Antonio Gramsci 1921

The Agrarian Struggle in Italy

Source: L'Ordine Nuovo, 31 August 1921;
Translated: by Ben W.

As the policies practiced by the landowners in Italy become clearer, their importance for the workers grows.

The landowners are not mere arbitrators of the situation in the countryside. On the contrary, they use this status to work towards other goals. These are less well known, but far more important in regard to their class interests. It is a fact that today the landowners have become the masters of the banks.

Above all, this means that they now hold the fate of industry in their hands. In this way the interests of the urban working class have become directly tied to those of the peasantry – and it is why the proletariat of the cities must follow all developments among the rural workers attentively.

The landowners, having crushed the peasant class, will soon after seek the subjugation of the workers in the cities.

It is in this sense – when speaking of rural fascism (whose centre is in the Bologna region) – that we have always maintained that workers in the cities cannot afford to be disinterested in how the crisis of fascism is resolved.

If the peasants continue to be terrorised in the countryside, then it won’t be long until urban workers will feel the repercussions themselves.

However, it is not only the violence in the countryside that will determine the outcome of the crisis in the cities. Industry will not be able to develop normally unless it is liberated from the influence of these rural adventurers – who have become captains of industry without any specific merit of their own.

Is it possible that this will occur through an internal evolution of the Italian state – that is, without causing conflicts and violent clashes? The attempt by the Popolari party to modify relations between the peasants and the landowners – effectively seeking to reconcile workers and capital – can only be destined to failure. The cancelation of the agricultural pact reveals once again the impotence of the Popolari party – and of any other party that follows in their footsteps.

In comparison with the Popolari, the landowners’ MPs only represent a small minority. But the real power of these MPs within the spheres of government exceeds that of the Popolari. This is not the time to repeat arguments about the weakness of parliamentary institutions. However, these events do demonstrate that what counts today is not the number of MPs, but the organised forces at one’s disposal on the ground.

In this regard, the landowners are very much stronger than the Popolari. Doesn’t the episode at Treviso perhaps show that the Popolari are prisoners of the landowners – or, if not prisoners, then impotent when faced with their actions? In Treviso a Popolari newspaper [office] was destroyed and the local headquarters of the Popolari were raided and smashed up.

But in this case the Popolari, who have many ministers in what is supposed to be the cabinet (topped off by the minister of justice!) did not even dare to take the usual measures that one would adopt for the most common crimes.

So the Popolari are only able to support the interests of the peasants in a very limited manner, and only temporarily – until they come into conflict with the interests of the landowners. This is exactly what happened in the case of the cancellations.

Minister Micheli has agreed a postponement. This was also supported by the Socialists. The attitude of the landowners might compel the two parties – Popolari and Socialist – to adopt a clearer position in the sphere of parliamentary collaboration.

But this will not deprive the landowners of their dominant position in domestic politics. They have at their disposal some very blunt instruments to organise their ‘defence’ against the working class. We have seen stark proof of this with the activities of the fascist organisations in the countryside. Therefore they can, when they wish, impose their will once again on the peasants – even in opposition to the decisions of the government.

For electoral purposes the Socialists and the Popolari are keen to show that they have the well-being of the peasants at heart. But they are incapable of developing a concrete strategy that would stop the landowners carrying out their own plans.

The problem of the land is coming back on to the agenda of Italian politics today. Everywhere the peasant class is in ferment. Only a revolutionary party – and in Italy that means the Communist Party – is capable of grasping this problem, and fighting for a genuine solution.

The problem of the land is the problem of the revolution – which in Italy is possible only if it coincides with the interests of the peasants and workers. This fact is confirmed today. Just as in April 1920, peasants and workers are united with the same interests in their fight against exploitation by the bosses.

The problem of the Italian revolution is therefore the problem of the unity of the workers and peasants. It is vital that communists don’t neglect this important aspect of the revolution in Italy.