The Tailor of Ulm: A History of Communism
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Twenty years have passed since the Italian Communists’ last Congress in 1991, in which the death of their party was decreed. It was a deliberate death, accelerated by the desire for a “new beginning.” That new beginning never came, and the world lost an invaluable, complex political, organizational and theoretical heritage.
In this detailed and probing work, Lucio Magri, one of the towering intellectual figures of the Italian Left, assesses the causes for the demise of what was once one of the most powerful and vibrant communist parties of the West. The PCI marked almost a century of Italian history, from its founding in 1921 to the partisan resistance, the turning point of Salerno in 1944 to the de-Stalinization of 1956, the long ’68 to the “historic compromise,” and to the opportunity—missed forever—of democratic transformation.
With rigor and passion, The Tailor of Ulm merges an original and enlightening interpretation of Italian communism with the experience of a militant “heretic” into a riveting read—capable of broadening our insights into contemporary Italy, and the twentieth-century communist experience.
talking now of pointless and revealing mistakes on t h e PCI's part, beyond the limits of what might have been n ecessa ry. When I thought back to the period from 1 948 to 1 950, I realized that these were not mere episodes but the first signs of a general threat to the PCI's original identity - a threat that Togliatti subse q u ently m an a ged to avoid, with great skill, tenacity and courage, as wel l as considerab le good fortu ne, but displaying a basic wJCer ta i n ty a n d p a y i ng a h
great hopes placed in this sector did not yield brilliant or lasting results. The reform of the educational system was more innovative and also more successful. Funds were made available for greatly increased access to education and a campaign to achieve higher literacy levels (the number of pupils completing secondary school tripled in a few years, and the number of un iversity students rose above two million) . Above all, however, for the first time anywhere in the world, experiments were made
but it is still surprising that the more backward Italy, short of natural, financial and technological resources, not only succeeded in j umping on the train but found a place near the front: a little slower than Japan, equal to Germany, a little faster than France, and much faster than Britain or the United States. The term 'economic miracle' was imported from abroad to describe this, but neither word really does it j ustice. There are no miracles in economics - if we leave aside the one of the
what I had written . I tried to clarify my view that, on the one hand, consumerism resulted from tendencies not in the culture but in the mode of production, from the capitalist use of major new means of mass communication and, above all, from the fragmentation and a li e nation of labour; and, on the other hand, that right from t h e sta rt the phen omenon had been opening up a contradiction in the Cathol ic worl d that was of directly political significance. This c la r i fica tion served to sa
that even he sometimes indulged in it. The truth of the matter was very different. In the mid 1 960s Ingrao was much less subversive, and his battle inside the PCI much more down to earth, than people believed. It was a battle over definitions of the period. The strictly political confrontation later developed around three highly practical and interrelated issues: an 'alternative growth model', structural reforms, and judgements of the Centre Left. The concept of an alternative growth model was