Palmiro Togliatti

The 'Togliatti Memorandum'

Written: September 4, 1964
First Published: L'Unita, September 4, 1964
Source: Unknown
Translated: Unknown
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer
Proofread: Unknown
Copyleft: Internet Archive( 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons License.

ROME, Sept. 4 - Following is the text of a memorandum on world Communist problems prepared in Yalta before his death last month by Palmiro Togliatti, secretary general of the Italian Communist party, as translated from the Italian, with an introduction by Luigi Longo, his successor:


The memorandum that we publish on the problems of the international workers and Communist movement and its unity was concluded by Comrade Togliatti a few hours before he was struck down by the fatal illness that ended his life.

The text was to be typed while Comrade Togliatti went to Artek to visit the International Pioneers Camp. On his return he had intended to revise the typewritten manuscript.

It is known that Comrade Togliatti composed his writings with great security of expression and in a clear and precise language, without, or with very few corrections, at the most additions made in the margin. Also in his last document one is struck by this quality.

It is a testimony that, up to the very last moment, Comrade Togliatti was working in a vigorous and lucid manner. Nothing presages the coming of the atrocious illness that prevented Comrade Togliatti from looking through once again, as he had intended, his memorandum.

But we believe, also without this final revision, that we can regard the text left to us as the precise expression of his thoughts on the problems it deals with. The direction Political Committee of our party took cognizance with deep emotion of the document prepared by Comrade Togliatti.

It recognised that "in it are repeated with great clarity the views of our party regarding the present situation of the international Communist movement" and adopted it as its own.

We are therefore publishing the memorandum of Comrade Togliatti as a precise expression of the position of the party on the problems of the international workers and Communist movement and its unity.


The letter from the Soviet Communist party, with the invitation to the [December] preparatory meeting for the international [Communist] conference, reached Rome a few days before my departure. We have therefore not had the possibility of examining it at a joint meeting of the Direction (Political Committee), also because of the absence of many comrades.

We could only have a rapid exchange of ideas between some comrades of the Secretariat. The letter will be submitted to the Central Committee of the party, which is to meet in mid-September. Nevertheless, it remains clear we shall take part, and take part actively, in the preparatory meeting.

However, we retain our doubts and reservations on the opportuneness of the international conference, above all because it is now clear that a not to be ignored number of parties will not be present, apart from the Chinese party.

In this preparatory meeting, there will undoubtedly be offered the possibility for us to expound and motivate our views, also because they affect a whole series of problems of the international workers and Communist movement.

I shall make a short reference to these problems in this memorandum, also with the aim of facilitating further exchanges of ideas with you whenever this will be possible.

On the Best Way to Combat the Chinese Positions

The plan we had proposed for an effective struggle against the erroneous political lines and against the splitting activity of the Chinese Communists was different from that effectively followed. In substance, our plan was based on these points:

Never to interrupt the polemic against the positions of principle and the the political views of the Chinese.

To conduct the polemic, contrary to what the Chinese do, without verbal exacerbations and without generic condemnations, on concrete themes, in an objective and persuasive manner and always with a certain respect for the adversary.

At the same time to proceed by groups of parties to a series of meetings for a profound examination and a better definition of the tasks presenting themselves today in the different sectors of our movement (western Europe, the countries of Latin America, the countries of the third world and their contacts with the Communist movement of the capitalist countries, the countries of popular democracy, etc.).

This work should have taken place taking into account that, since 1957 and since 1960, the situation in all these sectors has seriously altered and that, without a careful collective elaboration, it is not possible to arrive at a correct definition of the common tasks of our movement.

Only after this preparation, which could take a year or more of work, could one have examined the question of an international conference that could truly be a new stage for our movement, its effective strengthening on new and correct lines. In this way we would also have been able better to isolate the Chinese Communists, to face them with a more compact front, united not only through the use of common general definitions of the Chinese line, but also because of a more profound knowledge of the common tasks of the entire movement and those concretely facing each one of its sectors.

