Southernism and Moralism
Ancient and new paralysis of the proletarian movement in Italy
Il Programma Comunista, nos.20 and 21 of 1954
The events of the modern workers’ movement in Italy, from its origins to the present day, are once again the object of attention. Just as the events around the time of the First World War, which led to the formation of the communist party, and those of its development, are of particular interest, so too there is new research concerning the period of the struggle for national independence. It is quite logical that in such historical antecedents the explanations of today’s situation are sought, which are undoubtedly of an international character, but which constitute an interesting historical question, in relation to the curious aspects of an extreme-left labor movement of a gigantic size, and a dynamic content exactly like a scarecrow.
The research of all the priggish people of the various schools has no interest in highlighting this last characteristic: in Italy, the main trick of the counter-revolution is keeping up the make-believe fantasy that there is a revolutionary left in the country, as there may be anywhere else (let’s say, England or America) of emphasizing the absence of any extremist movement. But the historical game has a worldwide background and field, and not much is said about these resources, which are somewhat like red-painted, chameleon-like scarecrows.
Nevertheless, the material that is being brought forward is very useful for the presentation of the development, according to genuine historical materialism.
It’s not yet time to evaluate the work undertaken by Aldo Romani for a History, boasted of as "monumental", of the socialist movement in Italy, and that for now extends to the period from 1861 (better would be to say, from its origins) until 1872, the time of the split of the First International between Marxists and libertarians.
Such research, the details of which are not yet known to us, necessarily brings to light the question: "what function does the proletarian class have in the development of the bourgeois revolution (liberal, if you like; democratic, national if you’re so inclined: we’re all talking about the same defined system of facts)". And it is important, scrolling in advance through the whole cycle which should end in 1945, it is important to note how a movement, which in one way or another can today boast of being followed by the masses, argues more and more openly today, in 1954, that such function of development is the present one of the proletariat, dedicated with all its strength, according to these political currents, to spreading the conquests of the 19th century revolution territorially and socially, with the supreme ideal of bourgeoisifying the provinces of the country and the classes of its population which would not yet be so.
This would inevitably appear as a failed balance sheet of our historical position in Italian politics: that the working class, which for great Europe laid down its function at the date of the Paris Commune, so it should have done so in Italy in a clear fashion, although somewhat delayed (but also with powerful advances that we will see if they go to their historical place) at least at the exit from the period of ’98, at the sound of the certainly not Marxist but firmly gripped revolver of Gaetano Bresci.
The half-century of the twentieth century was to dialectically overthrow the remains of the nineteenth century, as according to our expectation, and put the Italian bourgeoisie and middle-class Italy with its back to the wall. How, why, until when, would it come to repeat, in a version of it so histrionic it goes beyond parody, the motives of Mameli’s national anthem?
A first question would be whether proletarian movements were present, albeit as allies to the national revolution, before 1860, in the struggles of ’21, ’31 and ’48. A large role is given to Carlo Pisacane (whom we have dealt with on another occasion), but not as someone who organized workers; rather, more as a socialist ideologue. However, the importance he gives to the economy and the denunciation of its capitalist characteristics does allow us to consider him as in the way to a materialistic view of history and class struggle; this theme cannot be dealt in depth here.
Movements declaredly based on wage workers, as distinct from the urban and rural self-employed, artisans or small peasants, were perhaps not visible before the sixties: but proletarians undoubtedly fought in the ranks of the revolution even if mixed up with the other lower classes. We don’t have to repeat for the umpteenth time that for orthodox Marxism this historical fact is rather universal in the passage from pre-capitalism to capitalism, and that – to express ourselves in a nutshell – the proletarians would have had to do it even if they had already been led by a Marxist party. But the verb "had to do" and the adverb "if" have only momentary citizenship in the Marxist vocabulary, because if that condition was lacking in Italy at the time, it may not be lacking in other times and places.
It is known that in history made by names we will not see among the actors of 1848, and before, anyone besides intellectuals, students, various artisans, as well as noblemen, noblewomen and some princes of the blood, and quite a few prelates. This does not present any challenge for us: not only does the fact that together with the industrial upper middle class those middle classes were fighting not forbid us, as Salvatorelli opines in his commentaries on Romano, to speak of a bourgeois revolution, but not even the fact that even these history buffs would find it hard to give us, on the spot, the name of any "factory master" of the time that was mixed up with liberal-national conspiracies or dressed in a red shirt. It is not by chance that the Masons are "masons", that is, they have taken their name from a trade that is, after all, the least artisan of all, so that, before the bourgeois principle triumphed, it could symbolically take on the activity of a true wage-earner as its most resolute advocate; and not only for the vulgar conception of building a new society with lime and trowel, in homage to the great Architect of the Universe, their surrogate for the God of the priests.
