Lucio Magri's The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century is "a perfectly sound account" of the history of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), writes Donald Sassoon for the Observer. The book tells how the PCI evolved from "a small, ineffectual, persecuted sect" under Fascism to an organization with more than two million members after World War 2. In the post-war years, Italian Communists "thrived as a responsible opposition under the democratic constitution they had helped to shape." The city councils that were under Communist control "gave Italians a feel for what Swedish social democracy might look like." The trajectory of the Party came abruptly to an end after 1989. In the last two decades, Italian post-Communists have changed the name of their political organizations several times, "as if to bury neurotically all traces of the past," Sassoon points out.
In Sassoon's view, The Tailor of Ulm can be described an "insider's history" of the PCI. Magri was one of the foremost "critical voices" in the party until 1969, when he was expelled with the fellow members of the Manifesto group. Nonetheless, the Manifesto people "never became one of the groupuscules that infested the far left," and eventually rejoined the Party in the 1980s. Despite the misunderstandings between Magri and the orthodox Communist leadership, The Tailor of Ulm is not "a rancorous memoir", but instead "an honest effort to be judicious and balanced," Sassoon notes. Magri's narration at times sounds quite "intimate"
One can feel the pain of a life spent fighting for a better Italy ending up facing such a ridiculous opponent as Silvio Berlusconi, brought down not by the masses but by the markets.
Visit the Observer to read Donald Sassoon's review in full.
Activists, authors, trade-unionists and students from across Europe have launched a call for a reconfiguration of European social policy in order to reclaim the true democratic meaning of the European project:
Now, in the midst of the crisis of finance, markets and bureaucracies, we must commence to practice an egalitarian, peaceful, green and democratic Europe. We must reclaim the dignity of Europeans and our fellow world citizens.
The November/December issue of the New Left Review has been released, and includes the following essays:
Mike Davis: Spring Confronts Winter
Against a backdrop of world economic slump, what forces will shape the outcome of contests between a raddled system and its emergent challengers? Mike Davis examines echoes of past rebellions in 2011's global upsurge of protest.
Mike Davis is author of Planet of Slums.
Robin Blackburn: Crisis 2.0
Internationally, austerity measures have resulted in unemployment, stagnation, the imposition of technocracies, the destruction of welfare systems and a collapse in global demand. Robin Blackburn outlines some radical transitional policy responses that could address the underlying causes of the financial crisis.
Perry Anderson: Magri's Farewell
Perry Anderson looks back upon the life and work of Lucio Magri, the Italian revolutionary and writer who died last year. An incisive critic of the PCI from both inside and outside of the Party, Anderson traces Magri's unique synthesis of theory and popular struggle from the Hungarian Revolt to the Iraq War, including his last work, The Tailor of Ulm.
Visit the New Left Review website to read the essays in full (subscribers only)