Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 4

Paolo Casciola

Trotskyism and the Revolution in Italy (1943–44)

What follows is the full text of a lecture given by the author to a symposium held in Florence on 15 March 1987 entitled The Other Workers’ Movement: Left Dissidence in Italy Between Fascism and the Republic. This version was translated for reproduction here by Paolo Casciola from Il trotskysmo e la rivoluzione in Italia (1943–44), which is no. 3 in the Studi e ricerche series of the quaderni of the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso. It fills a real gap in the history of the Italian workers’ movement, and measures the analyses elaborated by the leadership of the Fourth International against the actual events of 1943, which the author considers as ‘a protracted pre-revolutionary situation’. A superficial and inaccurate comment upon it was made by Cosimo Scarinzi in the Anarchist weekly Umanià Nova (no. 13, 15 April 1987), apparently in the hope that it would be forgotten that the policy of the Italian Anarchists at the time was a carbon copy of that of their brethren during the Spanish Civil War. For the Naples Libertarian Conference of 1–11 September 1944 decided to leave aside ‘all doctrinal disputes’ to be able to give ‘a positive response to the reconstruction of our own country with research and the creation of free associations, public sector regulation [and] collective regulation’, a straight repeat of Spain’s Popular Front of Betrayal.

A study of the reports appearing in Socialist Appeal shows that Casciola’s view of the situation was shared by the British Trotskyists at the time, in spite of the haphazard nature of the material they had to hand. This can be gathered from those by Rose Carson (Selner), Mussolini’s Regime Rocks (Volume 5, no. 14, July 1943); “Liberated” Italy (Volume 5, no. 25, January 1944); Italian Quislings Protected (Volume 6, no. 1, mid-June 1944); and Italy “Liberated” (Volume 6, no. 7, November 1944). To these should be added articles by Ted Grant, Aid the Italian Revolution (Volume 5, no. 17, mid-August 1943); and Stalin Recognises Badoglio (Volume 5, no. 20, April 1944); and David James, Italian Workers Take Action (Volume 6, no. 5, May 1945); and three anonymous pieces, Allied Generals Herald Reaction (Volume 6, no. 3, mid-July 1943); Italian Workers Had Control (Volume 5, no. 20, October 1943); and Italian Trotskyists Active (Volume 5, no. 24, December 1943). The weekly paper of the French Trotskyists, La Vérité, shows much the same picture in the articles entitled Le prolétariat italien montre la Voie (no. 51, 12 September 1943); La Révolution italienne continué (no. 52, 25 September 1943); and La Classe ouvrière italienne, est-elle vaincue? (no. 53, 15 October 1943).

THE ORIGINAL subject of this lecture was to have been the history of Italian Trotskyism during the years 1943–48, that is, a reconstruction of the events from the founding of the Partito Operaio Comunista (Bolscevico-Leninista) (POC) to its expulsion from the Fourth International and the genesis of the Gruppi Comunisti Rivoluzionari (GCR). This subject has already been tackled by some scholars, among whom is the author of this piece.

The history of Italian Trotskyism during the 1940s is quite complex, and is now the subject and integral part of a more extensive research work that I have been carrying on for several years, and which has already brought to light some interesting results, such as a detailed reconstruction of the political biography of Pietro Tresso (Blasco) in the years 1930–44, and the history of the Italian Trotskyist organisations that existed in the 1930s [1] as well as a series of contributions dealing with specific aspects of the history of Italian Trotskyism in the period 1930–45. [2]

In today’s lecture I only want to touch on the origins of the POC and the debate initiated by the international organisation, concerning the situation in Italy during 1943–44. My contribution here does not claim to be totally exhaustive, not only because of an obvious lack of time, but above all due to the pioneering character of this research. In the course of this presentation I shall try to give a concise picture of the subject matter with which I am dealing, and some hints – often in a somewhat polemical, not to say ‘partisan’, way – about future topics of discussion and research.

