Karl Radek

The White Terror

Mussolini’s campaign
against the Italian Communists

(13 March 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 25, 13 March 1923, pp. 195–196.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Depressing news come from Italy. The Fascist government is preparing to shatter the communist organizations. Thousands of communists have been arrested in every city. Comrade Amadea [sic!] Bordiga, the leader of Italian communism, has been arrested; comrade Maffi, the leader of (he Internationalist Section of the Socialist Party, was arrested on his return from the Congress of the Comintern, although he is a deputy, and as such, enjoys the right of immunity Mussolini substantiates the arrests of communists with assertions of alleged conspiracies dogging him on all sides. But comrade Maffi could not be guilty of a conspiracy, for however cunning the mechanism of revolution may be, nobody can organize a conspiracy until he has at least crossed the frontier. Maffi’s arrest had thus to be justified on other grounds. 30 grams of gold were found in his wife’s possession. The reader will ask what these 30 grams of gold mean. Perhaps they are are a part of the fighting funds of the Comintern, condensed by the devilish arts of the Moscow conspirators? But it was only the wedding ring of comrade Maffi’s wife.

On the day after his victorious seizure of power, Mussolini declared that the Terror exercised by the Fascisti up to that time would now cease. He called upon his organizations to renounce all use of force, and combatted the excesses committed by independent Fascisti. Naturally, the Fascisti were very reluctant to obey a leader who wonted to transform them from wolves into lambs. But it is none the less a fact that during the first period of Mussolini’s rule the only Fascist atrocities committed were those by individual sections of Fascist bands, against the command of (he government; there were no governmental campaigns against communists. Many comrades informed us that, after the Fascisti had seized power, the position of the communists was more favorable than it had been for two years.

But this was merely the honeymoon of the Fascist government. Mussolini needed a pause for breath after seizing power. His first task was to disarm the Fascist divisions, or at least to form them into an organized and legal force, directly dependent on the government and obedient to its commands. Mussolini had promised so much to the Fascisti, that he was bound to fear their desertion if he failed to keep his promises. If he had permitted them to attack the communists at once, he would not have been able to discipline them at the same time. Therefore he took his time about the campaign against the communists. And another consideration influenced him: he was afraid of arousing the resistance of the working masses before his own governmental position was firmly established.

All the bourgeois parties submitted to Mussolini, although he had trodden all parliamentary rights underfoot. They submitted to him, although there are influential bourgeois groups in Italy who do not believe in his program, and who fear that he will so treat the state apparatus and capitalist economics that no good will come of it. The bourgeoisie is convinced that the superfluous zeal of the Fascisti will calm down, that the dictator who is going to save Italy’s bourgeoisie will submit to the laws of the bourgeoisie, and that in the end, the working class alone will have to bear the whole burden of the dictatorship. The reformists have submitted too; at first they held tearful speeches in Parliament against Mussolini’s dictatorship, and in defence of parliamentarism and democracy, but at the same time the leader of the labor confederation, Baldesi, took up negotiations with Mussolini, and several organs of the Italian Amsterdamers declared that they were free from all prejudice against the Fascist government. Thus a tacit bloc was formed between the reformists and Mussolini. The forces of the revolutionary proletariat are undergoing a process of reformation. Unity is in progress between the Communist Party and the revolutionary elements of Serrati’s party. The revolutionary elements occupied with the regrouping were not able to entrench themselves, and to take up the fight from well-defended positions. Mussolini, who feared the pending consolidation of the revolutionary forces, proceeded to the attack. And now the fascist organizations are no longer split up, now the fascist government is destroying the workers’ organizations, throwing the editors of the communist papers into prison, and instituting mass proceedings against workers. The terror has reached such a point that, as Italian comrades report, the workers do not venture to speak aloud in the trams.

The Communist Party of Italy is passing through a period of unheard of difficulties. It is forced to offer sacrifice after sacrifice on the altar of revolutionary class war, but we are certain that the battle will end in the victory of the Communist Party, and not in that of Mussolini. Terror is a mighty weapon against a class whose day is past, and whose economic importance dwindles from day to day in the course of evolution. But the Terror cannot suppress a class without which no production is possible. The Terror cannot suppress a class to which even the Fascist government must turn with the prediction that society can only be saved by the work of this class. Mussolini’s Terror rids communism of all lazy and cowardly elements, of all who fight for the cause of communism with words only. But it draws all the real fighters the more closely together, unites all truly revolutionary members of the Italian working class, and creates a Communist Party capable not only of seizing power after the inevitable collapse of Fascism, but of maintaining it.

Last updated on 10 August 2021