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Italian Communist Party (PCI)

The Italian Communist Party (PCI) was Italy's second most powerful party during the Cold War. It was established in 1921 as the result of a break off of left wing Socialists from the Italian Socialist Party. The PCI emerged from World War II with a strong and flexible organization. The PCI had contributed significantly to the resistance movement during the war. It was through this and its representation of the working masses that the PCI gained such impressive strength. The PCI attempted to broaden its appeal and attract white collar and technical workers, but it remained largely a working class party. After 1974 the powerful Communist party (PCI) was regarded by almost one-third of the electorate as the party of law and order.

Italy was illustrative of the growing cleavage between northern and southern Europe with its long-term implications for the entire Western community and the development of transnational terrorism. A gradual economic recovery stemmed from the disastrous June 1976 election period when unpaid foreign loans totalled $18 billion and the foreign trade deficit reached 5.4-trillion lire.

For over half a century, Italy had secret revolutionaries, generally operating within the context of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). During this time, there was much circumstantial evidence to suggest that the PCI was receiving support from the Soviets through Czechoslovakia. Additionally, there was direct evidence that Libya was providing money, training, and weapons to Italian rightist groups. The notion that terrorist actions in Italy might be part of a larger effort with significant external support was supported by direct evidence in the 1970's and 1980's.

In the Eurocommunism chapter of Mitrokhin 's book The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB in the World: Pt. 2, there is the correspondence of the Secretary-General of the Italian Communist Party Luigi Longo, who is asking for more money than the Soviets, and his Soviets answer that for the Italian elections in 1972 PCI will receive about $ 6 million. The Mitrokhin writes that the funding of the Italian Communist Party was relatively easy, while in other countries there was very chase and there were great difficulties for the delivery of money. The PCI simply sent some confidants to the Soviet embassy and received the money, with the KGB controlling whether they were being watched. However, the KGB had trained PCI executives in counter- intelligence and counterfeiting so they could escape the secret services of Italy if needed.

The 1972 conference on international terrorist movements in Badawi, Lebanon, cited the role of an extremist group in Rome in the transport of missiles for a branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Evidence of ties between the PLO and the Red Brigade and the well-known PLO-Soviet connection in international terrorism further contributed to the notion of an international dimension of terrorism in Italy. Finally, testimony by two defectors (Ion Pacepa and Jan Sejna) documented the role of both Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria in training Italian terrorists.

The Italian Communist Party took 27% in the 1972 elections and 34% in the 1976 elections, and Enrico Berlinguer developed into the main spokesman for Eurocommunism. Together with the Communist Parties of France ( PCF ) and Spain ( PCE ), the PCI issued the Communist EuroManifest, calling on European Communists to keep a distance from the USSR.

The Soviets, writing the book, continued to fund the Italian Communist Party, giving $ 6.5 million in 1975, but at the same time the KGB had prepared some documents of Berlinguer's suspicious transactions in Sardinia's real estate and was ready to make it public decommission if necessary. The chapter also states that PCI funding has now become more difficult and additional precautions have to be taken to avoid incriminating evidence.

In June 1975 the Communists scored substantial gains in the regional elections. The shaky governing coalition fell apart in January 1976, prior to the exchange crisis, because of disagreements over economic policy and, more immediately, the abortion question. This government was replaced with a minority Christian Democrat government, which in turn fell 30 April 1976 because of lack of Socialist support, leading to early elections in June 1976.

Early parliamentary elections were held in June 1976, a year before they were required, and it was feared that the Italian Communist Party (PCI) might emerge as the leading party, or, at any rate, might enter the government. The Communists greatly improved their showing over the 1972 election (but only marginally over 1975), but the results were something of a victory for the Christian Democrats as well, since they rebounded from June 1975; the held the same percentage of seats as in 1972 and remained the largest party. The poor showing of the smaller parties, including the Socialists and the strength of the Communists, made a return, to the old formulas politically impossible (although, arithmetically, a slim center-left majority was possible) and brought the Communists openly into the political discussion.

The government that was formed in July 1976 was again a minorty Christian Democrat government with the agreement of the Communists and other parties of the so-called constitutional arc to abstain. In exchange for their support via "non no-confidence" the Communists received important Parliamentary positions and their agreement was necessary for the passage of legislation. The Andreotti government was reformed in March 1978 after a crisis in January 1978 provoked by the Communist demand for greater participation. The new government included the PCI in the parliamentary majority (as well as the other parties of the constitutional arc except for the Liberals) but the cabinet again was composed only of Christian Democrats. The economic performance of the Andreotti government must be viewed in the light of the delicate political balance throughout this period.

Culminating in the political assassination of Aldo Moro in May 1978, terrorism in Italy was a continuing and increasing problem. It is estimated that by 1978 Italy had a terrorist attack of some form once every 4 hours, a world record. Terrorism in Italy in the form of bombing, arson attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations was related to current economic and political uncertainties. Terrorism included right-wing as well as left-wing extremist movements and was part of the radicalization of student movements.

However, the KGB continued to finance PCI , but with smaller amounts in the 1980s, and through Armando Cossutta , a member of the Communist Party that criticized Enrico Berlinguer through the Communist newspaper Paesa Sera . The last aid granted by the KGB to the Communist Party of Italy was in 1987 and amounted to 630 thousand dollars.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did have an effect on Italy politics. The collapse of the eastern bloc changed the vocabulary of political debate. While the PCI had long claimed independence from the Soviets, the disappearance of the USSR and CPSU as points of reference on the political spectrum led the PCI to redefine its position as well. It was transformed into the Democrats of the Left(PDS - Partito Democratico della Sinistra).

Occhetto, who disbanded the PCI in 1991, did not break with his predecessors, but was the testamentary executor of the failure of the project to conciliate the classes and subordinate the working class to the imperialist bourgeoisie carried out by modern revisionists led firstly by Togliatti and then by Longo and Berlinguer. The attempts to continue that practice have been and are personified by the Party of Communist Refoundation (PRC), the Party of Italian Communists (PdCI), and by minor parties and groups.

In 1996 the more moderate successors to the PCI, the Party of the Democratic Left (DS), finally entered government as the then leading party in a broadly-based center-left coalition, under the leadership of Romano Prodi, later President of the European Commission.

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Page last modified: 24-09-2017 18:53:23 ZULU