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Vanek Source: The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Mar., 1965), pp. 1-17 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1874561 Accessed: 08/07/2010 19:56
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PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
WILDA M. VANEK
the evolution of Italy in two brief but crucial periods: the four years between V OLUMINOUS though the literature is on the rise and consolidation the end of World War I and the acof fascism in Italy, in many places cession of Mussolini; and the gradual the historical balance has not yet come extension of Fascist control over the to rest, and many questions remain in- Italian state from 1922 through 1925. Piero Gobetti was both typical and adequately explored. For instance, in what direction lay the aspirations of atypical of the youth of his generation. Italian youth in the time between World Important in his formation was the enWar I and the advent of fascism? What vironment of Turin, where he was born questions most concerned intellectuals in in 1901, the only child of a small shopthat period? What was their course of keeper. He grew up in one of the great action after the March on Rome but be- industrial cities of northern Italy in the fore the Fascist government became fully period of its expanding prosperity before totalitarian, that is, in the years between World War I and during the period of war production. Turin was also the Ital1922 and 1925? It is on matters such as these that the ian city most culturally oriented toward life and work of Piero Gobetti can shed the rest of western Europe, and this also light. Gobetti's name is virtually un- affected the development of young Goknown in the United States. In Italy, he betti, who was intellectually rather than has been remembered as the bold young mechanically inclined. liberal on the Left who dared to oppose At the end of the war in November Mussolini unceasingly and paid for it 1918, Gobetti was seventeen and had with his life. just matriculated at the University of This political image hides the greater Turin. That such a youth should asmagnitude of Gobetti's work and, in semble a group of others who would some sense, its more profound valu,e as throw themselves into the study of all well. In this brief account, the writer the large problems of the day and, as hopes to show him as a young man of the outcome of their labors, publish a widespread interests and abilities and to small biweekly is not unique in the hisindicate the light shed by his work on tory of student enthusiasms. But for I
WILDA M. VANEK
Gobetti this journal, the Energie nove, was the vehicle of a prodigiously early entry into the Italian cultural mainstream. In the rise of Gobetti's periodical to a respected position, due credit should be given to his acquaintances at the university. One of his professors in jurisprudence, his official course, was Francesco Ruffini, an important theorist of Italian liberalism. Gobetti took an even greater interest in the economics lectures of Luigi Einaudi, who befriended him and held discussions with him on liberalism and the working classes. By writing on economics for Energie nove, Einaudi helped bring to it an importance beyond the youth of the editorial circle.' Primarily responsible for the audience and realm of discussion, however, was Gobetti's editorial direction. At times and in certain fields, Energie nove showed a typical collegiate immaturity, for example, in its articles on literature and the arts. Meanwhile, Gobetti's interest turned from international to domestic political questions and political philosophies. Notably, he conducted an inquiry on the value of socialism for Italy at a moment when it seemed that the Socialists might soon be the governing party. To answer the negative arguments of Balbino Giuliano, his former liceo professor and a Right-wing idealist, he invited two young Socialists who were later to become leaders of the Italian Communist party, Antonio Gramsci and Angelo Tasca.2 These were his friends, yet Gobetti's own position, when finally
1 Ruffini in "Piero Gobetti nelle memorie e nelle impressioni dei suoi maestri," Baretti (Mar. 16, 1926), p. 80; Einaudi in ibid.; and articles in Energie nove (hereafter cited as "EN"), Feb. 1 and June 20, 1919. 2 Their debate ranged over the EN issues of December 1, and 15, 1918, and February 1, March 15, June 5, and June 20, 1919.
he made it known, was a generic liberalism, showing admiration for Cavour, Giustino Fortunato, and Gaetano Salvemini, but marked also by the historicism of Benedetto Croce. Gobetti argued that the goals sought by Italian Socialists could also be placed within the liberal tradition.3 The strongest personal influence in Gobetti's early political formation was not that of Einaudi but of Salvemini. The connection between them, furthermore, shows the young student's political tendencies most clearly. Early in 1919, Salvemini organized a "Liga per il rinnovamento della politica nazionale" to agitate for his program of democratic reforms with a view to the coming elections. Gobetti, although unwilling to merge his Turin group into the league, became active in its affairs. During its congress at Florence in April, he so favorably impressed Salvemini that he was asked to assume the editorship of the latter's Unita. Gobetti declined, but the relationship of friendship and respect between them persisted.4 Moreover, in Salvemini's "antiphilosophy," in his particularized approach to concrete problems without fear of advocating different and unpopular solutions, Gobetti found an example congenial to himself. Energie nove was more than a political review. Gobetti consciously channeled it along the lines of the Italian journalism of the early part of the century that had
3 Gobetti, postscript to Tasca, "Perche sono socialista," EN, Mar. 15, 1919. It was both an index of, and an increment to, the stature of Energie nove that Croce permitted use of his writings in the issue of June 20, 1919. 4 Gobetti, Announcement, EN, Mar. 15, 1919; Gobetti's letters to Ada Prospero during the Unitd congress, Apr. 1919, and Salvemini to Gobetti, May 15, 1919, now at the Centro Studi Piero Gobetti, Turin. Cf. Enzo Tagliacozzo, Gaetano Salvemini nel cinquantennio liberale (Florence, 1959), pp. 214-22.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
reflected the broad, encompassing outlook of the idealist philosophy. Together with Salvemini and Unita, he took the earlier Voce of Florence and its editor Giuseppe Prezzolini as exemplars for his own work. As had the Voce, Energie nove also spoke of literature, philosophy, and the arts. Gobetti's special interest in Russian writers emerged in translations of the stories of Leonid Andreyev,5 made with Ada Prospero, who was to become his wife. Others of his circle discussed leading foreign authors and dramatists. On the Italian literary scene, Gobetti attacked current practices in publishing and in the criticism of literature and drama. At the same time, his journal made itself an advocate of young, new writers and artists, and defended the playwright Luigi Pirandello before he attained national prominence.ff Economic, educational, and philosophical questions were also discussed, and there was a sprinkling of other articles on everything from art and music to Gabriele D'Annunzio and the merchant marine. In short, Energie nove was an eclectic omnibus of student enthusiasms and serious adult writing, but it was always sincere and often penetrating in its criticisms. In February 1920, without prior warning, Energie nove suddenly announced an "Intermezzo." Pressures both of fi. nance and of time were evidently weighing upon Gobetti. He pleaded the need for a period in which his group could mature in order to deal more adequately with the cultural awakening which he felt he and his colleagues had helped
5 Andreyev, "L'abisso," EN, Feb. 1, 1919, "Pace," ibid., May 5, 1919, and "L'angioletto," ibid., Aug. 15, 1919. 6 On publishing, ibid., Nov. 1, 1918, May 5 and July 25, 1919; on criticism, ibid., Nov. 1 and 15, 1918; on Pirandello, ibid., Dec. 1, 1918.
