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Piero Gobetti’s Turin

Modernity, Myth and Memory


Niamh Cullen

In his brief public career, Piero Gobetti was one of the most outspoken and original voices of early Italian antifascism. Before his sudden death in 1926, he founded and edited three periodicals, including the fiercely antifascist La Rivoluzione Liberale and the literary journal Il Baretti. While much has been written about his antifascism and his theories of ‘liberal revolution’, this book considers him primarily as an ‘organiser of culture’ and situates him both in the context of his lived experience in Turin after the First World War and in a wider European panorama. Although politically marginal by 1918, Turin was one of Italy’s most modern cities, with its futuristic Fiat factories, vocal working class and militant socialist intellectuals such as Antonio Gramsci. The book explores Gobetti’s encounters with Turin – both its history and the modern, urban landscape of Gobetti’s own day – as central to his thinking. Historically and geographically, Turin was also the Italian city closest to France and northern Europe. If Gobetti’s immediate surroundings inspired much of his thinking, his sensibilities were – in true Piedmontese style – more European than Italian, and his ultimate impact far from only local. Finally, Gobetti’s bitter disillusionment with liberal and fascist Italy, as well as his refusal to fit any of the conventional political labels, means that his memory has remained contentious right up to the present day. This groundbreaking new study explores the roots of Gobetti’s thinking, his impact on Italian culture and his controversial legacy.


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Chapter 2 - The Generation after 1918: Encounters with Modernity in Post-war Turin 57


Chapter 2 The Generation after 1918: Encounters with Modernity in Post-war Turin The avant-garde periodicals examined in the following pages have often been considered together, despite the evident political dif ferences between the two groups of intellectuals who published them. Links of friendship and intellectual collaboration existed between Gobetti and the Energie Nove and Rivoluzione Liberale writers on the one hand, and the Com- munist Ordine Nuovo group on the other. First introduced to each other by the Turin born socialist Andrea Viglongo, who had known Gobetti as a child and later became involved in the Ordine Nuovo editorial project, there followed many instances of intellectual exchange between the two groups.1 Both groups exchanged articles for each other’s journals with Gobetti famously working as a drama critic for the daily newspaper Ordine Nuovo in 1919 to 1920, and the friendship between Gramsci and Gobetti in particular was to shape the political outlook of the young liberal. While there have been some politically motivated attempts to write both of these figures into a romanticised history of the Turin workers’ movements, and to paint Gobetti as a kind of honorary communist in order to emphasise the similarities between the two ‘political martyrs’, this chapter will instead explore the similarities that emerge when both movements are considered in relation to the ways in which they experienced, reacted to and attempted to shape the social and physical environment in which they lived, as inher- ited attitudes and assumptions were brought into contact with the...

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