In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

6 Passive Revolution The Risorgimento Gramsci's analysis of the contrast between the French Revolution and the Italian Risorgimento (referred to on p.34) led him to develop the concept of passive revolution. In the French Revolution the Jacobins were able to mobilise the people for the revolutionary struggle through supporting the demands of the peasantry and building an alliance with them. In contrast, the unification ofItaly and the rise to power ofthe Italian bourgeoisie in the Risorgimento was carried out by Cavour and the Moderate Party in a very different way, with the minimum reliance on popular struggles; their main instrument was the Piedmontese state with its army, its monarchy and its bureaucracy. The liberal-democratic current was represented by the Action Party of Mazzini and Garibaldi, but it played a subordinate role to the Moderates; and the principal reason for this, in Gramsci's view, was that it failed to develop a programme reSecting the essential demands of the popular masses, and in the first place of the peasantry. Thus the Action Party never succeeded in stamping the Risorgimento with a popular and democratic character. Instead the Moderates, with the aid of their own intellectuals, exercised a powerful attractive force over intellectuals throughout the peninsula, and succeeded in using the national question to unite all the different sections of the Italian bourgeoisie under their leadership. The Moderates reinforced their ascendancy over the Action Party by the method 47 GRAMSCI'S POLmCALTHOUGHT which became known in Italy as transfonnism, and involved the 'gradual but continuous absorption achieved by methods which varied in their effectiveness, of the active elements produced by allied groups - and even of those which came from antagonistic groups' (SPN 58-9). For example, Gramsci says that in the period from 1860 to 1900 individual figures formed by the democratic opposition parties were incorporated individually into the conservative-moderate political class, characterised by its aversion to any intervention of the popular masses in state life; from 1900 onwards entire groups from the democratic opposition passed over into the moderate camp. Thus the Moderates established their hegemony over the Action Party and over the whole movement ofthe Risorgimento, but the process ofnational unification and the rise to power ofthe northern capitalists was achieved without relying on popular struggles. No attempt was made to coordinate the interests ofthe peasants and of other subordinate classes with those of the bourgeoisie so as to create a national-popular collective will. The majority of the peasants remained under the influence of the Roman Catholic church which was hostile to the new Italian state (having lost the Papal TerritOries). The Risorgimento took the form ofa 'revolution from above', carried out mainly through the agency of the Piedmontese state. The strategy adopted by the Italian bourgeoisie had the character ofa passive revolution. The Moderates only established their hegemony over the Action Party; in other words, there was hegemony of part of the capitalist class over the whole of that class, combined with an absence of hegemony over the peasants and the great majority of the population. As Gramsci put it, there was 'dictatorship without hegemony'. One aspect of a passive revolution deserves special em'phasis. Referring to the role of the Piedmont state, Gramsci says 'The important thing is to analyse more profoundly the significance of a 'Piedmonf-type function in passive revolutions - i.e. the fact that a state replaces the local social groups in leading a struggle for renewal' (SPN 105). In a passive revolution the state is 48 PASSIVE REVOLUTION substituted for the political (hegemonic) activity of the class; the greater the degree of passive revolution in any situation, the more does this process ofsubstitution take place. In setting out Gramsci's analysis of the Risorgimento, an extremely simplified picture of a very complex historical period has been given, very much more simplified than that given by Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks. The people were not entirely passive in the Risorgimento which included many heroic episodes, such as the risings in Milan and Rome in 1848-49 and Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily in 1860. But in its overall character the Risorgimento was a passive revolution which did not have a national-popular quality. Gramsci sums up the result (SPN 90): the leaders of the Risorgimento 'were aiming at the creation ofa modem state in Italy and in fact produced a bastard'. They did not succeed either in stimulating the formation of an extensive and energetic ruling class or in integrating...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.