A revolution is bourgeois not because it’s made by the bourgeois but when it’s made for the bourgeois, who might be in the basement or in church or even unborn, because the revolution is made for a capitalist society, even if its combatants don’t know it. And it is true that when a revolution is bourgeois, even though it is in this explicitly strict sense a class revolution, it is for us Marxists a revolution made by the people “really popular”, while we by the same right place "people" and "class" in antithesis. Only the proletarian revolution will in turn be a class revolution that’s made by a class, not for a class, because it will destroy all class divisions, and it’s an illusion to define it, getting brain dead in a nineteenth-century way, as a people’s revolution.
Romano is right when he says bourgeois revolution, and Salvatorelli is wrong when he opposes it (for the usual purpose of claiming that class matters don’t explain historical processes, while today we see this ideological siege breaking up around us and its sections dispersing more and more, aping our own dictionary – nor does the dialectician tremble when he has to graze on "theoretical" victories amidst material defeats; only the puppet of a vain libido, candidate for a historical character, trembles and changes his lexicon!).
But instead Salvatorelli is right when he rejects the expression “conservative revolution” that Romano introduced (if not taken from Gobetti or Gramsci). It’s correct to contest that a revolution can be democratic and progressive, aristocratic or reactionary, but not conservative. What conserves does not revolutionize: it doesn’t even matter why it conserves, if the result is the status quo. Historically speaking, it is fair to say that the Italian revolution (which we call bourgeois) has been more subversive than any other, if it has destroyed a series of States, including the papal one, with its institutions.
But the trap lies elsewhere, and it’s not just a matter of terminology. When Romano calls the revolution of Cavour and the Savoys conservative, he says conservative to mean moderate, right-wing. And he says this because in his historical reconstruction he imagines a second bourgeois revolution, which remains to be done, which will have to be radical and left-wing. Revolution of the same class, of the same bourgeois social form, but revolution in two phases, in two stages, in two times.
Here we must stop these gentlemen and show the gulf that is dug between them and Marxism, the only science of all Revolutions. When history makes revolutions, its fire burns phases, stages and times. A revolution can bring into its own incandescent crucible two classes: there is for Marx the double revolution. A class can only make its whole revolution or nothing at all.
There’s no such thing as a half-revolution. And Italy’s the last country where such a thing had to be invented. The plague of the movement were these prophets of the second half-revolution. At this point it’s not even since our childhood but for two generations that we want another revolution in Italy, one that’s ours and ours alone.
The radical bourgeoisie
Today we are concerned with the relationship between the workers’ movement, once it appeared, and the political currents of the new Italy. There were many of them, having in common the postulate of political unity-independence, and the program to overthrow the powers of the Austrian administration in the North and of the autocratic states in the center and in the South, including that of the Pope, replacing them with a single parliamentary government. But they were divided into different currents, according to whether they were centralist or federalist, monarchist or republican or even Catholic-Unitarian. The protagonist of the conquest of power by the Piedmontese state and its monarchy was the generic liberal constitutional party; the party of action, whose name has recently been sterilely resurrected, was a determined advocate of the suppression of papal power and of setting up capital in Rome. Mazzini personified the republican party, which Garibaldi had somehow joined: after 1860 not only the latter, but also the former, certainly not half revolutionaries, consider the monarchical conclusion of the cycle victorious, and this all the more so with the capture of Rome. Garibaldi confined himself to Caprera, Mazzini expanded to Europe. In opposition to the liberal government in Italy, therefore, there were – before that government split into right and left and then into their transformist camouflages – a radical bourgeois democracy and a republican party that was also bourgeois, perhaps more conservative than any other.
These parties looked to the workers, historically, with different intentions, but which can be reduced to Mazzini’s: the proletariat is a formidable instrument of the revolution, for the revolution. Therefore, to organize and propagandize the workers not for a new movement, which would express their interests and their interests alone, but as a mass of action for the purposes, already given, of a Revolution.
This position reverses Marxism, and it is the position that in a historical condition very similar to that of the Italian Risorgimento, that is, in Tsarist Russia, Lenin overthrew by saying: the revolution for the proletariat, not the proletariat for the revolution. That same Lenin who was fully aware that – in the armed struggle – the proletariat had to lead the anti-feudal revolution.
It is therefore fair to say that Mazzini “had thought of using the Italian working class as the cornerstone of the national revolution, and for this reason he advocated the unification of the European working classes”.
The advanced elements of the working class were not initially deaf to these appeals, and they broke away from the liberals and the Catholics to a large extent. But Mazzini’s program was not enough for them, at least since his demands for the overthrow of the feudal system (which was not very common in Italy) and for the introduction of legal and elective liberties were a fait accompli. The class instinct of the workers warned them even then that the institutional question, as it was said, that is, the alternative between king and republic, was not a revolutionary matter.
