Luigi Russo e Georges Sorel: sulla genesi del «moderno Principe» nei «Quaderni del carcere» di Antonio Gramsci

ANNO 54 2013
Fabio Frosini

Luigi Russo and Georges Sorel: on the origins of the «modern Prince» in Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks
The starting point of this article is the distinction between «new Prince» and «modern Prince» in Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. Whereas the former, attested in the Notebooks since 1930, refers to Gramsci’s intention to rewrite Machiavelli’s booklet, the latter appears for the first time in January-February 1932, with a completely different meaning. In fact, it is a metaphor designating not a text but a concrete political organism: the party. This presentation is organized around the turning point marked by the first occurrence of this lemma. As will be shown, the idea of a «modern Prince» is a response to Luigi Russo’s Prolegomeni a Machiavelli (1931), a book which is not only an interpretation of Machiavelli’s thought, but also an attempt to strengthen liberal Antifascism through the inclusion of democratic and «national popular» topics. This goal is achieved by adopting the idea – drawn from Croce’s «religion of freedom» – that religion and politics cannot be separated, and that Machiavelli’s Prince, with its tension between the «cool» political analysis in the first 25 chapters and the «prophetic» impulse of chapter 26, is exemplary in this sense. In the «modern Prince», Gramsci focuses on the same question as Russo. Now Gramsci agrees with the thesis that the conjunction of politics and religion is the main premise of any political action because popular masses are spurred into action only if they really share a sense of community with their leaders; and this can be produced only by the evocative power of religious language. However, Russo’s argument is only a premise for Gramsci. His main concern is precisely whether and how the political movement stirred up by religious language can at the same time be a democratic one; whether and how critique as a collective practice can be developed from it. That’s the reason why, at the very moment that Gramsci adopts Russo’s thesis, he also resorts to Sorel’s notion of «myth». As will be shown, the «myth» is for Gramsci one of the many «effects» of Marx’s notion of ideology, and as such it contains in itself a link to the question of the «truth» and thus cannot be reduced to the irrationalistic dimension it has in Sorel’s elaboration. Playing Sorel (Marx) against Russo, at the beginning of 1932 Gramsci sketches an entirely new approach to the main question of the struggle for Communism in Fascist Italy.

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