Felix Morrow

Washington’s Plans for Italy

(June 1943)


Source: Fourth International, Vol.4 No.6, June 1943, pp.175-179.
Transcription & mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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With the invasion of Italy an imminent possibility, Roosevelt’s “unofficial” envoy, Archbishop Spellman, continues his incessant journeying to and from Rome, which he began in February. All formal denials to the contrary, it is obvious that the Vatican is acting as broker for a Darlanist deal. Typical of the situation is the fact that the May 19 New York Times published as “the Vatican proposals” the following summary from its Swiss correspondent:

“In the cadres of the present Italian regional prefects – who for the purpose of civil administration would not be considered to have been active [Fascist] party supporters and would in their turn be subject to the orders of an Allied commission sitting in Rome – a ten-year plan of political metamorphosis would be immediately introduced. During this period civil administration would be handed back to the people by certain well-defined stages. The Fascist party as such would be immediately disbanded.

“No provision is made in this first part for the arrest or handing over to the Allies of any Fascist leaders.” (Our italics.)

The regional prefects, who would thus become the basis of the “new” Italian regime are, of course, all Mussolini appointees, leaders of the Fascist party. In return for their collaboration, they “would ‘expect within a reasonable time’ to receive certain territorial concessions in Italy’s former colonial empire.” These Vatican proposals are of course unconfirmed, but also undenied. How far Washington has agreed to these specific terms is of course idle speculation, but the spirit of them is undoubtedly characteristic of what Washington is seeking and ready to agree to.

Perhaps at this time the best way to understand Washington’s plan for Italy is to examine their effect on the Italian anti-fascist emigrés in this country, who are in a position to understand precisely what is involved. The story of their relations with Washington is in any event well worth telling, for it is a mirror of the future of all the European anti-fascists who are depending on Washington for the liberation of Europe.

We speak, of course, of the “official” Italian emigrés, recognized by Washington in one form or another as the spokesmen for Italian anti-fascism. Their outstanding figure is Count Carlo Sforza, the King’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the close of World War I and ambassador to France at the time of the “march” on Rome; since January 1942 his program is the democratic republic. Their principal organization in the American hemisphere is the Mazzini Society, which also has a certain – none too firm – authority among Italian-American trade unionists. Its left wing is the semi-socialist publication-group Quaderni Italiani. [1] Speaking for the Mazzini Society are such professors and writers as Gaetano Salvemini, Max Ascoli, G.A. Borgese, etc.

When World War II began, these Italian emigrés found it difficult to pretend that liberation for Italy would come from France and Britain. Chamberlain and Daladier wooed Mussolini despite all the pleas and accurate predictions of the emigrés concerning Mussolini’s game – Sforza was coldly repelled when he told Daladier that Mussolini would enter the war a fortnight before France’s defeat. During the Finnish-Soviet war of 1939-1940, as Sforza himself has told in his book, The Totalitarian War and After, the big bourgeoisie and General Weygand wanted war against the Soviet Union in the hope “that Hitler might turn and become the ally of France in this ‘holy war’.” They got Daladier to declare to the Chamber of Deputies that 50,000 men were ready to sail to Finland (Mannerheim had told Daladier that 300,000 were necessary but Daladier did not have the equipment). Only the hasty peace between Finland and the Soviet Union ended this development. The Italian emigrés could scarcely hope for salvation from a regime which was thus oriented.

Nor could they grow very enthusiastic over Churchill when he came to the helm. He had declared that he would be a fascist if he were an Italian. When Mussolini finally entered the war formally, Churchill did not eat his words. He made it clear from the first that he was ready to make peace with even the Fascist Party and certainly with the monarchy; for Britain’s prime minister “only one man” was responsible for Italian entry into the war.
 

The Honeymoon

It was, thus, only when the United States entered the war that the Italian emigrés could persuade themselves – or try to – that a new era was really here. Washington would understand what London and Paris would not. The “anti-fascist war” must be fought implacably and no peace made with the fascists, the general staff or the monarchy. Victory for the United Nations would bring revolution to Italy, not merely as an aftermath of defeat but as a consequence desired and aided by the “democracies.”