On a general historical-political level it should be said that the birth of Italian Trotskyism represented an attempt to equip the working class of that country with a Leninist-type party able to break down and overcome the traditions of ‘Zinovievite’ bureaucratic centrism espoused by Gramsci in 1923–26, Togliatti’s and Tasca’s ‘Bukharinism’ of 1926–29, and the Stalinism which was dominant after the ‘turn’ of 1929–30, as well as the sectarian Bordigist ultra-leftism that had characterised the first five years of the Italian Communist Party, and which was, for a long time, to exert a considerable influence within the Italian workers’ movement. The failure of this attempt was due both to objective reasons and to subjective failures, with which it would take too long to deal in detail here. Nevertheless, it is a fact that, beginning in 1930, a work of ideological and programmatic clarification was started with the aim of building a revolutionary party which would be linked directly and completely to the Bolshevik tradition of Lenin and Trotsky. These efforts, within a framework of political struggle on a number of fronts, were carried out under extremely difficult conditions, and laid the foundations for the building of such a party.

This sort of work, which had been done in the political emigration in France, was interrupted in the second half of the 1930s, but was resumed in Italy from the early 1940s by some comrades who had been sent to confino (deportation) in the Tremiti Islands by the Fascist regime. They managed to organise a Trotskyist cell amongst the deportees, and thus managed to tie again the red thread of Italian Bolshevism-Leninism, which had been severed in about 1938. Freed with the other deportees in August 1943, the members of this small Trotskyist group led by Nicola Di Bartolomeo (Fosco) formed themselves into the Centro Provvisorio Nazionale per la costruzione del Partito Comunista Internazionalista (IV Internazionale) (CPN) and, on 15 December of that same year, they published a manifesto in Bari bearing the title: ‘Workers of the world, unite upon the principles of the class against class struggle![3] That manifesto, which received some publicity in the south, which had just been ‘liberated’ and placed under Anglo-American military occupation, probably represented the first public action on Italian soil which made people notice Trotskyism. The document was not devoid of some weak points, to which I have already pointed elsewhere [4], and it caused a lively discussion in the USA between the section of the Fourth International, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and the Workers Party (WP), the organisation created by Max Shachtman after his expulsion from the International in 1940. [5]

On the basis of this manifesto, the Italian Trotskyists, who were later concentrated in Naples, started to carry out propaganda work in a situation which was quite favourable for the polarisation of a left opposition as an alternative to the reformism of the ‘official’ left parties. But they were unable to assess correctly the immense political opportunities which were opening up before them: instead of putting themselves forward as an independent group able to catalyse and influence the oppositional movements and tendencies which were arising almost everywhere against the social-patriotic and class-collaborationist line of Togliatti’s party in a decisive way ... they chose the road of entrism into the Socialist Party and its youth organisation. Such a serious mistake, which was later criticised by the Fourth International [6], resulted in a certain isolation of the Italian Trotskyists from the leftist ferment that was occurring in the south, and the orientation they had chosen did not produce the expected results, even if they did succeed in winning over some dissident members of the Italian Communist Party in Naples (which suffered the so-called ‘Montesanto split’ in October 1943) [7], and they acquired an undoubted political authority on a local level due to the rôle played by Di Bartolomeo within the ‘red’ Confederazione Generale del Lavoro (CGL). [8]

In the first months of 1944 the Italian Trotskyists began to get in touch with several members of the Fourth International and of the Shachtmanite organisation who were serving in the Allied ‘liberation’ army. Di Bartolomeo started a written exchange with Shachtman himself [9] – an exchange that had some influence with regard to the doubts raised by the Italian Trotskyists about the real existence of the Fourth International in their letter of adherence to the International itself, written in late 1944. [10]

In the meantime, towards mid-1944, Charles Van Gelderen, a Trotskyist in uniform and a member of the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) who in that same period closely collaborated with the Italian Trotskyists, learnt from a member of the Workers Party serving in the US Air Force that a poster supporting a Fourth International had been put up in Foggia. Van Gelderen managed to obtain a pass for himself and Di Bartolomeo in order to get across the Anglo-American occupation zone, and after a rather eventful journey made on military trucks and horse-pulled carts, they reached Foggia in July 1944 and established contact with Romeo Mangano, the leader of the Apulian Federation of the Italian Communist Party which had remained broadly on the positions of the old Bordigist Left. The Apulian Federation, which had produced the poster, completely ignored the existence of the Fourth International that had been founded six years before. [11]

The discussions held by Di Bartolomeo and Van Gelderen with the leaders of the federation ended with the creation of a political alliance between the Trotskyists and the Apulian ‘Bordigists’ – an alliance which was to give birth to the POC. The agreement was reached without any preliminary, deep-going political discussion, and resulted in an unprincipled fusion carried out on essentially organisational foundations. This initial misunderstanding was to weigh heavily on the new party, especially when the political struggle between the Trotskyist minority and the Bordigist majority of the POC sharpened after February 1946, a month after Di Bartolomeo’s death. It is worthwhile remarking, though in passing, that the confrontation between these two wings of the party – which continued into 1948 [12] – represented a continuation of the political struggle that Trotsky and the International Left Opposition, following Lenin’s footsteps, had launched against Bordigism. [13]

