MAASTRICHT, 19 MAY 1955. The European Coal and Steel Community gathered in the small mining town of Maastricht (Netherlands) to discuss the improvement of living conditions for citizens of the member states. The Italian Communist Party is sat at the negotiation table and is determined to uphold the welfare of the working class. Their delegate considers them the “pillar of our economy”, and the “root” of the problems the ECSC currently has to address. But in a context of confrontation between capitalists and communists, she often feels she is alone against the rest. When a minor came earlier today to offer a testimony of their conditions, the Luxembourgish representative asked whether they supported communism or not, much to the disappointment of the Italian Communist delegate. The Guardian had a conversation with her on her motivations and expectations.
The Guardian: Are you satisfied with the debates so far?
Italian Communist Party representative: So far, I would say everyone is interested in promoting workers’ rights. However, I feel a certain hypocrisy amongst some delegates, but I am not surprised. It is going more into the liberal side. They do claim they care about workers’ rights, but as a communist that is the only thing I care about. Meanwhile, they also care about economic prosperity and want to see a growing economy. For us, this drive for growth in a capitalist system is negative for the workers.
TG: How are you counter-balancing their liberal proposals?
ICP: I have talked a lot about how we should regulate the market. We also talked a lot about safety, which could be something as simple as providing helmets for minors. Trade unions are also another proposal we made — where workers could give their opinion on their working conditions.
TG: Do you feel like it is you against the world in this debate?
ICP: Sometimes, yes. Even the socialist parties, whom I thought I could work with, have certain prejudice against the Communist Party. They associate us with the Soviet Union, which is totally unreasonable, because the Italian Communist Party is not linked to the Soviet Union.
TG: You have no ties with Moscow?
ICP: No. The ideology might unite us, but we are not pursuing Soviet-style communism. We are here to serve the people and the workers, not the Soviet Union.
TG: Considering the status quo of European affairs, how do you envision further European integration?
ICP: We want to see an integration of Europe as a whole. We are tired of the Cold War mentality, of the West and Eastern blocs. If there is European integration, it has to be regardless of views and identities. We want European unity whereby Europe is not influenced by neither the United States of America nor the Soviet Union. We are Europe.
TG: How do you then unite two sides of Europe with such polarised views?
ICP: For the wellbeing of Europeans, we should work on our common grounds and strive for compromise and consensus to achieve our goals. As long as the delegates are willing to make compromises, as we are, we can make this work.
TG: Do you think other delegates have this mentality as well? The Luxembourgish delegate asked the minor who came to visit you whether they were for or against communism.
ICP: I did not appreciate that question, I do not think a diplomat should be asking such questions. We do not understand it.
TG: You mentioned you wanted to find a common ground. The German Christian-Democrat delegate proposed a televised European Song Contest to unite the continent. Do you approve of that idea?
ICP: We definitely support it. We should not only focus on economic and political integration — culture is equally as important. It is a space for Europeans to share and have fun. We think it would be very beneficial and are looking forward to it happening!
— Alastair Humphrey, foreign correspondent for The Guardian.