Pierre Broué

The Italian Communist Party, the War and the Revolution

(March 1987)

From Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 4, Spring 1995, pp. 111–122.
Originally published in Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 29, March 1987, pp. 70–9.
Translated by John Archer.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

What follows here first appeared as an article in the Cahiers Léon Trotsky (no. 29, March 1987, pp. 70–9) entitled Le PC italien, le guerre et la révolution, and we are indebted to Pierre Broué and his translator, John Archer, for permission to publish it here. The text has been collated against the French and slightly amended, with the addition of our own footnotes.

Although it does not relate directly to Arturo Peregalli’s article that follows, it does provide us with a very useful background to what was going on, and enables us to place these events in their global context. The operations of Stalinism in Italy are thus seen to occupy an intermediate position between the very different techniques used to head off revolution in France and Greece (cf. Revolutionary History, Volume 1, no. 4, Winter 1988–89, pp. 34–8; Volume 3, no. 3, Spring 1981, pp. 6–9).

SERGE LAMBERT’S thesis has not ‘yet’ found a publisher. [1] We are not complaining about that. We believe that he was able to find someone to supervise his research and people to examine him because he presented his thesis in France, and he would not have found anyone to do it in Italy itself, for political reasons, and because there are myths which politicians defend tooth and nail against real historians, in other words, against the search for historical truth.

The history of Italy during the Second World War, and the history of the Italian Communist Party during that war, are not in fact minor episodes. In Italy it was the workers’ agitation – and no one will be surprised to learn that it began in the Fiat plant – which finally shook the ground under the Fascist regime, and dug the grave of Benito Mussolini. The end of his regime is a faint echo of that in February 1917, with the same phenomenon of the police hesitating to repress the workers and allowing them a little time, just enough for them to achieve solidarity, which became a general strike to bring down the regime the next day. It was also in Italy that the Italian Communist Party – that section of the Communist International directly under the control of Moscow – made approaches to the notables, the renegade Fascists, the marshals and the princes of the church, to propose a compromise to them that was to save all of them from the pressure from the streets in exchange for a government ministry, and hence legal recognition for the Italian Agency in Moscow.

The work of Serge Lambert begins there. It concentrates on the Italian Communist Party, but actually goes far beyond it, because its limits are not strictly defined. It is both a history of the Italian Communists during the war, and a history of the revolution which was looking for guidelines and failed to find them in time. Serge Lambert’s merit lies in his having understood all this, not limiting himself to keeping one eye on the Bordigists and the other on Togliatti and Longo [2], writing neither a history of the small groups nor of the apparatuses, but writing the history of a revolutionary development and movement which largely elude chronology and classical stereotypes, which essentially consisted of a rough and difficult process in which a handful of apparatchiks, supported by the strength of the Allied armies, succeeded in diverting the Italian revolution, and in this way won a decisive battle in the struggle against the revolution.

To begin with, the history of Italy at this historic crossroads can only be explained if it is firmly understood that it here obeys a kind of law of uneven and combined development on the level of politics, because of the long period of Fascist rule. To all intents and purposes it was in 1926 that Italian Communism parted ways with world Communism, and entered a kind of no man’s land, in which time had suspended its flight. The party, prohibited in law and in fact, was marked by the influence of Bordigism, not in the sectarian sense that the word was to assume later on, it is true, but in the left revolutionary sense by which the current influenced by Amadeo Bordiga [3], the real founder of the Communist Party of Italy, could be described. The people who had been through years of prison and internal exile, or even ‘survived’ precariously at liberty, remained faithful to the Communism of the mid-1920s, which no one can deny was utterly dominated by the perspective of revolution in its motives and thinking. On the other hand these revolutionaries had a Mecca in revolutionary Moscow, which had begun the era in which they sooner or later expected to take a leading part. Now as far as they were concerned, Moscow and the Soviet Union still existed in the colours of 1920–26. In most of the towns and villages none of them had had any contact with the party apparatus for years. They had no idea of how Hitlerism had come to power with the aid of a split encouraged by the Communist International and its denunciations of ‘Social Fascism’. They knew nothing about the era of the Popular Front, the ‘holding out of a hand’ to Catholics and Blackshirts, [4] or of participation in government. As far as they were concerned, the war in Spain had only been a crusade by their executioners and masters against their brethren, the workers and peasants of the Iberian peninsula. They knew nothing of the Moscow Trials and the crimes of Stalinism, and not much about the German-Soviet Pact and the alliance for a new Europe between Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini. But on the other hand they threw themselves enthusiastically against Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union and the Red Army, which they regarded as their own, the army of ‘the workers and peasants’.

Is it so surprising that as soon as the great weight of Fascism splintered and broke up under the explosive pressure of the masses, these people returned to the gestures and symbols they knew, the hammer and sickle, the banner and the red star, as well as to the words and institutions that symbolised for them the revolution, the committees and councils which they saw as soviets, and the armed formations of the ‘partisans’, which for them were Italy’s ‘Red Army’? Is it so surprising that in their struggle against the Fascist regime they should first and foremost attack the great landed proprietors, the industrialists, the big merchants, the bankers and the high officials, in other words all those who were the incarnation of Fascism as well as of the bourgeoisie, private property and the exploitation of man by man? Is it so surprising that they should again spontaneously take up the language of class struggle and not that of class harmony, even before the call to arms arrived?

The Stalinist apparatus had not of course disappeared. It had maintained itself in exile abroad in France and Moscow during the 1930s, where it had carried on a harsh struggle against its oppositionists, practically all of them the pioneers of the Communist movement, and had expelled and even murdered them, as in Spain. The few hundreds that it had managed to hold on to were ‘hard’, steeled in factional struggle, often connected with the GPU [5], completely accustomed to ‘turns’ and ‘recantations’, and perfectly disciplined. They came back when the Italian revolution began in 1943, but they controlled nothing as yet. Most of them, having been penetrated and arrested or handed over by the European countries in which they sought refuge, found themselves in internal exile, where they reformed their nuclei. It is evidently they who were capable of expelling Terracini in 1943 [6], long after the beginning of Hitler’s war against the USSR – for having denounced the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939! It was they who tried to reconstruct the party apparatus by systematically playing off the youth, who were cut off from the revolutionary tradition, against the older people who were imbued with it, playing off the intellectuals and the petit-bourgeois who had accepted collaboration with the Catholics and the deserters from Fascism who were calling for ‘class harmony’ and ‘anti-Fascism’ against the workers, who were attacking the employers, the landed proprietors and the princes of the church, and wanted to pay off old scores, with class oppression at the top of the list. The most well-known example is obviously that described in Rome by Serge Lambert, where the Communist Party admitted a group of intellectuals, along with Ingrao, which had come from the Fascist youth, but rejected the Scintilla group of old workers, which had devoted itself to organising detachments of red partisans.

The history of the Italian Communist Party from 1943 onwards is the history of a Stalinist apparatus brought into Italy from outside, struggling to impose itself from above upon the real party, the true party, the party that had survived Fascism and continued to live on in the workers’ districts and the villages, to muzzle them and to impose on their ‘Bordigist’ tradition a Stalinist war policy for which obviously no tradition had prepared them.

One of the exceptional merits of Serge Lambert’s work is that it enables us to grasp how, whatever the strength of its technique, the rigour of its discipline, the determination of its activists and the counter-revolutionary experience and firmness of its leaders, this apparatus could only derive its strength from the fact that it was the spearhead of the ‘Allied’ international coalition in Italy. Not only was it Togliatti who saved the monarchy with his Salerno Speech [7] on that occasion being the spokesman of the Soviet government as much as of the Allied joint command, but it was to Stalinist militants like Irving Goff, trained to collaborate with the GPU in Spain, that the OSS [8] applied for reports about the trade unions and political bodies that refused to conform to the requirements of the Allies in occupied southern Italy.

It is almost impossible to summarise Serge Lambert’s work. We need to experience with him in patiently reconstructed detail the efforts of the Communist militants of the northern industrial cities, beginning with those Communists in the factories and in the workers’ districts who formed their organisations and published Stella Rossa, Bandiera Rossa or Il Lavatore, the class struggle organs of ‘revolutionary’ Communism, sometimes called ‘fundamentalist’. The apparatus finished them off with great determination, combining threats, splits, appeals for unity, violence and corruption, even on occasion accepting the need (as in the ‘Montesanto’ affair in Naples [9]) to rebuild from the ground up when a Communist organisation had taken up class positions and was uniting all the Communists in its ranks from Bordigists to Trotskyists, as well as Socialists who had become revolutionaries. Sometimes entire federations formed outside the apparatus, especially in the south, where it was not easy to subject them to centralised control.

