Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 8 No. 3
Silvio Paolicchi (1921–2002)
SILVIO Paolicchi was born in Pisa in 1921. He came from a proletarian family, and he was attracted at a youthful age to the ideas of social justice and liberation embraced by the communist and anarchist movements (the latter always enjoyed very strong roots in Tuscany).
During the Second World War, he fought firstly in the army and, after the Armistice on 8 September 1943, in the Garibaldi partisan brigades, where he fully embraced the communist convictions which he was never to abandon to his death. Wounded in action, he was later arrested by the Germans, and in July 1944 he was deported to the Stammlager concentration camp in Hanover.
He returned to Italy in September 1945, and he became one of the main forces behind the creation of the Communist Party (PCI) in Tuscany. The following years saw him rise rapidly within the party, from secretary of the Pisa branch, to the head of the Organisational Department in Rome, and finally in 1962 to the Central Committee.
During this time, however, Paolicchi began to have some serious doubts about the direction taken by the PCI. Italian communists no longer held an uncritical view of the Soviet Union after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU and the events in Hungary in 1956. Moreover, in his travels to Moscow with various PCI official delegations, Paolicchi felt a growing unease with a country which was far from the popular image of the ‘workers’ paradise’. It must also be pointed out that in Italy workers were increasingly taking the initiative in important industrial cities like Genoa and Turin. The PCI’s popularity continued to grow, and it won 25.3 per cent of the vote in the 1963 elections. Its militants were not immune from the political changes, and lively debates were taking place in support of radicalisation and openness within the party, especially in the FGCI, its youth organisation.
This internal dissent was to manifest itself in the appearance of a clandestine Trotskyist faction within the PCI. In 1964, Paolicchi finally resolved to contact the Fourth International, and he began to work clandestinely within the PCI, where he attracted some very capable cadres, including Silverio Corvisieri. In his clandestine work, Paolicchi used the pseudonym of Puntoni. In 1965, during the Tenth Conference of the Gruppi Comunisti Rivoluzionati (GCR), he became part of the leadership of this Trotskyist organisation by joining its Central Committee.
In the meantime, the leadership of the PCI was hardening its attitude towards internal opposition. Even its future leader Enrico Berlinguer was ‘exiled’ to lesser posts for a while. Paolicchi was not re-elected to the Central Committee, and shortly afterwards he was expelled from the PCI in July 1966.
This marked the beginning of a difficult period in Paolicchi’s life, both financially and politically, as he became temporarily isolated. He then decided to move to Milan with his family – a city that at the time was pulsating with new political ideas and inspiration thanks to the long-awaited political radicalisation of 1967–68.
For the GCR, however, far from being a launching pad for greater things, 1968 marked a profound organisational crisis, and it remained on the margins of political discussions. As for the PCI, the climate was one of disorientation, with rebellion spreading within its ranks. The crisis of the GCR ended with its disappearance from the Italian political scene, and Italian Trotskyism abandoned entrism and entered a difficult period of isolation.
Paolicchi was not attracted by Maoism, but he always regretted missing the historical opportunity that its rise presented. He then started to rebuild the GCR in Milan, alone at first and then supported by Luigi Malabarba, among others. At the same time, he began to follow the debates within the USFI, and later came to support Moreno’s tendency, which he was to represent in Italy from the early 1970s.
His membership of this international tendency and of the GCR came to an end with the crisis in Portugal in 1976, but he did not leave politics for long. In 1977, he joined the Lega Comunista (formerly the Tendenza/Frazione Marxista Rivoluzionaria within the GCR), a small Trotskyist grouping headed by Roberto Massari which had left the GCR in 1975. And when the LC itself disbanded and merged into Democrazia Proletaria, Paolicchi and other members of the Milan branch of the LC merged with the Gruppo Bolscevico-Leninista to create the Lega Operaia Rivoluzionaria.
From then on, Paolicchi ceased to hold a leadership position in the movement. Attracted by its political potential, he noted with keen interest the birth of the Movimento per la Rifondazione Comunista in 1991. Later on, he joined the Associazione ‘Proposta per la Rifondazione Comunista’, supporting alternative positions to that of Fausto Bertinotti’s majority group.
In the last years of his life, the onset of cancer prevented Paolicchi from taking an active part in politics, but his interest and hopes in a communist future never faltered, and he was as conscious as ever that humanity remains at a crucial crossroads between socialism and barbarism, urging everyone to engage in the struggle for a free commune of politically conscious men and women.
Updated by ETOL: 21.10.2011