scanty, consisting of a few republicans, the supporters of Italia libera, the Migliolisti, and a few Unitary Socialists. [162]

The aim of fascism, or rather of Mussolini, is to gain by means of the new electoral law an electoral result similar to that of 6 April last, but in a peaceful manner and on a Mussolinian rather than a fascist platform. Mussolini is relying today, not so much on the extremist elements of his party, as on a reorganization of the General Confederation of Industry which will modify the situation. He really accepts the programme of the fellowtravellers, even if he has separated himself from them in the parliamentary sphere. Freeing himself from the extreme squadrista elements, Mussolini will form a conservative party and, with the new electoral law, will succeed without difficulty in forming a Mussolinian rather than a fascist majority, without physical violence and replacing such violence by fraud.

Among the anti-fascist forces, those of the Confederation are certainly the largest; but the entire tactic of the Confederation is aimed at eliminating the revolutionary forces, in order to give the impression they have disappeared. The tactic of the Confederation, moreover, is making it increasingly clear to the masses how necessary it is that the workers' and peasants' committees should become a reality, since the working-class masses as a class cannot but seek organs and forms in which they can find a political expression of their own. When in 1919 the unions abandoned the class terrain, the masses found their political expression in the Factory Councils; through these, they asserted a will that was different from that which the union leaders expressed through their trade-union bodies. Today, the leaders of the Confederation are once again compelling the workers to seek their own way and means of expression, and for this reason our slogan of workers' and peasants, committees is becoming more vital and real than ever.

The tactics of the Confederation is also creating a tendency not to be unionized, which helps to direct all our work, including in the tradeunion field, towards the organization of workers' and peasants' committees.

The general economic situation, and above all the increase in the price of bread, give us the major themes for our propaganda and our campaign.

In the course of this last period, the party has not been given an opportunity to make proposals to the opposition. In general, the masses no longer believe in the opposition, yet at the same time they have felt that somebody among the opposition forces would be doing something. This is what has produced the state of uncertainty and disintegration which has characterized the recent period, and which has provided unfavourable terrain for any initiative.

An identical situation has also been produced in the parliamentary field. We returned to Parliament in the manner you all know, and then with Grieco's speech, which disproved many legends circulated about us by the opposition and had positive repercussions among the masses. [163] Nevertheless, our last intervention did not have the same success as our first intervention in the Chamber. Parliament has now lost all importance in the eyes of the country, and the very moment of our return had lost much of the dramaticity of the first moment when Parliament reopened. Moreover, the fascists - including even the least intelligent of them - have learnt during this period to become politicians; in other words, they have learnt how to swallow the bitterest of pills in order to achieve particular political ends. This increased the difficulties of our intervention, which from the parliamentary point of view, and as regards the way in which it occurred, did not have great success. We are not yet very skilled in parliamentary techniques.

In conclusion, we may say that this last period has had the value of leading to a greater clarification of the situation and of political positions. Today, we are faced with the formation of the conservative party which will allow Mussolini to remain on in power; with the formation of a liberal-constitutional centre, grouping all the constitutional opposition forces; and with a left represented by our party. All the other groups are gradually losing any importance: they are disappearing and they are destined to disappear. The Aventine has fragmented, though it continues to remain alive more than anything else as a collection of blocs. The popolari have fragmented the Aventine with their assertion that programmatic statements and statements of principle may be made by every individual party among the opposition forces. The Unitary Socialists have situated themselves entirely upon the terrain of constitutionality. As for the maximalists, they can sense that the opposition would like to drive them out, in order to form an electoral bloc which would naturally exclude those political groups which make anticonstitutional statements - even if only of a verbal nature. But the maximalists will do everything possible to find a compromise and remain inside the opposition.

We must maintain relations with those in the opposition who want an insurrection. First of all, because to do so is useful from an informational point of view; but also because it is as well to follow certain emerging currents, which come up with statements like the following: there is no longer any middle way between fascism and communism, and we choose communism. Statements of this kind, apart from having a real value, are also indications not to be ignored of the fragmention which is taking place - and intensifying - within the Aventine.

