Italian Communist Party cultural policies during the post-war period 1944-1951

Gómez Gutiérrez, Juan José (2002). Italian Communist Party cultural policies during the post-war period 1944-1951. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis considers the cultural politics of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) during the immediate post-war period in the context of Italian History, the artistic developments of the first half of the 20th Century and the ideological basis of the PCI. The text has been divided in two parts: The first part focuses on the cultural policy of the PCI from 1944 to 1951 and its relationship with contemporary Italian culture. In the second part, I discuss the influence of Communist cultural politics in post-war Italian art.

I have identified two phases of the cultural politics of the PCI which correspond to two phases of the political developments in Italy after World War II: From 1944, the Italian Communists pursued a policy of alliances with nonproletarianised sectors of society and the other Italian anti-Fascist parties. This policy of alliances collapsed in 1947, when the PCI was expelled from the Government of national unity, which was controlled by the Christian Democrats.

In the second part of the thesis, I explain how, similarly, Italian artists were heavily influenced by political allegiances in the wake of Fascism. But, precisely, anti-Fascism was a cornerstone for collaboration and understanding between representatives of disparate trends, and associations of artists from a broad political spectrum were organised. Artists with a PCI card were fully involved with such associations.

After 1947, however, as a result of its marginalisation from government, the PCI Politics hardened in all fields, including culture. Party officials began to ask artists to put their skills at the service of the Communist's wider political programme and express Communist contents through their work in every case, with an 'understandable' style aimed to ideologically shape the uneducated proletariat. Nevertheless, this policy seemed unacceptable for those artists who equated Communism with political anti-fascism and free intellectual enquiry. The prestige of the PCI among intellectuals accordingly underwent a quick decline, and Communist officials had to develop a more relaxed cultural line from 1951. This substantially meant the return to the policy pursued in the wake of the war. After this, the relationship of the PCI with fine artists was recomposed. However, the political influence of this collective was fading away in the early 1950s, when new means of mass communication, such as cinema, radio and magazines, appeared in Italy and succeeded in shaping public opinion in a far more effective way than the fine arts.

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