If the League has been the principal nemesis of that part – the majority – of the PCI which made a pilgrimage from Communism to social liberalism without so much as a stopover at social democracy, the fate of the minority that sought to refound a democratic Communism has been largely self-inflicted. Instead of keeping clear of Prodi’s coalition in the elections of 2006, as it had done to good effect in 1996 – when a pact of mutual desistance had allowed it to enter parliament as an independent force in rough proportion to its electoral strength, and lend external, but not unconditional, support to the ensuing centre-left government – Rifondazione Comunista signed up as a full member. Its leader, Fausto Bertinotti, was rewarded with the post of speaker of the Chamber, nominally the third personage of the Italian state after the president and prime minister, and replete with official perquisites of every kind and automatic access to the media. This empty honour went, as hoped, to his head, ensuring that the RC became a docile appendage in the ruling coalition, unable to secure any substantive concessions from it, and inevitably sharing in the disrepute into which it fell. In keeping with this performance, the party voted in favour of war credits for Afghanistan not long after Bertinotti had explained that the great mistake of the left in the 20th century had been to believe that violence could ever be an instrument of progressive change – only its complete renunciation for an ‘absolute pacifism’ was now politically acceptable. Predictably, the combination of co-option and abjuration was suicidal. Facing the polls in a last minute cartel with Greens and the remnant of the DS that could not abide the dropping of even a nominal reference to the left in the PD, Rifondazione was annihilated. Voters in their millions abandoned a party that had scuttled its own identity.
An Entire Order Converted into What It Was Intended to End