Gramsci and the Anarchists

Gramsci and the Anarchists

Gramsci and the Anarchists

Gramsci and the Anarchists


This is the first work in English to deal comprehensively with Italian anarchism from the beginning of the century to the rise of fascism. It reconstructs the development of anarchist and syndicalist ideas and programmes and charts their relations with Gramsci and the Turin- based Ordine Nuovo group. The book places these developments within the general context of little known links connecting Italian anarchists and syndicalists to sympathizers in Britain, France, Germany and Russia. The analysis of 'libertarian' politics in Italy is accompanied by a detailed and fascinating reconstruction of the social base of Italian anarchism that challenges the assumptions of much of the political sociology of the European Left.Developing a hitherto unexplored but important aspect of Gramsci's political ideas and strategies, this book contributes to our understanding of one of the central Marxist thinkers and activists of the twentieth century and to one of the critical moments in the history of the European Left. In bringing new life and understanding to an important chapter in contemporary Italian history, this book is likely to become a standard text on this pivotal thinker.'Levy has written a major and important study [...] likely to become a standard reference text.'John Davis, University of Connecticut


The anarchists … carry out … the useful function of making the so-called ‘constitutional socialists’ possible, acceptable, almost not unpleasant for the bourgeoisie. It was a service we rendered to the republicans and today the anarchists render to us. Already for some time public prosecutors in front of juries have fought against the workers parties citing, even if it is rubbish, the ‘great’ Mazzini; tomorrow against the anarchists they will cite Karl Marx and the workers parties. It would not surprise me if during a trial of this kind the prosecutors might brandish some issue of Critica Sociale as the example of the ‘just limits’ up to which it was proper for socialist propaganda to proceed.

Filippo Turati, ‘Gli Anarchici’ Critica Sociale

Fifty years ago there was no such thing as an ‘Italian people’–it was just a rhetorical expression. There was no social unity in Italy then; there was only a geographical unity. There were just millions of individuals scattered throughout Italian territory, each leading his own life, each rooted in his own soil, knowing nothing of Italy, speaking only his own dialect, and believing the whole world to be circumscribed by his parish boundary. He knew the tax collector, he knew the policeman, he knew the magistrate, the Court of Assizes, and that for him, was Italy …

Italy had become a political unity, because a part of its population has united around an idea, a single programme. and socialism, socialism alone, was able to provide this idea and this programme.

Antonio Gramsci ‘Il Socialismo e l'Italia’ Il Grido del Popolo

If the anarchists are not careful, their enemies will write their history.

Gaetano Salvemini, as quoted in V. Mantovani, Mazurka Blu. La strage del Diana

The history of Italian anarchism from its origins in the aftermath of the Risorgimento, to its virtual destruction by fascism, has never received the attention it deserves. I shall not attempt such an ambitious project here. I would like to answer a question rarely posed in Italian labour history:

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