English - Introduction

On Antonio Gramsci, from 1952 to 1956

Antonio Gramsci’s antifascism

In the political atmosphere when at Senate Scelba’s Act[1] was approved with a wide majority, Palmiro Togliatti on 23th March 1952 gave a speech at Associazione culturale in Bari on topic: Gramsci as ideologist of antifascism[2], trying to clear up the issue of ideological unity against antifascism among different political groups. His paper is based on the difference, yet build up by De Sanctis[3], of the idea of freedom as a method, still developed by democratic tradition on the substantial features.

Resuming this from De Sanctis, Gramsci took the concept and employed it in a class-oriented way: he showed liberal ideology as an instrument of supremacy and fascism as the armed hand of traditional ruling class, which could avoid «the coming of working class to seize power». Togliatti refers explicitly to lacks of liberal meaning with an example: Benedetto Croce reduced fascism to a «contingent moral and intellectual disease»[4] so that it’s easy to understand one of the reasons why that dramatic political situation has been identified so late.

On the previous year, 1951, the publication of the Prison books ended with the volume: Past and present , mostly recognized, in its historiographical traits, as a contribution to the rebuilding of the history of the working class[5], as well as an analysis on the political origins of fascism[6].

At the conference in Bari, Togliatti shows the theories of Gramsci as an «historical interpretation which starts a new science in our history and in our politics»[7] with the object of an historiographical study on a national level, yet a starting point for a modernized italian society against the always impending threat by capitalistic class of an «old-style reactionary hegemony»[8] aiming to destroy democracy.

For Togliatti, much more than in Gramsci’s thoughts, the strategy of antifascism is based on the argument that fascism has always been «a possible trend of capitalism, so a democratic antifascist revolution is a compulsory step that cannot be renounced of the struggle towards socialism»[9].

A statement of Gramsci’s relationship to italian tradition, peculiar features of marxist historicism and the claim of fascism as an always potential condition: those are the elements that make this speech «maybe the most complete among Togliatti’s reflections on the eve of an hard political struggle against the so called “Fraud lawt”»[10].


De Sanctis-Gramsci line

In opposition to the historical and cultural line De Sanctis-Gramsci[11], that in the political aspect is a relationship between democracy and socialism, Croce, formerly editor of De Sanctis’ works, denies any similarities between both thinkers[12]; a debate, at first on a general and literary level[13], time passing by, evolves using more and more peculiar references to Dante[14], Manzoni[15] and Zola[16]. The assimilation of De Sanctis’ lesson through the Prison books leads to rediscover a «literary critical activism that Croce denied, changing it heavily to homogenize it to his critical ideas», but in the meanwhile a «strange ideological mix arises where Verga, De Sanctis, Ždanov, Lukács are combined all together under the nome of Gramsci»[17].


History of PCI

In april 1952 pci celebrates its thirty birthday with a popular book on its history[18], when the following year occur a jolt in its historiography. During the year of general election handled with the «Fraud law»[19], Fulvio Bellini e Giorgio Galli, leftist critics, published another history of pci[20], and Angelo Tasca suggests his personal evidence on the magazine «Il Mondo» about the first ten years of pci[21].

Galli and Bellini attempt to give the first organic re-enactment about the history of the party with a critical slant opposite to official interpretation; to give an example: about Bordiga’s figure, who had always been harshly critic to the theories of «Ordine Nuovo», is «stressed and argued the Neapolitan engineer’s leading role in the split of the party in Livorno till the Congress in Lyons»[22], proved also by references to Gramsci’s attitude and opinions that are incompatible with former historiography. This revaluation, in line with a critical approach from left against stalinism, involves «both Gramsci’s action, considered as the first moment of agreement to the stalinist praxis, and the following political directing taken by Togliatti, yet unconditionally identified to stalinism»[23].

