A memorable confrontation between Giorgio Amendola and Bruno Trentin on Italian capitalism

A memorable confrontation between Giorgio Amendola and Bruno Trentin on Italian capitalism

“Both the suggestions of Amendola and those of Trentin were hastily archived. The moral, in my opinion, is that in a party you can be a minority not only when you are wrong, but also when your ideas – well founded – are too advanced to be understood and accepted ”. The Bloc Notes of Michele Magno

After the victory of April 18, 1948, the DC was sailing in anything but calm waters. He had known a lively internal dialectic already at the Venice congress (June 1949), and the request of Giuseppe Dossetti and Giorgio La Pira to open a "third social time" could not be ignored for too long. Thus a significant season of reforms sees the light, from the revision of the agrarian agreements to the creation of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno, up to the launch of the popular housing plans sponsored by Amintore Fanfani. Its start, however, encounters lively resistance in the liberal right and in the monetarist line of Giuseppe Pella, energetically opposed by the most progressive components of the government. In short, Alcide De Gasperi has to deal with a DC and with divided and restless allies, moreover in a phase in which the tensions between the two blocs – exacerbated by the specter of the Korean conflict – reverberate heavily on our country. The state of alert becomes very high, the fear of a third world war is tangible, its economic repercussions aggravate an already problematic situation. Only in 1956, after the Hungarian uprising and the Suez crisis, will it be perceived that the world order resulting from the collapse of Nazi fascism was more solid than could have been predicted.

In 1960 – after the failure of the government chaired by Fernando Tambroni – Moro and Nenni secretly laid the foundations of the center-left (then with the dash), and agreed on the intermediate stages of the new political formula: socialist abstention on the executive of the "parallel convergences" (July 1960-February 1962), launched with the favorable vote of the Psdi, the Pli and the Pri; external support to the subsequent Fanfani government (February 1962-May 1963), which will be responsible for the nationalization of electricity, the reform of the lower secondary school and the introduction of the dry coupon on equities. The understanding between the forty-seven-year-old Christian Democrat leader and the elderly socialist leader was supported by a strong relationship of esteem and friendship. Culturally very distant from each other, they shared the need for a reformist turn to modernize the country.

By the late 1950s, Italy had changed profoundly. The economic boom had transformed jobs and productions, lifestyles and consumption patterns. Some well-being spreads, unemployment falls, young people are better educated. On the other hand, historical backwardness – starting from the southern one – and old distributive injustices become more strident, and arouse a lively debate on the model of national development. From the studies of Giorgio Fuà, Paolo Sylos Labini and Francesco Forte up to "Additional Note" by the Budget Minister Ugo La Malfa (May 1962), all diagnoses converge on the need to ensure more balanced growth, enhancing the role of the public hand without penalizing that of the market.

Necessity forcefully placed by Pasquale Saraceno already at the Christian Democrat conference in San Pellegrino (September 1961), which will be read as a kind of ideological baptism of the center-left. Encouraged by the doctrinaire and social openings of John XXIII's encyclical "Mater et Magistra", the economist of Morbegno tries to innovate the tradition of Catholic solidarity, assuming a more advanced compromise between "free will" of the private operator and "providential action" ”Of the public decision maker. Two months later (November 1961), at the Eliseo theater in Rome six magazines from the Liberal Democratic, radical and socialist area ( Il Mondo, Espresso, Mondo Operaio, Critica Sociale, Nord e Sud, Il Ponte ) called together politicians and intellectuals to confront on the same topics. Among the numerous interventions, the socialist Antonio Giolitti explains how a modern left must know how to use the state levers to guide the accumulation mechanism.

The Johannine encyclical also inspired Moro's report at the DC congress in Naples (January 1962), which reaffirmed the primacy of politics and its inalienable duty to correct anomalies and distortions of the accumulation mechanism. Nenni himself observed the previous year: “In the last papal encyclical the concepts of plan and socialization appeared in an meaning of the term which is not ours, but which nevertheless opens up new prospects for the social movement of the Catholic masses. Plan policy and economic function of the modern state, in the pre-eminent protection of labor rights and not of property rights, were two issues on which […] the new and the old Catholic political generation clashed "(see Annale 2012 of the Feltrinelli Foundation).

Faced with this radical change of scenario, the leadership of the PCI divides itself. The discussion on the nascent center-left officially begins in the 9th party congress (February 1960), continues at the workers' conference in Milan (May 1961), and culminates in the conference of the Gramsci Institute on the "Trends of Italian capitalism" (22-25 March 1962). The disagreement is manifested in a sensational way in the two main introductory reports (the third is held by Antonio Pesenti and Vincenzo Vitello) by Giorgio Amendola ("Class struggle and economic development after the Liberation") and the secretary of Fiom Bruno Trentin ("The neo-capitalist doctrines and the ideology of the dominant forces in Italian economic policy "). Despite the common recognition of the passage of Italy from an "agricultural-industrial" country to an "industrial-agricultural" country, it is in the analysis of the specific characteristics of this transformation that a profound contrast appears, destined to become more acute after the death of Palmiro Togliatti in 1964 (with the 11th congress of 1966 as the climax of the clash). Contrast that will mark the internal life of the party for the entire decade, up to the radiation of the "Manifesto" group.