It was in fact the position of Italy as an ‘enemy’ power of the Allies occupied by its conquerors, with the presence of the occupying forces, that was to become the trump card in the hands of the ‘normalisers’, who wanted a Communist Party opposed to the revolution, and mass patriotic organisations. The intelligence agent Irving Goff waxes indignant about the fact that a trade union organisation with several hundred thousand members could be allowed to have a newspaper which expressed a viewpoint other than that of class harmony. And the trade unions were to be united by force, with leaders who were not elected, but nominated by the parties of the Resistance, who were, as is well known, linked with the Allies, and represented them as their auxiliaries in the conduct of the war.

Who can fail to understand the real division of labour between the enemy and the occupying powers? It was German shock troops who went as far as a systematic massacre of all the fighters of the Roman Red Army of the ‘Communist Movement of Italy’ which had raised the Red Flag over the buildings it had conquered, and had celebrated the anniversary of the Russian Revolution rather than the national holiday. Nor can the disappearance of the radical local leaders under the blows of the Gestapo be regarded as a negligible factor in a struggle in which every position counted.

Like a good researcher Serge Lambert has not neglected any avenues. In this way he has very carefully followed the trail of the disagreements inside the PCI to the very heart of the apparatus, for example what is called the ‘extremism’ of the Turin Federation of the Communist Party, or the way in which Togliatti wrong-footed the leadership of the party when he supported the sacred union under the government of the ex-Fascist boss Badoglio [10], who had been recognised by the Soviet Union, and was supported by the United States and Britain. Nor has he neglected the rumours often hinted at or described by the newspapers about conflicts between the ‘military’ and the ‘civilians’, or of the ‘danger of revolution’ embodied in the ‘red partisans’ which may at certain times have brought them up against civilian politicians.

His conclusion will not be acceptable to everybody, but it is based upon solid arguments. It is undeniable that the resistance of the ‘northern’ leadership reflected, in however indirect a fashion, the pressure of the masses in the great industrial centres, who formed the big battalions of the first armed groups, as in Greece. But this pressure was often exerted in a very particular direction: the ‘leaders’ here did not insist on going against their troops by forcing them to bury their weapons and disarm, for they feared a reaction against these untimely orders which risked their being overturned by their men. The insistence with which a man like Luigi Longo emphasised that it was only ‘external considerations’ – in other words, the requirements of the Stalinist USSR – which ‘prevented’ the party from taking power, reveal no disagreement with the line dictated to these top cadres, but only the difficulty they had in applying it.

As for what has been considered to be a clash that arose between the military and civilian leaders, this also only comes up in the form of secondary questions of prestige, rivalries and power sharing. But the question of direction, of knowing whether the leadership of the Communist Party and the very numerous armed forces that it controlled would be at the service of a ‘revolution’ and a seizure of power by the workers, or at the service of national reconstruction in dispute with the Allies had been settled long before. In this sense Serge Lambert is perfectly correct to emphasise not only that this question was decided on the political level, and particularly by the victory of the apparatus over the ‘old party’, which imposed the class collaborationist line of the ‘new party’, but that even the insurrection, for example, had been thought up by the apparatus from start to finish as a preventive initiative... against the revolution, and that the most enthusiastic supporters of the insurrection were not secret supporters of the revolution at this time, but on the contrary its most determined opponents.

The way in which the first political conflict was decided, whether in the industrial cities of the north or in Naples, in the suburbs of Rome or in the partisan units, in any case shows clearly, according to Serge Lambert, that the Italian revolutionary Communists bowed to the authority of the USSR as the country of the revolution, and that it was the prestige of the October Revolution, of ‘transformation’ and of ‘Socialist construction’ put at the service of class harmony that ensured the success of the material forces in the service of the policy of the Italian Communist Party. The ‘old’ Italian Communists, cut off from the debates about the Soviet Union, knowing nothing of the developments of the past two decades, of hairpin ‘turns’, of the retractions and acrobatics of the Stalinist Comintern, seemed generally even to have believed that Togliatti was trying to impose on them an opportunistic policy behind the back of Stalin himself. They waited patiently for Stalin, when he had been informed about what was going on, to release the brake and remove the gag that had been forced on them in his name! Even if Togliatti’s people sometimes had to resort to assassination – when it was really necessary – they usually succeeded in doing without it, by going in for splits, and by grinding down their critics and the opponents of the official line, whose slightest fault amounted to a lack of that absolute faith which all placed in the Soviet Union and the man who seemed to symbolise it at the time.

