Raya Dunayevskaya 1956

Italian Communist Party Faces Revolt, December 8

Source: This piece appeared in Dunayevskaya’s column, “Two Worlds: Notes From A Diary” in News & Letters, Dec. 11, 1956;
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

The Italian Communist Party, scheduled to meet on December 8, is facing the first major revolt in its ranks since the end of World War II.

At that time, ten years ago, when the Italian working-class rid itself of Fascism, and moved to establish its own rule, the Communists acted as the brake on that movement. It did so “in the name of” Marxism, the theory of workers’ liberation.

It was possible for Russian totalitarianism to usurp that name for two seemingly opposed reasons:

1) Behind it was the might of the Russian State and its army and its money; and 2) America was hated as the victorious imperialist power trying to dominate Europe.

No fewer than two millions poured into the Italian Communist Party on this side of the Iron Curtain. It is different from those on the other side of the Iron Curtain which are the ruling parties in the land, like the Republicans and Democrats here. The Italian workers joined it voluntarily in the belief that they would thus overthrow hated capitalism.

An entirely new way out was shown by the Hungarian Revolution. The self-activity of the Hungarian workers and youth showed there is an alternative to Communism and to the imperialistic camp of “Western Democracy.”

Road To Independent Rule

The road to independent workers’ rule overnight shattered the myth of Communism as any equivalent to Marxism and freedom. It shattered, as well, the myth of Western Democracy aiding against Russian totalitarianism.

Thousands have already torn up their Communist Party membership cards. But the Italian Communist Party still has the biggest mass base in Western Europe. All eyes therefore are on the December convention of the Party.

Only fools like our ambassador to Italy, Clare Boothe Luce, [1] can imagine that American “democracy” will have any effect on this convention other than to maintain the Communist Party hold on the workers. The one thing the Italian workers will not accept is the old capitalistic order, whether in its fascist or so-called democratic form.

Recruiter For Communism

The biggest recruiter for Communism was McCarthyism, even as now it is the Voice of America. No one is less popular with the European masses unless it is the American labor bureaucrats who try to help sell “the American way of life” by whitewashing the Taft-Hartley act as well as discrimination as segregation against Negroes. Such laws remain the most effective weapon the Communists have to keep Italians within their fold.

Added to the Western capitalists and labor bureaucrats, are the so-called vanguard groupings who have broken with “Stalinism” but remain chained to its concept of the backwardness of the working-class itself to achieve the reorganization of society. Hence, the dependence on the Party State Plan. Because of this bureaucratic outlook, Trotskyism did not and could not become the polarizing force for workers looking for an alternative to private and state capitalism (Communism).

Bankrupt Radical Groups

These groupings have exposed the bankruptcy of their own thought by constantly talking down to the workers, and publishing papers “for” them instead of by them. They have continued to act as a “vanguard,” that is, an elite looking down upon those on the “outside.” Since those on the “inside” are very few, and those on the “outside” the great majority, they end up in nothing more than a mutual admiration society.

Now that the Hungarian Revolution has shown a new road toward freedom in practice, never was it more necessary to create a new unity of theory and practice in the manner in which Marx in his day had done by creating out of the working-class struggles his theory of liberation.

Never before has there been such need for working-class relations on a world scale, not merely on the basis of what you are against, but on the solid foundation of what you are for. Unless you stand for a society where the working people, to a man, manage production and the state, that is, run their own lives and reorganize society on such new beginnings – yielding neither to capitalists nor to any newly-formed bureaucracy – there will be no independent polarizing force facing the Italian Communist Party which will get the millions to abandon it.

– R.D

1. Claire Booth Luce (1903-1987) was a journalist and playwright who was involved in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. She was the U.S. ambassador to Italy during the Eisenhower administration.