Italian Communist Party

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Italian Communist Party

Partito Comunista Italiano
General Secretaries Palmiro Togliatti
Luigi Longo
Enrico Berlinguer
Alessandro Natta
Achille Occhetto
Founded21 January 1921 (1921-01-21)
(as Communist Party of Italy)
15 May 1943 (1943-05-15)
(as Italian Communist Party)
Dissolved3 February 1991 (1991-02-03)
Preceded by Communist Party of Italy
Succeeded by Democratic Party of the Left [1] [2]
(legal successor)
Communist Refoundation Party
HeadquartersVia delle Botteghe Oscure 4, Rome
Newspaper l'Unità
Youth wing Communist Youth Federation
Membership989,708 (1991)
2,252,446 (1947) [3]
Ideology Before 1970s:
Marxism–Leninism [4] [5] [6]
After 1970s:
Revisionism [7]
Democratic socialism
Political position Before 1970s:
Left-wing to far-left [8] [9]
After 1970s:
National affiliation National Liberation Committee (1943–47)
Popular Democratic Front (1947–48)
Historic Compromise (1976–80)
European affiliation None
International affiliation Cominform (1947–56)
European Parliament group Communists and Allies (1973–89)
European United Left (1989–91)
Colours     Red
Party flag
Partito Comunista Italiano.png

The Italian Communist Party (Italian : Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) was a communist political party in Italy.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.


The PCI was founded as Communist Party of Italy on 21 January 1921 in Livorno by seceding from the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Amadeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci led the split. Outlawed during the Fascist regime, the party played a major role in the Italian resistance movement. It changed its name in 1943 to PCI and became the second largest political party of Italy after World War II, attracting the support of about a third of the vote share during the 1970s. At the time, it was the largest communist party in the West, with peak support reaching 2.3 million members, in 1947, [10] and peak share being 34.4% of the vote, in 1976.

Communist Party of Italy communist political party in Italy (1921–1943)

The Communist Party of Italy was a communist political party in Italy which existed from 1921 to 1926 when it was outlawed by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.

Livorno Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Livorno, having a population of 158,493 residents in December 2017. It was formerly known in English as Leghorn.

Italian Socialist Party Italian political party

The Italian Socialist Party was a socialist and later social-democratic political party in Italy, whose history stretched for longer than a century, making it one of the longest-living parties of the country.

In 1991, as it had travelled from doctrinaire communism to democratic socialism by the 1970s or the 1980s, [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] the PCI evolved into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), which joined the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. The more radical members of the organization formally departed to constitute the new Communist Refoundation Party (PRC).

Democratic socialism is a term used to refer to the socialist political philosophy which advocates political democracy alongside a socially owned economy, with an emphasis on workers' self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within a market or some form of a decentralised planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity and that these ideals can be achieved only through the realisation of a socialist society. Although most democratic socialists are seeking a very gradual transition to socialism, democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as a means to establish socialism.

Democratic Party of the Left Italian political party

The Democratic Party of the Left was a democratic-socialist and social-democratic political party in Italy. Founded in February 1991 as the post-communist evolution of the Italian Communist Party, the party was the largest in the Alliance of Progressives and The Olive Tree coalitions. In February 1998, the party merged with minor parties to form Democrats of the Left.

Socialist International Political international

The Socialist International (SI) is a worldwide organisation of political parties which seek to establish democratic socialism. It consists mostly of democratic socialist, social-democratic and labour political parties and other organisations.


Early years

Antonio Gramsci Gramsci.png
Antonio Gramsci

The PCI participated to its first general election in 1921 as the Communist Party of Italy, obtaining 4.6% of the vote and 15 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. At the time, it was an active yet small faction within Italian political left, which was strongly led by the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) while on the international plane it was part of Soviet-led Comintern.

1921 Italian general election

General elections were held in Italy on 15 May 1921. It was the first election in which the recently acquired regions of Trentino-Alto Adige, Venezia Giulia, Zara and Lagosta island elected deputies, many of whom from Germanic and South Slav ethnicity.

Chamber of Deputies (Kingdom of Italy)

The Chamber of Deputies of the Kingdom of Italy was the main legislative body of the Kingdom of Italy descended from the lower house of the Kingdom of Sardinia, but supplemented with deputies from territories captured during the Second Italian War of Independence and the Expedition of the Thousand. Along with the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy, it formed the Italian Parliament from 1861 until 1939.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal sovereign state in northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

In 1926, the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini outlawed the PCI. Although forced underground, the PCI maintained a clandestine presence within Italy during the years of the Fascist regime. Many of its leaders were also active in exile. During its first year as a banned party, Antonio Gramsci defeated the party's left-wing which was led by Amadeo Bordiga.