Now we can better understand why the greater part of the forces of Stella Rossa, whose archives reveal traces of discussions about an article by Trotsky, finally went back to the Italian Communist Party, whom they had once outnumbered in Turin, but not before they had been forced into a conflict marked by numerous physical confrontations. We can also understand how feeble appeared to be the ‘neutralist’ or ‘defeatist’ position of those direct descendants of Bordiga who supported the theses of Prometeo, some of whom also ended up supporting the national union.

In an article in this issue Serge Lambert tries to retrace the history of the Italian Trotskyists, their attempt at the end of the war to set up a section of the Fourth International, and the bitter defeat which followed. [11] Here there is a marked contrast with the French Trotskyists. Nowhere were there in France so many groups as in Italy, armed or otherwise, and predominantly working class, which consciously opposed the policy dictated to them by the Communist Party. No section of French militants could form groups of workers around a journal, or military detachments that could take initiatives in defence or in harassing the enemy, or had a political rationale capable of competing seriously with and sometimes totally eclipsing the influence of the party officially linked with Moscow. Yet there never was a more complete collapse than in Italy. Bordigists like Bordiga, former Bordigists like Enrico Russo, oppositional Communists like Libero Villone [12], old Trotskyists who had entered into the PSI like Di Bartolomeo, and out and out Trotskyists like Nardini, all came to the same conclusion, totally negative as far as the construction of the ‘revolutionary party’ which they wanted to counterpose to the Italian Communist Party. None of them was capable, even to a small degree, of providing an explanation for the Soviet Union and Stalinist policy which, without making those to whom they were talking enemies of the USSR itself, would prevent them from taking its leaders at their word any longer, or from taking an attitude towards the first country to enter the revolution as the touchstone of political rectitude.

Serge Lambert tells how Togliatti, on his return from the Soviet Union, and after having launched the ‘Salerno turn’, went to Naples, where one of his first meetings was with the veteran ex-Bordigist Russo, the former head of the Lenin column of the POUM [13], and leader along with Nicola Di Bartolomeo of the newly independent trade union centre, the CGL. He began in a friendly manner, and told him that whilst he did not share his positions, he understood his criticisms: Russo’s place was in the Communist Party, where he would always have the right to have differences and to express them.

Here we touch upon a question which Serge Lambert does not deal with as such, but which he mentions several times. Obviously, Togliatti’s position is not to be explained by some sort of ‘democratism’ or ‘liberalism’, or by any particular attachment to the rights of old party militants or to the democratic functioning of the party in Naples. Russo was a leader well known to part of the Neapolitan proletariat, against whom several intrigues had failed, and he retained a real influence. His overthrow could only take place with his consent, or at the cost of a hard fight in which both sides would have their feathers ruffled. Palmiro Togliatti accordingly began by negotiating.

Russo refused. But at the same time his comrade in the Montesanto split, the lawyer Mario Palermo, agreed to return to the party and... received a ministerial portfolio. [14] The Communist Party’s proposals undermined its opponents, finally leaving them with no basis of support, and at the end of the day enabled it to dispense with the need to liquidate physically people who no longer counted for anything in the struggle. At the same time in the maquis, at the time of the Liberation and in the months that followed, it seems that the secret services of the French Communist Party operated less with kid gloves with the French oppositionists: they liquidated first and negotiated afterwards.

