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Fourth International, January 1944


The Voice of an Honest Liberal

On Events in Italy


From Fourth International, vol.5 No.1, January 1944, pp.28-29.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


WHAT GAETANO SALVEMINI WROTE IN NEW REPUBLIC The columns of the capitalist and liberal press are so filled nowadays with lies and hypocrisy about the war developments, particularly Italy, that whenever the truth does appear it is indeed a noteworthy event. Gaetano Salvemini, distinguished among the liberal crew for his integrity and courage, wrote an article on Italy, “From Moscow to Naples,” which appeared in The New Republic, December 27, 1943; and which we unhesitatingly reprint below in full because it does tell the truth about vitally important issues and, therefore, should get the widest possible circulation.

We have only one comment to make: Gaetano Salvemini begins by making “public penance” for his previous false estimate of the Eden-Molotov-Hull conference. This shows the true stature of the man. But, in our opinion, Salvemini errs grievously in accounting for the source of his blunder which derives not, as he believes, from a lack of caution or wishful thinking on his part, but rather from continued adherence to bourgeois democracy. So long as this false, blind faith is retained “errors,” “surprises,” “shocks,” etc., are unavoidable. The text of Salvemini’s article follows:

*  *  *  *

In the November 15 issue of The New Republic I wrote that Stalin’s common sense had yielded a good crop in Italy, and that this crop was to be found in the Declaration issued by the Moscow Conference of November 1. Before expressing my satisfaction, I should have been a little more cautious. Thus I have to make public penance for the sin of overconfidence I committed in a fit wishful thinking.

On November 3 two days after the issuing of the “historical” Moscow Declaration the King of Italy went to Naples, and the American public was told that he had received an “ovation,” and that “through his trip to Naples he apparently had won the first round in his fight to retain his throne – at least temporarily.”

REACTION WINS FIRST ROUND Then on November 9 we were regaled with the news that the units of anti-Fascist volunteers, which were organizing in the Naples area for the purpose of fighting against the Germans, had been disbanded, and that the men would be drafted into the regular Italian army under Antonio Basso, “one of the King’s generals.” This man was director general of artillery when Mussolini declared war on France in June 1940. Thus he was one of the men responsible for Italy’s ludicrous armaments after years of boasting and after $9,000,000,000 had been squeezed from the Italian people for war preparations. In an interview given to the correspondent of the New York Times (November 26), he stated that the only fault of the King was “to be strictly constitutional.” Yes, precisely. The King by allowing Mussolini to destroy the Constitution to which the King had sworn loyalty, was “strictly constitutional.” What did he do? He “named Mussolini head of the government and kept him as head because the people wanted Mussolini.” He “only followed the popular will ... One should not blame the King but all Italians.” Basso forgot to add that the Italian people never had a chance to say whether they really did like Mussolini or not, and that if they had given evidence of becoming restive, the King would have ordered General Basso to bring them back to their senses, and he, General Basso, would have received a promotion, a higher salary and some fresh decoration for carrying out the King’s orders.

In this interview Basso also revealed that in June 1940 he had told Mussolini that the army had “only enough shells for a few days.” Mussolini “said there were enough, since the war would end in a few days. He would not listen to reason in the attack on Greece either, although everyone warned him. He would only listen to clownish collaborators.” Was Basso not one of those collaborators? Why did he keep his job and salary, together with those clowns? Had Mussolini won the day despite the lack of ammunition, Basso would not only still collaborate with him but praise him to the skies.

REACTION WINS SECOND ROUND The “Committee of Liberation” in Naples designated Signor Rodino as the new Mayor. Signor Rodino once belonged to the People’s (Christian Democratic) Party, and there was no danger that he might foster “chaos and anarchy.” Badoglio appointed Mayor Signor Enrico Cavaliere, a man who had served under Mussolini: another “King’s man.” This was the second round won by the King.

Then, on November 1 the Associated Press told us that “in the town of Grumo, about twenty miles west” of Bari, a professor was arrested by the carabinieri [royal police] for talking publicly against the King. Other incidents have been reported to Allied authorities from other towns.” This was the third round.

