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.
that the letter of October 1926 would have shown Gramsci in a ‘bad light’ in Moscow. For example, the article that Togliatti wrote for Lo Stato Operaio in October 1927: a truly felt tribute to the ‘place of honour’ that Gramsci held in the history of the PCI.65 No less significant were the steps that Togliatti took with Comintern and Soviet diplomats in order to obtain Gramsci’s release. First, in September 1927, via the discreet intervention of Pacelli, the papal nuncio in Berlin, he explored
unavoidable ‘iron discipline in the party’. In the long ‘impromptu’ speech that Bukharin delivered to the congress, with a style that revealed both his skilfulness and his limits as a political leader, he formally accepted the amendments, but blurred their political significance and largely stripped them of substance. Togliatti’s speech, read on 28 July, welcomed the fact the Bukharin had spoken of ‘capitalist stabilisation’ without resort to one of the many adjectives employed by other delegates
squabbles, came the news of Bordiga’s expulsion from the party. The accusations made at the March CC against the ex-secretary of the PCI were of having sympathised with Trotsky following his expulsion from the Soviet Union, of having worked to break up the PCI, and of ‘having behaved, at the end of his deportation, in a manner that was not compatible with being in the party’. It is not on record that the ECCI called for his expulsion. It seems more likely that Ercoli – recalling the criticism he
even indirect – ‘would have been a monstrosity’. 38 Not even in the months that followed did Togliatti show a specific sensitivity for the hard-won revision of course which began to appear from the spring of 1932 in the KPD in the form of oblique and qualified support for an ‘anti-fascist action’ that would also mobilise social democratic workers. The developments taking place in Germany were the focus of the twelfth plenum of the ECCI (27 August–15 September 1932). Togliatti not only
Germany’ and by Germany’s ‘marked aggressiveness’ towards the Soviet Union, it was absolutely necessary to direct vigorous ‘fire at German fascism’.37 It must be stressed that the ‘doctrine of the main enemy’ had two interpretations.38 Donald Sassoon observed that ‘it had to be decided whether this “main enemy” was to be defined “ideologically” – in other words, fascism as opposed to socialism and liberal democracy – or “geo-politically” – in other words, Nazi Germany as opposed to all the other