We are particularly interested in the positions of Miglioli and Lussu. [164] Miglioli is resuming publication of his newspaper, and by his request for funds from us is binding himself to us. He is accepting an editorial board partly composed of our elements. In this paper, which is for the moment remaining a far-left Popular organ, Miglioli will carry, on a campaign in favour of joining the Red Peasants' International. In the organizational field, he will convene peasants' assemblies, in which representatives from us and from the Red Peasants' International will take part. Lussu's attitude too - he is asking to go to Moscow and making interesting statements - indicates a shifting of forces among the mass of peasants that is putting pressure on their leaders; and that is of significance for us.

In general, the disintegration of the Aventine has strengthened the revolutionary tendencies, and reveals a shifting of the masses at the base. In the past months, it has not been possible to obtain evidence of this shift in any organizational form; but it has occurred, and in our direction. It has been molecular in form, but it has occurred.

What practical work must the party carry out on the basis of this examination of the situation? We must intensify activity designed to illustrate to the masses the significance and value of our slogan of workers' and peasants' committees. We must develop political struggle in a form that is clearer to all workers. We must place on the agenda (as concrete preparation and not as an immediate solution) the problem of preparing for insurrection. The last political events mark the beginning of a phase in which insurrection is becoming a possibility. In which it is becoming the only means of expression for the political will of the masses, who have been stripped of every other form of expression. The party has the duty of equipping the masses with the appropriate means.

We must therefore enlarge the bases of our organization. We must organize street cells, which must also have the task of controlling the entire life of the population in the big cities, in such a way that at the right moment we shall be in a position to give those decisive blows which will ensure the success of the insurrection. We must confront the problem of arms, which should be considered from two points of view: the organization of men, and the necessary preparation for acquiring and storing arms (this second part of the problem can be resolved more easily if the party, as a whole, works properly in the street cells). We must indicate to the street cells the political work which they must carry out, including in relation to the slogan of workers' and peasants' committees - which cannot be created solely by the factory workers, but must become mass organisms, with the participation of all the population not grouped in the factories, and with the inclusion of women.

In all our political work, we must observe the fundamental principle: never advance slogans which are too distant from the forces at our disposal; ensure that to every slogan there corresponds real preparation and adequate material.

In addition, it is necessary to enlarge the party centre. It is necessary that the party should be able to have a political Executive Committee at its disposal (in the sense that it should devote itself mainly to the political work which it is necessary to carry out today), and also suitable bodies for organizational work. Our organizational forces are inadequate, and we must tackle the problem of increasing them. The Comintern would like the party to provide a full-timer for every federation. This will not be possible for us at present; but we must at least succeed in creating regional secretaries for all the regions in Italy, and especially for those where the movement is least developed and hence a greater effort and greater sustained activity is necessary.

The work of the cells is inadequate. It is necessary to ensure that every cell makes a report each week to its area; the area should report. fortnightly to the federation; and the federations should send the Executive at least monthly detailed reports on the political work carried out and on the local situation. On the basis of these reports, the Executive Committee should continually dispatch to the federations instructions, information and suggestions aimedat making the work in each locality more extensive, complete and fruitful. This should be the main political work of the Executive within the party membership. Work of an organizational character should be entrusted to other bodies.

When an important slogan such as that of the workers' and peasants' committees is launched, one passes through a whole succession of interpretations. Between the phase of agitation and propaganda and the phase of realization of such a slogan, there lies what one might term a twilight period, which is precisely that which we have defined as one of "little success", but which does not at all mean that the slogan of workers' and peasants' committees has been, or should be, abandoned. After the last events, it has indeed become more radical, and remains our slogan, the centre of our activity, around which we must naturally carry on all the work of agitation to which comrade Valle [Tasca] has referred. I have already given instructions to our federations in this respect. All federations and sections must indeed be charged to study the local situation and the specific needs of the workers in the various localities. This preliminary examination constitutes the party's preparatory work. Next, our local organisms must organize factory assemblies, in which the problems of working-class life can be pointed out; these can then be summed up under the general organizational slogan calling for the creation of workers' and peasants' committees - mass organizations - charged with leadership of working-class struggles and demonstrations. All our work must be carried out in accordance with this orientation.

