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The Militant, 5 May 1945

Harry Martell

Huge Uprising Sweeps North Italy

Partisans Drive Out Nazis,
Execute Dictator Mussolini

Committees of National Liberation Hand Power
to Allied Puppet Government in Rome

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 18, 5 May 1945, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In a mighty demonstration of power the masses of northern Italy last week rose in insurrection and wiped out the remnants of the Fascist regime in its last stronghold. With Partisan fighters as the shock troops, the workers seized control of the great industrial cities in the Lombardy plain. Mussolini and his Fascist aides met the end deserved by all hated tyrants. After a summary trial they were put to death by a firing squad.

From here on events followed a familiar pattern. The Committee of National Liberation, consisting of Stalinists, “Socialists” and Liberals, received the power which the insurgent masses had wrenched from the hands of the Fascists and Nazis – and promptly handed it over to the bankrupt Bonomi government which rules in Rome by the grace of Allied bayonets. Allied troops immediately rushed in to “restore order” in the liberated cities.

The new governmental power in the north, in its first official statement, pledged itself “to continue the war” at the side of the United Nations, thus flouting the will of the people who, above all, want peace. This treacherous coalition, like their associates in the south, are already trying to disarm the insurrectionists whose struggles liberated North Italy.

In Turin, a general strike was called. Immediately the insurgents occupied the squares and streets of the city, seized public buildings, freed political prisoners, and forced the German and Italian Fascist forces to surrender en masse.

The great port of Genoa fell when the German commander, realizing the hopelessness of his position, surrendered his garrison of 7,000 soldiers to the Partisans. In Venice, the German commander yielded the harbor, with all ships intact, to Partisan leaders. In other cities armed working-class Partisans stormed and overwhelmed the German and Fascist garrisons, forcing them to surrender or flee.

Milan – “Red Milan” – center of the great revolutionary working-class actions which preceded Mussolini’s rise to power – was the white-hot focus of last week’s stirring mass uprising. The transport workers gave the signal by going on strike. A general strike of all workers in Milan was then set for May 1, the traditional socialist holiday of the international working-class.

But events dictated a faster tempo of action than was contemplated. Observing the precarious conditions of the German military establishment and the fear and confusion which had seized their fascist enemies, the Milan workers advanced the date of the general strike to April 25.

Actions of Workers

With transportation and industry paralyzed, the workers moved into action. Enemy barracks were stormed, strategic buildings and public places occupied by the armed people. Everywhere the Fascist scum were routed.

The Nazi command, caught in a hopeless situation, surrendered to the insurgents. Through Cardinal Shuster, Mussolini started negotiations for surrender with the Italian Committee of National Liberation.

This treacherous, class collaborationist leadership, dominated by the Stalinists, instead of proceeding to arrest the Fascist dictator, allowed him to slip through their fingers. Mussolini requested an hour’s grace to discuss the Committee’s terms with his colleagues. Then he sent word that the terms were “unacceptable” and fled to Como where he tried to cross the frontier into Switzerland.

Rank and file Partisans quickly rectified this “error.” Mussolini was dragged out of his automobile on the shores of Lake Como and taken prisoner. Word of his capture was sent to Milan and a Partisan detachment hastened to Como.

Justice to Mussolini

Without hesitation, a tribunal, presided over by the Communist Partisan leader Cino Moscatelli, dispensed working-class justice against the vicious dictator whose hands were stained with the blood of innumerable Italian working people done to death by the infamous Fascist regime.

The sentence of “death” was pronounced by this court of justice and promptly carried out. Mussolini, together with his mistress, was shot by a firing squad. Forty-five leading members of Mussolini’s staff of Fascist cutthroats, butchers and hangmen were also tried and executed.

It was with good reason that the revolutionary workers acted with the dispatch they did. They had reason to expect that their vacillating leaders in the Committee of National Liberation would act like the German Social-Democrats who permitted the Kaiser to escape, or the Russian Mensheviks who sheltered the Czar, or the Bonomi court which allowed the Fascist gangster Roatta to escape while on trial.