Furthermore, once the tasks and our political line had been well-defined, sector by sector, one could also have renounced the international conference, if this were to appear necessary, in order to avoid a formal split.

Policy Questioned

A different line was pursued and I do not consider the results as altogether beneficial. Some (possibly also many) parties were expecting a conference to be convened within a short period in order to pronounce an explicit and solemn condemnation, valid for the entire movement. Their expectation may also have disorientated them.

In the meantime, the Chinese attack has been widely developed and thus their action to establish small splinter groups and to win some parties for their viewpoint. One has replied to their general attack through an ideological and propagandist polemic, not through a development of our policy linked to the struggle against the Chinese views.

Some actions have been taken in this latter direction by the Soviet Union (the signing of the Moscow agreement on nuclear tests, the visit of Comrade Khrushchev in Egypt, etc.) and they have been real and important victories obtained over the Chinese.

The Communist movement in other countries has not succeeded, however, in doing anything of this nature. To explain myself better, I am thinking, for instance, of how important would have been an international meeting, convened by some Western Communist parties, with widespread representation from the democratic countries of the "third world" and their progressive movements, in order to elaborate a concrete line of cooperation and of help to these movements. It was a way to combat the Chinese with deeds, not just with words.

In this connection, I consider to be of interest our experience as a party. In the party and on its periphery we have some small groups of comrades and sympathizers tending toward and defending the Chinese views. Some party members have had to be thrown out of our ranks because they were responsible for activity of building factions and of indiscipline.

Concrete Discussions

However, in general we conduct a broad discussion on all theses of the polemic with the Chinese within cell and section meetings and in town groups. One has the most success when one passes from examining general themes (the nature of imperialism and the state, the driving force of the revolution, etc.) to concrete questions of our current policy (struggle against the Government, criticism of the Socialist party, trade-union unity. strikes, etc.). On these themes, the Chinese polemic is completely disarmed and impotent.

From these observations, I draw the conclusion that (even if today one is already working for the international conferences) one must not abandon political initiatives helping to defeat the Chinese positions, that the terrain on which it is most easy to defeat them is that of the judgment of the concrete situation facing us today and the action to solve the problems arising in the individual sectors of our movement, in the individual parties and in the movement in general.

On the Perspectives of the Present Situation

We regard with a certain pessimism the perspectives of the present situation internationally and within our country. The situation is worse than that facing us two or three years ago.

Today there comes a more serious danger from the United States. That country is passing through a profound social crisis. The racial conflict between white and coloured people is only one aspect of this crisis. The assassination of Kennedy disclosed what point the attack of the groups could reach.

On cannot under any circumstances exclude the possibility that the Presidential elections may be won by the Republican candidate (Goldwater), who includes war in his program and speaks like a Fascist. The worst is that the offensive he conducts moves increasingly to the right the entire American political front, strengthens the tendency to seek in greater international aggressivity a way out of internal contradictions and to seek the basis for an agreement with the reactionary groups of Western Europe. This makes the general situation somewhat dangerous.

In Western Europe the situation is very differentiated. What prevails, however, as a common factor, is the process of further monopolist concentration with the Common Market as the place and the means.

American economic competition, which is becoming more intense and aggressive, helps to accelerate the process of concentration. Thus are strengthened the objective conditions for a reactionary policy tending to liquidate or limit democratic liberties, to keep alive Fascist regimes, to create authoritarian regimes, to prevent any advance of the working class and sizably to reduce its living standard.

Rivalry and contradictions about international policy are deep. The old organization of NATO is going through an obvious and grave crisis, due especially to [President] de Gaulle's policy. However, one must not have any illusions. There are certain contradictions we can exploit to the full.

Up to now, however, there does not appear within the leading groups of the Continental countries any tendency to develop in an autonomous and coherent fashion an action to lessen tension in international relations.

All these groups then move in one way or another, and to a less or greater degree, on the terrain of neo-colonialism in order to prevent the economic and political progress of the newly liberated African states.

