Italian Communist Party

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Italian Communist Party


(ICP; Partito Comunista Italiano), founded Jan. 21, 1921, at a congress in Livorno by leftist revolutionary groups of the Italian Socialist Party (ISP). Until 1943 it was called the Communist Party of Italy and was the Italian section of the Communist International.

Ideologically, the most mature group in the ICP was the Or-dine nuovo, which was led by A. Gramsci and which had its base in the city of Turin. However, a sectarian current headed by A. Bordiga played the dominant role in the ICP during the first years of its existence. The positions held by Bordiga’s followers prevented the party from winning broad influence over the masses and hampered cooperation with other leftist forces in the struggle against advancing fascism. With the aid of the Comintern, the leadership of the ICP was changed in 1923–24. The new leadership nucleus, which included Gramsci, P. Togliatti, M. Scoccimarro, and U. Terraccini, held a debate on the tasks and tactics of the ICP, thus helping the party to overcome the sectarian views of Bordiga’s followers. The Third Congress of the ICP (1926), which was a turning point in the Italian Communist movement, proposed tactics based on the mobilization of all strata of the working people for the struggle against fascism. The party’s principal slogan became a call for unity addressed to the working class, the workers and peasants, the north and south, and the entire Italian people.

After all political parties had been disbanded during the period of overt fascist dictatorship (1926–43), the ICP was the only party in Italy to continue antifascist activities not only abroad but also at home, relying on an illegal press and a network of underground organizations. The Communists restored trade-union organizations abroad and established underground trade unions in Italy. Many of the party’s leaders were victims of the Italian government’s repressive measures. After the arrest of Gramsci in 1926, Togliatti became the leader of the party. In 1934 a pact calling for united action by the ICP and the ISP was signed in Paris. Later, it was renewed, and it remained in force until 1956. The ICP fought for the implementation of the Seventh Comintern Congress policy, which aimed for the creation of a united front of the working class and other toiling people against fascism and the threat of a world war. During the antifascist war in Spain (1936–39) thousands of Italian Communists fought in the International Brigades against the Spanish fascists and the Italo-German fascist interventionists. During that period the Communists began to cooperate not only with the Italian Socialists but also with the democratic Giustizia e Liberta (Justice and Liberty) groups.

In 1937–38 the ICP drew up a new program of struggle for socialism—a struggle for progressive democracy that was supported by the working class and that aimed at eliminating the dominance of monopolies and landowners, nationalizing large-scale industry, and turning over land to the peasants. This program was the basis for the programs of the parties of the left wing of the antifascist Resistance front that took shape during World War II.

During the war the ICP intensified its activity in the antifascist underground. In late 1942 the party participated in the establishment of the first Committee of National Liberation in Turin, which was the model for committees that were subsequently formed in other Italian cities. After the collapse of Italian fascism (July 1943) and the occupation of Italy by fascist German troops, the Communists were the most active leading force in the partisan movement that developed between 1943 and 1945. The Communists’ policy helped to unify all the Italian antifascist forces. Communists and Socialists were brought into the Badoglio government, which was formed in 1944 on liberated territory.

After the liberation of Italy in 1945, the ICP decided to transform itself into a mass party firmly associated with all strata of the toiling people. Its membership soared from 15, 000 at the beginning of 1943 to 1.7 million at the end of 1945.

The Fifth Congress of the ICP (December 1945-January 1946) advanced a concrete program of struggle for a democratic rebirth (nationalization of monopolies, agrarian reform, development of cooperatives, establishment of a democratic republic), which was to be accompanied by the preservation of antifascist unity and the leadership of the working class.

In 1946 the ICP and other leftist forces achieved the establishment in Italy of a republic based on a relatively broad bourgeois democracy. In particular, the party was successful in its campaign for the inclusion in the Constitution of 1947 of the democratic program provisions of the Resistance parties. This provided the ICP with an opportunity to struggle for profound democratic transformations on the basis of the Constitution. When the monopolistic bourgeoisie launched an offensive against the toiling people’s democratic gains, the Communists and Socialists were ousted from the government in May 1947. The efforts of reactionaries to directly coerce the ICP were repulsed. In the wake of an attempt on Togliatti’s life on July 14, 1948, a general strike gripped Italy (July 14–16), demonstrating the high degree of authority of the ICP among the popular masses.

As members of the opposition, the ICP and the ISP led a mass movement of workers against unemployment and for an improvement in the standard of living. They demanded more land for the peasants and the elimination of semifeudal relations in the countryside. The two parties also led all the toiling people in a movement for peace and for the preservation and broadening of the position of democratic forces in the country.

As a result of improved economic conditions and some rise in the standard of living of Italy’s toiling people in the 1950’s, opportunist illusions and revisionist attitudes became widespread in the workers’ movement, chiefly in the ISP. In September 1956 the ISP dissolved the pact on unity of action with the ICP. Some manifestations of revisionism also appeared in the ICP. However, the new socioeconomic conditions also created favorable opportunities for the working class to take the offensive. This situation was noted by the Eighth Congress of the ICP (1956), which drew up a strategic line for a struggle by the Communists for socialism in Italy. The congress pointed out that in generating a mass movement for fundamental democratic and socialist transformations, the ICP was seeking to recruit increasingly broad strata of the population into an alliance with the working class. Wresting more and more positions of economic and political power from the ruling class, the democratic forces prepared through a bitter struggle to tip the scales for the final removal from power of the monopolistic bourgeoisie. Any of the acute political crises that arose during the struggle could have engendered attempts by the ruling circles to resort to armed force. Nonetheless, the broader the alliance of popular forces, the more confidently they could foil these attempts.

