One hundred years ago the great Italian socialist thinker and activist Antonio Gramsci published this essay/rant in the very long lived socialist newspaper Avanti. I came across it last year in the Italian weekly news magazine Internazionale and I was moved to translate it as it seemed as timely as ever. Gramsci’s ideas, his desire for a non-dualistic, non-capitalist driven life can still infuse our lives today and we can still disrupt this regulated chronology forced upon us by outside forces.
Every morning, when I wake up and find myself, still alive under this great sky, that for me is New Year’s.
That is why I hate these New Years with an expiration date that make a commercial enterprise out of our lives and out of the human spirit; with their financial statements and balance sheets and security deposits for the new management. These New Years force us to lose sense of the continuity of life and life’s spirit. We end up seriously believing from year to year that there is a solution to this continuity and that each year is a launching point for some ahistorical novel and we make promises and then regret those promises and on and on. It is an injustice to time.
They say that chronology is the bone structure of history; that we can admit. But we must also admit that there are four or five fundamental dates, that everyone has frozen in his or her mind, that have only done damage to history. These are also New Years. The New Year of Roman Empire or of the middle ages or the modern age.
And they have become so invasive and so fossilized that we surprise even ourselves sometimes actually thinking that life in Italy began in 752 and that in 1490 or 1492 humanity crossed some great mountain pass and suddenly found itself in the new world, entering into a new life. This is how dates become an obstruction, a rampart that blocks us from seeing that history continues along a fundamentally unchanging path, without abrupt stopping points, like when a filmmaker makes a tear in the film reel and there is a flash of brilliant light.
For this I hate New Years. I want every morning to be a new year for me. I want to evaluate my life every day and renew my life every day. No days budgeted for rest. I choose when to take a break, when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to dive into my animalistic self to discover new energy.
No false spirituality. I want every hour of my life to be new, always reconnecting with what has already happened. No day of jubilation with mandatory collective song shared with uninteresting strangers. Just because our grandparents and the grandparents of our grandparents had all of this jubilation, doesn’t mean we have to. It is nauseating.
I also await socialism for this reason. Because it will throw all of these dates, that by now have no spiritual resonance for us, into the trash heap and there will be room to create new fonts of spiritual resonance. And at least then they will be our own and not those that we have had to accept, with no gain, from our foolish ancestors.
Antonio Gramsci, 1 January 1916, Avanti!, edizione torinese, rubrica Sotto la Mole.
Translated from the Italian by Allison Grimaldi Donahue