Secchia, Pietro

   Born in Vercelli near Turin, Pietro Secchia was a powerful figure in the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) from the early 1930s until the mid-1950s and the leader of the party’s Stalinist wing. A founding member of the PCI in 1921, Secchia became the leader of the Federazione Giovanile Comunista Italiana/Italian Communist Youth Federation (FGCI) and in 1928 a member of the party’s central committee, with a place on the politburo. In this role, he cast the decisive vote, in January 1930, that led the PCI to approve underground activities against the Fascist regime and to construct a network of clandestine cells within Italy. In July 1930, the first head of the party’s “internal center,” Camilla Rovera, was arrested by the police. Secchia was named as her substitute. In April 1931, he himself was arrested in Turin and condemned to 18 years in prison.
   Secchia was liberated in August 1943, when he immediately resumed his role as one of the PCI’s most influential figures and took an active role in the resistance against the Nazis as the chief commissar of the PCI’s partisan forces. At the Fifth Congress of the PCI in January 1946, Secchia was placed in charge of the vital task of forming the political consciousness of the rapidly growing membership. Palmiro Togliatti apart, Secchia was by now the most important figure in the PCI, a fact that was recognized by his appointment as deputy secretary at the Sixth Congress of the PCI in 1948. Working with fanatical dedication, Secchia built a party that boasted over two million members by the early 1950s but that was also dominated by an unblushing personality-cult of Josef Stalin and an uncritical belief in the superiority of the Soviet model. Secchia’s influence decreased after Stalin’s death in 1953 and after a scandal involving one of his most trusted assistants, who had absconded with secret party documents and a considerable sum of money in July 1954. In January 1955, Secchia was compelled to undergo “self-criticism” and was removed from his post as the PCI’s chief organizer.
   From 1955 to his death in 1973, Secchia opposed the PCI’s gradual move away from Moscow under Togliatti and his successor, Luigi Longo. In 1965, he published a two-volume history of the “war of liberation” fought by the partisans in Italy between 1943 and 1945.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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