Now let me go back a little in time, and shift the focus of my talk to an analysis of the Italian situation made by the leading bodies of the Fourth International in the period under discussion. Before doing that, however, it may be useful to emphasise that the Fourth International had been founded in a period of exceptional Stalinist, Fascist and ‘democratic’ repression aimed at stifling forever the voice of revolutionary Marxism by means of real political genocide, and in the context of an epoch marked by heavy defeats suffered by the workers’ movement under the flag of the Stalinist Comintern. In fact, in a quite distinct manner from the Third, Communist, International, the Fourth International did not arise in the wake of a successful proletarian revolution, but during an ebb tide of the world-wide revolutionary movement. Within this general framework, its gestation in the years 1933–38 was marked by the weakness of the Trotskyist vanguard’s links with the working class, and by the prevailing petit-bourgeois social composition of most of the national Bolshevik-Leninist organisations.

The tremendous programmatic strength of the movement failed to materialise on a quantitative plane, and the defeats of the revolution in Germany, France and Spain fostered disillusion and demoralisation within the European proletariat. Under the blows of imperialist reaction, the workers rallied closely round their Stalinist and/or Social Democratic organisations, something that made the ground for the building of independent revolutionary parties and of the Fourth International difficult – if not even hostile – terrain, and thus forced the Bolshevik-Leninist comrades to swim against the stream, frequently even in relation to the mass movement.

The negative effects of such an overall situation did not fail to appear within the Fourth Internationalist movement, whose sections had to face more or less acute internal crises throughout the 1930s, fundamentally typified by the emergence of centrist and ultra-leftist tendencies. The theoretical falsification and the political-programmatic degeneration introduced in the workers’ movement by Stalinism made more and more urgent, on the eve of an impending new world slaughter, the task of resolving the historical crisis of the proletarian leadership, and of equipping the working class with an effective revolutionary programme to come out from the blind alley where imperialism had led mankind. These were the tasks that the founding congress of the Fourth International, convened on 3 September 1938, in a Paris suburb [14], gave itself; and it adopted a document drafted by Trotsky, known as the Transitional Programme. [15]

The outbreak of the imperialist war did nothing but increase the difficulties faced by the movement. [16] The extermination of those Trotskyist leaders who had survived the persecutions of the 1930s continued at full speed, involving the loss of highly valuable revolutionary cadres, and attained its peak in August 1940 with Trotsky’s assassination at the hands of a Stalinist killer. Other revolutionary cadres quit the movement. Furthermore, the difficult conditions imposed by the worldwide conflict caused contact to be broken both between the European sections and the international Trotskyist leadership, whose centre had been moved to New York at the outbreak of the war, and even between the various European organisations themselves. As a result, the leadership of several national sections of the movement fell into the hands of young, inexperienced comrades, and the political isolation of the Trotskyists increased their weakness, and gave birth to revisionist tendencies. Nevertheless, the Fourth International was able to correct many of these mistakes in the very course of the war, and so showed its revolutionary vitality.

During the second imperialist world war, European Trotskyists – as well as those in the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam – paid for their devotion to proletarian internationalism with a heavy tribute of blood. It would take a long time to cite their names and to explain how they concretely applied the whole revolutionary programme and put forward the slogans of revolutionary defeatism, of unconditional defence of the socio-economic gains incorporated in the Soviet degenerated workers’ state, of the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and so on. But what I wish to emphasise here is that in a Europe almost completely under the heel of Hitler’s Wehrmacht, they managed to hold a clandestine meeting early in 1942 in a small Ardennes village in Belgium and to elect a leadership for the continent – the European Secretariat of the Fourth International. [17] By the summer of 1943 this body, after taking the new name of the Provisional European Secretariat, gave itself the immediate task of preparing an international conference of the Trotskyist movement. [18] On 8 August 1943 it drafted a document entitled Manifesto to the Italian Workers, Peasants and Soldiers [19], which represented the first official stand of the movement on the Italian events of those months.

