A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935

A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935

A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935

A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935

Excerpt

The international fortunes of Gramsci's work have fluctuated with the changes of fashion on the intellectual left. Thus in the 1960s the vogue for Althusser in Latin America largely blocked the way for Gramsci, although in France itself Althusser's prominence also gave publicity to the then barely known Italian, whom he both praised and criticised. The element of fashion was particularly evident inasmuch as the reception of Gramsci coincided largely with the heyday of the 'new lefts' of the 1960s and 1970s, whose capacity to consume an eclectic mix made of mutually incompatible intellectual ingredients was considerable.

The element of fashion was even more evident in the 1990s, when former leftists transformed into neo-liberals no longer cared to be reminded of anything that recalled old enthusiasms. This could be witnessed in post-1991 Russia where the heritage of marxist ideas is under a serious attack.

It is equally evident that Gramsci could not have become a major figure on the world intellectual scene but for the determination of his comrade and admirer Palmiro Togliatti to preserve and publish his writings, and to give them a central place in Italian communism. Under the conditions of Stalinism this was by no means an inevitable choice, especially given the known heterodoxy of Gramsci, even though the line of the Seventh World Congress of the International made it a little less risky. Whatever the subsequent criticism of Togliatti's own views on Gramsci, his concern after Gramsci's death 'to remove him from the misfortunes of the present and safeguard him for the future life of the party' (P. Spriano, Gramsci in carcere e il partito, Rome 1988), and his insistence on Gramsci's centrality from the moment of his return to Italy, were the foundations of Gramsci's subsequent fortunes. The editorial deficiencies and omissions of the early post-war years were the price paid for making Gramsci known; in retrospect a price worth paying. Thanks to Togliatti's determination, and the new prestige of the PCI, at least the Lettere were published in a number of countries, including some 'people's democracies' before the death of Stalin. Where the local communist parties failed to do . . .

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