Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1926

We And The Republican Concentration

Unsigned, L’Unità, 13 October 1926.

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.

In the article which we reported on at length yesterday, Voce Repubblicana seeks to convince us to replace our analysis of the Italian situation and our perspectives by its own fossilized models. The Voce’s model is as follows: the ‘Republican Concentration’ should be seen by the communists as a favourable element for its own game [sic], because it is potentially capable of breaking the present equilibrium and endowing political struggle with a rapid tempo, pregnant with possibilities. In short, we ought to reason as follows. Before the October Revolution, there was the February Revolution. Before Lenin, there was Kerensky. Come on then! Conscious Communists, let us set about looking for the Italian Kerensky. Who will it be? Who will it not be? Found him. It will be Arturo Labriola, the theorizer of the "Republican Concentration".

Well, this whole way of reasoning proposed by Voce seems enormously puerile to us. We communists do not have any "game", we are not "playing" with history. We seriously want to do a great deal, and do not have any pre-arranged model to apply, not even the Russian model. We have principles; a doctrine; concrete ends to achieve. It is only in relation to our principles, our doctrine and the ends to be achieved that we establish our real political line. Our ‘Machiavelli’ is the works of Marx and Lenin, not the editors of Voce Repubblicana and Hon. Arturo Labriola - who, in any case, only resemble Master Nicolò Machiavelli in the sense of the well-known lines:

Behind the tomb of Machiavello
Lie the bones of Stenterelo

For us, the form which our relations with the Republican Concentration should take is clear. In Italian society, which has attained the highest degree of capitalist development which it historically could attain, given the conditions of time and place, only one class is revolutionary in a complete and permanent sense: the industrial proletariat. But as a result of its specific development, the specific national conditions of capitalist development, Italian society has conserved many relics of the past: a whole series of institutions and political relations which weigh on the situation and clouded fundamental lines. In other countries too, where capitalist forces are far more developed than in Italy, ancient institutions and political relations survive. In England, there is the monarchy, despite the fact that 85 per cent of the population is industrial. In England, the Church is a very powerful institution, even if it is not formally centralized like the Vatican. In England, the Upper Chamber carries out a function of prime importance, especially when the Conservative Party does not have a majority in the House of Commons. Shall we, therefore, say that England is a backward, pre-capitalist, semi-feudal country? And again: in England there is no republican party, although the monarchy exists. This means that the republican party does not necessarily exist and develop because there is a monarchy; but because there exist a class and considerable social groups which find the republican terrain most suitable for defending their own position and their own class or group interests.

However, we recognize that in the Italian situation the specific weight of the "relics" mentioned earlier is greater than in other countries. Precisely for this reason, within the general world situation there exists a specific Italian situation: in other words, a situation in which there exist certain peculiar features; in which the fascist government exists and not that of Baldwin or that of Poincaré - to express ourselves like the

Seigneur de La Palice. So the question is the following: what assessment should we make of the specific weight of the "relics" peculiar to Italy? They exist, they must be overcome. We are in agreement about that. But do they represent the content of the historical work of a whole epoch, a whole generation or more than a generation? Are they the main item on the agenda which history implacably compels us to complete? Or are they not rather only details, secondary aspects of our hard historical work? This is the problem that is posed. For us, the content of the historical work imposed upon the present generations is the realization of socialism. On the arduous and difficult road leading to this realization, we find corpses to be buried, relics to be brushed aside. We must do this, and we will do it because it is necessary. But there is one particular corpse which we have the specific task of burying: that of capitalism. And one road which we have to open up: that which leads to socialism. This is our specific duty, and nothing else. As we proceed along this road, we shall attend to the secondary tasks and questions of detail.

The Republican Concentration expresses these secondary questions of detail in the Italian situation. We recognize the existence and relative weight of the issues which it raises. Therefore, we pay attention to the Concentration, we discuss with its representatives, we have sought and will in all probability continue to seek a relationship of alliance with it. But if we take into consideration the historically positive sides of this political current, we cannot and must not hide from ourselves or from the proletariat its negative sides. Two classes face each other today: proletariat and bourgeoisie. The present situation is determined by the fundamental struggle between these two classes. But neither of these two classes is isolated; each has real and potential allies. The bourgeoisie has the upper hand because it is helped by its allies, because it has at its disposal a system of forces which it controls and leads. The proletariat struggles partly in order to take these allies away from the bourgeoisie and make them into its own auxiliary forces.

The Republican Concentration is the political expression of this oscillation of the intermediate forces; of this latent disequilibrium of the forces which will decide the outcome of the historic duel between the two fundamental classes. If these forces shift en masse, if there is a social landslide of the intermediate layers towards the Republican Concentration, the bourgeoisie as a "class" will at once shift onto the same terrain and will become republican in twenty-four hours. For it will not want to remain isolated, and will understand that only by moving in this way could it preserve its essential positions. The Voce is touchingly naive when it invokes the attitude of the left groups of the anti-fascist bourgeoisie (Popolari and Constitutional Democrats). Today in Germany, the President of the Republic is called Hindenburg and the Prime Minister is called Dr. Marx, of the Catholic Centre: it is very probable that as recently as October 1918, neither one of them thought to become the Head of State or Prime Minister of a German Republic.

For (and this is the point) when could the social landslide of the intermediate layers occur? It could only occur in the event of a menacing renewal of the proletariat’s revolutionary energies; only if capitalism showed itself incapable of satisfying any longer the essential needs of national life. But we believe that precisely at that moment it is necessary for the proletariat to be politically and ideologically united as a class, so that it will be able to resolve its essential problems - coordinating them naturally with the solution of the other national questions linked to classes and social groups which will fight at its side.

There: we are working for the proletariat to be the ruling class in a renewed Italian society. The Republican Concentration is working to subordinate the proletariat to other social forms - which in practice can only be capitalism, because only one of these two classes can govern the country. On this terrain, no Machiavellism - whether an old or a new brand - will succeed in disturbing the limpidity of the relationships which fascism has so brutally created. Only one republican concentration has a ‘permanent’ and historically stable perspective of success in Italy today: that which has the proletariat as its fundamental axis. Our party has seen the problem in its full dimensions since June 1923, and it is no accident that the present ‘concentrationists’ have only marked time.