The situation that occurred in Italy, and which began with the workers’ strikes of March 1943, deserves an extensive discussion. As this is impossible, I will confine myself to saying that these struggles played a conclusive rôle in the decision of large sections of the Italian bourgeoisie to get rid of Fascism by means of a painless political volte face which would ensure the preservation of the capitalist order. The Allied landing in Sicily and the increasingly clear likelihood of a military débâcle of the Axis powers, the negative outcome of the Feltre talks between Mussolini and Hitler, the growing mass discontent and open mass opposition to the Fascist regime, and especially the spectre of a possible overthrow of the bourgeois regime – these were the main factors that impelled the Italian ruling class to speed up the tempo of its volte-face. Thus on 25 July, Mussolini was toppled by a palace rebellion organised by the Savoyard monarchy and by the military chiefs with the support of a considerable section of the Fascist party. So, whilst the king was forming a new government, which was placed under the guidance of Marshal Badoglio and which sided militarily with Nazi Germany, and while the Communist Party went on pursuing a Popular Front strategy of national unity within the Comitato delle Opposizioni (Committee of the Oppositions), the proletarian masses energetically broke into the political arena.

The phase that opened up after the armistice of 8 September 1943 has been characterised in several ways: ‘a revolutionary situation’, ‘a pre-revolutionary situation’, ‘the great revolutionary rise of 1943–44’, etc. Personally, I would opt for the definition of ‘a protracted pre-revolutionary situation’ – a phase marked in its essentials by, firstly, the total decay of the bourgeois state apparatus and the impasse of the ruling class; secondly, the profound discontent of the urban petit-bourgeoisie pauperised by the crisis, who demanded a decisive change; and thirdly, the fact that ever larger proletarian layers become aware of the intolerable nature of the situation and of the need to prepare for direct action by building their own organs of struggle. What was lacking, however, was a clear-cut programme of action, and a daring, far-sighted revolutionary leadership capable of guiding the mass movement to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.

The above-mentioned manifesto issued by the European Provisional Secretariat described the theatrical coup of 25 July as ‘the greatest political event which has occurred since the outbreak of the second great mass slaughter’ [20], and as a break of the first link in the imperialist chain which was paving the way for the Italian revolution, ‘the vanguard of the new world proletarian revolution’. [21] And, after denouncing the Badoglio government, which ‘declares martial law and sends its policemen to shoot down the striking workers’ [22], the manifesto emphasises just what the purpose of the Allies was: to fight against disorder and anarchy, that is to say, against the protests of the mass of ordinary people, to maintain bourgeois order, and to continue the war whilst food rationing, starvation wages and the black market were still in force.

In view of this situation, the European Secretariat raised a series of slogans which, starting with the demand for an immediate peace, went on to demand wage increases, a shorter working day, the recognition of the right of assembly, of trade union organisation, and of the right to strike, and ended with transitional-type slogans aimed at linking the immediate and partial demands of the masses to the programme of Socialist revolution:

‘Whilst struggling for democratic liberties you should move towards occupations, the control of production, and the expropriation and nationalisation of capitalist property whenever there is an opportunity. Move towards a revolutionary seizure of power with resolution and the formation of a workers’ and peasants’ government which should come from a national congress of workers’ peasants’ and soldiers’ action committees.’ [23]

It is interesting to remark that the manifesto called on the Italian workers not to surrender their weapons when the Allied armies arrived, but to fraternise with German, British and American proletarians in uniform, with the perspective of a common struggle against the capitalist system. Finally, it should also be noted that the document makes no reference to the slogans of the republic and the constituent assembly, which were to be raised in a subsequent period.

The underground European conference of the Fourth International, held in France in early February 1944 [24], dealt again with the problems of the Italian revolution in its Theses on the Liquidation of the Second Imperialist War and the Revolutionary Upsurge. [25] Following the analysis made in the manifesto of August 1943, the theses describe the Italian crisis as one of the factors (together with the offensive of the Red Army) that had upset the European and world situation, and as the harbinger of the social explosion which was to accompany the liquidation of the war:

‘By crushing the Fascist state, the bourgeoisie has also broken the chains that paralysed the proletariat ... thus 25 July was not only the last day of Italian Fascism, but also the first day of the proletarian revolution in Italy, the first day of the coming European revolution. Thrown into the revolutionary struggle without a leadership, an organisation or a programme, the workers of the biggest Italian cities spontaneously revived in the internal commissions the form of organisation that had marked the highest point of the postwar revolutionary wave; in the factories they are building the first elements of workers’ power ... The first elements of a dual power began to appear.’ [26]

