06. The Role of the Communist Party

The Italian Communist Party is the "strongest partner" of the European Communist movement. Its actions are important indications for CPs elsewhere to follow. If that is
so, the events of Bologna bode ill. The following article is a summary of arguments presented in the facsimile publication of L'Unita, prepared by Lotta Continua.

Bologna, with its Communist-controlled Town Council, is a test-bed of the new policy of Historic Compromise (the attempted coalition with the Rightwing parties like the Christian Democrats). Here the Communist Party, in order to gain entry to national Government, has to prove itself capable of running an efficient state machine at local level. It also has to show itself able to repress any movement that challenges the established order of things. It proved this during the events of March 1977 in Bologna .

…The 'forces of order imposed a State of Siege in Bologna during the street-fighting that followed the murder of Francesco Lorusso. Armoured cars in the streets; helicopters in the air; police shooting at will; demonstrators and passers-by beaten; comrades whisked off the streets into passing police cars; and TV cameras concealed in strategic positions all over town, by which the Chief of Police could sit in his HQ and monitor the main streets and squares .

.... The CP attempted to mobilise its members - and the workers (local authority etc) whom it controlled - into a kind of self-policing law and order force, to attack the Movement that had emerged during those days. The CP "goon squads" (servizi d'ordine) virtually replaced the police in some situations of conflict - until they were laughed off the streets by the comrades. However, since March there have been many reports of comrades clashing with these CP goon squads .

.... The CP systematically published lies and distortions in the pages of its daily paper, L'Unita These lies were so blatant that Lotta Continua has made up a full-size newspaper by reprinting only the L’Unita articles about Bologna - a great joke, a public humiliation· even for the thick-skinned GP, and a great education to all. However, the GP understands the control of mass media. It was for this reason that it encouraged and applauded the closure of the revolutionary radio station Radio Alice - and made haste to scrub all revolutionary slogans off the walls of the City. (The slogans, by the way, showed a humour and imagination not seen in Europe since the flowering of Paris, May 1968) .

.... The CP began by propagandising the whole course of events as a PLOT by extremists, hooligans, foreigners, fascists, 'marginal elements' etc etc, to discredit the "socialism in practice" of Red Bologna. They went to extraordinary lengths to laud the 'honest' police and the 'honest' judiciary. Anything that disturbed law and order was seen virtually as the "forces of Evil" and was described as such in the CP Press. This even extended to, he ban on the funeral of Lorusso taking place in the City .
... The CP gave its fullest possible support to the police raids that shut down Radio Alice and ransacked the homes and offices of many Left publishers and bookshops. "Not before time", they said. These raids led to the arrest and beating of many comrades .

.... Any attempt by the new Movement to communicate with rank and file workers in the factories, in those heated days of March, were blocked by the solid wall of trade union bureaucrats, convenors, Party officials etc. These, following the line of the Bologna CP, sent no official delegates to Lorusso's funeral. This was the extent of the CP's control of the "institutions" in the Bologna area. (It is rumoured that every second adult in Bologna is a card-carrying CP member: you have to be, to get a job.)
.... The CP in Bologna actively discouraged card-carrying doctor and lawyer members from representing the 216 comrades who were arrested in those days - particularly in the case of comrade Minnella, who wanted a doctor to testify to his beatings at the police station .

The CP, built now on an ideology of conservatism, of 'law and order', of the "producers of wealth" against the "non-productive sectors", has tried to whip up a sort of racism among "responsible citizens" against the young unemployed, the students, the foreigners, who are a large part of the make-up of a University city like Bologna. Bologna is becoming a “forbidden city” as far as public expression of dissent and an alternative life-style is concerned. Rigid Red-Bourgeois orthodoxy rules - and is all tempered with calls for 'austerity' and 'sacrifices' to 'save the national economy' .

When the owners of the (often luxury) shops in the centre of Bologna had their windows smashed by demonstrators, the CP was hurriedly there to solidarise and comfort them. The Red Council handed out large sums of compensation to these bourgeois, as an earnest of its good intentions. Headlines in L'Unita read: "Communist Parliamentarians Meet the Tradesmen Hit by the Hooligans" - an elaborate publicity exercise .

All the above contentions (and more besides) are amply documented in Italy. You need read no further than the CP's editorials, as reprinted by Lotta Continua - because it's there in black and white, including the vile insinuation that Lorusso was not shot by the police, but by provocateurs inside the Left. (In fact there are solid witnesses of the fact that it was a uniformed policeman who shot him).

Finally, the CP, in its eagerness to silence its critics on the Left, has ignored the basic fact of the events of Bologna - that it was a wholly unwarranted escalation of violence by the forces of law and order which sparked the events, and which prevailed during the following weeks. The pattern is already familiar in Italy: in order to cancel the gains made by the working class movement, the Right and the military intervene with planned violence designed to de stabilise the situation, restrict civil rights even further, and consolidate their power.

Meantime, a group of French intellectuals, including J.P.Sartre, have called a Public Inquiry into the repression in Italy - particularly the role which the Communist Party is playing in that repression.