Independent thought versus party politics in Bread and Wine

The novel, Bread and Wine, by Ignazio Silone follows the political battle of fighting off fascism and keeping Communism the political party in Italy. The novel follows the life of Pietro Spina, a communist party leader, who returns to Italy after being “abroad” for many years. He returns to Italy to transform the Italians. The idea of independent thought versus party politics was a reoccurring theme in this section. Much of Italy was adapting and accepting the new political movement of fascism. Pietro was in the communist party and tried to spread the word. Pietro had very independent views from party politics. This is apparent in chapter 17, where Pietro and Battipaglia get into an argument. Battipaglia, the party boss is frustrated with Pietro when he accuses him of always being on the side of the majority and conforming to other people’s view and not having his own independent view. Battipaglia is an example of someone who is constantly following his party’s view and not his own independent view, whereas Pietro sets himself aside from the rest of his community. Pietro in the end is exiled from Italy, to stand against fascism and fight from a far.

Why did other members of the community not make their own view more apparent? Did the political movements at the time input fear into others if they didn’t conform? Why was conformity so important at a time in Italy where it was growing and finally becoming stronger?

2 thoughts on “Independent thought versus party politics in Bread and Wine

  1. I think that conformity is an issue that pervades all political systems, not just that of interwar Italy. As always, there is strength in numbers and thus there is comfort in the perception of being supported and protected by political group larger and more powerful than yourself. Even in the modern U.S. the idea of conformity exists in the form of partisan politics, creating a growing need for politicians to “reach across the aisle” in order to make decisions and find feasible solutions regardless of the party with which they are associated. The larger any given group of people gets, the less likely that every member of that group will have identical opinions on every political or social issue. Thus, as any party or movement grows, its members will likely have to either make concessions and conform for the sake of membership or assert their own ideals and separate themselves from the pack.

  2. This is a great analysis of the role of free will in political parties. Neither Fascism nor Communism offers much space for free will within the party through the ways in which they are interpreted in the novel. I found Spina’s argument for breaking with the party to be fascinating in the way which he compares it to religion, and not putting the Church before Christ (175). The Communist party has shifted so much that it no longer represents the ideals which Spina believed in when he became a revolutionary.

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