Books on Italian anarcho-syndicalism

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Ed
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Oct 5 2010 15:49
Books on Italian anarcho-syndicalism

Hey everyone, does anyone have any recommendations on books, pamphlets, articles etc about anarcho-syndicalism in Italy.. I'm actually finding very little.. I'm basically looking for stuff ranging from it's origins through the bienni rossi, fascism, WW2 and until the 1960s-70s.. any help?

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devoration1
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Oct 6 2010 00:50

I'm not sure if you want to pay the $30 (or 20 pounds), but this article seems to have it all:

Quote:
Currents of Italian Syndicalism before 1926

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl Levy

Abstract

This article discusses four areas of research essential for a measured evaluation of Italian syndicalism before the fascist dictatorship. The first section presents a synoptic historical account. The second section critically summarizes the literature on the sociology of Italian syndicalism. The third section disentangles the ideological influences upon Italian syndicalism. The fourth evaluates the uniqueness or otherwise of Italian syndicalism within prefascist industrial relations. The conclusion explains the marginalization of Italian syndicalism after 1918 using international comparisons. This article provides a detailed critical bibliography of the literature on Italian syndicalism published since the 1960s.

from the 'International Review of Social History' Vol.45 Issue 02.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=0B3868D2BA0E8BCCBC541DEACC185DBB.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=60649

Mike Harman
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Oct 6 2010 12:01

When I had access to a university library I saw these two books and had my eye on them to read, but never got 'round to reading either so don't know what they're like:

Italian Syndicalism and Fascism:
- http://books.google.com/books?id=-gsNAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=italian+syndicalism+fascism&source=bl&ots=YqnvygLIQW&sig=ScZL7rIJ4zKx6lVIDN_eo62lwIA&hl=en&ei=ZGSsTNPGKY7CvQPi5ODOCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CCkQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=italian%20syndicalism%20fascism&f=false

Italian Workers of the World - not strictly what you're asking for but might be worth it:
http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/73nwk6zz9780252072574.html

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georgestapleton
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Oct 6 2010 12:40

There is unfortunately very very little.

Carl Levy is the only person who has done serious English language study of this period. His book Gramsci and the Anarchists is go to book on anarchist in the biennio rosso and leading up to it. His article in David Goodway's book 'For Anarchism' would perhaps be the best place to start though.

There is also an article by Charles L. Bertrand in Wayne Thorpe and Marcel Van der Linden's volume 'Revolutionary Syndicalism'.

Another brilliant article that has been produced as a pamphlet is Adriana Dada's 'Class War, Reaction & the Italian Anarchists'. That's available online in pdf here, and through google you can find it in html.

There is also a large literature on National Syndicalism and the syndicalist base of fascism, there are things to be gleaned from looking at that but not much.

However, all of what I've said is primarily focussed on italian anarchism and syndicalism pre-fascism. During fascism there's a pamphlet called 'Red years, Black years' on anarchist resistance to fascism. Again I haven't read it so I don't know how useful that would be.

Also well worth having a look at are Nick Heath's articles on various italian anarchists here on libcom are interesting. In particular the articles on Garino and Ferrero are worth a look as despite their importance their memories is largely forgotten. It would also be worth asking Nick for some advice as unless he speaks Italian, I've no idea where he's got all his information from.

On the post war period there's very little of much use. The FdCA have a timeline on their website but its not very informative and leaves out most of the interesting and important episodes, such as the controversies around the refoundation of the FAI in 1945 and around the split of ORA in the early 70s.

Finally, Pernicone has written a book on the early days of italian anarchism which I haven't read yet but would be worth a look. I wouldn't be surprised if he's also published a bit on later italian anarchism and syndicalism.

Hope that helps.

no1
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Oct 6 2010 14:53
devoration1 wrote:
I'm not sure if you want to pay the $30 (or 20 pounds), but this article seems to have it all:
Quote:
Currents of Italian Syndicalism before 1926

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl Levy

Abstract

This article discusses four areas of research essential for a measured evaluation of Italian syndicalism before the fascist dictatorship. The first section presents a synoptic historical account. The second section critically summarizes the literature on the sociology of Italian syndicalism. The third section disentangles the ideological influences upon Italian syndicalism. The fourth evaluates the uniqueness or otherwise of Italian syndicalism within prefascist industrial relations. The conclusion explains the marginalization of Italian syndicalism after 1918 using international comparisons. This article provides a detailed critical bibliography of the literature on Italian syndicalism published since the 1960s.

from the 'International Review of Social History' Vol.45 Issue 02.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=0B3868D2BA0E8BCCBC541DEACC185DBB.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=60649

Check your email, Ed.

