The European Revolution Has Begun

Problems of the Italian Revolt

(September 1943)

From The New International, Vol. IX No. 8, September 1943, pp. 233–238.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In 1920, Lenin defined the “fundamental law of revolution” in a way that events since then have further confirmed: “It is not sufficient for revolution that the exploited and oppressed masses understand the impossibility of living in the old way and demand changes; for revolution it is necessary that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way.”

Such a situation has developed in Italy. The masses refused to live any longer in the old way and demanded changes. The old way meant: fascism and the war, whose ruinousness and futility became increasingly apparent. That is what it meant for all classes in Italy. The masses reacted by such a lowering of “morale” that the armies of Italy became the butt of international joking. The question, “What are we fighting for?” became, “Why should we continue to fight?” The question, “Why should we continue to fight?” grew into the conclusion: “Let us fight against those who are forcing us to continue to fight.” The pattern of Russia in 1917, and Austria-Hungary and Germany a year later, began to unfold in Italy. The ruling class was thereupon also compelled to react against the “old way.” To prevent the masses from putting a real end to fascism and the war, it began to put an “end” to fascism in its own way and sought to get out of the war on its own terms.

The first act of the revolution was the refusal of the soldiers to fight, or at least to fight with enthusiasm and conviction. The second act was the rising mood of rebelliousness of the people at home. Totalitarian censorship prevents all the details from coming out of Italy; what does come out passes through a second sieve-screening, Allied censorship. But what is acknowledged as fact on all sides, plus those deductions that are unmistakably indicated, make at least the outline of the events clear enough.

The fascist regime found it necessary to permit (if not to organize!) a national pilgrimage of workers to Rome, so that they could be lectured by the Pope on the futility and sinfulness of revolution. The class struggle, alas, does not operate in as strict accordance with Scripture as Christ’s vicar on earth would like to have it. The restlessness and discontentment of the people only mounted, even after the papal admonitions. The bourgeoisie was faced with the choice of a revolution that would overrun everything, including all the foundations of its rule, or a revolution-from-above, quiet, orderly, mildly sacrificial, formal, unupsetting. It chose the latter, of course.

Faced with a revolutionary people, the Russian bourgeoisie and even the Czarist bureaucracy, did not hesitate to sacrifice the Romanov dynasty so that they themselves would not be sacrificed. In Germany, in 1918, not even the Junkers debated long in similar circumstances, and the head of the House of Hohenzollern was sent packing to Holland. In Italy, twenty-five years later, the founder and head of fascism was lopped off in order that more precious heads might remain on their shoulders. The removal of Mussolini was not enough to satisfy the masses. Even the bourgeoisie, its King and its military caste, realized this. Along with Mussolini went the more notorious representatives of the fascist regime; the lesser luminaries hastened to explain that they had never really been fascists, that they had worked for the old regime either under compulsion or as clever internal sappers.

Fascism proved to be so utterly discredited in the eyes of the people that the ruling class did not dare replace one Mussolini with another. It had to seek someone who, while entirely trustworthy, was not completely identified with the fascist government. Desperate search disclosed Badoglio, upon whose head were found two or three hairs not entirely tarred with the fascist brush. By happy coincidence, he was also a qualified representative of the only reactionary power of any consequence left in the country, the officers’ corps, and a devoted servant of the King, who must, under no circumstances, be called moronic.

The mere fact that the bourgeoisie, by discarding Mussolini & Co., openly recognized the existence of an explosive situation, and its inability to deal with it “in the old way,” was sufficient to open the door wide, or at least wider, to direct action by the people. The ruling class was reluctantly content to change face, in order at once to appease the masses and to make possible peace negotiations in which the Allies would not lose face. The working class wanted more, much more.

Here again not all the facts are known in detail, but we know enough. The masses, after twenty-two years of suppression and indoctrination by totalitarian fascism, came out into the streets were given the treatment they deserved, and some of the North, the workers went out on strike. Buildings of the fascists were stormed and the arrogant heroes-of-yesterday offered scarcely any resistance. Prominent Blackshirts found on the streets were given the treatment they deserved, and some were killed. The banners and emblems of fascism were torn down; the pictures of Il Duce were defaced and his ubiquitous name obliterated from every wall. The most vicious fascist journals were discreetly suppressed by Badoglio; others simply stopped publication, especially in view of the urgent need felt by the editors to retire to obscure holes; still others proclaimed that they had never supported the old regime out of real conviction. The fascist regime simply disappeared in a complete rout.

