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New Left Review I/163, May-June 1987


Stephen Gundle

The PCI and the Historic Compromise

Few on the left will disagree with the view that the turn taken by events in Italy in recent years is deeply depressing. Capitalism is unquestionably more stable today than at any time since the boom years of the late 1950s, and the social and cultural upheavals of the late sixties and seventies seem to have subsided almost without trace. In seeking to explain how and why this has come to be so, Tobias Abse points an accusing finger in the direction of the Italian Communist Party. [1] Tobias Abse, ‘Judging the PCI’, New Left Review 153, September–October 1985. As the largest force on the Italian left, endowed with mass support and a remarkable degree of electoral strength, it must take, he argues, ‘overwhelming responsibility for the failures and disappointments of this period’. [2] Ibid., p. 40. In essence, the party stands accused of failing to push things forward in the 1970s, despite the fact that both the necessary forces and the potential were there. In particular Abse blames the pci for not adopting a combative secular stance at a time when increasingly wide sectors of society could have been mobilized in support of such a programme. As a result, social and political trends which in the mid seventies led most naturally in a left or progressive direction were so bitterly thwarted that an opportunist politician by the name of Craxi was able to exploit them successfully for a political design of a rightwing type in the eighties.

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