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SELECTIONS FROM

POLITICAL WRITINGS
1921-26

Antonio Gramsci
ELECBOOK CLASSICS

Selections from
Political Writings
1921-1926
Antonio Gramsci
ISBN 1 84327 122 2

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SELECTIONS FROM

POLITICAL
WRITINGS
(1921-1926)

ANTONIO GRAMSCI
with additional texts by other Italian Communist leaders

translated and edited by


QUINTIN HOARE

ElecBook
London 1999
Transcribed from the edition published by
Lawrence & Wishart, London 1978
English translation Copyright © Quintin Hoare, 1978
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Political Writings 1921-1926 4

Contents
Click on number to go to page

INTRODUCTION......................................................................... 10
OUTLINE CHRONOLOGY, 1921-1926 .......................................... 31
ABBREVIATIONS........................................................................ 36

I. SOCIALISM AND FASCISM ....................................................... 37


1.CAPORETTO AND VITTORIO VENETO........................................ 38
2. WAR IS WAR ......................................................................... 41
3. WORKERS’ CONTROL............................................................. 47
4. THE GENERAL CONFEDERATION OF LABOUR .......................... 50
5. REAL DIALECTICS .................................................................. 53
6. OFFICIALDOM........................................................................ 55
7. UNIONS AND COUNCILS ........................................................ 58
8. ITALY AND SPAIN .................................................................. 61
9. SOCIALISTS AND COMMUNISTS.............................................. 64
10. ENGLAND AND RUSSIA........................................................ 67
11. THE ITALIAN PARLIAMENT ................................................... 69
12. THE COMMUNISTS AND THE ELECTIONS .............................. 73
13. THE ELECTIONS AND FREEDOM ........................................... 77
14. ELEMENTAL FORCES ........................................................... 81

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15. THE OLD ORDER IN TURIN................................................... 84


16 SOCIALISTS AND FASCISTS.................................................... 87
17. REACTIONARY SUBVERSIVENESS ......................................... 90
18. REFERENDUM..................................................................... 93
19. LEADERS AND MASSES........................................................ 99
20. BONOMI............................................................................ 102
21. THE “ARDITI DEL POPOLO” ................................................ 104
22. THE DEVELOPMENT OF FASCISM........................................ 108
23. AGAINST TERROR.............................................................. 110
24. THE TWO FASCISMS .......................................................... 113
25. THE AGRARIAN STRUGGLE IN ITALY ................................... 116
26. THOSE MAINLY RESPONSIBLE............................................ 119
27. PARTIES AND MASSES ....................................................... 123
28. MASSES AND LEADERS.................................................... 128
29. ONE YEAR......................................................................... 133
30. THE “ALLEANZA DEL LAVORO” ........................................... 138
31. A CRISIS WITHIN THE CRISIS ............................................. 141
32. LESSONS .......................................................................... 143

II. THE ROME CONGRESS......................................................... 147


33. THESES ON THE TACTICS OF THE PCI (“ROME
THESES”)—BORDIGA; TERRACINI ............................................. 148
I Organic Nature of the Communist Party .................................. 148
II The Communist Party’s Process of Development ..................... 149
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Political Writings 1921-1926 6

III Relations between the Communist Party and the


Proletarian Class ................................................................... 152
IV Relations between the Communist Party and
other Proletarian Political Movements...................................... 155
V Elements of the Communist Party’s Tactics
derived from Study of the Situation ......................................... 157
VI “Indirect” Tactical Activity of the Communist
Party ................................................................................... 162
VII “Direct” Tactical Activity of the Communist Party .................. 170
VIII The Italian Communist Party and the Present
Moment ............................................................................... 176
34. CONGRESS INTERVENTIONS .............................................. 182
35. REPORT ON THE NATIONAL CONGRESS TO
THE TURIN COMMUNIST SECTION............................................ 188

III. TOWARDS A NEW LEADING GROUP ..................................... 191


36. ORIGINS OF THE MUSSOLINI CABINET................................ 192
37. TOGLIATTI TO GRAMSCI ..................................................... 196
38. GRAMSCI TO TOGLIATTI ..................................................... 204
39. REPORT BY THE MINORITY OF THE ITALIAN
DELEGATION TO THE ENLARGED EXECUTIVE
MEETING OF JUNE 1923 ......................................................... 211
40. WHAT THE RELATIONS SHOULD BE BETWEEN
THE PCI AND THE COMINTERN ................................................ 226
41. FACTION MEETING ............................................................ 229
42. THREE FRAGMENTS BY GRAMSCI....................................... 231

