Altiero Spinelli was one of the authors of the Ventotene Manifesto, may be the most cited document of the Italian/European resistance, and the less read in fact. This article helps to trace back several elements of Spinelli’s vision at the base of the intellectual elaboration that resulted in the document, and also tries to delineate the Spinelli contribution to the document, taking account of some aspects of his political approach and formation. It follows Spinelli through his reading of Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Mosca, Machiavelli and Meinecke, all authors read in prison and during the confinement. Spinelli adopted their views on power and revolutionary élites, confronting them with his political activism as a young Communist with a persistent penchant for a Leninist view of the importance of political leadership, “without losing sight of the values of civilization”. The result can be considered, to some extent, critical. The vision enshrined in the Ventotene Manifesto represented a challenging attempt to redefine the categories of the political action, immediately provoking a wide debate in the non-communist areas of the antifascist movement.