Source: Socialist Appeal, May 1948
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008
The victory of the Christian Democrats in the Italian elections marks a decisive set-back for the Stalinists and a victory for Wall Street and the “Western Bloc” in the struggle for the domination of Europe.
The polls took place on the background of direct intervention by Anglo-American Imperialism with threats to cut off all aid if the Italians voted for the “Popular Front” lists dominated by the Communist Party. During the election period America and Britain attempted to undermine the Stalinists by offering to support the return of Trieste to Italy.
According to reports front the State Department £1,000,000 was spent from a special fund for the purpose of supporting the struggle against “Communism” in Italy. Thus, as after World War I, the weapon of food and other support is used to back up the forces of counter-revolution in Europe.
When the election campaign commenced the Allied reaction was not at all sure of the victory of their puppets in Italy. Ever since the fall of Mussolini the peninsula has been the scene of a tremendous upsurge on the part of the Italian masses. The disillusionment following the “liberation” by Allied troops and the ending of the war has been intense. Over the past two years the hungry Italian masses have moved into action again and again. Strike struggles in Milan, Turin, Genoa and other cities by the industrial workers have been followed by a movement of the agricultural workers in the Po Valley and, emulating their example of the landed labourers and peasants in the formerly backward south. In September of last year a million agricultural workers struck in the Po Valley, the strike spreading to Venezia, Rovigo and Ferrara Provinces. They were followed by 900,000 steel workers who struck in the same month, and 40,000 technicians and employees in textiles. A million workers in Rome, Turin and other large cities demonstrated against the hunger government. An agricultural strike involving 30,000 to 60,000 took place near the capital and several thousand peasants seized the land. Sympathy strikes of the workers took place in Civitavecchia and Monte Rotondo.
However, as late as September 26th in the Italian Parliament, Togliatti the C.P. leader denied any revolutionary intentions and again pressed the demand for a new coalition with the Christian Democrats. Clearly the C.P. was using the revolutionary pressure of the masses for the purpose of arriving at an agreement with Italian capitalism in the interests of Russian foreign policy. Now this policy has reaped its reward in the election and has helped in the turning of Italian capitalism firmly in the direction of Washington. It is interesting to note that in the same debate the Uomo Qualunque, a semi-fascist party also asked for the co-operation of the Christian Democrats.
The employers and landowners having successfully used the Stalinists and Socialists in the Cabinet in order to prevent the workers from seizing control, and having rebuilt an apparatus of repression, at the behest of Wall Street, threw the Stalinists and Socialists out of the Government. Meanwhile reaction had so consolidated itself that the Fascists began their series of provocations and murders against the militant elements within the working class. It was on this basis that the workers replied by militant strike action against the premises and organisations of the fascists. With the militant mood of the workers the Government was powerless and it would have been possible for the Stalinists and Socialists to overthrow the Government without any serious resistance.
But afraid of the repercussions of direct revolutionary action on the part of the masses the Stalinists held them back, hoping to come to power through a general election. They wished to gain control from the top, supplemented by a movement from the bottom so that they could maintain control of the movement throughout and speedily bureaucratise and strangle it on the lines of the movement in Czechoslovakia. Thus is the explanation of their failure to seize control during the last couple of years when power was in their grasp.
The Vatican, the industrialists and the landlords united in an intensive drive to rally round the Christian Democrats. Using the events in Czechoslovakia as a basis, they raised the danger of Stalinist totalitarianism as a means to scare the middle class and indifferent and backward elements, large numbers of whom were normally too apathetic even to vote, in order to drive them to the polls.
Despite the chronic misery of the workers and peasants and the destitution of 1,500,000 unemployed they succeeded in this objective.
And their success marks a definite change of relationship between the workers and the capitalists, and the Stalinist bureaucracy and Anglo-American Imperialism since the end of the war. Through the Marshall Plan the Imperialists hope to prop up capitalism in the West and prepare for the future conflict with the Soviet Union. This is the fruit of the policy of Stalinism in Western Europe.
