Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci

Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci

Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci

Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci

Excerpt

By the autumn of 1926, the world's first fascist regime had been in power for four years in Italy. Its character was still very much a matter of dispute, not least within the Italian Communist Party and the Third International. Was it a specific, national phenomenon or the precursor of an international trend? Was it a novel socio-political formation or one that was basically just the Italian equivalent of other, more traditional forms of reaction—such as the Russian Black Hundreds after 1905 or the anti-labour repression which ravaged American socialism in the early years of this century or the Freikorps which underpinned the social-democratic government of Noske and Scheidemann in Germany after 1918? Did its essence lie in its social base in the urban petty bourgeoisie and the rural bourgeoisie, or in its role as the new, more brutal instrument of big capital's dominion?

These uncertainties about how fascism should be defined were accompanied by equal uncertainty about its stability and historical prospects. It was still widely believed by communist leaders that the ruling class might decide that the fascist option was too costly, and switch to a social-democratic alternative. The notion that social-democracy was the "left wing of the bourgeoisie" had been generally accepted, for example, by Italian communists since Zinoviev first put it forward in 1922 (by 1924 this had become "the left wing of fascism"). Moreover, it was true that the fascists had not entirely suppressed bourgeois political institutions; indeed, even communist members still sat in the fascist-dominated parliament. And during the crisis which had followed the fascist assassination of the social-democrat deputy Matteotti in June 1924, the regime had genuinely appeared to totter and its backers to hesitate. But in fact fascist power already had immensely strong foundations. It had inaugurated a system of repression incomparably more thoroughgoing and efficient than any previous form of reaction. By the end of 1925 it was quite clear that any idea of the regime splitting in the foreseeable future under the force of its own internal contradictions was an illusion. Throughout 1926 Mussolini had been effectively playing at cat and mouse with the opposition parties—at least at the legal level.

Finally, in the autumn of 1926, on the pretext of an alleged attempt on his life, Mussolini decided to make an end of even the semblance of bourgeois democracy that still survived. All remaining . . .

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