My Grandfather

TH_Cultural Hegemony_Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci Jr. in The New Left Review:

Twenty years ago the Soviet Union collapsed—a society that, with all its defects, had represented the bastion of actually existing socialism and—paradoxically—helped ease the contradictions of western capitalism. It was around that time that I began to be interested in my grandfather. The Italian Communist party and the Fondazione Istituto Gramsci arranged a trip to Italy for me and my father to celebrate the centenary of his birth. We stayed in Italy around six months, in that time visiting all the places that had strong connections with the life of Antonio Gramsci, from Sardinia to Turi. (One of the most moving highlights of our pilgrimage was the concert I gave for the inmates in the prison in Turi, together with Francesca Vacca.) During those months, full of so many other fascinating events, I steeped myself in Italian culture and realized how important my grandfather is to it. Back in Russia, full of enthusiasm, I started to study Italian systematically and also read what little there was of his writing in Russian translation. My interest in Gramsci’s thought grew more and more strongly as I tried to understand what had happened in my country through the lens of his work. It was thanks to him that I now grasped the destructive role played by our intellectuals, who were responsible for the molecular shift in public opinion in favour of the new regime, which had led to the plunder of Russia, a process already begun during the years of perestroika. I didn’t become a Gramsci scholar—I’m a biologist and a musician—but my mental bearings had radically altered. Speaking of our own time, I can say that it is precisely at this turbulent historic moment that I sense the real need for the rise of an intellectual voice of Antonio Gramsci’s calibre to unite various factions that are divided and ideologically uncreative. These various factions can hardly be called an opposition, fused in the ‘historic bloc’ that alone would be capable of developing a correct strategic line in the struggle against the oppressive forces of the new regime, corrupt and cynical, that has ruled Russia for two decades now.

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