Can someone provide a basic definition for Gramsci concept of a "war of position"? I know it relates to his thoughts on hegemony, but that's about as far as my knowledge goes. He's yet another one of the many authors I want to read, but haven't made it to.
So Gramsci is read in two ways when he talks about "War of Position." One is essentially completely revisionist and another is nearly similar to how you can see parties who emphasize Mass Line practice (as opposed to the anarchist concept of 'propaganda of the deed' or the "enriched" What-is-to-be-donism of the RCP). Essentially the thrust of the position is that within a cultural hegemonic bloc, revolution is incapacitated by objective conditions and subjective conditions. It is therefore necessary to work within capitalism in such a way that breaks this hegemonic bloc through mainly intellectual as well as practical and organized activity that tries to raise the prospect of class consciousness amongst the masses. This is not so different actually from what I think was the substantially correct line of "preparing minds for revolution" slogan.
For the Italian Communist Party this went as far as to mean even participation within the representative government of Italy with the emergence of fascism led by Mussolini. There was in fact even contradictions of how this was done, Gramsci emphasized that essentially this activity was mainly to provide a propaganda voice of the Communist Party where as his other contemporary and later general secretary of the party, Palmiro Toglatti, began putting forward the initial line of the electoral path as a unique way forward for Communism - Toglatti later dissolved the armed wing of the Italian Communist Party and became a minister of justice in Italy while a general secretary of the party. That particular line essentially became what would be known as Eurocommunism.
While I think Gramsci's thought on cultural hegemony is altogether valuable and his insights on "war of position" is interesting, I would recommend Althusser's work on Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus as superior work of thought in coming to grips with the field of ideas in Marxism - of course Althusser really offers no strategic point of utility besides intellectual ones.
Gramsci conceived of two methods for challenging hegemony: a ‘war of maneuver’ and a ‘war of position,’ best understood as points on a continuum rather than mutually exclusive options. A ‘war of maneuver’ involves physically overwhelming the coercive apparatus of the state. However, the success of this strategy depends on the nature of the state’s hegemony, that is, its position within civil society. In a comparison of the state in Czarist Russia with that in liberal democracies (referred to as the East and the West respectively), Gramsci notes that the strength of the latter lies in a sturdy civil society [here Gramsci uses the term State to mean government, or political society, as opposed to his more broad definition used elsewhere and throughout this text (i.e. State= political society + civil society)]: