Gramsci & Trotsky

Jj Plant jplant at cix.compulink.co.uk
Mon Nov 27 11:23:00 MST 1995


Chris, some of your participants may be interested in this. It appeared 
in the first Russian editions of Trotsky's "Literature & Revolution", but 
not in any of the English editions. Gramsci is evidently replying to 
Trotsky's enquiries about futurism.

The translation is mine, so treat with care.
_________________________________________________________________
                   LETTER FROM COMRADE GRAMSCI ABOUT ITALIAN FUTURISM

Here are the answers to the questions about the Italian Futurist movement 
which you
sent me.

The mature Futurist movement in Italy lost its special character after 
the war. Marinetti
contributed remarkably little activity to the movement. He got married 
and preferred to
devote his energies to his wife. At the present time, monarchists, 
communists, republicans
and fascists belong to the Futurist movement. Recently a political weekly 
was established
in Milan under the title "Il Principe", which supports, or attempts to 
support, the theory
which was propounded by the Italian Macchiavelli in the "Cinquecento", 
i.e. that the
condition of struggle among local parties, which is leading the nation 
into chaos, can be
eliminated by an absolute monarch, a new Cesare Borgia, who beheaded all 
the leaders
of competing (?) parties. The journal is led by two Futurists - Bruno 
Kappa and Enrico
Settinelli. Marinetti however, who was arrested in 1920 in Rome, during a 
patriotic
demonstration, for an energetic speech against the king, collaborates 
with this weekly.

The majority of the significant elements of pre-war Futurism have turned 
to Fascism,
following the expulsion of Giovanni Pannini, who was a catholic and wrote 
a history of
christ. In the First World War the Futurists were mainly public 
supporters of "War to the
final victory" and of imperialism. Only one Fascist, Aldo Palajeski, was 
against the war.
He broke with the movement, and although he was one of the most 
interesting writers,
as a result he fell silent as a writer. Marinetti, who on the whole 
always praised war,
published a manifesto in which he stated that war presents a unique 
method of cleansing
the world. He took part in the war in the capacity of Captain of a 
detachment of
armoured cars (?), and his most recent book "The Steel Alcove" consists 
of enthusiastic
anthems to armoured cars in the war. Marinetti wrote a pamphlet "In spite 
of
Communism", in which he expounds his political doctrine, if you can 
describe as doctrine
the fantasies of this man, sometimes witty, always strange.

Before my departure, the Turin section of Proletkult invited Marinetti to 
an exhibition
of Futurist paintings, in order to explain their meaning clearly to the 
workers who were
members of the organisation. Marinetti is very glad to receive any 
acknowledgement, and
after visiting the exhibition with the workers, expressed his intense and 
overflowing
pleasure (?) that the workers analysed the questions of Futurist art much 
better than the
bourgeoisie.

Before the war, Futurism was very popular among the workers. The journal 
"L'Achebo"
(The Stubborn) had a print run of 20,000 copies, of which four fifths 
went to workers.
During the time of the numerous manifestations of the Futurists on art 
and theatre, the
large cities of Italy defended the Futurists against the young people - 
semi aristocrats and
bourgeois - who began fighting the Futurists.

The Futurist groups of Marinetti no longer exist. Marinetti's old journal 
"Poezia" is
nowadays led by a certain Mario Dessi, a man of no significance, either 
as an intellectual
or as an organiser. From Southern Italy, and especially Sicily, come may 
small Futurist
magazines, to which Marinetti contributes articles ; but these magazines 
are published
by students, taking into account the Futurists' ignorance of Italian 
grammar.

The stronger cells among the Futurists are the artists. In Rome there is 
a permanent
gallery for Futurist painting, and organised talks about photography by a 
certain Antonio
Julio Blagallia, an agent for film and theatre actors. Among the Futurist 
painters the best
known is Giorgio Balla.

D'Annunzio never speaks publicly about Futurism. You must bear in mind 
that Futurism,
at the time of its birth, had a distinct anti-D'Annunzio character : One 
of the first books
by Marinetti bore the title "The gods depart, and D'Annunzio remains". 
Although at the
time of the war, the political programmes of Marinetti and D'Annunzio 
coincided, the
Futurists remained hostile to D'Annunzio. The great majority of them took 
no interest
in the Fiume question, although they participated in the demonstrations.

It can be said that after the restrictions of the peace, the Futurist 
movement lost its way
and split into various currents, producing and creating the shifts of the 
war epoch. The
young intellectuals were almost all reactionary. The workers, who saw in 
Futurism
elements of a struggle against the old Italian academic culture, calmed 
down away from
the national mass. Today must fight with weapons in hand for their 
freedom and take
little interest in old quarrels. In the big industrial centres the 
programme of Proletkult,
directed towards awakening the creative souls of the workers in the 
fields of literature
and art, absorbs the energies of those who still have the desire and the 
time to busy
themselves with these problems.

Moscow, 8 September 1922


_________________________________
jplant at cix.compulink.co.uk



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