Notebook: Turmoil Among the Italian Communist

Notebook: Turmoil Among the Italian Communist

Among all the Communist parties outside the Soviet bloc, the Italian one (PCI) is probably the most skillful and adaptable. Its characteristic flexibility has been brought into full play during the past half year, when it has had to face two major problems:

a) the rifts in the Soviet bloc and the international Communist movement after the 22nd Congress of the CPSU;
b) the new political situation in Italy.

Let’s begin with the second of these problems. At the January 1962 congress of the Christian Democratic (Catholic) party, a left-center faction prevailed and the consequence has been a possible major shift in Italian political life. The Catholics have joined the Social Democrats and Republicans in forming a new government which proclaims its intention to introduce economic and social reforms—and which, for the first time, gains the support of the Nenni Socialists (PSI).

This obviously creates serious difficulties for the Communists. They have enjoyed a pact of common action with the PSI since the popular front days in the mid-thirties. It has not been an untroubled union since, for one thing, the Communist leadership of this alliance coincided with severe defeats for the Italian workers in the years between 1948 and 1955. What shook the relationship between PCI and PSI to the very roots however, was the Khrushchev revelations at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. After that, and still more so, after the Hungarian revolution, the PSI renounced the pact of common action and agreed merely to regular consultations between the parties. In 1961 the pro-Communist wing of the PSI gained a temporary victory, but now that the Nenni Socialists have been courted by the left Christian Democrats, the “alliance on the left” is to all effects and purposes ruptured.

When in full force, this alliance enabled the Communists to influence nearly 40 per cent of the Italian electorate and to gain partial control over local town administrations, trade unions and cooperatives. In certain cities, especially in central Italy, and sections of the Italian federation of labor there is still close cooperation between branches of the PCI and PSI; but on a national scale the PCI has suffered a notable defeat as regards its policy of making the Nenni party a kind of semi-autonomous appendage. The ties between the two parties have further been weakened as the Catholics, who have lately begun to take root among the workers and peasants, have consciously and with some success pursued a policy of wooing the PSI.