What other elements could Mazzini’s ideology have that would appeal to the salaried worker more than to any other type of citizen? None. At the bottom of his conception of society and of history were religious and ethical principles whose development condemned every antithesis and class struggle: on the economic terrain he supported a utopian cooperation that didn’t appear very eloquent, at the overbearing awakening of capital for its enterprises in the new climate of the great State.
From Mazzini to Bakunin
As long as they want to show us a theater play about illustrious protagonists, they will misuse a precious resource that has been excavated: collections of forgotten periodicals, police archives, correspondence that must be as important as the one between Engels and Cafiero that came to light. Why Mazzini’s popularity was followed by that of Bakunin is not explained by the personal qualities and origins of these agitators, the mysticism of the former or the cynicism of the latter. Only a true social analysis can explain why the Italian sections of the International Workers’ Association around 1870 all follow Bakunin’s anarchist tendency and why Marxist theories have little echo there, so much so that in the struggle of 1872 Cafiero himself, the first doctrinal popularizer of Marxism in Italy, was against Marx and Engels in the split.
Late and slowly the Italian proletariat, after the First International, organizes itself in trade unions, and starts to move towards a socialist workers’ party, which only twenty years later condemns the anarchists and excludes them by declaring itself fully Marxist.
The point of interest is the assessment of the two currents – now that the early organisms of the Italian working class are finally separated from Mazzini’s ideology and from the restricted circles of his movement – with reference to the task that the working class, after the Risorgimento, tends to assume.
Thus we see the reverse of the correct interpretation: that of putting the Bakuninists on the left and the Marxists on the right, and to be more exact by imagining that the former wanted to go outside and beyond with violent ruptures of the orders of the new liberal Italy, while the latter only wanted (with the famous conquest of public powers of the Genoa 1892 program), on completely constitutional democratic grounds, to influence in a vaguely proletarian sense and interest the further evolution of bourgeois order.
Instead, and it will be necessary to link this thesis to historical documents, it’s the libertarians, just like the Mazzinians, who want to take care of the development of the forms inherent in the liberal revolution; the former will be angry liberals, the latter purified liberals, but still liberals, idealistically linked to the same absolute values whose triumph marked, in current opinion, the passage between the old regime and modern constitutionalism: freedom, exaltation of the Citizen and the People, action, armed if necessary but always in defense of these supreme values.
Rather, it is the Marxists who are beginning to free themselves from these limits, these constraints, who see in the bourgeois revolutionary passage a historical necessity, but not a social conquest or, worse, an "ideal" conquest, it’s them who are tracing the paths of the collapse of the capitalist regime and of its economy, of a new, different revolution, which does not put the patches on the worn-out uniform of the first one, but burns it, not unlike what the bourgeoisie did with priests’ skirts and noblemen’s liveries on the bonfires of the sans-culottes.
“Second Half” and reformism
This doctrine of the integration of the Risorgimento, which threw itself between the legs of the Marxist workers in 1860-70 and did the same in 1940-50, is not a special product of Italian society, but is what’s called reformism everywhere; and it began earlier as an even more profligate declaration of “sociality”. Nascent socialism remained revolutionary until it was attacked and cursed in the same measure because it preached a new society and because it denounced and fought the narrowness of working-class life, the social hunger. It began to fall by the wayside in a hundred ways and means when, for class purposes of course, the second part was acknowledged, as a recognition that there existed in the free and civilized modern world the imposing “social question”. These are themes well known to our On the Threads of Time articles.
The bourgeoisie would have swallowed the second half of the revolution in small sips, with the legislation in favor of “the people” and the measures of social assistance, and with the thousands of patches in the educational, religious, family, electoral fields and so on.
This great historical movement, reformism, which is a fact and not some purely "propagandistic" contrivance, insofar as it contains a better and more extensive self-limitation, a self-planning of capitalism, in order to both support and discipline a progressive and ever-faster capitalist accumulation, while also satisfying the new range of needs of the working class, in Italy has had, proceeding to synthesis, three completely parallel forms.
Social-democratic form: the one carried out by parties that boasted of being made up of workers through their electoral, parliamentary and administrative actions; the first to be linked to the economic unions, which were the first to take credit for wage, welfare and legislative conquests.
Catholic form: that to which the "secular" action of the Church of Rome was directed, starting from the encyclical Rerum Novarum, and which in turn was expressed in the trade union field and then in the electoral and legislative field – as for a while had already been in the minor peripheral administrations – with the formation of the popular party.
Fascist form: the one with which the Italian bourgeoisie, both in the cities and in the countryside, organized its response to the situation after the First World War – when the independent proletarian ranks seemed able to go from the field of theory into one of action – not in order to take away the economic and welfare advantages wrested from the wealthy class, which on the contrary it extended and consolidated, but in order to cut the path of the organization of the proletariat into a party aimed at attacking and overthrowing the State.
