Natta, Alessandro

(1918–2001)
   Born in Imperia (Liguria) in the last year of World War I, Natta studied literature at the University of Genoa before he began teaching in an Imperia secondary school, then became an artillery lieutenant in World War II. He was wounded in action against the Germans after Italy’s surrender to the Allies on 8 September 1943, was taken prisoner on Rhodes, and was sent to a series of prison camps. After the war he joined the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI), returned to his teaching duties, served on his local city council, and in 1948 was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Natta’s party work was primarily as an intellectual and theorist: He edited Rinascita, was co-editor with Luigi Longo of Critica Marxista between 1956 and 1966, and served on the Central Committee as well as on the Steering Committee of the PCI. A reliable party functionary, Natta was made general secretary (party leader) upon Enrico Berlinguer’s untimely death in 1984. He was confirmed in that post at the Florence Congress of the PCI in April 1986. Like others who try to lead by consensus, he seemed torn between the forces that were wrenching the party apart, one pulling in the direction of renewed Stalinist-Leninist orthodoxy and the other toward northern European social democracy, anathema to the party’s left. However, PCI losses in the 1987 elections weakened his position, and a subsequent heart attack in 1988 brought about his resignation. His place was taken by Achille Occhetto. At the all-important BolognaCongress, in February 1991, where the PCI was transformed into the Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), Natta—like Pietro Ingrao—was among the nostalgics reluctant to give up the symbolism of the largest Western Communist party.
   Unsympathetic observers have remarked on the “grayness” of one who was essentially a party worker and who lacked the charisma that had characterized Berlinguer. Tempted by the possibilities opened, on the one hand, by unity on the left with the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and, on the other, by collaboration with the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy (DC), Natta proved unable to make a clear choice or to articulate a clear party position.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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