Serge Lambert suggests an explanation for this phenomenon, which is after all a distinctive characteristic of Italian Stalinism in contrast with French Stalinism: a greater ability to tolerate contradiction, to accept discussion, a greater flexibility in relation to opposition from within, and apparently less rigid and more ‘democratic’ practices. Of course, there can be no question of suggesting that the ‘new’ Italian Communist Party, built as it was in opposition to the revolutionary basis of the party of the time of Gramsci and Bordiga, could at some indeterminate date – the dissolution of the Communist International – have broken its links with Moscow and ceased to be a Stalinist party such as the French Communist Party was at the time. Nor can it be supposed that Togliatti’s ‘new party’ had been completely constructed from new material, making a ‘Eurocommunist’ party of it before the word was invented. That way we would find transubstantiation and the search for the philosopher’s stone rehabilitated in the field of political science, enabling the nature of parties to be changed – a change made every day in their commentaries by people who are considered to be serious and specialists in Italian politics.

In reality, we have an accidental but significant reflection of the application to the Italian Communist Party of Marx’s law of uneven and combined development, in the ability of the Italian Communist Party to deal with its internal problems and the oppositions on its left by methods other than machine gun bullets or a simple club. A comparison with the French Communist Party allows this notion to be put to use and illustrated.

The construction of the apparatus of the French Communist Party up to the end of the Second World War took place in a continuous fashion, without any long interruption or any sudden shocks. The leaders of the French Communist Party at this time, like its principle cadres, had generally been won over in the period of the ultra-left sectarian tactic of the late 1920s known as ‘class against class’. These are the same people who abruptly advocated and supported the policy of the Popular Front and the French Front, called for national unity against Fascism before assuring everyone that the Hitler-Stalin Pact was a positive gesture for peace against the Allied ‘warmongers’, and then found themselves in the front rank of propagandists for the ‘great patriotic war’. There was no crack in the formation of this apparatus, nothing missing, no gaping holes, and no break in continuity between the generations. The apparatus was so homogenous that it reacted almost automatically, and on every occasion showed itself to be perfectly capable of responding to external pressures, the movement of the masses and any risk of being overtaken. The hold of this apparatus over the party was as complete as the hold of the party was on the working class, and on circles like those of the intelligentsia in the years 1944–45. To this extent it had no need to handle opponents with kid gloves who in any case were more or less isolated individuals and marginalised from the start. It had no difficulty much later in expelling, slandering and persecuting any opponent, and any critic or any suspected of being one, without any other form of trial. Democracy was a useless luxury for the French Communist Party.

The Italian Communist Party, on the other hand, found itself during the war years in a very precarious position. Its ‘Spanish squad’, its apparatus capable of anything, were all of one age group, those men who had been of an age to fight in Spain and who had emigrated beforehand. It was only little by little that it was able to select and test from amongst the young generation of militants people who were later to show unconditional loyalty to the alliance with de Gasperi [15], the admiration for Tito [16], the hatred for Tito and denunciation of de Gasperi, for the Cold War as well as for peaceful coexistence, and with Stalin as well as with Khrushchev. On every occasion they had to conciliate, discuss, divide and gain time. They had to learn how to convince and how to threaten, to cajole as well as to strike. Thus the apparatus of the Italian Communist Party from the very foundation of the ‘new party’ was in possession of an extremely varied arsenal, and had in particular a very great suppleness in the struggle against oppositions in the party and its adversaries on the left. It is basically the weakness of the Italian Communist Party at this decisive moment of its history that was to allow it much later to play with ‘democracy’ at little cost, and to ‘recover’ much more easily from critical and oppositional movements. Is not the historical explanation advanced by Serge Lambert better than the metaphysical explanation proposed by the recognised specialists?

The British historians Bornstein and Richardson have provided in their history of the British Trotskyists during the war in their War and the International, with which we will have to deal later, some extensive extracts from the recollections of British Trotskyists, notably Charlie Van Gelderen, and of their contact with that Italian workers’ movement which was so surprising because it had no recent history! From the halcyon picture that everyone has more or less formed of this Italian past, so recent yet so little known, emerge interesting figures in the workers’ movement, and some of them at least, of exceptional importance. There is, for example, Temistocle Vaccarella, the rank and file leader of the Italian Communist Party, who inspired Stella Rossa, and who was probably murdered by the party’s secret services. There are the Venegoni brothers from Legnano, from that admirable group of militants in the Communist Movement of Italy in Rome and their Red Army. There is the philosopher Libero Villone, one of the men of Montesanto who came over to Trotskyism. There is Nicola Di Bartolomeo, the old Bordigist emigré who passed over to Trotskyism, the friend of Molinier who was well known in the POUM in Spain under the name of Fosco, who rebuilt the workers’ movement and the Socialist Party in Campania, within which he practised entrism on an individual basis on his release from internal exile. Finally, and above all, there is that extraordinary personage Enrico Russo; we can only regret that historians have shown so little interest in him, even if they have not ignored him totally, which leads us to speculate on the reasons for their silence.