Instead of explaining the role of the Church and of the capitalists, instead of attacking the hypocrisy of capitalist nationalism and putting forward the idea of international Socialism, the Stalinists vied with the reaction in frenzied chauvinism; this in their attacks on America. Instead of explaining the need for workers’ and peasants’ control of the state, the Stalinists competed with the capitalist parties in demagogy about constitutionalism, liberty and democracy. Their attempts to paint the Czech crisis as one settled purely by constitutional means could not impress any wavering elements as anything but cynical lies. The Stalinists had voted in the Constituent Assembly for the Lateran Treaty between Mussolini and the Vatican to become Part of the Constitution. This makes Catholicism the state religion and gives the Church special privileges in the schools and in the country. They guided the revolutionary movement of the masses into harmless channels.
However, with the Stalinists and Socialists forced out of the Government and in opposition during the last few months, there was a steady growth in the influence of the Popular Bloc, composed of the Socialists supporting Nenni, the Communist Party and some other small groupings. For the first time they began to penetrate the backward peasant masses in the former stronghold of the Right Wing, the Southern part of Italy. In the municipal elections of November 8th in 143 municipalities including Rome, Naples, Genoa Turin, Florence and Palermo the Popular Bloc emerged as the strongest force.
Bloc secured 775,915 votes
Christian Democrats 379,588
Uomo Qualunque 231,168
Other Parties 21,889
The Popular Bloc improved their positions in all the cities in comparison with the former general election. Even in Sicily, one of the most politically stagnant areas of the South, the Popular Bloc headed the poll with 590,870 in comparison with the Christian Democrats 399,125. In the previous elections the extreme reactionary parties had three times the number of votes as the parties of the Popular Bloc.
But this tendency was sharply reversed in the present general election. In nearly all the cities, even of the industrial North, the Christian Democrat poll topped that of the Popular Bloc. In the 1946 general election the C.P., S.P. and the Action Party received 9,421,229 votes together amounting to 41.1% of the votes, the Christian Democrats 8,083,208 votes or 35.2% and other Right Wing parties the balance. Now the Popular Front received 8,025,990 or 30.7% together with the Socialist Unity Party who split from the Nenni Socialist Party and received 1,860,528 or 7% of the votes, a total of 9,886,518 votes. This is 465,000 more than the last election but only 27.7% of the total vote or 3.4% less than formerly. The Christian Democrats gathering round themselves the bulk of the reaction and polled 12,751,841 votes or 48.7% of the total this time. This represented an increase of nearly 4,750,000 votes! Most of the Right Wing parties did badly but the split-away fascist grouping from the Uomo Qualunque, putting up candidates for the first time received 525,408 votes. Thus three years after the war and despite the experience of 20 years of fascism they can now come forward and dare to flaunt their doctrines in the face of the working class.
The Stalinists apparently intend to accept the swing of Italy over to the Anglo-American bloc for the time being. In the meantime some of the Nenni Socialists led by the former Socialist Minister of the Interior apparently intend to split towards the Right Wing Saragat Grouping which is to become part of the coalition Government with the Christian Democrats. The Stalinist Di Vittorio, secretary-general of the Italian T.U.C. [the C.G.I.L.], which is dominated by the Communist Party, declared on the Marshall Plan (according to the Daily Herald of 22nd April and not denied by the C.P.), “When someone wants to help you, it is ridiculous to slap him in the face.”
The American Imperialists are preparing to rush supplies to Italy. The Allies are already discussing bringing Italy into the Western Bloc, i.e., the joint conspiracy against the Socialist revolution in Europe and for ultimate war against the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, De Gasperi is selecting and training a police force from which “subversive forces” have been weeded out and which the Italian capitalists consider will be entirely reliable for use against the workers. With the lack of a revolutionary alternative the capitalists, especially with Marshall aid may succeed in temporarily stabilising the situation. But such a situation cannot endure for many years. The Christian Democrats, like all the middle-of-the-way capitalist exploiters of the middle class are doomed to break up. The urban middle class and the peasants will swing away to Right and to Left. As the correspondent of the Daily Mail remarks with foreboding, a permanent solution has not at all been attained. The temporary stampede of the middle class and backward peasants and workers can rapidly change on the basis of the crisis of capitalism in Italy. This crisis cannot be fundamentally eliminated even with Marshall aid. A new polarisation of the classes is inevitable. In the coming days the membership of the C.P. too, will begin to ask why the C.P. fails to give a revolutionary lead.
The alternative will inexorably be posed: either the conquest of power by the workers led by a genuine revolutionary Communist Party or the crushing of the workers and their organisations in a new fascist dictatorship.