Certainly, we must stress the needs of the masses - but in order to organize them in a form which synthesizes them, which is that of the workers' and peasants' committees. We must be the motors of this formation; the process is slow, but it is taking place. Already, even now, our propaganda and agitation are coinciding with some first examples of realization, even though these are still uncertain.

As for our trade-union activity among the masses, I consider that it should also be carried out among the nonunionized masses. This faces us with the threat of a trade-union split, which formally we must avoid, but which should not immobilize us. Indeed, we will succeed in overcoming it to the extent that we succeed in ensuring that the movement is led by the workers' and peasants' committees, in the factories and urban [word missing].

As regards the Maximalist Party, comrade Serrati has done the pamphlet, which will be published and distributed. [165] It is certain that we must do something to illustrate the position of the Maximalist Party. In order to bring about great activity on the left of the party, and hasten the party's disintegration, I consider that we should attack the left itself. Serrati is exaggerating when he says that the situation has been totally reversed since the last Central Committee meeting. The opposition bloc did have mass influence; but we know, and have always said, that the bourgeoisie is attached to fascism. The bourgeois and fascism stand in the same relation to each other as do the workers and peasants to the Russian Communist Party.

Serrati. I said totally reversed in the sense of the hopes that were widespread among the masses.

Gramsci. Even this is not true.

Serrati. At least it is more true.

Gramsci. The masses were influenced by the bourgeoisie, but with a great deal of obscurity and confusion. Now, compared with one hundred measures of confusion, ten of clarity represent an advantage for us.

Serrati. You are right.

Gramsci. Today the classes have taken position on a national scale. Fascism has restored to the bourgeoisie class consciousness and organization. In this process of homogenization which has taken place, the working class too has made progress and achieved greater uniformity. The alliance between workers and peasants has taken a step forward; the attitudes of Miglioli and Lussu are an indication of this, and in this sense they have value and merit our attention. Insofar as a new disposition of the country's social forces has been created, we must recognize that there has been progress.

The party's activity has had weaknesses. But one cannot but recognize a notable improvement in the party generally, a greater degree of initiative in the local organizations. The party today is a better instrument of struggle than in the past, and will improve as the movement develops and activity is intensified.

Comrade Longo asks for precise information about the creation of workers' and peasants' committees and the function of cells. He who does not wish to work says: "Give me a precise model and I will start work." In reality, the cells were formed from the moment they began to work. Any definition would only lead to passivity and inaction.

The present situation is one which requires general agitation: the inadequacy of our organization, of course, prevents this. It is necessary to step up our work in all fields of organization and agitation.

As regards the Maximalist Party, I agree with Serrati: we will describe the situation in the Socialist Party to the masses, but for purposes of agitation, as agitation and nothing else.

Trade-union Question

The Trade-union Committee must become a mass organism, leading the working-class masses organized in the General Confederation of Labour and those outside it. Avoiding, of course, splits and clashes with the Confederation, but without renouncing any action for fear of such clashes. We must make use of our trade-union apparatus to generalize, sharpen and lead every moment, until workers' and peasants' committees have been created.

The present rules of the Confederation are designed to prevent any member of the Confederation from becoming a leader of a mass movement. We must thwart this design. The rules of the Confederation will never allow us to conquer this organism: as in Russia, we must create a centralized organization of factory councils which will replace the present trade-union organization for mass mobilization and action.