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44. OUR TRADE–UNION STRATEGY .......................................... 237


45. WHAT IS TO BE DONE? ...................................................... 243
46. GRAMSCI TO SCOCCIMARRO .............................................. 248
47. GRAMSCI TO TERRACINI .................................................... 254
48. GRAMSCI TO TOGLIATTI ..................................................... 260
49. GRAMSCI TO LEONETTI...................................................... 268
50. GRAMSCI TO TOGLIATTI, TERRACINI AND
OTHERS.................................................................................. 271

IV. THE NEW ORIENTATION ..................................................... 289


51. EDITORIAL: March 1924..................................................... 290
52. “LEADER”.......................................................................... 292
53. AGAINST PESSIMISM ......................................................... 298
54. GRAMSCI TO TOGLIATTI, SCOCCIMARRO,
LEONETTI, ETC........................................................................ 304
55. THE PROGRAMME OF L’ORDINE NUOVO ............................. 312
56. PROBLEMS OF TODAY AND TOMORROW............................. 319
57. GRAMSCI TO ZINO ZINI ...................................................... 329
58. GRAMSCI TO TOGLIATTI, SCOCCIMARRO, ETC. .................... 332
59. THE COMO CONFERENCE: RESOLUTIONS............................ 336
60. GRAMSCI’S INTERVENTION AT THE COMO
CONFERENCE.......................................................................... 346
61. THE ITALIAN CRISIS........................................................... 352
62. DEMOCRACY AND FASCISM................................................ 369

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63. THE FALL OF FASCISM ....................................................... 377


64. REPORT TO THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE: 6
February 1925 ......................................................................... 381
65. INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST COURSE OF THE
PARTY SCHOOL ....................................................................... 394
66. THE INTERNAL SITUATION IN OUR PARTY
AND THE TASKS OF THE FORTHCOMING
CONGRESS.............................................................................. 405
67. ELEMENTS OF THE SITUATION ......................................... 422

V. THE LYONS CONGRESS........................................................ 427


68. MINUTES OF THE POLITICAL COMMISSION
NOMINATED BY THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE TO
FINALIZE THE LYONS CONGRESS DOCUMENTS ......................... 428
69. THE ITALIAN SITUATION AND THE TASKS OF
THE PCI (“LYONS THESES”) —GRAMSCI; TOGLIATTI ................... 464

VI. REARGUARD ACTION .......................................................... 513


70. THE PARTY’S FIRST FIVE YEARS ......................................... 514
71. A STUDY OF THE ITALIAN SITUATION ................................. 542
72. THE PEASANTS AND THE DICTATORSHIP OF
THE PROLETARIAT .................................................................. 558
73. ONCE AGAIN ON THE ORGANIC CAPACITIES
OF THE WORKING CLASS ......................................................... 564
74. WE AND THE REPUBLICAN CONCENTRATION ..................... 570

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75. ON THE SITUATION IN THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY.................... 575


76. SOME ASPECTS OF THE SOUTHERN QUESTION ................... 595

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 10

INTRODUCTION

his volume’s predecessor, Political Writings (1910-1920) (SPW

T I), contained a selection from Gramsci’s political journalism during


the First World War and in the two stormy years of revolutionary
upsurge in Italy which followed the War. It closed on the eve of the
January 1921 founding congress of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) at
Livorno, with Gramsci at the age of twenty–nine already a well–known
figure on the revolutionary left in his country, through the key animating
role which his weekly journal L’Ordine Nuovo had played in the factory–
council movement in Turin—Italy’s “Petrograd”. The present volume
(SPW II) spans the six brief years of the PCI’s legal existence, before the
Italian fascist dictatorship became total. The first piece translated here
was written on the morrow of the Livorno Congress, the last a few days
before Gramsci’s own arrest and entry into the darkness of Mussolini’s
prisons, from which he was to be released eleven years later only in time
to die—aged forty–six.
If the period covered by SPW I was the crucial political watershed of
this century—encompassing the Great War, the October Revolution, the
debacle of the IInd International and the creation of the IIIrd—the years
that followed were hardly less momentous. They saw the restabilization
of the bourgeois order where it had been most threatened in the wake of
the War, and a crushing succession of defeats for the forces of
revolution. They saw a growing bureaucratic involution of the young
Soviet regime, in the conditions so harshly imposed by foreign
intervention, civil war and imperialist blockade; Stalin’s increasing
domination of the Bolshevik Party; and in turn the increasing domination

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 11

of the latter over the Communist International as a whole. Finally, they


saw the rise to State power of fascism, first and most notably in Italy—
an ominous prelude to the black tide of the thirties and to the Second
World War.
It was in late 1920 and early 1921 that sections of the Italian ruling
class—first landowners in central and northern Italy, followed closely by
powerful industrial and financial forces—began to turn to the hitherto
insignificant fascists as an appropriate instrument with which to
prosecute their class interests. Perhaps the foremost consideration
which led them to do so was an awareness of the extreme weakness of
the traditional State institutions and party–system created in the half–
century since national unification. In Italy, by this time the revolutionary
upsurge had already passed its peak, and the defeats inflicted upon the
working class in April and September 1920 had been decisive ones; but
this was not perceived to be the case by the Italian bourgeoisie and
landowning classes as a whole. Even those who did grasp the
significance of the victory that had been achieved in 1920 wished to
ensure that the opportunity would now be seized to eliminate once and
for all any possibility for their opponents to regroup for a new trial of
strength.
So the fascist squadristi were financed and equipped for the task of
destroying the material resources and the political morale accumulated
in four decades of working–class struggle. They burned and looted,
bludgeoned and killed; and the mass socialist and trade–union
organizations put up no adequate defence. Fascism acquired mass
proportions; it also took on a dynamic of its own, with a considerable
degree of autonomy from those sections of the traditional political class
and of the State apparatus who had encouraged and thought to use it.
In October 1922, the March on Rome brought Mussolini to full

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 12

governmental power. In the ensuing four years, the fascists perfected a


novel type of bourgeois class rule, characterized by the following main
elements: total destruction of all independent working–class institutions;
permanent mobilization of a mass political base, initially at least of a
predominantly petty–bourgeois nature: suppression of all independent
forms of political organization, including of the ruling class itself, outside
the fascist institutions; defence, rationalization and development of
Italian capitalism, in harmony with the essential interests of big capital;
a militarist and expansionist ideology, facilitating imperialist adventures.
The PCI too was founded after the revolutionary moment had passed.
Although, on paper, it emerged from the Socialist Party (PSI) in January
1921 with 60,000 members—one third of the total—its real strength in
1921 was about 40,000. Moreover, its popular support, as reflected in
electoral results, was far weaker in relation to that commanded by the
PSI than the balance of forces at the latter’s Livorno Congress had
suggested. The Communist Party was, of course, from the beginning a
prime target for fascist repression, and its membership figures reflect
this: some 25,000 in late 1922; perhaps no more than 5,000 active
members in early 1923; a slow build–up to around 8,500 in November
of that year and to 12,000 in the spring of 1924 (with 5,000 more in
the youth organization); expansion to 25,000 members by the end of
1924, in the less repressive conditions which followed the murder of the
social–democratic deputy Matteotti, when the fascist leadership’s
confidence temporarily faltered in face of the upsurge of opposition
which the crime provoked; 27,000 members at the end of 1925,
despite renewed repression—a figure which probably did not alter much
in the year that remained before the party was finally driven into total
clandestinity in October 1926.
Thus the PCI, despite a significant implantation in the most

