Antonio Gramsci 1919

To the section commissars of the FIAT-Brevetti workshops

First Published: L'Ordine Nuovo, 13 September 1919;
Translated: by Mchael Carney.


The new form which the internal commission has assumed in your workshop with the nomination of section commissars and the discussions which preceded and accompanied this transformation have not passed unnoticed amongst the workers and bosses of Turin. On the one hand they are readying themselves to imitate you and take over other establishments in the city and province, on the other the bosses and their agents, the organizers of the big industrial enterprises, are watching this movement with growing interest and are asking themselves and asking you what is the direction in which this is headed, what is the programme which the Turin working class proposes to carry out.

We know that to the establishing of this movement our paper has contributed more than a little. In it the question has been examined from not only a general and theoretical point of view, but the results of experience in other countries have been gathered and publicized, to furnish the elements for study of practical applications. We know, however, that our work has had a value in that it has satisfied a need, it has favoured the concrete establishment of an aspiration which was latent in the conscience of the labouring masses. For this reason we quickly understood each other, and could quickly pass from discussion to realization.

The need, the aspiration from which the renewal movement of the labour organization draws its origin, are, we believe, in the things themselves, are a direct consequence of the point at which has arrived, in its development, the social and economic organism based on private appropriation of the means of exchange and production. Today, the worker in the factory and the peasant in the country, the English miner and the Russian muzhik, workers of the whole world, in a more or less certain way, feel in a more or less direct way that truth which the men of studies had foreseen, and gathering ever greater certainty, when they observe the events of this period of the history of humanity: we are arrived at a point in which the working class, if it wishes to rise to the task of reconstruction which is in its deeds and in its will, must begin to organize itself in a positive fashion matched to the end to be reached.

And if it is true that the new society will be based on work and the coordination of the energies of producers, the places where they work, where the producers live and work in common, will tomorrow be the centres of the social organism and will have to take the place of the governing bodies of today’s society. As, in the first days of the labour struggle, organization by trade was that which was best fitted to the aims of defence, to the necessities of the battles for economic betterment and immediate discipline, so today, when the aims of reconstruction are delineated with ever greater consistency in the minds of workers, it is necessary that a factory organization, a true school for the reconstructive capacities of workers, arise next to and in support of the former.

The working masses must prepare themselves effectively for the acquisition of complete mastery of themselves, and the first step on this path is the most solid self-discipline, in the workshop, in an autonomous, spontaneous and free way. Nor can it be denied that the discipline which with the new system will be installed will lead to an improvement of production, but this is none other than a proof of a thesis of socialism: the more human productive forces, emancipating themselves from the slavery to which capitalism would want them forever condemned, become conscious of themselves, liberate themselves and freely organize themselves, the better the manner of their use becomes: a man always works better than a slave. To those who object that this is collaboration with our adversaries, with the company owners, we respond that instead this is the only means of mastery, because the working class conceives of the possibility of _doing for itself_ and of doing well: indeed, it acquires day by day a clearer certainty of being alone capable of saving the world from ruin and desolation. Thus every action which you undertake, every battle offered under your guidance will be illuminated by the light of the ultimate end which is in the souls and intentions of all of you.

So acts apparently of little importance in which the mandate conferred on you is explained acquire enormous value. Elected by a constituency in which disorganized elements are still numerous, your first task will certainly be that of enrolling them in the ranks of the organization, work which for the most part will be eased by the fact that they will find in you those who are always ready to defend them, guide them, engage them in the life of the factory. You will show them by example that the strength of the worker is all in union and solidarity with his comrades.

So also you must be vigilant that in the divisions the rules of work established by the trade federations and accepted in the agreements are respected, since in this area even a slight derogation from the established principles can constitute a serious offence against the rights and personality of the worker, of which you are rigid and tenacious defenders and custodians. And since you will live continuously amongst workers and work, you will be in a position to notice the modifications imposed by the technical progress of production and the improved consciousness and capacity of the workers themselves. In this way a workshop _custom_ will be established, that is from the laws which the producers will develop and apply to themselves. We are certain that the importance of this fact does not escape you, that it is evident before the minds of all the constituencies which with readiness and enthusiasm have understood the value and the significance of the work which you have proposed to do: beginning the active intervention in the technical field and in the disciplinary, of those same forces of labour.

In the technical field you will be able on the one hand to carry out a useful task of information, collecting precious data and materials both for the trade federations and for the central and governing bodies of the new workshop organizations. You will see to it also that workers of the section acquire an ever greater ability, and will banish the miserable feelings of professional jealousy which still make them divided and discordant; you will thus train them for the day in which, having to work no longer for the boss but for themselves, it will be necessary for them to be united in solidarity, to grow the forces of the great proletarian army, of which they are the first cells. Why could you not make grow, in the workshop itself, suitable sections for education, true professional schools, where every worker, rising from brutalizing tasks, might open his mind to the processes of production, and better himself?

Certainly, to do all that discipline will be necessary, but the discipline which you ask of the working masses will be well different from that which the boss imposes and claims, strong with the right of ownership which gives him a position of privilege. You will be strong with another law, that of labour which after centuries of being a tool in the hands of your exploiters today will redeem itself, will direct itself. Your power, opposed to that of the bosses and their officials, will represent in front of the forces of the past, the free forces of the future, which await their hour, and prepare it, knowing that it will be the hour of redemption from every slavery.

And so the central organs which will arise for every section group, for every group of factories, for every city, for every region, up to a supreme national workers’ council, will advance, enlarge, intensify the work of control, of preparation and of order of the whole class for the aims of conquest and government.

The path will not be short, or easy, we know: many difficulties will arise and will oppose you, and to overcome them will require making use of great abilities, will sometimes require calling on the strength of the organized class, will require you to be ever more lively and pushed to action by a great faith, but that which is most important, oh comrades, is that the workers, under the guidance of you and of those who will imitate you, acquire the living certainty of walking finally, sure of the aim, on the great road of the future.