For the articles published from august to september 1953, Tasca uses his «personal firsthand knowledge of facts, since he was protagonist»[24]. Also this re-enactment is affected by the author’s political positions, a leading figure in the party until his expulsion in 1929, yet in conflict with Gramsci since 1920[25], who, during the cold war, reaches «strict anticomunist positions»[26]. In Tasca’s works emerge disagreements among the young communists in Torino, but, most of all, against the historiographical plan of an homogenic group founding italian communist party, the leading role of Bordiga is spotted: Gramsci and Togliatti joined his majority. Tasca denies thoroughly the interpretation where the history of the party is marked by a sequence of positive moments under the perfect leading pair Gramsci-Togliatti. He puts the counciliar experience back into perspective in the history of the party, a movement which Tasca was theoretically against from the very beginning.

The year of Stalin’s death marks a breaking point for the monopoly of pci on its own history, establishing the first but remote premise to a more scientific historiography.


The «Ordine Nuovo» collection

In 1954 appears L'Ordine Nuovo. 1919-1920[27], a collection of Gramsci’s articles till the time almost unknow, except for few presentations on magazines[28], the publication is object of worries because of potential censorship by the party not to discover Gramsci’s politics as «an express critic which destroy the line follewed by pci»[29], or the so-called «forbidden Gramsci»[30].

On the eve of the publication an interest for Gramsci’s theories on factory councils spread out with several historical essays and contemporary evidences appeared in newspapers[31]. Just in Aldo Garosci’s work about totalitarianism and historicism in Gramsci’s writings[32], we can find deeper political reflections, even in a polemical way. It has been necessary to wait until 1956 to read the first systematic and organic works on the council-theory of Gramsci and «Ordine Nuovo».

Togliatti’s review[33] on this collection means to stress a continuity between Gramsci’s period on factory councils and the prison notebooks, clashing with critical views that watch at the notebooks as a slip out between the «understanding of reality and the concrete struggle»[34]. Next to a methodological lesson where praxis is seen as a moment of knowledge, T. invites to describe the contexts of Gramsci’s life and work to discuss «a yet well-estabilished image of the author of the Prison Notebooks: as a scholar and as spirit interested just in für ewig»[35].


Sistematic studies

Three years after the complete publication of the prison books, Gastone Manacorda and Carlo Muscetta wrote some reflections about Gramsci and the unity in culture[36], seizing the opportunity of the tenth anniversary of their journal. This work starts reminding the huge and strict study as an important feature of Gramsci’s pages, enlightening the relationship between culture and politics. The authors offer a terse general outline, well-structured, of Gramscian philosophy and the methodological aspects framed in an historical approach to culture.

Domenico Zucàro collects all his previous researches for documents and evidences carried out during a wide trip along Italy in a sistematic work about Gramsci’s life and figure[37], partial results of this work were already published in previous essays and articles.



Gramsci in the italian marxism

One of the first works about italian culture and marxism (from 1945 to 1951) is written by Nicola Matteucci[38], where he identifies as sources for later evolutions in italian marxism the works of Labriola, Gramsci and Mondolfo. This last one in spring 1955 writes on «Critica Sociale» a three-part essay[39] about Gramsci and the philosophy of praxis stating his own position in italian marxism and denies Matteucci’s thesis that wants him and Gramsci united just by a single similarity in their pars destruens to confute other philosophies. Mondolfo remarks first a corrispondence in their thoughts: a non-metaphysical interpretation of Marx, first made up by Labriola in an original and indipendent concept of reality. Then he points out that Gramsci’s leninism is the principal and irrimediable difference between them.

In this political direction Mondolfo describes a contraddiction in Gramsci’s thought, which is deeply marxist, but drifts towards «strained interpretations, near jacobin and stalinistic degenerations»[40].