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 13

combative sectors of the working class, was always a relatively small


party prior to fascism—although, of course, the extent to which different
policies might have changed this remains open to debate. Certainly, the
party’s refusal to accept the Comintern’s united front policy elaborated in
late 1921—a refusal which was intransigent under its first leadership
headed by Bordiga (see, e.g. Rome Theses, Part Two below), and which
was only imperfectly rescinded under Gramsci’s leadership in 1924-6
(see, e.g. Lyons Theses, Part Five below) —was a grave handicap. The
history of the party in the first six years of its existence was the history of
a revolutionary organization of modest proportions, formed and initially
led on an extremely sectarian basis, striving—in notably adverse
conditions, dominated by a new form of reactionary violence at first
countenanced by and subsequently mastering the Italian bourgeois
state—to work out a strategy and tactics that would allow it to maintain
and extend its mass base and mobilize against ascendant fascism a
working class and peasantry dominated by other political forces (social
and Christian democrats). These aims, of course, were tragically not to
be achieved.
In this context, the coordinates governing the concerns of an Italian
Communist leader such as Gramsci during this period were clearly
defined: 1. the imperative need to analyse the novel form of reactionary
organization that was fascism, and to find an adequate response to it; 2.
the insertion of this theoretical and practical task into an international
framework, in which the Comintern was seeking to assess the historical
significance of social–democracy’s continuing strength and of the ebbing
of the post–war revolutionary upsurge (especially after October 1923)
and to work out a line capable of meeting these unforeseen
circumstances; 3. the complex relations with other political forces on the
Italian left, above all the PSI, given the contradictory pressures of on the

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 14

one hand the Comintern united front policy and on the other the PCI’s
sectarian formation; 4. the intense inner–party struggle that was
conditioned by the foregoing problems, as by more direct forms of
Comintern intervention and by the course of events in the Soviet Union.
These then provide the master themes of the present volume. What is
fascism, what Italian historical specificity had produced it and how to
combat it? How to defeat reformism and destroy its influence over the
masses? What kind of revolutionary party could carry out these tasks,
and how could it gain a mass implantation? How to evaluate and relate
to events in the Soviet Union and the evolution of the Comintern?
When the Italian Communist Party was founded in January 1921,
Gramsci—despite L’Ordine Nuovo’s earlier–mentioned key role in the
central revolutionary experience of the post–war period—was in a totally
isolated position on its first central committee. Bordiga had begun to
organize a national communist faction within the PSI in the autumn of
1919 long before any of the Ordine Nuovo group recognized the need
for an autonomous organization of communists. It was only in May
1920, after the defeat of the April general strike had exposed the PSI
leadership’s inability or unwillingness to take a revolutionary initiative in
practice despite its fiery rhetoric, that Gramsci finally understood the
need for such an organization. Then, however, he found himself unable
to persuade Bordiga that parliamentary abstentionism should not be the
programmatic basis for the faction, so could not join it. At the same
time, he was forced to break with most of his Ordine Nuovo comrades—
Tasca, Togliatti and Terracini foremost among them—since they had not
yet drawn the same conclusions as he had from the PSI’s passivity in
April. Gramsci was thus almost entirely alone in the summer of 1920.
And although by the autumn of that year the other members too of the
original Ordine Nuovo group had come to accept the necessity of a new

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 15

organization, and like Gramsci now joined Bordiga’s national communist


faction, by that time the unity of the group was shattered; indeed,
Terracini and Togliatti fell for a time more completely under the political
dominance of Bordiga than Gramsci was ever to do. The absence of any
least element of the Ordine Nuovo thematic from the October 1920
manifesto of the communist faction was a clear enough reflection of the
political basis upon which the embryonic Communist Party was being
formed.
Thus Gramsci’s articles of 1921 and 1922 (see Part One below) in
the new daily Ordine Nuovo, now an official party organ, were written
within considerable subjective and objective constraints. On the one
hand, democratic centralist norms—as then interpreted, at least—
permitted only limited room for individual expression of views, certainly
once a party line had been established. But more importantly, despite
genuine differences which were indeed to grow throughout this period,
and unlike Tasca who by the March 1922 Rome Congress had formed
an opposition tendency based on the line of the International, Gramsci
did not have an autonomous overall political outlook at the time, distinct
from that of the Bordiga leadership. On the central question of policy
towards the PSI—the question which was to govern the party
leadership’s refusal to apply the united front policy—Gramsci was at one
with Bordiga. It was only years later (see p. 551 below) that he was to
understand Lenin’s dictum to Serrati: “Separate yourself from Turati, and
then make an alliance with him.” The sole—though crucially
important—issue on which Gramsci began to develop specific and
articulated disagreements with the party leadership in 1921 and 1922
was on the nature and significance of fascism, and to some extent—
though less than was the case for Tasca—on the centrality for
revolutionaries in such a situation of the struggle against fascism.

