This book examines the popular bases of Communist influence in Italy, focusing on the struggle between the Catholic Church and the Communist Party for the allegiance of the Italian people. The author details the ways in which the citizens resolve the central paradox of Italy, which lies in its beings the home both of the Vatican and of the largest Communist party of any non-Communist nation. He discusses the local structure of the Party, including its many allied organisations and the nature of participation in Party affairs, and stresses its role in local social life. In this study, Professor Kertzer draws upon the experiences and observations of a year spent in a working-class quarter of Bologna, the capital of Italian Communism. While the national Communist Party calls for conciliation with the Church, there is an ancient tradition of anti-clericalism in this area. Moreover, the official Church position excludes the possibility of people being both Catholic and Communist. The implications of this situation for local-level tactics of Church and Party, and how people divide their allegiances between the competing claims, form the primary theme of the book.