Our whole evaluation of the following phase hinges on denying that the first two forms and forces, by allying themselves with the liberal one or what remained of it, decisively broke with the third one and destroyed it after having been enslaved by it for twenty years. Not a struggle of irreducible ideals and programs, but a division of work and a logical succession of events.
The worst result, as far as the proletariat is concerned, was entering into the pompous anti- fascist bunch of a proletariat that had finally taken its own independent path, so that everyone, each in their own way, went back to redoing the development of the first Risorgimento. A counter-revolutionary achievement weighing a century, if that of Mussolini weighed twenty-years. But the second one weighed in a counter-revolutionary sense because that is how the pundits of opportunist politics took it: for the movement that had taken the straight way it would have been, as it will be one day, the best gift in history.
Reformism in Italian society, whether social-democratic, Catholic or Fascist, with its de facto results, was not tomfoolery. However, it was preceded by the historically inferior form, into which we have plunged back to our great shame, of bourgeois radicalism that existed between the formation of the unitary state and the end of the century and which, at least from 1900 to 1910, still trapped the socialist movement, which proclaimed itself Marxist, in its popular-masonic aspirations – as in other nations.
There were two battle horses of this Round Table of romantic and fake democracy: the question of the depressed regions and the moral questions. It took an immense amount of work to free oneselves from these questions, when the proletarian party was to be brought back to its revolutionary position and the First World War and the struggle between the Second and Third International came about. The battles which were fought against the administrative policy of the state systematically focused on the backward state of the southern regions, and indeed on their regression after national unity, and on a series of scandals, on the denunciations of a filthy system of robberies and rubbish which surrounds the ocean of capitalist profit like a foam that denounces its motion, but whose importance is worth the weight of the foam compared to that of the wave and of the whole mass of water.
All these facts were invoked as proof that the revolution of the Risorgimento had not fulfilled all its tasks and therefore it was necessary to push it forward, when on the contrary such results and effects and above all such theatrical moves were only the proof of the completion of the bourgeois revolution, of the liberation of the productive forces which had made Italy a modern capitalist State. Above all this agitation by Cavallotti, Bovio, Imbriani, Romussi, Colajanni, and so on, was the best countermeasure to the development in the ranks of the working class of the consciousness of an anti-capitalist task, of the tendency to suppress and not to make tolerable capitalism, to which Marxist theory assigned progressively worse effects on the general historical level, as today (a theoretical victory...) is evident to all after two world wars and all the post-war social pathology.
Although they genuinely believed this, this was nothing short of going back to that classical conception of liberation from feudalism that had, for example, a Robespierre and a Garibaldi, fighters who had taken nothing for themselves, by definition "incorruptible" and uncorrupted: an immense and definitive crusade for the true instead of the false, the just instead of the criminal, virtue instead of vice; a conception as classical as it is classical that it is the most declared antithesis of proletarian Marxism. The masterpiece of historical materialism, around which the world proletariat had begun to order itself, is the shattering of that system of generous deceit and empty and bombastic formulas.
North and South
There is no historical evidence whatsoever that proves that the liberal and capitalist regime equalizes all the various zones of a given area; it is as Marxist to prove that this is impossible and false as it is to prove that it’s a lie that the "compensation" of interests between the opposing classes and the diminution of social distances is possible within the bourgeois regime. Just as capitalism is the exasperation of vertical social distances, between the army of have-nots and the peaks of big capital, so it is the exasperation of horizontal distances in the geographical space of a State-society between the industrial super-company and the four rags of the last independent producers and the proletarian slums.
National unity in large blocs is one of the historically indispensable stages in the formation of the developed capitalist society and its spread throughout the world; as such in several historical stages it is accepted and defended by us Marxists. But we need the result for the purposes of the continuing dialectical race towards socialism, just as we needed the bloody defenestration of the small artisan or farmer, and certainly not because it brings about justice in the bosom of the homeland, among the provinces which form it.
National unity means overcoming, within a national market, the isolation of the small oases of direct production and consumption, it means concentrating production and applying the immense resource of the division of labor, which in turn is horizontal and vertical, in the company and in society, which is sorted not only between strata and strata and between category and economic-professional category, but also between province and province, depending on the conditions, from mineral deposits to transport routes, which allow the "cheap prices of commodities" mentioned in the Manifesto, which broke down the Chinese wall a century ago.
When this system, within which the new mode of production sorted out the different areas of work, extended to encompass the small sectors of the old small states, the evolution of many of these suffered locally, developed less than they would without unity. This was a foregone result of the bourgeois revolution, not a result of its incompleteness. The nascent industry of the Bourbon state, for example, was crushed in swathes: the Neapolitan wool factories closed, and there are still vast ruins, because the wool and fabric of Biella ruined their market, and so on.
