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

Provisional European Secretariat of the Fourth International

Manifesto to the Italian Workers,
Peasants and Soldiers

This text, dated 8 August 1943, was composed by the clandestine organisation set up by the European Trotskyists living under Nazi occupation, without the opportunity of conferring with the International Secretariat based in New York. It was first published in a special number of La Vérité issued on 30 July 1943, and afterwards in Quatrième Internationale, new series, no. 1, August 1943, pp. 9–13. It is most conveniently consulted today in Rodolphe Prager’s edition of Les Congrés de la quatrième internationale, Volume 2, L’Internationale dans la guerre (1940–1946), Paris, 1981, pp. 167–72. The same book also includes an analysis of the Italian situation by the clandestine European conference of February 1944, La crise et l’experience italienne’ in the Thèses sur la liquidation de la deuxième guerre impérialiste et la montée révolutionnaire (pp. 202–7), which first saw the light in Quatrième Internationale, nos. 4–5, February–March 1944. Our translation of the Manifesto has been kindly produced for this magazine by Paolo Casciola.

The Italian Revolution also had a deep impact upon the International Secretariat and those Trotskyists outside Europe who were in contact with it, for such figures as Jean van Heijenoort, Felix Morrow and Albert Goldman in the USA, and Jock Haston and Ted Grant in Britain were influenced by it to raise the question of applying transitional politics to the countries emerging from occupation. Much of the controversy was fought out first in the Internal Bulletin of the American SWP, but its main lines can be followed in the public articles of Felix Morrow, Washington’s Plans for Italy, Fourth International, Volume 4, no. 6, June 1943; Italy: The First Phase of the Revolution, Fourth International, Volume 4, no. 8, August 1943, pp. 227–9; Workers International News, Volume 5, no- 4, October–November 1943, pp. 9–12; and The Italian Revolution, Fourth International, Volume 5, no. 9, September 1943, pp. 263–73; Workers International News, Volume 5, no. 5, January 1945, pp. 1–8; of Ted Grant, Italian Revolution and the Tasks of the British Workers, Workers International News, Volume 5, no. 12, August 1943, pp. 1–5; of Albert Goldman, Was There a Revolution in Italy?, Fourth International, Volume 5, no. 1, January 1944, pp. 11–4; of E.R. Frank (Bert Cochran), Nine Months of Allied Rule in Italy, Fourth International, Volume 5, no. 4, April 1944, pp. 105–12; and of Daniel Logan (Jean Van Heijenoort), The Italian Revolution and the Slogan “For a Republic!”, New International, Volume 9, no. , October 1945, pp. 212–5. They are most conveniently summarised in P. Jenkins, Where Trotskyism Got Lost, Spokesman Pamphlet no. 59, Nottingham, n.d.

THE HATED regime of the Blackshirts has just departed from the Italian scene. This is the greatest event that has happened since the outbreak of the slaughter of the Second World War. The first link of the capitalist chain has been broken, thus opening up splendid prospects for the Italian, European and world proletariat.

After having oppressed, exploited, harassed, despoiled and bled the Italian people for 20 years, after having led Italy into imperialist war and military disaster, on the verge of economic bankruptcy, Fascism, the last hope of a decaying capitalism, shows by its pitiful fall all the frailty of the society that it served, as well as its own inability to give people anything more than misery, wars, crises and slavery.

Faced with the terrible consequences of a military defeat and an impending economic disaster, and above all fearful of the awakening of the exploited masses, of which the heroic struggles of the workers in Turin, Milan and Genoa were a foretaste, the bourgeoisie got rid of Fascism in 24 hours. This shows that Fascism was no more than a instrument in its hands. All talk about a new state, about Mussolini’s Socialism, and about the ‘fourth Italy’ is shown to mean nothing. But at the same time it shows that it was ready to get rid of a servant who had become an embarrassment and to repudiate the Fascist super-gendarme on condition that it should continue to reign and to oppress and exploit as a class. As long as the rule of the bourgeoisie exists, as long as the Montecatinis, Ansaldos, Fiats and the landlords remain the owners of Italy, as long as generals and bourgeois politicians govern in their name, nothing is going to change for the Italian people. It is in their interests that the monarchy’s puppet calls for Italian unity, it is for their benefit that Badoglio, who until yesterday was a faithful servant of Mussolini, proclaims martial law and sends policemen to shoot down striking workers.

