Monday, February 4, 2019

Who Was Gramsci? - Part 1

From Wikipedia:

     The man pictured above is Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, who died at age 46, in 1937. His influence on current Leftist thought cannot be underestimated. His central concepts, however important to the Left that they are, are a complex and mind-boggling twisted mass that resists untangling.

     OK, this next part will seem baffling and obtuse (Seem? Hell, it IS), so don’t bog down in it. FWIW, I’ve asked every Leftist I’ve ever met (and, that is a LOT) to explain Gramsci. NONE of them were able to - the central tenets of their Leftist Prophet were a Hot Mess, even to them.

     It’s as though a Lutheran tried to explain Sola Scriptura to you, but fumbled around with the idea, before simply repeating the initial jargon. That’s what Leftists do with Cultural and Political Hegemony. So, don’t expect this to make sense in the Real World.

     Ready?

     From Wikipedia:

     Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class – the bourgeoisie – use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie, in Gramsci's view, develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the "common sense" values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.

     I’ve been around those who toss off that term - hegemony - for decades, and it still seems a lot like mumbo-jumbo to me. However, here’s MY understanding - hegemony encompasses the various mechanisms by which a social class is said to make other classes conform to their norms; the point of their doing so is to keep themselves in power. It is because of that belief that the Leftists are so over-the-top about assimilation. They think accommodation to a standard is horrible, because it will naturally keep other classes from gaining power.

     Because those other classes will have to give up an essential piece of their soul (well, they don’t believe in souls, but…) to gain power. The idea that someone can work with the standard, and yet retain facets of their original culture/class is impossible, according to the Leftists.

     I guess they haven’t known many actual immigrants or class-changers. Which I have. It can be done, and, no, you are still you. You can even keep using the “Old Language”, if you want. You just have to agree that the standard for communication with any NOT of your language group will be the New Language.

     The same with customs, foods, and family structure. Life being what it is, over time, the unique features begin to blend with other cultures/classes, and we eventually arrive at what one of those old Sci-Fi guys called the Galactic Standard language and culture.

     I have to wonder whether Gramsci resisted that blending, in part, as he was Italian-born to an ethnically Albanian father. His mother was Sardinian.

     He was sickly, with a deformed spine from TB (Potts Disease) - it afflicts those who have it with something that looks like a hunchback. His studies were in linguistics, a field that, for some unknown reason, later attracted other Leftists, such as Noam Chomsky. During those years, the Trade Union movement was active, as were Socialists. He joined the Italian Socialist Party.

     He left school at 24, for lack of money. He wrote for Socialist newspapers, and eventually, after the Italian government cracked down on Socialists in August 1917, held leadership positions when other leaders were arrested. Keep in mind that ALL international Socialist societies/parties were following the same script.

     By 1919, the Italian Socialists had affiliated with the Bolsheviks Third Internationale, headed by Lenin. In other words, Moscow and the Soviets controlled them. Gramsci advocated for workers councils, which he’d had experience with in the Turin workers strikes. However, he was in the minority in that support, and in 1921, he worked with his rival for power, Bordiga, to move to Lenin-style Communism in the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d'Italia – PCI).

     Hang in there. This is background, and it will later be important for understanding the development of Gramsci’s philosophy.

     Gramsci traveled to Russia as a representative of the PCI, where he met his wife, Julia Schucht, a violinist. He had two sons with her. He left before seeing his 2nd child, when the Soviet government sent him back to Italy with instructions to form an alliance of Leftists against Fascism. From 1922 through 1923, Mussolini fought against the Communists, and eventually, most of the leadership of the PCI was arrested. But not Gramsci - not at that point.

     Gramsci traveled back and forth to Moscow. When in Italy, he worked to get the PCI growing, and its newspaper stabilized. By 1926, he was arrested, despite being a member of the government; there may have been an attempt on Mussolini’s life, and that was used to justify jailing rival parties.

     He was in jail for 11 years, and, as he was crippled and sick, became desperately ill. He died just 6 days after he was to have been released, on April 27, 1937.

