Mazzini and Marx: Thoughts upon Democracy in Europe

Mazzini and Marx: Thoughts upon Democracy in Europe

Mazzini and Marx: Thoughts upon Democracy in Europe

Mazzini and Marx: Thoughts upon Democracy in Europe

Synopsis

Between August 1846 and April 1847, Guiseppe Mazzini, in London exile, published six articles in English in the People's Journal, the last of which was on "Communism." With these articles, which became known in his native country in an 1852 Italian reworking, Mazzini powerfully inserted himself into the debate on the nature of democracy, alongside the most illustrious intellectuals of the time, Tocqueville, Blanc, Cabet, and Proudon.

Excerpt

Giuseppe Mazzini is one of the most neglected thinkers of the nineteenth century. For most people, even professional historians, he is linked exclusively to the Italian Risorgimento—the struggle for Italian unity—and even then as a failure. However, during his lifetime, he was a European thinker, not simply another Italian exile in London. in this book Salvo Mastellone recaptures for us this “European Mazzini.”

In exile, Mazzini participated in the most important debates of the mid-nineteenth century as an integral part of the British intellectual milieu. the burning questions agitating the most important political writers in London included the issues of repressed nationalities in general—not just the Italian question, which was part of a much larger problem—and the nature of democracy. Mastellone's book focuses on these two questions in particular, but most importantly on Mazzini's notion of democracy. Mastellone discovered a series of fundamental articles published by Mazzini in English that, if not completely unknown to modern scholars, were imperfectly understood, or not at all, in their context and impact. When they first saw the light, however, the articles touched off important debates because of Mazzini's trenchant criticisms of Communist ideas. According to Mazzini, communism as expressed by its mid-nineteenth-century exponents led straight to dictatorship. Stung by his powerful censure of their ideas, the Communists looked around for a “champion” to answer him; that hero was Karl Marx. Thus, as Mastellone demonstrates, the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, was partly an answer to Mazzini's 1846-1847 condemnation of where communism was headed.

Because of his opposition to communism, Mazzini earned the ire of European Marxists, who succeeded in diminishing his stature as a major European philoso-

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