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The following essay is in honor of Antonio Gramsci, this month and year being the 80th anniversary of his untimely death.  The essay is written in reference to political events in Britain.
The Next Essay is about Tigers and the need for their preservation.  
 
The above picture shows Turin, Italy where Gramsci was most active in his political campaigns
A sketch of Antonio Gramsci.  An outstanding Marxist activist and philosopher.

 Spotlight: Antonio Gramsci


By Hasan Abdulla

Events leading up to the 2015 General Election in United Kingdom had led to a coalition of Socialist Parties and individuals at the behest of Bob Crow the former RMT Union Leader. That the Socialist movements and Trade Union activists among others have grouped together was a very positive step forward for Socialism in Britain. Yet what seems the problem for the Marxist groups in Britain is an overriding obsession with the thoughts of Leon Trotsky.

The Labour Party had chosen Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, and while he is no doubt radical in his views, he has not succeeded in pushing the Labour Party towards having more of the overall share of votes than it did previously.  On the contrary, the Labour Leader’s lack lustre performance and his weakness which was demonstrated in the referendum about Britain’s membership of the European Union, has lost a lot of votes for the Labour Party and caused unwanted divisions within that party.

Various educational analysts and scholars who have studied Gramsci's writings including Roger Simon agree that he has “a vital part to play” in the renewal of Marxist thought in Europe and worldwide. Looking at his career and writings in the appropriate perspective, Gramsci had ideas about a vast range of issues concerning Marxist philosophy. His focus was on not just education, but also the road to hegemony, the factory councils and trades unions as well as general philosophy. Thus it is more than advisable for those who are Marxist by persuasion in Britain to adopt his ideas and practice them.

Writing on the concept of political hegemony, Gramsci argued that power is exercised by a combination of coercion and persuasion. In order to achieve this hegemony, the workers need to attain the same level of educational intellect as the capitalist class they wish to overthrow.

In writing this, he was not denying that those in the lower classes had intellect and common sense. In fact Gramsci held that “All men are philosophers” (page 323, Prison Notebooks). Such philosophy is contained in a mixture of language itself, as well as both common sense and good sense, and also popular religion and folklore. He went on to suggest that while the proletariat should gain military strength as encouraged by Lenin and Trotsky, the same working classes should also gain educational strength that matches the capitalist ruling class.

Central to all of Antonio Gramsci's writings, is the practise and theory of education itself. He held in disdain the current schooling system of his era in Italy, which he viewed as serving the interests of the tiny elite who do “not have to worry about assuring themselves a future career”. Gramsci argued that only if the school is related to the environment the pupils grow up in, can those pupils truly and actively participate in their schools. His wide ranging remedy was that education needs to be both formative and at the same time instructive, in contrast to the schools of his time which were focused on teaching the basic elements of the natural sciences and the duties of citizens.

Other than education and hegemony, Antonio Gramsci had a lot of ideas on Factory Councils which he preferred to the Soviets created by Lenin just after the Bolshevik Revolution. Whereas the Soviets were based on town and country councils, the Factory Councils were a development of trade unions in which the workers oversaw both management and production of the factories they worked in. This was also in contrast to the Trades Unions in the United Kingdom where the workers were simply wage earners. Gramsci is not disparaging in the least about trade unions. He approved of the development of the trades unions, saying that firstly the union “embraces an ever increasing number of workers” and that the unions concentrate and generalise their scope until the movement's “power and discipline is focused in a central office” (p. 93, A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935).

Gramsci went further to approve of the emergence of industrial legality as a significant achievement for the working classes. However the formation of trades unions, he argues is not the ultimate victory. He goes on to specify the difference between trade unions and the Factory Councils of which he was a part. The Factory Councils “strove to break with industrial legality” (p. 94, A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935). For Gramsci, the Factory Councils were composed of the exploited classes, obliged to perform servile labour and as such were committed to “universalise every rebellion and give resolution and scope to each of its acts of power”. Thus he argued that the trade unions should combine with the Factory Councils to organise the proletarian offensive against the capitalist ruling class. As the educational and social analyst Michael Welton points out Gramsci and his supporters went to huge lengths to defend and expand the Factory Councils “as the model of the proletarian state” (p. 1, Gramsci's Contribution To The Analysis of Public Education Knowledge, University of British Columbia).

The determination of the far left movements in Britain to achieve a centrality in mainstream politics is noteworthy; as is the awareness among all the left wing individuals and organisations of their limitations. However, six to seven years on after 2010, the far left movement in Britain has not achieved any place central in British politics. Indeed, the Marxists in the UK are as distant from the centre of politics as they have always been.

It is indeed unfortunate that Gramsci is largely ignored because perhaps his fight against Fascism was not a success. Should this mean he is himself inadequate as a political writer and revolutionary? Gramsci after all is a universal emblem of Marxist resistance against right wing oppression. He is equally an outstanding Marxist philosopher and thinker whose ideas rightly gain our attention. Finally as Stuart Hall has written in his introductory essay, Antonio Gramsci enabled Marxists to apply the thoughts of Karl Marx as a “living, developing and ever renewing stream of ideas” (p. 8, Gramsci's Political Thought: An Introduction). We can make a start with some genuine interest in his career and in his writings.


