Notebook of an Agitator

(30 November 1940)

Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 48, 30 November 1940, p. 3.
Source: PDF supplied by the Riazanov Library Project.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Bandiera Rossa

The biggest and most important news that has yet come out of the bloody and destructive war of the imperialists is contained in a little news item tucked away in the corner of the paper last Friday. A United Press dispatch from Athens, dated November 22nd, says:

“News of Koritza’s fall, given to several thousand Italian prisoners in camps here, started off a spontaneous demonstration. Anti-Fascist Italians sang Bandiera Rossa, the Italian revolutionary song.”

What a message of hope and promise for tomorrow that brief item contains! And what testimony to the real feelings of the Italian soldiers which found, tumultuous expression at the first opportunity. Now the world can know the real meaning of the defeats of the Italian army. The brave soldiers who sang that song to celebrate Mussolini’s defeat at Koritza were saying for all the world to hear that they have no interest in the tyrant’s war of conquest and that for them, as for the oppressed masses in all imperialist countries, the main enemy is at home.

Resounds Throughout the World

Above the sound of the biggest guns that message resounds throughout the world today. For eighteen long and terrible years now the Italian masses have known the yoke of fascist tyranny. But deep in the hearts of the enslaved there abides the memory of their song of freedom. At the first opportunity it came spontaneously to the lips of the imprisoned Italian soldiers in Greece.

When the journalists and commentators speculate about the further progress of the war, they are in the habit of considering only the pronouncements and plans and schemes of the statesmen and generals in the rival camps. They leave out the people. It is customary also for cynics, capitulators and renegades to rule out the people – the workers – in the fascist countries as an independent factor in coming events. The people haven’t spoken yet but they are going to say the final and decisive word. The revolutionary song of the Italian soldiers in the Greek prison camp is a signal. The explosive which will blow the fascist tyrants to hell is located in their own countries.

Heroic Italian Workers

The heroic Italian proletariat showed its mettle in 1921. The workers occupied the factories and were ready for the next decisive steps. Betrayed by pusillanimous leaders, and lacking a strong party of Bolshevism which alone could lead the resolute struggle for power to the very end, the great movement of the Italian workers, suffered defeat. In the reaction from that defeat they fell under the iron heel of fascism. But we must believe that they have lived all these terrible years on the memory of their great hope that the people will yet go forward (“Avanti o popolo”) under the scarlet banner (“Bandiera Rossa”).

A Poignant Memory

The brief dispatch from Athens recalled to me the poignant memory of the departure of the Italian delegation from the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in Moscow, at the end of 1922. The news of the fascist coup d’etat had arrived and the delegates were returning home to take up the underground fight. The great hall in the Kremlin resounded to their song, Bandiera Rossa, in which the delegates of all the other countries joined. Many of those communist fighters went to their death; and so did thousands and tens of thousands of others of the flower of the Italian proletariat, in the course of these eighteen tragic years.

Seed of Coming Revolution

But the blood of these martyrs is the seed of the coming revolution. It flowered spontaneously in Greece the other day for the first time, at the first opportunity. We have ground to believe that those Italian soldiers in the Greek prison camp expressed the profoundest sentiments of the enslaved masses at home and the equally enslaved soldiers in Mussolini’s army of conquest. In that sentiment in the hearts of the workers in all the warring countries – and in that alone – resides the hope and the confidence that the bloody and terrible war into which the imperialists have plunged the world will be brought to an end by a victory of the people. “Avanti o popolo!” – go forward, people, under the scarlet banner! “Bandiera Rossa trionfera”!

Last updated on 13 November 2020