Palmiro Togliatti

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Palmiro Togliatti
General Secretary of the
Italian Communist Party
In office
May 1938 August 1964
Preceded by Ruggero Grieco
Succeeded by Luigi Longo
In office
November 1926 January 1934
Preceded by Antonio Gramsci
Succeeded by Ruggero Grieco
Italian Minister of Justice
In office
21 June 1945 1 July 1946
Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi
Preceded byUmberto Tupini
Succeeded by Fausto Gullo
Deputy Prime Minister of Italy
In office
12 December 1944 21 June 1945
Prime Minister Ivanoe Bonomi
Preceded byHimself(in June 1944)
Succeeded by Manlio Brosio
Pietro Nenni
In office
24 April 1944 18 June 1944
Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byHimself
Giulio Rodinò (in Dec. 1944)
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
8 May 1948 21 August 1964
Constituency Lazio – XV
Personal details
Born(1893-03-26)26 March 1893
Genoa, Kingdom of Italy
Died21 August 1964(1964-08-21) (aged 71)
Yalta, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, USSR
Nationality Italian
Political party Italian Socialist Party
Communist Party of Italy
Italian Communist Party
Spouse(s)Rita Montagnana
(1924–1948; separated)
Domestic partner Nilde Iotti (1948–1964; his death)
Relations Eugenio Giuseppe Togliatti (brother)
Maria Cristina Togliatti (sister)
ChildrenAldo Togliatti (1925–2011)
Marisa Malagoli
(1944–present; adopted)
Residence Modena, Emilia-Romagna
Alma mater University of Turin
Signature Togliatti Signature.png

Palmiro Togliatti (Italian:  [palˈmiːro toʎˈʎatti] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 26 March 1893 – 21 August 1964) was an Italian politician and leader of the Italian Communist Party from 1927 until his death. He was nicknamed by his supporters Il Migliore ("The Best"). [1] In 1930 he became a citizen of the Soviet Union [2] and later he had a city in the country named after him: Tolyatti.

Italians nation and ethnic group native to Italy

The Italians are a Romance ethnic group and nation native to the Italian peninsula and its neighbouring insular territories. Most Italians share a common culture, history, ancestry or language. Legally, all Italian nationals are citizens of the Italian Republic, regardless of ancestry or nation of residence and may be distinguished from people of Italian descent without Italian citizenship and from ethnic Italians living in territories adjacent to the Italian Peninsula without Italian citizenship. The majority of Italian nationals are speakers of Italian, or a regional variety thereof. However, many of them also speak another regional or minority language native to Italy; although there is disagreement on the total number, according to UNESCO there are approximately 30 languages native to Italy.

Italian Communist Party communist political party in Italy (1943–1991)

The Italian Communist Party was a communist political party in Italy.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in 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 centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.


Togliatti was a founding member of the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d’Italia, PCI), and from 1927 until his death, he was the Secretary and the undisputed leader of the Italian Communist Party, except for a period from 1934 to 1938 in which he had been the representative in the Comintern, the international organization of the communist parties. After the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 and the formation of the Cominform in 1947, he refused the post of Secretary General, offered to him directly by Stalin in 1951, preferring to remain at the head of the PCI.

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.

Cominform organization

Founded on October 5, 1947, Cominform is the common name for what was officially referred to as the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties. It was the first official forum of the International Communist Movement since the dissolution of the Comintern and confirmed the new realities after World War II, including the creation of an Eastern Bloc.

From 1944 to 1945 Togliatti held the post of Deputy Prime Minister and from 1945 to 1946 he was appointed Minister of Justice in the governments that ruled Italy after the fall of Fascism. He was also a member of the Constituent Assembly of Italy.

Deputy Prime Minister of Italy position in Italian Government

The Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, officially Vice-President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, is a senior member of the Italian Cabinet. Moreover, it is often colloquially known as Vicepremier. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices to give seniority to a particular Cabinet minister. The office is currently held by Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, under Giuseppe Conte's premiership.

This is a list of the Italian Ministers of Justice since 1946. The Minister of Justice is a senior member of the Italian Cabinet and leads the Ministry of Justice.

Constituent Assembly of Italy parliamentary chamber tasked with writing a constitution for the Italian Republic

The Italian Constituent Assembly was a parliamentary chamber which existed in Italy from 25 June 1946 until 31 January 1948. It had the task to write a constitution for the Italian Republic, which had replaced the Kingdom of Italy after the Italian civil war.

Togliatti survived an assassination attempt in 1948, and died in 1964, during a holiday in Crimea on the Black Sea.

