Replicating Glory I: Knowing What Kind of War You’re In, Research Time, 02/08/2017

So, like I said I would on Monday,* on to a few more words about Gramsci. It’s so nice to explore these ideas. It’s not a matter of my political sympathies alone, at least not in terms of making it only personal.

* I meant to post this yesterday, but it was actually a super-tiring day with other stuff that I had to do. By the time I was able to sit down with the blog, I was too tired to think.

Italians really know how to throw a communist party.
There’s a greater insight in a minor perspective than a majority’s. You learn more from a perspective that’s under the boot of power than you do from the ones who wear the boots or cut the leather. The ones who have to be wily are more creative, less predictable.

They twist major language and culture to make a hidden space. Call it a safe space. Or not, because the life of the strange is always a little dangerous. This is one of my personal favourites of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts – the minor.

I’m twisting it when I use it to talk about Gramsci, but I think – when I sit down and write Utopias – I’ll weave together some of what Deleuze and Guattari wrote about the literary voice of the minor cultural perspective with the position of Gramsci as a political prisoner and maybe even as a Sardinian.

What’s nice about reading Perry Anderson’s books about the history of Western marxism, is that he emphasizes the ideas in Gramsci that were immediately important to the community of communist activists and marxist academics. So the ideas that gained Gramsci his quickest fame were his arguments on strategy for revolution.

There’s a dualism at the heart of this strategy – war of maneuver and war of position. When Antonio Gramsci was a young man building the Italian Communist Party in the aftermath of the First World War, communists all over Europe looked to the Russian revolution of 1917 as a model for victory.

As you know, that didn’t really work out. Gramsci learned the hard way that it wasn’t going to work out. Italy was the first of the major European powers to install a reactionary conservative government after the war. Mussolini’s ideology and propaganda literally invented fascism. The left-wingers never stood a chance.

One of the famous images of Vladimir Lenin during his ultimately
victorious revolution of 1917. Look at the size of that crowd, then
understand that Lenin is trying to make himself heard over that
entire square. There is no microphone. He's just standing on some
rickety stage screaming as loud as he can.
The short version of that story is that Gramsci spent just over a decade of his life in prison, until it ended. Both the prison sentence and his life, in 1937 at the age of 46.

Communist revolutionaries, high on Lenin’s victory in St Petersburg, thought they would replicate that victory in exactly the same way. The Bolsheviks mounted a blitz against their own government when all the state institutions were wracked by the most intense crisis in the history of Russia as an empire.

It almost seems like common sense to me that such remarkable circumstances weren’t going to happen in the rest of Europe. Russia was a very different country than the other major European powers. Russia’s culture and political society was still dominated by the monarchy and the aristocracy that surrounded it. And there was no moment as singularly intense as the height of the First World War.**

** With so many themes from the First World War appearing in my research for Utopias, I feel like one basic idea in my own book will be putting the terror of that war at the forefront of political thinking. Hitler’s war, as horrifying as it was, was a creature of the epoch that the imperialists’ war began.

European powers like Germany, France, Spain, Britain, and Italy all had well-developed, complex class structures. It amounted to a redundancy in the society itself. A resistance to overthrow. So what’s a revolutionary going to do?

To Be Continued . . . 

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