Emanuele Macaluso, historical leader of the PCI and historical memory of the Italian left, died at the age of 96

Certainly Emanuele Macaluso was not lacking in courage: neither physical nor political. The historic communist exponent, who died at the age of 96, as a boy had openly challenged the mafia, organizing peasant struggles in his Sicily, and had seen many comrades fall murdered by the Cosa Nostra hit men. As a mature executive he fought in the minority to try to mitigate the violent impact of the leftist duel between the PCI and the PSI, paying a heavy price in terms of marginalization in his own party, even more so when the name changed. with the birth of the PDS, which he had supported as an improvementist.

Born in Caltanissetta on 21 March 1924, of a working class family, Macaluso had joined the clandestine Communist Party at a very young age and after the landing of the Anglo-Americans in Sicily he devoted himself to trade union work. Barely twenty, on September 16, 1944 he was among those who accompanied Girolamo Li Causi, the most prestigious Sicilian representative of the PCI, to hold a meeting in the village of Villalba, the birthplace of the powerful Mafia boss Calogero Vizzini, where the welcome was particularly warm: hand grenades and gunshots. The toll was 14 injured, including Li Causi himself. It was just a foretaste of what would have happened for years, with the massacre of Portella della Ginestra (May 1, 1947, a dozen dead) and frequent ambushes to the left-wing agitators who led the peasant claims and the occupations of the large estates.


Macaluso was then at the center of the fray, because in 1947 he had assumed the position of regional secretary of the CGIL. He had remained unharmed, but he was not spared judicial persecution. In addition to the arrests and trials due to union activity, he had suffered a conviction for adultery due to his relationship with a married woman. Certainly he had carried out his task in an excellent way: when he became party secretary in Sicily, in 1956, the national leader of the CGIL Giuseppe Di Vittorio cited his case to deplore the way in which the PCI systematically removed the best cadres from the union.

Member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly since 1951, Macaluso in the second half of the fifties had been among the architects of the controversial Milazzo operation. A political turning point that had allowed regional governments to be launched in Palermo without the DC, with a hybrid agreement between Christian Democratic splinters led by Silvio Milazzo, left and right-wing sectors, including neo-fascists. An experiment that didn’t last long, but that Macaluso had always defended.

In 1962 he had left the regional secretariat, replaced by his friend Pio La Torre (later assassinated by Cosa Nostra in 1982), and in 1963 he was elected deputy. In Rome, Macaluso had entered the PCI secretariat with high organizational responsibilities, and then returned to Sicily between 1967 and 1972, always contrasting with great determination the presence of organized crime in the public life of the island.

Macaluso was convinced that the Mafia should be fought above all on the level of political and social initiative, while he believed, in harmony with Leonardo Sciascia, that justice should never sacrifice the guarantee of individual rights. Despite having fought for a long time against the Sicilian exponents of the current of Giulio Andreotti, he had then raised strong doubts about the approach that the magistrates of Palermo had given to the trial against the former president of the Christian Democratic Council.

Personal friend of Enrico Berlinguer, who had confided to him his doubts about the strange incident in which he had risked losing his life in Bulgaria in 1973, Macaluso had not shared the aggressive policy towards the PSI of Bettino Craxi, even if, as director of the communist newspaper, Unit between 1982 and 1986, had certainly not pulled back in the controversy with the socialists.

After Berlinguer passed away in 1984, in a party that was left without a compass, a strong harmony had been created between Macaluso and Giorgio Napolitano, who together gave life to the reformist area in the PCI (called a bit disparagingly better by its critics) convinced that European socialism was the only a sensible landing in the collapse of the Soviet bloc and communist ideology. But in the PDS a different orientation had initially prevailed, of a tendentially movementist style, and Macaluso, suspected of excessive proximity to the PSI, had been branded as an exponent of the old politics, so much so that he was not re-elected parliamentary in Sicily in 1992. Exasperated by the various forms of suffered ostracism, in June 1995 he resigned from every position within the PDS.

Precisely the abandonment of political responsibilities moreover, it had allowed Macaluso to play an important role as a critical voice with respect to all the choices of a left with rather confused ideas. He started the magazine The Reasons of Socialism, he was a columnist and then editor of the newspaper Il Riformista, he published two decidedly controversial interview books: What does not come from Cosa with Paolo Franchi (Rizzoli, 1997) and Politically s / correct with Peppino Caldarola (Dino Audino, 2012). He had defended the historical role of Palmiro Togliatti’s PCI in the essay Communists and reformists (Feltrinelli, 2013), while he had severely criticized the Democratic Party project in a pamphlet significantly titled At the terminus (Feltrinelli 2007).

In essence, Macaluso would have liked a clear positioning of the Italian left in the sphere of social democracy, accompanied by a thoughtful proposal for welfare reform. He did not appreciate at all, however, the Americanized operations which later resulted in the birth of the Democratic Party, not to mention the attempts to chase anti-politics, of which he had always been a staunch opponent. He belonged to a generation that had firmly believed in the collective commitment to improve the lives of the humblest and considered it folly to throw overboard the democratic heritage inherited from the Italy of the parties to adapt to the individualistic and media drift of an increasingly disintegrated society.

January 19, 2021 (change January 19, 2021 | 15:31)

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