FOURTH ROUND FOR REACTION Then on November18 the same Associated Press brought us the tidings that in the town of Avellino a major of the Italian army, followed by soldiers, had entered the offices of a paper which had dared to demand immediate abdication “to clear the foul air of Italy” and had “smashed furniture, destroyed typefaces and then abused the editor. A number of anti-monarchists in Avellino were threatened by the same soldiers ...” The details of the affair have no importance. What does matter is the fact that we have here a true and proper “punitive expedition” according to the classic Fascist pattern. The town of Avellino, being near the fighting front, is under the strict supervision of the AMG. Nobody has yet told us that the leader and other heroes of that “punitive expedition” were arrested. This also fits perfectly into the classic Fascist pattern. This was the fourth round.

Then in Naples a commander of a submarine took offense at an article in the local paper. The commander and its crew visited the offices of the paper “in a body.” “He and three other officers berated the editor, who was lured outside, where the sailors spat on him and threatened him.” In this case again according to the classic Fascist pattern, nobody has told us that the officers and their men were arrested. This was the fifth round.

SIXTH ROUND FOR REACTION Then on November 21 we were told that “all elements of Italian opinion till now have genuine freedom of the press in accordance with a new directive from Allied Headquarters.” As a consequence in Naples the author of an article attacking the King was “asked to cut it down” for lack of space. It was asserted that lack of newsprint was the only thing that prevented any number of papers being printed here, “by any and every shade of opinion.” This was the sixth round.

Freedom of public meeting has been restored “in full measure” to the Italian people. But a meeting held at the University of Naples, at which the public called for the abdication of the King, “resulted in a military ruling prohibiting public assemblies of five or more persons without a permit.” This was the seventh round.

Under such conditions it is no wonder that those army chiefs who are responsible for Italy’s misfortunes are raising their heads and becoming insolent. In an interview with the New York Times (November 26), General Basso not only made no secret of the fact that he was there to uphold the rights of the King, but attacked those who did not wish to go on swallowing the King, and went on to pass judgment on Croce, “a philosopher who enjoyed [!] a certain [!] esteem in Naples”!; on the anti-Faacists, who are “simply talking now with an eye to future posts” (as if Fascist generals had ever done anything else than keep their eyes on their future posts); on Count Sforza, who wants to replace the King but cannot give the people grain and fats; on the president of the University of Naples, “who is an employee of the state and should not mix in politics” – “he is an inciter of trouble and should be removed at least until Italy is freed; then all the citizens can say whether they want the King” (but not whether they do not want him).

While no newsprint was available for an article which might displease Badoglio and Basso, newsprint was available for posters, leaflets and pamphlets espousing the cause of the King. On November 26 the Associated Press circulated the following:

The monarchist “Blue Party,” newest group to enter Italy’s political arena, opened a high-pressure campaign to-day to rally support to the shaky cause of the royal House of Savoy ... Placards calling on the people to rally to the monarchy ... were posted on buildings in the city, pamphlets reminding the people of the services of the House of Savoy to Italy were disseminated throughout towns and villages in that part of the country liberated from the Germans ... The leaders are not prominent Italians, but a number of aristocrats and highly placed army and navy officers are reported to be members.” ...

Then, on December 8 a unit of Italian soldiers was thrown into the furnace in an attack which “was little short of suicide ... The Italians were cautioned against attempting a frontal attack, but that is precisely what they did ... The first wave of attackers was virtually destroyed. The second, shoved in frantically from the reserve, suffered grave casualties ... It might as well be admitted that no one was very much surprised.” (New York Herald Tribune, December 19) The commanding general who chose to make the frontal attack was surely both incompetent and brutal. But as Badoglio in one of his recent interviews told us Mussolini attacked France in June 1940, because he needed a few thousand dead in order to get a seat at the impending peace conference. In December 1943, Badoglio needed a few hundred Italian dead to enhance the prestige of the royal house. This is why on the eve of the battle we were told that the Crown Prince had flown over enemy lines, “a trip which takes courage and demonstrates a general desire to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the people.” The stupid butchery of December 8 was, if our count is correct, the eighth round won by the King in the span of no more than one month after the Moscow Declaration.

It is impossible to understand why the wise men of London and Washington are still particular about Carol of Rumania and Ahmed Zogu of Albania. These gentlemen are no worse than any other kings of Southern Europe. Distribute equal justice to all kings and gangsters everywhere in the world, for Heaven’s sake!


(Reprinted from The New Republic, December 27, 1943)

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