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Pietro Ingrao 1915–2015. The fundamental phrase of Ingrao’s lexicon is the “dark clot.” It speaks about himself as a witness to the Short Century and speaks about those of us who remain. This is the moment we are given to live in. And to change.

Pietro Ingrao, a communist on the losers side

It will be worth going to the roots, deepening the undoubtedly controversial love that binds our story to that of Pietro Ingrao. Now everyone is commemorating Ingrao, trying to inscribe him in a convenient public-political dimension; even Matteo Renzi has declared that he will “miss his passion for politics” — but when did he ever get to know it?

This story addresses three topics: his origins, the war and his writing. Many have pointed out — the first among them being Luciana Castellina and Rossana Rossanda — that without Ingrao’s indecision, our history, as Manifesto — first a magazine, then a group and immediately after a newspaper, then party, then newspaper again — would probably not exist, or rather would have had fewer seasons of crisis and therefore a very different weight, right when the movements of the 1960s and 1970s were still on the scene and pushed the issues of freedom, equality, the breaking of the class schemes, the liberation of women, and the separation between government and the governed.

Meanwhile, global shifts were taking place in what was still called the Third World, new demands from the earth’s most oppressed. And here, in the Old Continent, the working class engaged in struggles of a new type, not only in terms of redemption but also the contents of power.

At the Central Committee of the Communist Party that decided our “radiation to fractionalism,” Ingrao preferred to defend Enrico Berlinguer’s party, considering him an heir to the mass party of Togliatti, Longo and even Antonio Gramsci. But it did not turn out that way. And il manifesto was released, with the presumption to expel him from the history of communism.

But that registered name stubbornly remained (and still remains).

Afterwards Pietro Ingrao bitterly regretted that choice. Everything would have been different, perhaps less painful, if Ingrao had opened up to our content and point of view, which also originated in part from what we called “ingraismo” and from the strong debate within the Communist Party.

Now, with the distance of many decades, the communist question, his “lump,” may seem old-fashioned but, along with the rubble that emerged after the disaster of real socialism, came the ruin and the drift of the democratic turning points of ‘89. Even this “driving force” came to an end.

In fact, in the East they produced neo-authoritarian societies based on privilege, and in the West there was the revenge of financial capitalism, impoverishment of society, division between humans, unprecedented and violent class conflict, and the questioning of the welfare state, while the stench of “our” new wars spread, causing millions of desperate people to flee.

How can we forget that Pietro Ingrao was the defender of Article 11 of our Constitution (“Italy rejects war”), and that he made pacifism a constitutive element of his thinking and his political work?

This pacifist world order was historically defeated in 2003 by Bush’s choice to start at any cost a new, devastating war in the Gulf.

This is the moment that we are given to live in. And to change.

Or should we leave it to the new Pope to lead the rallying cries against inequality and profit, and those in favor of the latter, against war and in favor a life and a society dedicated to service? Francis’ important attempt remains a sacred experiment, which refers to the “re-foundation” of the Church and to transcendence; we are still due the profane experiment of constructing a new society of free and equal people on earth.

Ingrao never gave up making proposals and questioning himself as only he could, which is to say continuously, and built a paradigm that appears paradoxical at a first glance: that of the certainty of doubt.

“Acchiappanuvole,” “chasing the moon”: this is how the mainstream journalists have preferred to deal with the topic of Pietro Ingrao’s legacy during these days.

But only those who expose themselves to doubt walk on the ground of truth.

Especially if it starts from the self. In the tension between Communist content, democracy and the “constituent” working class, Ingrao’s doubts concerned his writing, whether taking notes for an assembly or writing a report, or smoothing out his precious verses. Because politics was not the acquisition of a status but militancy. Bringing into play the complexity of the individual.

Pietro Ingrao took up the discourse of individuality. He spoke of himself when “politicians” were hiding. He laid himself bare.

This is impressive, because in whom can you trust if not in those who say what they are? It’s also impressive because a tendency toward the poetic in public life also leaves the air of desperation: It is misinterpreted as weakness, not as deeper reasoning.

Ingrao did not hide this weakness, rather he revealed it in a verse:

“Tenderness as the undeclared
tender root of time.”

As such, he did so without lightening the weight of errors and defeats, but calling himself into question, to the same extent as the defeated and the weak.
Here are the fundamental words of Ingrao’s lexicon: “dark clot.” It means the hidden and primitive tangle than needs to be unravelled.

Ingrao addressed the contents of the historic defeat stuck in the “vortex” of the dissolving communist parties with the “poetics of the tested project.”

He was thinking of women and men, a whole world and generations that sought to take charge of their own destiny.

It was a bequest so the contents would not be scattered, while being well aware that that choice came under fire.

He wrote of it as “the defenseless value of the choice of field.” He speaks about himself as a witness of the Short Century and speaks about those of us who remain.

Pietro Ingrao (March 30, 1915 — Sept. 27, 2015) was an Italian politician, journalist and former partisan. For many years he was a senior figure in the Italian Communist Party (PCI). In 1978 he was elected as the first Communist Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Representatives.