     His Prison Notebooks extensively laid out his philosophy, and form the basis for much of modern Leftist thought. I’ve been in MANY college classes where they STILL refer to Cultural Hegemony, with that rapt look that Muslims get when they refer to The Prophet (PBUH, as they say). His writings are treated in nearly that same way as is Holy Writ.

     Some of the concepts below were developed from his study of Marxist philosophy. Some of them were based on his own conceptual thinking. All of them form the basis for understanding Gramsci. This part comes from The Sources for Gramsci’s Concept of Hegemony Derek Boothman, in Rethinking Marxism, and I will use short quotes from it to explain hegemony.

     Major Concepts, with Brief Descriptions

     Cultural Hegemony:

     Hegemony was a term quite popular in Turin Socialist circles. It referred, at that time, to the linguistic differences in Venice, compared to nearby kingdoms with which they traded. Venice was a hotly sought property, and the many nearby cultures vied to gain some control over nearby islands. At that time, Italian dialects were highly regional, and Italians from one part of Italy could barely understand another.

     Due, in large part, to Venice’s dominance in trade, a kind of pan-Italian language and culture had spread through the Adriatic. The Venetian dialect functioned as a lingua franca for the region. Naturally, this caused competing dialects to become furiously angry at the Venetians, and vow to find a way to put their language dialect on top.

     From the paper cited above:

     “This concept, stemming from ancient Greece, of hegemony as the system of power relations between competing*/or between dominant and vassal*/states is found in the Notebooks in sections, for example, on how U.S. power was created (Q2§16; Gramsci 1992, 260!/5) and on the history of subaltern states explained by that of hegemonic ones (Q15§5; Gramsci 1995, 222!/3).”

     This concept was not unique to Gramsci - it had been floating around for a while. Again, another quote makes that clear:

     “ Lenin who, as a theoretician, had on ‘‘the terrain of political organization and struggle, and with political terminology ... reappraised the front of cultural struggle and constructed the doctrine of hegemony as a complement to the theory of the State-as-force and as a contemporary form of the 1848 doctrine of ‘permanent revolution’’ (Q10I§12; Gramsci 1995, 357). In other words, the leadership of the proletarian forces had to be developed independently on all fronts ‘‘in opposition to the various tendencies of ‘economism.’’

     Bold-face is mine. In other words, it is not enough to rule over you (State-as-force), nor to impose Permanent Revolution. According to the doctrine of hegemony, the Leftists have to stamp out every trace of you that is NOT revolutionary, or revolution-approved. You are being formed into New Man, if necessary, against your will.

     And, lastly, hegemony must be understood as a deliberate elimination of a culture - in effect, cultural genocide. The children of that culture must be forcibly educated to look upon the mores and values of their parents and family as, not just old-fashioned, but actually abhorrent and disgusting.

     “ The peasantry was therefore simultaneously both the object of struggle and an essential ally; the two aspects*/dominance and leadership, involving force and consent, respectively*/that for Gramsci were to characterize hegemony are thus present.”

     Civil Society:

     This is the society that operates on a consensus model. Here is a further analysis of it - actually explained fairly well, although with the usual murky handwavium (That’s when you fudge the details, blithely waving your hands and saying, “Well, this will all be explained in detail later.”).

     It does help if you think of this as neighborhoods/communities, where emphasis is placed on ‘getting along’. I’ll discuss the seamy underside of the Consensus Model later - and how it is being put into practice in schools and community organizations.

     Structure/Superstructure Complex:

     Marx wrote about the Superstructure, what we would call the entertwined aspects of properties, communities, businesses, and political framework that form Western Capitalism. That physical and legal structure, along with the culture that supported it, form the Superstructure.

     The State:

     The part of the structure that uses coercion to get their way. This is bad, if they are Pre-Revolutionary. This is good if they are Post-Revolutionary.

     Intellectuals:

     These are the people, properly trained to reflect the “right” ideology, who will, with the proletariat, rule over this New Society.

