Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Antonio Gramsci is one of the most important revolutionaries of the crucial inter-war years. He’s also almost forgotten, perhaps because his ideas are often considered difficult.
Gramsci spent his life in Italy – he grew up as huge social struggles erupted following Italy’s unification, and then as some of Italy’s cities became industrial power houses, Gramsci saw the potential for the working class to be a radical agent of change and he got involved in socialist politics.
Active before and after the First World War, Gramsci was lived at a time when the militant workers of Turin threatened to lead an Italian revolution. But Gramsci didn’t just preach to these workers – he learnt from their actions and methods. The organisations setup by the insurrectionary people of Turin did more than just co-ordinate a strike - just as in Russia the Bolshevik's had seen how the soviets could form the basis of a new society, Gramsci saw that the workplace councils of Turin offered an alternate way of organising.
Gramsci’s most important battle had the rise of Mussolini as its backdrop. Indeed his greatest campaign was to orientate the worker’s movement towards an effective fight against fascism. He argued that the Italian Communist party must unite with non-communists to build the mass movement capable of smashing Mussolini’s armed gangs. Unfortunately the failure to do this at a pivotal moment led to the defeat of the movement and Gramsci’s arrest.
Because there is so much to Gramsci’s life and legacy, it’s difficult to get it all into a short book (never mind a short review), so Socialist Worker’s editor Chris Bambery does a brilliant job of condensing this into this short book. The third in the “Rebel’s Guide” series from Bookmarks, this would be a £3 well spent for anyone with a passing interest in socialist ideas, or a desire to change the world.
Birchall - A Rebel's Guide to Lenin
Choonara - A Rebel's Guide to Trotsky