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Antonio Gramsci

One Year of History


1918
Source: Il Grido del Popolo, March 16, 1918;
Translated: b Mitchell Abidor;
!op"e#t: !reati$e !ommons %Attribute & ShareAli'e( mar)ists*or+ ,--8*
.ne ear has passed since the da /hen the 0ussian people #orced Tsar 1icholas to abdicate
and ta'e the road o# e)ile* The commemoration o# the anni$ersar is hardl merr* Sorro/,
ruin, the appearance o# collapse, the bour+eois counter2o##ensi$e /ith German baonets and
+uns*
Is the 0ussian 0e$olution #inished3 4as the proletariat in 0ussia #ailed in the +reatest
e)periment in histor3 The loo' o# thin+s doesn5t +i$e com#ort: the German +enerals ha$e
arri$ed in .dessa, the 6apanese are said to be read to inter$ene, #i#t million citi7ens are ha$e
been torn #rom the re$olution, and /ith them the most #ertile lands, the /as to the seas, the
roads o# ci$ili7ation and economic li#e* The 0e$olution /as born in pain and despair, and
continues in pain and su##erin+, +ripped in a rin+ o# enem po/er, immersed in an economic
/orld re#ractor to its ideal, to its +oals*
In March 1918 the tele+raphs announced that a /orld had collapsed in 0ussia, a /orld alread
ephemeral, the inanimate shado/ o# a po/er that /as sur+in+ up, /hich /as +ro/in+ stron+er,
/hich dra++ed itsel# alon+ /ith blood $iolence, /ith the repression o# spirits, /ith the torture
o# #lesh torn to pieces* This po/er +a$e li#e to a hu+e state machine* 18- million human
creatures /ere #orced to #or+et their humanit, their spiritualit in order to ser$e* To ser$e
/hat3 The idea o# the 0ussian 9mpire, o# the Great 0ussian State /hich had to reach the /arm
and open seas in order to secure an outlet #or its economic acti$it #rom e$er si7e o#
competitor, #rom the surprise o# /ar* The 0ussian 9mpire /as a monstrous necessit o# the
modern /orld* In order to li$e, to de$elop, to ensure a li#e o# acti$it ten races, 18- million
men had to submit to a #erocious state discipline; had to renounce their humanit and be pure
instruments o# po/er*
In March 1918 the monstrous machine collapsed, rotted, decomposed b its con+enital
impotence* Men rose up, loo'ed each other in the ee* 4uman $alues too' the upper hand*
9)teriorit no lon+er had an $alue: too much /ron+ had been done, too much pain had been
caused, too much blood had been spilled* 4istor, true histor had be+un* 9$erone /ants to
be the master o# his o/n destin, /ants societ to be molded in obedience to the spirit, and not
$ice $ersa* The or+ani7ation o# li#e in common in societ should be the e)pression o# humanit,
should respect autonom and libert* The ne/ histor o# humanit had be+un; a ne/
e)periment in the histor o# the human spirit had be+un* These coincided /ith the e)pressions
that the socialist ideal had +i$en to man5s elementar needs* The socialists as a political class
reached po/er /ithout too much e##ort; the /ords o# their #aith coincided /ith the con#used
and $a+ue aspirations o# the 0ussian people*
The had to ma'e the ne/ or+ani7ation a realit, had to pass ne/ la/s, stabili7e the ne/
re+ulations* The past continued to e)ist, but it /as #allin+ apart* It +a$e the appearance o#
collapse, disorder, con#usion* It seemed as i# the /ere returnin+ to barbarian societ, that is, to
non2societ* The past continued to li$e beond the land o# libert and sou+ht $en+eance*
The ne/ order /as slo/ in bein+ reali7ed* Slo/3 . s'eptical /ic'ed men, it /asn5t slo/, #or
one doesn5t rema'e societ b #iat, because the e$il o# the past is not an edi#ice o# papier2
m:ch; that is brou+ht do/n in an instant* "i#e is a pain#ul e##ort, a tenacious stru++le a+ainst
habits, a+ainst bestialit and the coarse instincts that continuousl ma'e themsel$es 'no/n* A
ne/ human societ isn5t created in si) months /hen three ears o# /ar ha$e e)hausted a
countr, ha$e depri$ed it o# the mechanical means needed #or ci$il li#e* Millions and millions
o# men aren5t or+ani7ed in #reedom <ust li'e that, /hen e$erthin+ is a+ainst it and all that is
le#t is the indomitable spirit* The histor o# the 0ussian 0e$olution hasn5t been closed and /ill
not close /ith the anni$ersar o# its be+innin+*
In the same /a that a canto e)ists in the ima+ination o# the poet be#ore it does on the printed
pa+e, the arri$al o# a ne/ social or+ani7ation e)ists in consciousnesses and /ills* The are
chan+ed men; this is /hat is important* The /ant e)teriorit, the /ords on the pa+e* The cr
out at e$er #ailure, at e$er apparent re$erse*
4istorians as' o# the 0ussians /hat has ne$er been as'ed o# past re$olutions: the immediate
creation o# a ne/ order* The de$ise plans that ha$e ne$er e)isted, hopes that ha$e ne$er been
dreamed o#* And these plans, these hopes con#ront a current realit to end in #ailure, in
collapse* =ith a realit /hich is said to issue #rom a ear o# ne/ histor, but /hich issues #rom
centuries o# the most bestial repression in human histor* The impossible is as'ed o# them,
/hich has ne$er as'ed o# the men o# the past*
4o/ man times did the >rench 0e$olution see Paris occupied b the enem3 And the
occupation came a#ter 1apoleon had dictatoriall or+ani7ed the re$olutionar #orces and led
the >rench armies #rom $ictor to $ictor* And >rance /as a small thin+ compared to the
e)terminated 0ussia*
1o, mechanical #orce has ne$er pre$ailed in histor; it is men, it is consciousness and the spirit
that molds e)ternal appearances and al/as triumphs in the end* A ear o# histor has closed,
but histor continues* %The next six lines were censored*(

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