Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1925

Elements of the situation

Unsigned, L'Unittà, 24 November 1925.

ext 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 importance of the present political moment derives from the fact that it allows us to draw certain general conclusions from the experience of the period of conflicts opened up by the 1924 elections, which reached their greatest degree of acuteness as a result of the Matteotti assassination. It is clear today that the political perspectives outlined by the Communist Party during the course of this period have been fully confirmed, and this confirmation is the best justification for the party's slogans.

The Matteotti "period" - understood in a broad sense as the period of political crisis initiated by fascism after the March on Rome - is characterized by a conflict between the various groups of the bourgeoisie, and by the attempt of a part of the petty bourgeoisie itself to lead the struggle to overthrow the fascist régime, drawing behind itself the other classes mobilized for this struggle, in particular the proletariat and the peasantry. The Aventine policy was the expression of this attempt. Its failure - which today no one can deny - gives fresh proof of the impossibility, in the period of imperialism, of the petty bourgeoisie leading a struggle against reaction, the form and instrument of the dominion of capital and the landowners. The collapse of the Aventine has allowed fascism to achieve a vigorous impetus for its policy,, which should be seen from two basic points of view.

On the one hand, fascism continues with ever greater determination to carry through its plan of organic unification of all the forces of the bourgeoisie under the control of a single centre (leadership of the Fascist Party, Grand Council and government), and has achieved results in this sense which cannot be doubted. The activity aimed at 'fellow-travelling' groups, to eliminate them as autonomous groups and incorporate their remnants into fascism, has now been successful. After the passage of the national-liberals to fascism, there no longer exists outside fascism a centre of forces openly calling themselves reactionary. At the same time, the struggle against the old leading groups continues with increasing bitterness. Its most notable aspect is the struggle against freemasonry, which in Italy was the organization of all the forces which supported and gave cohesion to the State. Fascism has understood the need to arrogate this function integrally to itself. The opposition press, which guaranteed to the remnants of the old leading groups a prestige and influence upon public opinion, no longer carries out that function. Fascism is systematically storming all centres of organized resistance - even partial and Platonic - to its activity. In the economic field, the plan of unification and centralization is being accomplished through a series of measures which aim to guarantee the unchallengeable supremacy of an industrial and land-owning oligarchy, ensuring its control over the whole economy of the country (restoration of the duty on grain; unification of banking; changes in mercantile law; agreements for payment of debts to America, etc.).

The second aspect of fascist policy concerns the repression that is exercised upon the workers, in order to prevent any kind of organization of their forces and to exclude them systematically and permanently from any participation in political life. Particularly worthy of attention at present are the following: 1. fascism's new trade-union policy (the 'Fascist Trade-union Law'); 2. the law on associations, also approved by the Senate; 3. the reform of administrative structures (the institution of the podestà for rural municipalities, and the decision whereby municipal consultative bodies are nominated by the corporations; the exclusion of subversives from the municipal councils in the cities).

It seems at first sight that fascism is chalking up only successes in the realization of its policy. But in fact, its actions are intensifying all the social conflicts more deeply day by day, and are bringing about new shifts and regroupments in which lie the preconditions for an inevitable proletarian renewal. The end of the Aventine will certainly not close the series of attempts by the old ruling classes to impede - even without merging into fascism the rise of the proletariat to the position of dominant class. Indeed, we can see occurring today a vast phenomenon of adjustment and recomposition. The various groups and parties which made up the Aventine, or remained outside both it and fascism, are seeking the positions from which it will be easiest for them to continue to fulfil their counter-revolutionary function. For the proletariat and the Communist Party, the positions of the parties which chained the mass working-class movements to the Aventine are particularly significant.

The Maximalist Party, which was the first to take cognizance of the failure of the- Aventine, is orienting itself ever more decisively for counter-revolution. Witness the propaganda which its leaders are carrying out against the Russian proletarian state, adopting as their own the theses of the reactionary democrats of Western Europe; and witness the adhesion given by Avanti! to the socialdemocratic point of view concerning the advantages of an 'intervention of American capital' in Italy. A complete examination of the attitude of the Maximalist leaders in all the other fields allows a full definition of their position. it corresponds in part, no doubt, to the tendency of certain layers of the working population to consider it sufficient to resist reaction passively, without making any systematic effort to reorganize their own forces, reconstitute a class front or prepare for revolution. The leaders of the Maximalist Party mask their inertia and passivity with empty revolutionary verbalism and extremist poses. The propaganda which they carry out for the constitution of a new political grouping that will assemble some of the débris of the Aventine is the latest form of this verbalism. It is accompanied by a negative activity in those fields in which the activity of a working-class party ought to be carried on today.

An activity analogous to that of the Maximalists is carried on by the Unitary Socialists and Republicans among other strata of the working class and anti-fascist petty bourgeoisie; by the popolari among the rural population; by the Sardists among the agricultural masses of Sardinia; by the National Union and social democracy among those of the South and Sicily. In this way, the formation of a new 'centre' group is being prepared, which will have a function analogous to that which the Aventine had during the Matteotti crisis. For the revolutionary preparation of the proletariat, and the success of the struggle against reaction, it is indispensable that this new formation should be decisively unmasked, forced to reveal its true nature before the masses, and rendered incapable of exercising any influence over them.

The fundamental problem which the Communist Party must set out to resolve in the present situation is that of leading the proletariat back to an autonomous position as a revolutionary class; free from all influence of counter-revolutionary classes, groups and parties; capable of collecting around itself and leading all the forces which can be mobilized for the struggle against capitalism. The Communist Party must, therefore, intervene actively in all fields open to its activity, and must take advantage of all movements, all conflicts, all struggles, even of a partial and limited character, in order to mobilize the proletarian masses and transport the resistance and opposition to fascism of the Italian working population onto a class terrain.

The Communist Party must systematically combat and unmask those groups and political parties which are vehicles for the influence on the proletariat of other classes, and of non-revolutionary social categories. It must strive to remove from their influence even the most backward strata of the working class, so that a united front of class forces may arise from below. This united front must have an organized form, and this is provided by the workers' and peasants' committees. All attempts to create representative mass organisms must be encouraged and developed with tenacity and constancy, as a first step towards practical realization of the united front of workers' and peasants' committees.