Fascism Is Not Invincible – The Working Class Is Irrepressible

The crucial test of the power and durability of fascism will come in Germany. But what has already happened in the birthplace of fascism gives broad hints about the future. Italy is only a small-scale rehearsal for Germany. So it was with the birth of fascism and so it will be with its death.

Fascism came into power without great difficulties. In Germany it met with no resistance from the working class, in Italy with very little. After taking power, fascism proceeded to accomplish its principal task, the extirpation of the labor movement and the reduction of the working class to a semi-serf condition. In this too it encountered little or no resistance. It wiped out the opposition of bourgeois liberalism and even of the church. It introduced a new political system into modern society, totalitarianism, by which a despotic minority openly monopolized all political power and rights and “coordinated” under its control all of economic, political, cultural, scientific, religious and military life.

After more than twenty years of this in Italy, and ten in Germany, fascism seemed to have consolidated itself to the point of invincibility. His conquest marked a new historical epoch in the mind of Mussolini and the calendar was altered to make 1921 read the Year I of Fascism. Hitler spoke of the thousand years of the rule.

Who was not impressed, especially when the years of consolidation accumulated? Bourgeois admirers of fascism grew in number not only in Italy and Germany, but throughout the world. Books of praise and adulation were written by the score. Fascism was labelled “the wave of the future” not only by hopeful reactionaries and would-be imitators, but also by desperate, hopeless and disintegrated radicals. In the fascist countries, many social democrats, Stalinists, syndicalists and anarchists made their peace with the regime; some even became ardent advocates. In the democratic countries they all concluded – all but the revolutionary Marxists – that the working class under fascism is hopelessly exhausted and incapable of rising to its feet again, that a revolution is practically impossible under fascist totalitarianism, that the only hope of overturning Hitler and Mussolini is by supporting the armies of imperialist democracy.

The revolution in Italy marks the beginning of the end of all these theories of hope (in the camp of reaction) and of despair (in the camp of labor). From this standpoint alone, the Italian events are of exceptional importance, both historically and in terms of the present international class struggle. There cannot be any question about the effects: Everywhere the champions of fascism will sing more softly; everywhere the working class will gain courage and above all regain self-confidence.

How can fascism, or any other despotic, totalitarian regime, be overthrown? How can the masses get the opportunity to rise against it when it has all the power so firmly in its hands? The answer was really given in Czarist Russia of 1917; it is given again today in Italy.

Fascism does not signify the solution of social problems, but their repression by the most violent and concentrated force. It does not end the crisis of capitalism; it only succeeds in postponing it and, as a result, in making the ultimate explosion ten times more shattering. The very fact that it is obliged to maintain the regime of totalitarianism, that is, of all-over suppression of the masses, reveals it as a regime of crisis in permanence.

Even under these conditions, to be sure, the permanent crisis rises and falls in intensity. When it reaches a particularly sharp point, the question always arises in the dominant circles: Shall we proceed this way or that? “This way” usually means by tightening the screws on the masses; “that way” usually means by loosening the screws, that is, by seeking to appease the masses somewhat, to give them some concessions in order that they shall not take greater ones by their own efforts. There never was a regime that could forever avoid facing these choices. There never was a regime that could always make its choice with unbroken harmony in its ranks.

Uncertainty, that is, disagreement, in the highest spheres is inevitably communicated to the lower ranks of the hierarchy. The latter is affected at the same time by the restlessness of the lowest depths – the masses. Between the two elements of the crisis – uncertainty at the top, discontent at the bottom – the chains of rule are loosened. Friction at the top opens up gaps in the previously solid and harmonious despotism, with the “hard” on one side and the “soft” on the other. As the gaps widen, the long-quiescent but never fully reconciled (because never reconcilable) masses begin to pierce into the open and to make their presence and strength felt.

The armed forces, civil or military, in which the regime always finds its firmest support, also begin to vacillate. They no longer know for sure how hard to bring the police club down upon the heads of the people, how quickly to pull the trigger on rifle and machine gun. Their uncertainty emboldens the masses; the boldness of the masses increases their uncertainty. Given a sharp crisis, this trend unfolds inexorably. When it has unfolded to a certain point, it is revolution that has broken out!

