Antonio Gramsci

The Genoa Conference and Italy
(19 April 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 28, 19 April 1922, pp. 211-212.
Transcribed: by Einde O’Callaghan

One problem dominates Italian foreign policy: the establishment of Italian supremacy in the Adriatic and the annexation of Fiume and Dalmatia to Italy. The question now arises: What is the attitude of Germany and Russia to this foreign policy?

Before the war Jugoslavia was predominantly influenced by powerful Russia. Even today its existence is very closely connected with the fate of Russia, of course not so very much in connection with the form of government of the latter, i.e., not whether Russia has a feudal, bourgeois or proletarian government, but rather because it is the natural ally of the Slavic population in the Balkans. When Russia is weak, Jugoslavia is weak and this weakness permits Italy to extend its imperialism to the Balkans. This is furthermore the form of nationalistic propaganda in Italy, which at the same time is the immediate expression of the policy of the agrarian large landowners and the military caste.

Russia is a most serious competitor of Italian agriculture. Before the war Italy imported 1,600,000 tons of grain from Russia, and the great land owners were protected by the state by the imposition of an import duty to the extent of 3.75 lire per hundredweight. It is thus very natural that an impoverished, ruined Russia is in their eyes much more desirable than an economically efficient Russia which would be able to export its grain surplus.

In Italy the industrial workers are only-third of the entire working class. The other two-thirds are agricultural workers or peasants. Even the Italian Socialist Party was at the beginning more a peasants' than a workers’ party. This also in part explains its divergences from a proletarian standpoint and its vacillating policy. The new attitude of the People’s Party, the party of the Catholic peasants, has thus also obtained very great importance for Parliamentary politics as well as for Italian foreign policy.

As the civil war, which the large landowners deliberately commenced in order to carry on a large-scale offensive against Catholic peasantry, spread and grew in intensity, the People’s Party turned more and more to the left and the reaction of this change in its attitude was very soon evident in Italian foreign policy. Premier Bonomi, who was in very large degree influenced by the People’s Party, changed his attitude towards Russia and showed a certain inclination towards the reestablishment of relations with Russia. This led him to take the initiative in Cannes for the convocation of the Genoa Conference.

The foreign policy of Benito Mussolini, the leader of the Fascisti is in complete agreement with that of Nitti, the representative of Big Business and high finance. These circles are interested in the coal district on the Black Sea. This explains why they display a very sympathetic attitude towards an international financial consortium for the capitalistic exploitation of Soviet Russia’s resources. They thus hope at the same time to do good business and to obtain their own sphere of influence on the Black Sea.

All the vacillations of Italian foreign policy are caused by the intensification of the class war and the consequent disintegration of the social forces. It is thus necessary to give an exposition of the Italian situation, in order to illuminate the reactions in foreign policy which are therewith connected.

The trend to the left of the People’s Party and the fact that several of its most prominent leaders, such as Deputy Meda, have expressed themselves in favor of this new political tendency have led to a split within the military caste, a large number of whose members are Catholics.

However, for the great majority of these groups the Conference has only this significance: the reintroduction of Germany into European economy. That also explains why circles are now supporting the Genoa Conference, who at first bitterly fought it and even employed it as a pretext for the overthrow of the Bonomi Cabinet. Among these latter the most prominent are the supporters of Gioletti, the Fascisti and the Nationalists.