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Gramsci Rejected the Ideas of Trotsky
Jose Antonio Egido
Below we give two extracts of the recent book on Gramsci by Jose Antonio Egido which is entitled ‘Hands of Comrade Gramsci!’. These argue that Gramsci consistently supported the political line of the majority of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party which was led by J.V. Stalin and opposed the party factions led by Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky. Later, as is now clear the Russian opposition turned to policies of individual terrorism. Egido details the views of the leader of the Communist Party of Italy based on his writings and shows that the attempt to appropriate the political, ideological and theoretical heritage by the supporters of Trotsky has no historical basis. Indirectly the facts provided by Egido show that the connection between Gramsci and those who function in the spirit of the 20th Congress of the CPSU is wholly exiguous. It must needs be noted that the presentation of the writings of Gramsci internationally took place by the adherents of Soviet revisionism and that this has had enormous consequences for the contemporary interpretations of the life and work of the Italian leader.
Gramsci completely rejects the ideas of Trotsky
Although Trotskyism shamelessly attempts to appropriate Gramsci as it regularly does of such known anti-Trotskyists as Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, the Italian communist firmly opposed the theory of “permanent revolution” and other positions defended by Trotsky. The Italian Trotskyist Roberto Massari states proudly that “there can be no doubt about Gramsci's convinced adherence to the general positions of Trotsky”1 in 1924. His ideological comrade Livio Maitan states that the Trotskyists “have the right and duty to vindicate the essence of Gramsci s work.”2 Corvisiera presents Gramsci as nothing less than Trotsky’s man in Italy. They are another group of manipulators.
Moreover, what the bourgeois falsifiers carefully hide is that Gramsci adhered completely to the thesis of “socialism in one country” maintained by Lenin and Stalin. In 1922 Trotsky defended the need for the confrontation of the proletariat in power with “the vast peasant masses.”3 As Arico writes, “Trotsky’s theses, imbued with a deep distrust of the peasant masses, tend to place the burden of the coercion of a proletarian minority on the peasants and the coercion of a military character on the proletariat itself that can only lead to defeat.”4 This thesis clashes head-on with that of Lenin of an alliance between the proletariat and the toiling strata of the countryside and with that of Gramsci of building a Historic Bloc formed by an alliance of workers, peasants and intellectuals. Trotsky’s thesis is to wait for the victory of the revolution in the West that would take place some time in the future in order to consolidate socialism, but Gramsci, who saw the crushing of the rebellion of the Turin workers in August 1917, knows that this position is incorrect. In fact, the Western European bourgeoisie crushes mercilessly and in blood the successive worker revolts and democratic and revolutionary movements from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the Spanish Republican government of the Popular Front in 1939, including the uprisings of 1907 in Barcelona, of northern Italy in 1917 and 1919, of Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Hungary and Finland, of Asturias in 1934, of Vienna, etc. Gramsci confronts Trotsky to the degree that the latter continues to radicalize his opposition to the majority of the leadership of the Soviet Party and the International. In 1922 the Italian responds with a brief letter lacking, clearly, any affection, to a question that the Russian makes to him on Italian futurism.5
Further on, the Sardinian [Gramsci] passes from coldness to confronting Trotsky’s positions. In his “Letter to Togliatti, Terracini and others” in 1924 he makes clear the evidence that Trotsky never belonged to the group of Russian Bolsheviks of Lenin, Stalin, Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev, etc. He notes that Trotsky had been close to the Mensheviks of Plekhanov, that is, the Russian reformists: “in organizational matters he (Trotsky) frequently joined or even merged with the Mensheviks.”6 Lenin fully confirms Gramsci’s view when in 1910 he (Lenin) denounces Trotsky’s ties with the Mensheviks: “In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated electoral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., he was in fact once more with the Mensheviks); and in the spring of 1907, at the London Congress, he said that he differed from Rosa Luxemburg on ‘individual shades of ideas rather than on political tendencies’.”7 In 1914 Lenin states: “At the end of 1903, Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik.”8 In another article of 1911 Lenin denounces the fact that “It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue, because Trotsky holds no views whatever.”9 In 1912 Trotsky is still fighting against the Bolsheviks, forming, as Lenin says, “a bloc of the liquidators, Trotsky, the Letts, the Bundists and the Caucasians.”10
Gramsci knows perfectly well that Trotsky not only is not a Bolshevik, but that he is a historic enemy of the views and policies of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
At the First National Conference of the Party at Lake Como in May of 1924 he publicly expressed his criticism of Trotsky’s opposition to the majority of the Bolshevik party, repeating the condemnation that the Soviet Communist Party had made that same month of the positions of that same leader who is still within the Party.
