Felix Morrow

The Italian Revolution

(September 1943)

Source: Fourth International, September 1943, Vol. 4 No. 9, pp. 263–73.
Transcribed: Daniel Gaido.
HTML Markup: David Walters.
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1. The Anglo-US Policy of Counter-Revolution

The future of Italy cannot be considered apart from that of Europe as a whole: the survival of its peoples, not to speak of progress, requires the Socialist United States of Europe. Two world wars have demonstrated that national sovereignty under private property means mass suicide. Between the two wars the industrialized nations – Germany, France, England, Belgium – could not find markets for their goods and their peoples hungered. The agrarian countries – Italy, eastern Europe and the Balkans – had food and fibers, yet could not buy industrial goods or feed either their own or other peoples, nor could they expand their own industries in the face of the superior industrial countries. Everything that has happened in Europe points to the Socialist United States of Europe as the task toward which the burning life needs of the peoples must drive them during this war and its immediate aftermath.

Hence the class character of the Italian revolution, as of all the others which will come in capitalist Europe, cannot be other than proletarian. As regimes collapse in military defeat or are overthrown by mass revolt, the workers and peasants can move only in one direction: toward decisive inroads on capitalist property. Whatever illusions the masses may have about the reformist parties, the masses themselves will move against capitalist property: the peasants will try to seize the landlords’ land, the workers will contend with the capitalists for actual control of industry. If in the course of their struggle the masses fail to create a sufficiently strong and firm revolutionary party which will lead them to the conquest of state power and the defense of it against counter-revolution, then the strivings of the masses will be crushed and capitalism will emerge the victor. The form of the bourgeois victory may be, for an unstable period, the “democratic” republic, as in the case of the Weimar Republic. But whether finally successful or not, the masses will be driven by their elementary needs into basic conflict with private property. So it was in the revolutionary wave of 1917–23; so it will be again on a far broader scale.

What we are saying is of course the ABC of Marxism. Yet it is defended today only by the Fourth International. All the other avowedly “Marxist” and “socialist” parties – the émigré parties of Europe, the Stalinists, the Social Democrats here, the British Labor Party, etc. – deny that the proletarian revolution is on the order of the day in Europe. Their contentions are enunciated in various shadings, but all hold in common the proposition that the task in Europe is the creation of democratic republics, i.e., bourgeois states. The “lefts” add that “of course” one must then go on to socialism, by which some of them mean a new state order succeeding the democratic republic and others mean socialization within the structure of the bourgeois-democratic state – the latter proposition is cheerfully agreed to by all the rightist socialists as well.

If the great historic task now facing the European peoples is the democratic republic, it should follow that revolutions once unloosed should stay within those bounds. If bourgeois democracy has the capacity to solve the main problems of the peoples, then the masses would not struggle for more. Thus the free play of class forces presumably should produce stable democratic states in Europe, once fascism is defeated. Certainly, then, the rulers of the great “democracies,” the United States and England, should have no fear of revolutions. If the Stalinists and Social Democrats have rightly read the course of history, they should certainly be able to convince their “allies” Washington and London.

Yet the record shows that from the first day of the war the “democracies” have been deaf to the unsolicited advice of these democrats. The pro-Ally Italian anti-fascists explained that “this war can best be won by arming and supporting the European Revolution.” [1] But the only arms they got were as individual soldiers in the British and American armies. Washington refused to accept the offer of Randolfo Pacciardi, leader of the Garibaldi brigade in Loyalist Spain, who sought the formation of a force of Italian anti-fascists to be landed in Italy on such an occasion as was provided by the fall of Mussolini. (In contrast, Washington did accept Otto of Habsburg’s proposal for an Austrian battalion; it proved a fiasco because of widespread opposition.) All attempts of the Italian émigrés to secure official or quasi-official support for a revolution proved in vain; when they broadcast to Italy they were forbidden to attack the monarchy or the army leaders. This took place during a period of years in which there could be no pretense that the policy was dictated by military expediency; there was no question then of an Allied entry into Italy. [2] Even where overtures for collaboration came from the side of the British who, it is known, at one time approached Lussu, head of the Action Party, the negotiations broke down when Lussu made a condition of collaboration the overthrow of the monarchy; the British insisted on saving it.

Anglo-American policy since the fall of Mussolini has merely been a continuation of the previous line. The ostensible pretext for the series of official statements made during the week following Badoglio’s assumption of office was military expediency: maybe Badoglio and the King could be induced to surrender and thus save the lives of many of our boys. Presumably to facilitate this, bombings of Italy ceased for two weeks, during which – precisely because the Italian masses saw in the cessation of bombings a sign that Badoglio wee moving in the direction of peace – Badoglio was able to weather the revolutionary wave, and reorganize the army at least to the extent of weeding out soldiers who were refusing to fire on demonstrations. It is well-nigh certain that at the time Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower knew what since then has become clear to lesser mortals: Badoglio would not and could not make peace at that time.

Class Loyalty across the Battlefields

As a matter of fact, had their sole motivation been knocking Italy out of the war as soon as possible, the two-week cessation of bombing is incomprehensible. Military expediency dictated not only continuation of bombing, but other military actions, as the Italian liberal historian, Gaetano Salvemini has pointed out in an article he wrote on August 5 (the day after the New York Times still reported that “the Allied broadcasts from North Africa commend the House of Savoy”). Salvemini wrote:

“ ... one would have expected Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt not to have stopped war operations after Mussolini’s downfall, but to have carried them on as intensively as possible, smashing the Italian war machine quickly and completely, without paying any attention to what the King or Badoglio might do in Rome ...

“Or at least if a man like Randolfo Pacciardi had not been kept idle in the United States, but had been allowed to gather around himself a few hundred volunteers, and if he and his men had been available in Sicily on the day Mussolini’s collapse was announced, they might have been sent immediately to Civitavecchia and from Civitavecchia they might have marched on Rome, perhaps unresisted. Even had they failed and been captured and executed, Italian volunteers and not American or British soldiers would have lost their lives, and the impact of the attempt would have been immense all over Italy. The adventure would have been worth a trial. The wise men of our State Department did not allow Pecciardi to go where he could have been useful. But a few hundred parachutists, dropped on Rome the night following Mussolini’s dismissal, might have wrought havoc in the most important nerve centers of Italian military administration, and thrown Rome into a terrible confusion.” (New Republic, August 16)

Instead, the nerve centers of Italian military administration were afforded a breathing spell, which they employed against the rising masses.

It is only as acts supporting Badoglio and the King against revolution, whether or not they made peace, that one can explain the Anglo-American declarations: Roosevelt’s rebuke of the OWI broadcaster who had referred to the “moronic little King”; Eisenhower’s commendation of the House of Savoy; Churchill’s statement to the House of Commons that he did not wish “to break down the whole structure and expression of the Italian state” or to see Italy reduced “to a condition of chaos and anarchy” (July 27); Roosevelt’s declaration that he was willing to have dealings with any element “that was not a member of the Fascist government” and that could “prevent the country from plunging into anarchy” (July 30); the New York Times’ declaration that “It is likely that domestic political axes are being ground and that anti-Fascist elements are seeking their own advantages. There are evidences that Communists are heavily involved in many of the disorders. Disorder would interfere with the prosecution of the war against Hitler.” (August 1)

Milan-Rome: A Contrast in “Democracy”

After the two-week cessation of bombing, it began again on August 8, with a big British raid on Milan and other northern industrial cities. Then, three times in four days – August 12 to 15 – Milan received British “saturation” bombings. The city emerged with not only factories but the workers’ quarters reduced to rubble, the population fleeing to the open countryside and to the safety of Rome.

Why Milan? From the day Mussolini fell it had been the center of the strikes, demonstrations and clashes with the police and troops. There had occurred the most revolutionary acts: the successful storming of the Cellari prison and the release of political prisoners; demonstrations successfully facing down orders to disperse; troops disobeying orders to fire at the workers; seizure of former fascist offices by antifascist organizations; there the workers first drove out the fascist “union” officials and transformed the organizations into their own unions; there originated the strikes for peace which spread throughout northern Italy. Milan was the beacon of the revolution. Every Berne dispatch up to August 12 indicated Milan as the center of the rising workers’ movement. That is why that experienced student of revolutions, Churchill, had its workers’ quarters razed to the ground.

Had the “democracies” looked upon the anti-fascist movement as an ally, the example of Rome shows how Milan would have been bombed, if at all. In the two raids on Rome, American precision bombers were used, which effectively pin-point bombed railroad yards and military installations. How the commanding officers boasted that only a single church was at all damaged despite the devastation wrought! Think of that, and then think of the saturation bombing of the homes of the Milan proletariat. Mussolini’s collaborator for 21 years, the Pope and his property, are allies which must be protected at all costs; but not the Milan workers. The lesser damage done to the strike-paralyzed Milan war plants had they been pin-point bombed instead of saturating the city – weigh the difference in the scales against the destruction and disruption of the Milan workers’ movement. Which would have been more valuable, were the real aim the struggle against fascism? The question answers itself.

Needless to say, the “anti-fascists” of the Daily Worker, the New Leader, etc. said not a word about the slaughter of the Milan proletariat. The day it was announced that Milan had been bombed three times in four days, the bloodthirsty Stalinist editors complained only because Rome also was not being bombed: “The ‘Eternal City’ cannot be taken out of the war by itself ... Whether we are going to bomb Rome again is not a humanitarian question ... It is a war question ... We cannot afford for a moment to let up ...” We, for our part, shall not fail to tell the Communist Party survivors of Milan how their American comrades showed their solidarity.

Why the hostility of Washington and London to what all the respectable world – the Stalinists, the Social-Democrats, all the anti-fascist parties of Italy, and in general bourgeois “public opinion,” the press and radio in the “democracies” – says would be a democratic revolution, that is, leading to a bourgeois-democratic republic? The “socialist” and democratic critics of Anglo-American policy are unable to explain its motivation. Denying the proletarian character of the coming revolutions, they cannot explain the hostility of bourgeois-democrats to bourgeois-democratic revolutions.

The New Leader Offers an Alibi

Consider, as a prime example, the ludicrous reasons cited by the Social-Democratic New Leader, in an editorial August 21, to explain the Churchill-Roosevelt hostility to revolution. Every word of it stinks of Philistine servility to the capitalist order. It begins:

“One senses, both here and in Britain, a deep fear of European revolutions. For this feeling there is some excuse in the experiences which followed the last war. Disorders increased military difficulties. And the most optimistic advocates of political and social change were disappointed in the results which were attained. From every point of view there is reason enough for making every attempt to maintain orderly ways of life during the days of rapid change just ahead.

“But there is grave danger that our preference for orderly change will bring us to a stop this side of democracy.”

What a vile thing is the mind of Social Democracy! The February and October revolutions in Russia – the only revolutions which occurred during the last war – become “disorders” which “increased military difficulties” and therefore there “is some excuse” for the Roosevelt-Churchill hostility to revolution. The New Leader is silent about the fact that the October revolution “increased military difficulties” for the imperialist powers in both camps; perhaps this is an oversight and this vexation of both camps at “increased military difficulties” is the New Leader’s explanation for the whole capitalist world joining together against the “disorders” in Russia! The formula of “disorders” as against “our” preference for “orderly change” is deliberately designed to denude of all class content Washington and London’s hostility to the revolution and thus to justify the New Leader’s continued support of the “democratic” war. The truth, of course, is that the workers infinitely prefer an orderly change of society, make every effort to secure it, and resort to “disorder” only in defense of the proletariat against the “orderly ways” of the bestial counter-revolution. Under the transforming wand of these Social Democrats the plain enough words of Churchill and Roosevelt become merely the prejudice of tidy housekeepers against those who interfere with “orderly ways.”

In addition to this occupational prejudice of neat housekeepers, the New Leader adds another explanation: the occupational prejudice of generals: “For a general it is much more according to the rules to beat an army and receive the submission of a responsible government. Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery can certainly move on more smoothly and confidently if life in Italy, and later in France and Germany, goes on without political change until the troops are in firm possession.”

What is a “responsible” government to the generals? The New Leader does not say. Before there were signs of revolution in Europe, the New Leader joined the Social Democratic and liberal chorus which called the war an “international civil war” which could be best won by “arming and supporting the European revolutions.” Now, when the signs of revolution multiply, the New Leader tries to make everybody understand sympathetically that “for a general” – ”our” generals – it is better not to have revolutions.

Even so, the New Leader feels it has said too much, and hastens to add that “There is nothing sinister about our attitude,” the “our” including Roosevelt, Churchill, and the generals. We now come to the piece de resistance: it seems that it is for the sake of the future of democratic Italy that Roosevelt and Churchill insist on maintaining Badoglio! Here is the New Leader argument:

“There is nothing sinister about our attitude. A good argument can be made for leaving Badoglio or Petain or Hitler in his place until he suffers the disgrace of defeat. This would free the succession state of the obloquy of handing over the sword and suffering humiliation. It would have been better for the Weimar Republic if it had come into being only after the defeat and surrender of the Kaiser.”

This argument tells us nothing about Roosevelt and Churchill’s policy, for it does not offer nor is there the slightest evidence anywhere that this is the motivation of Anglo-American policy. But it tells us volumes about the New Leader’s perspective. The history it retails is quite erroneous. The Weimar Republic came into being alter the armistice. The approach to the Allies for an armistice was made before the fall of the Kaiser and at the urging of the Kaiser’s generals, and negotiations were well-nigh completed when the revolution broke out. There was thus no basis in fact for Hitler’s “stab in the back” agitation blaming the revolution for the defeat. For a decade neither this nor the rest of Hitler’s agitation met with widespread response. Nor can one ascribe to this phase of Hitler’s agitation a decisive role in bringing him to the Chancellorship. Fifteen years of hunger and misery, thanks to the support of capitalism by the New Leader’s comrades, is the fundamental explanation for Hitler’s rise to power. When the workers’ parties did not lead the masses to a new social order, Hitler won millions to his “new” order. When the New Leader draws an analogy between a future Italian republic and the Weimar Republic, it means that Social Democracy proposes to repeat in Italy its fatal course in Germany.

And only people who think in capitalist terms and who have completely succumbed to nationalist demagogy can offer as a good argument against assumption of state power by the Italian revolution the danger of “the obloquy of handing over the sword and suffering humiliation.” The Brest-Litovsk treaty was, as Lenin said, far worse than the Versailles treaty, yet Lenin and Trotsky accepted it precisely to save the revolution. There were those – the Social-Revolutionaries – who had the nationalist mentality that the “humiliation” could not be accepted and tried to overthrow the Bolsheviks. But the revolution survived the “obloquy” precisely because it destroyed the class forces which employ such nationalist demagogy and which the Social Democrats did not destroy in the Weimar Republic. If we follow out the logic of the New Leader, military defeat – one of the classic conditions of revolution – becomes precisely the time when the revolutionists should not take power, but let the old regime make peace. But the New Leader is silent as the grave about what would then happen: the old regime would be recognized by the Anglo-American leaders as the legitimate regime, and would be backed by it against revolutionary attempts.

The Long-Term Role of AMGOT

Is this not the plain meaning of AMGOT? Even the New York Herald Tribune of June 29 admitted that “it would be painfully easy for an occupying force, in the interest of order; to freeze Italy’s Fascist organization in authority. It is less likely that the Allies would permit the opposite to occur – namely, the riotous competition of anti-Fascist groups for power – during the critical period of occupation.”

And what would be done during the “critical period of occupation” would determine, in so far as it lay in the power of the Anglo-American authorities, the future composition of the Italian government. This is indicated in rather cynical terms by the shrewd reporter, Herbert L. Matthews, describing AMGOT in Sicily:

“... What often happens in effect is that the fascist label is removed, but the same men carry on the same functions.

“It is curious to note that Marshal Badoglio has done the same thing on the peninsula. He has signed a paper abolishing fascism, but except for a few officials at the top he has to rely on the very same men who kept things going before ...

“The carabinieri have proved extraordinarily useful, and they were recently complimented by General Alexander ...

“... Sooner or later some kind of government will have to be established, and the Italians, who will be consulted about it, till have been chosen by AMGOT in the course of its work. AMGOT will also have developed various trends that one must expect to be continued.

“... Theoretically the people of Italy will have their chances to choose their own form of government when the time comes, but it takes only a little cogitation to realize that AMGOT’S activities between now and then will profoundly affect the mechanism and the choice of leaders through which the new government will take form.” (New York Times Magazine, August 22)

Thus AMGOT serves not merely present “military expediency” but the long-term political aims of Washington and London. Such “democracy” as will be required to refurbish the Italian ruling class will be carefully dribbled out from the top, while every effort will be made to keep the masses firmly in check. The fundamental motivation of this policy is crystal-clear: if the masses are permitted to move, they will be certain to assault the citadels of private property, for all the driving forces of Europe are in the direction of proletarian revolution.

Because it must pretend to be blind to all this in order to support the war, the New Leader can only complain that the Roosevelt-Churchill policy “leaves out of account the pulse beat of the national will [of Italy] ... The slight inconvenience occasioned by disorders would be a small price to pay for such evidence of democratic spirit.”

Infinitely more serious, Roosevelt and Churchill know that “the slight inconvenience” of a successful Italian revolution would be the spark to set off the European revolution, and that the “small price” would be the end of world capitalism.

An Agonized Testimonial by Salvemini

Those Italian anti-fascists here like Salvemini and Pacciardi who still protest (many of the others are now serving in Poletti’s “political” battalion; others, as the Justice and Liberty group announces in the case of Alberto Tarchiani, Bruno Zevi and Alberto Cianca, have been permitted to go abroad by Washington, no doubt on the basis of an “understanding”) provide us often with valuable information but they, like the Stalinists and the Social Democrats, are unable to explain the motivation of Anglo-American policy. They make it appear as insane willfulness which is damaging to the real interests of Washington and London. Throughout the war Salvemini has been warning Roosevelt and Churchill that their support of the monarchy and the church hierarchy creates the danger of social revolution. In his latest article he writes:

“They [Roosevelt and Churchill] can manage to embank such a revolution so as to have a democratic rather than a communist revolution. Unfortunately, they are endeavoring to patch up a by-product of the Fascist regime. As a consequence, whoever is prevented from fighting for democracy and feels forced to choose between communism and a revised edition of fascism, becomes disgusted and exasperated, and chooses communism, cursing those who force upon him such a tragic choice.” (New Republic, August 16)

There is a very significant development of Salvemini’s ideas recorded in this paragraph. He still believes that it would be possible to “embank” the revolution into the channels of bourgeois democracy, and cannot explain why Roosevelt and Churchill will not do so. Salvemini has been offering them quite detailed prescriptions for doing so, since the war began, and one can be sure that his eminent standing as scholar and authority on Italy has led their brain trusts, if not Roosevelt and Churchill themselves, to study carefully what he has written. Nevertheless, Allied policy continues as before. Up to now, despite the continuation of this policy, Salvemini has retained hope that it would change, and his advice on “embanking” the revolution into democratic channels included the suggestion that “the armies of occupation should prevent an irresponsible extremist clique from seizing power ...” (Nazioni Unite, February 4, 1943)

Now, however, Salvemini appears to have lost all hope of a change in Anglo-American policy and sees as the real alternatives communism or the Allied-supported “revised edition of fascism.” The soul of the petty-bourgeois professor “curses those who force upon him such a tragic choice.” That is quite characteristic! Nevertheless, if the revolution sweeps on firmly, the petty bourgeois goes along in its wake. “Disgusted and exasperated,” he “chooses communism.” More than the further unfolding of the Anglo-American policy has driven Salvemini to write these significant words, for in truth he showed his grasp of that policy long ago. Salvemini’s words reflect in their own way the depth of the Italian – and the European – revolution. Whatever he personally may do, he knows that not only the masses but also all those who remain true to art and culture, faced with the real alternatives, are going to fight on the side of the proletarian revolution against its “democratic” oppressors.

2. The Anti-Fascist Movements in Italy

The Sources of Our Information

It is important for the advanced American workers, hungering for the facts about what is now happening in Italy, to realize that all present sources of information are extremely meager and unreliable. This fact in itself has political implications and it is instructive to examine these sources of information.

Of the dispatches in the bourgeois press here, the only intelligent ones were those from or based on the writings of the neutral Swedish correspondents residing in Italy; but the Badoglio censorship put an end to that after the first week. The dispatches since then from the Swiss border are obviously written by men ignorant of the political composition of the anti-fascist movement. For example, they refer to Giustizia e Libertá, the Justice and Liberty group (now in the Action Party) as the “left wing coalition of all the parties”; designate right-wing trade unionists like Buozzi and Amadeo as “anarchists” and “liberal socialists” (in reality the “liberal socialist revolutionary movement” was the name adopted in the recent period by left-wing Justice and Liberty groups); speak of the Stalinists as “extremists” when actually they are on the right wing of the movement; and apparently do not consider it important to transmit the texts of such party documents as do come into their hands – the important Manifesto of the Socialist Party was published in Libera Stampa of Lugano (Switzerland) but appears never to have been sent to the press here.

To the crimes of omission and commission of the reporters in Berne, one should add the policy of their editors and of the OWI here. There is much interesting material transmitted here by the OWI and released for publication but which is not printed, Examples: a letter from Benedetto Croce, the liberal philosopher, published August 10 in Giornale d’Italia and released here August 17, obviously indicating his belief that the workers want an end to capitalism and his fear that civil war is coming; almost daily reports of freeing of well-known workers’ leaders; the rather astonishing text of the August 16 decree, which goes so far in a demagogic attempt to conciliate the masses as to confiscate (on paper) “the real and personal property belonging to persons who, having filled public office and exercised political activities during the period from October 28, 1922 to July 24, 1943, achieved a rapid and large increase in their estate for which justification is not rendered”; the official Stefani news agency’s frank and almost daily admissions of big strikes and their effectiveness. Do these omissions of material available to them indicate that the bourgeois newspapers are going even further than the OWI in concealing the depth of the revolutionary ferment? In addition, OWI itself does not make public certain material which it gathers, particularly statements and documents of the workers’ parties in Italy which indicate fear of the reactionary consequences of an Anglo-US-dictated peace. So much for the limitations of bourgeois sources of information.

The Stalinist press is the only other one which receives telegraph and wireless dispatches from abroad. At first glance these Berne and Moscow dispatches seem very useful; they purport to give the statements and activities of the five principal anti-fascist parties, said to be functioning in a close coalition; however, as we shall soon see, we can take them only as expressing the Stalinist line, and not even as indicative of what the Communist Party workers and sympathizers are actually doing.

The dishonesty of the Stalinist press reports are matched by the conspiracy of silence of the Social-Democratic press: the Jewish Daily Forward, and its child, the New Leader. They have access to OWI material from which we are shut off, and undoubtedly have also received certain material from the Socialist Party of Italy. But they do not publish the fact that the Italian party does not take their line of 100 per cent support of the “democracies,” nor the undoubted fact of collaboration between the Socialist and Communist parties – the latter fact does not comport with backing the Antonini-Generoso Pope bloc. [3] Nazioni Unite, organ of the republican Mazzini Society, has perhaps even better sources of information than the Social Democrats (some of its principal figures went “abroad” some time ago, it is announced, which means with Washington’s collaboration), but is often silent about matters embarrassing to Washington. The Social-Democratic Italian-language weekly, La Parola, does not go along with its brothers in supporting Generoso Pope; but like them is an apologist for Washington. The Italian-language anarchist papers, relics of a dead movement, have no avenues of information.

Such are the extreme limits of our present sources of information. One might, of course, take the little authentic information and, in the manner of the scientist reconstructing a prehistoric animal from a few bones, attempt to provide a complete reproduction of the present situation in Italy. Unfortunately the analogy with the anatomical sciences is only a metaphor. In 1931 during the first months of the Spanish revolution, there was neither war nor censorship and letters came with some regularity, yet Trotsky was constrained, in writing from Prinkipo about the events, to say it was like playing chess blindfolded. At this moment we are in the position of not knowing the value or the disposition of many of the men on the Italian chessboard. It is within these limits that we must attempt to analyze the events in Italy.

The Elemental Movement of the Masses

Spokesmen of the various political tendencies are claiming credit for the revolutionary strikes and demonstrations but, with all due consideration of the activities of the underground groups, the stormy movement of the masses bears the marks of an elemental movement from below.

What was the actual state of organization of the anti-fascist parties on the eve of the fall of Mussolini? A pamphlet dated September 1942, written by spokesmen of one of the principal tendencies, the Action Party and the Justice and Liberty groups, spoke of “widespread propaganda,” an underground press “on an unparalleled scale,” the holding of political meetings, “combat groups formed in nearly every town and village” and “a strict coordination of all these units.” (In justice to the Action Party in Italy, one should note that these claims were made by émigrés here and not in its underground press.) Similar assertions were made by the Stalinists.

If these claims were true, then it was a new phenomenon in history. All other revolutions which have broken out under conditions of illegality of workers’ organizations have been elemental movements of the great masses without benefit of organization. Czarist repression was not totalitarian: between 1912 and 1914 the Bolsheviks had a legal press under a thin disguise, and even during the war there were legal workers’ fraternal (insurance) societies; yet we know how small were the underground parties of Russia on the eve of February 1917, and how little influence even the Bolsheviks had on the revolutionary strikes and the insurrection which toppled the Czar. Likewise in Germany in 1918, where the Spartacists were illegal but many close to them were in the legal Independent Socialist Party and the revolutionists had at their disposal part of the apparatus of the legal trade unions, the November revolution was essentially an explosion of the masses undirected by the parties. It is unlikely that, under the conditions of totalitarian repression in Italy, the underground parties had achieved by July 1943 more organizations than the workers’ parties in February 1917 and November 1918.

The years of underground propaganda and activity are, of course, not only the indispensable means of training cadres for the future mass parties, but are also a leaven among the masses as a whole. But it is significant that the Action Party’s underground press, sole source of information about a great strike in March of this year of 50,000 Turin workers, makes no claim that the party led it. We have certain rueful admissions of the class enemy, as in the Pope’s speech of June 13, when he complained that revolutionary handbills were being distributed and “propaganda is circulating ... especially among the working classes, that the Pope wished the war.” But these facts do not mean that the underground parties led the mass movement in the great strikes of July 26–28. All underground experience hitherto indicates that the party cadres which are actually organized are too small, when the revolutionary situation develops, to assume leadership of the mass actions. Among the leaders whom the workers throw up for the first strikes and demonstrations are individual party members, but neither the situation nor previous preparation enables the latter to act as part of their organization. If that was true of the best organized revolutionary party in history in February 1917, it was undoubtedly far more true of the reformist and centrist parties of Italy.

After the initial explosions create broad areas in which the parties are enabled to come above ground and operate semi-legally under the protection of the mass movement, the masses come more and more under the control of the parties. The small cadres emerging from the underground are clothed with mass recruits. We can well believe the report from Berne in the very first days after the fall of Mussolini that thousands are joining the Socialist Party daily; it is undoubtedly true as well of the other parties. But speedily though the parties grow in a revolutionary situation, much of the mass movement, strikes, demonstrations, clashes with police and troops, etc., still occur undirected from above. Workers in a given city achieve results which, perhaps, not even a revolutionary Marxist party, thinking in terms of a national and international perspective, would advocate attempting. A typical example of this appears to have occurred in the Italian city of Como, according to a dispatch from Zurich:

“... municipal authorities of Come had announced their city wanted nothing to do with the war and ’henceforward will be a hospital town,’ open only for charity.

“All factories in the city working for the Italian Army have been forced to cease production, and all troops, including Army staffs, have been removed from the town.” (New York Times, August 27)

The audacity of it – one city deciding to quit the war and putting the army out! Bloody reprisals by Badoglio would be certain – if the city remained isolated.

As the masses strike, demonstrate and clash with the police and military, learning the extent of their strength by action, the masses in one city notifying, as it were, the masses in other cities of their readiness to join together to destroy their common oppressors, they also learn the limitations of their elemental movements. Despite all they have done, the war still goes on. The masses become increasingly aware of the need for something more: really coordinated action on a national scale, and a definite plan to fight for peace and freedom; the need, that is, for a general staff of the masses, a party. More and more the further unfolding of the revolution will depend on the parties, their programs and their immediate slogans, and their relations with each other.

What the various parties are at present advocating is extremely difficult to ascertain from the meager reports available. However, we do know the programs which these parties advocated during the preceding years. Let us attempt an outline of the physiognomy of the principal parties. What follows is based not only on the relevant literature but on discussions with informed persons representing or adhering to the various parties.

The parties will make their way into the masses now primarily through the older workers and agricultural laborers who remained loyal to the socialist and communist tradition and experience of the pre-fascist period. No new parties are emerging as yet. The reason for this was explained by the Founding Conference of the Fourth International (1938): “It is extremely difficult for workers in fascist countries to make a choice of a new program. A program is verified by experience. And it is precisely experience in mass movements which is lacking in countries of totalitarian despotism.” Nevertheless, the significant body of experience which the party cadres had with their parties during the fascist period is likely to speed the development of new parties. Perhaps the best basis for analyzing the parties is to sketch briefly the history of the movement since the last war.

The First Chance: September 1920

The Socialist Party emerged from the war as the sole party of the workers and agricultural laborers, thanks to the fact that, unlike most of its sister parties of the Second International, it did not turn chauvinist. During the Turko-Italian war in 1912, the party had expelled some chauvinists; others seceded in 1914; the party maintained a semi-pacifist anti-chauvinism, as a result emerging in 1919 with great prestige, growing from 50,000 members in 1914 to 216,000 in 1919 while the party-led trade unions grew from 320,000 to 2,250,000 (the figures are Zinoviev’s at the time). In 1919 it voted adherence to the Third International and its delegation participated in the Second Congress (July–August 1920).

But within the party remained a reformist wing led by Filipo Turati, and opportunist trade union leaders; and the party leadership resisted expelling them despite the insistence of the Comintern. Vacillation on this question proved to be fatal to the revolution.

In September 1920 came the great test. When the employers refused to grant the economic but far-reaching demands of the workers (including workers’ control of production), they occupied the factories. In Turin and other places occupation was followed by the workers continuing production as if they were forever finished with the capitalist class; attempts to oust the workers failed; barricades were erected and the workers prepared for civil war. Serious observers of various political tendencies agree that the Socialist Party had sufficient authority among the workers and peasants to carry the strike forward into a political general strike and a successful insurrection. True, Italy had no coal and little bread, and would have had to face outside capitalist intervention at a moment when Soviet Russia was still fighting Pilsudski’s armies and the German revolution was lagging. But revolutions must be made when the masses are ready, and cannot be postponed to await improvement of external conditions. There were risks; and defeat would come in the end if the Italian revolution did not create a response elsewhere in Europe. But the situation in all Europe was revolutionary. Above all, the alternative to making the Italian revolution was to let the masses down, to deprive them of the hope of a fundamental social change, to abandon them to passivity and demoralization. Subsequent history proved that those were the only alternatives.

The reformist leaders of course opposed the road of revolution. The outstanding leader of the party, Serrati, returned from the Second Congress in Moscow at the height of the revolutionary crisis. The pressure of the reformists plus his own vacillations turned the tide. The party permitted the trade union leaders to arrange a “compromise.” As the workers retreated, the bourgeoisie regained self-confidence and the fascists whom it financed pressed forward. It was only after the evacuation of the factories that the fascists were able to recruit on a mass scale.

There is considerable evidence to prove that the revolutionary elements in the party, on the basis of patient and pedagogical criticism of the party leadership’s conduct during the September struggle, could have won the great majority of the party. A few months later, however, at the Livorno Congress early in 1921, the left elements prematurely split away, under the leadership of the ultra-left anti-parliamentarian Bordiga, to form the Communist Party. After they left, the Livorno Congress adopted a resolution stating: “The Congress reaffirming its adherence to the Third International hereby refers the entire conflict to the coming Third (Comintern) Congress and pledges itself in advance to abide by and execute its resolution.” The hasty split in the face of the party’s continued affirmations of loyalty to the Comintern obscured the fundamental lessons of the period. The split shifted the relationship of forces in the party in favor of the reformists, and the Communist Party did not grow appreciably. This was the paralyzing situation during the critical period between spring 1921 and Mussolini’s assumption of the premiership in October 1922.

That same month Serrati at last expelled the reformists at the party’s Rome Congress; the reformists, now attempting to find a modus vivendi with Mussolini, were now quite willing to go, openly boasting that they had stayed in the party to prevent the revolution. Serrati now sincerely sought to bring the party back into the Comintern; on December 31, 1922, it accepted the decisions of the Fourth Comintern Congress for re-unification; and, indeed, for some years thereafter continued to proclaim its desire for a united party adhering to the Comintern. Actually, however, during those years the party kept moving to the right in the demoralized atmosphere after the fascist victory. Serrati had no cadres to back him comparable to those outside in the Communist Party; in the leadership he stood well-nigh alone; his associates (Pietro Nenni, whom he had given control of the party organ, Avanti, Angelica Balabanoff, etc.) had hardened into a centrist current which successfully opposed him. They ousted Serrati from control and he returned alone to the Comintern (he died in 1925).

Meanwhile the infant Communist Party, while formally abandoning its anti-parliamentarianism and opposition to democratic and partial demands under Comintern pressure, in practice failed to follow the policy of united fronts against the fascists. The net result was that many workers, however critical of the Socialist Party, could not see the formalistic intransigence of the communists as a real alternative. This fact was recorded in the general elections of April 1924 when, as noted by the Comintern Inprecorr (it proved to be its last months of honest reporting), the Socialist Party proved it still had the support of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants.

The Second Chance: the Matteotti Crisis

Then came the second great test of the Socialist Party, when the murder of Matteoti by the fascists precipitated a profound crisis lasting from mid-1924 into 1925. The fascist regime was isolated. Against it appeared arrayed well-nigh all Italy; a considerable part of the bourgeois press joined the socialists and communists in the outcry against the regime. The bourgeois-democratic parties, the Popular (Catholic) party, the Socialist Party and the rightist unitarian socialists (Turati and Matteoti’s party) formed the Aventine coalition. But the anti-fascism of the coalition was limited to parliament and journaism; Mussolini skillfully let them exhaust the ferment and themselves in talk – then began systematic repressions again in 1925 and outlawed the opposition parties in 1926. Its failure to seize its second chance left the Socialist Party discredited in the eyes of millions of workers and peasants.

But where was the Communist Party during the crisis? It was still small, thanks to the premature split; but according to the claim of Inprecorr, in the 1924 elections it had polled more votes in most of the industrial towns (except Milan) than the Socialist Party, electing 17 deputies. True, the communists correctly refused to enter the Aventine coalition, branding it as a purveyor of democratic illusions when fascism could be overthrown only by violence; true, the communists also by various formal proposals attempted to draw the socialists out of the coalition and into a proletarian united front for a general strike, etc. But upon closer examination it is clear that the Communist Party was already then being paralyzed by intervention from the rising Soviet bureaucracy in Moscow. One will search in vain in the Comintern documents of 1924–25 for a serious analysis of the Italian crisis and the tasks of the communists: it was the period when Zinoviev was leading the “struggle against Trotskyism” and “Bolshevization of the parties,” i.e., among other things purging them of the revolutionists who would not submit to the Soviet bureaucracy. In the most crucial weeks of the Italian crisis, articles in Inprecorr condemn Bordiga for ... “defense of Trotskyism.” The last legal National Conference of the Communist Party of Italy, in January 1926, is occupied with the crushing of Bordiga; instead of a sober analysis of the lost opportunity of 1924–25, it produces boastful reports of party progress in Inprecorr. The party’s previous reputation for impractical intransigence now merges with the stigma of narrow-minded intolerance of dissident but genuinely revolutionary, loyal and morally impeccable communists.

In emigration the leadership of the Socialist Party split in the late ’twenties, Nenni and others re-uniting with the Unitarians (reformists) to call themselves the Socialist Party and return to the Second International. The others (Maximalists) lived on in exile after a fashion, publishing Avanti in Paris, and vanished as an organized tendency when the war broke out; their one remaining group today, in Argentina, is anti-war. The Socialist Party of course came out for the “democratic” war and its London delegation is indistinguishable from the most chauvinistic social-democratic exiles.

A minority under the leadership of Pietro Nenni, close collaborator of the Stalinists in the Spanish civil war, defended the Stalin-Hitler pact and took up an “anti-war” position; its Stalinist inspiration was indicated when it turned chauvinist after June 22, 1941. Nevertheless, its “anti-war” position until then appears to have been more akin to the revolutionary sentiments of the socialist workers in Italy and the Nenni group gained a certain prestige during that period. When the majority leadership was bottled up and prevented from functioning in Vichy France, Nenni claimed to speak for the party, consummating various “pacts” with the Stalinists. At some point the majority appears to have declared the expulsion of Nenni who now, however, emerging from a short stay in an Italian prison, is presented by the Stalinists as the official spokesman for the Socialist Party. This claim is central to the Stalinist picture of a five-party coalition whose line is indistinguishable from that of the Stalinists.

The Socialist Party Today

However, the actual line of the Socialist Party in Italy today appears to be somewhat different, not in basic principles, but sufficiently in formulation and direction to belie the Stalinist picture.

The Stalinist line is 100 per cent for unconditional surrender to the “democracies” and complete uncritical support of them as “liberators”; silence on the question of overthrow of the monarchy as an institution; “removal” – not overthrow – of Badoglio, and “abdication” of Victor Emmanuel, i.e., replacement by another king.

The Socialist Party, on the other hand, issued a Manifesto a week or so after Mussolini’s fall, which speaks quite differently. The text we have is incomplete, but the cuts in it (and the translation) were made by a pro-Ally source, hence the differences with the Stalinists may be even more pronounced in the unavailable original. The translation states:

“1. A major factor in the political crisis which Precipitated Mussolini’s overthrow was the opposition of the large popular masses to both dictatorship and war. Fascist leadership had crumbled under the threat of popular insurrection. A majority of the members comprising the Fascist Grand Council became panic-stricken and opportunely shrank from the danger of any internal revolutionary upheavals as well as from the consequences of a military defeat by sacrificing an already discredited dictator, along with some of the symbols of fascism, and by turning their power over to the military caste. There was no dynastic hand in the foregoing movement: the fascist King merely obeyed the injunction of a fascist majority.

“2. The Badoglio government does not mean the liquidation of the fascist dictatorship. It merely represents the extreme attempt to save the monarchical state, the empire and the present social structure. Behind the facade of military dictatorship am gathered many elements vital to fascism; some of them have been strengthened. The Badoglio dictatorship is fascism minus Mussolini ...

“3. In all the fundamental problems underlying the Italian crisis there really exists the closest solidarity among top ranking military, the dynasty, the capitalist and fascist leaders. Badoglio cannot give the People anything else. Badoglio served Mussolini loyally during twenty-one years of fascist tenure ...

“The attitude of the Socialist Party before the new government cannot therefore be doubted: we are as emphatically opposed to this new government as we were to fascism.

“4. Some ancient liberal and conservative elements to whom Badoglio has entrusted the management of all leading Italian dailies and other public offices in an effort to simulate a return to constitutional rules and regulations were never part and parcel of any popular anti-fascist movement ... Dynamic liberalism in our country today is represented by those daring elements who are continuing in the tradition of Gobetti and Rosselli. With these elements the Italian Socialist Party is eager to collaborate both in the current struggle aimed at the liquidation of whatever is left of the fascist party, as well as tomorrow in the reconstruction of an Italy which is truly democratic in a modern sense.

“5. It behooves us to fix in the mind of international opinion the true character of the demonstrations and the strikes staged since the overthrow of Mussolinti. For those movements were not the result of any despair or mutiny because of war horrors, but rather the clear-cut manifestations of sheer rejoicing on the part of a people who had finally emerged victorious over their internal enemy ... When it became apparent that Badoglio was committed to a continuation of the war, and in safeguarding as much of fascism as possible under the circumstances, then all popular demonstrations and accompanying strikes surged into a resumption of the fight until complete victory is won over the internal enemy.

“6. The Socialist Party is avowedly committed to the immediate cessation of the war. This, however, is not to be construed that the socialists will later accept just any kind of peace terms; nor does it mean that the socialists will accept any kind of abuse without protesting or reacting against it. Throughout this war we asserted most energetically the independence of our political struggle from that which certain nations have been waging against fascism. [4] We shall not tire from vindicating the rights and vital interests of the Italian people, even if this should mean being at odds with the ruling circles of the United Nations ... We do not hesitate to state most frankly that the Italian fascist monarchy deserves a demand for unconditional surrender from its adversaries ... But we appeal to the democratic forces of British, American and Russian public opinion, with whom we feel morally allied, and urge upon them at the peace conference the representatives of democratic and republican Italy be summoned, and with them terms be discussed as based on the pledges contained in the Atlantic Charter.

“7. Recent events have once again proved the incapacity of the old Italian ruling class to establish any relations other than those of brutal force and terror between itself and the Italian people as a whole. The historic task confronting us all is the setting up of a democratic republic in Italy ...

“8. In order to unite all efforts in the prosecution of the struggle and give them maximum efficiency, the Socialist Party proposes that all other opposition groups begin immediately their work of propaganda and, in view of the general strike, prepare to achieve the following objectives: limitation of all prisoners and political internees; cessation of the war; suppression of the monarchy; freedom of the press; political organization along syndicate lines.”

It is clear the document remains within the limits of bourgeois democracy and support of the “democratic” war. Nevertheless, it differs with the Stalinists in (1) calling for the overthrow of the monarchy – which is entirely unacceptable to the “democracies”; (2) suspecting the peace aims of “the ruling circles of the United Nations”; (3) making the distinction of “the independence of our political struggle from that which certain nations have been waging against fascism”; (4) seeking close collaboration only with those “in the tradition of Gobetti and Rosselli” – which means principally the Action Party and the Justice and Liberty group – and only perfunctorily referring to uniting its efforts with other groups. Particularly significant is that it is lukewarm not only to collaboration with the Stalinists but also to the oppositional Catholic democratic groups; this indicates that the latter are not considered a serious force today, for the Socialist Party would be unlikely, with its perspective limited to a bourgeois-democratic republic, to have any principled reason for opposing collaboration with the Catholics. On the other hand the Stalinists, seeking to remain within the limits acceptable to Roosevelt and Churchill – including retention of the monarchy – make much of the Catholics and other rightist-democratic elements as part of the “national front,” in order, as in Loyalist Spain, to use them as a conservative counterweight against the workers’ organizations.

Thus, in certain ways, the reformist Socialist Party today appears to the left of the Stalinists. Once again the policies of the Communist Party make possible the continued preservation and indeed growth of the Socialist Party which, in turn, is certain to play no less a reactionary role than Stalinism in the further development of the revolution.

Action Party and “Justice and Liberty”

The victory of Mussolini in 1925 starkly illumined the bankruptcy of the traditional socialist and democratic parties and the impotence of the Communist Party, and inevitably gave rise to a widespread yearning among intellectuals and students for something “new” in anti-fascism. As might be expected, the “new” turned out to be very old indeed. Individual terrorism, expression of the despair of the petty-bourgeois democrats, appeared: there were at least four attempts to assassinate Mussolini in 1926. “Combat organizations” of students sprang up. In Sardinia, Emilio Lussu founded the Action Movement, with no other ideology than armed violence against fascist armed violence. Carlo Rosselli, Gaetano Salvemini and others established illegal newspapers which preached “offensive and not defensive action,” in other words without a serious perspective. The nature of this tendency has just been summarized very well by Nicola Chiaromonte:

“For these men, irrespective of their political credo (and many of them, at the beginning, would have been embarrassed if asked to give a strict account of their ideas), the first and fundamental act was a mute oath, given to none but themselves and of which only their intimate friends were aware, never to give up, never to have anything in common with ‘them.’ The second act was, when they came to the question of ‘what to do,’ a full realization that no matter how many people regarded them with sympathy and respect, they were essentially isolated, ‘Einzelgaenger’ who didn’t even know where they were going, but only what they were going away from.”