foment at Turin.7 Though he was later discontented with his own immaturity, and especially with having overrated the Voce,8 Gobetti could take credit for having created in Energie nove both a forum for recognized opinion and a stimulus to student articulation. II In the Energie nove years the boy Gobetti revealed his promise; his more mature impact on Italian life was to begin only in 1922. In the interim he finished his studies; he was also pursuing several other interests and was resolving within himself two fundamental problems. One was the question of what form his life's work should take; the other was the matter of political attachment. Although enrolled for a legal course, Gobetti was attracted to the study of history. He investigated the origins of liberalism in his native Piedmont during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. He came to believe that the proto-liberalism of men such as Vittorio Alfieri was of indigenous Italian inspiration, not imported from France as common opinion held. He further sought to show that from the eighteenth century through the period of unification, there had been a series of Piedmontese thinkers who evolved a modern liberalism in their defense of liberties against state and church.9 In the several articles that resulted
"Intermezzo," ibid., Feb. 12, 1920. Gobetti, La rivoluzione liberale (4th ed.; Turin, 1955), p. 19. This and Gobetti's other political writings may now be found in the Opere complete published by Einaudi (Vol. I, Scritti politici [Turin, 1960]). Also helpful is Le riviste di Piero Gobetti, ed. Lelio Basso and Luigi Anderlini ("Collana di periodici italiani e stranieri," No. 4 [Milan, 1961]). 9 Cf. Preface to "La filosofia politica di Vittorio Alfieri," in Gobetti, Risorgimento senza eroi (Turin, 1926), pp. 157-58.
WILDA M. VANEK
from his researches, Gobetti dealt always with a single figure, analyzing the intellectual, political, and religious situation in the Piedmontese society of his times. Typical is the university tesi di laurea he submitted in 1922 on the political thought of Alfieri. Gobetti did not hesitate to take issue with prevailing historical opinion in order to present Alfieri as libertarian, advocating a liberty completely unfettered by the demands of church or state. Gobetti also traced the development of a liberal current in Piedmontese educational thought through a study of nineteenth-century figures who had sought to separate the schools from the control of both church and state.10 Though subject severally to the influence of Croce, Giovanni Gentile, and Alfredo Oriani,1' Gobetti in his historical studies chiefly deepened the liberal convictions in which he was encouraged by Einaudi. But, compared with the classical liberalism of his mentor, Gobetti's views took a libertarian turn most clearly exposed in his interpretation of Alfieri. The study of the Risorgimento continued to attract him, and several times he attempted to return to it. Inevitably, however, his later writings were bound up with his message for contemporary Italian politics. Gobetti made brief sorties into the discussion of ancient Greek philotsophy and French and Italian modernist
10 The articles, whose subjects are Luigi Ornato, Santorre de Santarosa, Giovan Maria Bertini, and Domenico Berti, are to be found in ibid., pp. 114-18, 120-27, 129-40, 147-54. 11 "I have always accepted from Croce the resolution of philosophy in history" (Gobetti, "I miei conti con l'idealismo attuale," Rivoluzione liberale [hereafter cited as "RL"], Jan. 18, 1923). Regarding Gentile, see "Cattaneo," Risorgimento senza eroi, p. 166, and the commentary of Giampiero Carocci, "Piero Gobetti nella storia del pensiero politico italiano," Belfagor, VI (Mar. 1951), 131. Regarding Oriani, see Gobetti, La rivoluzione liberale, p. 51 n.
thought.'2 He also spoke out on reform in the Italian educational system and thereby traced the course of his relationship with Gentile. The differences between the philosophical idealisms of Croce and Gentile were by this time clear. Gentile was influential in his own right, especially in the universities, and not for his "actual idealism" alone. Starting from an abstract interest in pedagogy (whose fruit, the two-volume Sommaria di pedagogia [Palermo, 1912], Gobetti read enthusiastically in his eighteenth summer), Gentile had become the leading idealist spokesman for a reform in the problem-ridden Italian school system.'3 Salvemini was also concerned with the question of the schools, but from a pragmatic standpoint.14 Gobetti was attentive to both of these maestri, but first and foremost to Gentile. In Energie nove Gobetti called him "the man who best knows our pedagogical problems," and expressed the hope that he might someday become minister of education.15 Only later did Gobetti's writing also reflect Salvemini's appeals; and this in such a way as never to expose the conflict between the two over what should be the philosophy of the Italian schools. While with Gentile Gobetti called for education grounded in a system of beliefs, specifically those of idealism, he urged with equal vehemence the more rigid control through examinations proposed by Salvemini. In the autumn of 1919 Gobetti cast his
12 Cf. Lucien LabarthonniEre, trans. Gobetti, 11 realismo cristiano e l'idealismo greco (Florence, 1922). 13 Cf. Gentile, trans. Dino Bigongiari, The reform of education (New York, 1922). 14 Salvemini and A. Galletti, La riforma della scuola media (Palermo, 1908). 15 "La questione della scuola," EN, Jan. 1, 1919; and "II problema della scuola media: il liceo," ibid., Mar. 1, 1919.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
lot with the idealists; the last issues of Energie nove propagandized the work of the Fascio di Educazione Nazionale, an organization to promote the idealists' reform of the schools. This choice was to prove unfortunate. In 1922 the Fascio became aligned with Mussolini, a prelude to the nomination of Gentile as his first minister of education.16 Gobetti's detachment from the movement and from Gentile was indicated as early as October 1920. By 1922, when he wrote on Cattaneo, his historical criticisms of Gentile were marked. Still, shortly before the March on Rome, Gobetti spoke of him in favorable personal terms.17It was only afterward that he denounced Gentile personally as no longer belonging to the "other Italy" of true reformers, and also as a mediocre philosopher. With the enactment of Gentile's idealist, but also Fascist, reform of the schools, Gobetti drew up a public statement of his accounts with, and rejection of, his one-time mentor.18 Clearly it was Gentile's affiliation with fascism that made the rupture as complete as it was. The question persists whether Gentile did not after all exercise a lasting influence on the formation of Gobetti's thought. In weighing such questions, one must take into account the effect on Gobetti of an event in 1920 that drew him further away from both liberals and idealists. Indeed, it was a month after the
16 Cf. Ernesto Codignola, II problema dell' educazione nazionale in Italia (Florence, 1925), pp. 323, 351-53. The Fascio di Educazione Nazionale had no initial connection with the Fascist party, the similarity of names being only coincidental; but before the March on Rome a rapprochement took place, whereby it agreed to support political fascism. 17 "Gentile the man, who is so congenial, rough, catholic, intransigent, sectarian" ("Difendere la rivoluzione," RL, Oct. 25, 1922). 18 "I miei conti con l'idealismo attuale," loc. cit.