Our Trade-union Committee will be modified in the sense that comrade Azzario will be replaced by comrade Germanetto. We must say to comrade Azzario that his resolution violated party discipline, or rather party directives. [166] Certainly, the Confederation of Labour was only waiting for a pretext to expel us, and perhaps any resolution would have had the same result as that which was presented. But the first part of that resolution was certainly in contradiction to the directives given by the Trade-union Committee.

We must react against the tendency not to be unionized which the General Confederation of Labour's action has certainly helped to encourage among the workers.

Trotsky Question

The resolution should refer to the question of Bolshevizing all parties, a question put on the agenda for the Enlarged Executive meeting. [167] It should contain an exposition of Trotsky's thought: his predictions about American super-capitalism, which will apparently have a European arm in England and bring about a prolonged enslavement of the proletariat under the dominance of American capital. [168] We reject these predictions, which by postponing the revolution indefinitely would shift the whole tactics of the Communist International, which would have to go back to mere propaganda and agitation among the masses. They would also shift the tactics of the Russian State, since if one postpones the European revolution for an entire historical phase - if, in other words, the Russian working class will not for a long time be able to count on the support of the proletariat of other countries it is evidence that the Russian revolution must be modified. This is why the democracy advocated by Trotsky meets with so much favour.

The resolution should also say that Trotsky's conceptions, and above all his attitude, represent a danger inasmuch as the lack of party unity, in a country in which there is only one party, splits the State. This produces a counter-revolutionary movement; it does not, however, mean that Trotsky is a counter-revolutionary, for in that case we would ask for his expulsion.

Finally, lessons should be drawn from the Trotsky question for our party. Before the last disciplinary measures, Trotsky was in the same position as Bordiga is at present in our party: he played a purely figurative role in the Central Committee. His position created a tendentially factional situation, just as Bordiga's attitude maintains an objectively factional situation in our party. Although Bordiga is formally correct, politically he is wrong. The Italian Communist Party needs to regain its homogeneity, and to abolish this potentially factional situation. Bordiga's attitude, like that of Trotsky, has disastrous repercussions. When a comrade with Bordiga's qualities withdraws, a distrust of the party is created among the workers, which leads to defeatism. Just as in Russia, when Trotsky took up this attitude, many workers thought that everything was in danger in Russia. Fortunately, it became clear that this was not true.

Notes from Antonio Gramsci "Selections from political writings (1921-1926)")

158 This Central Committee meeting took place on the eve of Gramsci's departure for Moscow, where he was to participate in the Enlarged Executive meeting of the Comintern.

159 In the autumn of 1924, the Communist Party leadership launched the slogan of Workers' and Peasants' Committees. These were explicitly linked to the 1919-20 factory councils, and were seen as the organizational form which could realize the united front among the masses: "Before fascism is driven from power, the Italian political crisis will no doubt take on much deeper forms than it has done hitherto. The question of power will be placed before the workers and peasants in a direct and immediate way. And they will be in a much better position to resolve it if they have already given birth to organisms in which class unity is realized" (PCI internal bulletin, October 1924). Gramsci referred to these committees in a speech to the communists of Lazio (24 November) as "a basis for the creation of soviets".

160 i.e. the speech of 3 January 1925, see note 154 above.

161 For the documents in question - the Rossi and other memoranda - see note 154 above. The press laws in question were adopted in July 1924, but not used to the full until the beginning of 1925, when Mussolini's speech on 3 January was followed by a new wave of repression aimed at the Aventine opposition forces.

162 For republicans, see note 92 above. Guido Miglioli was leader of the catholic unions among the dairy farms of southern Lombardy. A left catholic deputy, he was attacked and badly hurt by fascists during the May 1921 election campaign, after sharing a platform with a communist speaker. In June 1922, during the fascist campaign to smash the catholic unions (see note 129 above), he was once again the object of an attack and his house in Cremona was burned down, leading to the fall of the Facta government and the "legalitarian strike" (see note 144 above). Leader of the left wing of the Popular Party, Miglioli was expelled in June 1925. For Italia Libera, see note 97 above.