Garin’s «chronicles»

In his review to Garin’s «Chronicles»[41], Giuseppe Petronio[42] shows how, three years after Croce’s death, Gramsci’s issues set in Il Materialismo storico e la filosofia di Benedetto Croce[43], are still relevant. According to Petronio, Garin moves in the cultural scene that is trying to break up Croce’s philosophy to «introduce the philosophy of praxis in Italy and in its cultural tradition: it’s precisely the Anti-Croce»[44], whose accomplishment seemed «to Gramsci, for his coeval culture, “being as important and meaningful as Anti-Dühring for the generation before World War I”»[45].

Standing out of this interpretation line focused on a reading of the prison notebooks in the borders of italian traditional culture, is Roberto Guiducci’s essay on Gramsci and science[46], where the author, educated as engineer, tries to explain Gramsci’s ontological assumptions moving from his criticism to Bukharin’s Historical Materialism. A system of Sociology[47], written in dispute with subjectivism, mistakenly defines the absolute and objective reality of the exterior world. For an enlightment on the philosophy of praxis about this topic, Gramsci set his arguments not in a theoretical level, but describes the receipt of opposite positions, idealistic and historical materialistic, by different classes. Guiducci’s reflections are original because of multiple branches taken by his analysis of peculiar concepts such as «common sense» related to ideology and folklore[48], or intralinguistic translatability of scientific paradigms[49].



Gramsci with internationalist traits

After the publication of the «Ordine Nuovo» collection, Livio Maitan, trotskyist leader and theoretician, who revises his previous critical positions against Gramsci appeared on his journal «Bandiera Rossa»[50], in a brief essay about Gramsci’s topical relevance and communist politcs[51]. Maitan follows chronologically Gramsci’s thought evolutions focusing in the council theory and in Gramscian concept of the working class as a worldwide class, whose «fight must be set on international perspective» and in this direction the author wants to stress the «flat contrast between Gramsci’s positions and contemporary leaders of the Communist Party»[52].


A debate on marxist culture

From March to July 1956, the journal «Il Contemporaneo» holds a «chaotic and multiform discussion» «centered most of all on two themes: the relationship between politics and culture, intellectuals and party, and mistakes and delays of communist cultural politics during last decade»[53]. Marri[54], Spriano[55] and Alicata[56] stand up for this study direction that arised from Gramsci’s thoughts, considered by Calvino and Geymonat as a closure into italian national culture advantaging idealistic hegemony[57].



An outline of Gramscian thought

Carlo Leopoldo Ottino’s monograph about basic concepts of Gramsci’s political theory[58], which is a development of his graduation thesis, though faced now as a work restricted by ideological schemes due to the stalinst period[59], is to be considered, as the author himself remarks: «the first organic attempt to give a critical and complete outline of Gramscian thought with its direct political consequences»[60]. From the time of Gramsci’s theorical education and his concrete work, to State and hegemony through the essential mean: the party, Ottino gives essential enlightenments, and remarkable at that time, although we can now aknowledge that his work doesn’t seem to be grazed by the critical earthquake that disrupt cultural works and intellectual debate of the period and in particular the fateful year 1956.



With young Gramsci

Battista Santhià, a young militant during «red biennium», in edifying pages of his work about the experience with Gramsci at «Ordine Nuovo»[61], collects memories of the working class fights in Turin, where main character is the human and political profile of Gramsci, his understanding for relevant questions in the factory production and the political organization of factory councils.

Santhià offers a general survey of the events during the Ordine Nuovo period, topic for many of Gramsci’s articles, which the author follows and quotes widely.

[1] The Scelba Act was an update of the XII transitory disposition of the italian Constitution that warned against reorganization or actvity for neofascist parties and groups.

[2] Palmiro Togliatti, L’antifascismo di Antonio Gramsci, in «Rinascita», IX, 1952, pp. 133-143 (->52.23).

[3] Francesco De Sanctis, Mazzini e la scuola democratica, Torino, Einaudi, 1952.

[4] Both quotations are from Palmiro Togliatti, L’antifascismo… cit., p. 137.