No regime of class oppression, regardless of how centralized, monopolistic, brutal, totalitarian and powerful it is, or seems to be, can escape being ground down between the gears of disintegration and revolution described above. In our epoch of social fever and convulsion, no regime can escape it for long. Czarism experienced it twice in twelve years, the second time for good. Italian fascism escaped three years after it took power (in the Matteotti crisis of 1924) but succumbed nineteen years later. Twelve years, twenty-two years, these are after all only a day in history.

The invincibility of fascism is a myth. The irrepressibility of the working class is not. Of all the miracles fascism can accomplish, one is beyond its powers: the abolition of the working class. Unable to accomplish this miracle, its doom is sealed. The condition of the existence of the working class is the struggle against the conditions of its existence. It must struggle, or go under. While other classes can go under without social life disappearing, the working class cannot. Its existence is a perpetual reminder to fascism, and all other reactionary class rule, that the day of the people will come.

Twenty-two years in history is not much. Twenty-two years in the life of a generation is a good deal. Is it not remarkable, then, that after so long a period of totalitarian rule, the working class of Italy could still summon up enough energy, will, determination and self-confidence to come forward in hundreds of thousands, defy the regime and accomplish its overturn? This is a working class that has gone through the terror of fascism; its leaders murdered, imprisoned and exiled by the tens of thousands; its organizations and institutions wiped out with fascist thoroughness. It is a working class that has not had the advantages of even bourgeois democracy for two decades. It has been subjected exclusively to the indoctrination of fascist ideology. It is a working class that has been largely renewed by the simple passage of time. And yet it appears on the scene again, strong enough to win the first battle against a long-entrenched fascist regime and ... against all skeptics! The working class has proved again that its stamina is inexhaustible, that its power of recuperation from the most formidable defeats is great – in any case, adequate to its task. May all skeptics, doubters, tired and retired radicals take note. Keep your peace, gentlemen, and leave us to our work.

The working class is irrepressible, and fascism is neither invincible nor inevitable nor “the wave of the future.”

The Italian Working Class and Parties

When the first demonstrations of workers broke out in the industrial North, Italy heard again the cry that had echoed throughout the land twenty-five years before: Soviets!

That is what some newspaper reports said, and it would not be surprising to learn that it was true. Under fascism and, in general, in a war economy, the army takes up all available manpower, and the working class in the factories is composed of the very young, the women, and the older workers. Among the latter, there must be many who remember the revolutionary period following the First World War. Their recollections are of a Lenin and Trotsky whose names were inscribed on the walls of every town and village of Italy in 1918 and 1919, and of the Lenin and Trotsky who were what they really were and stood for what they really stood for – not the terrible caricatures into which they have been redrawn by latter-day Stalinism. These recollections therefore embody revolutionary traditions that have not died out and have undoubtedly been transmitted to some extent to the new generation of workers. This is encouraging for the future.

But it would be gravely misleading to exaggerate this factor. By and large, the Italian working class is new, and not only in age. It is new also to the programs and struggles of the various working-class parties, about which it has only the faintest and probably the most distorted ideas, if it has any ideas about them at all. For the past two decades there has been no serious possibility, on a wide scale, of maintaining the continuity of the working class and revolutionary movements, and consequently the continuity of tradition, ideology, program and organization.

The working class never really accepted the ideology of fascism, but fascism has left its traces and scars. Even now, the working class must still pay heavily for the wreckage strewn by the Blackshirts before they were thrown out of power. To think that the Italian working class can or will simply pick up, over night, where it left off when Mussolini took power, is not even worthy of an infant’s intellect.

What can really assure the Italian people against return of fascism, or of a regime that is about as bad? Only the state power of the socialist proletariat. Failing that, it little matters what replaces fascism, for it will surely be followed by a fascist or more or less fascist regime after an interlude. No capitalist regime nowadays can solve the crisis of capitalism, but only a fascist regime can succeed, at least for a time, in repressing it. If, however, the spontaneous, unorganized, uncentralized rising of the masses was sufficient to overturn fascism, it does not suffice for a socialist revolution in which the working class can take and hold state power.

