Antonio Labriola

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Labriola, Antonio


Born July 2, 1843, in Cassino; died Feb. 2, 1904, in Rome. Italian philosopher, publicist, theoretician and propagator of Marxism. Active in the socialist movement.

Labriola graduated from the University of Naples, becoming a privatdocent in the history of philosophy there in 1871. From 1874 he was professor of practical philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Rome. After becoming acquainted with the works of K. Marx in the early 1890’s, Labriola shifted from left Hegelianism and Herbartianism to Marxism. He corresponded with F. Engels from 1890 and participated in the Italian and international workers’ movement. He disseminated Marxism at the university and through public lectures, seeking to familiarize students and workers with the ideas of scientific socialism. He helped found the Italian Socialist Party (1892), although he did not participate in its work.

In his works Labriola examined various questions connected with historical materialism, including the determining factor in historical development, classes and class struggle; the role of the popular masses and of outstanding individuals in history, the laws of development of bourgeois society, the state, and revolution.

Labriola believed that the main task of the materialist conception of history was to lead social thought out of the intricate labyrinth of unscientific philosophical and historical conceptions and show the true moving forces of social development. He saw the close relationship between the basic tenets of historical materialism and the development of the class struggle, criticizing bourgeois theories and petit bourgeois currents in socialism. He devoted considerable attention to political problems and to the tactics and organizational principles of the proletarian party. He developed the notion of the necessity of relating the socialist movement to Marxist theory. At the same time, Labriola’s views and activity were not free from serious contradictions and errors. He underestimated the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the significance of the interrelation between the proletarian party and the working class and its allies and held an erroneous view of the national question, dividing nations into those that were “active” and “passive”.

Labriola’s intellectual legacy served as a starting point for the further development of Italian Marxist thought by A. Gramsci, P. Togliatti, and other leaders of the Italian Communist Party.


Opere complete, vols. 1–3. Milan, 1959–61.
Lettere a Engels. Rome, 1949.
In Russian translation:
K “krizisu marksizma.” Kiev, 1906.
O sotsializme. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Ocherki materialisticheskogo ponimaniia istorii. Moscow, 1960.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed. vol. 37. pp. 312–13; vol. 38, p. 205; vol. 39, p. 161.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. vol. 2, p. 500; vol. 55, pp. 59–60.
Plekhanov, G. V. “O materialisticheskom ponimanii istorii.” In Izbr. filosofskie proizvedeniia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Togliatti, P. “Razvitie i krizis ital’ianskoi mysli v XIX v.” Voprosy filosofii, 1955, no. 5.
Berti, G. “Antonio Labriola i ital’ianskoe sotsialisticheskoe dvizhenie.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1959, no. 3.
Dal Pane, L. Antonio Labriola: La vita e il pensiero. Rome, 1935.
Dal Pane, L. Profilo di Antonio Labriola. Milan, 1948.
Berti, G. Per uno studio della vita e del pensiero di A. Labriola. Rome, 1954.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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