'Acute Crises' Possible

Events in Vietnam, events in Cyprus, show how, above all, if the move to the right of the entire situation were to continue, we could suddenly be faced with very acute crises and dangers in which the entire Communist movement and all the working class and Socialist forces of Europe and the entire world would have to be involved.

It is this situation, we believe, that one must take into account in all our conduct toward the Chinese Communists. The unity of all Socialist forces in a common action, going also beyond ideological differences, against the most reactionary imperialist groups, is an indispensable necessity.

One cannot imagine that China or the Chinese Communists could be excluded from this unity. Therefore, from now onward we must behave in such a manner as not to create obstacles to attaining this objective, indeed to facilitating it.

We must not interrupt in any way the polemic, but always have as its point of departure the demonstration, on the basis of the facts of today, that the unity of the entire Socialist world and all the workers and Communist parties is necessary and can be achieved.

As regards the meeting of the preparatory committee on Dec. 15, one could already be thinking about some special initiatives. For example, the sending of a delegation composed of representatives from several parties, to expound to the Chinese comrades our intention of being united and of collaborating in the struggle against the common enemy, to present to them the problem of finding a way and concrete form for this collaboration.

In addition, one should be considering that if, as we think is necessary, our entire struggle against the Chinese positions must be conducted as a struggle for unity, the resolutions one might adopt must take account of this fact leaving aside the general negative qualifications and having, on the contrary, a strong and prevailing positive and united political content.

On the Development of Our Movement

We have always considered it to be incorrect to give a prevalently optimistic judgement of the workers and Communist movement of the Western countries.

In this part of the world, even if here and there some progress has been achieved, our development and our forces are still today inadequate for the tasks facing them, with the exception of some parties (in France, Italy, Spain, etc.) we have not yet emerged from the situation where the Communists do not succeed in pursuing a real and efficacious political action linking them with the large mass of the workers.

They confine themselves to propaganda work and do not have an effective influence on the political life in their countries. One must try with every means to overcome this phase urging the Communists to overcome their relative isolation, to play an active and continuous role in political and social reality and to take political initiatives, to become an effective mass movement.

Also for this reason, though having always regarded the Chinese views as erroneous and ruinous, we have always had (and retain them) strong reservations on the utility of an international conference dedicated solely, or mainly, to denunciations and to the struggle against these views.

This because we feared (and we fear) that in this manner the Communist parties of the capitalist countries would be pushed into the opposite direction to that necessary, that is, to enclose themselves in internal polemics of a purely ideological nature, far removed from reality.

The danger would become particularly serious if one were to arrive at a declared break within the movement, with the formation of an international Chinese Center which would create its "sections" in all countries. All the parties, and especially the weakest, would be placed in the position of devoting a large part of their activity to the polemic and to the battle against these so-called "sections" of a new "International."

This would create discouragement among the masses and the development of our movement would be gravely impaired. It is true that already today the factional efforts of the Chinese are in full swing and in almost all countries. One must prevent the quantity of these efforts becoming quality, that is, a real, general and consolidated split.

Objectively, there exist very favourable conditions for our advance in the working class, among the working masses and in social life in general. But it is necessary to know how to take advantage of, and exploit, these conditions. For this the Communists must have much political courage; they must overcome every form of dogmatism, face and resolve new problems in a new manner. They must use working methods suitable for a political and social ambient continually and rapidly changing.

New Policies Advocated

Very briefly I shall give some examples.

The crisis in the economic bourgeois world is very profound. Within the system of state monopoly capitalism quite new problems are emerging that the dominant classes no longer succeed in resolving with traditional methods.

In particular, there arises today in the largest countries the question of a centralization of economic direction, which one tries to bring about through planning from above in the interests of the large monopolies and through state intervention. This problem is on the order of the day in the entire West, and already there is talk of international planning on which the leading Common Market bodies are working.

It is clear that the workers and Democratic movement cannot be indifferent to this question. One must also fight on this terrain. This demands a development and coordination of the workers' immediate demands and of the proposals for economic structural reforms (nationalization, land reform, etc.) within a general plan of economic development to counterpose to capitalist planning. Certainly this will not yet be a Socialist plan because conditions for this are lacking, but it is a new form and a new means of struggle for advancing towards Socialism.

The possibility of a peaceful way of this advance is today closely linked to the way this problem is presented and solved. A political initiative in this direction can help us to acquire a new, large degree of influence over all strata of the population not yet won over for Socialism, but who are seeking a new path.

Realities Emphasized

Within this framework the struggle for democracy must assume a different content from that it has hitherto had. It must be more concrete, more linked to the reality of economic and social life. In fact, capitalist planning is always linked with antidemocratic and authoritarian tendencies, which it is necessary to counter through the adoption of a democratic method, also in the direction of economic life.

As the attempts at capitalist planning mature, so the trade unions' position becomes more difficult. An essential part of planning, in fact, is the so-called income policy, consisting of a series of measures designed to prevent the free development of the wage struggle with a system of control from above of the wage levels and the ban on their increase beyond a certain limit.

It is a policy designed to fail (of interest is the example of Holland), but it can fail only if the unions know how to comport themselves with decision and intelligence, linking also their immediate demands with the demands for economic reforms and with a plan of economic development corresponding to the interests of the workers and the middle class.

Isolation Deplored

In present-day conditions in the West the unions' struggle, however, can no longer be conducted in an isolated fashion, country by country. It must also be developed at the international level, with common demands and actions. And here is one of the most serious Lacunae of our movement.

Our international trade-union movement (WFTU) only conducts general propaganda. Up to now it has not taken any effective initiative for united action against the policy of the large monopolies. What has hitherto been lacking is our initiative toward the other international trade-union organizations, and this is a serious error because in these organizations there are already those who criticize and try to oppose the proposals and policies of the large monopolies.

But there are, beyond these, many other areas where we can and must act with greater courage, eradicating outmoded formulas no longer corresponding to present-day reality.

In the organized Catholic world and among the mass of the Catholics there was a clear move to the left during the time of Pope John. At the base, however, there persist the conditions and the pressure for a move to the left which we must understand and assist. For this purpose the old atheist propaganda is of no use.

"Hypocrisy" on Religion

The very problem of religious conscience, its content and its roots among the masses, how to overcome it, must be presented in a different manner from the past if we wish to reach the Catholic masses and to be understood by them. Otherwise our "stretched-out hand" to the Catholics would be regarded as pure expediency and almost as hypocrisy.

Also today in the world of culture (literature, art, scientific research, etc.) the doors are wide open for Communist penetration. In the capitalist world, in fact, such conditions are being created as to tend to destroy the liberty of intellectual life. We must become the champions of liberty of intellectual life, of free artistic creation and of scientific progress.

This requires that we do not counterpose in an abstract manner our conceptions to trends and currents of a different nature. But let us initiate a discussion with these currents and thus make effort to deepen the discussion on the cultural themes as they exist today.

Not all those who, in the various sections of culture, in philosophy, in historical and social science, are today far from us, are our enemies or agents of our enemy, It is reciprocal understanding, attained through a continual discussion, that gives us Authority end prestige and, at the same time, enables us to reveal the true enemies, the false thinkers, the charlatans of artistic expression and so on.

Communist Inaction Noted

In this area, much assistance could come to us, but it has not always arrived from the countries where we already direct the entire social life.

For reasons of brevity I shall not touch on many other subjects that could be mentioned.

On the whole we take as a starting point - and we are still convinced that one must depart from this - for the elaboration of our policy the lines of the 20th [Soviet party] congress. However, these lines must today be more elaborated and developed.

For instance, there must be deeper reflection on the theme of the possibility of a peaceful road of access to Socialism. This leads us to make clear what we understand by democracy in a bourgeois state, how one can extend the limits of liberty and of democratic institutions, and what are the most effective forms of participation for the working masses and the workers in economic and political life.

