Togliatti, Palmiro

Togliatti, Palmiro

(pälmē`rō tōlyät`tē), 1893–1964, Italian Communist leader. A lawyer, he helped found the Italian Communist party in 1921. He lived in Moscow for many years after the Fascist takeover. Under the pseudonym Ercole Ercoli he wrote and worked for the Comintern. He was chief of the Comintern in Spain during the civil war there. Returning from Moscow to Italy in 1944, he became the leader of the Italian Communist party. As a leading anti-Fascist, Togliatti held cabinet posts in coalition governments in 1944–45, but later led the Communist opposition. A liberal Communist, he advocated greater independence of national Communist parties from Russian control, a doctrine he called "polycentrism." Although he followed a moderate line, he never openly broke with Moscow or disagreed radically on basic policy issues.

Togliatti, Palmiro


Born Mar. 26, 1893, in Genoa; died Aug. 21,1964, in the Crimea, USSR. Figure in the Italian Communist and international labor movements.

The son of a civil servant, Togliatti entered the University of Turin in 1911 after graduating from a lycée. In 1914 he joined the Socialist Party in Turin, aligning himself with A. Gramsci and other party members who believed that the Italian labor movement should adopt a revolutionary line rather than a reformist one, as advocated by the leaders of the Socialist Party. After completing his studies at the university’s faculty of law in 1915, he served in the army for two years during World War I before being given a medical discharge. He then returned to the university to study philosophy but in time came to devote himself entirely to his political activities.

At this time, while translating and publicizing the writings of V. I. Lenin and of the Bolshevik Party in general, Togliatti kept a close watch on revolutionary developments in Russia. At the beginning of 1919 he became a member of the editorial board of Avanti!, the Socialist Party’s newspaper, and later helped found the weekly L’Ordine Nuovo. In September and October of the same year, he helped organize the first factory councils in Turin. Elected in January 1920 to the directive committee of the Socialist section in Turin, Togliatti, while calling for the revolutionary renewal of the party, proposed that it establish close ties with the factory councils. He accordingly became a leader in the workers’ campaign to take over the city’s enterprises. At the end of 1920 he assumed the editorial direction of L’Ordine Nuovo when it became the central organ of the newly formed communist faction within the Socialist Party. From that forum he exercised a leading influence in the movement that led to the founding of the Italian Communist Party (ICP) in January 1921.

An opponent of fascism since its beginnings in Italy, Togliatti openly supported the Arditi del Popólo in their struggle against the Fascists. In the summer of 1921 he became the editor of II Comunista, the ICP’s central organ, which was published until the Fascists’ seizure of power in 1922. He was subsequently elected to the ICP’s Central Committee at the party’s Second Congress in 1922 and to the party’s Directive Committee in 1923. In 1924, together with Gramsci, he launched the newspaper L’Unità. At the national party conference in 1924, he joined forces again with Gramsci to oppose the left-wing, sectarian policy of A. Bordiga, a leader of the young Communist Party, winning a decisive majority among the party’s leadership. At the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924, Togliatti, who had played an active role during the proceedings, was elected to the Comintern’s Executive Committee. For his political activities, Togliatti was arrested twice between 1923 and 1925, spending nearly eight months in prison.

In 1926, Togliatti attended the ICP’s congress in London, where, after securing victory over the Bordiga faction, he delivered an address on the need for unity in the trade union movement. Also in 1926 he served in Moscow as the ICP’s representative in the Executive Committee of the Comintern and became a member of its Presidium in 1928. He was elected general secretary of the ICP after the arrest of Gramsci, the party’s leader. At the beginning of 1927, Togliatti left Moscow to assume direction of the party’s central office in France. Between 1927 and 1934 he traveled to Switzerland and Belgium several times in his efforts to organize the work of the ICP abroad. Uncompromising in his opposition to fascism, Togliatti rejected any policy that counseled a “wait and see” attitude toward the Fascist regime in Italy. Similarly, he opposed sectarianism and opportunism in the labor movement and advocated the unity of all antifascist forces. From 1929 to 1931 he led a campaign against right-wing deviation in the party.

During the years 1935–43, Togliatti, as a member of the Presidium and Secretariat of the Comintern’s Executive Committee, warned against the tendency by some to underestimate the danger of fascism and to regard fascism simply as a manifestation of capitalism. Together with G. Dimitrov, therefore, he helped outline the program of the Popular Front, which, among other things, called for unity of action between the Italian Communists and Socialists, formally effected in a pact signed by the two parties in 1934. At the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, for which he helped lay the groundwork, Togliatti submitted a report, On the Tasks of the Communist International in Connection With the Preparation by the Imperialists for a New World War, that became one of the most important documents of the congress.

