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.

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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, http://mypolitikal.com/

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:

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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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The U.S. and China - The Defining Issue of Our Day

Cross-posted at River Twice Research.

In his current Asian trip, President Obama visits Japan, then addresses a forum of leaders in Singapore, and eventually ends up in Seoul to discuss nukes and North Korea. But make no mistake, the axis of this week is the time Obama will spend in China, which has catapulted to the forefront of international affairs and is on its way to joining the United States as the alpha and omega of the global economic system.

That China has emerged is secret to no one, but the consequences haven't been fully integrated - either by the United States or by China. The level of intertwinement between the two economies has reached the point where they have effectively merged, forming what I've called an economic "superfusion." But that fusion hasn't yet altered political and cultural mindsets.

The ministers of the world still beseech the United States to "do something" about a weakening dollar, and U.S representatives on the eve of this trip announced that after the financial morass of the past 15 months, the United States "is back." Yes, the United States remains the world's largest economy - though technically the combined income of the European Union is greater. But size isn't everything - just look at Japan, which is still the world's second largest economy but whose influence and impact are substantially less. China may be poor on a per capita basis (perhaps $5000 per person relative to nearly $50,000 in the United States), but it is changing more rapidly and consuming more hungrily that any other society in the world. It is the change factor in the global system.

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We Are a Nation in Decline

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, a professor of mine made a comment that caused a lot of soul-searching for me. He remarked, quite casually, that the United States is in decline.

Those words angered me. Nobody likes to hear their country characterized in that manner. But ever since then I've been considering that casual statement.

I think it accurately describes the state of our nation.

We are a nation in decline.

We are in decline for a variety of reasons, some more controllable and some less so. Economic weakness has something to do with it, as does the popularity of anti-Americanism (thank you, George Bush). Misadventures in the Middle East and the rise of China also play a participating role.

But enough about why we are in decline. What can be done to stop it?

More below.

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Diaries

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