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International Socialism, Spring 1966


Gus Tomlinson

[Italian Socialism]


From The Notebook, International Socialism, No.24, Spring 1966, pp.7-8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Gus Tomlinson writes: ‘The PSI is now definitely inserted in the democratic system. We have “acquired” the Centre-Left.’ So said Mariano Rumor, General Secretary of the Italian Christian Democrat Party (DC), and all the actions of the Nenni wing of the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) substantiate this. All-out opposition has been replaced by entrism, and by the PSI’s uncritical acceptance of the ideology and attitudes of the DC, generating wide confusion among the Italian Left. Nenni and his associates in and out of the Government deprecate the ‘abstract character’ of their old programmes. They now claim to believe in ‘gradual reforms’ even though the conditions for attaining them have changed since they entered the first Centre-Left Government in 1962. Then Italy was undergoing a phase of expansion and affluence. Now however the country faces a payments type of crisis of the kind becoming common throughout Europe – unemployment steadily increases (over one million in September, four per cent above the preceding month), and demands for an ‘incomes policy’ are increasingly voiced in the press. Yet Nenni himself still believes in the ‘reform of the State’ (November 1965), even though his programme, the implementation of which was one of the conditions of the Coalition, was blocked by the DC as long ago as September 1962.

From its defensive posture after the fall of the Tambroni Government in 1962, the DC has now moved into the attack. Rumor himself has outlined the basic policies of the Centre-Left Government, and thus the PSI leadership, as follows:

  1. to reform the public sector so that it is more efficient (shades of Beeching);
  2. to prevent public intervention suffocating private initiative;
  3. to co-ordinate the State-controlled industries;
  4. to orient the private sector to provide better incentives.

To help this Centre-Left policy along, Nenni and Saragat (of the Social Democrat Party) debated forming a ‘new left’ on the basis of complete diassociation from the Communists and ‘a rational incomes policy,’ still to be worked out. This ‘new left’ was to take the British Labour Party as its model! The main outstanding difference left between the DC and the Nenni socialists is in foreign policy. The PSI has not yet endorsed the DC’s support of the American war in Vietnam, but purely on the grounds that ‘NATO is a purely defensive alliance, and should limit itself to the Atlantic’ (Nenni, 17 December).

The most important effect of the ‘social-democratisation’ of the PSI has been that it has led to increased attempts at unity between the Communists (PCI) and the dissident Socialist breakaway, the Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP). The PSIUP leader, Vecchietti, called his party the ‘critical conscience of the PCI,’ while also referring to his party’s policy as ‘socialist internationalism.’ This last reference leaves the door open to the dissident PSI minority under Lombardi. Vecchietti maintains that the PSIUP can find itself on the right or the left of the PCI, according to whether the PCI pursues a maximalist or an opportunist position respectively. Vittorio Foa, secretary of CGIL (the Communist trade-union federation), has been more direct in his perception of the new situation brought about by PSI-Social Democrat collaboration. He is seeking to reorganise the fragments of the Italian Left against ‘the organisation of the agreement of workers to the politics of capitalist stabilisation,’ directing his attention at the Lombardi minority.

The PCI response to the PSIUP advances has been in two parts, one from the Ingrao ‘extremists,’ the other from the ‘tacticians’ of Amendola (true leader of the PCI Parliamentary group). Amendola is intent on forming the new ‘unitary party’ on his own terms and will tolerate no ‘indiscipline and disbelief.’ Ingrao, however, seems to be making a genuine attempt to form an alliance with the PSIUP and the Lombardi faction (not many months ago, he even included the ‘Catholic Left’ in this attempt).

It is instructive to note that the last resignation of the Centre-Left coalition as government was brought about by a Right-wing revolt on a bill to create State nursery schools in place ef the present Church schools. It demonstrates the inability of the coalition to realise any of its reforms or resolve any of the problems facing Italy at the moment. When this becomes clear to the disillusioned members of the PSI, they may then flock to the PSIUP, leaving the DC to form a coalition with the monarchists, neo-fascists, Republicans, and, even, the Social Democrats.

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