I Hate New Year’s Day


This text was first pub­lished in Avanti!, Turin edi­tion, from his column “Sotto la Mole,” Jan­u­ary 1, 1916.

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.

They say that chronol­ogy is the back­bone of his­tory. Fine. But we also need to accept that there are four or five fun­da­men­tal dates that every good per­son keeps lodged in their brain, which have played bad tricks on his­tory. They too are New Years’. The New Year’s of Roman his­tory, or of the Mid­dle Ages, or of the mod­ern age.

And they have become so inva­sive and fos­sil­is­ing that we some­times catch our­selves think­ing that life in Italy began in 752, and that 1490 or 1492 are like moun­tains that human­ity vaulted over, sud­denly find­ing itself in a new world, com­ing into a new life. So the date becomes an obsta­cle, a para­pet that stops us from see­ing that his­tory con­tin­ues to unfold along the same fun­da­men­tal unchang­ing line, with­out abrupt stops, like when at the cin­ema the film rips and there is an inter­val of daz­zling light.

That’s why I hate New Year’s. 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.

No spir­i­tual time-serv­ing. I would like every hour of my life to be new, though con­nected to the ones that have passed. No day of cel­e­bra­tion with its manda­tory col­lec­tive rhythms, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Because our grand­fa­thers’ grand­fa­thers, and so on, cel­e­brated, we too should feel the urge to cel­e­brate. That is nau­se­at­ing.

I await social­ism for this rea­son too. Because it will hurl into the trash all of these dates which have no res­o­nance in our spirit and, if it cre­ates oth­ers, they will at least be our own, and not the ones we have to accept with­out reser­va­tions from our silly ances­tors.

– Trans­lated by Alberto Toscano

Author of the article

was an Italian Marxist revolutionary and a leader of the Italian Communist Party who was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime.