Special interview with Marco RIZZO, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Italy (PC)
ICP, 19 November 2017
ICP: Before starting, could you inform our readers about the discussions within the Italian Communist Movement that led to the founding of your party, the Communist Party of Italy?
Marco Rizzo: The ideological and political origins of our Party refer to the political area of the legendary organizer of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) during the Resistance, Pietro Secchia, who was an opponent of Togliatti for what concerned its moderatism according to the "Italian Way to Socialism". This area kept living through the magazine Interstampa and the Marxist Cultural Centers, born in Italy during the ‘80s. This area was, in fact, the backbone of the struggle of the pro-Soviet opposition within the PCI and the establishment of the new party, Rifondazione Comunista, after the PCI dissolution in 1991.
During the first period of Rifondazione Comunista, that area always supported the struggle to keep the communist question open in Italy. At that time, unfortunately, took up the political deviation, embodied by Bertinotti and his total abjuration of communist history and tradition. In 1998, after the final break between Cossutta and Bertinotti, that area played a major role in the birth of the Party of the Italian Communists (PdCI).
The war in Kosovo (which I tirelessly and in vain tried to oppose to, subsequently practicing a severe self-critique over that period) marks the beginning of the cracking of the relationship between me and those political leaders.
Our political area – the only one critical in the national secretariat of the PdCI – claims the need to review the relationship with the center-left government (which the PdCI was involved to) and to work for the unity of Communist and anti-capitalist forces, in a totally alternative perspective to the bipolar logic of the Second Republic. In fact, we had built an area for all the communist dissatisfaction with the center-left government and the so-called leftist unitary process.
On July 3, 2009, we announced the founding of the Popular Leftist Communist (CSP) political movement, a party whose aim was to rally the communists on the basis of their presence in the actual social conflicts.
Meanwhile, the economic crisis breaks out makes in Europe. In May 2010 CSP responded to the call of the Greek Communist Party (KKE). From that moment on, the relationships between CSP and KKE intensify more and more. On January 21, 2012, the party decides to modify its symbol by adding the words "Partito Comunista" under the sickle and hammer. On 6 April 2013, the European Communist Parties, Marxist-Leninist, were called in Rome; among others, the Greek Communist Party, the Communist Party of Peoples of Spain (PCPE), the Russian Communist Party (PCOR), the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), respond to the appeal. The Committee also participates in the Communist- Youth Front (FGC).
In Brussels on October 1, 2013, CSP-Communist Party participates in the assembly of the Communist Party of Europe convened by the Greek Communist Party. From the assembly will be born the "Initiative of Communist and Workers' Parties", which thus officially sanctions international cooperation with a document signed by 29 communist parties.
With the congress of 17/18/19 January 2014, the COMUNIST PARTY revives in Italy.
On 21st and 22nd January 2017 was hold in Rome the second National Congress of the Communist Party, with the renewed unanimous election of the outgoing leaders of the Party.
ICP: The communist movement in Italy has a very long and honored past. During the decades full of struggles he witnessed brilliant victories, as well as devastating defeats. Have the weaknesses that led to the liquidation were examined and understood by communists and avant-garde workers? Today, what are the main lessons stemming from this story? Can you tell us something by taking examples?
MR: The situation when Palmiro Togliatti headed the PCI after the Resistance was undeniably adverse to the possibility of "starting the revolution" in Italy. In 1944, the PCI, with the North of the country occupied by the Nazi-Germans and their Fascist servants and the South "freed" by the Anglo-Americans, worked to marginalize the positions of those who wanted to delegate the liberation of Italy to the allied armies and, on the contrary, tried to involve the popular masses in the anti-fascist struggle, even military. This "temporary compromise", however, lost its character of transience and ended in obscuring revolutionary goals relating to the issue of the State and the conquest of political power, which is pivotal for the Communists. We believe that deviations from the revolutionary path originated from many flawed assessments of the situation by Togliatti and part of the PCI leadership group.
Once the Fascist state has been defeated, it was to be replaced with a new type of State, not the simple re-issue of the old liberal state. All the States that came out of the war and of the Resistance had not a well-defined shape, the power was not firmly and definitively in the hands of any of the two classes. The battle for institutional arrangements in Italy was still on the way. During the Resistance, the PCI grew a lot, becoming the first popular party and counting 2,5 million members. The National Liberation Committees (CLN) could become, as a broad popular front, the basis of a new state and replace the old state. But in May 1947, left-wing parties were excluded from the coalition government. Regarding the lack of adequate conditions for a proletarian revolution, Pietro Secchia, at that time organizational responsible of the PCI, wisely noticed (for those times a statement like those sounded like a very criticism): "there is a huge gap between doing an insurrection and doing nothing ...". It is clear that the statement was directed to Togliatti’s policy, who chose the institutional path as a strategic line since 1944, while the experience of popular government of the CLN could have provided other perspectives. The new policy, suggested by Cominform, is brought in Italy at the Sixth Congress of the Party (January 1948). The political relation is strongly self-critical and "it recall the criticism that came from outside". Neither after the lockout from the government, nor after the attack on Togliatti’s life, in July 1948, PCI tried to force the situation. The tactical and evaluation mistakes of Togliatti and the majority of the PCI leadership group of those years are understandable only in the light of this analysis, and not simply as betrayal. The first mistake was the a-priori acceptance of the forms of bourgeois democracy.