Crimea Peninsula in the Black Sea

Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe that is almost completely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. It is located south of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, to which it is connected by the Isthmus of Perekop, and west of the Russian region of Kuban, from which it is separated by the Strait of Kerch though linked by the Crimean Bridge. The Arabat Spit is located to the northeast, a narrow strip of land that separates a system of lagoons named Sivash from the Sea of Azov. Across the Black Sea to its west is Romania and to its south Turkey.

Black Sea Marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and Asia

The Black Sea is a body of water and marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean between the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Western Asia. It is supplied by a number of major rivers, such as the Danube, Dnieper, Southern Bug, Dniester, Don, and the Rioni. Many countries drain into the Black Sea, including Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Early life and family

Palmiro Togliatti was born in Genoa into a middle-class family. His father Antonio was an accountant for the Public Administration, while his mother Teresa Vitale was a teacher. [3]

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

The father's job forced the Togliattis to move frequently to different cities. Before the birth of Palmiro they moved from Turin to Genoa. He was named "Palmiro" because he was born on the day of Palm Sunday; Togliatti's parents were observant Roman Catholics.

Turin Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Turin is a city and an important business and cultural centre in northern Italy. It is the capital city of the Metropolitan City of Turin and of the Piedmont region, and was the first capital city of Italy from 1861 to 1865. The city is located mainly on the western bank of the Po River, in front of Susa Valley, and is surrounded by the western Alpine arch and Superga Hill. The population of the city proper is 878,074 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 1.7 million inhabitants. The Turin metropolitan area is estimated by the OECD to have a population of 2.2 million.

Palm Sunday Christian feast

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels.

Palmiro Togliatti had one sister, Maria Cristina, and two brothers, Enrico and Eugenio Giuseppe. Eugenio became a mathematician and discovered Togliatti surfaces. [4]

In 1908 he studied in the classical lyceum "Azuni" in Sassari, where he was recognised as the best student in the school. [5]

His father Antonio died on 21 January 1911 of cancer and the family ended up in poverty; but thanks to a scholarship, Togliatti was able to graduate from the University of Turin in law in 1917.

In 1914 Togliatti began his political life in the Italian Socialist Party prior to the First World War. He served as a volunteer officer during the war, and was wounded in action and sent home to recuperate.

L'Ordine Nuovo

Returning at the end of the conflict, Togliatti was a part of the group around Antonio Gramsci's L'Ordine Nuovo paper in Turin, while working as a tutor.

Like the other founders of L'Ordine Nuovo, Togliatti was an admirer of the Russian Revolution and strongly supported the immediate creation of soviets in Italy. He believed that existing factory councils of workers could be strengthened so that they could become the basis of a communist coup. [6] [7]

Initially, the newspaper, which was founded with union backing, focused on cultural politics, but in June 1919, the month following its founding, Gramsci and Togliatti pushed Tasca out and re-focused as a revolutionary voice. [8] The newspaper reached a circulation of 6,000 by the end of the year and its reputation was heightened by its support of the April 1920 general strike, which the Socialist Party and the affiliated General Confederation of Labour did not support. [9] On 1 January 1921 the paper began to be published daily. [10]

Communist Party of Italy

Togliatti in the 1920s. Il giovane Togliatti.jpg
Togliatti in the 1920s.

Togliatti was a member of the Communist Faction of the PSI, which was part of the Communist International, commonly known as the Comintern. On 21 January 1921, following a split in the Socialist Party on their 17th Congress in Livorno, he was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Italy. The PCdI was formed by L'Ordine Nuovo group led by Gramsci and the "culturalist" faction led by Angelo Tasca. [11]

In 1923, some members of the party were arrested and put on trial for "conspiracy against the State". This allowed the intense activity of the Communist International to deprive the party's left wing of authority and give control to the minority centre which had aligned with Moscow. In 1924 and 1925, the Comintern began a campaign of "Bolshevisation" which forced each party to conform to the discipline and orders of Moscow.

Fascist regime

Togliatti during 1920s Togliatti giovane.jpg
Togliatti during 1920s

In October 1922, Benito Mussolini, leader of the National Fascist Party, took advantage of a general strike by workers and announced his demands to the government to give the Fascist Party political power or face a coup. With no immediate response, a small number of Fascists began a long trek across Italy to Rome which was called the March on Rome, claiming to Italians that Fascists were intending to restore law and order. Mussolini himself did not participate until the very end of the march, with Gabriele d'Annunzio at being hailed as leader of the march until it was learned he had been pushed out of a window and severely wounded in a failed assassination attempt, depriving him of the possibility of leading an actual coup d'état orchestrated by an organization founded by himself.