But the events which are now shaking the Italian peninsula can in no way be halted before a government of military braggarts, which is as reactionary as the one that preceded it, and is as faithful a servant of capitalism as was Mussolini.

The masses who have just entered the political arena for the first time are not interested in the problems of the Italian bourgeoisie. The workers, soldiers and peasants ask first of all for peace, an immediate peace. Every hour and every minute that the war continues means that workers’ and peasants’ blood is shed for the benefit of the exploiters. Mothers want their sons back, wives want their husbands back, and children want their fathers back. Peace, bread and freedom – these are their aspirations and the aims of their struggle. And the masses will carry on this struggle against Badoglio today and against any other ‘liberal’ government that the financial oligarchy attempts to put in its place tomorrow. They will carry it on against Churchill and Roosevelt and their ‘liberating’ armies, whose task is to preserve capitalist order by drowning the Italian revolution, the vanguard of the new world proletarian revolution, in blood. On this point Churchill was careful not to foster any illusions amongst the Italian workers, peasants and soldiers. He defined the Allied mission as a huge police operation. He explained that the British and Americans would brutally suppress incitement to anarchy and disorder, that is, the discontent of the people, and would act against them, and through pressure and blackmail would create a strong government to put Italy’s resources at their own disposal and to continue the war against Germany under the most favourable conditions.

Listen carefully: continue the war, maintain order and guarantee policing. It is the language of Mussolini which continues to be spoken. In Sicily, did not General Alexander ask the Fascists to come under his protection? The precious troops of reaction and capitalist order must be preserved.

In Algiers the Anglo-Americans have already shown how they intend to liberate the people. They only opened up the prisons to drain off the political prisoners into the labour battalions of the army. They replaced the Vichy regime with another Vichy regime in which the same reactionaries, generals and agents of big business reign. Rationing, starvation wages and the black market – all that continues to go on.

But this is not what the mass of the people want. They want to end their hunger, to be free to speak, to read and to sing. The soldiers want to return home, the peasants want to get rid of the landlords, and the workers to put an end to their shameless exploitation and to get back their right to use trade union action and strikes to make wage claims and defend themselves.

But the Italian workers will achieve this only by their own actions. The war, whether it be Badoglio’s or Churchill’s, is not theirs. The only war they want is a war against capitalism, the landlords and the Fascists, a war against all those who want to defend the gendarmes and profiteers of order, a war which is being waged in the factories, in the cities and in the villages against the boss, the landowner and the Blackshirts. Twenty years of suffering, humiliation and terror must and will be avenged.

Italian workers, peasants and soldiers, you must prepare for action.

Only your organised force and your coordinated struggle will bury Fascism decisively and allow your complete emancipation. Demand an immediate peace, and oppose any direct or indirect part by Italy in an imperialist war.

The workers of Europe with fight with you to demand a peace without indemnities or penalties.

  • Demand an immediate demobilisation of the army, repatriation of all PoWs, and the immediate disarmament and dismissal of all Fascist police and militia. Replace them with your own armed forces, a workers’ and peasants’ militia.
  • Call for Mussolini, Ciano and all leaders of the Fascist party, militia and police to be brought before a people’s court.
  • Call for an immediate increase in wages and a cut in working hours.
  • Gain the right of assembly, trade union rights and the right to strike.
  • Call for freedom for the working class press to publish without control or censorship.
  • Get the people to control victualling, supplies and markets, and close luxury restaurants.

Badoglio promises you elections. He is trying to fool you. He expects that you will put all your hopes in a new bourgeois parliament like the one which, 20 years ago, paved the way for Mussolini.

