MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations



Italian Socialist Party

The Socialist Party of Italy was founded in 1892 and from the very start was the scene of a sharp struggle on all basic political and tactical issues between the reformist and revolutionary trends. At its Congress in Reggio-Emilia (1912), the more outspoken reformists, who supported the war and co-operation with the government and the bourgeoisie (Ivanoe Bonomi, Leonida Bissolati and others), were expelled from the party under pressure from the Left. Prior to Italy’s entry into the First World War, the party opposed war and advocated neutrality. In December 1914 it expelled a group of reformists (among them Mussolini) for supporting the imperialist policy of the bourgeoisie and urging Italy’s entry into the war. In May 1915, when Italy did enter the war on the side of the Entente, the party split into three distinct factions: (1) the Right wing, which helped the government prosecute the war, (2) the Centrists who made up the majority of the party and pursued the policy of “non-participation in the war and no sabotage of the war”, and (3) the Left wing, which took a more resolute stand against the war but failed to organise a consistent struggle against it. The Lefts did not realise the necessity to convert the imperialist war into a civil war, or to break resolutely with the reformists. The Italian socialists held a joint conference with the Swiss socialists in Lugano (1914), took part in the international socialist conferences at Zimmerwald (1915) and Kienthal (1916), where they sided with the Centrist majority.

After the October Soclalist Revolution in Russia the Left wing of the Italian Socialist Party became more influential. The 16th party congress, held October 5-8, 1919 in Bologna, passed a decision to join the Third International. The I.S.P. delegates took part in the Second Congress of the Communist International. After the Congress, Serrati, head of the delegation and a Centrist, declared against the break with the reformists. In January 1921, at the 17th party congress in Livorno the Centrists who were in the majority refused to break with the reformists and to recognise all the terms of admittance to the Communist International. On January 21 the Left-wing delegates left the congress and founded the Communist Party of Italy.