The second mistake, consequent to the first, was the magnification of the compromise, which would have been temporary and limited to the period of belligerence, until the final acceptance of bourgeois democracy and institutions as the only ground of struggle. We believe that the causes of these two deviations must be identified in the overestimation of the party's ability to resolve the power duality in favor of the proletariat by acting primarily on the slippery ground of bourgeois parliamentary democracy and, on the other hand, the underestimation of the strength of the party and its ability to resist and deter any reactionary action on the ground of mass struggles, where it was most conspicuous, that never diminished, even during clandestine and armed struggle.
The story of the following years shows that the Italian bourgeoisie, which became the absolute holder of state power in 1947, uses it with the open purpose of bending the working class and of undoing and putting the Communist Party on the corner. In this political situation, the PCI was limited to defending its right to the existence and the "democratic" legality, incapable to counterattack in an incisive manner. Over the years, the fetish of unity has always spoiled the debate about line and program, causing divergences to appear in muted, hidden, muffled forms, never seen as contrasts of principle, in an erroneous application of democratic centralism, only aimed to perpetuate the ruling groups. Thousands of militants, who devoted their lives to the Cause, had more and more serious difficulty to understand and act. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the PCI played a decisive role in the conquest of workers' rights in the aftermath of WWII. It improved their living and working conditions. It achieved significant rights on the social and economic life. After the war, there was considerable economic and political room for a reformist politic, thanks to the balance of the international forces between socialist countries and imperialist countries. The PCI was able to use them successfully for the benefit of the working class and the workers, but was unable to link these achievements with the political goal of the seizure of power. It behaved like a good social-democratic party, but a revolutionary party should look like something different: a truly communist party that, always keeping in mind the existing strength correlations, keeps the push towards the ultimate goal unchanged. Certainly, the PCI accumulated in that long time an immense and qualified heritage, made of militancy, passion and honest human relationships, which made it the most precious heritage, unfortunately betrayed and subsequently dissipated.
ICP: After the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which was once the largest communist party in Europe, what is the state of the art of the communist movement in Italy today? Is there still a significant presence of the current Eurocommunist and opportunistic stream?
MR:After the dissolution of the PCI, many branches were derived from Rifondazione Comunista. In addition to that of the PdCI and then, from that one, our Party, there was a right-wing split of "Left, Ecology and Freedom", now melt down to a cauldron of the Democratic Party. This last stream cannot even be called "opportunistic" or "revisionist", given its abyssal distance from Marxism. It participates in the power distribution at central and local levels, as PD allows it to.
On the left wing, we find an organization which has resumed the historical name of the PCI and which inherited, in our view, the traits of electoralism, pushed by their desire to "unite the left" (not better specified). It magnifies Berlinguer's character, more as a personal and political reference, focusing on the less compromising moments of his political experience. It looks carefully, even with admiration, at the Chinese and BRICS experience, considering it as an example of "class struggle between nations", which, in our view, reveals a flawed understanding of Leninism. There are, as many other countries, other fringes, selfish Marxist-Leninists of Maoist inspiration, and small Trotskyite ones. All of these organizations, however, do not be really rooted in the working class and limit their diatribe to crumpled debates in narrow circles.
ICP: Are you planning to restore one day the historical name of the Italian communist movement? Or should we ask: How far are you thinking about achieving this?
MR: For political reasons we will keep the present name. We want to separate us from the historical name of the PCI, which was changed from the historical one of Gramsci, Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I) in 1943, because we intend to represent a real break with regard to Togliatti’s and Berlinguer’s politics. We could resume the glorious name of the PCd’I, but we believe that the name we have assumed at the present represents our identity at best (even if sometimes it poses some identification problem). One day, we would like to add to our name an additional statement: "Italian Section of the Communist International"
ICP: How do you evaluate your political influence and your organization to date? Can you give us some examples of PC-Italy-led fights?