In November of 1924 he criticized Trotsky’s work entitled Lessons of October.
At the Central Committee meeting of February 7, 1925, he condemns the opposition mounted by Trotsky against the Bolshevik party as being objectively a “counter-revolutionary movement."11 On July 22, 1925, he publishes in L 'Unita (Unity) the note “Dotting the i’s”12 in which he accuses Trotsky of having an “individualist conception" like that of Bordiga. Bordiga’s and Trotsky’s positions against the International became closer: on July 4, 1925 L'Unita publishes an article of the ultra-leftist Neapolitan [Bordiga] in solidarity with Leon Davidovich [Trotsky], which states that the latter is one of the “most worthy to be at the head of the revolutionary party.”13 Subsequently the leader Scoccimarro accuses Bordiga of allying with Trotskyism.
In 1926 he reiterates the criticism of Trotskyist conceptions.14 In October of 1926 Gramsci, already co-secretary general of the PCI, writes a long letter to the CC of the Communist Party of the USSR alarmed by the crisis that has broken out between its majority, then led by Stalin and Bukharin, and its minority led by Kamenev, Zinoviev and Trotsky.
Gramsci behaves with revolutionary responsibility by warning that the class enemy, imperialism, hopes that the internal crisis would lead the Revolution to a “catastrophe” and to the end of the workers’ state.
He states that “the masses of our parties see and want to see a fighting unity (within the CPSU) that would work in the general perspective of socialism." Gramsci calls on the Soviet leaders not to destroy the great revolutionary work. However Gramsci does not take a position equidistant between the two groups: he condemns the minority in the harshest terms and supports the majority unambiguously: “The attitude of the opposition affects the entire political line of the CC... we consider the political line of the majority of the CC of the Communist Party of the USSR to be fundamentally correct." He continues writing: “In the ideology and practice of the opposition bloc there is fully reborn the whole tradition of social democracy and syndicalism...." As a leader of the CI [Communist International] Gramsci feels on equal terms with the Soviet comrades so that he can give them advice and requests: “Only a firm unity and firm discipline in the party that governs the workers’ state can ensure proletarian hegemony.” Politely and even fraternally but firmly, he condemns the attitude of the opposition leaders: “Comrades Zinoviev, Trotsky and Kamenev have contributed mightily to educate us for the revolution, several times they have corrected us very energetically and severely and have been our teachers. We direct ourselves especially to them, as the main ones responsible for this situation....” Given the seriousness of the situation Gramsci recalls that “every communist and internationalist must be willing to make the greatest sacrifices.15
Unfortunately the opposition ignored Gramsci’s demands and insisted on their factional anti-party activity and activity against Soviet Socialism until they were isolated and defeated.
Also in 1926 the Theses of Lyon were prepared for the Third Party Congress. Thesis number 32 explicitly condemns the existence of factions or groups within the party, as Trotsky defends. It states that “the existence and struggle of factions are in fact incompatible with the essence of the proletarian party, whose unity suffers in this manner, leaving the way open to the influence of other classes.”16 At the above-mentioned Congress the extreme left, led by Bordiga, is defeated and he reacts by building an opposition faction. To which Gramsci, as the highest leader of the Party, responds by writing: “The loyalty of all elements of the Party to the Central Committee should be not only a purely organizational and disciplinary act, but a true principle of revolutionary ethics.” Gramsci calls for converting the party into a “homogeneous bloc,” to not question the authority of the Central Committee between congresses and to quell factional initiatives.17 For him this is the only way to beat the “class enemy.” The clarity of the article does not prevent the Trotskyist manipulator Livio Maitan from boldly saying that Gramsci “continues to reaffirm the right to a tendency.”l8
In the article “The Individual Man and the Mass Man,” written in prison, probably in 1930, Gramsci once again harshly attacks Trotsky: “It could be said that Bronstein (that is, Trotsky), who presents himself as ‘pro-Western, ’ was in fact a cosmopolitan, that is, superficially national and superficially pro-Western or European. On the other hand Ilych (that is, Lenin) was profoundly national and profoundly European. Bronstein recalls in his memoirs that it was said that his theory had shown its correctness... after fifteen years... actually, his theory as such was not good either fifteen years before or fifteen years after.”19
In another article written in prison he is outraged that Trotsky accuses the Italian Marxist theorist Labriola of “dilettantism” and he considers that “this unconsciously reflects his pseudo-scientific pedantry,”20 which is, of course, the typical behaviour of Trotsky and a characteristic feature of his few followers, which is, “permanent.”
