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PCI - Eurocommunism

There were characteristics of PCI which were different from those of other Communist parties and which were changing to adapt to contemporary world. These phenomena were a major subject of debate among democratic parties in Italy, where the issues were obscured by desire of some democratic elements to reject out of hand all reports of change, autonomy, or national motivation in PCI. Some PCI leaders were efficient, pragmatic, and energetic; they had given PCI character of its own, and that character was subject to certain changes to adapt to developments in Italy and within international Communist movement.

By the mid-1960s some non-Communists argued that Western European Communist parties including the PCI are changing and at some point will probably be acceptable partners within the governing coalitions. The rationale, in Italy, concerning the evolution of the PCI toward respectability and acceptability, generally leaned heavily on one or more of the following thoughts: The PCI is becoming independent of Moscow, and as a fully autonomous party it will be acceptable within the democratic area. The PCI is evolving toward democracy, and once fully democratic there would be no reason to exclude the Communists from the exercise of power. Inherent PCI tendencies toward autonomy and democracy can be stimulated and brought to fruition by gradually bringing the Party into the democratic area and offering responsibility to the Communists as they prove themselves ready for it.

PCI policy was linked to Moscow but substantial autonomy did exist, and the trend in the international movement was toward an increasing degree autonomy. The pertinent question in Italy was: will PCI be acceptable for cooperation with democratic parties if and when PCI can be considered autonomous? The answer was that if the PCI were autonomous, it would still have to be judged on its domestic Italian attributes. And by PCI's own statements, these attributes were and will continue to be Marxist-Leninist in organization and philosophy. They will include materialism, economic determinism, democratic centralism, Marxist concepts of history and truth, and the range of Communist theory and practice which are irreconcilable with democratic institutions.

But the continued diminution eventually perhaps even to something approaching zero, of any such link with Moscow would not make the PCI acceptable or worthy of trust. They would remain a totalitarian party; as totalitarian as the Fascist MSI, and considerably more dangerous. The Yugoslav League of Communists (LCY) was quite independent of Moscow and since 1948 had made tremendous strides toward reconciling itself with the Yugoslav people, but it remained Marxist-Leninist, and after several decades of independence from Moscow the Yugoslav people were still offered no political alternative whatsoever to the LCY. There was no evidence to support any conclusion that a fully autonomous PCI would perform any more democratically than the LCY.

The PCI of the 1960s was not evolving toward democracy. Steps hade been taken from time to time to improve the workings of the system and (hopefully, from the PCI point of view) to give the cadres more of a feeling of participation in the Party decision-making apparatus. These were agitprop exercises, and the rest of the scanty appearances of PCI democratization were no more than a well propagandized illusion. Party leaders said again and again that no matter how much the democratic left-wing calls for Communist abandonment of democratic centralism, the PCI will continue to consider democratic centralism the keystone of the Party principles of organization. In this sense the Leninist orthodoxy of the Party was impeccable.

The Catholics, the PSDI, and all parties to the right of them rejected cooperation with a party that remained a wolf in sheep's clothing; a party that is not evolving toward democracy; a party that was only slightly less objectionable as a result of its growing autonomy; a party with which it would be impossible to fashion a useful democratic program, even if sincerity and trustworthiness could be assumed.

In the mid-1970s the key dynamic in Italian politics was that associated with the 'historic compromise', by which the powerful Italian Communist Party (PCI), then the strongest such party in western Europe, had begun to knock on the door of cabinet office. The issue of the communist participation in government came to a head in January 1978, with the resignation of Giulio Andreotti's minority Christian Democrat (DC) government. This was the 35th DC-led government since 1946, and was the most recent in a long row of unstable governments that had been constructed on the basis of excluding both the PCI on the left, and the small neo-fascist Social Movement (MSI) on the right. By early 1978, however, it seemed that it would be impossible to reconstitute such a government again, leaving the only remaining option that of formally incorporating the PCI into the majority.

For many commentators, both inside and outside Italy, this was an extremely worrying prospect. So much so, indeed, that it prompted an exceptional public warning from the US State Department, which on 12 January 1978, midway through the one-term Presidency of Democrat Jimmy Carter, issued the following statement: "Our position is clear: we do not favor [Communist participation in Western governments] and would like to see Communist influence in any Western European country reduced. The United States and Italy share profound democratic values and interests, and we do not believe that the Communists share those values and interests. As the President [Carter] said in Paris last week: 'It is precisely when democracy is up against difficult challenges that its leaders must show firmness in resisting the temptation of finding solutions in nondemocratic forces.'"

The same argument was echoed in 1978 by the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a review of the electoral successes and potential successes of communist parties in Italy, France, Portugal and Spain. For Kissinger, "the accession to power of Communists in an allied country would represent a massive change in European politics; .would have fundamental consequences for the structure of the postwar world as we have known it and for America's relationship to its most important alliances; and.would alter the prospects for security and progress for all free nations."

The PCI never did win admittance to government. Andreotti went on to form a new minority administration and he continued to carve a successful career in US-friendly politics until his party collapsed in a wave of corruption scandals, and he himself was brought before the courts on charges of complicity in Mafia-related crimes.

In mid-1983 the formation of a new democratic government, which the Communists had proposed to the Socialist Party and other center parties, would be possible only if the PCI [Italian Communist Party]], the PSI [Italian Socialist Party] and the PSDI [Italian Social Democratic Party] won a large vote; the communists must win the most votes, which the polls indicated was unlikely.

In 1983, the PCI's vision of Eurocommunism was further refined. After condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the crackdown on the Solidarity movement in Poland, the PCI's Sixteenth Congress announced a formal break with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and cut ties with Eastern European parties. While the announcement completely removed the Soviet factor from Italian politics, it did not mean that the PCI had embraced the Atlanticist outlook prevalent among other Italian elites. In fact, the criticism of NATO switched from matters of mandate and membership to a focus on the individual role of Italy in NATO.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:04:08 ZULU