On January 11th, a new party was founded in Italy: the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (psiup). By the end of January it already had 60,000 members. The new party was inaugurated when the Italian Socialist Party (psi) entered the Moro government and its left wing broke away in protest. A third of the members of the psi regional committees left to join the psiup. Within a fortnight psiup membership overtook the psi in Emilia, Tuscany, Sardinia, Sicily and the Abruzzi. The psiup recruited numerous former psi trade-unionists and many young Italians who hitherto belonged to no party. Many socialists outside Italy have been bewildered by the events which led up to the split in the psi. The foundation of the psiup has helped to clarify the situation. It is now possible to give outline answers to a number of important, interconnected questions. How did the centre-left come about? What is the present Moro government programme? What conditions did Nenni and the psi accept before going in with Moro? Why was the psiup founded? What is the attitude of the Italian Communist Party (pci)?

Since 1947, when Saragat and the Social Democrats (psdi) split from the psi, Italy has been governed by the Christian Democrats (dc) in alliance with the psdi and various smaller parties of the right. This coalition is no longer numerically feasible in Parliament and it has also become inadvisable for social and economic reasons. The original impulse behind the centre-left was the need to modernize Italian capitalism (although not all Italian capitalists support this choice of method). The speed with which the Common Market was established put a special strain on Italy. Rapid changes had to be imposed on the economy, if Italy was to compete on more or less equal terms with its partners in the eec. At the same time, inside Italy there was an electoral swing to the left and the threat of sharp social confrontation. In order to keep control of political power the Christian Democrats had to look leftward. The centre-left was the only course open. (The centre-right was out of the question as a long-term solution.)

This leftward movement in the dc had the good fortune to be met by a complementary rightward movement in the psi—the outcome, in part, of promptings by the dc itself. This shift in the psi was most marked in Nenni himself. Lelio Basso, a leader of the psiup, has described Nenni’s management of the shift: ‘Although the inauguration of the Moro government signalled the actual moment of the break in our party, the process had been going on for years. . . with a majority policy which gradually edged the party along until it had been knitted into the system, a course which is, by definition, the negation of socialism. Nenni’s great achievement has been to carry this operation through, very gradually, almost imperceptibly. . . accompanying it with a deliberate, active jettisoning of the party’s ideology, while at the same time clouding its consciousness step by step in order to mask the qualitative change which his policy embodied.’ Nenni’s policy has its own historical and personal causes. The psi has been in opposition for the whole 70 years of its existence (except for the brief post-war period) and the lasting impotence of opposition, in the face of a changing and divided Italian capitalism, combined with personal psychological factors to decide Nenni in favour of entering a coalition. But Nenni failed to appreciate that once he was committed to entry—into what amounted to a Christian-Democrat government—his position would be automatically and fatally weakened. Nenni may have wanted to do a number of things, and thought he could do them, but in fact, once he was captured, he could do nothing. All the elaborate conditions of entry which his colleague Lombardi had set out so lucidly at the 35th party congress in November of last year became largely irrelevant. Even if Nenni had only wanted to put through a straight social-democratic programme, he would have been mistaken to go in. All the same, it is important to stress the motives behind the psi decision and the degree of active co-operation given by Nenni. Otherwise Nenni’s subsequent actions can be oversimplified as sudden betrayals or be explained away simply in terms of Nenni being outmanoeuvred.

What did Nenni agree to and what is the significance of Moro’s programme? In home affairs, the Moro government hopes to stabilize Italy’s neo-capitalist economy—by trying to get the unions to accept a year’s pay-pause. This plan is to be carried out jointly by Treasury Minister Emilio Colombi (leader of the dorotei, a mainstream right dc group) and Antonio Giolitti, the socialist Budget minister! In foreign policy, the psi has already abandoned the minimal reticence it showed a few months ago. The government is already committed to the mixedmanned force and hence to German atomic rearmament. Nenni has stated that ‘even if the psi were alone in the government’, it would endorse the nato treaty. The tragedy of this lies not only in specific issues—the rejection of the whole psi tradition of neutralism and its alignment with Christian-Democrat ‘Atlantism’—but also in the fact that Nenni has thus given his consent to a foreign policy which represents Washington’s sole absolutely stable bridgehead in Europe. The lack of any independent Italian foreign policy at all is especially depressing. The psi’s helplessness is illustrated by the fact that Saragat, now Italy’s Foreign Minister, gave his approval to the mixed-manned force even before the government had been voted in by Parliament. A feeble protest from Nenni was swiftly annulled by Moro and President Segni telegrammed his congratulations to Saragat. What goes for foreign policy goes for every other field as well: far from the psi being able to influence government policy, as might be expected in what is called a coalition, it has merely been absorbed into a Christian-Democrat/Social-Democrat administration. Of course, it can effect marginal improvements—in town planning, for example, and in controls over building land—but, in almost every case, these improvements are merely the rationalizations which advanced capitalism itself approves and are not in any sense anti-capitalist structural reforms.

Thus it is not hard to see why the left broke away to found the psiup. It was no longer possible to cherish hopes of pursuing a socialist policy while remaining in a psi which was led from the right. Furthermore, apart from the political differences, it must be remembered that the right specifically broke the party constitution by refusing to convene a special congress, called for by the statutory number of federations. The suspension of 25 left deputies who refused to vote for the Moro government was a natural consequence of the long-term strategy, long encouraged by the dc and the psdi, of splitting the party. The decision to found the psiup, far from being negative, was the positive action in the process, which partly counteracted the defeat inflicted by the political capture of the psi. The soundness of the decision to found the psiup has only been contested by the right of the psi and the right of the pci, who both follow the same line of reasoning—that the Nenni policy of entry was correct. The question that is now being asked in Italy about the psiup is: where is the political ‘space’ for this new party, when a social-democratic, a ‘socialist’ and a communist party already exist? The problem, however, is not just one of ‘geography’, but involves the whole strategy and tactics of the Italian left.