by Fabio Bozzo
Marxism was not for delicate people
Marx and Engels invented communism. Drawing inspiration from pre-existing theories (especially the French Babeauf) they assembled the pieces of their ideology, as a mason uses bricks to build a house. Then the house came up so poorly made and unnatural to torture the people who were forced to live in it. Finally it collapsed. This does not take away from the fact that Marx and his epigones had in mind a virile communist society, made of "new men" who, with willpower and physical vigor, would have shaped the world in their image and likeness. Ideology would have replaced religion and the proletarian masses, under the guidance of an inflexible Marxist leadership, would have given birth to the perfect society. Obviously the communist society.
Beyond the ideological, philosophical, economic and human aberrations of communist theories, one thing must be recognized: Marxism was not for delicate people. On the contrary, it was an ideology that required men with strength, discipline and lack of moral scruples. Men who would make the revolution and if necessary exterminate the enemies of the people, at the cost of massacring the people themselves (obviously in the name of the ultimate good).
Russia and China: the blood-red communism
History has contributed to harden even more this ideological base, already not really soft, because a revolutionary and openly homicidal idea can grow only where there is desperation. This meant that the first country to fall under communist rule was Russia, politically backward and starved by the First World War. The Leninist leadership found itself leading a devastated country, at war, hated by all, grappling with civil war and marked by centuries of autocratic Tsarist tradition. All of this added up to the inherent cruelty and harshness of communist ideology. Result? Lenin and his gang did not hesitate to exterminate millions of people to maintain power. They succeeded, then were replaced by Stalin, who made the same Leninist precedents pale. Following the death of Stalin the Soviet leadership mitigated repression and cruelty, but without changing the basic fact: to stay in power the communist leadership had to continue the ruthless dictatorship born in 1917.
The history of communist China is similar, with Mao and his faction winning a ruthless civil war and ruling by exterminating 60/70 of millions of people. The differences with the territories of the former Russian empire are only in the higher numbers (consequence of the vastness of the Chinese human masses) and in some excesses that to us Westerners seem even more crazy than the Soviet ones (caused by the greater cultural difference we have with the Chinese than with the Russians).
The old Italian communists
And in Italy? What kind of people were the Italian Communists? Let's say it without fear, indeed with some esteem: until the 80's they were people of substance. They had political skills, administrative (and sometimes military) training, a strong ideology and a KGB-like discipline. The emblem of the militant communist is Peppone: a character born from the literary genius of Guareschi, he was a militant in the 50s, mayor of the small town of Brescello and eternal opponent of don Camillo (in Guareschi's time the Church was conservative). Not only that. Comrade Peppone knows how to use weapons, he has been a partisan and has a well-oiled double-barrelled shotgun (he even hides a tank), he does not have environmentalist ideas in his head, he does not conceive immigration because in the post-war period there are already too many poor Italians and he always has the phone plugged in, in case the Party calls him for the revolution. He probably doesn't even know what gays are, maybe a capitalist corruption invented by the Americans to destroy the proletariat. Who actually in the Soviet Union are sent to the gulags to re-educate themselves in a socialist sense.
This was the 1950s. Then, slowly...the realization that the revolution would not come. An increasingly clear and inescapable awareness. The world would not change. Not so bad, Peppone thought: the Party remains! The Party is a family (and a traditional one at that) that will make this country better anyway. After all, since 1962, even the Church has been winking at us, so there is hope for the future. The Third World is increasingly pro-Soviet, starting with the Arab countries. Could it be that islam is no longer the "opium of the people" as a religion? Dunno... they' ll tell me in the Federation, I think about the Municipality of Brescello.
The communist party in the absence of communism
But a party that no longer has a dream is like a car without gasoline. It can be a Ferrari, a FIAT Panda or a Soviet tank, but it doesn't change much: without gasoline, it remains still. With the end of the revolutionary dream and, above all, with the collapse of the Soviet world, the Italian Communists had only one mission left: to survive. If they had been able to recycle themselves, or make themselves presentable, they would have reached the longed-for power. But without the Soviets to give their blessing and with the proletariat giving its electoral blessing, what could the comrades do? Only one thing: widen the fence to all those anti-Western forces that until now they had underestimated. So everybody in: Islamists who want to destroy the West (so it will learn to defeat communism), confused environmentalists who are scandalized by the emissions of the FIAT Panda but do not know what the Soviets have done to the Aral Sea, immigrants who do not even know how to speak Italian (but one day we will educate them and enroll them in cooperatives and unions) and various gay and transgender associations, whose sole purpose is not sexual freedom (fully guaranteed in Western democracies), but the annihilation of the family. And the family, Peppone's son (now a cooperative manager) must have explained to his elderly and somewhat confused father, is the core of the hated capitalist West. "If you say so..." the old man must have thought....
The ideology of self-extinction
However, historical paths do not stop. For the communists of the Berlinguer/Occhetto generation, it was impossible to open up to new forces while leaving control of the Party to the old ones. History always walks, in one direction or another. Going back to the old social values of the '50s was impossible: in the absence of a communist ideal, the Party would have become more conservative than Ronald Reagan. So let's go ahead with the "youth". It's not a big deal if instead of a double-barrelled shotgun they have a rainbow flag. It's not a big deal if instead of a peasant wife and four children they live with another guy they met at university. Let's face it, Peppone's son will have thought, if we no longer have Soviet tanks behind us we can no longer emanate an ideal of strength, so let's throw ourselves on an ideal of weakness, nihilism and self-extinction. The infamous West that defeated Marx will die anyway, that's what counts. In the meantime, the moderate center-left governments are finding many immigrants for my social-ecologist-humanitarian-hospitable cooperative, so the comrades guarantee me a full belly.
And the old man? The good Peppone is now very old, the village is preparing the party for his hundredth birthday. To avoid a heart attack, his nephew has told him that Kevin is a friend of his, not his boyfriend, and has omitted the fact that they are vegan.
The only moment of embarrassment was when his grandfather turned the television on full blast to listen to a political forum. After a few minutes Peppone asked his grandson if those "sovereignists and identitarians" were the new leaders of the PCI (Italia Communist Party), at which point his grandson got scared: "Come on grandpa! They're fascists who think of Italian workers before immigrant workers, who want to guarantee self-defense in their own homes, and who say that children can only be made between a man and a woman without surrogate wombs and the like...they're fascists grandpa!".
At which point old Peppone, after a few moments of perplexity: "Good thing I'm old, I don't understand s..t anymore.".
Graduated in History with modern and contemporary majors at the University of Genoa. Essayist, he is author of Ucraina in fiamme. Le radici di una crisi annunciata (2016), Dal Regno Unito alla Brexit (2017), Scosse d'assestamento. "Piccoli" conflitti dopo la Grande Guerra (2020) and Da Pontida a Roma. Storia della Lega (2020, with preface by Matteo Salvini)