     That’s the major part of the background of Gramscian Thinking. It’s foundational to all Leftist thought - they can all parrot the right phrases, echo the right concepts, based on this. I leave you with one last quote, from Marxist.org:

     According to Gramsci, hegemony (“predominance by consent”) is a condition in which a fundamental class exercises a political, intellectual, and moral role of leadership within a hegemonic system cemented by a common world-view or “organic ideology.” The exercise of this role on the ethico-political as well as on the economic plane involves the execution of a process of intellectual and moral reform through which there is a “transformation” of the previous ideological terrain and a “redefinition” of hegemonic structures and institutions into a new form. This transformation and redefinition is achieved through a rearticulation of ideological elements into a new world-view which then serves as the unifying principle for a new “collective will.” Indeed, it is this new world view, which unifies classes into a new hegemonic bloc, which constitutes the new organic ideology of the new hegemonic class and system. Yet it is not a world-view imposed, as a class ideology (in the reductionist sense,) by the new hegemonic class upon the subaltern group. Moreover, in the transformation of the ideological terrain there is no complete replacement of the previously dominant world view. Rather, the “new” world view is “created” or “moulded” by the aspiring hegemonic class and its consensual subalterns out of the existing ideological elements held by the latter in their discourses.

     Translation: We are GOING TO indoctrinate your children, and they WILL view the world through our distorted lenses.

     This is by no means a complete examination of Gramsci. I am posting it merely to get the initial document out there, and - through revisions - improve and refine it. There will be a Part 2, although that may have to wait another couple of weeks.

13 comments:

John C. said...

Your type is running across the entire page. Me or you?

HoundOfDoom said...

Same thing happening here running chrome on Win 10

John C. said...

I'm on chrome.

Amy Bowersox said...

Same issue seen. Chrome 71.0.3578.98 on Windows 10. Also seen on version 72.0.3626.81. Also Firefox 61.0.1, 64.0.2, and 65.0.

Microsoft Edge 42.17314.1.0 doesn't have the issue where the type runs across the entire page, but it's still black against the dark background, which is hard to read. Same for Internet Explorer 11.523.17134.0.

Linda Fox said...

Periodically, this happens - I have no idea why. It displayed fine when I scheduled it, but looks like crap now.

I'm home (briefly, chipped a big divot out of a tooth) and will fix as soon as I am able.

My apologies.

Bill Sheffield said...

The format glitch may have had a hidden benefit, Linda. I was in a hurry yesterday and honestly, I skimmed over the content due to time constraints. This morning, with more time and my first cup of coffee, I read it again in more depth. Fascinating information! This explains much of the current behavior from the other side. A flashback of Bush 41 and his "Thousand Points of Light and New Word Order" speech came to mind. Same playbook, different actors.

JP said...

White on black or black on white print and pages please. Purple and "highlighted" doesn't work.
Is Blogger now swapping page tags or something?

Unknown said...

The text is still running across the page in the "Structure/Superstructure Complex" section

Francis W. Porretto said...

Refresh your browsers; I've reformatted it.

DanDotDan said...

His studies were in linguistics, a field that, for some unknown reason, later attracted other Leftists, such as Noam Chomsky.

My theory is that people think in words, so if you can control the words we use then you can control how we think. This lead to our current obsession with words that people are not allowed to speak.

joncannard said...

Hi. Thank you. I am not a scholar by any means, but this was a great introduction to Leftist thinking and methods. God help us all!

Rick Caird said...

Looking at the definition of hegemony and at Gramsci, as you have written it, it is clear the academic class maintains its hegemony by indoctrination of impressionable students brought to them for the purpose of educating them. It is startling to see the class that most complains about hegemony is the most hegemonic. This is another case of distraction by complaining.

Linda Fox said...

To start with - thanks to all for hanging in through the formatting glitches.

Second, there are some wonderful comments here, and I plan to use them as a guide when this gets to the revision stage. I've definitely decided to make this a book. I'm just working on polishing Part 2 - should be out within the next 2 weeks (would be one, but I'm headed out of town to a funeral).