[5] le recensioni a PP di Alberto Caracciolo, Rec. a PP, in «Movimento Operaio», IV, 1955, pp. 159-60 (->52.34) and Gastone Manacorda, Antonio Gramsci, Passato e Presente, in «Società», VIII, 1952, pp. 145-150 (->52.41).

[6] le altre recensioni a PP di Paolo Alatri, Passato e presente. L'ultimo libro di Gramsci, in «Paese Sera», 4 marzo 1952 (->52.30); Paolo Alatri, Come aiutarono il fascismo Giolitti, Croce e Gentile, in «Il Paese», 19 aprile 1952 (->52.31) and by Aldo Garosci, in «Il Ponte», VIII, 1952, pp. 1022-1023 (->52.39).

[7] Togliatti, L'antifascismo… cit., p. 142.

[8] Ivi, p. 143.

[9] Guido Liguori, Gramsci conteso. Storia di un dibattito, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 1996, p. 60

[10] Ibidem. In 1953 Alcide de Gasperi's Demo-Christians pushed through an electoral law providing that any group winning 50.1% of the popular vote should receive 64% of the chamber seats, a clear working majority, the law itself proved so unpopular that it is widely known as the «legge truffa» (Fraud law).

[11]  The echo of this interpretation owing to the publication of Letteratura e vita nazionale is considered in Liguori, Gramsci conteso, cit., p. 62, about Croce’s outcry see Carlo Salinari, Il ritorno di De Sanctis, in «Rinascita», IX, 1952, p. 292 (->52.20), where, two months before the author writes: «it seems that the connection between De Sanctis and Gramsci nowadays has a greater meaning and many further growth chances to  than the traditional one De Sanctis-Croce».

[12] Benedetto Croce, De Sanctis-Gramsci?, in «Lo Spettatore Italiano», V, 1952, pp. 294-296 (->52.09).

[13] In reply to Croce: Valentino Gerratana, De Sanctis-Croce o De Sanctis-Gramsci? Appunti per una polemica, in «Società», VIII, 1952, pp. 497-512 (->52.16).

[14] Galvano Della Volpe, Antonio Gramsci e l’estetica crociana, in «La Fiera Letteraria», VIII, n. 4, 15 febbraio 1953, p. 4 (->53.11).

[15] Natalino Sapegno, Manzoni tra De Sanctis e Gramsci, in «Società», VIII, 1952, pp. 7-19 (->52.21), Angelo Romanò replies with Gramsci, Manzoni e gli umili, in «Rassegna di Politica e di Storia», I, 1955, pp. 26-32 (->55.24) and with reworked conclusions Id., Manzoni visto da Gramsci, in «L'osservatore Politico Letterario», II, n. 10, 1956, pp. 67-78 (->56.18).

[16] Adriano Seroni, De Sanctis, Zola e la cultura italiana moderna, in «Rinascita», X, 1953, pp. 492-497 (->53.21).

[17] Quotations of Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 63.

[18] Trenta anni di vita e lotte del P.C.I., a cura di Palmiro Togliatti, Roma, Rinascita, 1952 (->52.01).

[19] See note 22.

[20] Fulvio Bellini, Giorgio Galli, Storia del Partito Comunista Italiano, Milano, Schwarz, 1953 (->53.03).

[21] The history is splitted in seven parts: Angelo Tasca: I primi dieci anni del Partito Comunista Italiano, in «Il Mondo», V, 1953, La storia e la preistoria, n. 33, 18 agosto, pp. 3-4; L’«Ordine Nuovo», n. 34, 25 agosto, p. 5; Comunismo e fascismo, n. 35, 1 settembre, pp. 9-10; Ordinovisti e bordighisti, n. 36, 8 settembre, pp. 9-10; La direzione clandestina, n. 37, 15 settembre, pp. 9-10; La nuova politica, n. 38, 22 settembre, pp. 9-10 (->53.38).