Consistent with a description of the period as a pre-revolutionary one on a European scale, the theses denounced the class-collaborationist policy followed by the Italian reformist parties, and saw in the workers’ protest against the agreement on the internal commissions agreed by the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, as well as in the mass struggles which were developing throughout the south occupied by the Allies, the signs that the masses were breaking from their traditional parties, which, ‘doing their best to channel the masses’ attempts at organising themselves along a purely trade unionist path... sought to prevent any further development of the Italian revolution’. [27] Here it should be recalled that in mid-October 1943 Badoglio had declared war on Germany, and from Moscow, Togliatti and Grieco had encouraged the Communist Party to rally closely around the Marshal’s monarchist government, since ‘it would be absurd ... in this situation of our country, to think of a government of one party, or of a dictatorship of one class’. [28] The orientation proposed by the Trotskyist conference was quite different: in fact, the theses called for an extension of the power of the internal factory commissions, the multiplication of links between the various factories, the search for contacts with the peasants and the soldiers, the preparation of local congresses of the proletarian organs of struggle which should substitute their power for the old institutions that were still in the hands of Fascist officers, and the convening of a national congress of the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ committees.

The document recorded that the ‘first phase’ of the Italian revolution had been characterised by the isolation of the most advanced sections of the proletariat – that is, the workers in the biggest industrial towns of the north – from the rest of the population. The task of revolutionaries was therefore to ‘multiply contacts between the members of different workers’ parties, of different factories, of different cities’ [29], in order to ‘lay the underground foundations for a powerful movement of united front committees which should be ready to intervene openly in the new phase of the upsurge that is inevitably coming’. [30] On the other hand, the theses declared that the proletariat would not be able to drag the majority of the masses behind it, to unify the revolutionary movement throughout the country, and to block the road to all attempts at a reactionary counter-offensive, if it did not ‘become a tireless defender of the most immediate and urgent economic and political demands of the intermediate strata of the population’. [31]

The advanced sections of the proletariat should therefore espouse the vital economic and political needs of the masses, and take the lead in carrying on the struggle against the high cost of living, unemployment, inflation and other immediate economic demands, as well as winning elementary democratic rights. But, the theses go on to say:

‘It should not be forgotten for one moment that the use of democratic slogans is aimed at furthering the struggle for Soviets and for power, and that ... the “minimum” economic and democratic programme is necessarily and quite rapidly transcended by the logic of the struggle of the masses themselves. When the latter take the offensive, it is around the transitional demands (workers’ control of production, factory committees, soviets, workers’ militias, the arming of the proletariat, etc.) that one should strive to wage the struggle.’ [32]

The paragraph in the theses which is devoted to the Italian revolution ends with a call for building the party of the revolution:

‘Only a genuine revolutionary party can achieve a constant link between the day-to-day struggle of the masses for their immediate expectations and the struggle of the proletariat for its historical aims. Such a party does not yet exist in Italy.’ [33]

It should be noted that at that time the Fourth International, overestimating the revolutionary character of the European revolution and underestimating both the influence of the reformist parties on the masses and the weight exerted by the democratic illusions of the masses themselves, did not clearly raise certain democratic slogans that would have been very effective in the Italian context. I am referring to the demands for the immediate proclamation of the republic, for placing the king and the royal family under arrest, for the confiscation of all the property of the House of Savoy, for the creation of a constituent assembly, for the separation of church and state, and for agrarian reform. It is clear that the Trotskyist International failed to realise the rôle that such slogans could have played in forcing a wedge between the proletarian ranks and the bureaucratic leaderships of the reformist parties, especially the Communist Party, which, after the recognition of the Badoglio government by Stalin’s Soviet Union, was more than ever before resolved to postpone a solution of the ‘constitutional problem’ after Togliatti’s return from Moscow, and was within a short time to enter the king’s government. The Communist Party was convinced of the need to prevent a revolutionary crisis that would have questioned the deal reached between Stalin and Anglo-Saxon imperialism, and to maintain at any price a decaying state based on the old Fascist bureaucracy, as a counterweight to the rising proletarian power.