In 1937, at the height of the Spanish people’s war against fascism, Togliatti was assigned by the Comintern’s Executive Committee to Spain to assist the Spanish Communist Party in organizing resistance to the fascist rebels and the German and Italian interventionists. In 1939, upon returning to France, he again took control of the ICP’s central office there. In September of that year, however, he was arrested in Paris and imprisoned. Released in 1940, he went to the USSR, where he remained until March 1944, broadcasting over Radio Moscow to Italy under the name of Mario Correnti. After returning to his homeland, he proposed and energetically worked for the adoption of a policy of national unity in the struggle to drive out the Germans, who had occupied Italy in 1943. Between 1944 and 1946, Togliatti served in the governments of P. Badoglio, I. Bonomi, F. Parri, and A. de Gasperi as minister without portfolio, minister of justice, and deputy prime minister.

During the postwar period, Togliatti devoted himself to the twin tasks of fashioning a mass Communist Party and creating a broad-based alliance of antimonopolistic forces in Italy with a view toward improving both the material and the legal position of the country’s working class. These efforts were part of his wider campaign to advance peace and socialism through a strengthening of the international Communist and labor movements on the basis of worldwide proletarian solidarity and cooperation. As director, since 1944, of the ICP’s theoretical journal, Rinascita, he had a ready platform for his views.

In 1946 and 1947, Togliatti sat in the Constituent Assembly, and in 1948 he was elected to Parliament, where he became the leader of the ICP’s parliamentary group (in November 1949 he was appointed vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Chamber of Deputies). In July 1948, Togliatti was seriously wounded during an attempt on his life that was inspired by international and domestic forces of reaction.

Togliatti made several trips to the USSR. In 1957, in Moscow, he attended the International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties.

The author of many works, Togliatti wrote on the theory and practice of the labor movement, on historical materialism and scientific communism, and on the history of socialist doctrines and the international labor movement. He also wrote on Italian history in general as well as on other related subjects. In his writings since the end of World War II, he dealt extensively with the question of Italy’s path to socialism. The progressive forces, he believed, had to develop a common program, on the basis of which the working class would be able to gain power and transform Italian society in accordance with Italy’s history and social traditions.

Togliatti was a constant advocate of friendship between Italy and the USSR. He died in the Crimea, where he had gone for a rest, and was buried in Rome.


Opere, vols. 1–3. Rome, 1967–74.
La via italiana al socialismo. [Rome, 1964.]
Problemi del movimento operaio internazionale (1956–1961). [Rome, 1962.]
La formazione del gruppo dirigente del PCI nel 1923–1924. Rome, 1962.
Momenti della storia d’ltalia. Rome, 1963.
Sul movimento operaio internazionale. [Rome, 1964.]
Togliatti editorialista. [Rome, 1971.]
Opere scelte. Rome, 1974.
La politica culturale. Rome, 1974.
Comunisti e cattolici. Rome, 1966.
L’emancipazione femminile, 3rd ed. Rome, 1973.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. stat’i i rechi, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1965.
Rechi v Uchreditel’ nom sobranii. Moscow, 1959.
[Foreword and introductions to individual sections.] In Tridtsat’ let zhizni i bor’by Ital. kommunistich. partii. Moscow, 1953.
Ital’ianskaia kommunistich. partiia. Moscow, 1959. Pages 125–56.
Za demokratich. obnovlenie ital’ianskogo obshchestva, za prodvizhe-nie k sotsializmu. Moscow, 1960.
Edinstvenno pravil’nyi put’ dlia chelovechestva. Moscow, 1959.
“Pamiatnaia zapiska.” Pravda, Sept. 10, 1964.
Lektsii ofashizme. Moscow, 1974.


Ferrara, M., and M. Ferrara. Beseduia s Tol’iatti. Moscow, 1954. (Translated from Italian.)
Montagnana, M. Vospominaniia turinskogo rabochego. Moscow, 1951. (Translated from Italian.)
“Zhizn’, otdannaia delu trudiashchikhsia.” Pravda, Aug. 22, 1964.
“Zamechatel’naia zhizn’P. Tol’iatti.” Novoe vremia, 1964, no. 35.
Misiano, C. F. “P. Tol’iatti’s Voprosy istorii Italii” (review). [Rome, 1963.] In Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1964, no. 6.
“Vydaiushchiisia syn Italii.” In the collection Sil’nee smerti. Moscow, 1967.
Golemba, A. “Serdtse u nas odno.” In the collection Leninskaia gvardiia planety. Moscow, 1967.
Palmiro Togliatti. Rome, 1965.


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