Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

Work in Progress

The Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, Italy

The Centro Studi Pietro Tresso was founded in October 1983 – on the basis of the commitment and cooperation of left-minded people with different political orientations – in order to collect archival material of the Italian and international Trotskyist movements and to make the history and political heritage of that movement known to younger generations. Such work is especially necessary in Italy, a country where the history of the workers’ movement has always been censored and falsified both by Social Democracy and, above all, by Stalinism.

It should also be said that a genuine revolutionary Marxist tradition did not exist in Italy for such a long time. The Italian CP’s ‘Bolshevism’ was flawed since its inception (1921) by Bordiga’s ultra-leftism, and subsequently by Gramsci’s bureaucratic-centrist positions which paved the way for the CP’s final line up with Stalinism in 1929-30. Italian Trotskyism – which emerged in 1930 as a belated response to the CP’s degeneration under the leadership of Togliatti – represented only a tiny handful of comrades in forced political emigration in France up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Later on a Trotskyist organisation was built in 1943 on Italian soil, but it was eventually expelled from the Fourth International in 1948 due to the fact that a Bordigist current – with which Italian Trotskyists had merged on an unprincipled basis – had taken control of the party. The subsequent history of Trotskyism in Italy is heavily marked by the centrist leadership of Livio Maitan, who became Pablo’s Italian spokesman in the 1950s and imparted a quite unfruitful ‘deep entryist’ course to the organisation between 1952 and 1969. Beginning from the mid-1970s the Italian ‘Trotskyist movement’ suffered a series of splits, and it is represented today by some seven competing grouplets with no mass basis and no real following among the working class.

Little of Trotsky’s works are known to Italian-speaking people, first and foremost those relating to the struggle for the Fourth International. Only a few booklets by the Old Man have been published in Italy over the last 10 years or so – the last of them being Before 9 January, issued in 1982. After that date, only the Italian study centre has published some writings by Trotsky.

This kind of publication work is entirely consistent with the tasks the Centro Pietro Tresso intends to, carry on. Its founders took their first steps starting from the basic assumption that the building of a genuinely Communist organisation and the training of Marxist cadres are unthinkable without a reassessment of continuity with the old revolutionary movement. It is to the solution of that vital task that the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso seeks to make a positive contribution by making available to the Italian-speaking public the relevant literature of the Trotskyist movement.

Besides that, the field of research of the Italian study centre includes other topics such as, for example, the history of the first years of the Italian CP and the dispute between Bordiga and Gramsci, the history of the Communist Left (Bordigist), the development of Stalinism and Social Democracy in Italy, the political history of the Second World War with a special reference to the final stage of the conflict, 1943-45, and to the dissident leftist groups which surfaced in Italy during that period, etc.

In 1986 the Italian study centre launched the magazine Quaderni del Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, two series of which are being published – From the Archives of Bolshevism and Studies and Researches.

Four issues of the From the Archives of Bolshevism series have been published so far:

  • No.1, March 1986: Lev Trotsky, Agoniya kapitalizma i zadachi Chetvertogo Internatsionala (Mobilizatsiya mass vokrug perekhodnikh trebovany kak podgotovka k zavoevaniyu vlasti). This is the original Russian text of the main document adopted by the founding conference of the Fourth International in 1938, which was to be known as the Transitional Programme.
  • No.2, May 1988: V.I. Lenin and L. Trotsky, In lotta contro to stalinismo. La vera storia del ‘testamento’ di Lenin. This includes Russell Block’s introduction to Lenin’s Fight Against Stalinism (Pathfinder Press, New York 1975, pp.528), Lenin’s Testament, the first Italian translation of Trotsky’s On Lenin’s Testament dated 31 December 1932, and an appendix by Pierre Frank on Lenin’s Last ‘Emotion’ (originally appearing in Quatrième Internationale No.1, July-September 1980, pp.129-135).
  • No.3, July 1988: Raya Dunayevskaya, Trotsky, l’uomo. This includes an introduction by Paolo Casciola, Raya’s 1938 article The Man Trotsky, 27 letters exchanged between Raya and Trotsky in 1937-39 (all letters by Raya and four letters by Trotsky are published here for the first time in any language), an obituary of Raya by Michael Connolly and Olga Domanski (from News and Letters No.11, 25 July 1987), and a bibliogiaphy of Raya’s writings published in Italian.
  • No.4, November 1989: Lev Trotsky, La Quarta Internazionale a la guerra (10 giugno 1934). This is the first Italian translation of Trotsky’s 1934 theses The Fourth International and the War, with an introductory note and a full apparatus of notes by Paolo Casciola.

