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PCI Under Fascism - 1921-1945

It was thanks to the aid of the Communist Third International and of the Soviet Union that in 1921 the first Italian communist party was founded and that, starting from 1923, it was put under direction of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). He was its first and great leader that tried to make it the revolutionary party of the working class.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was the founder of the ltalian Communist Party after it split from the Socialist Party when the party had to go underground during the Fascist period, Gramsci underwent a long term of imprisonment. He died under guard in a clinic in 1946 having been arrested twenty years earlier by Mussolini. His seminal work is Prison Notebooks.

Perhaps the most sophisticated treatment of false consciousness is to be found in the concept of "cultural hegemony" developed by Gramsci. In the 1930s Gramsci tried to explain the failure of the Marxist prediction that the capitalist state would fall because of its own contradictions by theorizing that in a capitalist society the social and political values of the elite enjoy an "ideological hegemony". These values are then promulgated through the mass media and the bourgeois educational system.

In Lenin and Gramsci, Marxism has two figures who can lay claim to having made highly important contributions to the theory of the state in capitalist society. Marx asserts that power is a core set of conceptions (class domination and a capitalist state) and that the dominant "sovereign power" is structurally defined. Gramsci's notion of power as hegemony developed a new vocabulary for theorists. Antonio Gramsci took the differentiation of state and economy, expanded upon it, and fashioned an encompassing view of capitalist legitimacy, or hegemony. The legacy of both Hegel and Marx is manifest in the depth of Gramsci's comprehension of what he termed the "educative-formative" problem of hegemony. It is precisely the legacy of this Hegelian-Marxist radical philosophical critique that is signified in his continuing commitment to the "philosophy of praxis" and the historical-dialectical principles that underpin this worldview.

The dialectic was Marx's specific "mode of thought" or "method of logic" as it has been variously called, by which he analyzed the world and man's relationship to that world. As well as constituting a theory of knowledge (epistemology), what arises out of the dialectic is also an ontology or portrait of humankind that is based on the complete historicization of humanity; its "absolute "historicism"" or "the absolute secularisation and earthliness of thought", as Gramsci worded it (Gramsci, 1971, p. 465). Embracing a fully secular and historical view of humanity, it provides a vantage point that allows the multiple and complex effects of our own conceptual heritage to be interrogated in relation to our developing "nature" or "being".

In the struggle against the fascist regime, the PCI was directed within the scheme of the Communist International. The party worked with the popular masses and the working class to get a strength they never had before, culminated in the partisan war the Resistance) of the years 1943-1945. However, under its direction the working class did not succeed in leading the popular masses to establish socialism.

The party was not able to combine the struggle against Fascism with the struggle for socialist revolution. It fell into the right deviation consisting of setting itself as the left wing of all the forces working for overthrowing Fascism. The Party, directed by its right wing (Togliatti & Co.), systematically refused to lead the popular masses to assert their material and spiritual interests until risking the bourgeoisie's resort to terrorism and civil war and then facing it in this decisive battleground. Its left wing limited itself to do the Fronde, to moan about party limits in popular masses' mobilization, paralyzed by a dogmatic conception of party discipline and by the conception of insurrection as strategy of socialist revolution. The limits of Italian Communist Party in its understanding of the laws of socialist revolution were shown by the fact that it was overtaken by the repressive turn of fascist regime in 1926 (the party direction was imprisoned).

In 1943 it was overtaken by the events of 25th July and 8th September - the overthrow of Mussolini; by the fact that, fundamentally, it was not ready for the civil war. In the partisan war it did not keep steadily its political autonomy, so obliging from this position the other anti-fascist forces to unite in the war against fascists and nazis; by the fact that it carried out the partisan war more as a military campaign than as an instrument to create a new popular power; by the fact that it did not realize that with the end of the Second World War the capitalism, even if weakened by the successes of the communist movement and by the collapse of colonial system, came out from its first general crisis.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:04:06 ZULU