Born in Naples in 1895, Russo joined the Socialist Youth at the age of 15 and the party at the age of 16. His intelligence gained him promotion to the rank of artillery lieutenant during the First World War. He returned wounded to become a metalworker once more, and in 1917 was Secretary of the FIOM (Metal Workers Federation) in Naples. He argued against Bordiga’s premature policy of splitting the Socialist Party, and favoured conquering it. He was the leader of the supporters of the Third International in Serrati’s party after the Leghorn Conference [17], joined the Communist Party of Italy in 1924, was Secretary of the Naples Trades Council in 1925, and leader of the CGL in Campania, where he led a general strike against a rise in the cost of living. Having become party Secretary in Campania in 1925, he emigrated to France on the instructions of the party, joined the Central Committee, became the General Secretary of the Communist groups of the Paris region, and in 1928 secured from their congress the adoption of a platform close to that of the Left Opposition. Thorez intervened to cancel the decision, which was repeated. Dimitrov intervened, with the same result. Finally the Italian Communist groups in France were dissolved and reorganised. Russo was not expelled, but he was not readmitted. Now he was alone, but not for long. He and his friends joined the Left Fraction [18], which he even represented under the name of Candiani on the International Bureau of the Left Opposition. He broke with the Fraction when it declared for a position of revolutionary defeatism in the Spanish Civil War. [19] He went off to fight and was military commander of the Lenin battalion, the foreign volunteers of the POUM. He took refuge in France after the defeat, and was interned at Saint Cyprien, from where he was handed over by the Vichy authorities to the Fascist authorities and condemned to five years’ imprisonment. He was freed in September 1943, and after almost 20 years again became Secretary of the Naples Trades Council, which he helped to re-establish, and became General Secretary of the CGL in the south, and an influential member of the ‘Montesanto’ Communist Party. His appointment was confirmed by the Salerno Congress of the CGL, he became the editor of Battaglie sindicali, and organised and led the strike and demonstration of 4 March 1944, at the height of the war. Of course, he was a target for the Communist Party, was abandoned by the Socialist Party, and had to retreat. We find him in the PSDI trying to encourage a left current. We still find his signature in 1960 at the bottom of a manifesto in support of class struggle trade unionism. We know only that he died in 1973.

In any case, what Serge Lambert has found out about him is sufficient for us to be able to say that the life of Enrico Russo was exceptional; he was an exemplary Communist militant, who remained loyal to his class and his conscience, and was never influenced by the temptations of Stalinism, which he had fought for decades, just as he fought the Italian bourgeoisie. Russo is obviously at present unknown to the Italian working class and the youth. But this oblivion will not last for ever. We know that the movement will rediscover one of those who were among the most honourable of its forefathers, and will give him back his place. It is not the least merit of Serge Lambert’s thesis that it has prepared for rehabilitations of this magnitude and importance, as opposed to those of the trials which took place more or less everywhere, but which, like the three well known ones, were decided in Moscow.


1. S. Lambert, Tradition révolutionnaire et ‘Nouveau Parti’ en Italie (1942-1945), Thesis at the University of Grenoble, 1985. [Author’s note]

2. Palmiro Togliatti (Ercoli, 1893–1964) was one of the principle leaders of Italian Communism. He had been a supporter of Bukharin until 1928, but after he had gone over to Stalin he was entrusted with the more unpleasant operations of the Comintern. After Stalin’s death he became one of the main spokesmen for Eurocommunism. Luigi Longo (Gallo, 1900–80) went over from Bordiga to Gramsci in 1925, and was another of the principal leaders of the Italian Communist Party.

3. Amadeo Bordiga (1889–1970) was the main leader of the Italian Left who rejected the united front theses of the Comintern, and was expelled from the Communist Party of Italy in 1930. Several currents still trace their origins to his ideas.

