Palmiro Togliatti


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(b. 26 Mar. 1893, d. 21 Aug. 1964).

Italian Communist

Early political activity (before 1945)

Born in Genoa, Togliatti grew up in Sardinia and in 1911 received a scholarship to the University of Turin. In 1917, he joined Gramsci and others in setting up the weekly Turinese newspaper L'ordine nuovo, and together they took part in the foundation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in 1921. He supported Gramsci's quest for the leadership of the party, achieved in 1926, and became leader of the party himself after Gramsci's arrest later that year. In the following years, Togliatti became an ardent supporter of left‐wing cooperation against Fascism. During the Spanish Civil War, in which he fought 1937–9, he developed the view that revolutions did not have to lead to Marxism and a proletarian dictatorship, as long as they were led by the working classes and resulted in an improvement of their conditions. He went to the USSR in May 1940 and delivered a series of radio broadcasts to Italy, 1941–3.

Postwar Italy (from 1944)

He returned to Italy on 27 March 1944. To the surprise of many, he urged for unity against Fascism rather than for Communist revolution in the first instance. The moderation of the leader of the PCI, by far the largest and most important political movement at the time, was vital in convincing the Allies of the stability and reliability of a post‐Fascist Italy. Furthermore, he made a crucial contribution to the viability of Italy's postwar political system as he enabled the growth of other nascent parties, such as the Christian Democrats (DC). In the quest for national unity he participated in the governments 1944–7.

 Ultimately, his party had to pay dearly for his moderation and his willingness to share power. In 1947, the PCI was expelled from the government by Prime Minister De Gasperi, whose personal anti‐Communism was amplified by the Cold War. Disillusioned with Soviet Communism due to Khrushchev's anti‐Stalinism and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Togliatti urged a specifically Italian road to Communism. This new Eurocommunism, accepted by the Italian Communist Party in 1956, was content to operate within a democratic framework, independent of Soviet influence, and rejected the spread of Communism through force.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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