Charging The Cavalry
Down Prison Road
Games of Shame
Our Kind of Guy
Zaps - 10/10
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Book by Antonio A. Santucci; New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010, 176 pp.
The status quo thrives in the digital age across the U.S. in 2010, fueling a toxic brew of popular fear and rage. Would Antonio Gramsci (1891 to 1937), the Sardinian activist and theorist, be surprised? I rather doubt it. Reading a biography of the author, journalist, and theorist by Antonio A. Santucci, a Gramsci scholar, drives the point home. He brings into sharp focus Gramsci and his political and prison writings.
A letter that Gramsci wrote to his wife gives us a sense of his self-critical character. In a telling incident, Gramsci encountered a divide in Italy between soldiers and workers in the north (urban) and south (rural). Santucci explores how Gramsci came to understand both sides during labor strife. The communist from Sardinia emerges as a robust thinker. For instance, he probes the causes and consequences of the participants' views of each other and themselves as a basis for future strategy. "Here, too, we can discern a significant aspect of Gramsci's method," Santucci writes. "Action and political ferment are revisited with the passing of time and turned into an object and model of science inquiry."
Gramsci's view on order and disorder under capitalism and socialism is noteworthy. This section is relevant to the current period. Think of the mainstream's oft-repeated claim that alternatives to business-as-usual are doomed to failure. "Proof" is the failures of previous attempts. The former Soviet Union and Cuba now are so-called cases in point. In any event, writing of a socialist theory and strategy, Gramsci urges proponents to be bold, to make concrete their strivings for a new society that privileges people's capacities. He continues, writing of anti-capitalist partisans: "The legal maxim that they want to realize is to make the complete realization of one's own human personality a possible for all citizens." Gramsci thinks big. In fact, he foreshadows social movements in Latin America now, i.e., Bolivia under President Evo Morales. That is, the concept of all people living well, with full bellies, spare time, and meaningful work.
Gramsci's prose after the Mussolini dictatorship imprisoned him is a treasure trove. Take the Letters from Prison. They are mainly Gramsci's missives to his family members and close friends. Santucci deftly weaves his descriptions of Gramsci's life under arduous circumstances with his familial relations. Friends also nurtured Gramsci's disciplined studies as a locked-up political prisoner who read and wrote voraciously. One friend was Piero Sraffa, the famed author and political economist. He with Gramsci's sister-in-law provided intellectual stimulus to combat his cruel isolation and deprivation at the hands of the Italian government.
In the Prison Notebooks, Gramsci digs deeply into concepts that have entered the language of resistance today, from civil society and hegemony to ideology. Consider Gramsci's analysis of a society's ruling ideas. In our time, one is the idea that the marketplace works best when government protects and regulates financial and industrial firms in their interests. Gramsci wrestles with a clearer understanding of this process, which in the U.S. sees an upper class crushing working people, while strident factions of the well-heeled fund anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hysteria to better bolster elite control generally.
Santucci brings us a clearer picture of how Gramsci's critique of changing the status quo from the grassroots calls for a "war of position." This warfare requires patience and commitment to study to win. Here and in other areas of his study, Gramsci pays close attention to everyday details. Take his writings on culture. For example, Gramsci grasped the personal and political meanings of the popularity of African-American music among Europeans nearly a century past. Then as now such art forms can engender within people a conscience striving for a more humane future. Gramsci's analysis gives historic context to today's widespread appeal of black-inspired hip hop dress, lyrics, and rhythms in the young of many backgrounds.
Santucci ends with two appendixes. One is a biographical chronology of Gramsci. The other features biographies of main political figures. He wraps up with notes and an index. For those new and old to Gramsci, Santucci's book is a fine read.
Seth Sandronsky lives and writes in Sacramento.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.