Italian Fascism Fascist ideology as developed in Italy

Italian Fascism, also known as Classical Fascism or simply Fascism, is the original fascist ideology as developed in Italy. The ideology is associated with a series of three political parties led by Benito Mussolini, namely the Revolutionary Fascist Party (PFR) founded in 1915, the succeeding National Fascist Party (PNF) which was renamed at the Third Fascist Congress on 7–10 November 1921 and ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943 and the Republican Fascist Party that ruled the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. Italian Fascism is also associated with the post-war Italian Social Movement and subsequent Italian neo-fascist movements.

Benito Mussolini Fascist leader of Italy 1922-43

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy from the fascists' takeover of state power in 1922 until 1943, and Duce from 1919 to his execution in 1945 during the Italian civil war. As dictator of Italy and founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired several totalitarian rulers such as Adolf Hitler.

Antonio Gramsci Italian writer, politician, theorist, sociologist and linguist

Antonio Francesco Gramsci was an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He attempted to break from the economic determinism of traditional Marxist thought and so is considered a key neo-Marxist. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.

Gramsci replaced Bordiga's leadership at a conference in Lyon and issued a manifesto expressing the programmatic basis of the party. However, Gramsci soon found himself jailed by Mussolini's regime and the leadership of the party passed to Palmiro Togliatti. Togliatti would lead the party until it emerged from suppression in 1944 and relaunched itself as the PCI.

Lyon Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Lyon or Lyons is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, about 470 km (292 mi) south from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) north from Marseille and 56 km (35 mi) northeast from Saint-Étienne. Inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais.

Palmiro Togliatti Italian politician

Palmiro Togliatti was an Italian politician and leader of the Italian Communist Party from 1927 until his death. He was nicknamed by his supporters Il Migliore. In 1930 he became a citizen of the Soviet Union and later he had a city in the country named after him: Tolyatti.

Post-World War II

The party played a major role during the national liberation ( Resistenza ) and in the April 1944 after the svolta di Salerno (Salerno's turn), Togliatti agreed to cooperate with King Victor Emmanuel III so the Communists took part in every government during the national liberation and constitutional period from June 1944 to May 1947. [17] The Communists' contribution to the new Italian democratic constitution was decisive. The Gullo decrees of 1944, for instance, sought to improve social and economic conditions in the countryside. [18]

Electoral and administrative endeavours

In the first general elections of 1948, the party joined the PSI in the Popular Democratic Front (FDP), but it was defeated by the Christian Democracy party. The United States spent over $10 million to support anti-PCI groups in the election. [19] Fearful of the possible FDP's electoral victory, the British and American governments also undermined the quest for justice by tolerating the efforts made by Italy's top authorities to prevent any of the alleged Italian war criminals from being extradited and taken to court. [20] [21] The denial of Italian war crimes was backed up by the Italian state, academe, and media, re-inventing Italy as only a victim of the German Nazism and the post-war Foibe massacres. [20]

The party gained considerable electoral success during the following years and occasionally supplied external support to centre-left governments, although it never directly joined a government. It successfully lobbied Fiat to set up the AvtoVAZ (Lada) car factory in the Soviet Union (1966). The party did best in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria, where it regularly won the local administrative elections; and in some of the industrialized cities of Northern Italy. At the city government level during the course of the post-war period, the PCI demonstrated (in cities like Bologna and Florence) their capacity for uncorrupt, efficient and clean government. [22] After the elections of 1975, the PCI was the strongest force in nearly all of the municipal councils of the great cities. [23]


The PCI's municipal showcase was Bologna, which was held continuously by the PCI from 1945 onwards. Amongst other measures, the local PCI administration tackled urban problems with successful programmes of health for the elderly, nursery education and traffic reform [24] while also undertaking initiatives in housing and school meal provisions. [25] From 1946 to 1956, the Communist city council built 31 nursery schools, 896 flats and 9 schools. Health care improved substantially, street lighting was installed, new drains and municipal launderettes were built and 8,000 children received subsidised school meals. In 1972, the then-mayor of Bologna, Renato Zangheri, introduced a new and innovative traffic plan with strict limitations for private vehicles and a renewed concentration on cheap public transport. Bologna's social services continued to expand throughout the early and mid-1970s. The city centre was restored, centres for the mentally sick were instituted to help those who had been released from recently closed psychiatric hospitals, handicapped persons were offered training and found suitable jobs, afternoon activities for schoolchildren were made less mindless than the traditional doposcuola (after-school activities) and school programming for the whole day helped working parents. [23] Communists administrations at a local level also helped to aid new businesses while also introducing innovative social reforms.