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 16

In May 1922, Gramsci went to Moscow as PCI delegate to the


Comintern; he was to remain there for eighteen months. He was very ill
for part of the time; he learnt Russian; he fell in love and married—an
unhoped for experience movingly recounted in Fiori’s biography; he
attended the second Enlarged Executive meeting of the International in
June 1922, the Fourth World Congress in November of the same year,
and the third Enlarged Executive in June 1923. Beyond this, little is
known about Gramsci’s life in Moscow; his own writings are frustratingly
uninformative on the subject. What is, at all events, clear is that he
remained, at least until mid–1923, in substantive agreement with
Bordiga on the main issue which divided the PCI from the Comintern
Executive—the united front, and relations with the PSI—and only
differed from him on tactical questions (though it is true Gramsci did
subsequently on one occasion—see p. 298 and n. 112 below—claim
already to have been “in favour of the united front right through to its
normal conclusion in a worker’s government” even at the time of the
Rome Congress). Moreover, though such tactical differences on occasion
took a sharp form—notably at the Fourth World Congress—Gramsci did
not question Bordiga’s leadership of the party as such at this time,
despite quite explicit encouragement from Rakosi to do so with
Comintern approval. (Nevertheless, though only Tasca and a relatively
small minority around him opposed his leadership and line in this
period, Bordiga did in fact begin to lose his grip on the party in 1923.
This was partly due to his arrest and imprisonment for most of the year.
It was partly a result of the fragmentation of his majority when some of
its members were persuaded by Gramsci at the June 1923 Enlarged
Executive meeting to participate in a provisional leadership against
Bordiga’s advice. But most of all it was because, in the long run, his
intransigent policy—of principled non–participation in leading bodies,

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 17

given his disagreement with the International line—precisely condemned


him to passivity.)
It was only after Gramsci moved to Vienna at the end of 1923, as a
first step towards his return to Italy, that he began—in a series of letters
(see Part Three below) to former members of the original Ordine Nuovo
group now belonging like himself to the Bordigan majority—to construct
explicitly a potential alternative leadership. Although this involved
breaking up the existing majority, it did not initially exclude reaching
agreement with Bordiga on a new basis. For Gramsci was still far more
hostile to Tasca and the Right, whom he viewed as tendentially
liquidationist of the party that had been created at Livorno. But he was
determined both to end the long conflict with the International and to
combat the doctrinaire immobilism which characterized the party under
Bordiga’s guidance. In the event, predictably, these objectives led him
inexorably towards a break with Bordiga. By the time of the consultative
party conference which took place clandestinely near Como in May
1924 a few days after his return to Italy, Gramsci had welded together a
Centre current with a slender majority over the Right in the central
committee (the hard core of the Bordigan majority had followed their
leader’s advice and resigned from the body some months earlier)—
though, of course, in the party apparatus and in the membership as a
whole Bordiga’s dominance was still overwhelming.
Gramsci led the party from May 1924 until his arrest in October
1926. Despite the hopes of 1924 itself, when the Matteotti Affair
seemed to jeopardize the fascist hold on power and when the party was
rebuilt to something approaching its strength prior to the violent
repression of late 1922 and early 1923, the period as a whole formed a
bleak prelude to the total dictatorship which Mussolini finally
established at the end of 1926. The party’s existence in 1925 and