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Volin
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Oct 6 2010 15:15

Georgestapleton beat me to it on Levy's Gramsci and the Anarchists.

You can access an essay he wrote on the subject online.

Black Flame wrote:
As Levy shows, however, the Red Week [bienno rosso] emerged from a general strike led by anarchists and the USI, and demonstrated the ability of the broad anarchist movement to grow extremely rapidly. He adds that the Gramsci of 1920 was by no means a Leninist: his views were close to anarchism, the key figures in his circle, grouped around the fortnightly L'Ordino nuovo ("New Order"), were anarchists, and his then-libertarian ideas had an appeal precisely because of their resonance with Italian popular culture. To this it might be added that the anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists have been judged the "most consistently and totally revolutionary group on the left" in 1920. Indeed, Gramsci's ordinovisti were "a tiny group of socialists collected over several months" in Turin, and their paper was a fortnightly with a circulation of five thousand. In contrast, the USI was approaching a membership of one million, the Italian Anarchist Union (UAI) formed in 1919 was growing rapidly as a national body, and Malatesta's anarchist daily Umanita Nova ("New Humanity") was moving fifty thousand copies at its peak.

Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, p. 276.

Actually, I thought Black Flame was an interesting introduction to the Italian Syndicalist Union (USI), especially in comparing it to other unions. For example, it wasn't formed independently like the CNT but can be traced to a syndicalist tendency with the mainstream socialist union, the CGL (p. 227). There arose a small pro-war minority in the USI at the start of WWI who went on to from the UIL (pp. 152-3). However, the vast majority of members were the most resolutely anti-war group on the left and carried out strikes and mass actions against Italian colonialism in Abyssinia and Libya (pp. 214-5).

syndicalist
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Oct 6 2010 16:04
Quote:
the Italian Syndicalist Union (USI), especially in comparing it to other unions. For example, it wasn't formed independently like the CNT but can be traced to a syndicalist tendency with the mainstream socialist union, the CGL

The origins of the revolutionary and anarcho- syndicalist movement really took two tracks. One track was original, seperate and distinct independent organization; the other as distinct ideological and tactical groupings within the then unitary unions of the day. I often think this is why some of the arguments for only "one track" (my words) approach to organizing an alternative and revolutionary workers movement is incomplete.

Back to the USI, there's a book in Italian (issued by the USI) on their movement. I believe it was published in 1992. I'll have to check our bookshelf for the title.

Boris Badenov
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Oct 6 2010 17:45
georgestapleton wrote:
There is unfortunately very very little.

In English, yes, sadly. In Italian there is quite a bit actually.

Ed wrote:
Hey everyone, does anyone have any recommendations on books, pamphlets, articles etc about anarcho-syndicalism in Italy.. I'm actually finding very little.. I'm basically looking for stuff ranging from it's origins through the bienni rossi, fascism, WW2 and until the 1960s-70s.. any help?

As pointed above, Carl Levy is definitely the go-to guy for anarchist history in Italy. You could actually write to him and ask him for a bibliography; I'm sure he'd be glad to help out.
http://www.gold.ac.uk/politics/staff/levy/
I would also recommend the Pernicone book (you can get it used off amazon iirc), as well as the following:
-Woodcock, George. "Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas"; the chapter on Anarchism in Italy
-Turcato, Davide. "Italian anarchism as a transnational movement, 1885-1915." IRSH 52 (2007)
-DiPaola, Pietro. "The spies who came in from the heat: The international surveillance of the anarchists in London." European History Quarterly 2007 [This one deals with the Italian and British governments' efforts to control and suppress the Italian anarchist diaspora in London]
If you read Italian, DiPaola also has an interesting article about the Italian anarchist clubs in London entitled "Club anarchici di Londra: sociabilità, politica, cultura."
-There is an ebook version of some selected writings by Camillo Berneri, an Italian libertarian whose wife, Marie Louise Berneri was active in England with the War Commentary group. It's available on scribd.
-Also on scribd, you will find "Remembering Spain: Italian Anarchist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War" by Umberto Marzocchi
-There is also an interesting documentary about the anarchist movement in the Carrara region of Italy on Stuart Christie's website. It's called "Men of Marble."
-Another great source in Italian is the online Centro di Studi Libertari:
http://www.centrostudilibertari.it/index.php/bollettino.html
-I could also recommend a biography of Pietro Gori, but again it's in Italian so I don't how much help it would be.
-Finally, although not really related to syndicalist organisation, the Italian anarchist tradition has, unusually, left behind a very rich culture of poetry, art and music. During the folk revival of the 60s and 70s many of the old anarchist songs were resurrected by groups like Canzoniere Internazionale, Cantacronache and others. I have these songs in mp3 format if you're interested.

I can't think of many English language sources tbh, but I'll try to come up with more when I have the time. Let me know if you want me to email you any of the articles I mentioned above.

georgestapleton wrote:
On the post war period there's very little of much use.

The case of Giuseppe Pinelli and the way anarchism was used by the Italian state and foreign counterrevolutionary agencies to cover up black ops is definitely worth checking out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Pinelli

Jared
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Oct 7 2010 09:47

Not specifically about anarcho-syndicalism alone, but Italy 1920 by Tom Wetzel over at Anarcho-Syndicalism 101 is worth reading, and has a bibliography which references two main books:

Lynn Williams, Proletarian Order (Pluto Press, 1975)
Paulo Spriano, The Occupation of the Factories (Pluto Press, 1975)

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Oct 7 2010 13:34
syndicalist wrote:
The origins of the revolutionary and anarcho- syndicalist movement really took two tracks. One track was original, seperate and distinct independent organization; the other as distinct ideological and tactical groupings within the then unitary unions of the day.

Thanks, I wasn't aware.

Quote:
I often think this is why some of the arguments for only "one track" (my words) approach to organizing an alternative and revolutionary workers movement is incomplete.

I agree. In some ways, Black Flame volume 1 tries to do this by taking a step back from judging different tactics (in the mass anarchist/syndicalist tradition), though they seem to emphasize 'boring from within'. This was remarkably widespread in the the anarchist movement - the most common tactic?- but I'd argue they didn't deal with other approaches as well.

syndicalist
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Oct 7 2010 15:11

The 1991 USI book by Gianfranco Careri is entitled Il Sindicalismo Autogestionario. L'USI dalle origini ad oggi Very interesting and informative.

mateofthebloke wrote:
The case of Giuseppe Pinelli and the way anarchism was used by the Italian state and foreign counterrevolutionary agencies to cover up black ops is definitely worth checking out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Pinelli

This was actually a very important event and case. Well, certainly for my generation.
This occured during a period of great rebelliousness and struggle. The Italian anarchists were seeing growth after a period of decline.

The USI during the 1960s really only existed in a few to any meaningful extent.It was more a name then a reality on the national scene. As with many who became radicalized during this period, we often turned to anarcho-syndicalism (though not exclusively) as the best and most organized form and expression of class struggle anarchism. While never anarchist, our Italian libertarian worker comrades began to regroup and reorganize the USI. By 1979 the USI "refounded" itself.

syndicalist
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Oct 7 2010 15:18
Volin wrote:
syndicalist wrote:
The origins of the revolutionary and anarcho- syndicalist movement really took two tracks. One track was original, seperate and distinct independent organization; the other as distinct ideological and tactical groupings within the then unitary unions of the day.

Thanks, I wasn't aware.

Quote:
I often think this is why some of the arguments for only "one track" (my words) approach to organizing an alternative and revolutionary workers movement is incomplete.

I agree. In some ways, Black Flame volume 1 tries to do this by taking a step back from judging different tactics (in the mass anarchist/syndicalist tradition), though they seem to emphasize 'boring from within'. This was remarkably widespread in the the anarchist movement - the most common tactic?- but I'd argue they didn't deal with other approaches as well.

While I think Black Flame is a good book, I share your thoughts here. I guess every author has the right to promote their own perspectives.

In any event, I don't think we can ever do a blanket analysis of things. Different situations, customs, traditions and peculiarities may dictate tactics and organizational forms. That siad, there also needs to be a grounding in certain principles, sort of basic guidelines that cross geography and language, customs and traditions. But this is an age old debate and one can find many topics where this has been discussed on Libcom.