In Naples, the PCI government under Mayor Maurizio Valenzi (1975–1983) reduced the corruption in the affairs of local government and 333 kindergarten classrooms were opened between 1975 and 1979, compared to the 210 which had been built in the previous 30 years. [23]

From the 1950s to 1960s

Palmiro Togliatti Palmiro Togliatti Official.jpg
Palmiro Togliatti

The Soviet Union's brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 created a split within the PCI. The party leadership, including Palmiro Togliatti and Giorgio Napolitano (who in 2006 became President of the Italian Republic), regarded the Hungarian insurgents as counter-revolutionaries as reported at the time in l'Unità , the official PCI newspaper. However, Giuseppe Di Vittorio, chief of the communist trade union Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), repudiated the leadership position as did prominent party member Antonio Giolitti and Italian Socialist Party national secretary Pietro Nenni, a close ally of the PCI. Napolitano later hinted at doubts over the propriety of his decision. [26] He would eventually write in From the Communist Party to European Socialism. A Political Autobiography (Dal Pci al socialismo europeo. Un'autobiografia politica) that he regretted his justification of the Soviet intervention, but quieted his concerns at the time for the sake of party unity and the international leadership of Soviet Communism. [27] Giolitti and Nenni went on to split with the PCI over this issue. Napolitano became a leading member of the miglioristi faction within the PCI which promoted a social-democratic direction in party policy. [28]

In the mid-1960s, the United States State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 1,350,000 (4.2% of the working age population, proportionally the largest communist party in the capitalist world at the time and the largest party at all in whole Western Europe with the German Social Democratic Party). [29] United States government sources have claimed that the party was receiving $40–50 million per year from the Soviets while the United States investment in Italy was $5–6 million. [30] However, declassified information shows this to be exaggerated, [31] although the PCI relied on Soviet financial assistance more than any other communist party supported by Moscow. [31]

According to the former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin, Longo and other PCI leaders became alarmed at the possibility of a coup in Italy after the Athens Colonel Coup in April 1967. These fears were not completely unfounded as there had been two attempted coups in Italy, Piano Solo in 1964 and Golpe Borghese in 1970, by military and neo-fascist groups. The PCI’s Giorgio Amendola formally requested Soviet assistance to prepare the party in case of such an event. The KGB drew up and implemented a plan to provide the PCI with its own intelligence and clandestine signal corps. From 1967 through 1973, PCI members were sent to East Germany and Moscow to receive training in clandestine warfare and information gathering techniques by both the Stasi and the KGB. Shortly before the May 1972 elections, Longo personally wrote to Leonid Brezhnev asking for and receiving an additional $5.7 million in funding. This was on top of the $3.5 million that the Soviet Union gave the PCI in 1971. The Soviets also provided additional funding through the use of front companies providing generous contracts to PCI members. [32]

Enrico Berlinguer

Enrico Berlinguer Enrico Berlinguer.jpg
Enrico Berlinguer

In 1969, Enrico Berlinguer, PCI deputy national secretary and later secretary general, took part in the international conference of the Communist parties in Moscow, where his delegation disagreed with the "official" political line and refused to support the final report. Unexpectedly to his hosts, his speech challenged the Communist leadership in Moscow. He refused to "excommunicate" the Chinese Communists and directly told Leonid Brezhnev that the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries (which he called the "tragedy in Prague") had made clear the considerable differences within the communist movement on fundamental questions such as national sovereignty, socialist democracy and the freedom of culture. At the time, the PCI was the largest communist party in a capitalist state, garnering 34.4% of the vote in the 1976 general election.

Relationships between the PCI and the Soviet Union gradually fell apart as the party moved away from Soviet obedience and Marxist–Leninist orthodoxy in the 1970s and 1980s and toward Eurocommunism and the Socialist International. The PCI sought a collaboration with Socialist and Christian Democracy parties (the Historic Compromise). However, Christian Democrat party leader Aldo Moro's kidnapping and murder by the Red Brigades in May 1978 put an end to any hopes of such a compromise. The compromise was largely abandoned as a PCI policy in 1981. The Proletarian Unity Party merged into the PCI in 1984.