The spontaneous efforts of the masses were enough to overturn the Czar and the Kaiser. To take power in their own socialist name, the working class required a trained, organized, tested revolutionary leadership, the Bolshevik Party. It was there in Russia, and the working class won. It was not there in Germany, and the counter-revolution won. It was not there in Hungary, in 1919, and the most the working class could do was to hold power for a few weeks, and even then only because of a most exceptional domestic and European situation. Such a party does not yet exist in Italy.

The great tragedy of world politics is not fascism nor even the World War. These are due in turn only to the tragedy of the revolutionary party, to its absence at every crucial moment in the past twenty-five years and more, except in the Russian crisis of November, 1917. All of us, and now the Italian proletariat, are paying a most dreadful price for the crimes of the Second International and of Stalinism.

“Without the party, independently of the party, skipping over the party, through a substitute for the party, the proletarian revolution can never triumph,” Trotsky wrote in 1924. “That is the principal lesson of the last decade.” We can now say it is the principal lesson of the last two decades, and the lesson of the recent Italian events.

So long, however, as the working class exists, the basis exists for the formation or re-formation of the revolutionary vanguard party. In Italy, besides, there are undoubtedly already at hand the individuals and the groups, tiny and isolated as yet, that will compose it. In the heat of the struggle, the new instrument may be forged quickly. But only on the condition that it learns the important lessons of political experience of the last quarter of a century.

The party that must be reconstituted in Italy (and elsewhere) can under no circumstances substitute will or wish for reality. In our analysis, we do not want to do this, either. Artificial enthusiasm, self-agitation, self-deception, exaggeration – these are only the ingredients for a mess of disillusionment and despair. Critical objectivity spurns the former and thus averts the latter.

From the standpoint of political organization, the situation in Italy is not the most favorable that could be imagined. The present Italian working class, for the most part, has no experience with working class political organization and program. Fascism, in this respect, did its work pretty well.

The old Communist Party of the pre-fascist days was unquestionably a revolutionary organization of the highest type ever known in Italy. But it was incapacitated, at bottom, by what Lenin described as the “infantile malady of communism,” ultra-leftism. It left a heritage of revolutionary militancy and adherence to principle; but also, alas, of rigidity, dogmatism and sectarian narrowness. How strong either or both these heritages are among the olders workers of Italy is, of course, hard to tell.

The present-day “Communist” Party, Stalinism, is in every respect inferior, if the two may even be mentioned in the same breath. At the moment, it is composed only of a handful of bureaucratic time-servers of the Kremlin, people without conscience, principle, scruple or an ounce of revolutionary conviction and purpose. Until they are able to realize their ambition of establishing a bureaucratic paradise for themselves in their own native land, they are content to do the bidding of their fascist-minded bosses in Moscow, even if that means collaboration with the fascists and quasi-fascists of Italy or even the Anglo-American “liberators” of the country. They are dead and putrefying souls.

But in politics, as we have had occasion to learn, even corpses can walk again for a while. In Spain, for example, the revolutionists did not measure up to their tasks; they did not organize and act like Bolsheviks; and as a result, the corpse of Stalinism not only rose and walked again, but left confusion and desolation in its wake. Under similar circumstances, the same thing may happen in Italy. That Stalinism will experience another “resurrection” in Italy is by no means certain. That it may, is undebatable. For how long, cannot be ascertained. This is definite: every inch that Stalinism gains in Italy is a day off the life of the working class and the socialist revolution.

The same is true of the miserable clique that calls itself the Socialist Party of Italy. The old Socialist Party never had very much in common with revolutionary Marxism. But what bears its name today doesn’t even have much in common with the old party. It was once a power that could have taken power. It didn’t. It was terrified in 1920 when it saw the workers seize the factories and mount machine guns on their walls, and the peasants seize the land. The revolution was getting too hot for the reformist bureaucracy, and it combined with the bourgeois democrats to restore “order.” The idea that the utterly powerless and politically decayed remnants of the Social-Democracy will now lead a struggle for socialism belongs among those few jokes that make life a little more bearable. They do not even have the great reputation of having opposed the imperialist war which they had before fascism won. Now they come back to Italy on the gun-carriages of foreign imperialism and waving its flag.