Inspired with this new hope the Mazzini Society, shortly after Pearl Harbor, launched an Italian-language weekly with the appropriate title Nazioni Unite (United Nations). Roosevelt, in turn, gave the Mazzini Society a semi-official status. The OWI saw to it that free radio time was provided for Mazzini broadcasts. In June 1942 Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson appeared at a Garibaldi memorial meeting of the Mazzini Society, lending it government approval. He brought a “declaration” announcing “American official recognition of the antagonism between Italy and fascism.” And not only the Fascist Party would have to go but also the generals; “the President has made it clear that the liberation of the Italian and other peoples from the military cliques which hold them in their clutches is one of the war aims of the United Nations.” Encouraged by these apparently unambiguous words from the State Department, the Mazzini Society and other groups in North and South America convened a Congress of Free Italians in Montevideo. There, on August 17, 1942 it was decided to create a National Council with Sforza as president which, stated the September 10 Nazioni Unite, should be “recognized officially in a manner similar to the De Gaulle Fighting French Committee.” That was the high point of the hopes of the Italian anti-fascists that Washington would give full support to a democratic revolution in Italy.

Occasionally, it is true, the emigrés offered a criticism, as when Sforza wrote:

“I received responses solicited from Italians in Italy In broadcasts of mine discussing the Atlantic Charter. ‘Yes, you may be right,’ the answers ran. ‘You are certainly right in believing in Roosevelt’s generous and humane intentions. But why are we not told by the chiefs of the democracies what they think about the future of Italy? To raise volunteers, to risk our lives, to risk much more, our honor, we must be sure that we are serving the cause of a free Italy and a free world.” (The Nation, May 9, 1942.)

To answer these questioners, Sforza urged Roosevelt to put forward “a concrete program for achieving” for Italy the principles of the Atlantic Charter. Sforza presumably had no doubt what the “concrete program” would be – a free Italy.
 

A Rude Awakening

The concrete program, when it came, proved to be Darlanism. Had the Italian emigrés not immediately understood the application of the North African events to Italy, it was soon explained to them in words of one syllable. Walter Lippmann wrote:

“When Mussolini and his henchmen, are disposed of, there will still remain in Italy the vestiges of legitimate and historic authority by means of which the transition to the New Italy can be made. For if there is not such a transition, it will be difficult in the chaos of Italian defeat to find Italian authority able to speak for Italy.” (New York Herald Tribune, November 21, 1942.)

By “legitimate and historic authority,” Lippmann subsequently made plain, he meant the monarchy and the army. Encouraged by events, some Catholic spokesmen even hoped to save not only the monarchy but also Mussolini; thus on November 20, 1942 The Tidings, official organ of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, wrote:

“We must remember that the government of Mussolini is still the lawfully constituted authority in Italy. If we can get Italy out of the war by negotiating with that lawfully constituted authority, that is to our advantage.” (Quoted in Nazioni Unite, December 31, 1942.)

Less crudely and much more authoritatively, the New York Times laid down the line:

“Clearly the United Nations cannot make peace with the existing Fascist regime. Here again, however, a problem would arise regarding the extent to which it is wise to attempt to impose from the outside a democratic regime or a particular form of government on Italy.” (Times, December 1, 1942. Our italics.)

In the face of these statements, Gaetano Salvemini sadly concluded that, at the least,

“the royal House of Savoy, the army and the Pope are being kept on ice by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt as the legitimate authorities entitled to speak for Italy...” (Nazioni Unite, December 31, 1942.)

For a moment, when Darlan was assassinated, Nazioni Unite expected a miracle. Like the American liberals, it prayed that the murder would bring an end to “expediency”:

“His exit from the political scene at this important moment may prove useful to the cause of France and of the United Nations.

“General Giraud, unanimously elected successor to Darlan, is not an “homme de gauche, but he has not been a collaborator of the German invaders, on the contrary, he has bravely escaped twice from German prisons,” etc., etc. (Editorial Nazioni Unite, December 31, 1942.)

A week later, of course, Nazioni Unite was wailing about Giraud’s choice of Peyrouton as his right-hand man.
 

The Blows Begin to Fall

The Mazzini people might have found a way to swallow Giraud and close their eyes to the overtures being made to the monarchy and army in Italy. But now they began to receive blows here in America which it was impossible for them to ignore.