And there’s more: in the whole perimeter of the new state there was no basis for heavy industry: Italian capitalism, which held one of the least important places in the world in this respect, made up for this in the – very contemporary – plan of public works, to which the conquest of the South by the better equipped North opened up a huge field, causing the small local companies to rapidly fail and giving a field of action to the large railway, construction and shipping companies and all other sorts of moving businesses. This system could not but constitute a sucking of wealth and an intensification of differences in living standards between the parts of the new kingdom. There’s no need to repeat the bourgeois revolution to remedy this: the direction would be, if it wasn’t an empty illusion, to worsen things.
In the South, the Bourbons’ plans for state works were much more serious than those of the various governments of Rome, tricolour, black or red tomorrow (Risorgimento red). At the time, they could have been a start-up for the South own industrialization and the formation of its own native capital; today they are "imperial" exercises of capital which is lacking in loco, and which, specially since it lost every other colony, is busy with useless and stupid works, with billions from its American masters, from the subjected state, or from northern profiteers: look at the Cassa del Mezzogiorno and the laws of "national equalization".
To exaggerate the Southern question today, regardless of the side taken, can only mean one thing: to be either an accomplice or a useful idiot in this vast circle of easy bourgeois speculation, which can’t avoid the fact that surplus-value, by law of attraction, travels to the capitalist metropolis, that is from South to North.
The admired FIAT of Turin has the Apulian trullo (peasant dwelling) as a necessary condition. Trying to make the Grandi Motori and Matera’s sottano more and more equal is not an administrative affair of application of republican constitutions or class etiquette (!): it’s a matter of destroying the corporate and mercantile economy. Whoever makes the worker believe otherwise does him more harm than the worst capitalist and landowner, the worst members of the parasitic layers.
The cretinism of “clean hands” politics
Far easier than doing away with the nasty Southern question is the demolition of moral questions. We’ve had to fight against these cornerstones since the arduous path that was to lead to the formation of a revolutionary Marxist party in Livorno, shortly after 1900. Once the anarchist deviation had been liquidated, even in its recent syndicalist form (which merely channeled the aversion to the evils of parliamentary reformist opportunism into an emptying out of class politics, and therefore of revolutionary force), it was a matter of shaking off the plague of political Blocs, the siding together with allied parties – not for struggle, but to coalesce electoral forces against puppets that were, from time to time, brought onto the stage in order to demagogically inebriate the masses, ranging from priests to feudal barons, from the belly of the holy pope Pius X to the whiskers of the cursed emperor Franz Joseph. Asininity was the great flag of this kind of thing, but today we have worse. Then there was always the usual counter argument: oh, in Milan the party can make do alone because there’s so many industries, so many unions, with so many cards, with so many votes; in Naples or Palermo the situation is different, in the South we still have a long way to go!
Could these people understand the unitary force of the State, the historical durability of a type of State from its violent birth to its destruction? The tactics had to be local: autonomy, they shouted, in the electoral unions, as autonomous they claimed to be the ones elected by the local or central directions of the party.
These, whatever the exalted may say, are also idiocies of Bakunin, certainly not Marx’s. The famous local "revolutionary communes", fiercely mocked by Marx and Engels.
And these local blocs, nourished by regionalism and a kind of crass southernism, spilled over into administrative scandal; into episodic thievery, into the petty theft of the supplier and into priestly filth. Some of the names of reverends who had carried out unpleasant practices in clerical boarding schools were – and this was on a national scale! – so notorious that if there had been Hollywood then, they would have made a movie about it.
If something had been done, if the party got out of the trap of possibilism and ministerial participation in peacetime, of Sacred Union during wartime, and if the forces that aimed at making it an organ of completely restored doctrine and organization took shape in its core, it would be by freeing itself from this bourgeois, southernist, moralistic clutter. And from defensism.
We have placed the development of this historical period with incomplete events at 1898-1900. The economic crisis of the last years of the century had led to bread riots from North to South: the petty bourgeois were complaining regionally; the working masses were already rising up on a nation-wide scale, and against the government in Rome. The repression came, not for the first time, and struck proletarian organizers and socialist propagandists, as well as radicals and republicans, and even some Catholic priests. All left-wing opinion reacted against General Pelloux’s state of siege, against the shootings in the square, the arrests, the trials, the sentences and the forced confinement. These good gentlemen all shouted "police state"! But when did the bourgeois State not have the form of a police state? It was the feudal state that lacked it, really! And when will this bourgeois State lack it? When will we have explained to it in open papers of historical doctrine that we are going to cut off its tendons? And when will a State be lacking, if it is in control of a territory equal, if not much greater, than that of the historical bourgeois states? Where is a non-police state, from West to East?