These slogans were nevertheless included in the 25-point Transitional Programme published by the POC in the October 1944 issue of Il Militante. Restating its opposition to the Bonomi-led Popular Front government, the POC called on the Communist Party and the Socialist Party to break their coalition with the bourgeoisie, and to form a government of their own on the basis of this programme. The aim of the POC was – correctly – to articulate the slogan of the workers’ government by denouncing the class-collaborationist government of national unity, and by calling on the reformist parties to assume their own responsibilities before the popular masses – that is, to impose, on the basis of a mobilisation of the masses themselves, a government which would carry out a programme of democratic and anti-capitalist measures. Such a policy was a constant feature of the orientation followed by the POC during the years 1944–47, and it aimed to expose the reformists’ complete subordination to the logic of the ruling class, and to win the masses away from their influence. [34]

By way of an example, here is how the POC raised the issue during the crisis of the Bonomi government:

‘A government of the Socialist and Communist Parties is necessary, since it would mean at this moment a political clarification which the masses must have, insofar as they still trust these parties. If such an experience fails, if it yields the same results as any other bourgeois government – and we are sure that this will be the case – then the working class will take a step forward in the direction of the revolutionary class struggle, and against any class collaboration.’ [35]

In a leaflet distributed on the twenty-eighth anniversary of the October revolution, the POC further stated:

‘The Socialist and Communist Parties should terminate any arrangements with the coalition government and proclaim a government of the Socialist and Communist Parties, so that the workers may go through this experience and no longer allow the leaders of these parties to justify their policy and free themselves from all responsibility by laying the blame for the present situation of increasing reaction on the other parties of the “exarchy”. A government of the Socialist and Communist Parties will be a demonstration to the working masses of these two parties’ inability to apply their own programme, and of the necessity of raising themselves on a class against class level.’ [36]

Now let me conclude with some general remarks. The rise of the European revolution, which began with the Italian events of 1943 and with the offensive of the Red Army, encouraged the Allies to open a ‘second front’ in order to avert a revolution and prevent a further advance of the Soviet troops. Nevertheless, the landing in Normandy, which proclaimed the final defeat of Germany, did nothing but sharpen social instability throughout Europe. In this framework, Stalinism, in league with Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s ‘democratic’ imperialism, played an utterly counter-revolutionary rôle. In Italy, the Stalinist policy continued to express itself through class collaboration and an effort to prevent the last phase of the partisan war being transformed into a social revolution. Togliatti’s Communist Party succeeded in depriving the Resistance movement in the north of all class characteristics, and in subordinating it to Anglo-American imperialism.

Stalinism’s counter-revolutionary work was made easier by the fact that in Italy, as in the main European countries, genuinely revolutionary parties did not exist. The question Trotsky and the Fourth International had asked themselves in 1940 – ‘Shall we succeed in preparing in time a party capable of leading the proletarian revolution?’ [37] – received an answer in the negative. Whilst the war urged the proletarians to raise their heads, the sections of the Fourth International – numerically weak and deprived of many of their best cadres – were not able to establish an organic link with the mass movement, let alone lead it. The very young Italian Trotskyist organisation was no exception to this general rule.


1. Paolo Casciola, Pietro Tresso militante trotskysta (1930–1944?) in Paolo Casciola and Giorgio Sermasi, Vita di Blasco: Pietro Tresso dirigente del movimento operaio internazionale (Magrè di Schio 1893–Haute Loire 1944?), Odeonlibri-ISMOS, Vicenza, 1985, pp. 115–90.

2. Paolo Casciola, Appunti di storia del trotskysmo italiano (1930–45), Quaderni del Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, Serie: Studi e ricerche, no. 1, May 1986.

3. We are missing a piece of this poster. A partial English translation of it appeared under the title Trotskyists in Italy Issue Call For Socialist Struggle in the US SWP’s paper The Militant, 8 April 1944, which described the position on the Soviet Union expressed by the poster as ‘vague’ and ‘weak’. Two days later Labor Action, the journal of the Shachtmanite Workers Party, published the whole text of the poster. The text published in The Militant was subsequently translated into French and printed in the Bulletin du Secrétariat Européen de la IVè Internationale, no. 1, November 1944, pp. 15–7.

