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The Militant, 16 February 1946


Nicola Di Bartolomeo

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 7, 16 February 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(The following letter has just been received by us from a comrade in Italy.)

News has reached us of the death of Comrade Nicola Di Bartolomeo, National Secretary of the Partito Operaio Communista (Workers’ Communist Party), Italian Section of the Fourth International. His death robs the Italian party and the Fourth International of one of its ablest leaders and most courageous militants.

Comrade Di Bartolomeo spent more than two and a half decades of his life in the service of the revolution. As a young communist, he was forced into exile on the advent of Fascism. This only transferred his activities in behalf of, the working class movement to other countries.

His experiences in Italy, Belgium and France convinced him that the Stalinist leadership of the Comintern could only lead it to new defeats. The writings of Trotsky, with which he became acquainted during his exile, confirmed the lessons of life. Nicola Di Bartolomeo joined the ranks of the Fourth international.

On the Barricades

Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Comrade Di Bartolomeo made his way to Barcelona, where he assisted actively in the organization of the Lenin Column, of which he became Political Commissar. In the “May Days Insurrection” in 1937, he took his place on the barricades, defending with rifle in hand the last vestiges of proletarian power against the assaults of the Stalinist-Republican reaction.

When France was overrun in 1940, Comrade Di Bartolomeo was handed to Mussolini’s fascist thugs by the Pétain government. For the first time in years he found himself back in the land of his birth – behind the stone walls, and iron bars of Naples Jail. From here he was transferred to the Tremiti Isolator. To Comrade Di Bartolomeo this simply meant that his work had to be carried on under more difficult conditions.

Within a short time he had organized a group of revolutionaries and they were discussing and elaborating programmatic documents. Here in this fascist concentration camp, the Partito Operaio Communista was born. The courageous little band of revolutionaries even succeeded in smuggling their documents out of the camp into other camps and prisons. In this way the Italian Trotskyist movement was founded. Its first calls were right inside the concentration camps and prisons, under the very noses of Mussolini’s Secret Police. The inspirer and guide of this work was Nicola Di Bartolomeo.

The fall of Mussolini and the landing of Anglo-American troops on the Italian mainland, opened the gates of the camps and isolators and Di Bartolomeo was free to carry on with his revolutionary work outside the barbed wire fences, among the workers and peasants of Southern Italy. Within a few weeks of his release, the first Trotskyist manifesto to be published in Italy was off the press. Amongst the chaos and debris of military defeat, while the Communist and Socialist parties were trying to outdo each other in acts of treachery, the clear voice of proletarian internationalism was heard above the din of battle.

But Nicola’s fight was only beginning. In the new “democracy” brought by Allied tanks and bombing planes, the Trotskyist party found itself without the right to a free press. Coming out varyingly as L’Internazionale and Il Militante, the Trotskyist press, nevertheless, made its appearance clandestinely.

Now began the long struggle for a legal press. In the course of this struggle, the POC attracted to it the best elements in the Socialist Party, the Socialist Youth, and from the Bordigists. Even the Stalinists were not immune and not a few joined the ranks of the Trotskyists. Before his death, Nicola Di Bartolomeo had the satisfaction of seeing this campaign victorious. Under his editorship, the first three issues of IV Internazionale made their appearance.

Nicola Di Bartolomeo is dead. The spirit of the party which he founded is reflected in this quotation from a letter from his wife and comrade, Rosa Guadino:

“You will want to know what Nicola’s end signifies in this moment. One thing is certain – we will not give up ... We are determined to continue the struggle initiated by my poor Nicola and to build the Party to which he devoted his life.”

Fourth Internationalists everywhere dip their flag in salute to our departed comrade. For a moment we pause to mourn our dead. Then, with closed ranks we march forward to the goal for which he strove – to the victory of the worker’s revolution!

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