Togliatti, Palmiro

Togliatti, Palmiro
   As secretary of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) from 1926 to 1964, Togliatti was committed to attaining power by democratic, constitutional means. A graduate of the University of Turin in law and philosophy, his political career began with his membership of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) before the start of the World War I. Togliatti associated himself with Antonio Gramsci and Angelo Tasca’s L’Ordine Nuovo newspaper, and it was with this group that he broke away in 1921 and formed the PCI. Following Gramsci’s arrest in 1926, Togliatti was made secretary of the party. When the Italian fascists came to power, he was forced into exile, and for 18 years ran the PCI from abroad, chiefly in Moscow. While out of Italy, as a Comintern secretary, Togliatti was sent in 1936 to take charge of communist units in the Spanish Civil War. He returned to Italy in 1944 following Mussolini’s fall from power, and sought the reorganization of the PCI, while serving in the Liberation and Christian Democrat governments, before communist expulsion in May 1947. Togliatti was instrumental in the “Salerno Turn,” a seismic shift in policy, as the PCI renounced all violent and revolutionary practices and pledged to pursue power via parliamentary and reformist means. Togliatti built the PCI into one of the largest political parties in Italy, and the only one in the capitalist West to gain one-third of electoral votes.
   Togliatti felt that communism was essentially polycentric, and different strategies for individual communist parties were necessary. Once the seed of Marxism was planted in a national culture, in order to reach socialist transformation it would have to be adapted to meet the particular conditions of that culture. For Togliatti’s Italy, this would mean the creation, through structural reforms, of a democracy that merged components of liberalism and socialism. Togliatti lived out his final years in the Soviet Union, dying in Yalta in 1964. The Russian city of Stavropol, the birthplace of Mikhail Gorbachev, was renamed Togliatti in his honor.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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