The late Lucio Colletti discusses the content of Marx's early writings and how their late emergence influenced Marxism and the reinterpretation of Marx.
Written as an introduction to the Early Writings volume of the Penguin Marx Library; London, 1975.
Lucio Colletti, who has died of a heart attack aged 76, was a much-loved philosophy professor at Italian universities who dedicated most of his life to studying and teaching Karl Marx - and ended his days as a parliamentary deputy for the party of premier Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's richest capitalist.
Yet in spite of those contradictions, Colletti will be remembered as someone who tried to come to terms with the failure of the communism for which, like so many of his generation, he had held high hopes when fascism was engulfing Europe. As a young man eager to study philosophy, he had to wait till the fall of fascism in 1945 before he could enrol at Rome University. He first taught at the University of Messina, but in the early 1950s was awarded a philosophy chair at Rome.
He joined the Communist party of Italy (PCI) but was already an irascible comrade, particularly after the 1956 Soviet party congress, when Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin. After the suppression of the Hungarian revolution that year he was one of the 101 PCI intellectuals who published a manifesto denouncing the party's failure to distance itself from the Soviet Union.
The PCI's founder philosopher was Antonio Gramsci, but Colletti preferred another Marxist thinker, Galvano Della Volpe. One of the most conspicuous victims of the 1960s radical wave at Rome University, he had no sympathy for the 1968 movement. In 1974 he abjured Marxism, expressing his views in an interview with Perry Anderson published first in the New Left Review and later expanded in Italian as a pamphlet.
He became an outsider on the Italian left just when the PCI, under Enrico Berlinguer, was winning more electoral backing. After publication of his Twilight Of Ideology (1980), Colletti decided that the moderate socialism within a market society proposed by Bettino Craxi, the new secretary of the Socialist party (PSI), might be the solution he hoped for. After Soviet Communism's collapse and the debacle of Craxi's brand of socialism, Colletti was ready to support the first to come along with an attractive pro posal for a renewal of Italian society, but many were surprised that he should have felt attracted to Berlusconi, who puts private interests before public service.
Colletti ran in a safe seat at the 1996 elections, which Berlusconi lost. He was re-elected this year and though he has often been critical of Berlusconi's actions - such as the way the G8 affair in Genoa was conducted - he remained a loyal supporter to whom Berlusconi paid tribute after his death, praising "his courage in rejecting communism".
He is survived by his second wife, Fauzia, and their daughter Giulia, and a daughter by his first marriage.
· Lucio Colletti, academic, born December 8 1924; died November 3 2001
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