A mentor once told me not to study communism, because it was a dead system, and studying something dead is worthless.
In defiance of this sensible advice, I will be presenting two dead communist movements: the communists in Italy and the communists in France.
Most Americans have never heard about these two parties. For good reason: France and Italy were staunch allies of the United States in the Cold War; it does not seem as if they were remotely communist.
But, for decades, the communists in Italy and France commanded millions of votes and a powerful political machine. Their strength remains a fascinating, little-noticed part of history.
Here are how the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français: PCF) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) performed:
There are several patterns here that apply to both parties, and several patterns unique to each country. (Note: The French line after 1956 indicates Communist performance in the first round of legislative elections, whereas the Italian line indicates Communist performance in elections to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. France has a two-round election system; Italy has two chambers in its Parliament. All statistics cited afterwards relate to these specific criteria.)
I will be exploring French patterns in the next post.