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UK Disability History Month

Antonio Gramsci

antonio gramsci photo from 1916Antonio Gramsci (1891 –1937) was an intellectual and politician, a founder of the Italian Communist Party whose ideas greatly influenced Italian communism.

He grew up stunted and ‘hunchbacked' most likely due to Pott’s disease (tuberculosis of the bones).

Family hardship meant he had to leave school early to work, but continued study through night school eventually gaining a scholarship place at Turin University in 1911 

Gramsci was influenced by socialist ideas and from 1914 onward, wrote for socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earning a reputation as a notable journalist. He was a founder of L’Ordine Nuovo (The New Order), a socialist review, operating under the slogan: “Educate yourselves because we’ll need all your intelligence. Stir yourselves because we’ll need all your enthusiasm. Organize yourselves because we’ll need all your strength.”

His group were strong advocates of workers' council movements which had spread through Turin and other Italian cities, leading to a general strike in April 1920. 

Gramsci was one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party in 1921. He travelled to Moscow as a delegate to the Communist International in 1922, but poor health meant he ending up in a Sanitorium in Russia, where he met his wife. 

He became head of his party in April 1924 and elected to the country’s Chamber of Deputies. After his party was outlawed by Mussolini’s fascists, Gramsci was arrested and imprisoned in 1926. At his trial the prosecutor argued, “We must stop his brain from working for 20 years.” 

In prison, despite rigorous censorship, and deteriorating health he wrote his famous Prison Notebooks, which developed his ideas including his concept of ‘hegemony’. In total there were over 30 notebooks running to around 3000 pages.

Gramsci was eventually released in 1937, dying of a stroke 4 days later