Revolution or War n°17

(January 2021)

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The Struggle of the Communist Left against “Gramscism”

We publish below (actually next page) a contribution, originally intended for our internal discussion, on the English-language book published by the Internationalist Communist Tendency, Gramsci Between Marxism and Idealism [1]. The latter brings together a series of articles from the Partito Comunista Internazionalista-Battaglia Comunista, the ICT group in Italy, written by Onorato Damen and also available in Italian on its website. It develops and argues both the classic criticism by the Communist Left of the militant Gramsci, the one who was actually councilist in 1919-1920 and then the main actor of the Stalinization that brought to heel the Communist Party of Italy from 1924, and the denunciation of Gramscism as a bourgeois ideology.

Today, Gramsci has become an ideological and political reference for multiple political currents and bourgeois thought that seek to disguise and liquidate the revolutionary theory of the proletariat and to justify anti-proletarian and counter-revolutionary leftist policies. “ Myths about Antonio Gramsci are endless. (…) Gramsci’s voluminous writings are now the basis of academic studies throughout the world. From linguistics through anthropology to politics, sociology and ‘subaltern studies’ Gramscian ideas on ‘hegemony’, ‘passive revolution’, the ‘modern Prince’, the ‘war of positions’, ‘philosophy of praxis’, are flourishing in the post- truth epoch which denies the existence of an objective social reality and reduces society to a collection of individuals ” (Foreword of the book). At a time when the economic crisis is breaking out and can only exacerbate class antagonisms, the promotion of radical, pseudo-revolutionary, and leftist ideologies is one of the axes of the class offensive that the bourgeoisie is developing, and will develop even more, against the international proletariat in order to divert it from any reaction to the crisis, or, if it reacts anyway, to sabotage its struggles. Isn’t this precisely what the anti-racist and identity campaigns in the United States teach us? And what better than the mystification of Gramsci’s figure and Gramscian ideology – his theorization of cultural hegemony in particular as the basis for identity and racialist policies – to add a little flavour to the classic social democratic soup to those leftists who find it too bland?

It is therefore fortunate and very timely that the ICT has decided to release this publication – can we expect further translations? In French? In Spanish? We invite all those who read English and Italian to read carefully this work of demystification of the person of Gramsci and Gramscism in order to be able to arm themselves effectively at the theoretical-political level against the radical bourgeois left-wing ideologies that are being vigorously reborn. To this day and to our knowledge, except in Italian, there was no completed, clear and argued position on the person of Gramsci by the international Communist Left that was really available, except for the articles in French that appeared in Programme Communiste, starting with its number 71 of 1976. We can even say that the two statements, both as serious and profound as each other, each anchored on Marxist principles, should serve as a theoretical and political reference for the whole Communist Left and for any militant or group seeking to regroup around it, or even to join it. Both demonstrate with precision and rigour the foreign character to historical materialism, opposed to Marxism, of Gramsci’s theoretical and ’philosophical’ approach of an idealistic order and the opportunism of his political positions.

For beyond the myth on the figure, faced with the imperialist war in 1914, Gramsci positioned himself on the right of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), which remained pacifist, and thus found himself far removed from the revolutionary position of revolutionary defeatism, to the point of finding himself practically on the same position of “ active and operative neutrality ” put forward by... Mussolini. Faced with the outbreak of massive workers’ struggles in Italy in 1919-1920, the occupation of factories and the emergence of workers’ councils in particular in Turin which followed the October Revolution in Russia, Gramsci and his group the Ordine Nuovo positioned themselves de facto on the side of the PSI, in the name of self-management councilism which they theorized, to divert the proletariat from the confrontation with the bourgeois state and thus lead it to defeat. Finally, once he was bureaucratically appointed to the party leadership by the Communist International as it began its degenerate course, he became the main vector and the leading actor of the Zinovievist Bolshevization of the party, then of its Stalinization, by excluding without hesitation the Left through manoeuvres and other low blows that were worthy of the Stalinists of the other communist parties.

In the absence of a translation into French or Spanish, we hope that the following reflection will provide readers of these languages with elements of Marxist criticism of Gramscism and an idea of the theoretical work carried out by the PCint. For the reader will have understood it: we welcome this publication, its content of course, but also its timing, and make it our own. On Gramsci, the Communist Left is united and speaks with one voice. In doing so, the ICT assumes its central role within the proletarian camp and in the historical struggle for the party. We, who do not hesitate to raise it when it doesn’t, at least not enough in our opinion, don’t hesitate either to support it when it fully assumes its place and role.

The IGCL, November 2020