The future of Vatican

01. Introduction

Article from La Voce del (nuovo) Partito Comunista Italiano,n.23 - July 2006
venerdì 13 luglio 2007.
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On 20th April 2005, on occasion of the funerals of John Paul the Second (Karol Woityla 1920 -1978 - 2005) and of coming to throne of Benedict the Sixteenth (Joseph Ratzinger, 1927), the Provisional Commission of new Italian Communist Party ((n)PCI) released a statement, saying that “Benedict the Sixteenth will be one of the latest, or perhaps the last Pope”. The abolishment of Vatican and of all other Catholic Church’s privileges and the nationalization of all properties the Lateran Treatise, Concordat of 1929 and following modifications gave to Catholic Church, are the core of the Third of the Ten Immediate Measures, i. e. the Measures that will be adopted immediately after the seizure of power by working class and its Communist Party in Italy (see “La Voce”, n. 5, July 2000).

Some comrades asked for clarifications and explanations about this point in (n)PCI’s programme. It is so important that it deserves our complete attention. Vatican, Papacy, Roman Church’s political, economical and cultural power, the articulated clerical and laic structure by which Vatican Curia and Pope exercise it in Italy and all over the world, are themes already been treated in our Party’s publications. However we didn’t expose many aspects of the question, nor we elaborated them adequately to the importance they have in present Italian Communist Party’s activity and strategy. So, about this matter the Party has to do a wide, lasting, repetitive and multiform work of propaganda and agitation. It also has to elaborate the single aspects of the matter so as to get a conception and a line of action superior to current ones and to the ones of the old Italian and international Communist movement.

Our Party must have a well-founded conception and a clear line of action about the question of Vatican. We need an historical perspective scientifically built (that is, by scrupulous seriousness), in order to found the objectives we shall get in the future on past course of things, the objectives we propose to the masses because they need them and that they must consciously contribute to get. It’s not possible to carry out the struggle for socialism in Italy without facing the question of Vatican on theoretical and political level. The solution of question of Vatican is essential part of the specific theory of socialist revolution in Italy (1) . An Italian Communist party that doesn’t face the question of Vatican surely is an immature or an opportunist Communist party. Vatican’s role in our country and in its history is very important: since the fall of Roman Empire (Fifth Century A. C.) to Renaissance (about Eleventh Century) as central institution of feudal European world; since then to Unity of Italy (1870) as centre of the struggle of feudal world against the coming of bourgeois world in Europe; since 1870 as essential support of bourgeoisie’s direction and domination over Italy and world. A Communist party that haven’t or doesn’t propagandize or support a conception and a well-determined line about the question of Vatican is worth as a Communist party without a well-determined conception about working class’ mobilization (or about the seizure of power) and without a line for its action on this matter.

Italian Communist movement’s history confirms this assertion.

Anticlericalism was an essential contribute, among those the Italian Socialist Party gave to Communist movement of our country (1892-1921). However, it confused the struggle against Vatican and Church with the educational activity, the ideological struggle within popular masses, against the feudal and individualistic ethics (it’s enough to think of woman’s role and sexual ethics), against degrading rites (from anti-Semitic ceremonies only recently abolished to mortifying and self-damaging manifestations). The antagonistic contradiction with Vatican and Roman Church get confused with a contradiction within people about conception of the world and new epoch ethics. The confusion between ideological and educational struggle and political struggle against Vatican checked and hindered to carry out the second one effectively - see Italian Socialist Party’s hostility towards Modernism, that since 1870 to 1920 was the left wing of Catholic world in doctrinal, moral and social (political, economical, etc.) matters (2) .

The question of Vatican and Roman Church was one of central axes in working out the strategy of socialist revolution in Italy by Antonio Gramsci (1891 - 1937), who gives himself up to it since 1923, when undertook the direction of PCI mandated by Communist International, until he died. He clearly indicated that the question of Vatican was emerging point and synthesis of peasant and Southern Italy’s questions and, in addition, of women’s question. So, it was and is a national question of socialist revolution in our country (3) .

During the Resistance and after it, the acceptance of Vatican and Roman Church’s power was a main component of the right line of PCI. It led first to corruption and then to desegregation and dissolution of PCI. Party’s left wing wasn’t able to set against it anything but a shy revival of the anticlericalism of PSI.

In order to fix Party’s guideline in a scientific (not opportunist nor pragmatist) way, it is necessary to elaborate a right conception of Vatican and Roman Church’s nature, role and laws of development. We need to do it in order to not be slave to circumstances, appearances, sensations and impressions, “instinct”, or to operations, manoeuvres, provocations, diversions and manipulation by Church and bourgeoisie. On the contrary, we need to do it in order to act with a strategic vision, to have a good grip of the initiative and spread out tactical operations consistent with our own strategy and, at the same time, closely corresponding to circumstances, to our enemy’s status and the ratios of strength.

