It is not quite right to say that we were expelled, which would suggest our being kicked out and not allowed in principle to rejoin. We were subject to a much milder measure such that we were no longer Party members but ‘without prejudice’. This came at the end of a lengthy debate between left and right in the Party—with Ingrao symbolizing one side and Amendola the other—which had begun in the early sixties and become more open after Togliatti’s death in 1964. Moreover, by 1969 many of the issues at stake in the internal debate had entered into the culture and practice of the mass movement that had grown up in the previous year or so outside the Party. Putting things very schematically, I would say that there were three broad areas in the debate: international policy, the Party’s attitude to the mass movement, and its internal life. On the first of these Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was of course a major turning point. We felt that although the pci leadership had taken a firm position against the invasion, it had not drawn the necessary conclusions about the Soviet experience as a whole—the kind of conclusions that Berlinguer was to draw in December 1981 when he said that the Russian Revolution had lost its role as the historical driving force of the movement. At the same time, we were influenced by the Chinese positions in the sense that our approach to the Soviet Union involved a left-wing critique of its interpretation of peaceful coexistence and its behaviour as a world power.

Not so much. Most of our discussion centred on its role in world politics: on its relationship to the national liberation movements in the Third World, and its fear of anything that might destabilize the two spheres of influence. However, we never became dogmatically Maoist as other New Left currents did after 1968. At a time when leaders of parties with fifteen members were being received in Peking as if they were heads of state, we had no official relations with the Chinese. Our position was perhaps more akin to that of Monthly Review in the United States.

With regard to the second focus of debate, it should be borne in mind that the situation in Italy was rather different from that in France, for example, since the new mass movement was fundamentally a working-class phenomenon rooted in the factories rather than a university-based revolt of student youth. At any event, whereas the pci remained tied to an analysis of backward capitalism, these new movements launched a critique of advanced capitalist societies, and of the new contradictions that had typically emerged within them, indicating a clear awareness that a deep systemic crisis was under way. Among the points raised in this qualitative critique were a series of egalitarian demands, and attacks on hierarchical structures and work organization on the shopfloor.

The third issue at stake was the internal party regime, in which no scope was given for the expression of dissentient positions. Still, after we decided to bring out a magazine of our own, there were several months of discussion with the leadership before our Party membership was annulled. In the pcf we would not have lasted more than a couple of days.

Well, the two editors of the magazine were Rossana Rossanda and Lucio Magri. Rossana, who had been responsible for cultural policy until the supporters of Ingrao’s theses were marginalized after the 1966 Congress, was still a member of the Central Committee, as were Pintor, Caprara and Aldo Natoli. We also had five mps, including Milani who joined us a little later. The leadership tried to persuade us not to publish the magazine, and when we refused, Alessandro Natta, who was then chairman of the Control Commission, wrote a critique of the Manifesto positions and had it circulated for discussion in Party branches. However, an unexpectedly large number of people expressed their agreement with us, and the discussion was cut down to a much shorter period than it should have been. When the question then came back to the Central Committee, it was decided with only two votes against and three abstentions that we should be removed from membership of the Party.