Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lucio Magri: 1932-2011

By Perry Anderson
New Left Review
Nov./Dec. 2011

Lucio Magri was a unique figure in the European Left— the only significant revolutionary thinker of his time whose thought was inseparable from the course of the mass movements of the decades through which he lived. He was incapable of a theoretical reflection that was not rooted in the real actions, or inactions, of the exploited and oppressed. That was normal in the generation of Gramsci, of the early Lukács and Korsch, who witnessed the Russian Revolution. In the age of the Cold War, when Magri entered politics, it was virtually unknown.

The great Marxist intellectuals of the period—Adorno, Sartre, Lefebvre, Althusser, and so many others—developed their ideas in radical disconnexion from any close contact with popular politics. Italian Communism alone permitted, for a season, a classical circuit between original theory and organized practice, within the framework of a mass party. For a decade, Magri took the political opportunity it offered, before the pci dispensed with his loyalty. Did it ever realize what it lost in doing so? One day in Biella, when he was still a young cadre, after they had spent a night together working on a speech to be given by his superior, Enrico Berlinguer—before he became leader of the party—told him: ‘Magri, you have yet to learn that in politics one needs the courage of banality.’

Such was the self-awareness of officialdom, at its most lucid. Magri had another kind of political courage: the kind that Gramsci displayed, in notebooks that were never banal.

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