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New Left Review I/66, March-April 1971

Lucio Magri

Italian Communism in the Sixties

The last few weeks have seen a new wave of resignations and expulsions from the Italian Communist Party. Attempts by the pci leadership to brand the ‘scissionist manoeuvres of Il Manifesto’ as the cause of these phenomena need hardly be taken seriously. We have made no efforts to conceal our own choice: we have opted for the creation of a political and organizational centre of reference outside the pci, since we believe there is no longer any room for internal opposition within it. We hold that only the existence of such a focus of reference outside the Party will be able to provoke a crisis in its current reformist line, and give this crisis a positive outcome which goes beyond mere disillusionment or simple protest. This will only occur—we have added—if those Communists who are aware of the errors in the current political line of the pci assume, together with others, the responsibility of building a new organization. To try to work for an alternative line while remaining in the Party no longer has any meaning, at a time when the ambiguities of the 12th Congress have been lifted in a negative sense, and the ‘left’ inside the Party is acting objectively as a cover for this. But we are not so presumptuous as to believe that our stand has been enough to provoke the present exit of many militants and leaders from the Party. When Il Manifesto first spoke out, we did not even know who many of them were. Even in the case of those who were our allies in the long battle inside the Party, it still remains to be explained why this link is today leading them to radical—and for many of them very painful—decisions, which a year ago they still regarded as premature. The question, however, is more complex than this. Those who work within the Party or in contact with it know that these splinterings represent only the tip of a much larger malaise which by now has invaded the whole Party. It appears under various guises: as protests against particular political choices (letters and resolutions on the decretone), [1] Name given by the Italian press to the swingeing deflationary measures introduced by the Colombo government in August 1970, whose sharp increases in taxation fell mainly on the shoulders of the working class and petty bourgeoisie. The pci leaders did not resist those measures vigorously, and accepted the government’s framework of discussion of them in terms of the ‘national interest’. as criticisms of the way in which Communist trade-union cadres have led certain struggles (cancellation of the July 7th strike, conduct of the battle for reforms, isolation of factory struggles), or more simply as crises in branch activities, malfunctioning of provincial bodies, confusion and lack of drive from the centre. Berlinguer’s address to the Federation Secretaries, and the general drift of that meeting, made plain to anyone who could decipher its aesopian code the general concern felt within the leadership at this far-reaching malaise. Is all this the fruit of our ‘disruptive actions’? Or is it not rather due to a shift in the Party’s political line, which the rank and file rightly or wrongly feel to be a betrayal both of the Party’s past traditions and of their own hopes aroused by these last years?

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Lucio Magri, ‘Italian Communism in the Sixties’, NLR I/66: £3

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