Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Kees van der Pijl
Chapter 13: Trasformismo and the defeat of the Left in Italy
How to make sense of the demise of the largest communist party in Western Europe and its subsequent transformation? How was this trajectory conditioned and shaped by the dynamics of the capitalist system and the production process in Italy? These are the questions addressed in this chapter. By using the Gramscian notion of trasformismo I will reconstruct the strategy of the Italian ruling classes to prevent the emergence of a counter-hegemonic historic bloc based on the autonomous political culture of the working class. In the postwar years the formation that might have built such a bloc was the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Ever since the country’s unification in the mid-nineteenth century the development of the Italian political economy and its insertion into European and global capitalism included a specific political and productive settlement. The particularities of this settlement prevented the Left, epitomized by the PCI, from obtaining the advantages of capital–labour compromise typical of postwar Western Europe. The PCI in most areas of the country was electorally confined to the industrial working class. It was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to expand its base of support to include all wage earners, as pursued by Social Democratic parties in central and northern Europe.
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