Is police vile? Perhaps. But the fact of the matter is that the State is vile, which deterministically classes must engage with, or is it a moralistic matter?
Sometimes a distant childhood memory provides a useful brushstroke for those who... came later (though Freud has nothing to do with it). Two good and loyal bourgeois liberal-radicals were arguing. In the Chamber they had attacked Pelloux for having violated, with the exceptional measures, the Albertine Statute and constitutional guarantees. The extreme wing minority had attacked a clerical-moderate majority for having voted for the exceptional laws, accusing them of abuse of power. From the right-wing benches it was replied that given the democratic principle, the majority in Parliament could also violate the Statute, the constitution of the State. The phrase of one of the brave men, the least advanced in ideas, but nevertheless opposed to Pelloux, was this: the extreme left called them heresies! They called them heresies!
Which was the revolutionary side? It is the same case of the polemics in Germany of Marx against Lassalle and others on the Bismarck policy. The revolutionaries were actually those of Pelloux. And indeed their left-wing adversaries, exasperated in their defense of that great conquest which was the Statute of Carlo Alberto in 1848, really showed that they could never make the famous liberal people’s "second half revolution", but were rather caught up in the muddy task of the "conservative revolutions".
Since then, alongside the "depressist" and "moralistic" diseases, lives the "defensist" disease, whose fangs and nails Lenin had torn off (for his own good and not for ours, for he hardly ever had the other two). Defense of the homeland, defense of civilization, defense (booooom!) of the constitutions!
Gentlemen of the bourgeoisie!, cries the proletarian through the mouth of these people, fool us and starve us as much as you want, even more than today. But do it with religious respect for your constitution, of the fundamental charter of the State (today they vomit: of the country). We will keep quiet and silent.
If you were to violate the constitution, we would rise up and you would see that specter raised before you, which you are happy not to evoke.
Her constitutional filth, the conservative revolution.
Going from the interwar period to the present, is it necessary to go around a lot to find the similarities between those positions of the Risorgimento period and the current positions of the self-titled Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party?
The position taken in the face of the immense historical fact of the Russian revolution of an entire current that had its most respectable representative – and not just because he died in time – in Antonio Gramsci, did not adequately allow an exam (however, some clear signs are usefully quoted) of the position of this current on the structure of Italian society, a position that was revealed in the following and in his writings, unofficial as it was in the temperament of the man, a pre-Marxist position, especially held by Gramsci himself: the position that upheld the "second half revolution", exactly like Gobetti. One day it was asked of Antonio for a collection of Gobetti’s writings, so that a critical examination could be made in light of and with the methods of Marxism: he replied with the most eloquent look in his clear eyes: no, don’t do it! It wasn’t done, and to the detriment of the interlocutor who is, at least for this reason, to be accused of being insufficiently Marxist.
It is not difficult to understand dialectically the curious oversight by which the events and norms and history (ah, Bolshevization, what a blasphemous directive!) of the struggle of the Russian comrades could, in their orthodox Marxist motivation, coincide with that fascinating and evolving literature, albeit hybrid in its origin and substance. A double revolution such as that of 1917, in which one of the periods when the fact runs ahead of a tired ideology, and of the old elect and restricted movement of decades, could not but mix together the languages of two epochs and bring closer, at least in the form, demands that in developed history are both distant and enemies to each other. For non-materialists, language overpowers facts, and it’s easy to commit a distortion between the words of an overwhelming double revolution that sets the entire human horizon on fire, and those of a cachectic and late half-revolution, which is supposed to explain why anthropologically even the shepherd of Sardinia speaks and understands things so different from the FIAT repairman, framed, like a zoological species, under the acute lens of a consummate investigator, whose head is a volcano of questions and queries and not an armor around some steel directives.
The tricky question of means and end, of conscience and action, the profound polemic on party tactics, made one think that it meant nothing to be lagging behind the bourgeois revolution, or to be many miles ahead of it, provided that regional and moral demands made likewise run a quiver on the surface of the ocean of the masses.
Dismantling the fabric
The same tactical case study that applies to the eve of a double revolution is even now being employed, that the revolution should be split no longer into two but into three: we’re talking about the single revolution, the bourgeois one. And in fact the first third is Cavour’s, the second will be by right of the C.L.N. of 1945, and the third is what would have to be done to go beyond Scelba, always with a great amount of depressivism, moralism and defensivism.
But let us read Marx’s warnings to Germany before and during 1848, Lenin’s warnings in 1917, and we will find the same note, "dual" tactics, but a sharp contrast as to party theory and preparation for the historical course.
Although duplicity can be pretence, this might scare moralists, and we shall leave them to their daily task: to pretend that they aren’t pretending.
The party will pretend to take seriously the spasms of certain strata for democracy, if and when indeed, physically, the motion that is unleashed brings us closer to the moment when the final blow will be dealt to democracy.