The basic line of the Eighth Congress was developed and specified in the party’s subsequent theoretical and practical work. Adhering to this line, the Communists, in alliance with other leftist forces, foiled an attempt by the Tambroni government to stage a reactionary coup in July 1960. After the formation in 1962 of a left-center government coalition, in which the Socialists participated beginning in 1963, the ICP endeavored to support all the positive aspects of the activities of the coalition government. At the same time, however, the party sharply criticized the bourgeois-reformist narrowness of left centrism. From the end of 1964, when the government’s program was essentially stripped of its democratic content, the ICP waged a direct struggle against the government. The party’s influence grew steadily: in the parliamentary elections of 1963 it won more than 25 percent of the vote; in the 1968 elections, 26.9 percent; and in the 1972 elections, 27.2 percent.

The ICP continued to develop its tactical positions at the Eleventh (1966) and Twelfth (1969) Congresses. It put forth the slogan of creating a new democratic majority that would embrace all democratic forces, from Communists to leftist Catholic circles. The Twelfth Congress of the ICP stressed the possibility of developing through the class struggle new forms of democracy and self-government by the masses that would reinforce the toiling people’s gains and contribute to further progress.

ICP delegations participated in the International Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969. The ICP approved the work of these conferences.

The Thirteenth Congress of the ICP (1972) defined the party’s task as a struggle for a democratic turnabout in the government and against the policies of the monopolies and attempt by extreme rightist forces to consolidate their position. The party resolutely opposed the right-center government formed in 1972. When this government fell, the ICP resumed its policy of constructive opposition and endeavored to rally the masses around an antifascist, democratic platform. During the preparations for its Fourteenth Congress, the ICP worked out a line of historical compromise which provided for the alliance of the three principal mass forces in Italy—the Communists, the socialists, and the Catholics—in a struggle for profound democratic and socialist reforms.

At its Eighth through Twelfth Congresses the ICP adopted the Theses—programs of action for the party in the immediate future. The Thirteenth Congress of the ICP adopted a detailed political resolution and preelection program. A political resolution was also adopted by the Fourteenth Congress (1975). In 1972 the ranks of the ICP were bolstered by members of the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity, which had been disbanded. The organizational principle of the ICP is democratic centralism. The party rules have been altered somewhat by every congress. Party cards are renewed once a year. The party chairman is L. Longo, and the secretary-general is E. Berlinguer. In 1969 the ICP had 1, 503, 000 members and in December 1974, 1, 658, 000 members. The central organ of the ICP is the newspaper L ‘Unit’.

Table 1. Party Congresses of the ICP
First…………LivornoJan. 21, 1921
Second…………RomeMar. 20–24, 1922
Third…………LyonJan. 21, 1926
Fourth…………Cologne-DüsseldorfMar-Apr., 1931
Fifth…………RomeDec. 29, 1945-Jan. 6, 1946
Sixth…………MilanJan. 5–10, 1948
Seventh…………RomeApr. 3–8, 1951
Eighth…………RomeDec. 8–14, 1956
Ninth…………RomeJan. 30-Feb. 4, 1960
Tenth…………RomeDec. 2–8, 1962
Eleventh…………RomeJan. 25–31, 1966
Twelfth…………BolognaFeb. 8–15, 1969
Thirteenth…………MilanMar.13–17, 1972
Fourteenth…………RomeMar. 18–23, 1975


Materialy VIII s“ezda ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from Italian.)
IX s”ezd ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Italian.)
X s”ezd ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from Italian.)
XI s”ezd ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from Italian.)
Gramsci, A. Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1957–59. (Translated from Italian.)
Togliatti, P. Izbr. stafi i rechi, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from Italian.)
Togliatti, P. Rechi v UchrediteVnom sobranii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Italian.)
Togliatti, P. Opere, vols. 1–3. Rome, 1967–73.
30 let ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from Italian.)
40 let ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1961.
50 let ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1971.
XIII s“ezd ItaVianskoi kommunisticheskoi partii. Moscow, 1972.
Ferrara, M., and M. Ferrara. Beseduia s TolViatti. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from Italian.)
Naumov, V. K. Kommunisty Italii. Moscow, 1972.
Boevoi avangard trudiashchikhsia Italii. Moscow, 1971.
Istoriia Italii, vol. 3. Moscow, 1971.
Komolova, N. P. Noveishaia istoriia Italii. Moscow, 1970.
Dorofeev, S. I. Ekonomicheskia programma klassovoi bor’by. Moscow, 1974.
Spriano, P. Storia delPartito Comunista Italiano, vols. 1–4. Rome-Turin, 1967–74.

S. I. DOROFEEV [11–-1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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