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Liberty and Discipline Gramsci and the Factory Council Movement

  • James Martin
Chapter
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Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)

Abstract

The occupation of the factories by the Turin metalworkers in September 1920 represented the culmination of postwar working class unrest. The occupations, the final episode of the now fabled biennio rosso (two red years) of 1919–20, had a decisive impact on Gobetti, bringing him into proximity with a genuinely spontaneous working class politics and focusing his aspiration for renewal on a concrete historical subject. The occupations were defended theoretically by Ordine Nuovo and, in particular, by its twenty-nine-year-old communist coeditor, Antonio Gramsci, who, in its pages, outlined a theory of workplace democracy that envisaged the factories as the basis of a new workers’ state. Gobetti’s acquaintance with Gramsci and Ordine Nuovos project opened up a whole new horizon of possibilities, expanding his understanding of radical politics and encouraging him to transform his liberalism into what he understood as a revolutionary doctrine.

Keywords

Trade Union Communist Party Factory Occupation Socialist Party Russian Revolution 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For a historical account of the occupations, see Paolo Spriano, Loccupazione delle fabbriche, settembre 1920 (Turin: Einaudi, 1964), 159. The English translation is The Occupation of the Factories. Italy 1920, trans. Gwyn A. Williams (London: Pluto, 1975). See alsoGoogle Scholar
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    See Antonio Gramsci, “Il programma dell ‘Ordine Nuovo,’” LOrdine Nuovo (August 14, 1920), in LOrdine Nuovo 1919–1920, ed. Valentino Gerratana and Antonio A. Santucci (Turin: Einaudi, 1987) [hereafter, ON], 621.Google Scholar
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    Gramsci’s writings are collected in LOrdine Nuovo. The best theoretical assessment of Gramsci’s ideas in Ordine Nuovo is Darrow Schecter, Gramsci and the Theory of Industrial Democracy (Aldershot: Avebury, 1991). Alternative contextual discussion can be found inGoogle Scholar
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    Gobetti’s reaction to the factory occupations, the Turinese workers, and evidence of the influence of Gramsci upon him is visible mostly in writings subsequent to the events. See, in particular, Gobetti, “Storia dei comunisti torinesi scritta da un liberale,” La Rivoluzione Liberale (March 26, 1922)Google Scholar
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    For an illuminating sketch of Gramsci and Gobetti, see Paolo Spriano, Gramsci e Gobetti, 3rd ed. (Turin: Einaudi, 1977). I have made a (rather rough) translation of the first chapter of this book (previously in an article published in Studi storici) in Martin (ed.), Antonio Gramsci: Critical Assessments, 60–82.Google Scholar
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    On the various aspects of Gobetti’s interest in Russia, see Bruno Bongiovanni, “Piero Gobetti e la Russia,” Studi storici 37, no. 3 (1996): 727–46.Google Scholar
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  45. 44.
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    Gobetti, “Rassegna di questioni politiche,” Energie Nove (July 25, 1919), SP, 151.Google Scholar
  47. 46.
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    On Sorel’s reception and influence in Italy, see Gian Biagio Furiozzi, Sorel e lItalia (Messina: G. D’Anna, 1975). On the various strands of Italian syndicalism, seeGoogle Scholar
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  55. 54.
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    For commentary on Sorel’s influence on Gramsci, see Darrow Schecter, “Two Views of the Revolution: Gramsci and Sorel, 1916–1920,” in Antonio Gramsci: Critical Assessments, vol. 1, ed. James Martin (London: Routledge, 2002), 153–71. On Sorel’s influence on Gobetti, seeGoogle Scholar
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  63. 66.
    See Giampiero Carocci, “Piero Gobetti nella storia del pensiero politico italiano,” Belfagor, 6 (1951): 148. Norberto Bobbio also begins his study of Turinese cultural life with a chapter devoted to Gramsci and Gobetti together, pointing to their joint role as instigators of a distinctive culture of intellectual militancy in the city. See Trentanni di storia della cultura a Torino (1920–1950) (Turin: Einaudi, 2002), 5–14. For a more recent, critical evaluation of the intellectual relationship, seeGoogle Scholar
  64. Franco Sbarberi’s “Gramsci e Gobetti: un eredità difficile,” in Lutopia della libertà eguale. Il liberalismo sociale da Rosselli a Bobbio (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1999), 25–53.Google Scholar
  65. 67.
    A point underlined by Paolo Bagnoli, Rosselli, Gobetti e la rivoluzione democratica, Uomini e idee tra liberalismo e socialismo (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1996), 132–33.Google Scholar
  66. 68.
    Gobetti, “Il problema della civiltà russa,” LOra (November 23, 1923), in Scritti storici, 425. On this interpretation of the Russian Revolution as a Menshevite strategy delivered by Bolsheviks, see the discussion by Bongiovanni, “Piero Gobetti e la Russia,” 738–39, 742–44.Google Scholar
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    Gobetti, “La rivoluzione italiana. Discorso ai collaboratori diEnergie Nove,’” LEducazione Nazionale (November 30, 1920), SP, 187–94.Google Scholar
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  70. 72.
    Gobetti, Carteggio, 194, 205, 222. See also his scathing critique of the socialist leader Fillipo Turati, “Letture sui partiti politici,” La Rivoluzione Liberale (April 8, 1922), SP, 304–8.Google Scholar
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  74. 78.
    Franco Sbarberi, Gramsci, un socialismo armonico (Milan: Angeli, 1986). This tension, argues Sbarberi, continues into Gramsci’s later writings in prison. Sbarberi compares the tension in Gramsci with Gobetti’s “conflictualism” in Lutopia della libertà eguale, 49–53.Google Scholar
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    See the discussion by Marco Revelli, “Gobetti ‘liberal comunista’?” in I dilemmi del liberalsocialismo, ed. Michelangelo Bovero, Virgilio Mura, and Franco Sbarberi (Rome: La Nuova Italia Scientifica, 1994), 63–84.Google Scholar
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  79. 89.
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© James Martin 2008

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