"occupation of the factories" that Gobetti began to be more critical of Gentile, and this event, significant for the entire nation, was of prime importance for the young student in Turin where in part it took place. The circumstances of the occupation are well known. One need only recall how, in a notable manifestation of the growth both of discontent and of unified action by the laboring class, factory workers in localities throughout northern Italy seized the plants from the owners and continued production for a number of weeks; and how Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti deliberately postponed intervention until a solution could be achieved by his mediation rather than by the use of troops. It was not the shrewdness of Giolitti but the strength and discipline of the workers that impressed Gobetti. Some men from the Turin factories also came to the university, and he had known them there. From his acquaintance with Gramsci, Tasca, and others who were to lead the Communist schism in 1921, he knew their aspirations for proletariat ascendency. Now, in the first feverish days of the occupation, when the red flag flew over the factories and revolution was almost proclaimed openly, he became convinced of the capability and heroism of the workers. In a letter after a week of "occupation" at Turin, he cast the movement in its most idealistic light.
I am following with sympathy the workers' forces who are really creating a new world.
. . .Today the revolution is taking on an
entirely religious character. It's a difficult time, especially for the workers. By now they
have, at least at Turin, got rid of the organ-
izers and the old leaders, who were unrealistic and dishonest in practice, and are doing things for themselves; a narrow minority has imposed all its moral force for sacrifice. The
masses follow heroism, as ever. What will
WILDA M. VANEK
come of it? The movement is spontaneous, and completely unmindful of material ends. This is a true and proper attempt to attain not collectivism,but a system in which the workers,or at least the best of them, may be what the owners are now. And the strongest concern at the moment is to found a state, and thence an army, an administration.19 Gobetti found and emphasized in the "occupation" those elements most dear to him: willingness to sacrifice; the dominance of will power in pursuing goals of principle, heedless of material considerations; a heroic minority acting with quasi-religious determination. These were not at all the factors emphasized by Gramsci, who was concerned rather with the success of the "proletarian republic" in the factories. Yet Gobetti had not misunderstood what Gramsci and the workers were seeking, as his letter shows. These sentiments indicated a major change from the time a year before when Gobetti had demanded that the Socialists get rid of their "impure irrelevant baggage of international Marxist ideology."20 The softening of his rigid anti-socialism of the Energie nove days did not convert him to communism, however. He was still not inclined to support the factory workers directly, nor did he come into a closer affiliation with Gramsci and the other leaders of the movement. Rather, the impression the workers had made on him mingled with his consciousness of the need for political rejuvenation in Italy. He began to believe that from the strength of the working class Italian liberalism could take new life. At the beginning of 1921, Gobetti became more closely linked to Gramsci's
19 Gobetti to Ada Prospero, Sept. 7, 1920 in "Due lettere inedite di Piero Gobetti," II ponte, V (Aug. 1949), 1023. 20 Postscript to "Frammenti di estetismo politico," EN, Nov. 30, 1919.
work in another way, through common literary interests. He accepted the position of drama critic for Gramsci's Ordine Nuovo, and for two years reviewed the Turin stage for that paper. Taking as the norm his own, non-Crocean, canon of aesthetics, he spared neither actor nor audience in his stern appraisals.2' A unique flight of praise, for Eleanora Duse, identified her as the outstanding performer of the day. From his columns and other writings on the theater came a small book, aptly titled "The theatrical whip."22 III Gobetti continued to write for Ordine Nuovo through the autumn of 1922. Though he often again reflected on the theater,23 and on Italian culture in general, he meanwhile began what was to be his chief undertaking. From the days of Energie nove, he was manifestly attracted to the work of an editor and publisher as a leader in the dissemination of culture. Now twenty, he returned to the editor's desk to bring out a weekly journal, Rivoluzione liberale, whose first issue appeared on February 12, 1922. Rivoluzione liberale differed from its predecessor chiefly in its advocacy of a defined central idea, the fruit of Gobetti's meditations since the events of September 1920. In the first issue he published
21 In Energie nove, Gobetti had lamented that criticism of the drama, which he thought should be a mission, had degenerated into a mere trade and exercised no leadership on the formation of the public taste ("Critica drammatica," Nov. 15, 1918). 22 La frusta teatrale (Milan, 1923), esp. pp. 4352 on Eleanora Duse. Cf. Croce's kindly though critical review in La critica, XXI (July 20, 1923), 250-51. 23 See especially his longer and more severe appraisal of Pirandello in 1926, after the latter's submission to fascism (Gobetti's Opera critica, II [Turin, 1927], 68-91).
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
a "Manifesto" indicating both why he felt there was need for a liberal revolution in Italy and the means by which he believed it could be effected. "The Rivoluzione liberale posits as a historical basis of judgment an integral, vigorous view of our Risorgimento" :24 this was the first premise. On a broader scale than before, Gobetti made a recapitulation of modern Italian history unmatched up to that time in critical force. He asserted that the unified Italian state had in fact failed to attain real unity, and that this incapacity "is essentially an inability in her citizens to form for themselves a consciousness of the state, and to bring to the living reality of social organization their effective participation."25 He argued that the work of institutions and men potentially creative of liberty-the medieval communes, Machiavelli, Alfieri, Mazzini-had without exception failed to bear fruit. The result was a nation in which a "socialist monarchy" filled the vacuum left by the absence of a directing class. Gobetti found that none of the old political parties had effectively performed its function in the state. The Liberal party he judged no better than the others: amorphous and disintegrating, having lost its parliamentary majority in 1919 and governing with an ever weaker hold, it was identifiable chiefly as the party of Giolitti, whom he despised. To perform the essential task that the parties had not fulfilled, that of creating a directing class of citizens participating in the state, Gobetti conceived of the movement of "liberal revolution." As its chief agents, he proposed the two large, relatively amorphous la24 Gobetti, "Manifesto," in Nino Valeri (ed.), Antologia della "Rivoluzione liberale" (Turin, 1948), pp. 5-21. Quotation on p. 5. 25 Ibid., p. 7.
