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A Supremely Well Researched Treatise on the Policies of the Italian Communist Party,
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This review is from: Stalin and Togliatti: Italy and the Origins of the Cold War (Cold War International History Project) (Hardcover)
This is a meticulously researched academic publication from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, one of a series on aspects of the Cold War. Whilst academic in its approach, almost every paragraph is backed by references and notes, this is a very well written and very readable work. However, it does demand a fair level of concentration from the reader. There are no illustrations.
The authors consider the background to the Cold War, the international Communist movement under Stalin and the Soviet plans for the shape of post WWII Europe. The specific case of Italy (and to some extent France), which contained the largest Communist Party in those countries under “Western” influence and the Soviet trained leader of the Party, Palmiro Togliatti, is then made the subject of the rest of the book. In considering key questions such as whether the Italian Communist Party should follow an aggressive, revolutionary line, or play along with the democratic process the authors show that Togliatti took instructions, virtually on a daily basis through the Soviet embassy, and followed the line dictated personally by Stalin. Togliatti, to his immense credit, was able to persuade his often restless party to follow his instructions even when these seemed counter-intuitive and often not in their own national interest. The approach to the question of the sovereignty of Trieste, the treatment of returning Italian POWs from Russia and the rejection of the Marshall Plan were all instances in which the interests and attitudes of the Soviet Union were made paramount and without doubt damaged the interests of the Italian Communist Party. Yet Togliatti loyally towed the Party line and dragooned his followers into accepting the policy dictats from Moscow.
Much of the research utilises documentation briefly available after the overthrow of the Russian Communist party and the opening of Eastern European archives after 1989. Much to the surprise of western researchers who had expected to find only generalised and oblique documentation, the archives are immense and highly detailed, no less so than the self-incriminating Nazi documentation discovered after the end of WWII. The book is fascinating in that it also overturns the widely held theory by western media that the European Communist Parties of Italy and France were independent and often wayward players in the Soviet camp, nothing could be further from the truth.
A fascinating book for all interested in modern European history which should be made required reading for would-be TV history commentators.