“I was the one who invited him to the United States. He was poised and elegant at Briony, and ended up conquering Yale

“I was the one who invited him to the United States.  He was poised and elegant at Briony, and ended up conquering Yale

“Americans considered communists to be extremely dangerous individuals. But Napolitano simply doesn’t look dangerous! Joseph Lapalombara, professor of political science at Yale University, invited Napolitano to America on his historic trip from April 4 to 19, 1978: he was the first member of the leadership of the Italian Communist Party to be thus invited to the United States to explain the party’s policy. Lapalombara is 98 years old today: he was born in Chicago, a month before Napolitano. When the latter pointed this out to him, the professor replied: “This is the only thing in which I would accept to be superior to you,” he said to the professor. courier. “I admired Giorgio Napolitano very much. He was a dear friend of mine.”

How did you meet?
“When European Communism was at its peak, he spoke at a symposium I held in Rome for American teachers. I went to the Via delle Botteghe Oscure to talk politics with him and Amendola. I learned a lot from him. I quickly understood why, at a certain point, the more left-wing faction of the party had isolated and weakened him in his electoral base in Naples.

In the 1970s, Napolitano constantly tried to gain credibility with the US government. In 1975, he was refused a visa when he was invited to the United States for the first time by Stanley Hoffman of Harvard University, Nick Wahl of Princeton, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, a professor at Columbia University, an advocate of the Trilateral Commission and the future. Security advisor to President Jimmy Carter’s national team. What was the role of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in this rejection?
“Henry Kissinger once objected to the idea that Napolitano or any Communist from Western Europe could come to the United States. The words Kissinger said to me were very clear: I mentioned the Communist Party’s lead in the opinion polls. He replied that if the Communists took power in Italy, they would be invited. not before. It was Brzezinski who made Napolitano’s journey possible. Stanley Hoffman and Nicholas Wahl also took action to allow this.”

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What are the most important moments of the visit?
“It is difficult to point out the most important moments. At Yale it was amazing. I presented it to the think tank Council on Foreign Relations. I do not remember whether it was his extraordinary speech, in English, on the Italian economy that impressed the lawyers and bankers of New York, whether it was his knowledge of economics, or Brioni’s suit. It was a huge success. “I must add that the US State Department wanted to know where Napolitano was practically every minute of his presence on US soil.”

What did they expect him to wear?
“My story is a joke, but Americans generally viewed communists as several bearded Lenins with bombs in their pockets. This was a time when communists of all stripes were feared. As the first communist to come to the United States, it was very important for Napolitano to leave the great impression he did. Everywhere”.

Then she returned to Rome, where she worked as First Secretary for Cultural Affairs at the American Embassy from 1980 to 1981. Did Napolitano secretly meet Richard Gardner, the United States Ambassador from 1977 to 1981? In short, the Communist Party did not receive the blessing it hoped for. Was it too early for a real opening?
“I remember Napolitano’s evening meetings with Gardner, in my apartment at the embassy on Via Delfini, in Piazza Campitelli. I don’t know what they were talking about. I think it was a convenient location near PCI headquarters. No doubt many of Napolitano’s party colleagues did not like the fact that he had such an internal channel with the Americans. They were clearly secret meetings, although I imagine the Christian Democrats were aware of them. This was the time when no one at the American Embassy was allowed to meet with Communists. For example, I was told not to meet Luciano Lama or Bruno Trentin (former secretaries general of CGIL, Mr. Dr) Although I had known Trentin since Giuseppe Di Vittorio introduced us in 1952. With Bruno we were neighbors in the Renaissance.

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Kissinger called Napolitano “my favorite communist,” a phrase that is cited today as an example of pragmatism. Did he then understand that it was important to be welcomed and that not all communists were created equal?
“For political and perhaps personal reasons, Kissinger may have been joking. Brzezinski and President Carter (who took office in 1977, Mr. Dr) to make the visit possible. I do not know whether Kissinger was consulted or involved in any way. His previous hostility to the idea suggests that he was not happy with it. For him, as for Gardner, there were no respectable Communists. Gardner did everything he could to send back to Washington largely negative and anti-American reports about the Italian Communist Party. It was not objective. He and the United States were in favor of Christian democracy, no matter how terrible it was. “He was against openness to the left.”

And Brzezinki?
“He was essentially an academic: unlike Kissinger, he was unable to simply dismiss the requests of his colleagues at Harvard, Yale and Princeton. That doesn’t mean we always agreed. But we have to remember that European communism made a big difference in the United States. For this reason, Santiago Carrillo (Secretary of the Spanish Communist Party) said: Mr. Dr) and others, after Napolitano, were admitted to America despite the Smith Act (which prohibited the issuance of entry permits to those considered a “threat” to the country, Mr. Dr).

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