Chris Harman


Gramsci’s revolutionary legacy


(Spring 2007)

From International Socialism, No. 114, Spring 2007.
Copyright © 2007 International Socialism.
Downloaded with thanks from the International Socialism Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The violent conquest of power necessitates the creation by the party of the working class of an organisation of the military type … capable of wounding and inflicting grave blows on … the bourgeois state apparatus … at the decisive moment of struggle.
Antonio Gramsci to a fellow prisoner of Mussolini in the early 1930s

During the lifetime of great revolutionaries the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonise them, to hallow their names while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarising it.
Lenin State and Revolution

Few cases better fit Lenin’s comment than that of Antonio Gramsci. Since his death on 27 April 1937 those with attitudes the polar opposite of his have attempted to appropriate his ideas. So the organisers of the conferences in London on the anniversary of his death, in 1977 and 1987, claimed the Gramsci of the Prison Notebooks as somehow justifying their own trajectory from Stalinism to Eurocommunism, and from Eurocommunism to a version of Labourism hostile to the party’s left. The main trend in ‘Gramsci studies’ since then has been, if anything, even more to the right. The name ‘Gramsci’ has gained a respectability in academic circles that ‘Lenin’ and ‘Trotsky’ will never have. Meanwhile, the revolutionary ideas of the real Gramsci are treated as irrelevant to today’s supposedly ‘postmodern’ world.

Here Megan Trudell, Chris Bambery, Chris Harman and Adrian Budd reclaim Gramsci for revolutionary Marxism on the seventieth anniversary his death.

Last updated on 1.12.2011