Nerio Naldi


This book review discusses the recent volume of Giancarlo de Vivo, which offers a documented reconstruction of the role of the economist Piero Sraffa as the link between the prisoner Gramsci and the Italian Communist Party leadership in exile. Sraffa is shown to have acted autonomously of the party when Gramsci’s wishes, as expressed in two letters in particular to his sister-in-law, Tat’jana, were for caution to be adopted in regard to the leadership’s positions. There is also an analysis and defence of Sraffa’s position in regard to the controversial 1928 letter from a party leader abroad (Grieco), before Gramsci was sentenced, which the prisoner considered to have worsened his position. This seems not to be true, but what did worsen attempts to ameliorate his position was publication in translation in L’Humanité of Professor Aracangeli’s medical report on him. The stances of Sraffa and Gramsci on questions regarding the nature of historical materialism and the philosophy of praxis are taken into consideration, as are the first steps taken by Sraffa in formulating his challenge to the dominant neo-classical school in economics, an opposition which found its greatest expression in Sraffa’s 1960 volume, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (Produzione di merci a mezzo di merci).

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