Battlescarred
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Oct 8 2010 06:46

The AF pamphlet
The Italian Factory Councils and the Anarchists
see here:http://af-north.org/?q=italian+factory+councils
Cheap and concise and contains the Garino and Ferrero biographies here on libcom, texts from USI and UAI conferences etc

Battlescarred
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Oct 7 2010 15:23

It's Gwyn Williams by the way who wrote Proletarian Order not Lynn

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Oct 7 2010 16:59

I have Class War, Reaction & the Italian Anarchists: A study of Anarchist movement in Italy in the XXth century

And I think that I got it from libcom, but if I'm mistaken I'll be happy to simply send it to you

akai
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Oct 7 2010 21:09

By strange coincidence, I received an announcement from German comrades in the mail today about this book - although this seems to have been published in 2005. I haven't read it and don't know how much is devoted to anarchosyndicalism, but here goes FYI:

Gli anarchici italiani 1870-1970
> Alessandro Aruffo
> pp. 256 euro 18.00

I can PM you the review in Italian.

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Oct 7 2010 23:19
Volin wrote:
You can access an essay he wrote on the subject online.

That link says "page not found".

Black Flame wrote:

As Levy shows, however, the Red Week [bienno rosso] emerged from a general strike led by anarchists and the USI, and demonstrated the ability of the broad anarchist movement to grow extremely rapidly. He adds that the Gramsci of 1920 was by no means a Leninist: his views were close to anarchism, the key figures in his circle, grouped around the fortnightly L'Ordino nuovo ("New Order"), were anarchists, and his then-libertarian ideas had an appeal precisely because of their resonance with Italian popular culture. To this it might be added that the anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists have been judged the "most consistently and totally revolutionary group on the left" in 1920. Indeed, Gramsci's ordinovisti were "a tiny group of socialists collected over several months" in Turin, and their paper was a fortnightly with a circulation of five thousand. In contrast, the USI was approaching a membership of one million, the Italian Anarchist Union (UAI) formed in 1919 was growing rapidly as a national body, and Malatesta's anarchist daily Umanita Nova ("New Humanity") was moving fifty thousand copies at its peak.

Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, p. 276.

(Btw, I believe Biennio Rosso refers to the Two Red Years of 1919-20 - not a "Red Week".)

I'm not sure who is misinterpreting or misrepresenting who here; but this description of Gramsci in 1920 is totally at odds with what he actually wrote then. The Black Flame authors have already made 'revisionist' inaccurate claims on some historical figures as anarchist/libertarian (http://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/new-historical-syndicalist-book-03032009) - maybe this is another one. On the eve of the 1920 factory occupations Gramsci severely and patronisingly slagged off the Italian anarchists in L'Ordino Nuovo articles - making it hard to believe that "the key figures in his circle, grouped around the fortnightly L'Ordino nuovo ("New Order"), were anarchists". Gramsci claimed that the anarchists dealt only in abstraction and absolute truths which, in denying the necessity of a vanguard (ie, his Socialist Party), were "the beginnings of unconscious counter revolution". (See; http://libcom.org/history/address-anarchists-antonio-gramsci-1920) Hardly the most comradely or appreciative attitude to take on the eve of a mass general strike that the anarchists were actively involved in.

Later, in an article "The Turin Factory Councils" (July 1920) Gramsci comments; "The anarchists also took part, seeking to oppose their high-flown rhetoric to the clear and precise language of the Marxist communists." But he claims; "The propaganda of the anarchists and syndicalists against Party discipline and the dictatorship of the proletariat had no influence on the masses, even when, because of the betrayal by the leaders of the workers [ie, CGL union federation & Gramsci's Socialist Party], the strike ended in defeat."

As for Gramsci's alleged libertarianism at the time, the following quotes show the opposite - a typical vanguard Party mentality;

Quote:
The Party ... must become the party of the revolutionary proletariat in its struggle for the advent of communist society by way of the workers' State: a homogenous, cohesive party with its own doctrine, tactics and rigid and implacable discipline. Non-Communist revolutionaries must be eliminated from the Party... it should form the trusted elements that the mass will delegate for the formation of political Soviets and for the exercise of the proletarian dictatorship. The existence of a cohesive and highly discipline Communist Party with factory, trade union, and cooperative cells, that can coordinate and centralise in its central executive committee the whole revolutionary action of the proletariat. In the absence of such a condition, every proposed experiment should be rejected as absurd and useful only to the opponents of the idea of Soviets. ... the Party must issue a manifesto in which the revolutionary conquest of political power is explicitly proposed..." (The Turin Factory Councils; L'Ordino Nuovo, March 1921)

Whatever one want to call these positions (Leninism seems accurate) these statements put him, not "close to anarchism" or showing his "then-libertarian ideas" - but completely in opposition to anarchism and libertarian positions of the time. (I don't know if the Black Flame description of Levy's account is accurate.)

