So Close But Tet So Far
Thirty-eight years have passed since Italy's greatest postwar Prime Minister, Alclde DeGasperl, expelled the Italian Coimunlst Party (PCI) from his coalition government. Today, the Ccrnunlsts haverossroads In their search to regain power. They arehisker of laying claim to the title of largest party, but at the same time, the policy gap between them and their potential allies has Increaseda difficult positionarty aspiring to governolitical culture that emphasizes compromise rather than confrontation.
The3 legislative election brought the Communistsercentage points of the Christian Democrats, who have been the frontrunners for the entire postwar period. For the first time, it became mathematically possible for the Connunlsts and the small parties toovernment without the Christian rtonocrats.
Engineeringoalition would be difficult under the best circumstances, given the ideological dlfferencts that separate the parties. To make matteri more difficult, the numerical breakdown In Parliament dictates that any coalition amngement that excludes the Christianutt-bt basedeal betweenamuntsts and the Socialists.
This is not very likely so long as Prime Minister Craii leads the Socialists. Craxl's disdain for Cotiwunlsm as an Ideology and his distrust of the PCI have deep roots.
He still resents how the Coxteunlsts used their "Unity Pact" with the Socialists8 to increase their strength at the Socialists' expense, blaming the PCI for the failure ot his father's candidacy in that election.
Craii was also strongly repelled by the harsh treatment Moscow meted out to friends who held moderate views In Hungary and Poland In. These negative attitudes we,rejtIntorced further by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia
abandonment of for
The Socialist Party under Craxi has continued its its traditional Marxist ideology, and It strongly supports wage restraint *tample, as -ell as INF and NATO moderniration.
any long-time party militants are clearly uncomfortable with Oaxl's policies, however, and would prefer to work with the Co-run 1sts rather than the Christian Oe-aocrats.
In fact, Craxi has been unable to translate the party's shift toward the center Into substantial gains at the ballot box. Should the Socialists fail to top the lS-percent markation-wide local and administrative elections this spring, his control over the party probably would be weakened to the benefit of those such as Rino Formica and Gianni CeMjchells. -ho prefer closer collaboration with the Conrnunlsts.
Failing an alliance with the Socialists, the Connunlsts' only alternative route to power is through working with the Christian Democrats. Reliable sources reportedear agoumber of Christianncluding foreign Minister Andreottlere interested In such an arrangement and that exploratory talks between leftwlng Christian Democrats and Communist leaders had taken place. The OC politicians apparently had In mind something short of actual Comaunlst participation In the government. They may have vte-ed the so-called 'National Solidarity" governments, In which the Ccrrmuntsts traded their parliamentary luooort for concessions on social and economic issues,ossible model.
The sudden death last spring of foroer Communist ttrty Secretary Berllnguer brought these discussionslose. Since coming to power. Berlinguer'* successor, Alessandro Matta. has concentrated his efforts on improving relations with the Socialists.
Natta, whoore reticent about dealing with Catholic politicians than Berllnguer, caused enormous consternation among leftwlng Christian Democrats In Parliament last fall by supporting allegations of misconduct against Andreottl.
But after nine months of confrontation with the Christian Democrats, the Communists have begun to soften their line.
The Communists hope to demonstrate thatercent victory over the Christian Oemocrats In the4 European Parliament election was notympathetic outpoiring over Berllnguer. Although another narrow Ccmauntsthe regional elections this May would not affect the arithmetic In the Parliament, it would profoundly alter the psychological ciiTiate and could provide the Communists the kind of opening they have been looking for. The PCI wants to be in position toargain with either camp once the votes are counted.
The Communists owe their pivotal position on the Italian political scene
historical .ind socio-economic factors.
tibHsned their credentials as patriots by participating in tne antifascist resistance and helping to dra't the constitution. Polls in.iit..ir- that, unlike the British or American Communists, they are notsenn as agents of an alien power.
spreeminent party of opposition, they have been able to
establish themselves as the spokesmen of the discontented and have-nots and as strong opponer.ts nf rnmmtlon. they draw support from all classes and regions.
the coiffnunlsts have made the most of these advantages through strong organlmion and good leadership.
the partyn interlocking network of groupsyouth groups, -omen's groups, trade unionsthat trans-lit messages between the party leadership and the base. this machinery has often enabled the* to keep in better touch with popular senttraent than their opponents
despite the involvement of individual cormunlsts here and thereolitical corruption, the party has worked hard to establish an image of responsible participationarliament and of opposition to corruption and terrorism.
hey have enhanced their reputation as patriotic italians by publicly distancing themselves from theriticizing th* soviet sys and condemning soviet abuses of human rights, the invasion of czechoslovakia, and the allltary coup in poland.
the successes, of italian ccnraunisn have not come free of cost. some hidebound conrsunlst voters have not been able to accept the party's willingness to support centrist goverrvsvents and austerity measures that hit workers the hardest.
lthough the coaraunlsts held steady in3 national election, they have slipped moreercentage points from the high reached
he pci's drift toward compromise with the "bourgeois" parties hasrend toward factionalism within the communist leadership in the past decade. today we can identify at least five ranging from old-hne stalinists to social democrats.
party has also had difficulty ept its criticisms of the soviets.
the soviets' most vociferous supporters within the pci also hew to the "democratic centralism" line and will not let their dispute with the leadership get out of hand.
par4doiic4lly, however, this disagreement has led to calls from mole-rate party memfiers, according to US of 1cjals>_for more open -hsru'ainn and democracy within the party.'
visions ajsq r
Altnoucn the prominence of moderates In the party leadership makes the Crrmunists more acceptable partners to the other Italian parties, their recent Internal divfsjenireduce th* organizational advantage they have enjoyed in the past. '
Changes In ItaTlai Co-ntunl
evidence suggests thanddition to taking advantage the Italian Comraunists to some extent have been coop ted by 1t.
public rec PCI leaders long ago
Indicates that postwarj coalition with other
parties in order to govern Italy effectively. Any lingering notions ofne-party state in Italy aspear to hive been dispelled by the
fall of the Allende government in Chile In
Italian Ccowunlst leaders studied that event.
was no hopeommunist government to surviveestern country unless it was supported by an overwhelming iMjnrity of the populationot realistic possibility In Italy. '
In fact, the domestic polltScel Ucties of the Crjmmunlsts are similar to those of the other Italian parties. Their major goalo win representation tn the government and control several key ministries. They would hope to useoot In the door not only to pursue their program, but also to enhance their "respectability" at the polls.
" I" short,believe the PCI can only come to power as partulti-party coalition in which they, like the other parties, would '* tP compromise on one point to secure concessions on another.
Circumstances have forced the Italian Communists to be relatively moderate, but this does not mean that their participation In government shouldatter of Indifference to the United States. Although no puppets of the Soviet Union, few Italian Communist leaders are well disposed toward the .United States. Onceovernment, they would undoubtedly attempt to nudge Italy in the directioneutralist stance.Original document.