4. Cf. Paolo Casciola, Nicola Di Bartolomeo (1901–1946), p. 27 above.

5. The SWP leader James P. Cannon, writing to the party from Sandstone prison, criticised the Italian poster as a non-Trotskyist document due to the position, ‘false to the core’, that it expressed on the Soviet Union, a position that ‘has nothing in common with the program of the Fourth International’, and which ‘would have been more in place’ in Shachtman’s Labor Action than in the paper of the US section of the Trotskyist International (cf. letters nos. 37 and 38 dated 26 and 28 April 1944 in Cannon’s Letters from Prison, Pathfinder Press, New York 1968, pp. 54–57.) Taking up the arguments put forward by Cannon, The Militant sharpened its criticism of the poster in an article in its issue of 13 May 1944 entitled Trotskyism and the European Revolution. This article triggered a response by Shachtman in Labor Action of 15 May 1944, which was afterwards reprinted in the May 1944 issue of New International under the title A Blow at the Fourth International, The Militant and Our Italian Comrades. Shachtman attacked the change of position by the SWP after its first evaluation of the Italian poster, and restated his position rejecting the Trotskyist policy of unconditional defence of the USSR. The Bordigist ‘Zadra’ (the pseudonym of an unidentified comrade) intervened in the dispute on behalf of the ‘Italian Faction of Left Communists’ in support of Shachtman’s article with a letter dated 31 May 1944 published in Labor Action on 12 June 1944. It should also be noted that in a letter written on 19 August 1944, Cannon told the US Trotskyist organisation that he had read the editorial of Il Proletario (Bari) which had been reprinted in the 19 August issue of La Parola (New York), and defined it as ‘the authentic voice of the revolutionary opposition in the Italian Communist Party’ quite different from ‘the moth-eaten cliques of Russophobes’ (letter no. 90 in Cannon, op. cit., p. 152.)

6. Cf. the report on the POC given to the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (held in Paris on 2–21 April 1948) which decided to expel the POC from the International: Le Parti Ouvrier Communiste (Italie) et la IVè Internationale (Rapport présenté au Congrès Mondial), in Quatrième Internationale, organ of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International, nos. 3–4–5, March–May 1948, p. 104. An Italian translation of this document is to be found in the Bollettino della Frazione Marxista Rivoluzionaria della IV Internazionale, Volume 3, no. 16, May 1977, p. 14.

7. On the ‘Montesanto split’, cf. especially Clara di Marco, La costituzione della Confederazione Generale del Lavoro e la scissione di Montesanto (1943–1944), Giovane Critica, no. 27, Summer 1971, pp. 52–74.

8. For this cf. both di Marco, op. cit., and Pietro Bianconi, La CGL sconsciuta, Sapere, Milan-Rome 1975; Antonio Alosco, Alle radici del sindicalismo. La ricostruzione della CGL nell’Italia liberata (1943–1944), SugarCo, Milan 1979; Paolo Casciola, Nicola di Bartolomeo (1901–46), and Appunti di storia del trotskysmo italiano (1930–1945), op. cit., p. 45, and the first chapter of Arturo Peregalli, L’altra Resistenza. Il PCI e le Opposizioni di sinistra in Italia 1943–1945 in Quaderni del Centro Studi Pietro Tresso, Serie: Studi e ricerche, no. 2, June 1987.

9. Cf. Rodolphe Prager’s preface to the first part of Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), La Brèche, Montreuil 1981, p. 27.

10. We only have an English translation of this undated letter, published under the title Letter of Adherence to the Fourth International from the Italian Party in the International Bulletin of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, Volume 3, no. 1, February 1945, p. 16. This bulletin also contains a tardy reply to the Italian Trotskyists written by the International Secretariat on 2 January 1945. An announcement of the adherence of the POC to the International and sent by the IS to the European Secretariat, was also included as a short note in Quatrième Internationale, the organ of the European Executive Committee of the Fourth International, nos. 14–15, January–February 1945, p. 32. The paper of the POC, L’Internazionale, Volume 2, no. 2, 21 July 1945, carried the following note: ‘The World Centre of the Fourth International informed us that the Secretariat has recognised the POC as the Italian section of the Fourth International.’

11. Some of the details in this paragraph are taken from Charlie Van Gelderen’s interview with the British historian Al Richardson recorded on 4 October 1979 and published in Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, The War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain 1937–1949, Socialist Platform, London 1986, pp. 29–32. It should be noted that in this interview Foggia is mistaken for Bari and Mangano is wrongly spelled as ‘Mangama’.