The Fascists, under the leadership of Mussolini, demanded Prime Minister Luigi Facta's resignation and that Mussolini be named Prime Minister. Although the Italian Army was far better armed than the Fascist paramilitaries, the Italian government under King Victor Emmanuel III faced a political crisis. The King was forced to choose which of the two rival movements in Italy would form the government: Mussolini's Fascists, or the anti-monarchist Italian Socialist Party. He selected the Fascists and appointed Mussolini new Prime Minister. [12] [13]

In August 1923 Mussolini pushed through Parliament a new electoral law, the Acerbo Law, which assigned two-thirds of the seats to the list that had exceeded 25% of the votes. Togliatti wrote that "fascism will, gained power, dispersing the proletarians aggregates, prevent their unification on any terrain and cause a unification around it instead of the bourgeois political groups. [14]

In the 1924 general election the National List of Mussolini (an alliance with Liberals and Conservatives) used intimidation tactics, [15] resulting in a landslide victory and a subsequent two-thirds majority; while the Communist Party gained only 3.74% of votes and 19 seats.

In 1926, when the party was banned by the Italian Fascist government in 1926, Amedeo Bordiga and Gramsci were arrested and imprisoned on the island of Ustica. Togliatti was one of few leaders not to be arrested, as he was attending a meeting of the Comintern in Moscow.


In 1927, Togliatti was elected General Secretary in place of Gramsci.

In exile during the late 1920s and the 1930s, he organized clandestine meetings of the PCd'I at Lyon (1926) and Cologne (1931). In 1927 he took the position of Secretary of the party.

In 1935, under the nom de guerre Ercole Ercoli, he was named member of the secretariat of the Comintern. In 1939, he was arrested in France: released, he moved to the Soviet Union and, remained there during World War II, broadcasting radio messages to Italy, in which he called for resistance to Nazi Germany and the Italian Social Republic.

Secretary of the Italian Communist Party

"Salerno turn" and shooting

Togliatti with a copy of L'Unita newspaper, in 1950s. Togliatti Unita.jpg
Togliatti with a copy of L'Unità newspaper, in 1950s.

In 1944 Togliatti returned to Italy, and led his PCI and other political forces to the so-called Svolta di Salerno, the "Salerno Turn". This was a compromise between antifascist parties, the monarchy and prime minister Pietro Badoglio to set up a government of national unity and to postpone institutional questions. The PCI committed to supporting democracy and to abandon the armed struggle for the cause of Socialism. In effect, the turn moved the party to the right, in contrast with many demands from within; it also meant the disarmament of those members of the Italian resistance movement that had been organized by the PCI (the Garibaldi Brigades). Togliatti served from December 1944 as Deputy Prime Minister and then from June 1945 as Justice Minister.

After having been minister without portfolio in the Pietro Badoglio government, he acted as vice-premier under Alcide De Gasperi in 1945. In opposition to the dominant line in his own party, he voted for the inclusion of the Lateran Pacts in the Italian Constitution. At the 1946 general election, held at the same time as the Constitutional Referendum won by republican supporters, the PCI obtained 19% of the votes and 104 seats in the new Constituent Assembly.

Togliatti during a Communist rally. Palmiro Togliatti comizio.jpg
Togliatti during a Communist rally.

Communist ministers were evicted during the May 1947 crisis. The same month, Maurice Thorez, head of the French Communist Party (PCF), was forced to quit Paul Ramadier's government along with the four other communist ministers. As in Italy, the PCF was very strong, taking part in the Three parties alliance (Tripartisme) and scoring 28.6% at the November 1946 elections.

In 1948, Togliatti led the PCI in the first democratic election after World War II. [16] He lost to the Christian Democrat party (DC – Democrazia Cristiana) after a highly confrontational campaign in which the United States, viewing him as a Cold War enemy, played a large part. [17] Allied with the PCI in the Popular Democratic Front, the left-wing achieved 31% of the votes.

On 14 July 1948, Togliatti was shot three times, being severely wounded by Antonio Pallante, a strongly anti-communist fascist student[ citation needed ]; his life hung in the balance for days and news about his condition was uncertain, causing an acute political crisis in Italy (which included a general strike called by the Italian General Confederation of Labour). [18] Carlo Lucarelli's Via delle oche, the final book in his De Luca trilogy, contains a vivid fictionalized account of that day.

1950s and 1960s

A portrait of Togliatti in 1950s. Togliatti.jpg
A portrait of Togliatti in 1950s.

Under his leadership, the PCI became the second largest party in Italy, and the largest non-ruling communist party in Europe. Although permanently in the opposition at the national level during Togliatti's lifetime, the party ran many municipalities and held great power at the local and regional level in certain areas.