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 18

1926 was at best semi–legal, subject to continual harassment and the


arrest or assassination of its cadres, who were increasingly driven
underground or forced into exile. In Gramsci’s internal documents and
newspaper articles of this period (see Parts Four, Five and Six below),
historical analysis, and study of the internal contradictions of the ruling
class in general and fascism in particular, more and more came to
predominate over immediate strategic and tactical perspectives, other
than of an essentially party–building kind. Such strategic perspectives as
were developed—above all, the need to forge an alliance of Northern
workers and Southern peasants—were of an “epochal” nature (though it
is certainly true that the PCI did have some limited success in this
period in creating base organizations in the factories and in its greatly
intensified work among the peasants).
Perhaps not surprisingly, in this situation of growing impotence,
under impossible conditions, the internal struggle which raged in the PCI
in 1925 and 1926—and which saw Bordiga’s overwhelming domination
in May 1924 at all levels below the Central Committee totally reversed
within eighteen months—was hardly focused on the situation in the
country at all. Instead, it was centred on “Bolshevization” and on
relations with the Comintern (see especially Part Five below). At the
same time, particularly after the Lyons Congress in January 1926, it is
plain that Gramsci was increasingly concerned more with the future than
with the present. The last thing he wrote before his arrest, following his
famous letters on the situation in the CPSU (see pp. 617-38 below)—
themselves notable for their freedom from tactical considerations, at
such a moment—was the never–to–be–completed essay on “The
Southern Question” which concludes this volume. It is hardly necessary
to stress the extent of its detachment from a situation of the party which
Gramsci was subsequently to liken to a shipwreck—with himself as the

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 19

captain unable to leave while there were still passengers on board (see
Quaderni del Carcere —QC —pp. 1762-4, quoted in the Introduction to
Selections from the Prison Notebooks —SPN).
The texts translated here represent perhaps one quarter of Gramsci’s
identified political writings and internal reports for the period 1921-6.
Pending a critical edition at present in preparation under the auspices of
the Instituto Gramsci, most of these can be found in the following
collections: Socialismo e fascismo: l’Ordine Nuovo 1921-2, Turin,
1966; La formazione del gruppo dirigente del PCI nel 1923-1924 (ed.
Togliatti), Rome, 1962; La costruzione del partito comunista: 1923-
1926, Turin, 1971; Per la Verita, Rome, 1974. Although the title of the
present volume does not imply a similar restriction to that operating in
SPW I, since all Gramsci’s output during these years can be broadly
classified as political, the selection is nevertheless once again not a
representative one. First of all, it is unbalanced in favour of substantive
texts. This has meant excluding from Part One virtually all Gramsci’s
numerous articles on international events and polemical pieces on the
PSI and other left forces, and from Parts Four and Six most of his
shorter contributions to the 1925-6 faction struggle, even though these
categories account for a considerable proportion of his total production.
Obviously, too, primarily literary or historiographical criteria would have
resulted in a very different choice. But the present volume does contain
as many as possible of Gramsci’s considered political texts of the period,
on the most important issues which faced him. Moreover, any reader
will quickly discover that the writings included here deal with many of
what continue to be central political questions today: organs of working–
class power; bourgeois, parliamentary democracy and proletarian, soviet
democracy; the revolutionary party, its nature and its functioning;
proletarian internationalism and the evolution and nature of Soviet

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Political Writings 1921-1926: Introduction 20

society; fascism and its specificity as a form of bourgeois class rule; the
fight against reformism and at the same time for unity of the working
class in action and hegemony over other oppressed layers; the nature of
the epoch; and so on. At least, this conviction has fundamentally
governed the selection made.
* * * *

In the fifteen months between June 1919 and September 1920,


Gramsci and L’Ordine Nuovo established a uniquely dialectical and
intimate relationship to the revolutionary Turin proletariat, theorizing its
experience and at the same time stimulating and seeking to channel that
experience by means of its own theoretical work. Gramsci’s articles from
this period, the most important of which are translated in SPW I,
provide an unmatched record and systematization of, reflection upon,
and set of programmatic prescriptions for emerging organs of proletarian
power. The actual forms of such power, both prior to and succeeding the
revolutionary seizure of power, have probably never been written about
so concretely or with such force and passion. In addition, Gramsci began
in this period to theorize the relationship between, on the one hand,
“voluntary” organizations such as unions or parties and, on the other,
councils which potentially could become organs of the whole working–
class—indeed after the revolution the foundations of its state and
instruments for the exercise of its class rule.
What is clear from the writings collected in the present volume is that
there is a very great degree of continuity between the 1919-20 Ordine
Nuovo and Gramsci’s positions right up to the time of his arrest (see, for
example, pp. 543, 571-2 and 596 below). Even some of the earlier
debates with Bordiga and Tasca (see SPW I) were repeated at the Lyons
Congress, with the same protagonists. But more importantly, the

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