Communist Party of Italy

For the party active from 1943 to 1991, see Italian Communist Party. For the party founded in 2014, see Communist Party of Italy (2014).
Communist Party of Italy
Partito Comunista d'Italia
Secretaries Nicola Bombacci
Amadeo Bordiga
Antonio Gramsci
Palmiro Togliatti
Founded 21 January 1921
Dissolved 5 November 1926
Split from Italian Socialist Party
Succeeded by Italian Communist Party
Headquarters Porta Venezia, Milano
Newspaper L'Unità
Ideology Communism
Political position Far-left
International affiliation Comintern
Colours      Red

The Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d’Italia, PCd'I) was a communist political party in Italy which existed from 1921 to 1926. That year it was outlawed by Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. In 1943, the name was changed to the Italian Communist Party.


The forerunner of the party was the Communist Faction which began in 1912. The Communist Faction was part of the Communist International, commonly known as the Comintern.

The Communist Party of Italy was founded in Livorno on 21 January 1921, following a split in the Italian Socialist Party on their 17th congress. The split occurred after the socialist Congress of Livorno refused to expel the reformist group as required by the Comintern. The L'Ordine Nuovo group in Turin led by Antonio Gramsci and the "culturalist" current led by Angelo Tasca joined the Communist Faction in the new party.


The Comintern, PCI was structured as a single world party according to Vladimir Lenin's vision. Therefore, its official name was the Communist Party of Italy, Section of the Communist International. This official name remained until 1943 when Communist International was dropped, and the party simply became the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, or PCI).

This change was not surprising as PCI started being used as the party's acronym around 19241925. This name change also reflected a change in the Comintern's role—it increasingly became a federation of national Communist parties. This trend accelerated after Lenin’s death. Its new name emphasized the party's shift from an international focus to an Italian one. At the time, it was a hotly contested issue for the two major factions of the party. On one side, the Leninist preferred the single world party as it was internationalist and strongly centralized; on the other side, the Italians wanted a party more tailored to their nation's peculiarities and wanted more autonomy.


Detail of the first membership card of PCd'I,1921.

As a territorial section of Comintern, the PCI, being a territorial section of the Comintern, adopted the same program, the same conception of the party and the same tactics adopted by the II Congress in Moscow of 1920. The official program, drawn up in ten points, began with the intrinsically catastrophic nature of the Capitalist System and terminated with the extinction of the State. It follows in a synthetic way the model outlined by Lenin for the Russian party.

For a while, this identity resisted, but the fast progress of the reaction in Europe produced a change of tactics in a democratic direction within the Russian party and consequently within the Comintern. This happened in particular regarding the possibility, previously opposed, of an alliance with the social democratic and bourgeois parties. This provoked a tension in the party between the majority (Left) and the minority currents (in 1924: 16% the Right and 11% the Center) supported by the Comintern. The proposals of the left were no longer accepted and the conflict became irremediable.

New concept of party

Since its formation, the PCI strived to organize itself on some bases which were not a mere reproduction of the traditional parties’ bases. Then it took again some arguments that distinguished the battle within the PSI: it is necessary to form an environment fiercely hostile to bourgeois society and that is an anticipation of the future socialist society. The purpose of this is not Utopian, because already in this society, especially in production, some structures are born on future results.

In two articles of 1921, this concept was developed so deeply that they assert that the vanguard party is not a simple part of the proletarian class but already a structure beyond the classes, already fitted to the classless society and designed in accordance with its future duties. Revolution is not a problem of organizational shape, but of strength; revolution cannot be "done" (infantile and unrealistic goals) but led (praxis’ overthrow). From the organizational point of view, the party should abandon elective democracy, internal hierarchies, etc., and work "organically", that is like a biological organism, where the single parts or cells and different organs work together for the whole.

In the first years of the PCI, there was no official leader, but the accepted leader, first of the Faction and then of the party, was Amadeo Bordiga of the Left current. Leaders of the minority currents were Angelo Tasca (Right) and Antonio Gramsci (Center).


In 1922 during its second congress, the new party registered 43,000 members. This was in part due to the entrance of almost the whole Socialist Youth Federation (Federazione Giovanile Socialista). The party adopted a slim structure headed by a Central Committee of 15 members, five of whom were in the Executive committee as well: Ambrogio Belloni, Nicola Bombacci, Amadeo Bordiga (EC), Bruno Fortichiari (EC), Egidio Gennari, Antonio Gramsci, Ruggero Grieco (EC), Anselmo Marabini, Francesco Misiano, Giovanni Parodi, Luigi Polano, Luigi Repossi (EC), Cesare Sessa, Ludovico Tarsia, Umberto Terracini (EC).

Tasca’s current was not represented, while Gramsci was the only representative of the Center (the other representative of Ordine Nuovo was, at the time, aligned with the Left).

The national structure included provincial federations, local sections, union groups and a clandestine organization for the fight against the armed fascist groups, the Ufficio Primo. According to the report of the Central Committee to the second congress, during the polls in the Unions (Camera del Lavoro) the communist motions received 600,000 votes.


In 1923, some members of the party were arrested and put on trial for "conspiracy against the State". This allowed the intense activity of the Communist International to deprive the party's left wing of authority and give control to the minority centre which had aligned with Moscow.

In 1924-5, the Comintern began a campaign of "Bolshevisation" which forced each party to conform to the discipline and orders of Moscow. In May 1924, during the clandestine conference held in Como to ratify the party leadership, 35 of the 45 federation secretaries, plus the secretary of the youth federation, voted for Bordiga’s left, four for Gramsci’s centre and five for Tasca’s right.

In 1926, before the Lyon Congress, the centre won almost all the votes in the absence of much of the left, who were unable to attend as a result of fascist controls and lack of Comintern support. Recourse to the Comintern against this evident manoeuvre had little effect.

The PCd’I, as conceived by the left, terminated. The organisation continued with the support of the Comintern and a new structure and leadership. In 1922, the newspaper L'Ordine Nuovo was closed and in 1924, a new centre newspaper, L'Unità, edited by Gramsci, was founded. The left continued as a faction, principally functioning in exile. It published the newspaper Bilan, a monthly theoretical bulletin.

In 1926, Bordiga and Gramsci were arrested and imprisoned on the island of Ustica. In 1927, Palmiro Togliatti was elected secretary in place of Gramsci. In 1930, Bordiga was expelled from the Comintern, accused of “Trotskyism”.

In 1943, Stalin dissolved the Communist International and, on 15 May, the exiled members of the PCd’I in Moscow changed the party's name to the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI). Under this name it reorganised in Italy, becoming a parliamentary party after the fall of Fascism.

Electoral results

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1921 304,719 (#7) 4.6
15 / 535
Amedeo Bordiga
1924 268,191 (#5) 3.7
19 / 535
Antonio Gramsci


Central newspapers of PCd'I:

Regional newspapers of PCd'I:


    Further reading

    External links

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