The Italian toilers must have no confidence or illusions about the actual rôle played by a bourgeois parliament in which the representatives of the class of Ansaldo and Fiat will be predominant.

Through elections and parliamentarianism the Italian bourgeoisie wants to give a democratic form to its own class rule, a fiction of popular representation which apparently expresses the ‘peoples’ will’.

It wants to turn you away from direct action in the factories, in the streets and in the villages, which is the only way to solve your problems.

But at the same time Badoglio wants to prevent you from expressing your real desire for peace and freedom, and your hatred of capitalism. He wants to hold back your agitation as much as possible. He promises to hold elections four months after the end of the war in order to gain time to solve all the various problems for the benefit of the rich and of reaction.

Demand immediate free elections for all men and women over 18 with the exception of the old dignitaries of the Fascist regime.

Tear down the hypocritical veil of class harmony which only serves reaction and war.

These demands are those of the entire mass of the Italian toilers, not those of the capitalist exploiters, the generals, the landlords and the clerics. Nor are they those of Churchill and Roosevelt, who are waging an imperialist war against Italy, and not a war of liberation against the capitalist plague. To win there must be a ruthless fight.

There must be preparations now for a general strike with these aims in every factory, city district and village, and for the highest possible number of workers, agricultural workers, urban toilers and soldiers to meet to discuss their ideas and opinions, close ranks and prepare for joint action. They must select the best among them, the most committed and boldest elements, to work out a concrete plan of action and coordinate their efforts.

Action committees must cover the whole country, and contacts between factories, city districts, villages, towns and provinces must be established.

A powerful alliance of all workers, toiling peasants and soldiers must be created throughout the country.

If you do this you will not only have to fight the senile politicians of a decaying bourgeoisie and the armed force of the police and reaction, but you will also have to face the British and American armies. Do not give up your weapons when you welcome them. But remember that, even if Churchill and Roosevelt are your enemies, the rank and file English and American soldiers should be your friends. Fraternise both with them and the German soldiers, and show them that by becoming tools of reaction in Europe they will prepare a triumph of reaction in their own country. Call on them to fight beside you against the capitalist exploiters and oppressors. Above the battlefields and over all frontiers hold out your hands to the proletarians of Europe and the world.

Show them the way forward. Let Italy raise the torch of a real Socialist revolution since, in the last analysis, this is the issue – to start the struggle again which has been interrupted since 1923, and to continue the fight until victory is achieved.

Italian workers, peasants and soldiers, the experience of your past struggles teaches you that only your own seizure of power can ensure peace, bread and freedom.

Since you did not have the strength at the height of your heroic efforts in 1920 to seize power, the bourgeoisie succeeded for a short time in crushing you and in establishing its own bloody dictatorship. This time let us dare to finish the job.

While 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 with the formation of a workers’ and peasants’ government which should come from a national congress of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ action committees.

Only such a government would expropriate the expropriators, nationalise the factories, give land to the peasants, manage production not for the sake of capitalist profit, but for the benefit of everyone, give power to the toiling masses, and hold out its hands to the world proletariat so that the United Socialist States of the World may arise.

Italian proletarians! To wage this struggle successfully you cannot trust the parties of liberal democracy, nor the Socialist phrasemongers who were only able to capitulate shamefully before Fascism. Nor can you trust the Communist Party, whose rôle today is to use the working class always to defend the rule of the bureaucracy in the USSR which has usurped the heritage of October there, and betrayed the interests of the proletarian revolution.

Trust only yourselves and the revolutionary forces that will emerge from your ranks in the heat of the coming struggle which will forge the new Italian revolutionary party. The ideas of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky will be your guide. The progress of the Fourth International will illuminate your path.

Italian proletarians, you have nothing to lose but your chains. And you have a world to win. The road of Socialist revolution opens up before you. March along it, for the proletarians of the whole world are awaiting your example. The Fourth International will mobilise them on your side.

Long Live the Italian Revolution!

Long Live the Socialist United States of Europe!

Long Live the Fourth International!

Updated by ETOL: 25.9.2011