As for the bourgeois democrats abroad, including the best of them, like Salvemini and Borghese, who are honest and incorruptible adversaries of fascism according to their lights, they remain, after all, bourgeois democrats and imperialists. If they are revolutionary leaders, Garibaldi and Lenin were hermits.

But if all these groups and parties and individuals have no capacity or desire to lead a struggle for freedom in Italy, their capacity for stultifying the Italian revolution may prove to be considerable and, for a time, effective. At present, all of them put together do not constitute a very imposing force. That holds for outside of Italy. Inside Italy, they are inconsequential. But, given a favorable turn of military events, they can easily find a basis for growth and influence among the masses. It is a danger that dare not be ignored. On the contrary, it must be taken amply and deliberately into account, for it is a problem that faces the coming revolution throughout Europe.

Democracy and Socialism in the Revolution

What do the Italian masses want? The answer requires no great political perspicacity or inside information. They want an end to fascism and an end to the war. Whether the reports of the demonstrations in Italy are exaggerated or understated, the yearnings of the masses are unambiguously expressed in these two inseparably connected demands.

These demands, especially the first, cannot be realized without elections, which presuppose the right to vote, of which the masses were deprived by fascism. Without this simple democratic right, the people may exhaust themselves in a routine of declining demonstrations, instead of developing their movement to a struggle for power. With this right, the people can express themselves in an organized manner, with increasing preciseness. With it, they can compel all the old and the new political parties and personalities to subject themselves to organized popular scrutiny and to organized popular acceptance or rejection. With it, they can reassemble their organizations, work out their programs, regain political consciousness, sharpen it in debate and struggle. The proletariat, above all, can once more acquire confidence and assert itself politically as a class.

It is worth noting: Immediately upon the establishment of the Anglo-American government in Sicily, the new authorities banned all “political activity,” that is, political organization and popular election. Among the first demands made by the demonstrating workers in Northern Italy, however, was the cry for “Elections!” The power of this demand was felt by Badoglio. He was compelled to announce to the people that a few months after the war is over (which war? in Italy? all over the world?), the government would “grant” elections – but not before. Both Amgot and Badoglio know what they are doing, and in doing it they reveal what they are.

In these circumstances, the demand for the right to vote is a revolutionary demand, and so is the struggle to attain it. That Badoglio and the King who is not moronic should deny the people the right to vote is quite understandable; the democratic verdict of the masses is not very alluring to them. That the right should be denied in the territory “liberated” by the forces of occupation is an outrage, the hypocritical reasons given for the denial are an insult, and the precedent it sets for other “liberated” territories (in fact, the precedent was set before this in North Africa, and long before that in most colonies of imperialism!) is revealingly sinister.

In any case, when Badoglio promises the right to vote in the hazy future, the cry “We want it here and now!” is not only clearly indicated for the people but is revolutionary in all its implications. There can be no question about how extensive and militant a mass movement could be aroused and directed against the ruling regime, and all other reactionary and imperialist forces, on the basis of this demand.

This demand, in turn, is directly related to all the other fundamental democratic rights. Right to vote? But for whom? For what? Vote in a meaningless Bonapartist plebiscite, or in free, organized elections? The right to vote has no meaning whatsoever for the people unless they have at the same time the right to organize political parties, and put forward political programs, of their own. Political parties, in turn, are mere labels or the sheerest bureaucratic cliques unless they have the right to political existence. Political existence is inconceivable without the right of agitation and recruitment, by printed word and word of mouth. That is, the right to vote means nothing without the right to organize, just as the right to organize means nothing without the right of free speech, free assembly and free press.

If the working class, prime motor force of the revolution, is to be reconstituted as a class for itself, is to reestablish itself itself as an independent force on the trade union and the political fields of Italy, these democratic demands must be in the forefront of its program, of its fight for peace and against fascism, dictatorship and imperialist rule, native or foreign. If the revolutionists of Italy are to reconstitute a vanguard Bolshevik Party, begin the recruitment to its banner of the best fighters, and organize seriously the struggle for socialist power, it must appear before the masses as the most vigorous, irreconcilable and consistent champion of these democratic demands. Otherwise, what Lenin once characterized as a malady of infantilism would have to be described now – after twenty-five years of experience being added to the teachings of scientific Marxism – as a malady of senility.

