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New Left Review I/158, July-August 1986

Tobias Abse

The PCI Congress

The 17th Congress of the Italian Communist Party was held in Florence between 9 and 13 April, in the midst of Reagan’s first round of sabre-rattling against Libya and his authorization of a new nuclear test in Nevada. Since, as we shall see, the main peculiarity of the Congress was to proclaim a fresh enthusiasm for the American Way of Life and US democracy in general, these circumstances were a source of acute embarrassment to Party leaders addressing delegates from the platform. It is clear that, despite the denials of General Secretary Alessandro Natta, [1] The two principal documents referred to in this article are Natta’s speech opening the Congress, in the full text published in L’Unit`, 10 April 1986; and the Theses Proposal for the 17th Congress published in The Italian Communists: Foreign Bulletin of the PCI, October–December 1985. the Congress had been called ahead of schedule, as a direct consequence of the widespread worry and confusion generated by the disappointing regional election results of May 1985 and the narrow defeat in the June scala mobile referendum. These setbacks had caused Natta’s previously untested leadership to become an issue in itself: when the Congress was announced, rumours had been rife that it would be not just his first but also his last as Party leader, and that the thrusting right-winger Luciano Lama, with years of experience at the head of the cgil, would sweep this supposedly ineffectual old man aside. The pci’s traditional capacity to conceal internal differences behind a facade of unity seemed to have finally deserted it.

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