boring masses, the northern industrial workers and the southern peasants. His initial emphasis was that the maturation of both groups, autonomously, was essential to the formation of a true liberal state. The rudiments of his new position were largely taken from Gobetti's first masters as a student: the idealism and historicism of Croce, the concrete regard for national problems of Salvemini, certain elements of the liberalism of Einaudi. Now he combined these with socialist ideas reflecting the change in his thinking since the occupation of the factories. In his choice of an economic system, for example, Gobetti moved away from traditional liberalism. He saw in the aims of socialists and especially of the factory-council movement "the possibility of a new economic system that would at last resolve the insoluble antithesis between protectionism and liberalism" and looked to the evolution of a factory economy that would be liberal in regard to trade, but have a "rigid internal discipline of the relationship between management and workers."26 Later, writing what was otherwise a sympathetic portrait of Luigi Einaudi, Gobetti made plain his disagreement with Einaudi's rejection of Marx, socialism, and the workers' movement.27 From the dialogue in which Gobetti and his collaborators28 expanded on the "Manifesto," it became clear that he now embraced the socialist concept of class
Ibid., p. 21. "II liberalismo di Luigi Einaudi," RL, Apr. 23, 1922. 28 The roster of contributors to Rivoluzione liberale was unusually varied, including the orthodox liberal Einaudi, the unorthodox Socialist Carlo Rosselli, the Communist Gramsci, the Christian Democrat Luigi Sturzo, the radical Mario Missiroli, and even the Fascists Curzio Malaparte and Dino Grandi at first. See Valeri, pp. vii-viii, for a more complete list.
WILDA M. VANEK
and class struggle which in Energie nove he had flatly rejected. Later, against Fascist attempts to minimize differences and gain support from all sides, his insistence on the reality of classes became especially strong. From the first, he emphasized the potential importance of the industrial proletariat. He gave an heroic account of the workers' movement at Turin that was fully as laudatory as Gramsci's descriptions, although it differed in the final evaluation. "Their concrete experiences in politics, in short," he declared, "had freed the young Torinese Communists almost completely from the trappings of the platitudes of socialism and internationalism. What they felt in the workers' movement was its national and liberalizing value."29 To Gobetti, then, the profound significance of the factory-council movement at Turin was liberal rather than communist. When the proletariat did not come forward to create the liberal revolution, Gobetti placed the cause elsewhere: in the lack of comprehension on the part of the other classes and in the uneven levels of maturity of proletarian groups in the various parts of the nation. The formation of a uniformly mature Italian proletariat, he optimistically judged, would require a decade.30 Nor was he discouraged by the gulf that lay between the forces in which he placed his hopes and his own audience. He, instead, perceived a value in preparing the intellectuals and professional men who were his readers to believe in and help foster the maturation of the proletariat. Although he avowed that the southern
29 "Storia del comunismo torinese scritta da un liberale," RL, Apr. 2, 1922, and also in Gobetti, Coscienza liberale e classe operaia, ed. Paolo Spriano (Turin, 1951), p. 224. 30 "La nostra cultura politica," RL, Mar. 815, 1923; and "Dopo le elezioni," ibid., Apr. 15, 1924.
peasants, the agricultural proletariat, should be equally important in the renewal of liberalism, Gobetti was ill prepared to discourse on their role. Until 1923 he had never been south of Rome. His urging that southern agriculture adapt the industrial spirit and methods of northern manufacturing followed the thinking of the northern conservative Stefano Jacini but came into conflict with the views of those who insisted that the southern problem must find its own solution. Other writers gave Rivoluzione liberale a stronger voice on the problems of the south, notably Guido Dorso, author of a subsequent book, La rivoluzione meridionale.31 Another index to Gobetti's pro-socialist reorientation was the ascent of Karl Marx among his heroes. Gobetti again chose to emphasize what he saw as liberal in the thought of Marx; he went so far as to couple Marx and Mazzini as the two greatest modern liberals, observing that under different forms, both had put forth the revolutionary idea of a state dependent on the free activity of its people.32 He insisted that it was wrong to regard Marx as an economist (Einaudi's error). "In Marx," he later wrote, "I am charmed by the historian (the studies on the class struggle in France) and the apostle of the working class. The economist is dead. . . . Historical materialism . . . and the theory of the class struggle are tools taken up forever by social science, and they suffice for his renown as a theorist."33 Much as Gobetti tended to borrow from socialism, his program remained liberal both in its origin and in its goal.
31 Dorso, La rivoluzione meridionale (Turin: Gobetti, 1925). 32 "Manifesto," loc. cit., p. 15. 33 "L'ora di Marx," RL, May 15, 1924, and also in Coscienza liberale e classe operaia, pp. 168-69.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
It was this chiefly that distinguished it from Carlo Rosselli's "liberal socialism," first proposed in two articles in Rivoluzione liberale.34 With Rosselli an opposite dynamic was at work. Whereas Gobetti sought to inject into liberalism certain principles of revolutionary socialism, Rosselli, a Socialist, wanted to reform socialism, using liberal elements. There were also differences of method: Rosselli's idea called for a theoretical integration of the two political parties, whereas Gobetti, in his autonomism, did not seek fusion but only co-operation in a given historical setting. In sum, the two notions were more different than alike. What is less readily definable is Gobetti's relationship to Italian communism. Given his experience of the "occupation of the factories" and his relationship with Antonio Gramsci, did Gobetti become, openly or secretly, a convinced Communist? Certainly he was an avid student of things Russian. He knew the language and had written translations and criticism of Russian authors. In I1 paradosso dello spirito russo, friends were to make a posthumous compilation of articles that viewed Russian literature and history as mutually illuminating. In an essay on the Russian revolution written shortly after 1917, Gobetti saw both Lenin and Trotsky as heroes. But he did so-and this is perhaps the key to his position-by seeing their achievement as fundamentally liberal, that is, liberative of the aspirations of the Russian people.35
34 Acording to Aldo Garosci (La vita di Carlo Rosselli, I [Florence, 1945], p. 41), Rosselli's articles apeared in the spring of 1923; Natalino Sapegno ("L'insegnamento di Piero Gobetti," Rinascita, III [July, 1946], 160) places the first one in July 1924. For the context of both Gobetti's and Rosselli's work, cf. Charles Delzell, Mussolini's enemies (Princeton, N. J., 1961), esp. pp. 27-29 on Gobetti. 35 I paradosso dello.spirito russo (Turin, 1926),
Although some later commentators have argued to the contrary, Gramsci gave an authoritative answer: Gobetti was no Communist, nor would he have become one. In Gramsci's view, communist influences acted upon Gobetti so that he "dug a trench, behind which those groups of sincere and honest intellectuals did not retreat, who in 1919-21 sensed that the proletariat would be superior to the bourgeoisie as a directing class."36 His role, then, was that of an intellectual toward intellectuals, not as that of a political revolutionary. It has been asserted from the Communist side that his conversion to Marxism was never complete because he was irrevocably tied to his petit-bourgeois origins.37 I would suggest rather that the cause lay in his intellectual roots in liberalism, and in his temperament. The individualist and critical spirit he consistently manifested made him unwilling or unable to participate wholeheartedly in the work of any other political group.
To become effective as an autonomous political force, or to influence the course of Italian liberal politics, Gobetti's "liberal revolution" required time for further explication and propagation. Both were precluded by the March on Rome and its consequences. Eight months after founding his journal, he perforce shifted the focus of his writing to the new conpp. 188-220, esp. p. 205. In his discussions of writers, Gobetti strongly praised Andreyev, whose stories he had translated, and was severely critical of F. M. Dostoevsky. 36 Gramsci in La questione meridionale, excerpted as "Piero Gobetti nel giudizio di Antonio Gramsci," in Nino Valeri (ed.), La lotta politica in Italia dall'unita al 1925 (Florence, 1945), pp. 565-68. 37 Carocci, loc. cit., pp. 134, 138, 144; and Spriano, Preface to Coscienza liberale e classe operaia, p. 18.
WILDA M. VANEK
siderations presented by the advent of a Fascist government. Gobetti had, of course, proposed a solution to the political crisis of postwar Italy, but he was well aware that his solution was not immediately viable and regarded it instead as a means of educating a new generation. Later he suggested that Giovanni Amendola, Liberal journalist and politician, would have been the best choice to resolve the crisis;38 ex post facto, this amounted to no more than wishful thinking. Nor did Gobetti at first perceive the full significance of Mussolini's party. In the spring of 1922, what he found most repugnant was the cultural character of fascism. It appeared to him to be a resurgence of the tyranny, anarchism, and brute force Italy had already suffered from condottieri and Garibaldians. He assessed fascism as anachronistic and culturally worthless but not as a potential totalitarianism.39 Eventually, Gobetti and his collaborators had to face the threat of a Fascist eclipse of the "other Italy" of reform and progress. By September 1922, when fascism threatened increasingly, Giuseppe Prezzolini proposed that Rivoluzione liberale abstain entirely from political activity and from what he called a "Society of the Non-Drinkers" to take a long historical view. Gobetti rather stiffly rejected the idea: "I do not know whether our active work of criticism will permit us an objective unity and a scientific indifference, so to speak, in our
action of most Italians. The March on Rome, after all, was not a military takeover so much as the acquiescence of the great majority to try Fascist government as a way out of chaos. Gobetti was later able to claim that his was the only voice in Italian journalism that opposed Mussolini from the outset. The essence of Gobetti's opposition, as expressed in what he called the "Eulogy of the guillotine," was intransigent and bitterly pessimistic:4'
Our anti-Fascism is not adherence to an ideology, but rather something fuller, so connatural with us that we might say that it is physiologically innate. . . This appears to us as absolutely a question of instinct. There is only one value that the world cannot budge-intransigence; and we should like to be, in a certain sense, its desperate priesthood. I have been anxiously waiting for personal persecutions to come, because from our sufferings a spirit would be born, because in the sacrifice of its priests this people would recognize itself. . . . There has been in us, in our blind opposition, something quixotic. But no one has laughed, because they have felt our desperate religiosity. We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that we have saved politics: we have only guarded its symbol. And we must hope (alas, with what skepticism!) that the tyrants will be tyrants, that the reaction will be a reaction, that they will have the courage to raise the guillotine, that they will maintain their position even to the end.
After Mussolini's accession to power, Gobetti unhesitatingly reaffirmed opposition to him, in stark contrast to the re88 "Al nostro posto," RL, Nov. 2, 1922.
The roots of Gobetti's pessimism went deeper than the fact that Mussolini's accession momentarily precluded any liberal resurgence. Gobetti perceived in fascism the natural corollary, the consequence, of the Italian past with its vices and weaknesses. It was, he said, no more than "the autobiography of the nation." In emphasizing that fascism was no de41 "Elogio della ghighilottina," ibid., Nov. 23, 1922, and also in Coscienza liberale e classe operaia, pp. 147-50.
39 "Uomini e idee," ibid., May 28, 1922. Prezzolini, "Per una Societa degli Apoti," ibid., Sept. 28, 1922, and Gobetti's response.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
viation from the course of history but a perpetuation of an age-old malattia italiana, Gobetti gave the lead to one strain of later historiographical interpretation.42 Having taken his stand, Gobetti articulated more fully during the next eighteen months the evils he saw in the regime and its master, and gave exhortations to resist. Critical of the partial and ineffective opposition of others, he predicted continued Fascist control of the country. He issued a warning, perhaps suggested by Prezzolini, but one he was to make his own by repetition: the Fascist era would be long in its duration. "If these are his opponents, we agree with Mussolini when he says that he will stay in power for thirty years."43 For the most part, Gobetti maintained a distinction between the Duce and his party. He continued to insist that Mussolini was an anachronism, a condottiere out of his time, not at all a leader of fixed purpose. After a year, when overt opposition to the regime had subsided, Gobetti showed Mussolini in a second light, as a master of trasformismo, the new and worse Giolitti. In this his argument became even more telling after the elections of 1924. Toward elections under the Acerbo Law Gobetti assumed a thoroughly skeptical stance.44 Afterward, analyzing the expected victory of the Fascist listone, he described how the Duce had outstripped
42 A fuller statement on the suitability of fascism is in the later "Lettera a Parigi," RL, Oct. 18, 1925. For discussion of Gobetti's and alternative hypotheses on fascism see Nino Valeri, "Premessa ad una storia dell'Italia nel postrisorgimento," in Gabriele Pepe et al., Orientament i per la storia d'Italia nel Risorgimento (Bari, 1952), pp. 55-64. 43 "Commemorazione," RL, Oct. 30, 1923. Cf. Prezzolini, L'italiano inutile (Milan, 1953), p. 189. 44 "Le elezioni," RL, Feb. 12, 1924.
Giolitti in using violence, playing upon the historic economic and political immaturity of the country, in short, exercising all the arts of trasformismo. Dividing leader from party, and examining the variety of those who had been elected (non-Fascists had been encouraged to run on the listone) and in what regions Mussolini had won most heavily, Gobetti reasoned that the election represented Mussolini's triumph over fascism. "The basis of the Mussolinian dictatorship, moreover, as of the Giolittian, is in central and southern Italy, where fascism is still infantile. And this is precisely why one may say that the elections represent the defeat of fascism and the victory of Mussolini."45 The keenness of Gobetti's analysis and the forthrightness of his criticism in the first eighteen months under fascism were not matched in strength by his tactical counsels to his own followers. In practice, his intransigence seemed to mean ceaseless criticism but no action. By implication, Gobetti was waiting either for fascism to collapse of itself or to be defeated by an imminent revolution or coup d'etat. The rigidity of his position limited the results it could attain. Intransigence could be the example given by a small elite but it contained no program of action for the masses. This limitation was transformed by the events of June 1924. But before observing the more dynamic turn of Gobetti's politics, it is well to note here, first, the opposition to his activity; and second, the other realms which that activity continued to encompass. As for the first, Mussolini did not suffer Gobetti's attacks to go unanswered. Had the Fascists chosen to ignore Gobetti and to
45 "Dopo le elezioni," ibid., Apr. 15, 1924, and also in Antologia della "Rivoluzione liberale," pp. 175-76.