During the Years of Lead, the PCI strongly opposed the terrorism and the Red Brigades, who in turn murdered or wounded many PCI members or trade unionists close to the PCI. According to Mitrokhin, the party asked the Soviets to pressure the Czechoslovakian State Security (StB) to withdraw their support to the group, which Moscow was unable or unwilling to do. [32] This as well as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to a complete break with Moscow in 1979. In 1980, the PCI refused to participate in the international conference of communist parties in Paris although cash payments to the PCI continued until 1984. [31]


Enrico Berlinguer suffered from a stroke while giving an appassionate speech in Padua, he died on June 11 1984 and the great emotion aroused by his death pushed the PCI to his best result ever in a Elections to the European Parliament, winning over 11 millions votes. The party remained nevertheless isolated in Italy and the new secretary Alessandro Natta was too conservative to search for new ways. In May 1988 Natta was substituted by younger Achille Occhetto who wanted the PCI to join the Party of European Socialists. In November 1989 Occhetto met the Leader of the Labour Party Neil Kinnock during the fall of the Berlin wall and right there he decided to change the identity of the PCI. On November 12, 1989 he gave an improvised speech to a group of old partisans and communist militants in Bologna, saying that to save their ideals once again it would be necessary to change everything, even the name of the party. The so called Svolta della Bolognina ("Bolognina turning point") started a long debate among party cadres and militants and through the XIX Congress, held in March 1990 and the XX Congress, held in February 1991, the PCI first dissolved then refounded itself as the Partito Democratico della Sinistra or PDS. A third of the PCI membership, led by Armando Cossutta, decided to secede and formed the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista.<ref>Kertzer, David I. (1998). Politics and Symbols: The Italian Communist Party and the Fall of Communism. Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-300-07724-7.<ref>Occhetto, Achille (2013). La Gioiosa Macchina da Guerra. Editori Internazionali Riuniti. ISBN   978-8835992899.

The electoral results of the PCI in general (Chamber of Deputies) and European Parliament elections since 1921 are shown in the chart below.

Italian Communist Party
Italian Communist Party

Election results

Italian Parliament

Chamber of Deputies
Election yearVotes%Seats+/−Leader
1921 304,719 (7th)4.6
15 / 535
Amedeo Bordiga
1924 268,191 (5th)3.7
19 / 535
Antonio Gramsci
1929 Banned
0 / 535
Decrease2.svg 19
Palmiro Togliatti
1934 Banned
0 / 535
Palmiro Togliatti
1946 4,356,686 (3rd)18.9
104 / 556
Increase2.svg 104
Palmiro Togliatti
1948 8,136,637 (2nd) [lower-alpha 1] 31.0
130 / 574
Increase2.svg 26
Palmiro Togliatti
1953 6,120,809 (2nd)22.6
143 / 590
Increase2.svg 13
Palmiro Togliatti
1958 6,704,454 (2nd)22.7
140 / 596
Decrease2.svg 3
Palmiro Togliatti
1963 7,767,601 (2nd)25.3
166 / 630
Increase2.svg 26
Palmiro Togliatti
1968 8,557,404 (2nd)26.9
177 / 630
Increase2.svg 11
Luigi Longo
1972 9,072,454 (2nd)27.1
179 / 630
Increase2.svg 2
Enrico Berlinguer
1976 12,622,728 (2nd)34.4
228 / 630
Increase2.svg 49
Enrico Berlinguer
1979 11,139,231 (2nd)30.4
201 / 630
Decrease2.svg 27
Enrico Berlinguer
1983 11,032,318 (2nd)29.9
198 / 630
Decrease2.svg 3
Enrico Berlinguer
1987 10,254,591 (2nd)26.6
177 / 630
Decrease2.svg 24
Alessandro Natta
Senate of the Republic
Election yearVotes%Seats+/−Leader
1948 6,969,122 (2nd) [lower-alpha 1] 30.8
50 / 237
Palmiro Togliatti
1953 6,120,809 (2nd)22.6
56 / 237
Increase2.svg 6
Palmiro Togliatti
1958 6,704,454 (2nd)22.2
60 / 246
Decrease2.svg 4
Palmiro Togliatti
1963 6,933,842 (2nd)25.2
84 / 315
Increase2.svg 24
Palmiro Togliatti
1968 8,583,285 (2nd)30.0
101 / 315
Increase2.svg 17
Luigi Longo
1972 8,475,141 (2nd)28.1
94 / 315
Decrease2.svg 7
Enrico Berlinguer
1976 10,640,471 (2nd)33.8
116 / 315
Increase2.svg 22
Enrico Berlinguer
1979 9,859,004 (2nd)31.5
109 / 315
Decrease2.svg 7
Enrico Berlinguer
1983 9,579,699 (2nd)30.8
107 / 315
Decrease2.svg 2
Enrico Berlinguer
1987 9,181,579 (2nd)28.3
101 / 315
Decrease2.svg 6
Alessandro Natta

European Parliament

European Parliament
Election yearVotes%Seats+/−Leader
1979 10,361,344 (2nd)29.6
24 / 81
Enrico Berlinguer
1984 11,714,428 (1st)33.3
27 / 81
Increase2.svg 3
Alessandro Natta
1989 9,598,369 (2nd)27.6
22 / 81
Decrease2.svg 5
Achille Occhetto



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