But the party and class will at the same time be prepared for this next stage, for these blows in a new direction, not only publicly and without mysteries, but above all in the work of organizing and preparing for struggle.
This has nothing to do with traditional Western blocism. In this the various groups declare that they have found common principles which will remain so even after the coming struggle, principles which historically override the particularities of each group: they declare it and believe it, and above all they work to make their adherents believe it.
Today only the bourgeois are left to believe (or rather, pretend to believe, because it’s useful to them) that those parties that we named are revolutionary and are hiding in the pockets of their coats, to be unleashed in due time, the paraphernalia of the red revolution. The workers are so strongly urged every day to submit to the defensive, moralistic, constitutionalist ideologies that they end up really believing in them. The whole apparatus, as doped up as the masses are dumbed down, swears by them with seriousness. But what about the supreme leaders? If these are unharmed, or believe to be such, then all we have is more proof for our parallel with the extremist wings of the Risorgimento: a Carbonarism for initiated. But fear not, for they also believe, or may god confound us, what they say.
Let us divide them into two groups. The ones understand nothing and believe nothing. The others are fed Gramscian philosophy, although they don’t go as far as to define the cursus of Gramsci’s thought. Like Gramsci however, who had to learn too many and too tremendous things in too short a time, with (for him) incredible difficulty at the first enthousiastic approach to events that he enthusiastically (at first) approached, events denied by time but far in the scheme (scholastic: be it so), since h said it, they wait and will wait, convinced that Kerensky must come.
Documents? Dis donc!
You can, today, read in articles and speeches, such as the one held at the Neapolitan federal congress, for example, what the most decided "centrist" of half a century ago had to say. How strange: so many years ago, the blame was put on those who said that the movement had the same task either in Naples or Milan, but today the cards and the votes of the South are a prize over those of the North. That’ll be the (bourgeois) day.
Forgive a florilegium. It’s a purely patriotic party, for which the love for one’s country is not a rhetorical formula, but rather a continuous cure and research of the country’s interest, and its national unity. (For what follows the quotation marks can go unused). In Milan 25% of the population is employed in industry, whereas in in Naples we see the disintegration as defined by Gramsci. But the Party remains the same, quantitatively and qualitatively. However, some particular tasks, such as a slogan for Naples: 100,000 workers in industry, the master work of local communists.
(By the way, this request, which means nothing beyond the useless demand for adequate State investment for Milanese capital, leads only to 10% compared to 25% in Milan: what about after that?)
Other particular tasks: the existence of the Southern Question. Arrested economical, social and civil development. Lack of industrialization. Residues of feudalism in the countryside. Lack of development of the cities.
(This is a doozy: why is it that the order of population that in 1860 was Naples, Rome, Milan, today is Rome, Milan, Naples? Is modern life being concentrated in the cities a Marxist formula, or an ultra-bourgeois one?).
The remedy for the disintegration of the great masses is popular organization, and above all in the form of alliances, always among populars. But how – some of our adversaries object – do you want to destroy capitalist society and then propose to renew Southern Italy, which is a part of it? 50 or 100 years ago this was a contradiction, but not anymore, because there are entire large countries where socialism exists. In a situation in which the bourgeois revolution has not yet completed its work, leaving behind the residues of feudalism in the South, what should we do? Should we confine ourselves to preaching socialist society, or solve the problems that the bourgeoisie has not solved for the people? The working class by struggling for such problems struggles in the interest of the whole country. Thus the struggle against fascism in which we were the most distinguished party was a struggle by the whole nation for the whole nation.
Can the Southern Question wait to be solved until the victory of socialism? No, it can’t. (Let socialism wait, which elsewhere has been so fast).
The fundamental task is to raise a new democratic and socialist southernist wave...drawing inspiration from the traditions of the Risorgimento struggles and the struggles that were at the origin of the socialist movement.
And now, moralism
That small chapter we have just shown is a documentary collection of the positions of the current Italian Cominformist Party with regard to the most decisive Southern liberalism, which we presented without refutation, giving only some commentary in parentheses. Refutation does not consist in mocking and dismantling an enemy text, step by step and term by term. Dialectically, it is worth a historical syllogism. Whoever expounded that text did not say a series of nonsense, he presented a coherent and complete thesis, which is only a matter of putting it in its place.
The historical syllogism is this. To the positions of the bourgeois radicalism of the "second half- revolution", of a Risorgimento in fits and starts, raging in Italy from 1860 to about 1900, is opposed as an open antithesis the Marxist Left movement of the Italian proletariat, from 1910 onwards. Historically, this second term of the syllogism is with Marx, with Engels and with Lenin on the international scale; nationally it is the intransigent revolutionary wing of socialism, then with the anti-war and defeatist wing, then with the communist fraction that in Livorno 1921 founded the Communist Party of Italy. Having put these two doctrinal programs and historical movements of action in inexorable contradiction, we examine the third term of the syllogism: the current political position of the communist-socialist party: its declared positions, not for occasional contingencies, but on the whole front, fully coincide with the first term of the syllogism, with Schubert’s radicalism, which has as its masterpiece the unfinished national and Risorgimental symphony. Ergo, the third term, which is completely alongside the first, is completely against the second.