163 On 12 November 1924 (see note 155 above), the communists formally returned to parliament. Just one deputy, Repossi, entered the chamber, read out a statement of principles which publicly accused the government of complicity in the Matteotti Affair, then left at once. Grieco spoke on 14 January 1925, in a parliamentary debate on fascist proposals for a new electoral law. This marked the real - as opposed to purely formal - return of the communist deputies to parliament.

164 For Miglioli, see note 162 above. Emilio Lussu led the anti-fascist wing of the Sardinian Action Party which split in 1922 when the fascists came to power. His followers were a small component of the Aventine opposition. Exiled in 1926, Lussu returned to revive the party during the Resistance (1943-5).

165 Serrati and 2,000 "IIIrd-internationalists" fused with the Communist Party (which in this period grew in a few months from 12,000 to 20,000) in August 1924. The pamphlet referred to here was entitled "The situation of the Socialist Party (Open letter to a socialist worker of good faith)".

166 In December 1924, the CGL held its Congress in Milan. Of 269,754 members (at least on paper), 15 3,5 96 votes went to the reformists (PSU), 54,792 to the maximalists (PSI), 33,596 only to the communists, who challenged the validity of the vote. On 29 and 30 January 1925, the Confederation organized a conference to discuss the way forward. After a PCI motion attacking the Aventine and reformism, the communist delegates were ejected. On 5 February the CGL formally expelled all communists from membership. As the comrade in charge of trade-union work, Azzario was responsible for the content of the motion.

167 The Vth Congress of the Communist International had decided on the "Bolshevization" of all communist parties in order to strengthen discipline and centralization and combat "factionalism ". The Comintern was thus to become a "true world party, homogeneous, communist, Bolshevik, Leninist". The model was to be the Russian party, after the defeat of the 1923 Opposition had been consecrated at the Thirteenth Congress (see note 148 above). The parties were to be reorganized on the basis of factory cells (as the Comintern Presidium had proposed as early as February 1924). The Enlarged Executive meeting in Moscow in March-April 1925 was to review the progress made in the Bolshevization campaign during the preceding year, and in particular to coordinate the struggle against "Trotskyism". (The struggle in the Russian party had exploded into the open again following the publication of Trotsky's The Lessons of October in October 1924; prevented from expressing his political positions outside the Politburo after the Thirteenth Congress, Trotsky had taken the opportunity offered him by the publication of a volume of his 1917 writings to include an introduction which contained, inter alia, embarrassing references to Zinoviev's and Kamenev's opposition to the insurrection of October 1917, and which defended his own record - which had been under attack in the press campaign against him before the Thirteenth Congress.)

168 The reference is to Trotsky's speech of 28 July 1924, published in Izvestia on 5 August under the title "The Premisses for the Proletarian Revolution". Trotsky argued that hegemony among the capitalist powers was passing into the hands of the United States, which would therefore be the arbiter of all attempts by the European governments, above all that of Germany, to stabilize their currencies and redress their economic situations. He depicted European social-democracy as American capitalism's ally in establishing its world domination, and suggested that the former's prospects were dependent above all upon the latter's success. But "the more American capitalism expands internationally, the more commands the American bankers issue to the governments of Europe, all the greater, all the more centralized, all the more resolute will be the resistance of the broadest masses of Europe". America "needs to secure her profits at the expense of the European toiling masses . . . without the American labour aristocracy, American capitalism cannot maintain itself ... it is possible to keep the American labour aristocracy in its privileged position only by placing the 'plebeians', the proletarian 'rabble' of Europe on rations of cold and hunger.... The further this development unfolds along this road ... all the more urgent, all the more practical and warlike will the slogan of the all-European revolution and its state form - the Soviet United States of Europe - become for the European workers.... As against the little English isle, which rests on colonies all over the world, America is mighty. But we say: As against the