Antonio Gramsciâs influence and legacy has been extraordinarily rich and vast, producing new ideas, interpretations and seeds all over the world. But how is Gramsci indirectly related to the current BL exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Womenâs Rights?
Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) was the only regular foreign correspondent for the Italian newspaper LâOrdine Nuovo (âThe New Orderâ), established by Gramsci and three other editors (Angelo Tasca, Palmiro Togliatti, and Umberto Terracini) on 1 May 1919 in Turin. Her monthly contribution entitled Lettere dallâInghilterra (âLetters from Englandâ) was translated by Palmiro Togliatti (1893 â1964).
Front page of LâOrdine Nuovo, 11-18 December 1920, n. 22. Source: Wikipedia Commons
More than just a workersâ newspaper, LâOrdine Nuovo was the vibrant engine of the mass education policy set up by Gramsci in Italyâs vibrant âMotor Cityâ. During the strikes of 1919-20 (the so-called Biennio Rosso), Turin became the âCity of Factory Councils and Red Guardsâ, the âMecca of Italian Communism, the âItalian Petrogradâ, almost on the verge of a Bolshevik-style Italian revolution. At the heart of this revolutionary hive was LâOrdine Nuovoâs office, where all sorts of people flocked to visit Gramsci. Among the international visitors to Gramsciâs office, during the turbulent year of 1919, was Sylvia Pankhurst. The trait dâunion, who arranged the meeting between two advocates of working-class interests, was Silvio Corio (1875-1954), Sylviaâs partner and interpreter during their clandestine journey across Italy (Turin, Milan and Bologna).
Sylvia Pankhurst and Silvio Corio. Source: Westminster Libraries
An anarchist printer and journalist, Corio joined the network of Italian radical activists in London in 1901. The elective affinity (of heart and mind) between Corio and Pankhurst blossomed in 1917 and produced the first and most influential duo of antifascists in Great Britain during the two World Wars. Corio worked shoulder to shoulder with Pankhurst at the London communist newspaper Workers' Dreadnought (1917-24), being a major source of influence and support in all her campaigns and activities, although he was keeping a low profile to avoid any trouble threatened by the Aliensâ Act of 1918.
The Workers' Dreadnought, 3 May 1919 (LOU.LON.702). Image from Spartacus Educational
Three years before Mussoliniâs ascent to power, the contacts with Gramsci and the other leftist intellectuals ignited the spark of anti-fascism in Pankhurst. During her critical journey to Italy she experienced first hand the polarization of Italian society, and realised the risks arising from the fascist and colonialist propaganda on the international arena. Back in London, together with Corio and other activists, she was the first influential voice to ring alarm bells against Mussoliniâs regime, the Italian occupation of Ethiopia (1935-1937) and the looming prospect of a second world war.
I picture Pankhurst, along with Corio, supporting the international campaign organised by the economist Piero Sraffa (1898-1983) at Cambridge University and Gramsciâs sister-in-law Tatiana Schucht (1887-1943) in order to demand Gramsci's release in 1934.
Thanks to this trio of visionary activists and thinkers the seeds for a modern civil society, such as we have and enjoy today, had been sown.
Ramona Ciucani, West European Languages Cataloguing team
References/ Further reading:
Rachel Holmes, Sylvia Pankhurst: natural born rebel (London, 2020). ELD.DS.553677
Maurizio Rodorigo, âUna storia di amore e di tenebra: mostra a Manchester sugli antifascisti italiani negli anni â20 in Inghilterraâ in La Repubblica. Londra, 9 April 2019, available here
Alfio Bernabei, Esuli ed emigrati italiani nel Regno Unito, 1920-1940 (Milan, 1997). YA.2000.a.20751
Antonio Gramsci, Il giornalismo, il giornalista: scritti, articoli, lettere del fondatore de âl'UnitaÌâ a cura di Gian Luca Corradi (Florence, 2017). YF.2019.a.4541
Antonio Gramsci, LâOrdine Nuovo 1929-1920, in Opere, v. 9 (Turin, 1954). 12228.bb.4 and YA.1999.a.4692
Antonio Gramsci, Socialismo e Fascismo: LâOrdine Nuovo 1921-1922, in Opere, v. 11 (Turin, 1966). 12228.bb.4 and YA.1999.a.4692
M. Ledwith, âAntonio Gramsci and Feminism: The elusive nature of powerâ, Educational Philosophy and Theory (vol 41, number 6, 2009, pp. 684-697) 661.480000
Laura E Ruberto, Gramsci, migration, and the representation of women's work in Italy and the U.S. (Lanham, 2007). YK.2009.a.8920 and m07/.36400
Selections from political writings [of] Antonio Gramsci, selected and edited by Quintin Hoare (London, 1977). X.0700/1032
Video of Rachel Holmes in conversation with Shami Chakrabarti on latest biography âSylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebelâ available on the British Library Player.