I'm happy to be corrected, but I don't see how any of this squares with the Black Flame authors' claims at all; unless Gramsci was schizophrenic at the time and there is alternative evidence that contradicts the above? Otherwise the passage from Black Flame is, again, plainly inaccurate and misleading.

Battlescarred
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Oct 8 2010 07:02

The AF pamphlet hammers Gramsci over his positions in the sections "The art of lying alla Gramsci" and "Gramsci on the anarchists and the councils"
There was only ONE libertarian in Gramsci's circle see below.
From the pamphlet
"Pietro Mosso, anarchist and engineer had collaborated on Ordine Nuovo from the beginning and contributed many articles. THe Turin Libertarian Group had Maurizio and Pietro Ferrero among its members, and they had enormous influence among metal workers. These were the people Gramsci HAD to collaborate with".
Gramsci praises hierarchy in an article of 8th November 1919 and in the Address to the Anarchists lauds the Socialist Party , saying:" Socialist pessimismhas found a terrible confirmation in the recent events: the proletariat has been plunged into the purest abyss of misery and oppression that the mind of man could conceive. The ideologues of anarchism have nothing with which to face such a situation bar an external and empty pseudorevolutionary language, interwoven with the stalest motifs of a foolish and vulgar optimism. The Socialists bring to bear energetic action to organise the best and most conscious elements in the working class. The Socialists strive in every way to prepare, through these vanguard elements, the largest masses to conquer for themselves freedom, and the power capable of guaranteeing the same freedom". Events were to prove that it was Grramsci who was stale,. Apart from a minority which included Gramsci, the Socialist Party and the unions it controlled worked actively towards demobilising and sabotaging the councils whilst the anarchists, whether organised in bthe UAI or in networks like that around Luigi Galleani, and anarcho-syndicalists and revolutionary syndicalists, whether organised in the USI or within the FIOM(metalworkers union) etc, did their utmost to put the working class on a war footing.
Gramsci persisted with the call to transform the PSI as late as 1920 when he delivered a paperTowards a Renewal of the Socialist Party. on April 19th-20th. He now began arguing for a Party on Bolshevik lines with the Party taking over some of the functions of the councils.

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georgestapleton
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Oct 8 2010 12:50

Red Marriott its worth reading Levy on this. Battlescarred sums it up pretty well. Gramsci HAD to deal with the anarchists but he also seemed to get a lot of his 'innovative' ideas from them.

I'm not sure if battlescarred's right that he had only one anarchist in his millieu, he might be but Mosso was important and wrote a series of articles on Fordism, Taylorism and Amercanisation that Gramsci developed on in The Prison Notebooks.

Also as the AF pamphlet says: "THe Turin Libertarian Group had Maurizio and Pietro Ferrero among its members, and they had enormous influence among metal workers. These were the people Gramsci HAD to collaborate with"

Also Also, if you compare Gramsci's writings at the time they are more libertarian than his latter ones. I think you can call Gramsci during the Biennio Rosso a 'libertarian marxist' as in he was probably more libertarian than Luxemburg.

Also also also, you have to appreciate that during this period Gramsci was engaging/debating heavily with the rest of the PSI left which would later become the PCI and later the PCI left. These are the people that the ICC comre from and when you look at that debate Gramsci comes across as Durruti replying to Stalin or something. What the Italian left-communists were saying during the Biennio Rosso: “For the moment, the proletarian class must strike the red flag and abandon the factories. We must postpone the struggle to overthrow the bourgeois regime to a more opportune moment...We must instead remain in the party ...and devote all our energies to winning control of it”

God I hate left-communism.

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Volin
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Oct 8 2010 13:44
Red Marriott wrote:
Volin wrote:
You can access an essay he wrote on the subject online.

That link says "page not found".

If you search for 'Antonio Gramsci and Anarchism' or 'Antonio Gramsci, Anarchism, Syndicalism and Sovversivismo', the first google hit is the document by Carl Levy.

Quote:
(Btw, I believe Biennio Rosso refers to the Two Red Years of 1919-20 - not a "Red Week".)

My mistake not the authors'. wink

Regarding your criticisms, I really don't know enough to comment but it's a fascinating topic and something I plan on reading up on. Again, shame the USI book isn't in English.

Battlescarred
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Oct 9 2010 08:55

How can you call Gramsci a "libertarian Marxist" in this period, bearing in mind his continued advocacy and defence of the PSI?? even if he defends the councils?

