Antonio Gramsci 1921

The Communists and the Elections

First published: in L'Ordine Nuovo, 12 April 1921;
Translated: by Natalie Campbell

The Communist Party is the historically determined political party of the revolutionary working classes.

The working class was born, and organised itself in a land of bourgeois democracy, within the framework of a constitutional and parliamentary regime. Stuck in the realm of vast modern industry, with its huge factories and swarming but confused masses; it was only slowly, and after the cruellest experiences, the most bitter disappointments that the working class became aware that it was one; aware of its own destiny.

This is why, throughout its development, the working class has not supported the most common and usual political parties. It started by supporting liberal parties and in doing so joined together with the urban bourgeoisie; it fought to wipe out the remains of economic feudalism in the countryside and this is how the industrial bourgeoisie succeeded in breaking up the monopoly on foodstuffs, in introducing a touch of economic liberalism to the countryside, in lowering the cost of living; yet all this action ended up being disastrous for the working class, which saw its average salary significantly reduced. Later, the working class went on to support democratic parties of the petty-bourgeoisie and it fought to widen the framework of the bourgeois state, to introduce new organisations and further those that were already in place, but once again it was tricked. All those new figures, all those new ruling figures that were brought out in the fight, upped sticks to the bourgeoisie camp; refreshing the old dominant class and providing new ministers and major officials for the bureaucratic parliamentary state. Though the state itself wasn’t changed either; it continued within the limits set out in the Albertine Statue, no new freedoms were really achieved for the common people; the Crown remained the only true power in Italian society; by way of the government, it continued to have the judiciary system, parliament and the country’s armed forces subjected to its will.

With the creation of the Communist Party, the working class broke away from previous traditions and confirmed its own political maturity. The working class no longer wants to work together with other classes for the development and change of the bureaucratic parliamentary state; it wants to work to successfully ensure the development of its own class. It puts forth its candidacy as a ruling class and shows that it would only be able to carry out this historical role in an institutional framework different from the current, within a new state system and not in the pre-existing context of a bureaucratic parliamentary state.

With the creation of the Communist Party, the working class is able to present itself as the initiator of the political fight, as the driving force; no longer is it a mass movement which is guided by the superior system of another social class. The working class wants to govern the country and shows that it is the only class able to do so, through its own means and its own national and international institutions, to resolve current problems caused by the general historical situation. Who are the working class’ true forces? How many proletarians in Italy have become aware of their class’ historic mission? What kind of following does the Communist Party have in Italian society? In all the confusion, in the current chaos, do we already have the great figures required for a new historical arrangement? When different social forces, classes and sections of Italian society are continually separating then joining together, breaking down but then recomposing themselves, has a basic core already been created? Is there a strong and solid core which is faithful to the ideas and the agenda of the Communist International and the world revolution, around which the working class’ can form their new, but definitive, political and governmental organisation? These are the questions that will be answered through the elections.

So that a conclusive, concrete answer is given; one that can be verified in future because it has been documented, the Communist Party is running in the elections. When social forces are divided up by the elections, the Communist Party too will want to know who its troops are, to count up the figures which stand behind it. This is a necessary step in the historic process which should lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat and to the creation of a working class state. For communists, elections are one of the many forms of political organisation typical of modern society. The party is the best form of organisation; the unions and the councils are intermediary forms of organisation, in which the most aware members of the proletariat position themselves in the struggle against capital and in which recruitment takes place on a union platform. In the elections, the masses declare their overall political aims, their ideas of state, that the working class should be enabled as the ruling class. The Communist Party is in essence the party of the revolutionary proletariat, of the workers resigned to urban industry – yet they won’t be able to reach their goal without the support and consensus of other strands, such as the impoverished peasants and intellectual proletariat.

This is the statement of principle – what is the expansive force of the revolutionary proletariat today? How many individuals in the other working classes recognise the proletariat as the future ruling class and even today, despite the chaotic situation, despite the disappointment suffered, despite the terrorism that the reaction employs, intend to support it in its efforts?

The Communist Party does not hold false hopes about results it won’t obtain, especially since it has shown that it wants to abandon the bold demagogy with which the Socialist Party was able to ‘pull in the crowds’ in the past. Yet the more that the Italian population is plunged into chaos and confusion and the more forces breaking up previous incarnations of revolutionary forces have worked and continue to work, the more it becomes clear that we need to recruit faithful followers; loyal soldiers for the worldwide revolution and for communism. The dynamic and expansive importance of this will become ever more apparent as the situation becomes more tumultuous, and as it becomes clear that the means of the next party to present itself in the field of general Italian politics are insufficient.