In 1953, he fought against the so-called "cheat or swindle law", an electoral legislation passed by the Christian Democracy-led majority of the time, which aimed at using first past the post to augment the center-right's power. Ultimately, the law was to prove of no use for the government in the elections of that year, where Togliatti's PCI won 22.6% of the vote. It was repealed in November 1953.

Despite his close relationship with the Soviet Union, Togliatti's leadership remained unscathed after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (which was in most countries a cause for major conflicts within the left). He developed and named the polycentrism theory (unity in diversity within the communist parties in all countries). In the 1958 elections, the number of Communist votes was still on the rise. In the 1963 elections, the PCI gained 25.2% of the votes but again failed to reach a relative majority.

Death and legacy

Togliatti and Nilde Iotti, before 1964. Togliatti Iotti.jpg
Togliatti and Nilde Iotti, before 1964.

Togliatti died as a result of cerebral haemorrhage [19] while vacationing with his companion Nilde Iotti in Yalta, then in the Soviet Union. According to some of his collaborators, Togliatti was traveling to the Soviet Union in order to give his support to Leonid Brezhnev's election as Nikita Khrushchev's successor at the head of Communist Party of the Soviet Union. His favourite pupil, Enrico Berlinguer, was later elected as his successor to the National Secretary of the PCI position, though Berlinguer's time in office saw the rejection of key policies advocated by Togliatti.

The Russian city of Stavropol-on-Volga, where Togliatti had been instrumental in establishing the AutoVAZ (Lada) automobile manufacturing plant in collaboration with Fiat, was renamed Tolyatti (as transliterated from Тольятти, the Russian spelling of his name) in his honor in 1964, after his death.

Agarossi and Zaslavsky (2011) argue that Togliatti and the other leaders of the PCI were fundamentally subservient to Stalin, and did their best to promote Soviet interests. They argue Togliatti was above all a Stalinist, and that he remained one for years after Stalin died in 1953 and the Soviet Union had repudiated much of his legacy. They argue that it was Stalin who ordered Togliatti to play a moderating role in Italian politics because the time was not yet ripe for a showdown with capitalism. Agarossi and Zaslavsky rely not only on Togliatti's papers but those of the Kremlin, especially the highly detailed reports sent in by the Soviet ambassador in Rome. Stalin forced the PCI to reject and work against the Marshall Plan, despite the loss of much support from Italian voters who wanted the American aid. [20]


The Italian language eight-volume collection of works, published by Editori Riuniti, Rome.

See also

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  2. Togliatti e Stalin
  3. P. Togliatti, intervista a «Noi donne», 20 agosto 1964.
  4. Accademia delle Scienze di Torino. Classe di scienze fisiche, matematiche naturali; Reale accademia delle scienze di Torino. Classe di scienze fisiche, mathematiche e naturali (1978). Atti della Accademia delle scienze di Torino: Classe di scienze fisiche, matematiche e naturali. pp. 367 ff. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  5. Giovanni Maria Cherchi, Togliatti a Sassari 1908-1911; Togliatti inedito, in «Rinascita sarda», 1-15 aprile 1971 e Aldo Agosti, Togliatti, 2003, p. 6.
  6. Lindemann, p. 56
  7. Lindemann, p. 58
  8. Bellamy, pp. xviii-xix
  9. Bellamy, p. xix
  10. Marcel Danesi (17 June 2013). Encyclopedia of Media and Communication. University of Toronto Press. p. 488. ISBN   978-1-4426-9553-5 . Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  11. Bellamy, p. xxv
  12. Charles Keserich, "The Fiftieth Year of the" March on Rome": Recent Interpretations of Facism." History Teacher (1972) 6#1 pp: 135-142 JSTOR   492632.
  13. Giulia Albanese, "Reconsidering the March on Rome," European History Quarterly (2012) 42#3 pp 403-421.
  14. P. Togliatti, Dopo la riforma elettorale, in «lo Stato Operaio», 16 agosto 1923.
  15. Nohlen & Stöver, p1033
  16. How to Hang On, Time, April 19, 1948
  17. The Battle Continues, Time, May 3, 1948
  18. Blood on the Cobblestones, Time, July 26, 1948
  19. Agosti, Aldo. Palmiro Togliatti: A Biography. London: I. B. Tauris. pp. 291–292. ISBN   1-84511-726-3 . Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  20. Elena Agarossi and Victor Zaslavsky, Stalin and Togliatti: Italy and the Origins of the Cold War (2011) ch 3, 6

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Umberto Tupini
Italian Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Fausto Gullo
Assembly seats
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Constituent Assembly of Italy
Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies

Succeeded by
Title jointly held
Party political offices
Preceded by
Antonio Gramsci
Secretary of the Italian Communist Party
Succeeded by
Luigi Longo