Communism in Italy

This is the third part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on Italy in particular. The previous parts can be found here.


The Italian Communist Party (PCI) formed in 1921, as a break-away faction of the socialist party. In many respects, its early years were similar to those of the PCF. Like the French Communists, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) fared poorly in national elections, winning less than five percent of the popular vote. Its time to grow, moreover, was cut short by Benito Mussolini's dictatorship; he outlawed the party in 1926.

In another parallel to their French colleagues, the Italian Communists (PCI) fought fiercely against the Nazis during WWII and won major acclaim for their efforts. After the war, the PCI took part in the new government, playing a major role in writing the new Italian constitution. As in France, however, America's Marshall Plan curbed their influence; to gain access to U.S. aid, the Italian government kicked out the Communists. They would never again hold power in Italy.

Here the paths of the French and Italian Communists diverge. In France the Communist story is one of steady decline, until the PCF no longer constituted a viable political force. In Italy the story is different.

More below.

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Communism in France

This is the second part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on France in particular. The third part (Italy) can be found here.

In France, the Communist Party was founded in 1920 by revolting members of its socialist party, then called the French Section of the Workers' International (Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO). Their new party initially did fairly poorly, only one of the numerous parties out there. In 1928, for instance, the Communists (PCF) won 11.26% of the vote.

Nevertheless, by 1936 - the depths of the Great Depression - the Communists (PCF) were making gains. Then came WWII - the best thing that ever happened to the PCF. Out of all the parties in occupied France, the Communists fought the Nazis hardest and suffered the most for it. They earned the nickname le parti des 75 000 fusillés - the party of the 75,000 executed people - and immense popularity.

Following the war, the PCF joined the new government led by Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately for it, however, the U.S. government demanded a Communist-free government as a precondition for accepting the Marshall Plan. The French Communist Party was summarily booted out.

This did not prevent the PCF from channeling its wartime record into electoral success; from November 1946 to 1956, the Communists won a greater share of the popular vote than any other party. Their base lay amongst France's working class, which remained a loyal and reliable constituency, and they constituted the dominant force on the French left.

Communist Party in France Performance

Continued below the flip.

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Communism in Western Europe

By: Inoljt,

A mentor once told me not to study communism, because it was a dead system, and studying something dead is worthless.

In defiance of this sensible advice, I will be presenting two dead communist movements: the communists in Italy and the communists in France.

Most Americans have never heard about these two parties. For good reason: France and Italy were staunch allies of the United States in the Cold War; it does not seem as if they were remotely communist.

But, for decades, the communists in Italy and France commanded millions of votes and a powerful political machine. Their strength remains a fascinating, little-noticed part of history.

Here are how the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français: PCF) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) performed:


There are several patterns here that apply to both parties, and several patterns unique to each country. (Note: The French line after 1956 indicates Communist performance in the first round of legislative elections, whereas the Italian line indicates Communist performance in elections to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. France has a two-round election system; Italy has two chambers in its Parliament. All statistics cited afterwards relate to these specific criteria.)

I will be exploring French patterns in the next post.

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What Was It Like To See The World Change?

It's been a week since I returned to my adoptive homeland. The Flight from JFK ro Fiumincino was suprisingly smooth...or maybe I was just still so stunned and excited to notice turbulence. I teared up only once...on takeoff when flying over Long Island and Connecticut. I was listening to my IPod as soon as I was allowed to. I kept playing one song over and over again;

"Jump" by Madonna.

The song has come to define my own personal struggle post college from job hunting to family situations to my decision to throw caution to the wind and move to Rome with my cousins.

I also used it to pump me up during the campaign. When I first started knocking on doors in Loudoun County in an office full of campaign workers who, at the time of my arrival, were still skeptical of victory in the wake of Palinmania.

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Italy to fingerprint all Roma?

The neo fascist Roberto Maroni, Italy's interior minister from the neo fascist anti-immigrant Northern League party, coalition partner in neocon Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, (member in chief of our not so willing anymore coalition of the willing) has a nifty proposal to fight street crime in Italy - -  a census, including the fingerprinting, of every Roma aka "gypsy" in Italy, man, woman and child.  According to Maroni, this will serve "to avoid phenomena such as begging".

Of course, Maroni has taken no action to defend the Roma community  from unwarranted attacks, including those in Naples that forced the evacuation of Roma "after attackers set huts on fire and angry residents in neighboring areas protested against the alleged attempt by a Gypsy woman to kidnap a baby".  Nor did he intervene in response when Roman authorities illegally "raided a camp to check for proper papers".

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