Antonio Gramsci 1922
First published: in L'Ordine Nuovo, 5 May 1922;
Translated: by Natalie Campbell
The conclusion which can be drawn from the First of May demonstrations is a reassuring one. The demonstrations were successful as mass actions, as extensions of workers solidarity. They proved that the Italian proletariat, despite the reaction, is still red. They also stand as proof of the fighting spirit that is being reawakened in the ranks of the workers. All the fascists cared about was showing, through their behaviour and their statements, that they were in essence antifascist demonstrations. Such was the significance of the walkout and the presence of huge crowds at them; they took place through out Italy, including on territories which had been hit by Fascism. If the demonstrations were not carried out, this was down to government restrictions; if they had been allowed, today we would have a great deal more dead workers, but we too would have a great deal more dead fascists.
Still, apart from the reassuring observation of the sheer size and magnificence of the demonstrations, and the elevated morale of the crowd, we must establish what they were lacking in terms of organisation. This is not without reason: the united front strategy, which was adopted on the First of May by all proletarian bodies, to test the Italian Alleanza del lavoro, brought with it the following advantages, which should be considered most carefully by communists.
For now we will limit ourselves to merely touching upon the subject, given that a public statement was issued by the Alleanza del lavoro’s committee after the First of May. Using the united front strategy, the rallies of the First of May were able to gather together great swarms of workers, even though it was clear from previous action that we weren’t dealing with the same old usual choregraphy; it would be a day of struggle. Yet these demonstrations of the proletariat’s aversion towards the reaction and to fascism itself, of the class spirit that still moves vast numbers of workers into action, will not be enough to get one over on fascism and the reaction.
Fascism will not be stifled by inconsequential unanimity – guns and fists will not be rendered powerless by throwing a sheet over them. Fascism may not have the numbers but it has the organisation, united and centralised, and that’s where its strength lies, integrated into the centralisation of the bourgeois’ recognised power. The Alleanza del lavoro, that today has gathered together an imposing mass, should be capable of organising it under a shared discipline. This is a task for communists, to achieve this outcome; yet only the first step has been taken so far. When it is possible for great assemblies to count on proletarian involvement, and at the same time on the reasonable organisation of our forces, then the proletariat will be able to dominate its enemy.
On the First of May one was able to see that the rallies and activities planned by the allied organisations needed a little more organisation, even if only to have an effect so inconsequential as so to protect them from enemy attack; this would depend on it not being clear who had organised the rallies and arranged the plan for their execution, down to the last detail. The Alliance’s local committees have only been created recently, they are not yet clearly organised, nor do they have enough power. However, it is already enough of an advantage having been able to bring together the ordinary masses, because this raises the morale of the proletariat and it allows the communists to share their frank words with the whole of the proletariat. If there’s a further development to this interesting trial of the united front strategy, it will complement this undeniable advangement with yet another; a strong and deep unity of organisation.
The subject offers important considerations – now we only want to highlight that the union framework on which the Alliance is built, allows communists to push forward so that the latter becomes ever more tightly organised; to identify itself with the united proletarian union that we had always hoped for; so that the agenda of the communist party can and will be filled solely with revolutionary content. It is up to you to react against the slow and uncertain nature which, up until now, has characterised the leadership of the Alleanza del Lavoro.
The communists have already formulated, most precisely and definitely, their proposals for the development, the renewal, the strengthening of the Alliance. This could, if not pushed forward forcibly, simultaneously with the meaningful experiences of proletarian action, break down into a bureaucratic and obstructive diplomacy complete with hesitating, opportunistic leaders.
The urgency of communist proposals is shown by the Alliance’s noncholant attitude towards the serious provocations which the crowds of workers were subjected to on the First of May. Though it was invited into action from all sides, it is shown too by its insensitivity to the pressure which is coming today from the Italian proletariat, which is ready to quickly advance down the path of a counteroffensive. It is shown too by that oh so eloquent document, the public statement issue by the national committee, that, with its dull and dreary phrasing, dismisses the suggestions put forth by the masses yearning to fight. We wish to make no further comment about such a statement; certain that, now that the question has irrevocably been put to the masses, they will not fail in passing comment and judgement; from this fresh frustration, they will be incited to continue along the uneven but assured path of their own comeback.