Amendola, while acknowledging an "expansion" of the Italian economy, underlines its negative aspects: in particular, the aggravation of the gap between North and South as well as the exploitation and social unease of the most humble classes. Against this type of distorted development, because it took place under the guidance and in the interest of large monopolistic capital, he proposed "democratic programming", which had to have as its objective "the search for some solutions, which will be neither communist nor socialist, neither social democratic, nor radical, nor Christian democratic, but they will have to correspond to objective needs of the country and represent a moment, even if limited, of its democratic development ". Thus socialist aims and national functions coincide in this approach – the latter understood as the modernization of that "ragged capitalism" that the Italian bourgeoisie would by its very nature be unable to achieve. Consequently, the policy of alliances is configured as a union of all the offended interests, both inside and outside the factory, by the overwhelming power of the monopolies: an array of popular forces, composed of employed and productive classes, including small and medium enterprises, that re-edits the historical block of Gramscian memory.

Trentin, on the other hand, disputes the thesis of monopoly as a synonym of immobility and stagnation. For him, on the contrary, since 1953 the DC has moved from the "Malthusian" line of the Einaudi-Pella binomial to a production line, of which the tax reform project signed by Ezio Vanoni (1954) was an expression. After a hard tug of war, in the AD "Americanism" Enrico Mattei had prevailed on the Dossettian left. Two pushes therefore prevail: the modernization of the plants (thanks also to the credits of the Marshall Plan) and the reduction of costs, supported by the public industry (hydrocarbons and steel industry) and by cheap labor from the southern countryside. The foundations of a "neocapitalism" based on the methods of mass production are therefore laid. On the other hand, the massive entry of ordinary workers and technicians into the factories, the advent of mechanization (and Fordism), the powerful internal migration, reveal an unprecedented worker consciousness, which required more bargaining and more control over the oppressive aspects of the working condition. A demand for power that shuffled the cards in the traditional priorities of union claims (primarily, wages and qualifications).

In his reply, Amendola branded Trentin's positions as futuristic and those who – like Antonio Banfi, Lucio Magri and Vittorio Foa – criticized his position, which assigned the workers' movement the fundamental task of making up for the absconding bourgeoisie in the struggle. against the annuities and the backwardness of the South. Each of the two diagnoses obviously involved two different strategies. Amendola's polemic against monopoly aimed at a democratization of state capitalism supported by extensive mobilizations of the world of work, while Trentin (with the "Ingraians") attributed industrial conflict a central role in promoting forms of economic democracy alternative to corporatism Catholic origin and business theory as a "community of interests". However, if this second approach was certainly more attentive to the structural changes of the "demographic composition", to put it with Gramsci, perhaps it tended to overestimate the unifying capacity of Italian neocapitalism, starting from the solution of the southern question.

Allow me, in conclusion, a personal memory. My first contact with the PCI dates back to that conference in 1962 destined, to some extent, to mark its history. A freshman of philosophy at Sapienza University, I had been invited out of hand thanks to the benevolence of one of the speakers. Now, although fascinated by Amendola's oratory and bursting personality, try to imagine the amazement of a boy, as I was then, in the face of Trentin's relationship, which ranged from Keynes to Schumpeter, from the Wisconsin School of Industrial Relations to French planners.

And try to imagine my surprise in the face of a political lexicon in which terms such as alienation, consumerism, opulent society stood out, still foreign in party advertising. For me, who had just started to chew the ABC of Marxism-Leninism, it was a kind of discovery of America. It was only later that it became clear to me that, while a new cycle of trade union struggles knocked on the doors, the compactness of the Marxist vulgar began to crack, questioned by currents of thought that had never had citizenship (existentialism, the Francofortese, psychoanalysis ). And that in this cultural climate there was a need for a renewed reflection on the theoretical principles, political strategies, organizational structures and the same social referents on which the PCI had founded its roots in the first republican fortnight.

After almost sixty years, it can be said that Amendola was right when he said that to cut the nails to the DC, it was necessary to work on the formation of a single party of the working class (the stone in the pond threw it officially in 1964, with an article on Rebirth ). But that Trentin himself was right when he argued that the economic boom could not be interpreted with the traditional categories of parasitic extra-profit and worker over-exploitation: pillars of a "ragged capitalism", in fact, that was no longer there. In any case, both Amendola and Trentin's suggestions were hastily archived. The moral, in my opinion, is that in a party you can be a minority not only when you are wrong, but also when your ideas – well founded – are too advanced to be understood and accepted.

(This article was published in Solo Riformisti on 4 June last, in the special dedicated to the figure of Giorgio Amendola)

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/un-memorabile-confronto-tra-giorgio-amendola-e-bruno-trentin-sul-capitalismo-italiano/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-memorabile-confronto-tra-giorgio-amendola-e-bruno-trentin-sul-capitalismo-italiano on Sat, 13 Jun 2020 05:00:36 +0000.