[22] Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 75.

[23] Gian Carlo Jocteau, Leggere Gramsci. Una guida alle interpretazioni, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1975, p. 62.

[24] Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 77.

[25] Paolo Spriano, «L'Ordine Nuovo» e i Consigli di fabbrica, Torino, Einaudi, 19712, pp. 88-89.

[26] Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 77.

[27] Antonio Gramsci, L'Ordine Nuovo. 1919-1920, Einaudi, Torino 1954.

[28] Before the collection L'Ordine Nuovo, besides some publications of some young Gramsci’s articles, in the 2nd “Quaderno” of «Rinascita» Trenta anni di vita… cit., appears the article Il partito comunista, in «L'Ordine Nuovo», II, n. 15 and n. 17, 4 and 9 settembre 1920; with a comment  by Giacinto Cardona, Socialismo e cultura. 27 aprile - XV Anniversario della morte di Antonio Gramsci, in «Mondo Operaio», V , n. 9, 3 maggio 1952, pp. 11-12 (->52.07), Socialismo e cultura, is also published in «Il Grido del Popolo», n. 601, 29 gennaio 1916.

[29] Armando Parlato, «L'Ordine Nuovo» e i Consigli di fabbrica, in «Battaglia Comunista», XV, 1954, n. 3, aprile-maggio, pp. 2-3, n. 4, giugno, p. 2, n. 5, luglio, p. 2 (->54.21).

[30] Giuseppe Carbone, Gramsci in francese, in «L’Unità», XXX, 23 ottobre 1953, p. 3 (->53.33), this announcement about the publication wants to cancel the above-mentioned worries making outspoken references.

[31] Besides Angelo Tasca, I primi dieci anni... cit. (->53.38): Battista Santhià, Discutendo con Gramsci, in «L’Unità», XIX, n. 24, 27 gennaio 1952, p. 3 (->52.52); Giovanni Carsano, Gramsci nel ricordo di un operaio torinese, in «L’Unità» [ed. piemontese], XXIX, n. 19, 22 gennaio 1952, p. 3 (->52.49); Giovanni Carsano, Come la Brigata Sassari fraternizzò con i lavoratori. Gramsci nel ricordo di un operaio torinese, in «L’Unità» [ed. piemontese], XXIX, n. 101, 27 aprile 1952, p. 3 (->52.50) and Giovanni Carsano, Gramsci e gli operai, in «L’Unità» [ed. piemontese], XXX, n. 100, 26 aprile 1953, p. 3 (->53.34).

[32] Aldo Garosci, Totalitarismo e storicismo nel pensiero di Antonio Gramsci, in Pensiero politico e storiografia moderna, Pisa, Nistri-Lischi, 1954, pp. 193-257; specifically on Gramsci’s theory of councils: pp. 200-204 (->54.02)

[33] Palmiro Togliatti, Storia come pensiero e come azione, in «Rinascita», XI, 1954, pp. 709-713 (->54.31); this thesis was already claimed in the review by Giuseppe Carbone, Un solo Gramsci, in «Incontri Oggi», III, n. 10, 1954, p. 29 (->54.26).

[34] Togliatti, Storia come pensiero… cit., p. 709 (->54.31).

[35] Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 84.

[36] Gastone Manacorda, Carlo Muscetta, Gramsci e l’unità della cultura, in «Società», X, 1954, pp. 1-22 (->54.17).

[37] Domenico Zucàro, Vita del carcere di Antonio Gramsci, Milano-Roma, Edizioni Avanti!, 1954 (->54.01).

[38] Nicola Matteucci, La cultura italiana e il marxismo dal 1945 al 1951, in «Rivista di Filosofia», XLIV, 1953, pp. 61-85 (->53.14).