Sixteen issues of the Studies and Researches series have been published so far:

  • No.1, May 1986: Paolo Casciola, Appunti di storia del trotskysmo italiano (1930-1945). A collection of articles dealing with the first 15 years of the history of Italian Trotskyism.
  • Nos.2, 4, 5, 8, 10 and 16, June, September and November 1987, October and December 1988, June 1989: Arturo Peregalli, L’altra Resistenza. Il PCI ale opposizioni di sinistra in Italia 1943-1945. These are the first six instalments of a detailed book on several political organisations existing to the left of the Italian CP during the ‘civil war’ period, which opposed the ‘national unity’ policy followed by Togliatti under Stalin’s diktat. It includes a chapter on the Communist Workers Party, which was recognised as the Italian section of the Fourth International early in 1945.
  • No.3, July 1987: Paolo Casciola, Il trotskysmo a la rivoluzione in Italia (1943-1944). This is an essay on the first steps of the building of a Trotskyist organisation on Italian soil, and on the policy it carried on during two crucially important years. It includes the European Provisional Secretariat’s manifesto To the Italian Workers, Peasants, and Soldiers dated 8 August 1943.
  • No.6, January 1988: Zygmunt Zaremba, 1944: La Comune di Varsavia. Tradita da Stalin, massacrata da Hitler. This is a booklet on the 1944 Warsaw uprising written by a leader of the Polish SP’s left wing, with an introduction by Paolo Casciola.
  • No.7, August 1988: Arturo Peregalli, Antonio Gramsci. Idealismo, produttivismo e nazione. A Bordigist critique of certain basic features of Gramsci’s thought.
  • No.9, November 1988: Diego Giachetti, Alle origini dei Gruppi Comunisti Rivoluzionari 1947-1950. Una pagina di storia del trotskysmo italiano. This is the first part of a continuing research into the Livio Maitan-led Revolutionary Communist Groups, which became the Italian section of the Fourth International in the early 1950s. It includes an introduction by Paolo Casciola on The Troubled Relations between the [Italian] Communist Workers Party and the Fourth International 1946-1948.
  • No.11, January 1989: Richard B. Day, La teoria dei cicli lunghi. Kondratiev, Trotsky, Mandel. This is an essay on the theory of long cycles and Trotsky’s criticism of Kondratiev, and Mandel with respect to it (from New Left Review No.99, September-October 1976, pp67-82). It includes as an appendix Trotsky’s The Curve of Capitalist Development dated 21 June 1923.
  • No.12, February 1989: Ante Ciliga, Come Tito si impadroni del Partito Comunista Jugoslavo. This pamphlet deals with the history of Tito’s rise to the head of the Yugoslav CP. Written by one of the founders of Yugoslav Trotskyism, it is introduced by a long essay on the origins of Yugoslav Bolshevism-Leninism by Paolo Casciola.
  • No.13, March 1989: Archivio Gambino-Verdoja, Catalogo. Materiali per una storia dei Gruppi Comunisti Rivoluzionari 1949-1975. Prefaced by Diego Giachetti, this is a catalogue of the personal archives collected by two members of the Turin branch of the Livio Maitan-led Revolutionary Communist Groups.
  • No.14, April 1989: Andy Cleminson and Keith Hassell, Antonio Gramsci a la tradizione rivoluaionaria. A survey of Gramsci’s life and ideas written by two members of the British Workers Power Group (from Permanent Revolution No.6, Autumn 1987, pp.58-84). It includes a previously unpublished postscript by Keith Hassell.
  • No.15, May 1989: Peter Fryer, La tragedia ungherese. 1956: Cronaca di una rivolta proletaria contro la burocrazia stalinista. This is a reprint of the first (1957) Italian edition of Fryer’s Hungarian Tragedy. It includes the author’s introduction to the second English edition (New Park, London, 1986) and an introductory note by the Italian study centre.

In addition to that, the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso also published a booklet by Paolo Casciola on Pietro Tresso militante trotskysta (1930-1944), which is both a political biography of a founding member of Italian Trotskyism (from whom the study centre derives its name) and an account of the history of Italian Bolshevism-Leninism during the 1930s.

The Centro Studi Pietro Tresso has a library consisting of over 10,000 books, a photographic file and a documentary archive which includes some 1,500 documents – newspapers, magazines, leaflets, internal bulletins, letters, etc. They include material of the European Secretariat of the Fourth International (1943-45), the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (1946-52), the French Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste (1944-45) and Parti Communiste Internationaliste (1945-48), incomplete collections of La Vérité (1943-53), Quatrième Internationale (1937-58), internal bulletins of both of the French (1944-48) and the USA and British sections (1947-49) of the Fourth International, a considerable; collection of material of the Barta-led Union Communiste (1940-52), a complete collection of Oktober, the paper of the Norwegian Trotskyists (1937-39), and various material on Italian, Greek, Spanish, Sri Lankan, Bolivian, and Danish Trotskyism.

The Italian study centre maintained and maintains relations of various types both with old comrades and leading members of the Trotskyist movement throughout the world and with several institutions as the Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur les Mouvements trotskyste et Revolutionnaires Internationaux (CERMTRI) in Paris, the Internationale Institut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (IISG) in Amsterdam, the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in Milan, the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (BDIC) in Nanterre, the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs of the Wayne State University in Detroit, the Centro Studi politici a sociali ‘Il Sessantotto’ in Florence, and others.

Thus, despite its very limited financial resources and personnel (with only one associate working part-time for the centre and some occasional contributors), the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso is carrying on quite a lot of work – not as a club of chattering intellectuals, but as art instrument for the theoretical-political education of today's and tomorrow’s revolutionary cadres.

The current address of the study centre - to which all requests for more information may be sent - is the following: Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, c/o Paolo Casciola, Via Firenze 18-06034. Foligno PG, Italy.

Paolo Casciola

Updated by ETOL: 10.7.2003