As subsequent events confirmed, the apprehensions of the workers were entirely justified. The Partisan prefect of Milan revealed that an order had been issued to stay the execution of Mussolini until a more “formal” trial could be held. Other influences were brought to bear. Milan’s archbishop, Cardinal Shuster, issued a pastoral letter urging that “no violence be used.” The British liaison officer visited the Cardinal to thank him for his “mediation.”

But the compromisers were too late, too weak and too far from the scene to stay the hand of mass vengeance. Any doubt as to the popularity of the verdict was quickly dissipated when the corpses of the Fascist chief of state and his henchmen were driven into Milan and dumped in the Piazza Loretto – the spot where but recently fifteen Partisans had been executed by the Fascists.

A vast crowd gathered to hurl the last curses of the outraged masses on the Fascist beasts. Men broke through the cordon of Partisan guards and kicked and stamped on the head of the dead Fascist chieftain. Guards strung the corpses head down from the roof of a gasoline station, where the crowds pressed forward to express their hatred.

Having failed to halt the execution of the Fascist despots, the leaders of the Committee of Liberation gave their sanction, after the act, to the stern deed of working-class justice. “It was necessary as a proof of Italy’s severance from the past,” the Committee declared. And in Rome, the retainers of the Bonomi regime, whose purge of Fascists in southern Italy had become a joke, hastened to jump on the bandwagon of approval.

Only the Vatican, aide and defender of Mussolini’s bloody regime for 23 long years, deplored the “impetuous violence and macabre manifestations.”

Aim to Halt Purge

In giving belated assent to the executions, the Committee of National Liberation, the Bonomi regime – yes, and their “democratic” imperialist patrons, too! – seek to allay mass suspicions so that, by ruse and deception, they may be able to wrench the dispensation of popular justice from the hands of the working-class fighters who liberated northern Italy from Fascist and Nazi rule. They want to prevent the purge from engulfing the Royal House of Savoy and the bankers, industrialists and landlords who have ruled Italy through the agency of Fascism. “The necessary purge of the remaining Fascist elements,” declared the Committee of National Liberation in northern Italy, “can be carried out only at the end of the revolutionary period and in the strictest legality.”

This is the voice of the Italian counter-revolution speaking through the mouths of the uneasy, vacillating, and fearful leaders of the Committee which is supposed to be leading the Italian masses along the road of a clean break with the awful past. Like the Committee in the south, it is endeavoring to rob the masses of the full fruits of their victory over Fascism, to head off their movement, damp it down, to prevent it from surging into the broad channel of socialist revolution.

The Stalinist, “Socialist” and “Liberal” members of the Committees are the aides and accomplices of the Anglo-American imperialists, whose dominating concern is to preserve capitalism in Italy and prevent the toiling people from settling scores with the native capitalist ruling class and their regal satellites.

Workers and Arms

Charles Poletti, head of the Allied Military Government, has declared that surrender of arms by the Partisans is the first thing to be accomplished in the north, just as it was previously in the south. The Stalinist mayor of Bologna has already persuaded the Partisans to surrender 3,000 pieces of military equipment.

But the revolutionary workers of the north, with the example before them of what happened in the south, will not so easily be cajoled into surrendering the weapons with which they vanquished the Fascists. There is a popular saying in Italy today: “The farther north you go, the farther left you go.” The great industrial centers of Lombardy are the heart and core of revolutionary Italy, with great and glorious traditions of working-class struggle.

The destruction of the Fascists and their Nazi backers by the armed people has ended the artificial division of the country produced by the Allied invasion and the expulsion of the Fascist regime from southern Italy in August 1943. The proletarian north is now united with the more rural and petty-bourgeois south. This is bound to impart even greater power to the revolutionary offensive of the Italian masses.

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