At first sight, the suppression of Vatican and of Roma Church’s political, economical and cultural power looks so much difficult that it seems an impossible and reckless task. Not by chance, many subjective forces of socialist revolution (SFSR) evade the problem. But, regarding of it, it’s worth the principle stated by Roman philosopher Seneca (4 B. C. - 65 D. C.) long time ago: “It’s not because some tasks are difficult that we don’t face them. On the contrary, it’s because we don’t dare to face them that we think them difficult.” This principle is worth today regarding Vatican’s suppression so as regarding the smashing of US empire. The Vatican’s suppression is a need and a task of international Communist movement, not only of Italian Communist movement. As a matter of fact, Vatican carries out its counterrevolutionary and anti - Communist role on an international level and in most of countries in the world. It’s an international power that has its centre in Italy and roots in many countries. It has a decisive role in the course of things in our country, and an important role in the course of things in many other countries. It draws people and means from Italy for its world activity and draws people and means from the entire world for its activity against Italian popular masses. It’s a case similar to American one. So, because of the same reason, US empire’s smashing is a need and task of international Communist movement. But, as the decisive and also the main role in smashing US empire concerns American popular masses, working class and Communists, so the decisive and also main role in suppress Vatican concerns Italian popular masses, working class and Communists.

We Italian Communists should do wrong hiding this historical and internationalist indispensable task of theirs from working class and popular masses. We should not educate popular masses nor ourselves to be able to carry it out, and so we should prepare conditions for our and their defeat. On one side, to hide from working class and popular masses this task of theirs would be sign of a subjectivist conception: we should claim ourselves to be executors of a basic task of socialist revolution in our country, and not the working class and the popular masses. On the other side, it would be sign of lack of trust in Italian working class and popular masses’ revolutionary capability. On the contrary, history of Italy shows that several times popular masses’ revolutionary movements failed just because their leading groups weren’t equal to their role, and not because there were lacking the masses’ outburst, revolutionary mobilization and heroism. In 1893-1898, in 1919-1921, in 1945-1948, in the Seventies of past century, they lacked a direction able to transform working class’ wide social hegemony in political rule over the country. They lacked it because the leading group that popular masses were following, and who openly promised them or, at least, gave them to believe that he wanted a revolutionary change, drew back facing the action (which moreover it wasn’t prepared for, because it itself didn’t believe in what was saying or giving to believe (4) .


1. Our conception and our line combine the universal heritage of international Communist movement with the understanding and elaboration of subjective and objective historical and present conditions of our country. This combination of universal and particular is the Italian way to socialism. It isn’t enough to claim the universal and historical heritage of Communist movement, as in old Italian Communist Party dogmatists did against modern revisionists. Not by chance, those dogmatists didn’t succeed to face revisionists successfully. They were defeated and broken up. One by one they surrendered or cooperated with revisionists or fell in isolation. In every country with a tradition, with its own characteristic personality formed during centuries, Communist movement must have national peculiarities (Mao used to say that “Marxism has to be translated in Chinese”) in order to carry out successfully the common internationalist work to create the international association of workers, the new humanity.

2. Modernism was a reformist movement of Catholic Church developed owing to influence of Socialism over Church. This Catholic Church’s crisis was made easier by the modernization of Leo XIII and characterized the reign of Pius X (1903 - 1914). In 1907, Pius X condemned Modernism by the encyclical Pascendi. The condemnation was followed by the scattered persecution of Modernists and the imposition of an anti-Modernist vow to all ecclesiastic and laic Church cadres.

3. Antonio Gramsci is the only leader of Italian Communist movement who systematically and completely studied the strategy of socialist revolution in our country from a Communist, materialist - dialectical, Marxist - Leninist point of view. We need to graft what is specific for Italy in our strategy in his work (and not in the deformation Togliatti did of it). His work is exposed in The Construction of the Communist party (1923 - 1926), (Italian edition:Einaudi, 1971), and in Prison Note -books (Italian edition: Einaudi, 1971 and 2001). These are works to be studied with attention to Communist movement’s problems of that age, and not as treatises about the “general theory”.

4. Anyway, it must be noted the great progress carried out by Communist movement in our country. Former movements of peasant masses were led by reactionary forces, which were anti - bourgeois only because they were feudal. Starting from movements of 1893 - 1898 (since Sicilian Fasces to Revolt of Milan), they were movement of workers and peasants instead. Feudal forces, likewise the bourgeoisie, stayed on the defensive and allied with bourgeoisie: as a matter of fact, the crisis of 1893 - 1898 signed the end of the armistice between Reign of Italy and Catholic Church, the end of non expedit and the beginning of their programmatic and systematic cooperation against Communist movement. The crisis of 1943 - 1947 constituted a still higher stage compared with formers. The unity workers - peasants wasn’t any more unity based on facts and ideals. It was also undertaken, promoted and directed by the conscious and organized Communist movement, the first Italian Communist Party. This one wasn’t equal to its task, it wasn’t able to lead the popular masses to victory, but it did what it succeeded to do by grasping the unity between workers and peasants.