In the article “Rationalization of Production and Labour,” Gramsci again attacks Trotskyism for what he calls “the tendency of Leon Davidovich” to “accelerate discipline and order in production by external, coercive means,” and the “erroneous” form of applying coercion.21
Togliatti writes that in 1930, when Gramsci learns that a comrade, imprisoned as he is, is tempted to fall under Trotskyist influence, without being able to carry out a long discussion, launches “in the prisons the significant slogan: ‘Trotsky is the whore of fascism’.”22
The Trotskyists respond to Gramsci’s criticisms with rather base slanders: a certain Claudio Villa of the current “The Militant” reproaches him for his alleged “theoretical and political limitations” and that “the idealist vein of Gramsci replaces the scientific analysis of Trotsky.”
Another Trotskyist slanderer accuses Gramsci of having promoted “confusion in his theory” for not having confronted “Stalin,” that is, the Bolshevik party. This individual dares to write that Gramsci’s last letter “before being taken prisoner was a protest aimed at Togliatti about the bureaucratic treatment by Stalin towards the ‘Left Opposition’.”23 Another Trotskyist states that the “inconsistency” of Gramsci’s criticism of Trotsky is due to the fact that that the Italian “very probably” did not know Trotsky’s articles on the “permanent revolution.”24 What bothers the Trotskyists is his open and clear support for the Bolshevik line of the CPSU, which they paint in this malicious manner: “Between 1924 and 1926 Gramsci was uncritical and conformed to the Stalinist bureaucracy that put an end to the system of internal democracy in the Bolshevik Party.25
It Is Completely False That Gramsci Had Opposed the Misnamed “Stalinism”
At no time, neither in freedom nor in captivity, did Antonio make any critical judgment, much less condemnation of the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, which since 1926 was centred around Comrade Joseph Stalin. Macchiocchi clearly says this in his book: “Gramsci Approves ‘Stalin’s Line’.”25
Whom he condemned with increasing force was the opposition within the communist leadership. He says this ill-humouredly to Togliatti who is in Moscow and who has not understood the letter sent by him to the Soviet comrades in relation to the struggle between the majority and the opposition: “All our observations are directed against the opposition (he is referring to Trotsky and Zinoviev).”26 In October 1927 when the reports for the 15th Congress of the Bolshevik Party were being prepared, the vast majority of members, 740,000, voted in favour of the positions of the Central Committee and only 4,000 in favour of the Trotskyist and Zinoviev bloc.
Gramsci knew this fact while he was already in prison and greeted the victory of the Central Committee in unequivocal terms. In his article from prison written after 1932 “Rationalization of Production and Labour,"he says the following: “Given the general approach of all the problems related to his trend (that of Trotsky), this would necessarily lead to a form of Bonapartism: hence the inexorable need to crush his trend. His concerns were correct but his practical solutions were profoundly erroneous... the principle of direct and indirect coercion in the organization of production and labor is correct; but the form that it took was erroneous; the military model had become for him a disastrous prejudice.”25
It is clear that Gramsci, in defending the need to crush Trotsky’s group, is defending the majority of the Party led in 1926 by Stalin, Bukharin, Rykov, Dzerzhinsky, Tomsky, Voroshilov, Orjonikidze, Kalinin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Malenkov, Zhdanov, Budyonny, Mikoyan and other old Bolsheviks. In 1927, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev are expelled from the Party. Two years later Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky are removed from the country’s political leadership.
