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10 The Factory Councils' Movement L'Ordine Nuovo and thefactory councils A class which is advancing towards hegemony must strive for leadership in the sphere of production: 'Though hegemony is ethical-political, it must also be economic, founded on the decisive function of the leading group in the decisive sectors of production' (SPN 161). As Gramsci had said in an article written in July 1920, a socialist revolution has to be founded on 'the patient and methodical work needed to build a new order in the relations ofproduction' (SPW 1305). The practical origin ofthe concept ofhegemony was the factory councils' movement which arose in Turin during the great revolutionary upsurge in Italy in 1919-20. The weekly journal which was founded in May 1919 by Gramsci and his friends Togliatti, Tasca and Terracini, entitled L'Ordine Nuof)o (The New Order) became the organ of the factory councils. Searching for something in Italy which could play the role which had been played by the soviets in the Russian Revolution, Gramsci and his colleagues seized on the internal commissions in the factories as potential organs ofworking-class power. The internal commissions were committees elected by trade union members having limited functions for dealing with grievances, originally very much under the control of the union officials, but towards the end of the war they were becoming a 78 THE FACTORY COUNCILS' MOVEMENT focus for the discontent of the militants with the union leadership. In June 1919 L'Ordine Nuovo published an article by Gramsci and Togliatti calling for the transformation of the internal commissions into 'organs ofproletarian power, replacing the capitalist in all his useful functions of management and administration'; creating a new system of workers' democracy which would be a school of political and administrative experience and thus effecting a radical transformation of the workers' consciousness. This call met with an immediate response, and the internal commissions developed into factory councils which, building on the revolutionary spirit of the Turin workers, rapidly grew into a powerful movement. Although the factory councils were inspired by the October Revolution, they were quite different from the Russian soviets. They were a creative application to Italian conditions of the experiences of the Russian workers, not a mechanical copy ofthe Russian model. They were factory-based organisations for exercising workers' control over production and the labour process, not territorial organisations based on towns and villages and composed of deputies of workers, peasants and soldiers. They drew also on the experiences of British shop-stewards' committees, but differed from them too; the factory councils were to be organs of the workers as producers rather than as wage earners, and all workers participated whether or not they belonged to a trade union. In September 1920 the post-war revolutionary wave in Italy culminated in the occupation ofthe factories which, beginning in Milan, quickly spread throughout the country. Inspired by the example ofTurin, factory councils sprang up everywhere, and in many factories production continued. Confronted by this immense movement, the leaders of the Italian Socialist Party remained passive, and allowed the reformist CGL leaders (the Italian TUC) to reach a compromise with the government and to call off the occupation. While it had demonstrated the great potentialities of the factory councils movement and had revealed the capacity of the working class for industrial leadership, it 79 GRAMSCI'S POLITICAL THOUGHT ended in defeat. The second halfof 1920 witnessed both the rise of Mussolini's fascist movement, and preparations for the foundation of the Italian Communist Party which took place in January 1921. This is not the place to explore all the aspects of the factory councils movement, which can be studied in Gramsci's own articles in SPW I. Three themes are of particular importance for the development of the concept of hegemony: (1) the factory councils as embryos of a new state, ending the separation between economic and political struggle; (2) welding the present to the future; and (3) workers' control over the labour process. Embryo. ofthe new .tate For Gramsci, at this relatively early stage in his development as a Marxist, the nucleus of Lenin's thought was the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is, revolution was understood not only as destruction but also as the construction of a fundamentally new type of state. It was necessary to adopt a new kind of political practice, as developed by Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. and to break with the entire parliamentary tradition of the Second International. This tradition...


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