MR: Our country has to re-establish the presence of communists in the workplace from the roots. The goal is a difficult one because, in addition to the destruction of the Italian Communist Party, we have also witnessed the degeneration of the trade union movement. In Italy, the historic CGIL, the pugnacious trade union once led by PCI, currently fully manages the power jointly with bourgeois forces. There are several trade unions in Italy, including very few with a (more or less) class ideology. Anyway, they are divided into various political currents: the class movement is very backward. Our Party has long promoted the “United Front of Workers”, to unite the struggles of workers, especially those based on political attacks and not just merely defensive ones. We work in the trade unions to support the most coherent areas. We struggle in some workplaces to build the party in there. We work with youth, relying on the Communist Youth Front, with whom we experience an ideological and political unity. We work in some popular neighborhoods to regain the political spaces left abandoned by the left and to reject the rampant racist right-wing derives.
ICP: We see there is a very active and militant youth organization called the Communist Youth Front (FGC), founded by your young militants. What do young Italians think about communism? Young people are interested in politics?
MR:The Communist Youth Front is a distinct organization with respect to the PC, but we recognize it as a coherent Marxist-Leninist youth organization and it recognizes us as the organization that is rebuilding the party of the working class in Italy. We have a solid organizational pact, transposed in our respective statutes and an identical ideological vision.
The FGC has been working hard and meritorious for some years to overturn the wave of ideological disorientation that overwhelms young Italians, workers and students of the popular strata. Their work of ideological and political education is precious and makes us look to the future with hope. Today, the bourgeoisie's victory on the ideological front tries to exclude the communist issue even from the debate, to bury the memory once and for all, so many young people have never even heard of communism. The interest in politics of young people today is very scarce, because they are nauseated by rampant politicians, and so many of them are often prey of false sirens, like the "Five Star Movement" (Movimento 5 Stelle). The FGC penetration in schools, especially technical schools, and among young workers, serves to reverse this trend. For example, in Milan the FGC has won the student elections in upper secondary schools (15-19 years) for the second consecutive year and a FGC representative has been elected President of the Student “Consulta”. Similar successes occur in other parts of the country, where the FGC acquires growing reputation and accessions, as it’s highlighted by its electoral success.
ICP: What struggles are you focusing on these days?
We work to be present in the major class conflicts, such as, for example, the ILVA factory (one of the leading steel industries in Europe), from Genova to Taranto, which is about to fire more than 4,000 workers.
Another very important fight involved the transportation strike, which paralyzed Italy last month and where our militants have spent a lot of energies. Other struggles, in logistics, in healthcare, in other manufacturing companies, see the presence of first-rate communists. One of the struggles to which a peripheral organization of the party has committed during last weeks, has been a mass campaign in a popular neighborhood in Rome to isolate the intervention of xenophobic fascists against foreigners and refugees. There have been demonstrations that have seen a great deal of citizens alongside our militants.
In such occasions, our Party always tries to recall the classical nature of fascism and to tie the anti-fascist struggle to the anti-capitalist one.
Another activity carried out by our Party is the defense of the communist historical heritage and the ideological counterattack against anti-communism, which also rages in Italy.
During the summer we also held numerous "communist parties", like every year, to make our Party more and more known; and this year the theme of the Centenary of October was the starting point for debates to link it to the tight news.
This year was also characterized by mass internationalist demonstrations organized by our Party in Rome; the first we made on March 25, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. We also organized an internationalist event (with the KKE and the PCPE to which various communist parties in Europe joined) and then with the participation in the rally that took place in Sicily in May against the G8 organized in Taormina. Last but not least, on November 11 in Rome, our Party and the FGC held an important mass rally with the participation of more than 5,000 militants under the slogan "It's your Revolution" to transform a simple commemoration into a fight act and to tie the memory of the past to today's tasks.
ICP: Italy is at the center of the issue of refugees. There are tens of thousands of refugees arriving in your country every year and there are some discussions about the borders between neighboring countries and Italy. Can you explain your position on this issue? What kind of actions do you make to strengthen solidarity with the refugees?
MR: The action of our Party is first of all aimed at denouncing the "war among poor people" (or “robbing Peter to pay Paul”) caused by the constant flow of refugees in Italy and to contrast the consequent xenophobic wave that arises from that. We recall that the problem could only be resolved by interrupting the imperialistic and exploitation wars in the Third and Fourth World countries, resulting in the use of a large number of workers, without rights, as a “Reserve army of labour”. We promote the slogan "equal work with equal salary", which unifies the workers' front and opposes all divisions: between different races and cultures, gender, age, etc.
Then, as we have already mentioned, where we are more present, as in Rome, we are taking mass action to support the reasons of refugees but also those of Italian citizens, claiming the right to home and work for all, recalling that it could be possible in a socialist society but not a capitalist one.
We oppose to the bourgeois left focused only on the so-called “individual rights”, remembering that without social rights sustaining them, civil rights are worthless and useless.
We are also in close relationships with foreign workers' communities and support them in their difficult struggle here in Italy.
We would also like to have a more intense humanitarian action, but the economic and human resources conditions of our Party urge us to focus more on political and ideological facts than deploying a concrete humanitarian action, although we recognize that this is also an important and necessary field of intervention.