Bordiga, Amadeo


Bordiga, Amadeo
(1889–1970)
   Twentieth-century Italy’s most prominent Trotskyite, Amadeo Bordiga was an engineer from Naples who played a prominent role in the “maximalist” wing of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI). In 1919, Bordiga supported the party’s entry into the Third International on Soviet terms, even though Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had insisted that the PSI could only become a member if it called itself a “communist” party and if it expelled such notorious moderates as Filippo Turati. When the PSI hesitated to bow to Lenin’s demands at a special conference of the party in January 1921, Bordiga, together with Antonio Gramsci, left the PSI and founded the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI). Bordiga’s ideological position was clear. In the words of the motion adopted by the PCI’s Second Congress in March 1922, the choice was “either Communism or Fascism.” No alliance with the bourgeois parties (in practice, all other parties) was possible, only armed resistance to the Fascists under the direction of the PCI (even though Bordiga must have been aware that the PCI lacked the military strength to assume this role). After the “maximalist” wing of the PSI finally expelled Turati in October 1922, Bordiga’s intransigence on this point caused the PCI itself to split. Some communists, at Soviet urging, rejoined the PSI, which was readmitted to the Third International, and others, led by Bordiga, refused. This fanatical adherence to party dogma demoralized the entire Italian left and unquestionably weakened the working class’s response to Fascism.
   Bordiga was arrested and tried for “conspiracy against the state” in 1923, but remarkably managed to convince the magistrates of his innocence. Within the PCI, his position weakened as the Stalinist wing of the party gained strength. In 1926, at the PCI’s Third Congress in Lyon, he lost the party leadership to Gramsci and was eventually expelled. After a period of internal exile, he was allowed to resume the engineering profession by the authorities in 1930. Bordiga dedicated himself to his work and took no further part in leftist politics, although in his old age he did write a two-volume history of Italian communism’s left wing. At the time of his death in 1970, he had become a cult figure for the PCI’s young critics in the student and workers’movements.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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