Antonio Gramsci Writes a Column, “I Hate New Year’s Day” (January 1, 1916)

I want every morn­ing to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reck­on with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my paus­es myself, when I feel drunk with the inten­si­ty of life and I want to plunge into ani­mal­i­ty to draw from it new vigour.

“Every­day is like Sun­day,” sang the singer of our mopey ado­les­cence, “In the sea­side town that they for­got to bomb.” Some­how I could feel the grey malaise of post-indus­tri­al Britain waft across the ocean when I heard these words… the drea­ry same­ness of the days, the desire for a con­fla­gra­tion to wipe it all away….

The call for total anni­hi­la­tion is not the sole province of supervil­lains and heads of state. It is the same desire Andrew Mar­vell wrote of cen­turies ear­li­er in “The Gar­den.” The mind, he observed, “with­draws into its hap­pi­ness” and cre­ates “Far oth­er worlds, and oth­er seas; Anni­hi­lat­ing all that’s made / To a green thought in a green shade.”

Is not anni­hi­la­tion what we seek each year on New Year’s Eve? To col­lec­tive­ly wipe away the bad past by fiat, with fire­works? To wel­come a bet­ter future in the morn­ing, because an arbi­trary record keep­ing sys­tem put in place before Mar­vell was born tells us we can? The prob­lem with this, argued Ital­ian Marx­ist par­ty poop­er and the­o­rist Anto­nio Gram­sci, is the prob­lem with dates in gen­er­al. We don’t get to sched­ule our apoc­a­lypses.

On Jan­u­ary 1st, 1916, Gram­sci pub­lished a col­umn titled “I Hate New Year’s Day” in the Ital­ian Social­ist Party’s offi­cial paper Avan­ti!, which he began co-edit­ing that year.

Every morn­ing, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that for me it is New Year’s day.

That’s why I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed matu­ri­ties, which turn life and human spir­it into a com­mer­cial con­cern with its neat final bal­ance, its out­stand­ing amounts, its bud­get for the new man­age­ment. They make us lose the con­ti­nu­ity of life and spir­it. You end up seri­ous­ly think­ing that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new his­to­ry is begin­ning; you make res­o­lu­tions, and you regret your irres­o­lu­tion, and so on, and so forth. This is gen­er­al­ly what’s wrong with dates.

The dates we keep, he says, are forms of “spir­i­tu­al time-serv­ing” imposed on us from with­out by “our sil­ly ances­tors.” They have become “inva­sive and fos­siliz­ing,” forc­ing life into repeat­ing series of “manda­to­ry col­lec­tive rhythms” and forced vaca­tions. But that is not how life should work, accord­ing to Gram­sci.

Whether or not we find mer­it in his cranky pro­nounce­ments, or in his desire for social­ism to “hurl into the trash all of these dates with have no res­o­nance in our spir­it,” we can all take one thing away from Gram­sci’s cri­tique of dates, and maybe make anoth­er res­o­lu­tion today: to make every morn­ing New Year’s, to reck­on with and renew our­selves dai­ly, no mat­ter what the cal­en­dar tells us to do. Read a full trans­la­tion of Gram­sci’s col­umn at View­point Mag­a­zine.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Woody Guthrie’s Doo­dle-Filled List of 33 New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions From 1943

Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Go-Get­ter List of New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions (1955)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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