LIFE ON THE Italian left is full of vexations, and collisions with questions that Marx never adequately considered. In Florence this week, the city council--dominated by Communists and Socialists--had to decide whether to allow the Rolling Stones to hold a concert there.

A Marxist could plausibly argue that the Rolling Stones represent the voice of the revolution, in a manner of speaking, or at least that they serve to terrify the bourgeois. Alternatively, a Marxist could denounce rock music as the opiate of the non-working classes and the instrument of cultural hegemony. But, as it turned out, the central issue seems to have been the desirability of attracting large numbers of the Rolling Stones' followers to Florence just as the tourist season comes into full bloom.

Currently the relations between the Communists and the Socialists are even worse than usual in Italy. The Socialists keep pressing ideological points designed to nourish suspicions in the audience that the Communists are not entirely the good and moderate democrats that they claim to have become. If the Communists say that it's a nice day, the Socialists immediately reply that it looks like rain and that to suggest anything else only indicates a deep and ineradicable allegiance to revolutionary Leninism. In response to these aggressive tactics, the Socialist party has been growing and the large Communist party seems to be losing a bit of its following.

In the Florentine city council, the Communist line favored the concert. The Socialists opposed it, and, after long debate, the Socialists won. From the progressive point of view, rock music may be desirable in principle, but not in Florence.