On Antonio Gramsci
By Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner
Introductory Note: Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner was an important German national conservative intellectual who is at the moment not well-known outside of the German language. Kaltenbrunner aimed to restore the cultural status of identitarian European conservatism through prominent works including his three volume Europa series (Heroldsberg: Christiania-Verlag, 1981–1985), followed by another three volume series titled Vom Geist Europas (Asendorf: Muth-Verlag, 1987-1992), and also by three prominent books on conservatism: Rekonstruktion des Konservatismus (Freiburg: Rombach, 1972), Der schwierige Konservatismus (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1975), and Wege der Weltbewahrung (Asendorf: MUT-Verlag, 1985). In the present piece, an extract from the third volume of Europa, Kaltenbrunner discusses Antonio Gramsci’s theory of the importance of obtaining cultural power before political power; a theory which has had much influence on intellectuals falling under the general label “New Right.” – Daniel Macek (Editor of the “New European Conservative”)
…Gramsci belongs, although this has not yet gotten around, among the most original political thinkers of the Twentieth Century. Whether he was an orthodox Marxist may be ideological sectarian quarreling. What is important is the fact that he, more clearly and thoroughly than any other Marxist theorists, recognized the role of cultural factors in politics and critical intelligence in the struggle for power. The prerequisite for the acquisition of political hegemony is the conquest of cultural power. He held that the modern state is the “direct expression of the base,” which is to say in concrete terms: he regarded the capitalist interests as a “primitive infantilism.” It is simply not true, for Gramsci, that the “bourgeois” state is based merely on “terror” and “the power of big business.” It would not stay in power for one hour, if it was not supported and integrated by morality, customs, ideas, traditions, and more – in the broadest sense – by cultural factors. Anyone who wants to change the “base,” must for the time being even revolutionize the ideological “superstructure”: the thoughts, sentiments, attitudes and spiritual preferences, the overall interpretation and meaning of human existence. Antonio Gramsci is the theoretician of cultural-revolutionary “System change”; he considered the “ideological” victory prior to the political or economic. When the intelligence is won, the state also falls.
Gramsci had read during his imprisonment even Proust, Joyce, and Svevo, authors which were consistently considered in the eyes of Marxist-Leninist ideologues as nothing more than representatives of late capitalist “decadence.” The Catholic conservative Chesterton he valued much more than the “secular” Arthur Conan Doyle. He, the idiosyncratic Marxist, despised easy verbal victories over second-tier opponents: “On the ideological front the victory over auxiliaries means almost nothing, here we will have to fight against the most eminent opponents.”
In this spirit, Antonio Gramsci read even the writings of non-Marxists carefully, because in fact a very significant opponent is one from which one can learn very much. He who does not take note, falls too easily in danger of resembling a man who – to use an image of Gramsci – “cannot sleep because of the bright moonlight and endeavors thus to kill as many fireflies as possible, in the conviction that then the annoying brightness would diminish or cease altogether.”
From: Kaltenbrunner, Gerd-Klaus. Europa: Seine geistigen Quellen in Portraits aus zwei Jahrtausenden, Volume III. Heroldsberg: Christiania-Verlag, 1981, pp. 409-412. (Translator anonymous).
Note: The original German version of the text of this article was first published online here: http://altmod.de/?p=724
For those interested in further reading on the subject discussed here, see also Antonio Gramsci’s Selections from Cultural Writings (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012).
Another brief overview of Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony can be found on our site in the article “The European Rebirth” by Pierre Krebs. Also recommendable in this regard is Alexander Dugin’s essay “Counter-hegemony in Theory of Multi-polar World”.