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Perry Anderson on reform & revolution 40 years on from the Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2017 by kmflett

Perry Anderson on reform and revolution 40 years on from the Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci

40 years ago in New Left Review 1/100 in 1977 Perry Anderson published a major essay the Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci. It was notable for looking at the relevance of Gramsci for a revolutionary politics in the mid-1970s, focusing on the concepts of wars of manoeuvre and position.

Verso have now republished the essay in book format with a new introductory essay by Anderson.

In the concluding paragraph he suggests a balance sheet between reform and revolution:

Viewed world-historically, the difference (social democracy) has made has not been great. The welfare state attributed to it exists in countries where it has never enjoyed significant power- Japan, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, even in its fashion the United States-as well as those in which it has. In favourable conditions, it has yielded a set of small societies in Scandinavia markedly more civilised than the bourgeois median, even if these too are now subject to erosion. The balance sheet of what was once reformism is not negligible but it is modest. Of the revolutionary tradition, that cannot be said. Europe was largely saved from Nazism by the Red Army, and China today looms larger in the scales of growth and power than the Soviet Union ever did. The crimes and disasters, not to speak of the ironies and reversals, of the communist record are plain. But that it changed the world as the Second International never did is equally plain. Not coincidentally, the legacy of its ideas, for those with any interest in ideas, is much richer. Gramsci alone is sufficient testimony to that.

It is an interesting balance sheet even if I wouldn’t agree that Russia was part of a revolutionary tradition after the late 1920s or that modern day China can be included in that. But of the classic theorists of the 1920s and 1930s, Gramsci included, Anderson surely has a point about an important legacy.

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