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Apostles and Agitators: Italy's Marxist Revolutionary Tradition Hardcover – August 27, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0674010369 ISBN-10: 0674010361

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (August 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674010361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674010369
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,624,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


This is a gem of modern Italian political and intellectual history. It appears at a timely juncture when many parts of the world once again are falling prey to revolutionary violence and terrorism. (Charles F. Delzell, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University)

Apostles and Agitators is a tour de force of intellectual history and a model of how to recover historical memory. Richard Drake brings forcefully to the attention of today's readers such forgotten revolutionaries as the anarchist leader Carlo Cafiero, the Marxist thinker Antonio Labriola, and Italy's foremost disciple of Georges Sorel, Arturo Labriola. He also courageously places the young Benito Mussolini--unhappily famous as the founder of Fascism--squarely within the Marxist revolutionary tradition. This book is an honest and hard-hitting work that unravels the mystery of why ideological terrorism had so much appeal for the left in the Italy of the 1970s--and why it remains a potential threat. (Spencer M. Di Scala, University of Massachusetts, Boston)

This fascinating book deals with Italy's Marxist revolutionaries who adopted and updated Guiseppe Garibaldi's 1860 war cry 'Qui si fa l'Italia o si muore' ('Here we make Italy--or die'). (Arnold Beichman Washington Times 2003-08-31)

Drake, who teaches at the University of Montana, is already responsible for one of the two best books on the Moro case. In Apostles and Agitators he has an unmistakable, but unacknowledged model: Edmund Wilson's majestic To the Finland Station. Each book relates the thought of the important figures in the Marxist tradition to the lives and situations of those figures. Drake's analysis confirms that for much of two centuries, the revolutionary Left has expended the majority of its energy and its venom in its ongoing war against the moderate reformers ("revisionists") of its own faith. Wilson would be very proud of this valuable book. (Stanton Burnett USItalia)

From the late 19th century through at least half of the 20th, Europe's socialist and communist parties and multiple radical groups drew inspiration and guidance from Marx's revolutionary philosophy. Advocates of violence as well as partisans of reform though existing political systems shared much of this common source and ultimate goal. While differing interpretations of Marx frequently yielded splintering and antagonisms, the revolutionary traditions in each country were shaped more by national conditions than by ideological differences. Nowhere was this truer than in Italy, where violence was embraced by successive generations on the Left. Drake explores the path that led to outbursts of terror and murder attributed to the 'Red Brigades' from 1969 to 1984. Succinct and comprehensive intellectual portraits of leading contributors to Italy's revolutionary tradition from the 1870s forward demonstrate the persistent appeal of direct revolutionary action. Remarkable figures all, several stand out and are described and analyzed brilliantly: Arturo Labriola, Benito Mussolini (a leading socialist until 1915), Antonio Gramsci, and Palmiro Togliatti. Key themes are followed throughout so that these portraits, taken together, offer rich understanding of a preference, even a passion, for violence on the Italian Left. (N. Greene Choice 2004-03-01)

Drake illustrates the overarching, ideological resoluteness of his protagonists and respectively explains why each of their revolutionary programs failed. Drake is particularly effective in the essay on Mussolini where he convincingly explains that his 'ideological eclecticism' made it possible to switch from socialism to nationalism in a seamless manner. Drake is as informative when he places Gramsci's historical significance into the context of reality. Rightly, he points out that Gramsci was a dogmatic follower of the Communist International who misinterpreted the Italian Risorgimento and who, finally, politically underestimated the rise of Fascism...Without question, as Drake points out, this 'complex culture of violence' dominated the Red Brigades in the seventies and eighties. Hence, Marx's revolutionary theory in Italy ended as a blind, brutal, and murderous phenomenon. (Wolfgang Schieder Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

Drake uses biography to relate the ideas of his chosen protagonists to those of other European intellectual/political leaders, and to shed light on the relevant periods. The chapters on [Carlo] Cafiero and Antonio Labriola, useful introductions to these little-known individuals, bring out both the contested nature of the Italian reception of Marx from the beginning and the difficulty of establishing a mainstream and sophisticated Marxism...[The] chapter on Mussolini is a lively and persuasive account of his transition from being an important leader of revolutionary socialists, until his expulsion from the socialist party in 1914, to being the architect of his nationalist/fascist programme. Drake's treatments of Bordiga and the early Gramsci are well worth reading, particularly the account of Bordiga, where his ideological links with the Trotskyists are made unusually clear. (Gino Bedani Journal of Modern Italian Studies)