The right to vote, to organize and all that these imply, would compel, as said, all parties and groups to submit themselves and their programs to popular scrutiny, challenge, debate and decision. The bourgeois demagogues and their social-democratic and Stalinist nephews, as well as the bureaucrats and irresponsible political freelances, would have little to gain by this. The people as a whole, and the revolutionists in particular, would gain everything.

It is of course not guaranteed that the right to vote would be speedily granted or even that it can be won without the proletariat taking power. Meanwhile, however, the direct struggle for socialist power is a distance off; the struggle for elementary democratic rights is on the order of the day. Correct revolutionary strategy and tactics would make it possible to slide over from the one to the other.

In connection with the struggle for the right to vote arises the question: vote for what? There is no Parliament in Italy, to say nothing of a Soviet Congress. As this is being written, the movement in Italy is apparently in a waiting stage, due mainly to the peculiarities of the military situation. But it can easily and speedily burst into action again, more explosive and widespread than it was at the outset. The demand for democratic rights will rise more acutely and imperiously the higher the movement rises, and at one stage or another must bring with it a demand for popular representative government.

Which? We know of two: bourgeois democracy, Parliament, Congress, and proletarian democracy, a Soviet government, which is a thousand times more democratic. It is impossible – more accurately, it would be wrong – to state dogmatically the exact contours of the road the struggle will take. It is quite possible, however, and even probable, that the struggle will first take the form of a demand for a national, popularly-elected, plenipotentiary Parliament, a variety of a Constituent Assembly.

The attitude of the revolutionists toward such a demand would obviously depend upon the circumstances under which it arose and the relationship of class forces. Certainly, they cannot rule out in advance support to such a demand. In fact, it is quite possible that revolutionists may encounter a situation in which they would champion such a demand. But precisely (and if) this would be necessary, even greater emphasis would have to be laid upon the need of maintaining the complete organizational and political independence of the working class and its vanguard, of driving deeper the wedge between them on the one side, and the bourgeoisie and its parties on the other.

Support, under certain conditions, of a movement to reconstitute a democratic Parliament (and, of course, participation in it if it is established) in no way contradicts the struggle for a workers’ Italy, a socialist revolution, the Soviet power. There is a revolutionary situation in Italy today. The work of forming Soviets in the factories, in the cities, in the villages, begins now, because it is possible, necessary, and the surest guarantee of ultimate victory. The Russian Bolsheviks, however, showed that the struggle for the Soviet power, far from being contradicted by the demand for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly which they directed against Kerensky and his reformist props, was facilitated by this demand. The Bourgeoisie and the Mensheviks and S-Rs refused to call the Constituent Assembly together, sabotaged it. It was finally convened by the Soviets, after they had taken power under Bolshevik leadership. Once convened, it proved to be superfluous and even a hindrance to the democratic Soviet power. The struggle for it, however, was anything but superfluous.

In the Chinese revolution, Stalinism discovered a contradiction between the struggle for political democracy, or a Constituent Assembly, and the struggle to form Soviets and to achieve Soviet power. In its right-wing phase, it declared that the Constituent Assembly excluded the fight for Soviets and Soviet power. In its ultra-leftist phase, it declared that the fight for Soviets excluded the fight for a Constituent Assembly. Trotsky shrugged his shoulders, and painstakingly set forth, once, twice and twenty times, the ABC of revolutionary Marxism on the question. Petty-bourgeois liberalism and ultra-leftism join in considering that the struggle for democracy excludes the struggle for socialist power and socialism and vice versa. Marxism unites the struggle for the two in a revolutionary manner. By revolutionary manner is meant not the “abolition” of the former for the sake of the latter, but only its subordination.

There is, of course, no law of God or man that compels the revolution in Italy to pattern itself upon the revolutions in Russia and China down to the last detail. But that the Italian masses will not avoid the struggle for democratic demands on a decisive scale seems to be, at least to the writer, a foregone conclusion. What is most important of all, however, is that the isolated and unorganized revolutionists in Italy should understand what is going on and base themselves on the realities of the class struggle. The realization of the democratic demands of the people is by no means guaranteed without a socialist victory in a Soviet Italy; indeed, without such a victory, they could at best be realized in a pretty puny, restricted and distorted form. But it is not less true that the socialist victory in Italy depends in large measure upon the revolutionists understanding that they must be the most active inspirers and champions of democratic rights for the people.