Their desire to oppose fascism was expressed in various heroic but futile gestures and between 1926 and 1929 thousands of them joined the communist workers in the prisons. Especially dear to their hearts were the spectacular airplane flights of Bassanesi and Dolci over Milan in July 1930 and of Lauro de Bosis over Rome in 1931, dropping revolutionary leaflets; and various new attempts against Mussolini’s life. But as Chiaromonte adds, the efficiency of the repression began to make itself felt:

“Until then, the question had been ‘how to do it?’ Around 1930, for many people, the most distressing problem became ‘what to do?’ meaning by that, what to do that could make sense in a situation in which as the regime became stronger and stronger, the people felt increasingly helpless and frightened, and the ground for any kind of effective political opposition seemed completely to disappear.” (New Republic, August 30)

Meanwhile, up to about 1928, the Communist Party had been correctly explaining to these people that “offensive action” under the given conditions was an absurdity. The necessary task was to train cadres in Marxism, firmly grounded groups of leaders, who would understand that patient and slow methods were required to gather the vanguard of the workers together, sink roots in the masses in the factories and on the land, and prepare for the inevitable financial or military catastrophe of the fascist regime, or a revolutionary explosion elsewhere in Europe, which would create the opportunity for overthrowing the regime. The Marxist perspective, as time passed, showed itself infinitely superior to the spectacular but pointless gestures of the petty-bourgeois rebels, and more and more of the youth turned toward the Communist Party.

Precisely at this juncture came the “third period” formulas from Moscow: no united fronts with other opposition groups; characterization of the socialists as “social-fascists,” anarchists as “anarcho-fascists,” etc.; and a perspective identical with that with which the petty-bourgeois rebels were tiring and turning away from: “offensive” action. Had Moscow deliberately sought to perpetuate the independent existence of the confused petty-bourgeois anti-fascist movement it could not have invented a more efficacious device than the “third period.”

This “left” turn explains the renewed vitality of the petty-bourgeois movement, which found its main organizational form for the next decade in Giustizia e Libertá, “Justice and Liberty,” founded by Carlo Roseelli and Emilio Lussu after their famous escape from the Lipari Island prison in August 1929. Its first manifesto condemned the “constitutional-moral” limits of the anti-fascism of the traditional parties, and declared itself to be “a revolutionary movement, not a party,” uniting “republicans, socialists and democrats,” to fight for “liberty, the republic, social justice.” As if finding it necessary to explain how a movement with such utter poverty of ideas could play a major role, the latest official history of Giustizia e Libertá writes:

“Although the anti-fascist combativity of the Communist Party attracted many youth, its attacks of depreciation against the other oppositions and against that same culture (civiltá) the destruction of which was provoking a national insurrection of moral conscience and new revolutionary formations, prevented the Communist Party from assuming the function of complete successor of the oppositions.” [5]

This movement was sufficiently dangerous to the fascist regime to impel Mussolini to assassinate Carlo Rosselli near Paris in June 1937. Despite its confusionism, the movement had important insights. During the Ethiopian crisis, it was the only tendency other than the Trotskyist which insisted that anti-fascism should not support sanctions by the “democracies” against Italy but should base itself on internal struggle against the regime. Many of its best comrades fell in the civil war in Spain, where the Italian anti-fascists became legendary for their superiority in combat with Mussolini’s conscripts; in a confused way but in the correct direction it protested against the conservative “defense of the Spanish republic” based on dependence on the “democracies,” and called for independent “defense of the Spanish revolution.” When the “left” line of the “third period” was followed by the Stalinist crimes of the Popular Frontist period, it hardened the determination of the elements around Giustizia e Libertá to steer clear of Stalinism, although politically they stood not far from the Stalinists then, and again when the Nazi invasion of the USSR swung the Stalinists back to the “democracies.”

It is known that now the groups of Giustizia e Libertá have entered the Action Party founded by Lussu, himself a founder of the former organization. In 1931 Trotsky characterized this general tendency as left-democratic, with its nearest counterpart, perhaps, the Social Revolutionaries of Russia. During the last ten years it has taken on a little more socialist coloration, perhaps, but remains “classless,” i.e. petty-bourgeois, with considerable overtones of old-fashioned national patriotism. Its principal immediate difference with the Stalinists is probably on the monarchy, which it continues to insist on overthrowing.

The Stalinist Line in Italy Today

As reported in the Daily Worker and the weekly L’Unita del Popolo, the Stalinist line is breath-taking in its crudity. It is reported in Moscow’s Intercontinent News (ICN) dispatches from Berne as ostensibly the line of an illegal radio, Milano Liberta, speaking for a five-party coalition (the others are Socialist, Action, Christian Democratic and “liberal reconstruction”); and undoubtedly there is a certain amount of collaboration since all the parties limit themselves to the perspective of a bourgeois-democratic revolution; but we have no right or reason to take the Stalinists’ word that the others share responsibility for the formulations attributed to the alleged coalition.

In the crucial eleven days between Mussolini’s dismissal on July 25 and August 4, the Stalinists did not call for the ousting of Badoglio and the king. On the contrary, they praised them for dismissing Mussolini:

“We greet all those who, understanding the will of the nation, helped ban the tyrant by action from the top.” (Daily Worker, July 28)

Those who protested an Anglo-US deal with Badoglio were answered as follows by the foreign expert, James S. Allen:

“Badoglio is a new phenomenon. He is not Petain. He is not Darlan.

“He is not only the Badoglio of the Ethopian campaigns ...

“He is the man who in this transitory but swift and decisive moment of national resurgence is confronted with the imperative national will for peace ...

“Civil war can be avoided if Badoglio makes peace ...

“Thus, to raise the slogan of ‘No deals with Badoglio,’ under any circumstances, even if this would mean knocking Italy out of the Axis immediately ... is to befuddle the whole issue.” (Daily Worker, July 31)

The same Allen had to explain, five days later:

“When it became clear that Badoglio simply was playing for time ... the approach towards the Badoglio government of both the Allied governments and the anti-fascist front in Italy changed. The five-party coalition first increased direct pressure upon the regime and when this failed to produce results called for its overthrow.” (Daily Worker, August 5)

The word “overthrow” was thus used for a few days, and there was even an ICN dispatch from Berne of a call to “arming the people.” However, another ICN dispatch, this time much more authoritative because from Moscow, corrected the hotheaded Berne reporter and established the precise line as follows:

“The next day [August 4] the opposition launched the following slogan – ‘removal of Badoglio’, the abdication of the King and the formation of a national government for peace.” (Daily Worker, August 23)

And this has been the Stalinist line since then: removal – not revolutionary overthrow – of Badoglio, and abdication of the king, i.e., not the end of the monarchy but replacement of Victor Emmanuel by Crown Prince Umberto and his nominating someone else for Badoglio’s place.

The same Moscow dispatch explains why the Stalinists at first “did not project an immediate veto of the King and Badoglio,” because:

“It would have been folly to place as their chief objective on the 26th the struggle to overthrow Badoglio and force the King to abdicate. Nobody would have understood such a slogan.

“In the eyes of the most enlightened people, the King and Badoglio seemed to have been Mussolini’s grave-diggers.”

As we have seen, “the most enlightened people” included the Stalinists, with their praise of Badoglio’s “action from the top” and his role as “a new phenomenon.”

