Who is Antonio Gramsci?

Who is Antonio Gramsci?

December 13, 2020 Off By Felso

Antonio Gramsci (born 22 January 1891, Sardinia – d. 27 April 1937, Rome) Italian thinker, politician and Marxist theorist.

Founding member and for a time leader of the Italian Communist Party. He was imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist regime. His contribution to Marxist literature is mainly on hegemony, civil society, infrastructure-superstructure relations, and the function of intellectuals in society. He put forward original views on the theory of the state, deeply influenced many Marxist theorists, especially Althusser, and his views formed the foundations of Western Marxism.

Gramsci was born in Ales, on the island of Sardinia in Italy. He was one of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci, a junior officer. His father’s family was from the Arbereshes, an Albanian community that migrated to Southern Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries. Due to its Albanian origins, the surname Gramsci is thought to be related to an Albanian town Gramsh. Financial difficulties and Francesco Gramsci’s problems with the police forced the family to change several towns in Sardinia, eventually settling in Ghilarza.

Francesco Gramsci was arrested and imprisoned for embezzlement in 1898. This caused Antonio Gramsci to drop out of school and work in various jobs until his father’s release in 1904. Antonio Gramsci’s health problems began around that time: his spinal cord malformations due to a childhood accident left him hunched over and underdeveloped. He started at that time in internal diseases that would follow him throughout his life.

Gramsci completed his secondary school in Cagliari. He stayed in Cagliari with his older brother Gennaro, a former soldier who was a militant socialist while serving in Italy. However, at that time Gramsci had no sympathy for socialism. More; He was concerned with the suffering of the Sardinian peasants and miners, who were increasingly impoverished, linking the causes of this impoverishment to the neglect of the rapidly industrializing Northern Italy. As a result of this reaction to the north, Sardinian nationalism was showing tendencies.


A brilliant student, Gramsci was awarded a scholarship in 1911 that allowed him to study at the University of Turin. He took the exam with Palmiro Togliatti, who would become his future competitor. He studied literature in Turin, took a close interest in linguistics. When Gramsci arrived, Turin was undergoing an industrialization process, with Fiat and Lancia factories moving people from poor areas to recruit workers. During this period, unions were established and class social contradictions became visible. Gramsci was involved in these developments. As well as being in contact with socialist circles, he also met with Sardinian immigrants, who would enable him to continue his interaction with the Sardinian culture he grew up in. Worldview in this environment; Together with his previous experiences in Sardinia, it was shaped by his environment in Italy. He joined the Italian Socialist Party in late 1913.

Although he was gifted in academic studies, he left his education in early 1915 due to his growing political connections, as well as financial problems and his weak body. During his education, he acquired an extensive knowledge of history and philosophy. At the university, he was introduced to the ideas of Antonio Labriola, Rodolfo Mondolfo, Giovanni Gentile, and most notably Benedetto Croce, the most revered intellectual of his time. These thinkers adopted a kind of Hegelian Marxism, which Labriola called the “philosophy of praxis”. Although Gramsci often used the term to censor his writings later in prison, their relationship to this trend of thought would remain uncertain throughout his career.

After 1914, his articles in socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earned him a reputation as a remarkable journalist. In 1916 he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of the Socialist Party official publication Avanti! As a prolific political theory writer who wrote with clarity, Gramsci proved to be a brilliant commentator who wrote all aspects of Turin’s social and political life.

Gramsci was also concerned with the training and organization of Turin workers. For the first time in 1916, he gave speeches before the public, and he touched upon topics such as the French Revolution, the Paris Commune and women’s liberation. With the arrest of the Socialist Party leaders after the revolutionary uprisings of August 1917, Gramsci was elected to the Party Provisional Committee, and became editor of Il Grido del Popolo. Thus, he became one of the socialist leaders in Turin.

In April 1919, Togliatti, together with Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini, published the weekly newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo. In October of the same year, the Socialist Party mostly joined the 3rd International, although it was divided into several factions. The L’Ordine Nuovo group was seen by Lenin as the closest group to the Bolsheviks and had Lenin’s support against the anti-parliamentary program of the far left Amadeo Bordiga. Among the many tactics that prevailed within the party, the Gramsci group stood out mainly for its defense of workers’ councils. These councils were responsible for the Turin great strikes of 1919 and 1920.