By John Micheal Montias
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But Gramsci was. At the moment in 1929 when he was granted permission to record his own thoughts the resilience of the Third Republic could not be in doubt. And so Gramsci was led to reconsider the Republican programme. He was led to review the relationship between the particular conditions of a class and the general conditions of a society. The Jacobin Republic Gramsci’s account of the Third Republic is one aspect of his analysis of nineteenth-century Italian history. But this is not to say that for Gramsci The Republican Imaginary 19 the Republic is only of secondary interest.
In the case of the Third Republic, the exercise of hegemony involved two quite distinct protagonists, neither of whom automatically spoke the lines of a given class: these protagonists were ‘the intellectuals’ and ‘the people’, and the relationship between them was that between leaders and led. It is this relationship between protagonists which was to become central to the drama of the Republic, but each protagonist first requires a separate introduction. In considering the transition from the Second Empire to the Third Republic as the securing of a hegemony, Gramsci had implicitly reassessed the scope of the Montagne’s programme.
Marx’s presentation takes the form of a parody of a fundamental text of the French Revolution: Paine’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens. With reference to the second article of Paine’s declaration, Marx notes: The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, let us say of labour-power, are determined only by their free will … Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent.