Antonio Gramsci 1921

The Arditi del Popolo

Source: L'Ordine Nuovo, 15 July 1921;
Translated: by Ben W.

The declarations made to the press by the Hon. Mingrino regarding his support for the Arditi del Popolo are tremendously useful as a means of highlighting the Communist Party’s statement on the same subject.

Mingrino’s declarations correspond to the antiquated, threadbare psychology of the Socialist Party, that we previously baptised neo-Malthusian.

If Mingrino’s conception were accepted it would be fatal. The movement of the Arditi del Popolo would be doomed to tread the same path as the metal workers in September 1920, when they were led into the field of illegality – and were placed in a position where they could only resist by arming themselves and by violating the most sacred privileges of capitalism. But then, suddenly, it was all over – because the factory occupations only proposed trade union goals.

The Hon. Mingrino is joining the Arditi del Popolo. He gives to the institution his name, his status as a socialist deputy and his personal prestige (the revolutionary proletariat regard him warmly for his conduct during the fascist attacks on comrade Misiano.)

But what is the mission of the Arditi del Popolo, according to Hon. Migrino? He believes it should limit itself to being a counter-weight to the fascists’ violence, it should be a ‘pure’ resistance – it should, in sum, have purely trade union goals.

Does the Hon. Mingrino still believe that fascism is merely a superficial manifestation of post-war psychosis? Is he not yet persuaded that fascism is organically bound to the current crisis of the capitalist regime – and that it will only disappear with the elimination of this regime?

Is he still not convinced of the need to assign a purely marginal significance to the patriotic, nationalist and reconstructionist ideologies of Mussolini and Co – of the need, instead, to see fascism in its objective reality – free of any preconceived schema, free of any abstract political model?

Fascism is a spontaneous swarm of reactionary energies that coalesce, dissolve and then reassemble, following the official leaders only when their orders correspond to the inner nature of the movement. This is what it is, regardless of the speeches of Mussolini, the statements of Pasella, and the war cries of all the idealists in the world.

To launch, or join, a movement of popular resistance – while setting in advance limits to its expansion – is the gravest tactical error one could commit in this moment.

It is vital not to create illusions among the popular masses, who suffer cruelly. Their miserable living conditions incline them to delusions – to the belief that they can alleviate their pain simply by shifting their position. They must not be encouraged to believe that a little effort will be enough to save them from the dangers that hang over all working people today.

They must understand – they must be compelled to understand – that today the proletariat does not only confront private associations, but it confronts the entire state apparatus: with its police force, its courts, and its newspapers that manipulate public opinion according to the desires of the government and the capitalists.

They must understand that which was not well understood in September 1920:

When the working people overstep the bounds of legality, yet fail to find the necessary spirit of sacrifice and political capacity to carry their actions through to a conclusion – they will be punished with firing squads, with hunger, with cold, and with starvation that will kill them slowly, day after day.

Are the communists opposed to the Arditi del Popolo? On the contrary. They aspire to the arming of the proletariat, to the creation of an armed proletarian force that is capable of defeating the bourgeoisie – and of standing guard over the organisation and development of the new productive forces generated by capitalism.

The communists are also of the opinion that when one engages in struggle it’s no use expecting victory to be guaranteed by a notary’s certificate.

Many times in history people have found themselves at a crossroads:

Either they can choose to languish as they die slowly of starvation and exhaustion, littering their own streets with a few corpses each day – until as the weeks, months and years pass, a mountain of bodies accumulates.

Or they can risk everything, including their lives – and throw themselves into an all-out battle.

They would then risk winning, halting the process of dissolution with a single blow – and beginning the work of reorganisation and development that will at least secure future generations a little more tranquillity and well-being.

On such occasions it was the people who had faith in themselves and in their own destiny that were saved – those that faced the fight, audaciously.

But if the communists think this – as regards the objective facts of the situation, as regards the relation of forces with the enemy, as regards the possibility of mastering the decay and chaos created by the imperialist war, as regards all the elements that one can’t make an inventory of (and about which one can’t always calculate exact probabilities) – they do at least desire that the political goals are clear and concrete.

They don’t want a repeat of what happened in September 1920, at least not that part of it which can be foreseen, which can be assessed and which can be preempted with political activity organised by a party.

The workers have a way of expressing their opinion. The socialist workers, who are revolutionary and who have drawn lessons from the experiences of recent months, have ways of exerting pressure on the Socialist Party – to compel it to stop equivocating and taking refuge in ambiguities – to force it to assume a clear and precise position on this problem, in which the actual physical safety of the worker and the peasant is at stake.

The Hon. Mingrino is a socialist deputy. If he is a sincere man, as we believe, then he will take the initiative to overcome the torpor and indecision of the masses who still follow his party. But he will not put a limit on their development – unless he wants to be responsible for procuring for the Italian people a new rout and a new fascism, many times worse than before – with all the vengeance that the reaction will unleash on the irresolute and the indecisive, after it has massacred the assault troops of the vanguard.