Chris Hedges gave this talk Friday at the Left Forum in New York City. Click here to see a video of the address; the introduction of Hedges begins at the 7:30 mark.
Antonio Gramsci wrote his “Prison Notebooks”
at a time not dissimilar to our own. The political parties led by the
liberal class, because they had detached themselves from the working
class, were weak or irrelevant. The radical left had been neutered and
had failed to articulate a coherent alternative vision to capitalism.
There was a “crisis of authority.” Fascism was ascendant and state
repression was becoming steadily more severe and totalitarian.
regime claimed, like our corporate state, to be implementing a
government based on efficiency, meritocracy, the management of society
by experts and specialists and the elimination of class conflict through
mediation. It too celebrated “heroic” military values, traditionalism
and a mythical past that stretched back, in the case of fascist Italy,
to ancient Rome. It also rewarded conformism and loyalty, denigrated the
humanities and culture in favor of vocational and technical training,
spectacle and patriotic kitsch. It preached a relentless positivism,
ridiculed the concept of the public good by trumpeting a
hyper-individualism and defanged the press. Dissent and criticism were
condemned as treason. Gramsci when he was arrested in 1926 and
imprisoned technically had parliamentary immunity, but by then the rule
of law was meaningless. From this bleak political landscape we get the
[Gramsci] dictum you have all heard, “Pessimism of the intellect,
optimism of the will.”
Gramsci, like Leon Trotsky,
was an intellectual but also a journalist. And it was Trotsky who
lamented that by the time Gramsci set out to build the Italian Communist
Party, the business elites, allied with the fascists, had put into
place such draconian forms of repression that effective organizing was
all but impossible.