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Oct 9 2010 12:51
battlescarred wrote:
How can you call Gramsci a "libertarian Marxist" in this period, bearing in mind his continued advocacy and defence of the PSI?? even if he defends the councils?

Agreed - it doesn't make any sense if you look at the available evidence; which the Black flame authors apparently either didn't do or ignored it as it didn't fit their revisionist agenda. An idealised history is not really history.

georgestapleton; maybe I'll re-read William's 'Proletarian Order' for the relation between Bordigists & Gramsci etc - but it seems clear that the Black Flame description is pretty poor 'history' as far as his position re. the anarchists - as one can see when reading his articles from that period where he deliberately downplays the anarchists' influence and activity and is pretty dismissive.

georgest wrote:
if you compare Gramsci's writings at the time they are more libertarian than his latter ones. I think you can call Gramsci during the Biennio Rosso a 'libertarian marxist' as in he was probably more libertarian than Luxemburg.

Having read Gramsci's writings of that period I'm unconvinced by this. He might be relatively libertarian compared to some other authoritarians and his later self, but his repeated patronising attitude to anarchists/anarchism, his Partyism and vanguardism make him far from a libertarian;

Quote:
[Gramsci on anarchist workers;] '...we believe and hope that historical "determinism" in a given moment will act upon the superficial veneer of their political "ideology" and induce them (spontaneously, by inner conviction, in a libertarian manner) to support the workers' state.' ...
[Due to their anarchist convictions, Gramsci's] argument makes anarchist comrades in the movement into sick men, whom 'History' is curing, at best subordinate comrades on probation. (Proletarian Order, Gwynn Williams)

Black Flame cites Levy as evidence of his supposed "close to anarchism" and "then-libertarian" position; but as Levy says;

Quote:
But Gramsci was no anarchist or syndicalist: anarchism and syndicalism served as foils to forge Gramscian social thought and political action. In his arguments with the libertarians before his encounters with Lenin and what become known as Leninism, Gramsci had already opened his thought to a ready acceptance of the authoritarian solutions proposed in Russia. The authoritarian aspects of the young Gramsci, however, paradoxically are derived from the voluntarism of his political thought. ...
Perhaps Gramsci’s Gentilean socialism was more libertarian than Lenin’s type of scientific socialism, but it too assumed that an intellectual elite of trained socialists was needed to set the tone and parameters for effective politics. ...
Gramsci ... [during a debate between the radical left 1916-18, stated that] the antiparliamentarianism of Malatesta and the anarchists pose an obstacle to formal unity...
Gramsci’s politics grew increasingly authoritarian in the years following the Bolshevik Revolution ....
[He later made] ...venomous attacks on the SRs and Makhno’s ‘anarchist experiment’ in Civil-War Ukraine. ...
...nowhere in Gramsci do we find an open acknowledgement of the authoritarianism of Communism and possibility that socialism had failed to take another more libertarian path...
... One can reconstruct a Gramscian critique of the Stalinist Soviet Union but he never questioned the Marxist monopoly on thought and action and he never granted the anarchists the title of gadflies of the revolution, their warnings about the untrammeled powers of the new Soviet state were never accepted by Gramsci even in his deepest pessimistic moments, because their way of thinking was alien to his very being...

Gramsci's relatively more 'libertarian' period, as described by Levy, seems to have been pre-WWI - or, certainly, pre-1920. With the outbreak of the Russian revolution he became increasingly an orthodox Bolshevik. Black Flame cite Levy as evidence, but I don't think any of the above Levy quotes (or the article as a whole) support Black Flame's case simply that Gramsci's "views were close to anarchism" or can be described as "then-libertarian" in 1920 (if ever). Even if one believed that, if one wanted to give a credible historical account one would need to qualify what Gramsci's consistent and strong disagreements with anarchism and libertarian views were and the complexities of his relationship to them - and why he never saw himself as an anarchist or libertarian. I remain unconvinced by Black Flame's inaccurate revisionism on this.

LBird
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Oct 9 2010 13:30
Quote:
An idealised history is not really history.

I think I know what you're getting at here - that deliberately forcing the facts, usually by omission, to fit a pre-existing ideology is not good history.

But all facts are selected through the sieve of an ideological position. Perhaps it is better to elaborate both Gramsci's and your presuppositions - "libertarianism" is in the eye of the beholder.
Apparently, Einstein said that 'it is the theory which determines what you can observe', and if it applies to physics, it surely applies to social science.

