Italy’s former Communist Party shifts further to the right
By Marianne Arens and Peter Schwarz
12 May 2007
The long march of Italy’s Communist Party to the right is unending.
In the 1970s, the party was a pioneer of so-called “euro-communism” and renounced revolution in order to seek (unsuccessfully) a coalition with the conservative Christian Democrats.
In 1990, the party ditched its communist paraphernalia and emblems, renamed itself the Democratic Left Party and joined the social democratic International. In 1998, it stressed the “democratic” element in its name and politics—as opposed to any emphasis on a “left” orientation—and called itself merely Left Democrats. Now it is ditching the “left” altogether.
The former Stalinists are in the process of merging with the bourgeois Catholic party Margherita to create a Democratic Party along the lines of the American Democrats.
The merger was agreed upon at party congresses of the Left Democrats and Margherita in the middle of April. The first congress of the new party is to take place later this year, on October 16.
The two partners are very unequal. After the Second World War, the Italian Communist Party was the largest CP in Western Europe, with 1.8 million members. Today, party membership totals 600,000. In the parliamentary elections of 2006, the Left Democrats received 17.5 percent of the vote—the second highest total after Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
Margherita is a receptacle for political has-beens seeking new careers. Many come from the break-up of the Christian Democrats in 1992, but other factions are also represented. Margherita won 10.7 percent in the recent elections.
The 52-year-old head of the party, Francesco Rutelli, has conducted his own long odyssey through the ruins of the Italian political landscape. He began his political life in the Radicals, a bourgeois party opposed to the Vatican. He then joined the Social Democratic Party (PSDI), a right-wing split-off from the Socialists, and finally landed up with the Greens.
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