The principal function of the “government for peace” would be unconditional surrender to the Anglo-US forces, who are recommended by Milano Liberta as follows:

“The democratic countries demand nothing of the Italian people, nothing of the Italian nation ... What they demand is the capitulation of fascism and its accomplices ... Therefore, the democratic armies who are advancing with this program are our allies, our friends.” (Daily Worker, July 30)

It is hard to believe that these dispatches describe the line as it is actually purveyed to the bombed workers of Milan. In all probability, the formulations of the dispatches are for foreign consumption only, for whatever the Stalinist functionaries are, they are not so stupid as to repel the masses whom they seek to influence. Not that the line as actually carried out in Italy is less treacherous; but it is probably cleverer.

The Contradiction in Italian Stalinism

It must be recognized that Stalinism is not only attempting to betray the Italian revolution, but has a powerful capacity to do so. Undoubtedly the principal political cadres in the proletariat belong to the Communist Party. The party has the prestige of having borne the brunt of the underground struggle, as a bitter opponent of Stalinism has recently testified:

“But, for all the barrenness of what was going to be their various ‘lines’ in the following years, for all the absurdity of their tactics, for all the hatefulness of their discipline, nobody can deny to the men in Italy who called themselves Communists the honor of having been the most stubborn, unflinching and ruthlessly persecuted of those confraternities of stoics who guarded for twenty years the future of the Italian people.” (Nicola Chiaromonte, New Republic, August 30)

It could not fail to be so. Under fascism the Communist Party members and sympathizers could not learn the truth about the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism elsewhere; nothing comparable took place in Italy where Stalinism always remained in opposition to the regime; and of course they would not believe what they read in the fascist press. To them the party remained the Leninist movement it had been in 1922. One should add the fact that the Comintern’s party, always able to finance activity and literature, was far more attractive to underground activists than the Socialist Party which secured only occasional starvation rations from its sister parties outside.

But if, upon emerging from underground, the party has the best cadres of the proletariat at its disposal, that is not to be recorded as a source of strength for Stalinism for an indefinite period. Unlike the functionaries who in emigration became corrupted and willing tools of Stalinism, the party ranks who remained to suffer in Italy are not Stalinists. Indicative of the moral caliber of the Italian communists is the fact that even as late as 1931, when the apparatus of all the other parties of the Comintern had been completely Stalinized, there could still be an important split in the Italian leadership on the question of Trotskyism. Three members of the Political Committee – Blasco, Feroci and Santini – became Trotskyist.

One could not expect their example to be followed by the ranks, for they had access to outside information and political literature which the average underground member could not have. Even more significant, therefore, is the fact that many communists, though failing to learn the true character of Stalinism, developed a strong distrust of the Comintern through their experiences with it. Orders from Moscow or Paris, issued by light-minded bureaucrats trying to “produce” often resulted in disastrous consequences. Typical enough of the 1930’s is the appearance of a Comintern functionary in an industrial city with leaflets calling for a general strike. The small local cadres of the party, painfully built over a period of years, would protest that the leaflet distribution would mean nothing except the destruction of the party cells, but would carry out the order. Seized and imprisoned for long terms, they would compare experiences with other communists: the party cells in Mussolini’s prisons, as in those of the Czar, were schools of Marxism. A discussion would lead to general agreement of a communist cell that the Comintern orders had been wrong in a given instance; that would in turn lead to deeper probing into the Comintern program for Italy. Thus the jails trained many communist dissidents. Those who had the moral courage to fight fascism would not knuckle down to what they believed wrong in the party. Some of these were expelled or left, but perhaps even more of them were still in the party when Mussolini fell.

Thus there is a deep contradiction within the Stalinist organization. On the one hand it is clothed with great moral prestige. On the other hand those who provided it with that moral credit are unlikely to go along with the Stalinist policy as it changes from the oppositionism of the past 21 years to support of an Allied-sponsored regime. So long as the struggle in Italy remained underground Stalinism could identify support of the “democracies” with the struggle for peace and freedom of the past decades. But it is a very different thing to paint the Anglo-US forces as liberators when AMGOT is already operating in Sicily (not to speak of what will happen if it attempts to rule the advanced workers of northern Italy as it rules the Sicilian peasants!); and when Roosevelt and Churchill find their Darlan – perhaps Badoglio himself – and insist on retention of the monarchy.

There is a small percentage of members in countries like England and the US who have stayed with the Communist Party throughout the course of its degeneration. One must remember, however, that they adapted themselves to Stalinism over a long period of time: Trotsky seemed mad to them when he predicted in 1928 that Stalinism would end in chauvinism. In Italy, however, in many cases it will be as if a communist of 1922 would be confronted with the Stalinist line of 1943. One can predict with confidence that the cadres of the new revolutionary Marxist party will come from among these communists and the youth they will train.

There should be no illusions: Stalinism will wreak great havoc before it is overcome. But in addition to the fundamental contradiction in the ranks of the party which we have noted, it is also important to realize that neither this party nor the other parties as yet control the mass movement. It remains in large part elemental and explosive. Before Stalinism succeeds in channeling it, the movement will in all probability topple many things and create an arena of workers’ democracy in which the revolutionists breaking with Stalinism can fight for the minds of the masses. After 21 years of totalitarianism, there will be widespread resistance among the workers to the Stalinist totalitarian methods. Difficult days lie ahead for the revolutionists; but also serious possibilities of success. Above all they and the revolutionists everywhere on the continent have on their side the terrible urgency of transforming the European shambles into the Socialist United States of Europe.


1. Typical of the non-Stalinist anti-fascist parties of Italy is the program of the Quaderni Italiani – published by adherents of the Action Party and the Justice and Liberty group – which was described and analyzed in the February 1943 Fourth International.

2. The vain attempts of the Italian émigrés to secure US backing are described in some detail in my article, Washington’s Plans for Italy, Fourth International, June 1943.

3. Indicative of what the Social Democrats consider fit to print is this incident. The day following Mussolini’s fall, the New Leader wired several persons for statements, among them Margaret De Silver, the widow of Carlo Tresca. Her statement sought faithfully to interpret what Tresca would have said at this moment; he would not be “unaware of what the Allies would be up to in the matter of suppressing any real revolution. And he would have fought against the enemies of the revolution. Maybe that is why he is not here. For the fact is that the ex-fascists who are scrambling on to the New Deal bandwagon are the most serious threat at the moment, including such people here as Generoso Pope and straddlers like LaGuardia ... Maybe the people of Italy, if they succed in their terrible struggle, will be the ones to do the job of avenging Carlo’s memory, the job which people in America seem incapable of accomplishing, to our disgrace.” Despite its request for her statement, the New Leader refused to publish it, for “reasons of the welfare of our entire movement.” Margaret De Silver’s answer was: “I should have known that a paper willing to push aside any implied criticism of the New Deal’s prosecution of the war, and a paper that takes Generoso Pope seriously, would not print my interpretation of what Carlo Tresca would now be thinking of the Italian situation.”

4. As we go to press, the September 1 Nazoni Unite published the complete Italian text of the Manifesto. There are two significant additions not in the English translation: the Allies are described as fighting the fascists “for other reasons” than those of the Italian anti-fascists; and a paragraph is devoted to explaining that the military defeat is so complete that it is impossible for a new government to fight on for a better peace. We can be sure this reflects widespread suspicion of the war and peace aims of the “democracies.”

5. Movimento di Giustizia e Libertá, June 1943 manifesto of the North American Federation of G.L., 1133 Broadway, New York.


Last updated on: 21 August 2015