Comrades and Christians

Religion and Political Struggle in Communist Italy

An investigation into the popular bases of Communist influence in Italy, providing the reader with an enjoyable, informative, and effective blend of individual portraits, cases studies, and sociopolitical analysis. Drawing on his experiences during a year of participant observation fieldwork in a working-class quarter of Bologna, capital of Italian Communism, Kertzer brings into focus the struggle between the Catholic Church and the Communist Party for the allegiance of the Italian people. He emphasizes the ways in which Italians deal with the paradox of living in a country that is at once the home of the Vatican and of the largest Communist party in the non-Communist world. Concentrating on the grass-roots workings of the Communist Party, on the local-level role of allied organizations, and on how members participate in Party affairs, Kertzer argues that much of the Party's strength and the loyalty of its membership derive from social rather than ideological factors.

While national Communist Party policy calls for conciliation with the church, the Communists in practice are faced both with a population in which anticlericalism is deeply rooted and with a Church that decries communism as incompatible with Catholicism. Against this background, Kertzer examines the pressures and choices individuals face as well as the forces affecting the relationship between the Communist Party and the Church.

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