Antonio Gramsci

The People of the Book

Books have been a great factor in human culture. The Qur’an says: “Do not argue with the People of the Book except only by the best manner, except the unjust among them. Tell them, ‘We believe in what is revealed to us and to you. Our Lord and your Lord is one. We have submitted ourselves to His will’.” By “People of the Book” it meant principally Jews and Christians. These book-based religions were an intellectual innovation. The book-basis gave Christianity and Islam an expansive power and a cultural breadth that earlier religions had not had. Through books, at least for a minority...

Gramsci and unpleasant truths

“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries”, wrote Lenin at the start of his pamphlet State and Revolution, “the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most 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, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its...

Kautsky and ideas “from outside”

In Chapter 3 of The Russian Revolution: When workers took power, Paul Vernadsky discusses Lenin’s 1901/1902 document What Is To Be Done?, referring among other things to Lars T. Lih’s 2005 book, Lenin Rediscovered. Later (pp163-169) Paul demolishes Lih’s claim that in 1921 Lenin was still a disciple of Karl Kautsky. In Chapter 3, however, he broadly accepts Lih’s approach to What Is To Be Done?, which is that it’s primarily about urging revolutionaries in Russia to model their activity on methods used by the SPD in Germany. He discusses the 1902 passage by Kautsky which Lenin both paraphrased...

Antinomies of the concept of hegemony

Hegemony is a primary concept for understanding global politics today. Principally it expresses the hierarchy of states under US leadership, but hegemony has deeper meanings associated with the ways ruling classes maintain their rule. For socialists, hegemony also encapsulates working class leadership in the struggles of other oppressed layers, along with Marxist leadership of the labour movement. Antonio Gramsci used hegemony in a rich variety of contexts in his important contributions to Marxist thinking. Perry Anderson, for many years the editor of New Left Review, has explored the concept...

A Gramsci glossary


CAESARISM. By Caesarism Gramsci meant much the same as other Marxists have meant by Bonapartism. Quintin Hoare (SPN p.206) argues that Gramsci's "Caesarism" was broader than other Marxists' "Bonapartism", but I read Gramsci more as considering gradations of Caesarism as well as full Caesarism (SPN...

Gramsci on "the formation of intellectuals"

The problem of creating a new stratum of intellectuals consists in the critical elaboration of the intellectual activity that exists in everyone at a certain degree of development... The traditional and vulgarised type of the intellectual is given by the man of letters, the philosopher, the artist. Therefore journalists, who claim to be men of letters, philosophers, artists, also regard themselves as the "true" intellectuals. In the modern world, technical education, closely bound to industrial labour even at the most primitive and unqualified level, must form the basis of the new type of...

The life, times and ideas of Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci arrived as a student at Turin University in 1911 and joined the Socialist Party in 1914. He had had a difficult struggle to get to university — his family was poor — and while at university suffered very bad health. Turin was one of the foremost industrial cities of Italy. Its population had increased from 338,000 to 430,000 between 1901 and 1911, with the growth of the great car factories such as Fiat. Turin and a few other northern cities were, however, the exception in Italy. Overall Italy was not much more industrialised than Russia. Only about 12% of the employed...

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