|Gareth Peirce, posh Trotskyist lawyer who defended Abu Qatada - "revolution by any means".|
Why had it proven so difficult to promote revolution in Western Europe?
Of course this must imply that Gramsci desired a revolution in Europe. However, as the question also implies, revolution in Europe - at least the time of his writing (1920s/30s) - was not forthcoming. So what were Marxists like Gramsci going to do about that terrible situation?
Coercion & Consent
Gramsci developed one of Machiavelli’s notions of political power. Machiavelli specifically likened political power to the mythical Centaur – a creature which was half beast and half man. Gramsci applied this to the political situation – and perhaps to all political situations – of his day. The analogue of the Centaur plays out in this way:
The idea is that no state, perhaps not even a Nazi or Stalinist state, can rely entirely on coercion to uphold its position and power. But of course Gramsci wasn’t talking about totalitarian regimes such as Stalin’s or Hitler’s. He was talking about contemporary “liberal-capitalist democracies”, as Marxists today put it. It is such democracies that used both coercion (force/violence/etc.) and consent.