Struggling to protest : the Italian Communist party and the protest cycle, 1972-77
My thesis traces the interaction between the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and a series of social movements which emerged in Italy between 1972 and 1977: the 'area of Autonomia\ which pioneered new forms of workplace and community activism between 1972 and 1975; the upsurge of youth-based activism which gave rise first to the 'proletarian youth movement' of 1975-6, and subsequently to the 'movement of 1977'; and the left-wing terrorist or 'armed struggle' milieu, which made its first appearance in 1972 and grew alongside the other movements. Following Sidney Tarrow's work on the 1966-72 period, I show that the growth and diffusion of these movements constitute a 'protest cycle' or 'cycle of contention'. Like the earlier cycle, this is shaped by a process of engagement between contentious movements and the political sphere, mediated primarily by the PCI. However, Tarrow's work focuses on an 'inclusive' engagement, leading to the legitimation of movement innovations and the expansion of the repertoire of mainstream protest. I demonstrate that the second cycle was characterised by an 'exclusive' engagement, leading to the criminalisation of the movements and the contraction of legitimate political repertoires. I trace the interaction between the PCI and the movements by analysing coverage of significant events in the party's daily paper I'Unita and identifying the 'frames' through which the movements are presented. This qualitative approach is complemented by statistical analyses of the rise and decline of the cycle. My approach draws on the symbolic interactionism of David Snow and the social phenomenology of Alfred Schutz, which I set within a broadly critical realist framework. My thesis contributes to the study of social movements and their interaction with political institutions, illustrating processes by which group identities are maintained and political legitimacy is conferred or denied.