For what it's worth, I see myself as some sort of a libertarian Marxist, but I'm aware of how close council/left communism and anarchist communism are to each other. Or are they? Anyway, I'm keen to learn - let's face it, if commies and anarchists can't come to some arrangement, the capitalists have got it made. Some posters on here seem to see all self-proclaimed Marxists as more of an enemy than the bosses. Well, I for one don't want to set up a dictatorship, but I'm not sure how collective decisions will be implemented without some form of legitimate democratic authority. But I'm well aware that it is problematic, and fully share the concerns of anarchists, hence my post.

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Oct 9 2010 18:01

Battlescarred, I'm going to reply to Red Marriot seeing as he's making the same point as you.

Quote:
Having read Gramsci's writings of that period I'm unconvinced by this. He might be relatively libertarian compared to some other authoritarians and his later self, but his repeated patronising attitude to anarchists/anarchism, his Partyism and vanguardism make him far from a libertarian;

Hey that's the sense I mean it in. I said in comparison to Luxemburg who I've seen being called a libertarian marxist. I don't have any great passion for revolutionary taxonomy. I just meant that within the marxist tradition Gramsci of the Biennio Rosso was on the libertarian end of things. Does that mean that he wasn't a partyist? No, but I mean ffs this is libcom where seemingly the ICC are viewed as being libertarian communists. If we're talking about partyism and vanguardism.....

Anyway, as I said, I don't care all that much about revolutionary taxonomy. Is such and such a 'real' libertarian is a bit banal. Gramsci was a second international marxist and makes all the mistakes of the second international. But within the second international he was anti-war, and he was able to see the self activity of the working class in a revolutionary situation as being revolutionary even if not directed by the party, and he aligned himself with the self activity of the working class despite it not being directed by the party. I know this is faint praise, but it still makes him more libertarian than pretty most marxists of the time. I'd generally consider libertarian as a descriptive term, or a qualifying term as opposed to a term that identifies a specific tradition.

In defence of Black Flame, what they were trying to do was identify anarchism as a specific tradition. An attempt I agree with, but like you and it would seem most people, I think they cast the net around that tradition a bit too wide, so they include all revolutionary syndicalists within it. (In their defence, marxists do the same thing with the second international and pretend that everyone in the second international was a marxist, when normally only a (leading) minority were).

Following on from this, LBird writes:

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For what it's worth, I see myself as some sort of a libertarian Marxist, but I'm aware of how close council/left communism and anarchist communism are to each other. Or are they?

Left communism is NOT the same thing as council communism. Council Communism is very close to anarchism. Left communism refers to the 'italian left' (Bordiga, Bilan, Damen) and its a form of leninism. (They don't call themselves leninists because "'Leninism” is the counter-revolutionary betrayal of Lenin", srsly.)

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Oct 9 2010 22:49
LBird wrote:
Some posters on here seem to see all self-proclaimed Marxists as more of an enemy than the bosses.

While that is the case with many anarchists, I think you'll have a hard time finding many examples of that on libcom, at least from regular posters.

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Oct 9 2010 23:18

Hi LBird & georgeSt; a fetish of taxonomy and a workable use of definitions are different things. The accepted meaning of terms at particular historical points and within debates of those time is a further aspect. The Black Flame usage seems to say Gramsci was a libertarian in the terms of his period and context, which isn't true when one compares his views with the actual libertarian anarchists of his time. BF cite Levy as source for this interpretation, but, as I showed above, this seems a misuse of what he says. I haven't read the BF book, but from the quotes I've seen, I get the impression Schmidt and van der Walt wrote an idealised 'feel-good' history for anarchists that (as Bird paraphrases me) is "deliberately forcing the facts, usually by omission, to fit a pre-existing ideology" which "is not good history." To the extent that's so, that is little use to anybody in understanding past or present.

Anarchists and non-Leninist radicals have long criticised the leninist/stalinist distortions of history, their airbrushing and lies about the role of anti-leninist oppositions in it - so Black Flame's anarcho-revisionism (though less extreme) can be similarly criticised. Historical distortion for ideological ends is indefensible under any flag, black or red. It doesn't redress the balance but reduces all to the same depths. In this world historical lies tend to have a longer shelf life than radical truths; (see; http://libcom.org/library/long-shelf-life-democratic-stalinist-mythology). I appreciate, LBird, that no history can pretend to be entirely objective - but if anarcho-syndicalist historians (who're academics with greater time/resources to check facts) mirror the factual distortions (even to a lesser degree) of stalinist hacks it's no improvement - both seek to manipulate the past to fool people into being more sympathetic to their present organisational ideology. In neither case is that very 'anti-hierarchical' or 'libertarian'.

