Assessing Togliatti

Broder, David

Publisher:  Jacobin
Date Written:  16/03/2017
Year Published:  2017  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20510

Broder provides a historical perspective of Italian Communism, looking at longtime leader Palmiro Togliatti's concrete actions during his leadership and not just the party's Gramscian-inflected theoretical canon.



However, with the ebbing of the European revolutionary wave of 1916–1923 and the advent of fascism in Italy, Togliatti and Gramsci came to represent a distinct tendency in the Communist Party, advocating a more mediated strategy. They became the party's center current, and soon also the core of its organization. Where Bordiga's left maintained its revolutionary intransigence and Angelo Tasca's right advocated reunion with the Socialists, the center sought to combine "united fronts" over economic and democratic struggles with a conditional process toward rapprochement with the terzini. This matched positions now gaining ground in a Comintern losing faith that it could rapidly export the Russian Revolution abroad. After Bordiga was jailed by Mussolini in 1923, the "center" took charge of the party, also heading off the threat of Moscow imposing Tasca from above.

This early faction-fighting bore signs of themes that would define the Communists' relationship with Moscow across the next four decades, and thus Togliatti's own career. While enjoying Comintern backing, the center had arisen as an organic component of the party, making a belated and defensive response to the rise of fascism. However, the actual instrument of Gramsci and Togliatti's victory over the Left was brazen manipulation, arbitrarily counting the ballots of all delegates unable to attend the decisive 1926 congress -- held in French exile -- as votes for the "center."

Henceforth Togliatti would unwaveringly defend Soviet policy while using this loyalty to preserve his freedom of action within the PCI. This was perhaps first expressed in his refusal to pass on Gramsci's 1926 letter addressed to the Bolshevik Politburo, in which the Sardinian had even-handedly criticized the uncomradely tone set by both sides in the Stalin-Trotsky clash.
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