[39] Rodolfo Mondolfo, Intorno a Gramsci e alla filosofia della prassi, in «Critica Sociale», XLVII, 1955, pp. 93-95; 105-108; 123-127 (->55.23); this essay is immediately published in a single volume: Id., Intorno a Gramsci e alla filosofia della prassi, Prefazione di Enrico Bassi, Milano, Edizioni della «Critica Sociale», 1955, pp. 20-61 (->55.09).

[40] Liguori, Gramsci conteso cit., p. 65.

[41] Eugenio Garin, Cronache di filosofia italiana (1900-1943), Bari, Laterza, 1955 (->55.03).

[42] Giuseppe Petronio, Gramsci e i tempi dell’anti-Croce, in «Avanti!» [ed. romana], 14 settembre 1955 (->55.36).

[43] Antonio Gramsci, Il materialismo storico e la filosofia di Benedetto Croce, Einaudi, Torino 1948.

[44] Petronio, Gramsci e i tempi… cit. (->55.36).

[45] Riccardo Venturini, Le “Opere di Antonio Gramsci”, in «Rassegna di Filosofia», IV, 1955, pp. 48-75 (->55.26); Gramsci’s quote is taken from Il materialismo storico… cit., p. 200.

[46] Roberto Guiducci, Gramsci e la scienza: l'oggettività come conquista storica sociale, in «Questioni», I, n 4-5, 1955, pp. 29-45 (->55.18).

[47] Nikolai Bucharin, Theorie des historischen Materialismus. Gemeinverständliches Lehrbuch der Marxistischen Soziologie, autorisierte Übersetzung aus dem Russischen von Frida Rubiner, Hamburg, Verlag der Kommunistischen Internationale, 1922; orignal edition appears on preveious december Id. Теория исторического материализма. Популярный учебник марксистской социологии, Москва, Госиздат, 1921.

[48] Guido Liguori, Ideologia, in Le parole di Gramsci. Per un lessico dei Quaderni del carcere, a cura di Fabio Frosini e Guido Liguori, Roma, Carocci, 2004, p. 141-142.

[49] Derek Boothman, Traduzione e traducibilità, in Liguori, Le parole… cit., p. 252.

[50] Three articles by Livio Maitan, Gramsci e Trotzky. La speculazione di un intellettuale staliniano, Gramsci ignorava le reali posizioni di Trotsky and Ancora su Trotzky e Gramsci, in «Bandiera Rossa», II, n. 5, 6, 7, 1951.

[51] Livio Maitan, Attualità di Gramsci e politica comunista, Schwarz, Milano 1955 (->55.04).

[52] Ivi, p. 24.

[53] Liguori, Gramsci conteso, cit., p. 92

[54] Romolo Marri, L'intelletto organico, in «Il Contemporaneo», III, n. 17, 28 aprile 1956, p. 7 (->56.28).

[55] Paolo Spriano, La società civile, in «Il Contemporaneo», III, n. 22, 2 giugno 1956, p. 6 (->56.32).

[56] Mario Alicata, Troppo poco Gramsciani, In «Il Contemporaneo», III, n. 26, 30 giugno 1956, pp. 6-7 (->56.26).

[57] Articles by Italo Calvino, Nord e Roma-sud and Ludovico Geymonat, Troppo idealismo, respectively pubblished in the issues 13 and 14 on 1956 in «Il Contemporaneo»; these and the previous works on the debate are collected in Gli intellettuali di sinistra e la crisi del 1956, a cura di Giuseppe Vacca, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 1978.

[58] Carlo Leopoldo OTTINO, Concetti fondamentali nella teoria politica di Antonio Gramsci, Feltrinelli, Milano 1956 (->56.02).

[59] Jocteau, Leggere Gramsci..., cit., p. 65.

[60] Ottino, Premessa, in Concetti fondamentali… cit., p. 9 (->56.02).

[61] Battista Santhià, Con Gramsci all’Ordine Nuovo, Editori Riuniti, Roma 1956 (->56.03).

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