Some translations from Belli

Since somebody seems to think Belli is due a revival, I dragged up some translations of his work I did years ago. Somebody might like them.

The Lord’s Circumcision

About seven days later in the birthing room,

Wrapped up for warmth in a pile of old hay,

Lay Mary the virgin, undefiled ’til this day,

With the beasts of the field and her blessed son.

Joseph, who to her assistance had come,

When she’d found herself in the family way,

said “Chop, chop, now, we’re off. Today is the day

When we throw a small scrap to the synagogue doves.”

John the Baptist presided in thirty years time.

In the Jordan His soul was washed bright and clean.

Swept away were original sin and earth’s grime.

Some shout “Hosanna”—they make me quite sick—

That He became Christian. I can’t toe the line.

He was a turncoat. I rate Him a prick.

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Immigrants ate my country

Another translation of an article by the Neapolitan writer Rosario Dello Iacovo. The original is here.

In the beginning were the terroni, scroungers and ruin of the nation. Then it was the turn of the Chinese, but the Chinese had money, opened businesses, and kept to themselves; they were too powerful to take on with some reasonable chance of success. So the average Italian thought the time might be come to aim up and take on the politicians, but the anger against the caste did not last long: the politicians shrugged their shoulders, as if they gave a fuck. Some new face from some new movement entered parliament and it all ended as it had started.

Then it was the turn of the refugees on the boats. “Perfect,” said the average Italian, because they were weak enough to have all the sins of the world dumped on them, without the slightest consequence. Like a charm, the dormitories became five star hotels. Even better than a share dividend or a stock exchange index, the maximum figure of 2 euro 50 cash per person per day rose to 1200 euros a month. In the province of Trento someone came forward to affirm that they got up to 2000. Everybody, ah, if it were only the refugees. And saying that it was European Union money, only one twenty-seventh Italian. After a devastating flood, caused by climate change, prolonged excessive heat, but most of all soil erosion, building speculation and planning corruption, the expression was coined: “Immigrants ate my country.”

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Antonio Gramsci: The ape people

The ape people

A new translation of The Ape People, from L’ordine nuovo, 2 January 1921.

Fascism has been the latest “show” put on by the urban petit bourgeoisie in the theatre of national political life. The end of the miserable Fiume adventure is the final scene of the show. It can take its place as the most important episode in the process of intimate dissolution of this class of the Italian population.

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Antonio Gramsci: The Turin factory council movement

A new translation of Gramsci from L’ordine nuovo, 14 March 1921.

One of the members of the Italian delegation, lately returned from Soviet Russia, recounted to the Turin workers that the stage to be used to welcome the delegation from Kronstadt was emblazoned with the following inscription: “Long live the Turin general strike of April 1920.”

The workers heard this news with much pleasure and great satisfaction. The major part of the members of the Italian delegation sent to Russia had been against the April general strike. They held in their articles against the strike that the Turin workers had been victims of an illusion and had overvalued the importance of the strike.

The Turin workers thus learned with pleasure of the act of sympathy of the Kronstadt comrades and said to themselves: “Our Russian communist comrades have better understood and valued the importance of the April strike than the Italian opportunists, thus giving the latter a good lesson.”

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Antonio Gramsci: Workers and peasants

A new translation of Gramsci’s Workers and peasants from L’ordine nuovo, 3 January 1920.

Industrial production must be controlled directly by the workers organized by company; the activity of control must be unified and coordinated through purely worker trade union organisms; the workers and socialists cannot consider useful to their interests and to their aspirations a control of industry exercised by the (corrupt, venal, unaccountable) functionaries of the capitalist state, which can only signify a resurgence of the committees for industrial mobilization, useful only to capitalist parasitism.
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Gramsci: The events of 2–3 December (1919)

A new translation of Gramsci’s The events of 2–3 December (1919), L’ordine nuovo, 6-13 December 1919.

Petit bourgeois

The events of 2–3 December are a final episode of the class struggle. The struggle was not between proletarians and capitalists (this struggle develops organically, as a struggle for wages and hours and as a tenacious and patient labour for the creation of an apparatus of government of production and of the masses of men who might replace the present apparatus of the bourgeois state); it was between proletarians and small and middling bourgeois. The struggle was, in the final analysis, for the defence of the liberal democratic state, for the liberation of the liberal democratic state from the confinement in which it is held prisoner by a part of the bourgeois class, the worst, the vilest, the most useless, the most parasitic: the small and medium bourgeoisie, the “intellectual” bourgeois (“intellectual” because in possession, through a simple and cursory career in middle school, of low and middle certificates of general study), the bourgeoisie of father-son public functionaries, shopkeepers, small industrial and agricultural proprietors, businessmen in the city, usurers in the country. This struggle developed in the only form in which it could develop: disorderly, tumultuous, with a raid in the streets and the squares with the aim of freeing the streets and the squares of an invasion of putrid and voracious locusts. But this struggle, be it indirectly, was connected to another struggle, to the higher class struggle between proletarians and capitalists: the small and medium bourgeois is in fact the barrier of corrupt, dissolute, putrefying humanity with which capitalism defends its economic and political power, servile, abject humanity, humanity of goons and lackeys, today become the “boss servant” which wants to take from production a larger slice not only of the salary earned by the working class, but of the same slice taken by the capitalists; to expel it from the social field, as a swarm of locusts is expelled from a half destroyed field, with fire and iron, means freeing the national apparatus of production and exchange of a leaden bridle which suffocates it and stops it functioning, means purifying the social environment and finding oneself against the specific adversary: the class of capitalist owners of the means of production and exchange.
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Gramsci: The problem of power

A new translation of The Problem of Power, L’ordine nuovo, 29 November 1919

The historical position currently reached by the Italian class of the exploited is summarized in these general terms:

Public order. An assembly of about three and a half million workers,peasants and employees, corresponding to about fifteen million of the Italian population, represented in Parliament by one hundred and fifty five socialist deputies. In the political order the Italian class of producers who do not possess the instruments of labour and the means of production and of exchange of the national economic apparatus, has managed to bring about a concentration of forces which places an end to the function of Parliament as the base of state power, as a
constitutional form of political government; the Italian class of the exploited has thus managed to inflict a tremendous blow on the political apparatus of capitalist supremacy, which is founded on the circulation of conservative and democratic parties, on the
alternation, in government of various political firms which paint in unvarying colours the capitalist brigandry, the rule of the bank vaults.

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