[L-I] Gramsci, Terror, & Thermidor (was Re: Gramsci Redux)

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Tue Oct 17 20:41:47 MDT 2000





> Leo Casey enlists Gramsci for Laclau & Mouffe:
>
> >Secondly, when Gramsci invokes the Jacobin tradition in his discussions of
> >the political party, this is not a simple adoption of the more extreme
> >moments of the French Revolution, an incorporation of the politics of the
> >"Reign of Terror." To the contrary, Gramsci is interested in a very
> >particular aspect of the Jacobin tradition -- its organization of what he
> >calls the national-popular will. That is, he is interested in how the
> >Jacobins articulated a particular set of class interests as the expression of
> >the national interest. He is arguing that only when a working class party can
> >do the same will it be able to exercise hegemony and rule.
>

Leo Casey is absolutely partial on this. No wonder why he posts on LBO. Gramsci's
views of Jacobinism is politically meaningful for us, especially for Marxists
living in the third world  (in terms of *appreciating* the anti-imperialist
struggles of early state formations, such as Kemalism, Peronism, etc..). I don't
know enough about Argentina, but in Turkey Kemalists were definitely inspired by
Jacobinism, philosophically and politically. So Jacobinism as the background
ideology of national bourgeoisie was progressive in our own context..  Gramsci
invokes the Jacobin tradition not as a matter of criticizing  the class interests
or "Reign of Terror" Jacobins represented-- the same apologetic bullshit that was
ascribed to third world states as being fascist, authoritarian, etc..  On the
contrary, he is inventing Jacobin ideology as a *productive* metaphor (which is
what he does with Machievveli's Prince too) to point out the lack of
"national-popular collective will" in Italy. So, in Italy,  the problem, he
thinks, is a lack of "Jacobin sprit".  He cites Mac's proposal of "reforming the
militia" as an historically necessary step* to form a modern-state in Italy
divided and ruled  by principalities.  Accordingly, the Italian Communist Party,
just *as other  popular forces else where,*  should play the role of Jacobins--
organizing as a national front against traditional forces-- if it is to be
successful against fascism as well as against capitalism. Part of Italy's problem
at the time was the dominance of landed aristocracy and  the Catholic Church that
made it difficult to establish a unitary nation state of the kind Jacobins did in
France. Gramsci struggles to understand why.  The modern Prince is an excellent
comparative analysis of why attempts to form a nation state succeeded in one
context (France) and failed in another context (Italy), or resulted in fascist
form. Its main problem is to figure out why is that fascists took advantage of the
historical  backwardness of Italy, whereas communists lost the opportunity of
having come to terms with the political economic realities of Italy (vulgar
materialism and free trade Marxism are among the reasons why the left failed to
form a revolutionary consciousness).  Isn't this a very updated view of the
leftists in core imperialist countries at the moment?

In my view, the Modern Prince is a pamphlet of straight forward recommendations
about political strategy Marxists need today: ACTION, FORCE, WILL, POWER,
REVOLUTIONARY AGENCY! Gramsci discovers what is implicit in Marx. As powerful as
Lenin's What is to be Done, it is also a guideline for Marxists in the Third World
and western Marxists committed to answer this question: "1) HOW TO ORGANIZE AS A
POPULAR/HEGOMONIC FRONT AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND RETROSPECTIVELY LEARN FROM OUR
ANTI-IMPERIALIST HISTORIES? 2) HOW TO COMBINE PASSION WITH POLITICAL FORESIGHT,
AND MOBILIZE  STRATEGICALLY AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND THE ENEMY CLASSES ".  Does Leo
understand this?


Page 131: " The reason for the failures of the successive attempts to create a
national popular collective will is to be sought in the existence of certain
specific social groups which were formed at the of the communal bourgeoisie; in
the particular character of other groups which reflect the international function
of Italy as seat of the Church and depository of the Holy Roman empire; and so on.
This function and the position which results from it have brought about an
internal situation which may be called  economic corporate, politically the worst
of all forms of feudal society, the least progressive and most stagnant. AN
EFFECTIVE JACONBON FORCE WHICH IN OTHER NATIONS AWAKENED  AND ORGANIZED  THE
NATIONAL POPULAR COLLECTIVE WILL, AND FOUNDED THE MODERN STATES.. AN FORMATION OF
A NATIONAL-POPULAR COLLECTIVE WILL is impossible , unless the great mass of
peasant farmers bursts simultaneously into political life. That was Mac's
intention through the reform of the militia and it was achieved by the Jacobins in
the French Revolution. That Mac understood  it reveals a precocious Jacobinism
that is the more or less fertile germ of his conception of national revolution.
All history from 1815 on wards shows  the efforts of the traditional classes to
prevent a formation of a collective will  of this kind and to maintain
economic-corporate power in an international system of passive equilibrium" (the
Modern Prince, Gramsci, p. 131-32)


Xxxx



--

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222


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