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Socialist Review, June 1994

Gianfranco Sinha


Helter skelter


From Socialist Review, No. 176, June 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


While I agree with much of Dave Beecham’s analysis on Italy (May SR), he concludes his article by stating that ‘people can be won to fight back and build the socialist organisation that is so badly needed’. Yet he misses the point. What sort of socialist organisation? How is it to be organised and built?

If one looks at the history of the Italian left, particularly post-1968, we find a revolutionary left founded on a curious mixture of Guevarism, Maoism and orthodox Trotskyism. Organisations such as Lotta Continua and Avanguardia Operaia had become by the 1970s the largest revolutionary organisations in Europe. But they failed to realise their potential. They failed to break the influence of the Italian Communist Party over the organised working class. Consequently, the Communist Party succeeded in isolating them.

They offered Maoism as an alternative to Stalinism, which led to disillusion when the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Pol Pot’s Cambodia came to light. They developed a fatally short term perspective, which effectively led to the collapse of their organisation by the end of the 1970s.

What remains of the post-1968 left in Italy today is fragmented, demoralised and, speaking from personal observation, unable to relate to a new generation who want to fight and are looking for an alternative. It is partly because of the historic failure of the revolutionary left in the 1970s that, in the present crisis, the youth vote in a city like Milan swung dramatically to the Northern League and in Rome to the fascist MSI.

The conclusion to be drawn is that: firstly, the old post-1968 left in Italy is unequal to the challenges the left faces; secondly, socialist organisation has to be rebuilt from scratch; and thirdly, in the present helter skelter situation, people can turn dramatically to the left – there is no time to despair!


Gianfranco Sinha

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