How can it represent, not in the sense of electoral vulgarity but in the real historical course, the Italian working class? How should this class have fallen back, recoiled so much, as to have the same objectives of struggle that were dictated to it in 1860 and from which in a long process it rose up? Has the national and world power of the proletariat retreated so fearfully? No, we are answered: the reason lies in the resounding victories of socialism in other countries!
Everything falls back in its place if framed through dialectical materialism with this second syllogism: the alleged socialist victory in the East is nothing but a phase of bourgeois radicalism which has affected the proletariat in the territory of neo-capitalist powers.
The test of Southernism has come back positive on three points: only moralism and constitutionalism remain. Do we really have to quote again, when these texts are printed by the millions? The conclusions walk on the same track.
An exceptional example of this trend, returning from those past decades and half centuries, is the Montesi campaign. According to official statements, it moved the nation as much as the killing of Matteotti! Come on now! We said a lot in 1924 and after, in order to empty out the almost idolatrous exaggeration that arose around the suppression of the deputy (certainly not a revolutionary), and the anti- classist consequences of that campaign: then it was still possible to bring back by one ear the communist parliamentarians from the "Risorgimental" Aventine in the bourgeois chamber, alone. But really, now it seems to us that the Matteotti idol has been desecrated: he was the victim of a political struggle, and how can we compare that to an ordinary news item?! In the hypothesis that is most consistent with that, which is supported and hoped for in the communist speeches, it’s purely the matter of a victim of miserable private pathological habits.
How much sensitivity in the founders of this Italy, where the young girls immolated to corruption have been thousands! Offered to the victors armed with either raw violence or dollars, coming from savage Morocco or very civilized America, for months and years, when still the CLNists, who today are so divided, sang in chorus, they were employed in colonies installed in the wretched neighborhoods of Naples or in the Tuscan woods.
The corruption of the ruling class proves that bourgeois society is about to collapse! An argument that’s about on par with that of the existence of victories of socialism on the continent. The revolution is ripe; and the masses are given the same directives as those of the bourgeois-romantic era, campaigns are carried out like for the Panama scandal or the Roman Bank, for the colossal revolutionary result of finding ministers or their sons with their hands in the cookie jar! Is this all Marxism is, the use of the responsibilities of the son against the father; in the astonishment at this obvious tactic, that the reason of State it’s better silences some criminal-moral mischief? Cavallotti or Zola were, in their romantic indignation, still understandable: these contemporary indignations are historical abortions, the shame and infamy of the revolutionary tradition.
And finally, defencism
The anthology of the hymns to the constitution, of the declared crusades for the constitution, of the declarations that the Italian proletariat does not demand power but only demands to "be admitted into the State", that the mentioned Togliatti and Nenni do not even want by elective route to get to make their ministry, but only to be included in a ministry with Saragat and Scelba in order that it opens to the left, is equally useless. Do we really need to cite this stuff, and to quote alongside it Marx on the Constitution, Lenin on the State, and thousands of similar passages one can even find in official party publications?
It would suffice to recall from Class Struggles in France the mighty phrase: the cry, "Vive la Constitution!" is equivalent to the other, "À bas la Révolution!"
And this running back to before 1870 and 1852 is justified, as usual, by the organized power of the working class in Italy, by its triumph in ten "socialist" republics!
All this is supposed to be refined cleverness. This fearful race to go back a whole century of movement and struggle, would be justified by the aim of throwing Scelba off the stool as soon as possible, because his police and his slight majority are not constitutional!
But the very modest Scelba, as far as cunning is concerned, can laugh merrily behind the backs of these ruthless enemies of his. Running behind the mirage of doubling and trebling the Risorgimento, they (for whom every day things change and tactics are improvised) still uphold the stale story of the destruction of Fascism, of how the moral and civil killing of Fascists or Ovrists was, and similar nonsense, debunked after ten years and pathetically faded. And the two wings of the opposition to Ike, to Clara, and to the butler of Italy’s caste, have a fistfight, and vow to have a pistol duel. What a gas!
You have burned and bartered the highest traditions – not yours but of the Italian working class – to gain this: to give little Scelba the right to have not one but two majorities; not one but two polices.
Do at least this number which is worthy of you, and sometimes advocated as a "Bolshevik" tactic in the fierce discussions of the past: a bloc with the monarchists and the neofascists. Because it seems there was no shortage of ties between you and them when you were just getting started.