WILDA M. VANEK
leave him a free hand, his work would probably have been less effective. If anything, he might have become a force for dissension rather than leadership in the opposition.46 But Mussolini, apparently stung by Gobetti's defiance, instead, made him a target of violence. Activity against him began early in 1923 and resembled the pressure applied against others in what was still the overt opposition. In February 1923, Gobetti was arrested and his house searched. Benedetto Croce intervened in his behalf, and in five days he was free.47 In a more rigorous arrest three months later, at the end of May, he was jailed and some of his books confiscated. But publicity of the incident in the opposition press and a parliamentary interpellation in his behalf by two members of the chamber of deputies gained him a quick release. It was a year before his work was again hampered. During that year, Gobetti continued to comment on how Italian culture and "cultura politica" (civic life) were faring under Mussolini. Ordinarily critical, sparing but revealing in praise, he viewed the minority resistance of the small Republican party and the dilemma of the Partito popolare in the last months of its activity. With the latter, he emphasized that the strength of Luigi Sturzo, the "messiah of reformism" in Catholic politics, contrasted with the equivocal position of the party.48 His judgment was perhaps borne out by the rapid collapse of the Popolari once Mussolini suc46 Luigi Salvatorelli and Giovanni Mira, Storia d'Italia nel periodo fascista (new ed.; Turin, 1956), p. 259. 47 Spriano, p. 28. 48 "I repubblicani," RL, Apr. 17, 1923; on Sturzo, "La nostra cultura politica," loc. cit. Cf. Piergiovanni Permoli, "Sturzo nei giudizi di piero Gobetti," Civitas, XI (new ser., Nos. 4-5, 133-41; and Gobetti, "Commemorazione," loc. cit.
ceeded in having Sturzo removed into exile. Apart from or beyond his criticisms, Gobetti conceived of Rivoluzione liberale as having a positive mission in Italian culture. At times he spoke of his work as an artistic experience, a "work of poetry," and said that "our preoccupations are the preoccupations of civilization." For him, the level of politics was a facet of the level of culture; both were indices of the over-all civilization of Italians. In the same vein, the maturation of a new directing class such as he wanted demanded that it be composed of men of culture, educated and understanding, to replace the older type of narrow-minded politician. Gobetti therefore sought the total, spiritual formation of those who were with him. He aimed to improve the condition of Italy by beginning with his own fellow workers. Our highest goal is to insert ourselvesinto the political life of our country, to improve its customs and ideas while learning its secrets. But we do not think to attain this by acting as pedagogues and preachers. Our capability to educate is being tried out realisticallyon ourselves;educatingourselves,we will have educatedothers.49 For the execution of his cultural mission, Gobetti intended to augment Rivoluzione liberale by two other organs of publication. II Baretti, a monthly literary supplement to the journal, did not come into being until the end of 1924. Meanwhile, Gobetti realized a long-held desire to become a publisher of books. In 1923 were issued the first volumes under the stamp of "Gobetti Editore," later changed to "Edizioni del Baretti." This was the means for printing Gobetti's books and those of his collabora49
"Le risorse dell'eresia," RL, Aug. 28, 1923.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
tors. Within three years, however, the press's activity increased to many times that scope and importance, as opponents of the regime encountered mounting difficulty in finding publishers. Gobetti issued the works of such anti-Fascist writers as Giovanni Amendola, Luigi Einaudi, Mario Missiroli, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Luigi Salvatorelli, Gaetano Salvemini, and Luigi Sturzo. On philosophy and the arts, his list included Alessandro Passerin D'Entreves, Giuseppe Prezzolini, Natalino Sapegno, Adriano Tilgher, and the "discovery" and introduction to the public of the poet Eugenio Montale.50 His editorial work thriving, Gobetti in the spring of 1924 traveled to France, then to Sicily and the Italian south. Informed of these movements, Mussolini personally ordered the adoption of a stricter course; his draft of a telegram to the Turin prefect has survived to document his opposition to Gobetti. The prefect was directed to "be alert to make life difficult once again for this foolish opponent of the government and fascism."51
That was on June 1. On the 9th, Gobetti's quarters were searched for the third time. Taken from him were his political correspondence and the entire issue of Rivoluzione liberale that was to have appeared the following day. That next day, the Socialist deputy Giacomo
50 The works published were Amendola, Una battaglia liberale; Einaudi, Le lotte del lavoro, and as ed., J. S. Mill, La liberta; Missiroli, II colpo di stato; Nitti, La pace, La tragedia dell' Europa, and La liberta; Salvatorelli, Nazionalfascismo; Salvemini, Dal patto di Londra alla pace di Roma; Sturzo, Pensiero antifascista, La libertM in Italia, and Popolismo e fascismo; D'Entr6ves, Hegel; Prezzolini, Io credo; Sapegno, Frate Jacopone; Tilgher, Lo spaccio del bestione trionfante; and Montale, Ossi di seppia. 51 Spriano, p. 189 n.; and photostat of the draft telegram now in the Centro Studi Piero Gobetti, Turin.
Matteotti was kidnapped and assassinated. Public opinion was outraged; three days later the opposition deputies walked out of the chamber, and its session was suspended. Gobetti's reaction was twofold. He eulogized the fallen Matteotti as one of his heroes in a portrayal that spoke softly of the socialist while it illuminated the liberal. Simultaneously he urged the parliamentary opposition to lose no time in profiting by the opportunity to "put the entire regime on trial."52Even before the seceded deputies formally grouped themselves around Giovanni Amendola in the "Aventine" movement, Gobetti reinforced his appeal to them. He led the Turin unit of "Italia libera" in voting a motion that "calls for the dismissal of Mussolini and invites the minority deputies-the only ones elected legitiately by the popular will-to convene of themselves and to make provision for order in the nation and for the new ministry."53 Thus the Matteotti crisis brought Gobetti to a specific call for action. He justified his new role by the evolution of the political situation and the likelihood that the Aventine could succeed in deposing Mussolini. But much as he hammered at the Aventine deputies to assert their leadership, they disappointed him. The men around Amendola considered their abstaining from parliament sufficient and calculated on other factors -the king's indignation, aroused public opinion, and dissension within the Fascist ranks-to bring about Mussolini's fall. And Mussolini, despite the eventual revelation of his complicity in the mur52 Two articles titled "Matteotti," RL, June 17 and July 1, 1924. 53 "Due tattiche," ibid., June 24, 1924. "Italia libera" committees were formed in many cities after the Matteotti murder and sought to provoke Mussolini's overthrow.