4. Cf. above, p. 64, n136. This notorious manifesto began: ‘Italian people! Fascists of the Old Guard! Young Fascists! We Communists adopt as our own the Fascist programme of 1919, which is a programme of peace, of freedom, of defence of the interests of the workers ...’ Stalin had been providing Italy with oil during its colonial war in Ethiopia, and was hoping to prevent the imminent alliance between Mussolini and Hitler. For further details, cf. Joan Barth Urban, Moscow and the Italian Communist Party: From Togliatti to Berlinguer, London 1986, pp. 127–30.

5. Togliatti, Longo and Vidali all saw service in Spain, and were closely connected with the operations of the GPU, Vidali in particular being directly responsible with Orlov for the murder of Andreu Nin.

6. Umberto Terracini (1895–1985), co-founder of Ordine nuovo along with Gramsci, was a delegate to the Third Congress of the Comintern, and represented the Communist Party of Italy on the ECCI. He had been condemned to 22 years’ imprisonment in 1928.

7. In January 1944 the Italian anti-Fascist parties met in conference at Bari and passed resolutions against Badoglio and the monarchy. However, shortly after his return from exile in the Soviet Union, Togliatti spoke on 29 March to the Communist leaders in the southern zone at Salerno and persuaded them with the backing of Stalin to support the Badoglio government. He called on all workers, unemployed and ex-soldiers not to follow any ‘self-styled class interest’, but only the national interest. This was the famous ‘Salerno switch’ (svolta di Salerno).

8. The OSS was the predecessor of the CIA.

9. On the Montesanto split, cf. below, p. 162, n7.

10. Marshal Pietro Badoglio (1871–1956) was commander of the Italian army in the conquest of Ethiopia, and head of state from 25 July 1943 after the removal of Mussolini.

11. Serge Lambert, Notes sur l’histoire du trotskysme en Italie: le POC, Cahiers Léon Trotsky, no. 29, March 1987, pp. 57–69.

12. Libero Villone (1913–73) opposed the class collaborationist line of the Moscow leadership of the Italian Communist Party, and was one of the leaders of the militant CGL trade union in the south (cf. below, pp. 182ff.).

13. On Russo in Spain, cf. Victor Alba and Stephen Schwartz, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism: A History of the POUM, New Brunswick 1988, pp. 124, 295.

14. Mario Palermo became the Under-Secretary for War in the government led by Ivanoe Bonomi, who took over from Badoglio.

15. Alcide de Gasperi (1881–1954) was head of the Christian Democrats, and President of the Council of State from 1945 to 1953.

16. Josip Broz (Brezovich), known as Marshal Tito (1892–1980), was head of the Yugoslav Communist Party, led a partisan struggle against the German occupation, and became head of state at the end of the war. Although a loyal Stalinist – he also had seen service in Spain – in 1948 he refused to subordinate his country to Stalin’s requirements, and broke with Moscow. Almost overnight the world Communist press, which had been fulsome in its praise for him, began to denounce him as a ‘Trotskyite’ and a ‘Fascist’.

17. Giacinto Serrati (1874–1926) was a supporter of the Zimmerwald Left in the First World War, and led the centre faction of the Italian Socialist Party which refused to support either the split of the Communists or the expulsion of the right of the party at the Leghorn Conference in 1921.

18. The Left Fraction was created in exile in 1927 by the exclusion of the supporters of Bordiga from the Communist Party of Italy. Cf. pp. 196–201 below.

19. When the Spanish Civil War broke out the majority of the Italian Left in exile considered that both sides were equally bourgeois, that it was an imperialist war supported by different foreign powers for their own advantage, and that the workers should refuse to take sides. A minority of some 26 members led by Russo, Mario di Leone, Bruno Zecchini, Renato Pace and Piero Corradi regarding this as a sterile policy of abstention, split in November 1936 and all left for Barcelona. Cf. Revolutionary Perspectives, no. 5, 1976; Mouvement Communiste, Barcelone Mai ‘37: Fascisme et antifascisme contre le prolétariat, Brussels 1991; International Communist Current, The Italian Left 1926–45, London 1992, pp. 93–102.

Last updated on 31.10.2011