G. Zinoviev

In the Camp of Our Enemies

The Italian Socialist Party

(6 December 1921)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 1 No. 14, 6 December 1921, pp. 118–119.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, February 2019.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

At present we are already in a position to draw conclusions from the development of the Italian Socialist Party.

The doings of the SPI are undoubtedly of international importance. For those who wish to appreciate the most important events in the international labor movement, an understanding of the development of the SPI is a necessary condition.

Even after the Livorno Congress, at the end of 1920, when the left wing, consisting of 58,000 members, broke away from the party and formed the Communist Party, the SPI retained the outward features of a great political party. The SPI also won a comparatively big victory in the parliamentary elections of last summer. In reality however, the SPI is degenerating. After the Livorno Congress, that is after 58,000 Communists had left it, the SPI still had 112,000 members; 98,000 followers of Serrati (Center) and 14,000 reformists. During the year between the Congress at Livorno and the one in Milan, the leaders of the SPI followed the wishes of Serrati and Turati and systematically accepted all those reformists, who since 1912 had been excluded from the party. According to the figures published by the Italian Communists, which have not been disputed by the followers of Serrati, 15,000 reformists, who had formerly been excluded from the party, returned to it in the past year. And in spite of this considerable gain of the reformist wing, the party lost at least 30,000 members during the period between the Livorno and Milan Congresses. At the time of the Milan Congress, which ended recently, the SPI counted hardly 80,000 members. When we subtract the 15,000 avowed enemies of Socialism who returned to the party, we have only 65,000 left. In other words, in less than one year the SPI shrank to a little more than one half of its size: from 112,000 to 65,000.

These figures alone suffice to show us that Serrati’s policy is bringing about the ruin of the party.

Still more important are the figures which disclose to us the groupings within the SPI, and its new structure, which is characterized by the Centrist betrayal. At the Livorno Congress the entire party, including the Communists, had 170,000 members. The reformists had only 14,000 votes, i.e., less than one-tenth? Serrati and his friends did not want to break with this one-tenth, and preferred to break with 60,000 Communists. After the Serratians remained alone with the reformists, the latter triumphed at every step. The result was, that at the end of the Congress, the reformists had not 14,000, but 27,000 votes. In the main vote at Milan, the Serrati fraction hat 47,000 votes, the reformists 27,000 and the followers of the Communist International had 3,500 votes. This figure 27,000 is the number of members in the Turati and Alessandri fractions. Turati’s fraction received over 19,000 votes; that of Alessandri, over 8,000. There is no essential difference between the two fractions of Turati and Alessandri. Turati himself has said so more than once. It is very probable that Alessandri intentionally created the supposedly independent fraction for purposes of internal party strategy. Thus the followers of pure reformism in its crassest “collaboration” form already control one third of the SPI votes, and are approaching the stage where they will be as strong as the Serrati fraction. Besides, when we consider that Turati controls an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary fraction, which in reality does all the work, and that the labor-union leaders, from D’Aragona to Baldesi, are followers of Turati, it becomes clear that the purest reformists are actually the masters of the present SPI.

The SPI is rapidly approaching the stage where it will join the International 2½. The president of the International 2½ was already able to appear at the Milan Congress. In his characteristic Jesuit manner, Serrati explained to the Congress that Friedrich Adler was not appearing as the official representative of the International 2½ – God forbid! – but that he was appearing as a private person. The day after the Congress, the Italian Labor Federation, led by the old experienced reformist D’Aragona, proclaimed its entrance into the Amsterdam International. On the 25th of September 1921, M. Treves, one of the foremost leaders of the Italian reformists, wrote in the paper Avanti, which had for a long time been transformed by Serrati into a tool of the Reformists, as follows: “Does the Moscow International meet these fundamental demands ? It is only an organ for the Russo-Turkish Alliance, it has concluded secret treaties with Germany, and is preparing the revenge for Versailles”. (Avanti, August 25, 1921.) And a scoundrel like Treves, who speaks in this manner of the Third International, wanted to force Serrati upon us, as a member of the Third International! ...

Let us create no illusions for ourselves. At the Milan Congress, the most avowed reformism in its most Millerandist form so dear to the bourgeoisie triumphed. The SPI, led by Turati and Serrati, will sink deeper and deeper. It will sink into the swamp of Opportunism, and will become the best weapon in the hands of the Italian bourgeoisie. Such is the development of the SPI.

Wherein are the causes of the fall of the SPI to be found; the party which a year ago was looked upon as a revolutionary party by many of us?

The SPI shares the fate of many old socialist Parties. Varying in details, it went the way of the SPD, or, shall we say, of the Russian Social-Revolutionary Party. It had gathered into it a great number of petty-bourgeois followers. It swelled up and gradually became just the opposite of what a truly revolutionary party should be. The fact that, at the last parliamentary elections, the SPI received more than a million and a half votes, and that more than one hundred of its candidates were elected for Congress, is to be explained by the fact that numerous groups of the petty-bourgeois voted for it. Before our eyes, we see the transformation of the SPI, from a revolutionary factor to a reactionary one, as was exactly the case with the SPD (Social-Democratic Party of Germany) and with the Russian Social-Revolutionaries.