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ffs this is libcom where seemingly the ICC are viewed as being libertarian communists

I don't think the tolerance of the ICC is cos anyone thinks they're libertarian communists, much of the criticism of them is because they're (semi-)leninist/left bolshevik - but if anyone mislabelled them as libertarian communists that would be something in need of correction as much as the BF mislabelling we're discussing. And if such tolerance was changing the commonly understood definition of libertarian communist today and also retrospectively changing the understanding of its usage in earlier historical periods that would have to be criticised too.

BF may like to play a silly game of cherry-picking historical marxist figures and relabelling them for their revisionist anarchist universe; but Gramsci wasn't a libertarian in the terms of his time and place - as Levy said;

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But Gramsci was no anarchist or syndicalist: anarchism and syndicalism served as foils to forge Gramscian social thought and political action. In his arguments with the libertarians before his encounters with Lenin and what become known as Leninism, Gramsci had already opened his thought to a ready acceptance of the authoritarian solutions proposed in Russia. The authoritarian aspects of the young Gramsci, however, paradoxically are derived from the voluntarism of his political thought. ...
Perhaps Gramsci’s Gentilean socialism was more libertarian than Lenin’s type of scientific socialism, but it too assumed that an intellectual elite of trained socialists was needed to set the tone and parameters for effective politics. ...

Similarly, Luxemburg - despite a more positive attitude to working class self-organisation - iirc, remained faithful to a Partyist conception of the necessity of the intellectual vanguard to guarantee 'correct' direction of struggle. Compared to Lenin, perhaps Gramsci and Luxemburg were relatively libertarian - but compared to what is commonly referred to as libertarian marxism - Mattick, Pannekoek etc - I don't think so. They are called so due to a complete rejection of Party vanguardism, unlike Gramsci and Luxemburg.

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Oct 11 2010 16:39
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jesuithitsquad wrote:
While that is the case with many anarchists, I think you'll have a hard time finding many examples of that on libcom, at least from regular posters.

Well, I don't think I'd really 'have a hard time', but perhaps as a Commie Marxist I should apologise to all the Commie Anarchists on here - we really should be able to find some common ground to bring us closer together in comradeship.

Or is 'comrade' a Stalinist term?

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Oct 11 2010 16:52
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Red Marriot wrote:
Anarchists and non-Leninist radicals have long criticised the leninist/stalinist distortions of history, their airbrushing and lies about the role of anti-leninist oppositions in it - so Black Flame's anarcho-revisionism (though less extreme) can be similarly criticised. Historical distortion for ideological ends is indefensible under any flag, black or red.

I think that the point that I'm making is that 'distortions' and 'airbrushing' (though not 'lies'), are a necessary part of any history writing. Anarchists and Marxists, as well as conservatives, liberals and fascists, all write partial history. It's the nature of the beast, and I think it's better that we all accept that we have to read all history books critically, even our own.

Communism requires critical thinking, not faith in idols of either the secular or religious type. I'm wary of anyone quoting nineteenth century writers as proof, even Charlie and Fred.

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Oct 11 2010 17:13

Bird; I disagree - if you are saying - that deliberate distortion is a necessary part of any historical writing. One can acknowledge the limits of one's analysis without dishonesty. But the inevitable 'distortion' of a historical account - the omission by being unable to cover all angles and exceptions (if that's what you mean) in a single text that aims to deal with a partial aspect/event from a particular political outlook - is qualitatively different from something as crude and blatant as, eg, BF "cherry-picking historical marxist figures and relabelling them for their revisionist anarchist universe" etc. Or perhaps it reveals something of what is wrong with their political outlook.

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Anarchists and Marxists, as well as conservatives, liberals and fascists, all write partial history. It's the nature of the beast, and I think it's better that we all accept that we have to read all history books critically, even our own.

Agreed.

LBird
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Oct 11 2010 21:24
Red Marriott wrote:
Bird; I disagree - if you are saying - that deliberate distortion is a necessary part of any historical writing.

No, not "deliberate", but "unavoidable" distortion. Which, as you say, is qualitatively different from outright dishonesty.

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Agreed.

Agreed!

Now, I can go to bed content.

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Oct 18 2010 14:30

Cheers everyone! Great suggestions, I'm gonna get cracking with that Carl Levy and the AF pamphlet about the factory occupations.. may post up more questions at a later date though..