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Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci, (Ales[?], Italy 1891 - Rome 1937), was an Italian writer and a politician, a leader and theorist of Socialism, Communism and anti-Fascism[?].

Gramsci was born in the island of Sardinia, a relatively remote region of Italy that was mostly ignored by the government in favor of the industrialized north (the problem of Sardinia became a relevant part of the political activity of Giuseppe Mazzini in Turin's senate).

He was the fourth of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci, who had financial difficulties and troubles with police, and was also imprisoned. He had to move across several villages in Sardinia, until his family finally established in Ghilarza[?], his most famous domicile.

A brilliant student, he won a prize that allowed him to study at Turin's university, where he read literature. The town was at the time going through its main industrial revolution, with Fiat and Lancia factories calling workers from poorer regions. Trade unions were founded and the first social conflicts started to emerge. Gramsci was closely involved with these developments, frequenting socialist circles as well as Sardinian emigrants, which gave continuity with his native culture.

His early difficult experiences in Sardinia had already shaped his view of the world. This, together with his experience on the Mainland, had a part in his decision to join the Italian Socialist Party[?] and later move into leadership roles in the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano or PCI) and the Comintern (the Communist International).

He became a notable journalist, even if his writings were mainly for political papers such as L'Avanti (socialist official organ); nevertheless his brilliant prose and his intelligent observations soon resulted in greater fame.

An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci produced a great deal of writing as editor of a number of socialist newspapers in Italy. Among the many, with Palmiro Togliatti[?] he created L'Ordine Nuovo (whose title would become the name of a fascist group in the 1960s, suspected of supporting terrorists), and contributed to La Cittą Futura.

A dispute between the socialist party and the group of journalists of L'Ordine Nuovo (supported by Lenin's approval), regarding a strike, gave Gramsci the idea of creating a new party. Comintern had already suggested the founding of a distinguished communist party, and already some other socialists, including Bordiga, were stressing that such a force was urgently needed. On January 21, 1921, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was created (original name: Partito comunista d'Italia - Pcd'I), after a chaotic congress of the socialist party.

The year after Gramsci was in Russia, where he represented the newborn party and met his wife, Giulia Schucht, a young violinist who gave him two sons. ([1] (http://www.antoniogramsci.com/moglie_figli.htm))

The Russian mission coincided with the advent of Fascism in Italy, and Gramsci came back with instructions to look for the unity of the leftist parties against the Italian revolution, in order to collect forces under a common scheme. This scheme was obviously ideally focused on PCI, by which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but this supremacy was not found appropriate by others: socialists did have a certain tradition, in Italy too, while the communist party was relatively young and too radical in its choices. It was believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have been too distant from the political debate, thus at risk of isolation.

In 1924 Gramsci was elected a deputy for the Veneto. He started organising the creation of the official newspaper of the party, called L'Unitą (The Unity), and was living in Rome while his family was in Moscow.

In 1926 Stalin's manoeuvres inside the bolscevic party moved Gramsci to write a letter to the Comintern, in which he was deploring the opposition, but also underlining some presumed faults of the leader. Togliatti was in Moscow as a representative of the party and received the letter, opened it and read it, and he decided not to deliver it. This caused a hard conflict between Gramsci and Togliatti, never completely solved.

On the 8th of November of the same year, he was arrested by the fascist police, despite his parliamentar immunity[?] and brought to Regina Coeli, the famous roman prison. Immediately condemened to 5 years of confinement (he was sent to the remote island of Ustica[?]), the year after he was condemned to 20 years of prison (and was sent to Turi[?]'s prison, near Bari). His condition caused him to suffer from a constantly weaker health, and he was given an individual cell and a little assistance. In 1932, a project for exchanging political prisoners (among which Gramsci) between Italy and Russia, failed. In 1934 his health was severely at risk and he was conditionally freeded, after having already visited some hospitals in Civitavecchia[?], Formia[?] and Rome.

More than 30 notebooks of history and analysis he wrote during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the Prison Notebooks[?], contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in critical theory and educational theory that he has become well-known for:

Cultural hegemony is an idea from Marxism that Gramsci developed into acute analysis to explain why the "inevitable" revolution of the proletariat predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Rather, capitalism seemed even more entrenched than ever. It wasn't just through violence and political and economic coercion that capitalism maintained control, Gramsci suggested, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the "common sense" values of all. Thus a consensus culture was created in which people in the working class identified their good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting. The working class needed to develop a "counter-hegemonic" culture, said Gramsci, to first overthrow the notion that bourgeois values were "natural" or "normal" values for society, and ultimately to succeed in overthrowing capitalism.

This need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of popular education[?] as theorized and practiced in later decades by Paulo Freire[?] in Brazil. For this reason, Gramsci is today considered an important voice in adult and popular education as well as in Marxist and political theory. His death at the age of 46, shortly after being released from prison, was a huge loss to these fields of thought.


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