It is hardly necessary to add that any such struggle would degenerate into reformism and futility unless it were coupled with a direct economic struggle against the bourgeoisie and the big landowners. Land to the peasants, confiscation of the big estates and the latifundia, nationalization of the soil – these slogans would be no less popular and revolutionary in Italy than they were many years ago in Russia. Expropriate the war criminals, the properties of the fascists, the factories of the monopolists; workers’ control of industry; democratic control of food distribution and housing – these slogans, notwithstanding the differences between the two countries and the two situations, are as valid and urgent in Italy today as in Russia of 1917. Let the bourgeois liberals, reformists and Stalinists declaim as loudly and demagogically as they can about democracy and freedom. In such demands as are set forth above, the revolutionists will distinguish themselves from all the bourgeois politicians and patchers of capitalism, to the disadvantage of the latter, and help switch the revolution to socialist rails.

The Italian revolution can triumph and leave no room for a relapse into reaction – semi-fascist, fascist, or even worse – only as a socialist revolution, that is, only by the workers taking power with the support of the peasantry and other lower classes, and proceeding to the democratic socialization of economy. To say that it can succeed only as a socialist revolution is like saying that it can succeed only as an international revolution. Concretely and first of all, this means a revolution on a European scale, a Socialist United States of Europe.

Italy and the European Revolution

The Italian revolution has only begun. It marks the beginning of the European revolution. But only the beginning. On all sides, it is surrounded by difficulties. Badoglio is not important. He can only last a minute, so to speak. But Hitler and his armies are important; so is Anglo-American imperialism. The former occupies the industrial and revolutionary North; the other occupies Sicily and will occupy the South tomorrow. The comparatively small and long-tormented Italian proletariat has already shown heroic and promising qualities. It cannot accomplish miracles, including the miracle of driving the forces of foreign imperialism out of its land and crushing reaction at home, all by itself. These are forces that give it much to worry about.

But the revolution that has begun also gives these forces a lot to worry about! If Hitler sends divisions across the Brenner Pass it is not only to protect Germany from the Allied armies, but to protect her from the incendiary sparks of the Italian revolution. The Allies are not one whit less concerned over the prospect of revolution, in which they have more “faith” than all the soul-stricken intellectuals and tired radicals of the world put together. Amgot has already been referred to. Anglo-American imperialism thinks it can improve on King Canute. It will stop the wave of revolution by sprinkling it with a few crumbs from Herbert Lehman’s breadbasket, by exorcisms straight from the Vatican itself, by deals with Canutes named Darlan and Otto and Giraud and even Badoglio (if not this one, then another), and above all by prohibitions of all political activity by the “liberated” people such as are decreed, with such religious observance of democratic principles in general and the principles of the Atlantic Charter in particular, by Amgot in Sicily.

Modern science, especially military science, is more advanced than it was in Canute’s time, and Anglo-American imperialism may have more success than he did, and for a longer time. But where does it expect to get and maintain the forces required to hold back the revolutionary wave in Italy for long? Mussolini and his regime looked powerful for a long time, too, but not powerful enough. And now it is not only Italy that must be dealt with. The revolution lies right beneath the surface of all Europe, and has already broken through to the top in some places. Yesterday, Italy; tomorrow, other countries.

The English and American people are more or less reconciled, let us say, to their sons being in Europe now, during the war, on the ground that totalitarianism, fascist tyranny and horror and its war-mongering, must be brought to an end. But do not the ruling classes realize that they could never weather the storm of protest that would arise in both countries at the idea of maintaining the armed forces in Europe for the purpose of policing it against a revolutionary people?

Surely the Prime Minister has not forgotten the ill-fated experiment of the English Minister of War, also named Churchill, who tried to suppress the Russian Revolution twenty-odd years ago. Surely the President has not forgotten what happened to the simultaneous and similar experiment of his former chief, President Wilson, in revolutionary Russia. A reading of General Graves’ account of the American expedition in Siberia might not be very refreshing, but it would be educational.

The war wears on, and revolutionary moods are rising among the people. When they rise, as they did in Italy, they will find increasing elbow room. The imperialists will find that they have miscalculated. Italy is a harbinger. Tomorrow there will be more and better signs.

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