This essay looks at two recent Italian books about the evolution of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Drawing on archival materials, the books trace the conflict between the radicals and the reformers within the PCI's ranks, a conflict that gave way to violent splinter groups that regarded the PCI as too staid and conciliatory. As the far left took a violent turn in Italy in the late 1960s, it paved the way for the spasm of grisly far-left and far-right terrorism in Italy in the 1970s and early 1980s. The books lend weight to the view that the PCI, through its exaltation of Communist revolution and its demonization of the Christian Democratic establishment, facilitated the emergence of extremist groups that perpetrated more than 8,400 terrorist attacks in the latter half of the 1970s.

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