12. Cf. note 6.

13. For this cf Chapter 1 of Paolo Casciola, Pietro Tresso militante trotskysta (1930–1944?), pp. 32-40 above.

14. For a collection of documents adopted by the founding congress of the Fourth International, cf. Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years (1933–1940), edited by Will Reisner, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, pp. 153–302; and Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: Naissance de la IVè Internationale 1930–1940, edited by Pierre Frank, La Brèche, Montreuil 1978, pp. 199–326.

15. The exact title of this document is The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (The Mobilisation of the Masses on Transitional Demands as a Preparation for the Seizure of Power). So far there is no really accurate and reliable Italian translation. A translation from the Russian original is now being prepared by the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso.

16. For a general picture of the Trotskyist movement during the Second World War cf. especially Rodolphe Prager’s prefaces to the different parts of Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), op. cit., and in English, Revolutionary History, Volume 1, no. 3, pp. 19–36.

17. Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), op. cit., pp. 113–4.

18. Ibid., p. 115.

19. A first Manifesto of the European Secretariat of the Fourth International to the Italian workers, peasants and soldiers had been published on 30 July 1943 in a special issue of La Vérité, the paper of the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste, French section of the Trotskyist International (cf. La Vérité: Journal trotskyiste clandestin sous l’occupation nazie, edited by Jean-Michel Brabant, Michel Dreyfus and Jacqueline Pluet, Études et Documentations Internationales, Paris 1978, pp. 119–22). The European Provisional Secretariat, however, did not agree with this manifesto, which had been drafted and published on its behalf by Marcel Hic, a leading French member of the Secretariat, and denounced the fact that it had appeared under its signature ‘due to an irregular procedure’. Whilst in general agreement with Hic’s manifesto, the European Provisional Secretariat considered it ‘incomplete’, criticised the slogan of a ‘Convention Nationale’ (constituent assembly) which it ‘inappropriately’ raised for Italy, and decided to suspend its circulation (for all this cf. Rodolphe Prager’s preface to the third part of Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), op. cit., p117). On 8 August 1943 the European Provisional Secretariat adopted a new text in place of Hic’s: the Manifeste du Secrétariat Provisoire Européen. Aux ouvriers, paysans et soldats italiens, which was published in its organ, Quatrième Internationale, no. 1, August 1943, pp. 9–13, and is now to be found in Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), op. cit., pp. 167–72.

20. Ibid., p. 167.

21. Ibid., p. 169.

22. Ibid., p. 168.

23. Ibid., p. 172, and this magazine, pp. 177 below.

24. Cf Rodolphe Prager, The Fourth International and the Second World War, Revolutionary History, Volume 1, no. 3, Autumn 1988, pp. 26–8.

25. Thèses sur la liquidation de la deuxième guerre mondiale et la montée révolutionnaire, Quatrième Internationale, the organ of the European Executive Committee of the Fourth International, nos. 4–5, February–March 1944, pp. 3–15, now reprinted in Les Congrès de la Quatrième Internationale: L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), op. cit., pp. 193–231.

26. Ibid., p. 202.

27. Ibid., p. 204-5.

28. M. Ercoli (Palmiro Togliatti), L’Italia e la guerra contro la Germania hitleriana, Edizioni in lingue estere, Moscow, 1944. This is the well-known speech delivered by the Italian Communist Party’s ‘líder maximo’ on 26 November 1943 at the House of the Trade Unions in Moscow. Now reprinted in Palmiro Togliatti, Opere, Volume 4, part 2, Editori Riuniti, Rome 1979, p. 393.

29. Thèses sur la liquidation ..., op. cit., p. 204.

30. Ibid..

31. Ibid., p. 205.

32. Ibid., pp. 205–6.

33. Ibid..

34. We only have an English translation of this document which was published under the title, Program of the Workers Communist Party (Italian Trotskyists) in the already mentioned International Bulletin of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, Volume 3, no. 1, February 1945, p. 16.

35. Déclaration du Comité Central du Parti Communiste Ouvrier (Section Italienne de la IVè Internationale) au prolétariat italien, La Voie de Lénine, journal of the Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire, Belgian section of the Fourth International, no 18, 1945.

36. Central Committee of the POC, XXVIII anniversario della Rivoluzione d’Ottobre, leaflet dated 7 November 1945.

37. Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution, written by Leon Trotsky and adopted by the Emergency Conference of the Fourth International, held in New York on 19-26 May 1940. This document was originally published in Socialist Appeal on 29 June 1940, the paper of the SWP, and is now reproduced in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939–1940), Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, p. 183–222.

Updated by ETOL: 25.9.2011