Year XXVIII, 1986, Number 1, Page 39
ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE EUROPEAN LEFT IS THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE TO THE DECLINE OF THE ITALIAN COMMUNIST PARTY (PCI)
The XVII Congress of the PCI has endorsed the European turning point in the rank and file of the party. The troublesome process, which began with the Italian Communists’ participation in the European Parliament and deepened thanks to the tenacious commitment firstly of Amendola and subsequently of Berlinguer, has finally led to a precise political proposal: “The PCI is an integral part of the European left”, it is stated with great conviction in the Theses discussed by the militants in the pre-Congress debate. Nearly all the party leaders who spoke during the Congress approved the European turning point, expressing their consensus for this clear choice of alignment.
Natta himself, in his opening speech, tried to indicate the most important objectives of the struggle of the European left: “… The disunion of the left”, said Natta “on the European question and the possibility of a common European policy at least on the essential themes of the international situation continues to make the European Community not much more than an economic agreement which in itself is fairly uncertain and troubled, and incapable quite of putting up sufficient resistance to the USA’s hegemonic demands, even in the economic field. Europe still does not act as a true political entity… And we must propose that thinking and action should be undertaken for a convergence of the progressive forces and left-wing forces in the European Community to draw up a joint programme… We continue, above all, to believe in a reconciliation of the two great strands into which the workers’ movement is split”.
There can be no doubt about the seriousness of the PCI’s commitment in this sense. Shortly before the XVII Congress, Natta visited the SPD and made it clear in the press conference with the SPD President, Brandt, that the purpose of his journey was to initiate a dialogue designed to draw up a common electoral programme for the left in the next European elections in 1989. The PCI’s plan thus foresees a precise objective and finds important consensus in Europe. The end of the historical divide between Social democracy and Communism now seems within reach, thanks to the conquest of the European vote that has made it possible for all the parties of the European left to fight for common objectives within the European Parliament and to abandon ancient and now anachronistic prejudices. For this reason, the statement made by Zajkov and Zagladin, the Soviet representatives, sounds really pathetic. In a last-ditch attempt not to feel entirely excluded from the new policy line, they claimed that “even the Soviet Communist Party feels itself to be part of the European left”.
Nevertheless, despite the progress made on the European issue, there are still uncertainties and contradictions in the PCI. A European left does not exist, and has no future, without European union. It is a plain observation: no serious draft programme for the European left can take shape or, more significantly, be achieved in the absence of a renewed Community, with a European government with effective powers in the economic, monetary and foreign policy sectors.
Unfortunately, this prospect of political struggle, i.e. the realization of precise European institutional objectives, was not even mentioned by Natta in his speech and was equally absent in the speeches made by the delegates. It is regrettable to have to say this at a time when the resumption of the struggle for European Union after the disappointing conclusions of the Luxembourg summit and in reply to the glib scepticism of so-called Europeanists, requires strong commitment by all Italian and European parties. Spinelli indicated a precise strategy within the European Parliament’s Institutional Commission, but to date no authoritative voice has been raised to defend this strategy. From this point of view the Communist Congress is a missed opportunity. It is not possible to claim to be an “integral part of the European left” without subsequently fighting coherently for those objectives that are vital in consolidating and developing the budding European left.
This lack of clarity on strategic objectives concerns not only the Communist Congress and is by no means a contingent position. It is a historical gap in the culture of the European left. Eloquent proof of this can be found in the Manifesto for the New European Left by Peter Glotz, executive secretary of the SPD, in which there is again no indication as to the institutional aspects of the European plan for the left; in other words, there is no indication as to how European democracy can be achieved. Mention is made of European policy on employment, technology and advanced research, about détente, international co-operation etc., but all the time the fact that without a European government all these fine prospects for progress are destined not to go beyond the stage of good intentions is completely forgotten.
It is true that European unity is not an end in itself. But it is still a vital means, the real sine qua non in any joint programme of the left. Without European unity any programmatic formulation is destined to remain a fine ideal and the PCI runs the risk of paying a heavy price for empty words not backed up by deeds. In politics, where the great ideal options are often evoked only to gain easy consensus, whoever wishes to achieve a particular end also has the duty to indicate adequate means. The destiny of the PCl, in practice its capacity to resist the forces undermining it from within (the decline in the number of party members, the first signs of corruption in local authorities, the remoteness from the world of the young and so on), depends on the determination and the courage with which they manage to face up to the European choice. This is the sense of Lama’s strong warning: “our active participation in the European left is a stimulating and exciting undertaking; otherwise our decline would be inevitable and deserved”.
To avoid this danger it is now imperative that the European political turning point be accompanied by a radical cultural turning point designed to recuperate the dormant federal elements in European socialist tradition. We need only recall in this respect that the call for a United States of Europe had already emerged in the Second and Third International and that federal elements are increasingly important when judging contemporary history and orienting political action. It is not true, as is sometimes said even within the PCI, that you can be “modern” only by accepting a pragmatic and non-ideological vision of politics: for instance, the FGCI (young communists), perhaps a little too hurriedly, renounced an essential part of socialist culture defining itself as a “non-ideological organization”. But whoever lacks the courage to judge the course of history in its entirety, effectively renounces the possibility of understanding the sense of political action and abandons, in the last instance, effective struggle for human emancipation (the revolution, to use the language of the 19th Century). Fortunately, within the PCI the debate on the “new internationalism and the third way” is still very much alive. It is natural that this should be the case in a party that bases its roots in the Bolshevik revolution and the European resistance movement. And the feeling of worldwide relevance of problems is also very strongly felt. The great questions of contemporary politics, peace, the environment, the advent of post-industrial society, the North-South dialogue, etc. are worldwide problems and cannot be tackled other than with the cultural instrument of federalism, i.e. with the political theory of the end of raison d’état through the establishment of democratic power at a level that transcends national governments, and which is capable of imposing peace and achieving international justice. Natta rightly wanted to remind the congress of Berlinguer’s courageous statement in favour of a “world government”, now so indispensable in warding off the threat of a nuclear holocaust and ecological catastrophe for the entire planet. After mentioning Togliatti’s criticisms of “the Soviet leaders on the nature of war in the modern era” Natta stated: “Many years later Berlinguer’s desire, expressed at the XIV Congress, for a ‘world government’ seemed vain utopia, but given the risks and tragedies that were already occurring it almost became a kind of embarrassing prophecy. But it was not: it was the need to define a new horizon and indicate new ideals for the partial objectives of struggle that need to be envisaged bit by bit”.
This is, in effect, the theoretical and practical challenge facing the PCI. The experience of the European Community, in the post-war years, seems to indicate a very sure road, if it is followed entirely, towards the peaceful co-existence of nations once ferocious adversaries on the battlefields. But how can this still precarious unity be consolidated? And by what means is it possible for Europe to make her message of peace and justice heard to the entire world, to guide it towards that world government now so indispensable to the solution of the dramatic problems of our times? These are the questions to which Italian Communists must find an answer here and now. And it is worthwhile recalling that, although the historical circumstances are entirely different, these are the same anguishing problems that were faced, during the years of the Second World War, by the founders of the European Federalist Movement.
In his report to the XIV National Congress of the PCI (Rome, March 18th, 1975), Berlinguer stated: “it may be thought that the development of peaceful co-existence and a system of co-operation and integration which is broad enough to steadily overcome the logic of capitalism and imperialism and to understand the most varied aspects of economic and civil development of all mankind, could turn the idea of a world government, which is the expression of consensus and free concourse of all countries, into a reality. This idea could thus emerge from the realm of pure utopia to which the plans and dreams of various thinkers in the last few centuries have been confined”.