They had ecstatically hailed Biddle’s order removing Italians from the status of enemy aliens. Now they discovered its main function. Under it notorious friends of Mussolini – particularly the circle of the newspaper magnate Generoso Pope and the fraternal order Sons of Italy – now appeared in the arena as claimants for leadership of the Italian emigration, naturally as “anti-fascists.” And they appeared with government support. Mazzini Society opposition to this masquerade was brushed aside by the OWI officials in charge of setting up Italian-American Victory Councils in every locality. Since the Mazzini national officers refused to sit with the “ex”-fascists, the OWI went over their head to the local chapters of the Mazzini Society, telling them that it was the government’s desire to have them in the Councils. A government “desire” could not but appear to emigrés as an order, and in Chicago, St. Louis and some other places the Mazzini chapters entered the Councils together with fascist elements. In Philadelphia the chapter refused to join but was included anyway in the official roster of the Council.

In this procedure the OWI got yeoman’s aid from the Stalinists who, in order to get into the Councils themselves, were more than ready to support entry of the fascist groups. With their usual anxiety to establish their respectability, the Mazzini leaders lumped together the fascists and the Stalinists as “totalitarians,” and were maneuvered by the OWI and the Stalinists into a position where the main dispute appeared to be over the inclusion of the Stalinists.

A warning of things to come was an OWI statement in December branding as a forgery written in America an appeal of the underground Italian Socialist Party for civil disobedience.

The document had been vouched for as authentic by the Mazzini and other groups, including the Italian-American Labor Council. It has all the marks of being genuine, and far more dubious documents “from Europe” have been accepted by the OWI. For the OWI to go out of its way to repudiate the document can only mean an attempt to denude the Mazzini and like-minded groups of any semblance of authority to speak for the anti-fascist elements in Italy.

The handwriting was on the wall and could not be denied. What Washington was really up to now had to be told. Max Ascoli described how “one of those tough realists who crowd the public corridors and the hotel bars in Washington” – Ascoli was still too polite to say that they also crowd the State Department – formulates the government’s policy:

“‘Professor, don’t be a dope. Nobody who has any sense around here wants a revolution in Italy or anywhere else in fact. Revolutions are unhealthy affairs. After we lick Hitler, it will be through due process of law that the four freedoms are going to be obtained anywhere. What we mean is this: Couldn’t Italy use whatever independence she has left so that at the right moment she would give a good stab in the back to Germany? See? We do not mean the Italian people, but some of the basic, legitimate institutions of Italy, like the army, the monarchy, the church or the fascist party. Which of these legitimate institutions is the one that we can use as a pivot in organizing the turn around? See?” (Nazioni Unite, Jan. 21, 1943.)

“Of course,” adds Ascoli despairingly, “everybody will turn – one moment before our total victory.” Even Mussolini.

Gaetano Salvemini now said:

“the State Department and the OWI not only are giving no encouragement to any groups [in Italy] which might organize resistance, but are actually doing everything in their power to discourage such action. Since they cannot rely upon a revolution in Italy before British and American armed intervention has smashed the Fascist military machine, and since a later revolution would serve no military purpose, they are not interested in anti-Fascist revolution. Further, they do not Intend to have any such nuisance...

“It appears that Article 3 of the Atlantic Charter, which pledged Britain and America to ‘respect the right of all peoples, to choose the form of government under which they will live, is to be interpreted as meaning that they will be allowed to choose only forms of government like those of Franco in Spain or Petain in France, or such as Otto of Austria would set up somewhere in Central Europe.

“... anyone addressing the Italians on an American broadcasting station must pledge himself not to remind the Italian people that the King is as responsible as Mussolini for the tragedy of present-day Italy. And an army of newspapermen is instructed by the State Department to teach us, day in and day out, that if not the King then at least his son is to be regarded as the ‘leader of the anti-Fascist groups’; or perhaps the Crown Prince’s wife, or the King’s cousin, the Count of Turin... or Badoglio, or Grandi or Ciano...” (Nazioni Unite, February 4, 1943.)
 

A Lost Desperate Plea

Shelved by the State Department, the scolding “democrats” have still one string to their bow: the threat of proletarian revolution. Like De Gaulle, they warn Roosevelt that Darlanism is dangerous because it leads to civil war. The “democratic” emigré Catholic priest, Luigi Sturzo (who in 1919-20, as leader of the Popular Party, worked with the fascists under the slogan of “restoration of public order and the suppression of Socialism”) forebodingly urges Roosevelt to understand:

“But if, together with the Monarchy, they want to constitute a government ‘à la Petain’ at the will of Churchill and Roosevelt, then the Italian people will be forced to bend toward secret and revolutionary movements.” (Nazioni Unite, January 8, 1943.)

Similarly Salvemini adduces as the worst consequence of this Roosevelt-Churchill policy:

“that in their endeavor to force down the throats of the Italian people ‘pro-Allied Fascism without Mussolini,’ discredited politicians and a discredited royal house, they are making unavoidable in Italy an even more fearful post-war crisis than that which the collapse of the Nazi-Fascist military machine will bring about.” (La Controcorrente, January 1943.)

De Gaulle at least has insisted that his movement is indispensable if revolution is to be prevented in France. The Italian “democrats” are not so bold. If, alas, in spite of all their pleas they are to be shelved in favor of the present Washington policy, they still offer advice on how to prevent a proletarian revolution. Thus Salvemini, after assuming that Mussolini and the King will sign the armistice, begs the Americans and British, “engrossed in immediate military tasks, to let the anti-fascists make short work of Mussolini, the King, the Crown Prince, Badoglio, Grandi, Ciano and their like.” And then, presumably no longer engrossed in immediate military tasks,

“the armies of occupation should prevent an irresponsive extremist clique from seizing power, and the people should be given time to organize themselves again into political parties, to discuss the issues before them, and finally to choose their own government. This would be the right course; and the United States, in pursuing it, would not only remain loyal to its traditions but would gain the love and gratitude of all peoples.” (Nazioni Unite, February 4, 1943. Our italics.)

In short, Salvemini, who elsewhere correctly makes sport of “their futile attempt to make anti-Mussolinian omelette without breaking the Fascist eggs,” here asks Roosevelt and Churchill to use their troops against the “irresponsible extremist clique” without breaking the anti-fascist revolution.

The threat of revolution adduced by the “democrats” in beseeching more consideration from Washington is not an empty one. The “democrats” are, in truth, far more disturbed by what is happening in Italy than they are by what is happening in Washington. One article cites a letter from a “young representative of the Italian Underground” who recently wrote:

“We have never pinned all our hopes on this war, and... we recognize as ours only the anti-Fascist war, which is playing a decreasing role in this second world conflict.” (Nazioni Unite, March 4, 1943.)

This quotation is extremely interesting; one would wish that Nazioni Unite had given us the entire letter. It is clear, however, that its writer has no illusions about being liberated by the “democracies.” In contrast to this anti-fascist in Italy, the Sforzas and Salveminis pinned all their hopes on this war, i.e., on supporting the “democracies.” And, as we have seen, even now, they continue to offer their unsolicited advice to the “democracies.” In these few words they quote from an antifascist in Italy one can detect the abyss of experience and therefore of ideas which separates the Italian underground from the petty-bourgeois emigrés.
 

Why Roosevelt Prefers Darlanism

Why, despite all their craven pleas, are these “democrats” so rudely rejected by Roosevelt?

There was a time when such pleas would have carried weight – in the epoch of the stability of democratic capitalist regimes. But that time is gone forever, as history since 1917 testifies. Sforza is in effect proposing that Washington and London attempt to repeat the experiment of the Weimar Republic – let subservient “democrats” rule defeated Italy. But the imperialists have scarcely forgotten how very nearly the proletarian revolution conquered in Germany in 1918-23. If Ebert came close to the fate of Kerensky, the danger would be far greater in the case of Sforza. Ebert had the many-millioned Social Democracy and the trade unions, firmly dominated by a bureaucracy which had generations of experience and prestige. Through what instrumentality could Sforza hope to rule apart from naked force? The emigré professors? The Italian bourgeoisie as a class is indelibly identified with the fascist regime and the monarchy in the mind of every worker and peasant; hence the proletarian revolution is on the order of the day the moment the regime cracks. Washington can have no reason to believe that the Sforzas will be able to hold back the revolutionary torrent. Precisely for this reason Washington does not want the regime to crack, and seeks an understanding with its principal pillars: the monarchy, the church, the army and the capitalist class.

