Negate This

A future that could've been

Gramsci on the New Year

Published on by Negate This

Given that the New Year is upon us, I thought I would share Italian communist Antonio Gramsci’s thoughts on the New Year.

“Sotto la Mole” 1916-1920

Antonio Gramsci


Every morning, when I wake up again under the vault of the sky, it feels like a new year to me.

That’s why I hate these fixed-term New Years that end up turning life and the human spirit into a sort of business with a final statement and a balance sheet and a budget for the up-and-coming management. It makes us lose all sense of continuity, both in life and in spirit. We end up actually believing that there is an interval between one year to the next, and that a new life is about to begin; and we make resolutions, and regret our past mistakes etc., etc.. In general, that’s what’s wrong with dates.

They say that chronology is the backbone of history; and I admit it is. But we must also admit that there are only four or five fundamental dates that anyone actually has stuck in their head, dates that have marked history. They, too, are New Years. The new years of Roman history, or of the Middle Ages, or of modern times. And they have become so overwhelming and so fossilizing that sometimes we are shocked when we find ourselves thinking that life in Italy started in 752, and that 1490 or 1192 are like mountains that humanity crossed in an instant to find itself in a new world, in a new life. So the date becomes an obstacle, a wall that stops us from seeing that history actually unravels along the same, fundamental, unchanged line, with no sudden stops, like when the reel of film breaks at the cinema, and there is an interval of blinding light.

That’s why I hate New Year’s Day. I would like every morning to be a new year. I want to come to terms with who I am every day, and innovate myself every day. No scheduled periods of rest. I want to choose my breaks myself, when I am drunk with frenetic activity and want to draw on my animality to regain strength. No spiritual *’travettism’. I would like every hour of my life to be a new one, and yet in continuity with the preceding hours. No festivities played in collective compulsory rhythm, to be shared with total strangers I could care less about. We don’t have to be festive just because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, etc. were. It is sickening.

I look forward to socialism for this reason also. It will throw all these dates into the trash, all the dates which no longer make an impression on our spirit and, even if we invented new ones, at least they would be ours, and not the ones we are expected to accept without reservation from our extremely foolish ancestors.

(January 1, 1916)

Translation by © Matilda Colarossi

This excerpt copied from