Palmiro Togliatti: A Biography (Communist Lives)
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Palmiro Togliatti could not have become leader of the Italian Communist Party at a more difficult time in the Party’s history. In 1926, while he was away from Italy representing the Party in Moscow, Mussolini’s Fascist government outlawed the organization and arrested all the other leading Communists, including Antonio Gramsci, and Togliatti became leader--but at the cost of living in exile for nearly twenty years.
Drawing on unprecedented access to private correspondence and newly available archives, this is the first full biography of this important Communist politician and intellectual. Like many successful politicians, Togliatti was a man of contradictions--the dedicated Party man who was also instrumental in creating the constitution of Republican Italy--whose personal charisma and political acumen kept him at the forefront of Italian politics for nearly forty years. Aldo Agosti explores Togliatti’s intellectual development; his achievements and his sometimes criminal mistakes as the leading member of the Comintern; his complex relationship with Moscow; and his lasting impact on Italian politics. The result is a meticulous and fascinating life of one of Western Europe’s most successful Communist leaders, which at the same time casts fresh light on the internal politics of the Comintern.
class. He exuded a cold charm, like the engine of an electronic machine; one could hear the soft purring of intelligence in motion.32 The review’s first issues focused on the effort to disseminate the principles of historical materialism and, at the same time, engaged in a persistent polemic with Benedetto Croce, who by announcing ‘the death of Marxism’ many years before, had, according to Togliatti, ‘opened the way to fascist barbarism and degeneracy in the field of thought and culture’. While
with regard to this (‘we are making a mistake by dismissing the friends of democracy. We know how civil servants of the old regime will behave in the new one’) 66. But in the event, the left gave in on this vital issue, confining itself to the condition that the prefects nominated had 168 PALMIRO TOGLIATTI the unanimous approval of all the parties in the coalition. The fact that the situation was not developing favourably for the left was proved by the split within the PdA, which led
attributing to the petit bourgeoisie the revolutionary potential that the Comintern leader, Karl Radek, saw in it. Despite such originality, Togliatti gave the same dismissive judgement to the March on Rome and the accession of the fascists to government as the majority of the leading group of the PCI. He displayed the opinion that the events of 28–30 October ‘have not profoundly modified the internal Italian situation’, and that ‘the fascist government, which is the dictatorship of the
signalled a definite realignment inside the Comintern with regard to French politics. Under the pretence of a fictitious continuity, the political line of the Comintern was undergoing a radical change. And whilst France was its testing ground, it was not to be confined solely to that country. Togliatti, who was by now an adept interpreter of the workings of the International, realised that two different lines were clashing inside the ECCI. He prudently did not commit himself to either. The PCI
accused. Alas, they rather belonged to the tragic logic of a ruthless war that had reached its final throes and was imposing untold and indiscriminate suffering on the civilian population, the soldiers at the front, and the prisoners. This was a war that had become, because of its anti-fascist nature, a confrontation between progress and reaction. As Togliatti explained: ‘It is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between those people who are responsible for a political choice and those