How could we be so blindly mistaken about the SPI? How was it that the International suffered so long from the illusion that the SPI was actually a revolutionary party? There were many reasons for that.

When a few years before the beginning of the imperialistic world war, a comparatively small group of reformists quit the SPI,, because of their attitude towards the colonial war, many people saw in this insignificant step a fundamental party split. We suffered from the illusion that the SPI had actually rid itself of its weeds. Unfortunately such was not the case. With the aid of Seratti, the old reformists have now come back to the party, have made themselves at home, and again put their feet on the table. But even then the split was not a fundamental one, but only a comparatively insignificant episode. During the imperialistic world-war, the SPI outwardly behaved rather well. Even such old reformists as Modigliani participated in Zimmerwald and Kienthal. But this also had special reasons. Italy entered the war many months after the other imperialistic powers. The degrading, bestial and criminal character of the war was already known at that time to the workers of many countries, Italy among them, for these reasons, neither the SPl, nor the Italian reformists dared openly to come out in support of the imperialistic war. That does not mean that the party was then a truly revolutionary, proletarian party.

At the end of the imperialistic war, the indignation of the Italian workers against the bourgeoisie had no limits. A part of the peasants and most of the army were caught by this spirit of indignation. At that time even the reformists were compelled “faire la bonne mine au mauvais jeu”, and pretended they were adherents of the Third International. But when in the autumn of 1920, at the decisive moment when the Italian workers opened a serious fight against the capitalists and the metal workers seized the factories, the PSI, from Turati to Serrati, went over to the side of the bourgeoisie, and attacked the workers from the rear. Since that day the leaders of the SPI have been rapidly going towards the right. The Italian workers, sold and betrayed by their party, deserted at the most decisive moment, began to hesitate and weakened in their attack. Then the bourgeoisie took up the offensive and began to crucify the Italian workers with the aid of the White Terror Fascisti. The reformists gained courage through the attack of the bourgeoisie, and are now openly propagating “Co-operation with the bourgeoisie”. In other words, they are following the example of Scheidemann and Noske. Livio Agostini, one of Serrati’s followers, wrote recently: “We, who heard the mutinous cry of the masses against the adherents and authors of the war, we, who watched the complete submissiveness of the incapable and helpless bourgeoisie, we were at that time (1919), compelled by Communism – the Communism which had triumphed in Hungary and Russia, the Communism which was then raging in Germany and which shook the whole of Europe in the birth-pangs of the new future – to win immediate victory in our country.”

But after a while, the bourgeoisie fortified its positions, the “enraged” mass quieted down, the flowers withered, the fire died out, and Serrati and all his friends made haste to capitulate before the bourgeoisie

The very first false speeches of Serrati and his friends, at the Second World Congress of the Communist International warned us to be careful. It was the duty of the CI ruthlessly to persecute the Italian traitors. Our friends who accused the CI of an uncalled for severity against the SPI were absolutely in the wrong. We hope that the events and results of the Milan Congress will convince all sincere adherents of the Cl that the latter was in the right. We should not be accused of too great a severity against the SPI; we should rather be accused of not having despatched our ultimatum sooner.

Before the Milan Congress, one could still hone to succeed in saving the SPI from the catastrophe. These hopes have now vanished. The SPI will pursue its way until the end. It will drain to the dregs the cup of reformist betrayal. Only gradually, step by step, one group of workers after the other which are still supporting the SPI will be won over by us to our side. In the last year several thousand workers quit the SPI. By far not all have come to us; many are still hesitating. Many workers, disappointed by the betrayal of their leaders, have become obstinate in their refusal to participate in politics at all. Many of them, intimidated by the bourgeoisie, and oppressed by the unemployment and by repression, are attempting to hide themselves for a while. In spite of all this, the future belongs to the young CPI. Recent events tend to show that our CPI is beginning gradually to win the sympathy of the workers. At the congress of the metal workers of all Italy, which has just ended, the Italian communists received nearly one-half of the votes. The strike in Trieste was led by the communists. If we make no mistakes, (and the CI, which has become wiser through bitter experiences, will do everything to warn the Italian comrades against mistakes) we shall quickly win over the overwhelming majority of the Italian working class to our side. And the SPI will in its present condition degenerate into an open petty-bourgeois reform party.

The fate of the SPI is a warning to all. It is a classical example of the fact that Reformism will entirely devour he who offers it only a finger. The dead seize the living. It was reformism that ruined the SPI. The thing condemned to death by history must die. “The dead shall sleep peacefully in their graves! ...”

The Communists should increase their energy tenfold in order to shorten the period of decay and disappointment created by the betrayal of the SPI. The Italian Communists can and will liberate the Italian working-class from slavery.

Last updated: 14 February 2019