WILDA M. VANEK
der, was able to let the scandal run its course, then resume control through severe restriction of the press and through the January 1925 coup d'etat. The restrictions on freedom of the press promulgated in July fell hard on Gobetti. The threat of ceaseless sequestration led him to write that Rivoluzione liberale would henceforth play a game of subtleties with its knowing readers. Even so, by 1925 at least one issue a month failed to reach its public. In the height of the Matteotti crisis, Gobetti had urged formation of "Rivoluzione liberale action groups" in support of his policy, and these had sprung up in a number of cities; the censorship severely hampered their activity. Graver yet was the action taken against Gobetti himself. On September 5, 1924, after the Fascists had libelously misconstrued and cried scandal at a phrase of his, he was beaten at his own doorstep by squadristi and sustained a heart lesion that permanently weakened his health.54 V As his political work was increasingly restricted after mid-1924, Gobetti turned again to concerns more of a cultural nature. Also, as conditions in Italy became increasingly difficult for him, he came to feel the importance of Italy's place in Europe, and of the European as an ideal. When finally he brought out the literary monthly II Baretti in December 1924, the program-article had a tone of resignation that was new in his writing. "Having witnessed the sad outcome of disproportionate hopes, of presumptuous
54 Spriano, p. 207 n. Gobetti continued to exhort the Aventine group and then to follow its declining fortunes. Cf. "Processo al trasformismo," RL, Oct. 21, 1924; "Saluto all'altro parlamento," RL, Nov. 11, 1924; "La situazione," RL, Jan. 18, 1925; "Bilancio," RL, May 24, 1925; and "Amendola," RL, May 31, 1925.
boldness, of the fever of activism, we propose to keep ourselves very frugal as regards crises of conscience and formulas for salvation; not to allow ourselves to undertake to excogitate new theories where daily wisdom will suffice." Nevertheless, he had a goal in view: "Instead of raising cries of alarm or voices of retreat, let us set to work with simplicity, to find for ourselves a European style."55 In the summer of 1925, Gobetti traveled to France and England, setting down impressions of the great art galleries, and again praising the supranational in European painting. He also wrote a touching description of "Little Italy," the squalid immigrant quarter of London. There, when he found the emigrants. continuing "the long tradition of the poverty of Italian life," italianita' reasserted itself above European feeling.56 When he left Italy for the last time a year later, the same chord struck again. Among the farewell jottings in his notebook he wrote: "To be depayse', that is impossible."57 In the course of 1925 Gobetti also returned to historical writing. He planned a book, Risorgimento senza eroi, that would explicate more fully his reinterpretation of the era of unification. In La rivoluzione liberale, a long essay bearing the same title as his journal and published in 1924, he had given some flesh to the assertions in his 1922 "M\anifesto" implying a "Risorgimento mancato." But the principal thrust of that work was to show the descent of his movement from earlier liberal currents. He correctly
55 "Illuminismo," Baretti, Dec. 1924, and also in Opera critica, I, 148-49. Note the ironic contrast to stile fascista. 56 "Idea di un saggio sulla pittura, trattata con metodo comparativo," Opera critica, I, 3-6. See also Gobetti's earlier book on his favorite Italian painter, Felice Casorati pittore (Turin, 1923). "Little Italy," RL, Sept. 6, 1925. 57 "Commiato," Baretti, Mar. 16, 1926.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
minimized its historical value: "To attempt the history of the Risorgimento (here I present only a wholly inadequate scheme) is among my hopes."58 It was a hope Gobetti did not live to fulfil; at his death he left an outline, introduction, and two chapters, to be completed by the use of earlier writings. Nonetheless, Risorgimento senza eroi did convey the thesis that the Risorgimento, taken broadly as the time of unification and what followed, failed not at a single moment but in all its phases, beginning with the repressive influence of Austrian and French sovereignty. In Gobetti's view, the incipient liberal democracy of the early nineteenth century never came to fruition because it was diverted to neoGuelphism, which in turn was transmuted into traditionally theocratic Catholic doctrine. The neo-Guelph failure left a vacuum in which the House of Savoy became a "socialist monarchy," and absolutist government continued under parliamentary forms through the time of Giolitti. Risorgimento senza eroi was not entirely devoid of protagonists. While he discounted the work of the accepted leaders of the Risorgimento (with the single and significant exception of Cavour), Gobetti raised up a new corps of heroes, the eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury Piedmontese who first enunciated liberal-democratic ideas. Among these, as among Gobetti's Russian heroes, prevailed a certain common denominator of virtues: advanced beyond their times in their sociopolitical thought, they defended individual liberties against encroachment by state or church or both, and they were persecuted or exiled for
58La rivoluzione liberale, p. 51 n. In subsequent portions of this work Gobetti analyzes fascism and the contemporary scene, incorporating articles from Rivoluzione liberale.
their ideas, or at least went unheard until a later age, presumably Gobetti's. Clearly they were prototypes of the liberalism he advocated for the twentieth century. A political parti pris, then, was never fully removed from Gobetti's historical writing. Adolfo Omodeo, reviewing Risorgemento senza eroi in 1926, dealt severely with its emphases and philosophical position; he also found in Gobetti's style the excessive bad influence of Oriani.59 The Omodeo indictment has since been judged unduly severe, and, though criticism persists, Gobetti's contribution toward a new direction for the historiography of the Risorgimento has come to be appreciated. His revisionism was shared by Antonio Gramsci, who was the first to look favorably on Gobetti's new approach. By now, Gobetti's line of questioning and interpretation of the Risorgimento have become ingredients in the more tempered view taken by many Italian historians.60 If, even in his most detached attempt to view the past, Gobetti was continually caught up in the present, it was the merit of his contemporary involvement that it led him to set down impressions of the society around him, and especially of its intellectual leaders. His portraits invariably bear the mark of their author, notably in seeking out certain tenets of character. Gobetti's pages show in Luigi Einaudi a man of supreme faith in praxis, and a firm adherent of English liberalism, who had regrettably never
59 Omodeo, "Risorgimento senza eroi," Leonardo, II (Dec. 1926), 325-28. 60 Gramsci, II Risorgimento (Turin, 1949); and Luciano Cafagna, "Intorno al 'revisionismo risorgimentale,'" Societa, XII (Dec. 1956), 1015-20. On the historiographical development see A. W. Salomone, "The Risorgimento between ideology and history: the political myth of Rivoluzione mancata," American historical review, LXVIII (Oct. 1962), 38-56.
