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New Left Review I/13-14, January-April 1962

Perry Anderson

The Debate of the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party on the 22nd Congress of the CPSU


The Italian Communist Party, in exile and jail for 20 years under Mussolini, was re-formed in 1944 in the throes of the Resistance. Relatively uncompromised by the equivocations and complicities of the 30’s, the Party’s formative experience was national resistance and insurrection. The majority of its cadres were younger than those of the other West European Communist parties. It enjoyed in the writings of Gramsci the unique advantage of a sophisticated and indigenous Italian Marxism. Finally, again largely because Fascism had placed the workingclass movement in cold storage so early on, the party was not divided by years of mutual recrimination and suspicion from the Socialists. Excluded from the government in 1947, and defeated in the elections of 1948, the Party nevertheless survived the period of intense cold war with great resilience. Working-class unity with the socialists was maintained intact, electoral support steadily increased, and a margin of political and ideological independence preserved. Throughout the worst years of the Cold War, party militants could read Trotsky, Bukharin or Radek in the Gramsci Institute in Rome. The Italian section of WFTU fought a discreet underground action against the full theory and practice of Stalinism: in 1951, Di Vittorio, secretary of the CGIL, even wanted a WFTU delegation to be sent to the Soviet Union to investigate the charges of forced labour then being made against it at the ILO (he was over-ruled by Saillant of the French Communist Party). At home, sociologists, economists and trade-unionists discussed the problems of Italian neo-capitalism with far greater freedom than in the other European parties, contributing towards the resurgence of the CGIL in the Iron Triangle—Milan, Turin, Genoa—after its defeats in the early 50’s.

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Perry Anderson, ‘The Debate of the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party on the 22nd Congress of the CPSU’, NLR I/13-14: £3

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