Sources:


Gramsci, Antonio. A Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935. Edited by David Forgacs. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1999. http://www.questia.com/read/119666718/a-gramsci-reader-selected-writings-1916-1935.

Gramsci, Antonio.  Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci.  Edited by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith.  London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1978. http://www.questia.com/read/119663957/selections-from-the-prison-notebooks-of-antonio-gramsci.

Simon, Roger. Gramsci's Political Thought: An Introduction. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1991. http://www.questia.com/read/119663121/gramsci-s-political-thought-an-introduction.

Welton, Michael.  The Journal of Educational Thought, Vol. 16, No. 3, December 1982.    http://www.jstor.org

 

 

TIGERS


Save their Stripes (In defence of Tigers)

By H Abdul

 

A descendant of the sabre tooth tiger; the tiger is the largest member of the cat family, and a fierce, formidable enemy for any hunter who ventures, “Where eagles dare”. The tiger is a feared and often hated mammal on this our planet earth.

     By 2010, the World Wildlife Fund estimated that the decline in the population of the tiger was as much as 95%.  And that due to poaching and habitat destruction, only 3,200 remain in the wild, with only a slight reversal in later years, tiger numbers increased to 3,900.

     The tiger is officially an endangered species.  The range of tiger habitats was once as far wide as from the Caspian Sea to the island of Bali in Indonesia.  Only a small fraction of that range currently exists.

     The most famous species of tiger is of course the Bengal tiger. With a bright reddish tan, they have near black vertical stripes. Sometimes dubbed as a “river monster”, it has been known to attack humans.

     Yet for all its ferocity, and the seemingly merciless way it attacks the lower animals and sometimes humans, the Tiger has continued presence is paramount to maintaining a suitable balance in the animal populations of the forests.

The main threats to tiger populations come from habitat destruction due to commercial logging, and the poaching of tigers for their value of their bones in medicine. For instance in 2005, intense poaching in reserves such as Ranthambore had depleted tiger numbers.  In China, trade in tiger parts has reopened. 

     The first call to save the tiger came in 1969, during the meetings of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, when senior conservationists raised the alarm over the disappearing numbers of tigers.  Over the last quarter century, the agreement among many conservationists was that only by adopting programs on a number of fronts would lead to reduce the decline in tiger populations.  Firstly, Conservation groups that are committed to saving the tiger needed effective communication.  Conservationists needed to reach a consensus on the specific problems facing the decline in tiger numbers.  Furthermore, they needed to initiate and finance projects to address those problems.

     Efforts to bring public awareness of the tiger’s plight have been made both in the past and in recent years. In 1994, the Time magazine published a cover story about the tigers facing rapid decline in numbers.  Recently, the well-known actor Leonardo DiCaprio has included tigers as a main objective in his conservation efforts.  To some people, this attention given to tigers is excessive.  However, the international public at large need to be informed about the importance of tigers to the environment, in order to collaborate in their conservation.

     The poaching of tigers for their skins is both cruel and unnecessary.  The tigers keep the numbers of other forest animals in check-lack of control of the animal population will cause the eventual decimation of the forest ecosystems.

     Contrary to public opinion, the tiger will not attack humans unless first provoked. Furthermore, the tigers will habitually live in seclusion away from human populations, within well-defined areas.

Thus, hunting and poaching is both cruel and destructive.  Only very few consumers will derive satisfaction from the possession of tiger skins, and other than this the forest ecosystems diminish in quantity and quality.  The other animal populations soon multiply and spiral out of control causing damage and the decimation of the forests.

     Tigers in fact add to human folklore, and only in recent times have obtained notoriety because of being provoked by game hunters.  The relationship between tigers and humans has always been one of friction.  However, it is counter-productive to systematically destroy their habitats. The destruction of tiger habitats slowly leads to a decimation of the forests, and thus eventually Man’s food supplies.

     Man sows what he reaps.  The greater the industrialisation, the greater the urbanisation, and the more the perceived need for luxuries, the greater the demand for consumption, and the consequent denigration of forests. The more our thirst for consumer goods, the less the regard we have for the forests and the animals in them.

       The tiger is but one small and essential component of the Natural Environment.  The whole of the Environment can be thought of as Nature’s equivalent of an Industrial complex, where everything is interrelated.

Let’s save the Tiger populations. The effort to protect the Tiger species is never too early, but can certainly be too late without a serious commitment.

 

© “Save their stripes-Tiger Preservation” by Hasan Abdulla, 2017.

Sources:

“About Tigers” WWF website, www.wwf.org

“Tiger”, Britannica Encyclopaedia, www.britannica.com

“Saving the tiger”, John Seidensticker, wildlife society bulletin 1997, 25(1):6-17

 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3783274

“The Fate of Wild Tigers”, Eric Dinerstein et.al. Bioscience, June 2007, Vol.57, No.6

 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1641/b570608

 

 

 

 

A Sumatran Tiger
A close up portrait of a Sumatran tiger.  Like all tigers it faces the threat from poaching and deforestation.