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), footnote1 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?

The fact is that the pci’s attitude to the latest government crisis, to Nixon’s visit to Rome, and to the decretone, has opened the eyes of the masses to a political operation set in motion some time ago: the expansion of the Centre-Left to include the pci, the growing integration of the pci into the complex of forces which—beyond the formal distinctions of government and opposition—in fact share in the running of the Italian State. The pci is finding it difficult to convince its own rank and file that this ‘integration’ is really a slanderous invention of ‘splitters’ when every newspaper and every politician proclaims, from different points of view, that this is indeed what is afoot in Italy today. In the same way ritual denunciation of the collusion between our scissionist activity and the bourgeois press is hardly adequate when, day in and day out, this same press denounces our extremism and awards the Communist Deputies in Parliament top marks for their sense of responsibility and good conduct. It is the political ‘turn’ of the pci which has provoked the crisis in the Party. This crisis will deteriorate as the practical consequences of the turn become more apparent.

The leadership of the pci and certain groups on the far left concur in denying both the ‘turn’ and the ‘crisis’. Both maintain that the current political strategy is simply a logical development of the line the Party has always followed. For have not the Communists, for 25 years now, vaunted their own ‘national’ role; regarded any confrontation with the State system as a disaster; made their re-inclusion in a coalition government their fundamental goal? Both sides, in fact, believe that this choice basically corresponds to the expectations of the whole Party today, to the ideology that has formed its cadres, and to the perspective on which its electoral successes have been founded. Why then should we expect any torment or laceration?

It is indisputable that an insistence on the historical continuity of the Party’s evolution contains an important truth. We certainly do not intend to denounce Berlinguer in the name of Togliatti. From the very first number of Il Manifesto, we have tried to show that the current reformist line of the pci is not due to mistaken calculations or momentary confusion on the part of its leadership, but to the organic limitations of a specific strategy rooted in history. It is the expression of a whole complex of social alliances, electoral links, organizational routines, and official positions. This is why we never based our own struggle, when still in the Party, on an appeal to tradition. Nor do we now envisage the construction of a new revolutionary force in terms of of split in the pci, which separates the healthy from the opportunist elements inside it. We spoke instead of ‘a cultural revolution’, and of a ‘refoundation’—effected in the course of mass struggle and accompanied by a general critical re-evaluation of the past—which would profoundly alter the character and practice of the whole Party, including even those of its best elements. We added that such a refoundation could only come from a synthesis between the Communist Left and the new political and social vanguards which have developed outside the Party.

But this is not to say that the pci has always been the same as it is today; nor that it represents an ideologically and socially homogeneous force, fully expressed by the official line of its leadership. An analysis of the historical and theoretical origins, and objective social base, of the opportunist degeneration of a political movement need not obscure the dynamics of this degeneration. To identify the strategic and theoretical horizon to which a decadence is related is not to reduce its whole reality to this. It is possible, for example, to reconstruct step by step the inexorable path followed by the Second International up to its final capitulation to the First Imperialist War: but this does not diminish the fact that German Social-Democracy at the end of the 19th century represented a reality, and played a role, very different from those which it embodied after 1914.

Today the Italian Communist Party is undergoing a very similar process. In 1945 it rejected insurrection, and collaborated with bourgeois parties in ‘Reconstruction’, in framing a new Constitution, and in the governments of ‘National Unity’ of the immediate post-war period. Given the existing international alignment of forces and the fact that the bourgeois State was in disarray, the pci—counting on the antagonistic power of the ussr and expecting a revolutionary crisis to develop—combined a constitutional and defensive strategy with organizational and ideological preparation for a future confrontation. The Party was wrong in its calculations, and succeeded only in fostering the equivocations which were subsequently to lead to unambiguous parliamentarism and opportunism. Nevertheless the organization which is today, in a different fashion and in a different situation, participating with no mental reservations whatever in the ‘drive for productivity’, is a somewhat different Party. The defensive struggles against unemployment, latifundia, or the legge truffa, footnote2 in the dramatic years of the fifties, do not have the same class meaning as the trade-unionism practised by the pci today. For even if the objectives of the latter are formally more advanced, the contemporary situation demands a politicization and generalization of the mass movement of a quite different order.

To forget this, to avoid any concrete analysis of the Italian working-class and its organizations, is to construct a purely schematic image of the Communist movement over the last 20 years, which erases the significance of its mass roots and international position, and the reasons for them. More important still, it is to discolour the specificity of the class struggle in this country. For such an approach negates the degree of autonomy and hegemony which has been won by the proletariat over a vast range of social and intellectual forces. Yet this autonomy and hegemony constitute the central knot which Italian capitalism has been unable to cut, and the principal obstacle to the grand reformist operation which is at present under way. Above all, in political terms, such an approach implies a failure to see the possibility and necessity of building a new mass revolutionary force, at a time when strategic blunders and social degeneration are precipitating a change in the nature and class position of the Communist Party. The ‘turn’ in the pci’s line thus represents a serious problem, which should not be liquidated by propagandistic simplifications. Only the most careful historical and structural analysis of the Party can enable us to disentangle the multiple connections between continuity and rupture in its development, and grasp the complexities both of its ideological tradition and of its present-day reality. We cannot hope to determine to what extent the current turn by the pci represents a qualitative break, nor at what levels and in what ways it might create rifts in the Party itself, without such a study. A correct analysis must go back in time—at least as far as the end of the Second World War, when the pci first took on a truly mass character—and above all must go beyond what the Party has said and thought, to establish what it has actually been and done: its concrete relationship with social reality. This task is one on which we have already made a start in Il Manifesto, footnote3 but a comprehensive analysis is yet to be accomplished; there are many facts which are still obscure, and it will take time to complete the work.