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.

Recently many people have asked us whether we thought in 1969 that we would ever rejoin the pci, and we have all confessed that we did. We were never really a group of the New Left and remained part of the pci in the sense that we thought a new revolutionary party would grow out of its crises and betrayals. The problem was to establish and keep open the channels of communication between the traditional culture of the historical left and the new movements which were emerging. Originally we had seen the magazine as the way of keeping discussion alive on these questions, and it was only as a result of subsequent developments that we began to think of ourselves as an independent political group. We never called on pci members to leave together with us: indeed, the majority of those who joined Il Manifesto were ‘sixty-eighters’ who had never been in the pci. They just gathered around the magazine in various towns and, over the next few years, started writing to us that they had ‘constituted themselves’ as Manifesto groups. This forced us to get in touch with them, and in the process we became an organized movement for the first time.

Il Manifesto itself always regarded the term ‘party’ as rather excessive, and it was only adopted after our fusion with a number of other groups in 1974 to form the new pdup. The most important of these was a section of the psiup—an early-sixties left-wing breakaway from the Socialist Party which, although it had won a million or so votes in the 1972 elections, had failed to cross the threshold for parliamentary representation. Following this setback, the great majority decided to fuse with the pci and two Central Committee members went back to the Socialist Party. The other minority, which formed the original pdup (Party of Proletarian Unity) and fused with us in 1974, included a number of prominent trade unionists like Giovannini and Lettieri who were in the national secretariat of the cgil, and metalworkers’ leaders like Foa and Tagliazucchi. This background in the historical institutions of the Italian left made them a quite different group from Il Manifesto, which did not have any trade unionists except at grassroots level.