Gramsci invariably supports the majority that is being forged with Stalin as the central nucleus. In his article from prison entitled “Internationalism and National Policy,” he supports the positions of Stalin, whom he calls in code Giuseppe Bessarione, the Italian translation of Joseph Vissarionovich, the real name of this leading comrade, in order to confuse his ignorant censors. Gramsci insists on the dialectical unity between the international and the national. Against the positions of Trotsky, he defends those of Lenin, Stalin and the Bolsheviks on the importance of considering the national aspect of the strategy of the working class, which is also an international class. He ends his reasoning once again by attacking Trotsky and his erroneous conception of the “permanent revolution,” which Lenin considers “absurdly Left”:25 “The theoretical weaknesses of this modern form of the old mechanism are unmasked by the general theory of the permanent revolution, which is nothing but a generic forecast presented as a dogma and which destroys itself by the fact that it does not show itself in fact or in reality.’25
It is deeply disturbing to the Trotskyists and to the bourgeois that Stalin’s articles exercised a “profound influence” on the process of maturation of the leader Gramsci between 1924 and 1926, as his comrade Togliatti observed.25 Emilio Sereni, the theoretician and leader of a not yet degenerated PCI, observes similar elements between Gramsci’s Notebooks and the ideas of Soviet leader Andrei Zhdanov, expressed on the book History of Philosophy by Aleksandrov.25
The Soviets never abandoned Gramsci during his terrible captivity in the fascist prisons. Gramsci’s nephew, the musician Antonio Gramsci Jr. revealed in his book The Russia of My Uncle, that the Soviet leaders continually provided funds to Gramsci’s sister-in-law Tatiana Schultz that covered all his material needs and so that she could continue to look after the prisoner.25 They also tried an exchange with fascist prisoners but this did not materialize. The French Communist intellectuals Vaillant-Couturier and Barbusse created a Committee for the Freedom of Antonio, which had the sympathy of the International and the USSR.
On July 17, 2003, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera printed a previously unpublished letter sent by Gramsci’s wife and her sister to Stalin in December 1940, requesting that the USSR publish the Prison Notebooks. The letter reveals that Gramsci had full confidence in Stalin and his party as chief representatives of world communism.25
Gramsci and Scoccimarro make great contributions to the political struggle against Trotskyist deviationism so detrimental to the revolutionary struggle of the working class.
Source: Jose Antonio Egido, ¡Manos fuera del camarada Antonio Gramsci! Templando El Acero, 2013.
Translated from the Spanish by George Gruenthal.
1. Roberto Massari, “Trotsky and Gramsci,” In Defense of Marxism, No. 13, July 2006.
2. Livino Maitan, “The Revolutionary Marxism of Antonio Gramsci,” written in 1987, http://www.lcrlagauche.be/cm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&Itemid=53&id=738
3. Written in his 1922 preface of his book 1905.
4. Notes on Machiavelli, on Politics and on the Modern State, Lautaro, Buenos Aires, 1962, p. 56.
5. The letter is available in French at http://www.marxists.org/francais/gramsci/works/1922/09/gramsci_090822.htm
6. “Letter to Togliatti, Terracini and Others,” Antologia, edited by Manuel Sacristan, Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1970, p. 137.
7. Lenin, “The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia,” Collected Works, Vol. 16.
8. Lenin, “Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity,” Collected Works, Vol. 20.
9. Lenin, “Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform,” Collected Works, Vol. 17.
10. Lenin, “The Break-Up of the ‘August’ Bloc,” Collected Works, Vol. 20.
11. Gramsci and the Revolution in the West [Gramsci y la Revolucion de Occidente], Maria Antonieta Macchiocchi, Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1976, p. 96.
12. Antonio Gramsci. The Building of the Communist Party 1922-26 Antonio Gramsci. La construccion del Partido Comunista 1922-1926], Dedalo Editions, Madrid, 1978, p. 119.
13. See the complete letter at http://www.marxists.org/francais/bordiga/works/1925/02/bordiga_19250208.htm
14. The Building of the Communist Party, pp. 329-330.
15. “Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Soviet Union,” October 14, 1926, Antologia, op. cit., pp. 200-207.
16. Gramsci and the Revolution in the West, op. cit., p. 334.
17. In a report published by L ’Unita on February 24, 1926, Antonio Gramsci, The Building of the Communist Party... op. cit. , p. 152.
18. Livio Maitan, “The Revolutionary Marxism of Antonio Gramsci” [“Le marxisme revolutionaire de Antonio Gramsci”], written in 1987, http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&Itemid=53&id=738
19. Antologia, p. 284.
20. “Antonio Labriola,” Antologia, p. 382.
21. Notes on Machiavelli..., op. cit., p. 300 and 301
22. Palmiro Togliatti, Gramsci, Riuniti, 1967, Rome, p. 36.
23. Chris Harman, “Antonio Gramsci: Anti-Capitalist Leader,” http://www.enlucha.org/site/?q=node/15832
24. “The Revolutionary Marxism...”, op. cit.
25. Claudio Villa “Antonio Gramsci and the Italian Revolution”, Frederick Engels Foundation, http://www.fundacionfedericoengels.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=149:antonio-gramsci-y-la-revolucion-italiana&catid=49:marxismo-hoyno11&Itemid=101