Drake offers an invaluable genealogy of Marxist thinkers and demonstrates how Marx and Marxism--far from being a monolithic ideology--were adapted to Italian political, economic, and cultural realities on the ground. In Drake's reading, Mussolini and the forgotten Amadeo Bordiga both come off as more sincere than does Gramsci. This challenge to the usual saintly portrait of Gramsci is welcome, as Drake is honest in both his criticism and praise. It is indeed a formidable cast of characters, but Drake does not neglect non-Marxist thinkers such as Filippo Turati (the grand old man of Italian socialism), Karl Kautsky, Eduard Bernstein, Vilfredo Pareto, and Georges Sorel. (Stanislao G. Pugliese Journal of Modern History)

About the Author

Richard Drake is Professor of History, University of Montana and the author of The Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy (winner of the American Historical Association's Howard R. Marraro Prize).

More About the Author

Richard Drake is a historian of Europe and the United States. After graduate work in American history at Brown University and UC Santa Barbara, he earned a PhD at UCLA in 1976 with a specialty in European history. He then taught at UCLA, UC Irvine, Wellesley College, and Princeton University before joining the University of Montana history department. His courses at UM include European Cultural and Intellectual History, Contemporary Europe, Modern Italy, and Terrorism in the Modern World. After publishing four books about Italian history, the course on terrorism prompted the expansion of his research interests to include the United States.

One of the texts for the course is Osama bin Laden's Messages to the World, where he claims that the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres placed Muslim relations with the West on the path that led directly to 9/11. Under the imperialists' guise of League of Nations mandates, the Treaty of Sèvres transferred the Arab lands of the former Ottoman Empire to new occupying powers: Great Britain, France, Italy, and--behind the scenes--their financial associates in New York City. To understand what bin Laden meant, it became necessary to examine the origins of the First World War and the ways in which its direful aftermath created or augmented the forces contributing to today's wars. The 1917 American intervention in the First World War determined this seminal conflict's outcome.

Research into the momentous American war to make the world safe for democracy repeatedly brought forth the name of Senator Robert La Follette. Among wartime American leaders, he played an outstanding part opposing intervention in the conflict, war-profiteering, the erosion of constitutional freedoms, and the treaties that ended the fighting. No book, however, could be found that traced the evolution of La Follette's thinking from his initial belief in the beneficence of American foreign policy to the complete breakdown of that faith. The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion is intended to fill that gap in the historical literature and to draw attention to the prophetic character of his warnings about the dangers to the world and the United States of its militarism and imperialism.

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Niv Savariego on September 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Richard Drake supplies us with a bird's eye view of Italian Marxism. The subject matter is highly interesting and there are not enough books on the subject for those of us who cannot read Italian.
All of the major thinkers are dealt with, their biographies and theories are summarized briefly.

But Richard Drake is obviously no Marxist himself, and he makes it quite clear that his sympathies lay elsewhere. We get to read many cynical remarks concerning Italian Marxist intellectuals, Prof. Drake usualy depicts them as over-enthusiastic childish idealsits, who keep on deceiving themselves and others about reality and facts.
In fact, if you read only this book, you might get some curious impressions about Italian Marxism. For example, Gramsci has become a "saint" for the international left because of his emotional troubled life, not his theory. Prof. Drake, while giving the briefest biography of each intellectual, never misses an opportunity to describe a love-affair, usually depicted as a functional "emotional reaction" to political or theoretical failure.
Somewhat tellingly, the only "intellectual" who suffers no cynicism and gets a rather positive review is a young Benito Mussolini (!), whose apparent opportunism is said to have been exaggerated by historians.

Prof. Drake obviously has done some research, and his book is an interesting read with the occasional illuminating detail. This could have been a major textbook on Italian Marxism, if only he had spared us his tongue in cheek and crude psychologism.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tigrotto on May 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The one review on this site is more guilty of prejudice than that Prof. Drake is accused of. Has that reviewer read the comments of the long array of other reviewers that Amazon has provided on this site? Several of them are well known scholars of modern Italy with impressive credentials in the field. What sort of bitterness has motivated this reviewer, or is it merely profound ignorance?
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