Thus arises the question of the possibility of the conquest of positions of power by the working class within a state that has not changed its character as a bourgeois state, and, therefore, whether the struggle for a progressive transformation of this nature, from within, is possible.

Sharpening of Struggle

In countries where the Communist movement is becoming strong, such as in our country (and in France), this is the basic question that today arises in the political struggle. This leads, naturally, to a sharpening of this struggle and on it depends the further perspectives.

Undoubtedly, an international conference can help toward a better solution of these problems, but essentially the task of going deeper into them and resolving them is up to the individual parties. One might even be apprehensive that the adoption of rigid, general formulas could be a hindrance.

It is my opinion that, on the line of the present historical development and its general perspectives (the advance and victory of Socialism in the whole world), the concrete forms and conditions for the advance and victory of Socialism will today and in the immediate future be very different from those of the past.

At the same time, the diversities between one country and the other are rather great. That is why every party must know how to act in an autonomous manner. The autonomy of parties, of which we are decisive champions, is not just an internal necessity for our movement but an essential condition for our development under present conditions.

Therefore, we would be against any proposal to create once again a centralized international organization. We are firm supporters of the unity of our movement and of the international workers movement, but this unity must be achieved in the diversity of our concrete political positions, conforming to the situation and degree of development in each country.

Danger of Isolation

There is naturally the danger of the isolation of the parties, one from another, and, therefore, of a certain confusion. One must fight against these dangers and, for this reason, we believe the following methods should be adopted: rather frequent contacts and exchange of experiences among the parties on a broad scale, convocation of collective meetings dedicated to studying common problems by a certain group of parties, international study meetings on general problems of economy, philosophy, history, etc.

In addition to this, we are in favour of there being discussions, also of a public nature and on themes of common interest, between single parties in a way to interest entire public opinion. This naturally requires that the debate be conducted in a correct manner, with objective argumentation, and not with the vulgarity and violence adopted by the Albanians and the Chinese.

Relations with the Movements in Colonial and Former Colonial Nations

We attribute a decisive importance for the development of our movement to the establishment of broad relations of reciprocal knowledge and collaboration between the Communist parties of the capitalist countries and the liberation movements of colonial and ex-colonial countries. However, these relations must not be created only with the Communist parties of these countries, but with all the forces struggling for independence and against imperialism, and also, as far as is possible, with governmental circles of newly liberated countries having a progressive government.

The aim should be to arrive at the elaboration of a common, concrete program against imperialism and colonialism. Contemporaneously, we must deepen further our research into the problem of the paths of development of formerly colonial countries, what the objective of Socialism means for them, and so on.

It is a question of new subjects, hitherto not faced. For this, as I have already stated, we would have welcomed with pleasure an international meeting completely dedicated to these problems. And, in any case, one will have to dedicate ever-increasing attention to them in all our work.

Problems of the Socialist World

I believe one can declare, without fearing to err, that the unbridled and shameful campaign of the Chinese and Albanians against the Soviet Union, against the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union], its leaders and, in particular, against Comrade Khrushchev, has not had among the masses results worthy of great note, despite its being exploited to the full by bourgeois and governmental propaganda, the authority and prestige of the Soviet Union, its leaders and, masses remain enormous. The crude Chinese calumnies (that the Soviet Union was becoming bourgeois, etc.) have not taken hold. On the other hand, there is some perplexity on the question of the recall of the Soviet technicians from China.

What preoccupies the masses and also (at least in our country) a by no means small proportion of Communists is the fact in itself of such an acute clash between two countries that have become Socialist through the victory of two great revolutions. That fact brings under discussion the very principles of Socialism, and we must make a great effort to explain what the historical and political conditions of the parties and personalities are that have contributed to creating the present-day difference and conflict.

To this one must add that in Italy there exist large areas inhabited by poor peasants among whom the Chinese revolution became rather popular as a peasants' revolution. This forces the party to discuss the Chinese views, to criticize and reject them, also in public meeting. On the contrary, nobody pays any attention to the Albanians, even if we have in the south some ethnic groups whose language is Albanian.

