Angelo Tasca


Paul Preston writes: "I agree with Jon Kofas about William Appleman Williams, but I think his comment on Tasca becoming a fascist is a tad harsh. I take the liberty of sending you a few paragraphs on Angelo Tasca.

In 1938, a certain 'A.Rossi' published The Rise of Facism. A uniquely penetrative analysis, the book articulated the premises of the modern historiography of fascism. In particular, it highlighted the errors of the left, and especially of the Socialists of the Po Valley, in facilitating Mussolini's rise to power. 'Rossi' was the pseudonym of Angelo Tasca, a Piedmontese Socialist who had been a founder of the Italian Communist Party. He was one of the most talented of a generation of left-wing intellectuals which included Roselli, Silone and Salvemini, as well as his fellow Communists Bordiga, Gramsci and Togliatti. His political career in Italy, Russia and France spanned war, revolution and exile. He was a friend of Bukharin and Thalheimer. His writings were fertile and voluminous. It is ironic then that Tasca, the left-wing activist, should be remembered only for one book, and that critical of his erstwhile comrades.

Tasca was an extraordinary individual and the fact that, until Alexander De Grand's meticulous and elegant biography (In Stalin's Shadow. Angelo Tasca and the Crisis of the Left in Italy and France, 1910-1945 Northern Illinois University Press, 1988), he remained unknown is a consequence of his very individuality. He was always his own man, often perversely so, and in the end he took the road marked out by Oswald Mosley. He lacked the sinewy pragmatism of Togliatti. His writing was neither as original nor as opaque as that of Gramsci. In the last resort, he was a better historian than he was political operator or theorist. Yet, he was able to offer in the 1920s and 1930s 'the best and most coherent strategy for fighting fascism'. Indeed, the life of Tasca illuminates the entire process whereby the European left crumbled before fascism, its sanest voices unheard. De Grand's sympathetic portrait of a difficult but courageous man is to be welcomed heartily. It not only rescues Tasca from obscurity but also communicates a memorable sense of how the hurricanes of war and revolution blasted their way into the lives of individuals.

De Grand shows that Tasca's tragedy was to be always an outsider, too honest to go with the tide. After the creation of the Communist Party in 1921, Tasca showed himself to be a poor Bolshevik and worked to limit the effects of Moscow-inspired sectarianism. He was an unsung pioneer of popular frontism, one of the first European leftists to understand the need for a broad alliance of democratic forces against fascism. He went to Moscow in 1928 as the PCI's representive on the Comintern secretariat and opposed the smearing of socialists as 'social fascists'. Unlike Togliatti, who swayed in the Stalinist wind, Tasca stood by Bukharin and was expelled from the PCI on Stalin's direct orders. Exiled in France, he found work on various journals, including Henri Barbusse's Monde, but was always to be hounded by the PCF.

After the trial of Bukharin, Tasca abandoned Marxism altogether and swerved to the right. The outbreak of war found him broadcasting for French radio. In 1940, he rejected an opportunity to escape to London and worked for the Vichy government as an anti-Communist propagandist. He did so because he was convinced that the enmity between Communists and Socialists had brought France to defeat. However, his hope that France could be reborn under Vichy was short-lived and he soon made contact with the Belgian resistance. It was not enough and his early collaborationism prevented his having any kind of political career in France or Italy after 1945. With some bitterness, he turned to writing fierce anti-Communist studies based on his own archives and diaries. He ended up on the CIA-funded lecture circuit, an obstinate victim of the God that failed".

Jon Kofas writes: "!n response to Paul Preston's comments on AnheloTasca, I must confess that when Alex DeGrand was preparing his ms., he and I and a few friends in Chicago back in the early 1980s would have lots of discussions over coffee and drinks on what drove Tasca from the left to the right. Naturally, Alex was fascinated by Tasca's life, and he discovered a lot more detail than he included in the book. One of those juicy details was Tasca's tremendous need for money, and the reasons why he needed money. When Alex revealed to me and to two other colleagues in Chicago why Tasca needed money, we had a lively conversation about it, and we asked him to rethink whether he wanted that included in the book. I also remember that Alex was indeed drawn into the heart of his protagonist and we talked about how biographers tend to sympathize with their subject at some level, no matter who they my be. Alex had read one of my early works on the Latin American labor movement and he noticed that I was drawn to Vicente Lombardo Toledano, head of Confederacion de Trabajadores de America Latina. In any event, Alex's book is by far the very best in humanist scholarship, and DeGrand along with Renzo de Filice and a few others are indeed the authorities on Italian Fascism".

RH: See:
Find in a Library: A Communist Party in action; an account of the ...
A Communist Party in action; an account of the organization and operations in France
• By: Angelo Tasca ; Willmoore Kendall • Publisher: New Haven, Yale ...
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