Lucio Colletti, the Italian philosopher and political theorist, is a pupil of the late Galvano Della Volpe, whose interpretation of Marxism he has developed and extended in a number of important essays, including introductions to the Italian translations of Il’ienkov’s Dialectic of the Abstract and Concrete in Marx’s Capital and of Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks (the latter, together with other material, has recently appeared as a book: Il Marxismo e Hegel, Editori Laterza, Bari). In the early fifties as a militant in the Italian Communist Party, he collaborated in the production of the journal Società until its closure by the pci in 1957. More recently he edited the non-party monthly La Sinistra from its foundation in late 1966 until it became a weekly at the beginning of 1968. Throughout his career he has developed a consistent left-wing critique of the policies of the pci and of the Soviet camp, as the essay we publish here shows.
The interpretation of Marx initiated by Della Volpe and developed by Colletti is characterized by a marked hostility to modern Hegelian interpretations and a stress on the scientific nature of Marxist theory, particularly as represented by Capital. Hence the theory has been expounded in a series of polemics with the Italian neo-Marxism which stems from Gramsci’s Notebooks as well as with the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and Marcuse and with the writings of the French descendents of Lukács. This combination of anti-Hegelianism and a stress on science immediately recalls the work of Louis Althusser in France, but despite the fact that their projects are related, there remain strong differences between the respective positions of these two schools. Whereas for Althusser and his followers the Feuerbach-influenced early works of Marx are excluded from the Marxist canon, and the epistemological break with Marx’s pre-Marxist phase is only completed by the time Marx wrote the Grundrisse (1857), Della Volpe and Colletti take their cue from the critique of Hegelian hypostatization in Marx’s early manuscripts, particularly in the as yet untranslated Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State (1843). Where for Althusser a science is distinguished from an ideology in its whole system of concepts, for Della Volpe and Colletti a science is distinguished by its use of the scientific hypothetico-deductive method. Hence in the last few years there have been increasingly sharp clashes between these two schools of Marxism. Nevertheless, Althusser has a high regard for the work of Della Volpe and Colletti, which is expressed in a long discussion of their positions in Lire le Capital—though it should be pointed out that Althusser is incorrect in assuming that their work descends directly from that of Gramsci; in fact, it is in strong reaction at least to the post-war epigones of Gramsci.
A critique of the bourgeois State as a hypostatization is the theme of this essay. In it, Colletti’s aim is to rescue Lenin’s State and Revolution from the interpretations that have obscured it in the last half century by a close reading of the text, its style, its emphases, its innovations. Lenin’s familiar words are revitalized, and the increased actuality of his book is revealed with relentless urgency.