Problems of Socialism

Beyond the conflict with the Chinese there are, however, other problems of the Socialist world to which we ask that attention be paid.

It is not correct to refer to the Socialist countries (including the Soviet Union) as if everything were always going well in them. This is the mistake, for instance, in that section of the 1960 declaration dealing with these countries. In fact, there continually arise in all the Socialist countries difficulties, contradictions and new problems that must be presented in their effective reality.

The worst is to give the impression that everything is always going well, while suddenly we find ourselves faced with the necessity of referring to difficult situations and explaining them.

But it is not merely a matter of single events. It is the entire problem of the Socialist economic structure and policy which, in the West, is known in a far too summary manner and often also in an elementary fashion. There is a lack of knowledge about the differences in the situation between the different countries, the various methods of planning and their progressive transformation, of the methods adopted and the difficulties, arising about economic integration among the various countries, and so on.

Open Debates Suggested

Some situations appear hard to understand. In many cases one has the impression there are differences of opinion among the leading groups, but one does not understand if this is really so and what the differences are. Perhaps it could be useful in some cases for the Socialist countries also to conduct open debates on current problems, the leaders also taking part. Certainly, this would contribute to a growth in the authority and prestige of the Socialist regime itself.

The criticism of Stalin, there is no need to hide this, has left rather deep traces. The most serious thing is a certain degree of scepticism with which also some of those close to us greet reports of new economic and political successes.

Beyond this must be considered in general as unresolved the problem of the origin of the cult of Stalin and how this became possible. To explain this solely through Stalin's serious personal defects is not completely accepted.

There is an attempt to investigate what could have been the political errors that contributed to giving rise to the cult. This debate is taking place among historians and qualified cadres of the party.

We do not discourage it because it helps toward a more profound awareness of the history of the revolution and its difficulties. However, we advise prudence in coming to conclusions and the taking into account of publication and research in the Soviet Union.

Restraints Denounced

The problem that claims greater attention, one affecting as much the Soviet Union as the other Socialist countries, however, is today, especially that of overcoming the regime of restrictions and suppression of democratic and personal freedom introduced by Stalin.

Not all the Socialist countries present the same picture. The general impression is that of a slowness and resistance in returning to the Leninist norms that insured, within the party and outside it, a wide liberty of expression and debate on culture, art and also on politics.

This slowness and resistance is for us difficult to explain, above all in consideration of the present conditions when there is no longer capitalist encirclement and economic construction has had tremendous successes.

We always start from the idea that Socialism is the regime in which there is the widest freedom for the workers, that they in fact participate in an organized manner in the direction of the entire social life. Therefore, we greet all positions of principle and all facts showing us that this is the reality in all the Socialist countries and not only in the Soviet Union. On the other hand, events that sometimes disclose the contrary to us damage the entire movement.

Revival of Nationalism

A fact worrying us, and one we do not succeed in explaining fully, is the manifestation among the Socialist countries of a centrifical tendency. In this lies an evident and serious danger with which the Soviet comrades should concern themselves.

Without doubt there is a revival of nationalism. However, we know that the national sentiment remains a permanent factor in the working class and Socialist movement for a long period, also after the conquest of power.

Economic progress does not dispel this, it nurtures it. Also in the Socialist camp perhaps (I underline this perhaps because many concrete facts are unknown to us) one needs to be on one's guard against the forced exterior uniformity and one must consider that the unity one ought to establish and maintain lies in the diversity and full autonomy of the individual countries.

In conclusion, we consider that also as regards the Socialist countries one needs the courage to face with a critical spirit many situations and many problems if one wishes to create the basis for a better comprehension and a closer unity of our entire movement.

On the Italian Situation

I ought to add many things to give exact information on the situation in our country. But these notes are already too long and I ask to be excused for this. It is better to deal with matters exclusively Italian through verbal explanations and information.