WILDA M. VANEK
understood Marx. Salvemini is the perpetual champion of the wronged and oppressed, but less perceptively acute, Gobetti said, after his departure from socialism than before. Prezzolini, once Gobetti's hero as editor and publisher, later is revealed as a mercurial personality lacking in depth of force or feeling, although always a kindly friend. (Prezzolini wrote about Gobetti: "I think that if tomorrow I were not in accord with him, he would take my head off, if he could, without scruple. For honesty."')61There is Giacomo Matteotti, as a young Socialist organizer of liberal-revolutionary bent in the villages of the Po Valley, atheist but respectful of his wife's devoutness; and Giovanni Amendola, Neapolitan, instinctive conservative and dogmatic anti-Mussolinian, unflinching as a schismatic bishop and a symbolic though not dynamic leader for the Aventine movement. And there are Mosca and Croce, two more southern conservatives who had the common merit of having spoken out in a liberal protest against fascism. Mosca is shown as a man of culture, a student of Manzoni, a quiet scholar whose contributions to social science were unduly overshadowed by the fame of Vilfredo Pareto. Croce is portrayed as a man of good sense and the just mean, seeking to avoid politics except minimally as a matter of example, yet forced to take a strong position to resist Italy's loss of contact with European intellectual life.62 It is, then, the man who boldly af61 Prezzolini, L'italiano inutile (Milan, 1953), p. 193. 62 Gobetti, "II liberalismo di Luigi Einaudi," loc. cit., "La nostra cultura politica," loc. cit., pp. 42-44 (on Salvemini), "Matteotti," RL, July 1, 1924, "Amendola," RL, May 31, 1925, "Gaetano Mosca, conservatore galantuomo," RL, Apr. 29, 1924, "Croce oppositore," RL, Sept. 6, 1925, and Prezzolini," Opera critica, II, 206-15; Prezzolini, L'italiano inutile, p. 193.
firms his convictions, whether he be the southern-conservative or revolutionary variety of liberal, whom Gobetti praises; only absence of conviction is condemnable. His portrait of Gramsci again disclosed the liberal value of the man: "The figure of Lenin appeared to him as a heroic will to liberation; the methods and ideas that composed the Bolshevik myth, hidden but strong in the popular psyche, were to constitute not the model for an Italian revolution, but the incitement to a liberal initiative working from below."63 Gobetti's appreciation of Gramsci was thus set down in his own terms, as was Gramsci's of the assistance Gobetti gave to the cause of the proletariat.64
The circumstances of Gobetti's brief and tragic exile make a touching story. Suffice it to say here that in late October and November 1925, he was prohibited by two edicts first from publishing Rivo63 "Storia del comunismo torinese," loc. cit., p. 218. Neither Gramsci's nor Gobetti's observations on their Italy has been sufficiently appreciated. Taking them together, the differences between the two figure large. Gobetti was younger, continually pursuing a number of activities, writing as a liberal sui generis; whereas Gramsci was a decade his senior, imprisoned, and a convinced Marxist revolutionary. Sergio Solmi (reviewing Gramsci, Letteraturo e vita nazionale, in Lo spettattore italiano, IV [July 1951], 187) expressed the intellectual difference: "Perhaps in Gobetti, even through a formation that was more troubled and immature, there was a more curious intellect at play and a more lively contact with and participation in the situation of contemporary literature. Gramsci, in turn, displays a seeking for an essential humanity, and therefore for poetry, inspired by the best teaching of his Croce; a clarity of outlook, subtlety of style, and a most effective didactic authority." One further note: Gramsci, for all his humane interest, did not, strictly speaking, perceive the moral dimension of cultural problems; whereas Gobetti often cast them in their moral light. The result is that Gobetti's writing on Italian culture, if it pleases less by literary discursiveness, often has a note of greater directness and urgency. 64 See n. 36.
PIERO GOBETTI AND THE CRISIS OF THE "PRIMA DOPOGUERRA"
luzione liberale, then from all editorial activity. About the same time he suffered a heart attack, in all likelihood a consequence of his beating a year before. He recovered and hesitantly made plans to leave Italy, since he could no longer work within his country. On February 3, 1926, leaving behind his wife and infant son, he took the train for Paris to join the small group of anti-Fascist expatriates there. His intention was to resume his publishing, at the beginning in a bad French that he thought would be "a joke." He worked hard for a week, then was stricken by bronchitis and a cardiac depression. He died February 16, not yet twenty-five years old.65 Apart from an extensive body of writing, his more immediate legacy was the memory of him that served as an inspiration during the almost twenty years of resistance to fascism that followed. To conclude thus a treatment of Gobetti's work leaves a good deal unsaid. It does not speak of the evolution of his image as Wunderkind and valiant antiMussolinian, its function in the clandestine and then the armed Resistance, and its place in the politics of postwar Italy. It does not seek to trace the contribution that those who worked with Gobetti have made in Italian life since the war-a group of surprising size, whose activity has extended into such fields as education, history, literature, and diplomacy. It does not attempt to discuss the several questions raised by critics of his thought, such as whether his revolutionary liberalism was actually not more conservative than he made it seem, or whether, since it developed only under
65 On Gobetti's harassment and exile see Spriano, p. 205 n.; Umberto Calosso, Preface to Gobetti, Scritti attuali (Rome, 1945), p. 11; "Progetto di una casa editrice a Parigi," in the archives at Centro Studi Piero Gobetti, Turin; and the testimonials in the Mar. 16, 1926 issue of Baretti.
Mussolini, it was little more than a negative function of fascism. To appraise Gobetti's achievement more briefly: the timing of his death and the events that followed have caused him to be remembered especially for political activity marked by extraordinary boldness and originality of insight. Yet the Rivoluzione liberale movement, formally speaking, was a failure. It did not reform the Liberal party, or bring about any substantial change in the position of peasants and factory workers, or lead to any distinct political formation in postwar Italy. Gobetti was in fact not a politician. Ever the diffident, too-perceptive intellectual, he was seldom capable of formulating concrete policy and tactics; he was a leader of intellectuals and elites but not of the masses. I would suggest that the advent of fascism did shift the emphasis in Gobetti's work more heavily to the political, but that, fundamentally, he adhered to the outlook he had imbibed from Croce, one that in part Gramsci shared. In this view, politics was one strand interwoven into the whole reality of national life, along with literature and the arts, education, philosophy, religion, and so forth. It was Gobetti's gift to be both publicist and critic of his Italy, especially in its cultural-political and literary-artistic aspects. Between 1918 and 1925 he penned his view of that world and its leaders; to his criticisms he added a new political idea that was his hope for the future of his country. He left a prolific body of insights into a period of turmoil-writings that helped enlighten his contemporaries, and that now, in another dimension, can assist us in an understanding of those days and the men who shaped them.
ITHACA, NEW YORK
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