Moreover, even if the Sforza alternative had possibilities of success, Washington has domestic reasons for preferring the Darlanist method. In the years 1918-23 the Weimar Republic was compelled to go far to the left more than once in order to save itself from Bolshevism. Ebert’s first government was called the Council of People’s Commissars in imitation of Lenin’s. For a while it had to recognize the legality of the Soldiers’ and Workingmen’s Soviets. After the workers defeated the Kapp Putsch in 1920 the Social Democracy had to pretend it was planning socialization of industry. No government could exist without the support of the Social Democratic Party. A Sforza regime would have to do at least as much. What would be the effect of such radicalism on the Italian workers in this country ? Many of them would undoubtedly be inspired by revolutionary developments in Italy to become revolutionists here; even those who accept Sforza’s reformism as good coin would seek the same thing here. That happened to the German, Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish workers here after the last war. Thus the Italians would be found in the vanguard of the leftward moving American proletariat.

According to the 1940 census, 3,766,820 people in America give Italian as their mother tongue. More than one-third of these are in New York state alone. Another half-million are in Pennsylvania, and nearly as many in New Jersey. Thus concentrated in great industrial centers, they are predominantly workers. Unlike the radical foreign-born workers of 1918, these Italian-Americans (most of them born here) generally speak English and could reach out to the American workers. Generoso Pope and his stripe have kept them in the hands of Tammany Hall and other city machines. But that would be ended in the course of the Italian revolution. That is why Washington prefers Pope to Salvemini here and the monarchy and the army instead of Sforza in Italy.

To support the pillars of the Italian regime is a desperate enterprise. The social hatred that has been accumulating in the Italian masses for twenty years is directed at all the ruling summits. To try to prevent it from having any real vent – that is what Washington proposes – means to continue in Italy still further the twenty-year accumulation of social bitterness. When it does explode, as it inevitably must, there will be no safety valves left, as Sforza warns Roosevelt. Yet, fantastic as this enterprise appears to Sforza – and it is fantastic in the long run – the American bourgeoisie must make the attempt. By any means they must seek to bolster the machines of the Generoso Popes in the Italian-American communities. They know that a leftward upsurge of the American proletariat is coming. If thereby they can keep some part of the nearly four million Italian-Americans out of it for a time, Darlanism will have served its purpose. Like every ruling class in decline, they can have no long-term perspective.

Within the limits of this basic policy Washington naturally will do what it can to embellish the ugly reality. It will find among the Mazzini Society leaders some who will be more than willing to go as American overseers of the “ex”-fascist regime. Particularly those emigrés like Professor Max Ascoli, who have become American citizens and who have no serious perspective of returning to live in Italy, will see a seat or even a secretaryship on an Allied Commission in Rome as a stepping-stone to a distinguished career in America. Nor is it altogether unlikely that Sforza himself may serve. Even now he is as much concerned “that the Italian frontiers will not be violated” by the peace as he is about anti-fascism. And by Italian frontiers he means also the colonial possessions which he retained for Italy as Foreign Minister in 1920; for example, the Dodecanese Islands, populated by Greeks, which he refused to permit to join Greece despite his predecessor’s pledge to do so and which he still will not grant to Greece. [2] Perhaps it will be for the sake of saving such “Italian” possessions that Sforza will join the “new” regime. In any event there will be a sufficient number of “anti-fascists” who, just as they were able to persuade themselves that Washington would liberate Italy, will likewise persuade themselves that the formal dissolution of the Fascist party has “freed” Italy enough to justify their collaboration with Washington and the “ex”-fascists.

Furthermore, Washington will undoubtedly seek to avoid using Italian figures exactly equivalent to Darlan. It will try to limit collaboration to second-rank fascists, not only to mollify American public opinion, but also because there is reason to believe that collaboration with Darlan, Nogues and Peyrouton proved much less fruitful than Washington had imagined. The top-ranking “ex”-Vichyites, in so far as they could, tried to play their own game and seriously interfered with American-British military operations. In seeking collaborationists a notch or two lower down, Washington will also be better able to dress up such lesser-known figures as really anti-fascists at heart. For this purpose particularly it will find useful the services of the Mazzini Society leaders.

 

Footnotes

1. A review of the program of this group was published In the International Notes of the February 1943 Fourth International.

2. The Dodecanesian League of America, 211 W. 33 St., New York has just published a pamphlet on this, Sforza vs. Sforza, contrasting his “democracy” with his imperialism.

 


Last updated on: 4.1.2006