Antonio Gramsci
Original publication:
Translation: Roderic Day

Real Dialectic (1921)

3 minutes | English Italiano

L’Ordine Nuovo, 3 March 1921.

Events are the real dialectic of history. They transcend all reasoning, all personal judgements, all simple and irresponsible wishful thinking. Events, with the unbreakable logic of their development, teach the working and peasant masses, who are conscious of their destiny, these lessons: The class struggle reaches at a certain point a stage in which the proletariat no longer finds in bourgeois legality — that is, in the bourgeois State apparatus (armed force, courts, administration) — elementary guarantees and a defense of his basic right to life, liberty, personal dignity, and daily bread. He is forced to create his own legality, to create his own apparatus of resistance and defense. At certain moments in the life of the people this becomes an absolute historical necessity, and it transcends every desire, every wish, every whim, every personal impulse. Events present themselves as a universal fatality, with the engulfing rage of natural phenomena. Men, as individuals and as a mass, are brutally thrust into facing this dilemma: guaranteed probability of death, or a slight chance of survival. A choice must be made. And men always choose the chance of survival, even if it’s slight, and even if the survival in question is grueling and miserable. They fight for these slight chances. And their impetus is such, and their passion is so great, that it smashes every obstacle and it overwhelms even the most frightening apparatus of power.

This is the situation that the real dialectic of history imposes on men at certain moments — the decisive moments of the painful and bloody development of humanity. No human will can create such situations; no mere man, even if he puffs up his chest and distills from literature the rhetoric that rouses hearts and boils blood, can create such situations. They are the blazing forge into which all the passions and hatreds flow — the likes of which only the vision of violent death can arouse in multitudes. Only such situations can be considered revolutionary in this period of history, as in the recent past with the exploits of the Spartacists in Germany, and in Hungary, Ireland, and Bavaria. [1] These situations offer no middle road — one must struggle and win.

This is not our situation today. Today we still can choose with a certain degree of freedom. Freedom of choice imposes duties on us, serious duties regarding the life of the people, regarding the future of those who suffer and hope. There’s only one way of expressing solidarity today: winning. This demands that not a single element be overlooked that could put us in a position to seize victory. In Italy today there exists a Party which serves the true interests of the proletariat, and not only of the Italian proletariat but of the entire Workers’ International. Today, workers can and must have confidence: if Italian workers follow the discipline of the Communist Party without exception, they will prove that they have transcended the stage of revolutionary infantilism in which their movement hitherto struggled, and they will prove that they are both capable and deserving of victory.

[1] Bavaria, a defacto part of Germany only after WWII, was the site of the proclamation of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919, crushed by Friedrich Ebert’s Social Democrats and the Freikorps. [web]