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E.R. Frank

Nine Months of Allied Rule in Italy

(April 1944)

From Fourth International, Vol.5 No.4, April 1944, pp.105-112.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The developments in Italy are deserving of the closest study. The unfolding Italian events provide an important preview of the revolutionary temper and power of the European working class, the status and role of the capitalist class and a virtual blueprint of Anglo-American war aims, methods and plans.

This war is of course a continuation of the first World War, but as the experience of Italy has already made amply clear, the developments arising from this war are by no means mere replicas of the last one. All the contradictions of European capitalism that reached supreme acuteness after the last war twenty-five years ago, are now at a breaking point. New contradictions have piled up in the interim. Economic devastation has reached unheard of proportions. Political decay has followed suit. Internally, no serious force remains to guard capitalism in Europe except the scum of the upper class society—the decrepit monarchs with their coterie of stark reactionary militarist aristocracy, the Vatican, the cliques of the monopolists, the bankers and their retinue. The reserves of capitalism in Europe are indeed lower than they have ever been before. The field for capitalist class maneuvers is far narrower than was the case a quarter of a century ago.

After the catastrophic defeats of the Italian army in Greece, North Africa and Sicily, mass strikes swept over North Italy and the army itself began disintegrating. The Allies were sure that Italy would soon be knocked out of the war. They were prepared for a capitulation and had plans in readiness for the occupation of Italy.

The Secret Plans

Kingsbury Smith, semi-official spokesman of the US State Department, in an article written just before Mussolini’s downfall and published in the American Mercury of August 1943, Our Government’s Plan for a Defeated Italy, reveals in somewhat guarded language the plans and perspectives of the US State Department:

“We will help the Italian Army, Navy, or the people to overthrow Mussolini’s regime, but we will nevertheless demand that the country be handed over without any strings attached ... High Italian army officers known to have the respect of the people will be the group from which the United States and Great Britain will demand the surrender of the nation ... Establishment of an allied military government in Italy under American command is planned following occupation of the country. Some United States Army Civil Affairs officers who are slated for occupational administrative work in Italy already have arrived in North Africa. Others are being trained as Italian Administrators at the Army School of Military Government at Charlottesville, Virginia ... Strict control will be exercised over the Italian press and radio during the period of allied military rule ...”

Gaetano Salvemini, a forthright analyst of Italian policy, bluntly stated as early as December 1942, on the basis of a study of Allied policies, that:

“The royal House of Savoy, the army and the Pope are being kept on ice by Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt as the legitimate authorities entitled to speak for Italy ...”

In their book, What To Do With Italy, Gaetano Salvemini and George LaPiana, predicted before the fall of Mussolini:

“As far as the American public can judge from what has leaked out about the plans being secretly and discreetly concocted in high circles, our diplomats in Washington are determined to supplant Mussolini with an Italian Darlan or Petain ... If such a plan is carried out, the Savoy monarchy will remain as a guarantee against any radical revolution. A coalition of former leaders, the big business men and clericals supported by the Vatican, would take up the government of the country under the protection of the American and English armies of occupation ... Every road leads to Rome, they say in Italy. And everything we gather about British and American plans concerning Italy leads us to the same conclusion. What the British foreign office and the American State Department want to set up in Italy is a fascist regime without Mussolini ...”

The Anglo-American imperialists, it is obvious, did not blunder into the Italian situation, did not improvise their policies, nor leave the important political decisions to be made by military field commanders on the spot. As Kingsbury Smith makes clear, and as has been since corroborated by scores of correspondents and observers, the Allies had a carefully worked out plan, a definite strategy and policy and had prepared a trained personnel to execute their program.

But there is a gap between plans and reality. Events did not proceed as smoothly as the State Department may have envisaged. The Allied imperialist leaders expected a capitulation on the part of Italy. They even anticipated local outbursts of the Italian people against the Fascists. But they did not anticipate the great revolutionary conflagration that actually swept Italy after the removal of Mussolini. There was the specter of the Russian revolution and of the Italian events of 1920 reappearing again! A feeling of anxiety and apprehension swept through the government bureaus at Washington and London. Churchill immediately warned Parliament that

“We certainly do not wish to reduce Italian life to a condition of chaos and anarchy, and find ourselves without any authority with whom to deal.”

For Churchill, the Russian revolution, it must be remembered, was the rule of “chaos and anarchy.”

A few hours after Churchill’s speech, Roosevelt, in a press conference, demonstratively denounced the OWI broadcast which attacked Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel. Several days later, on July 30, Roosevelt told newspapermen at his press conference that he “did not care with whom we deal so long as he was not a member of the Fascist government and could get the Italian troops to lay down their arms and could prevent anarchy. It might be the King or a Prime Minister or a Mayor who serve these ends.”

Mr. Kingsbury Smith, in his foregoing semi-official article, after citing the Anglo-American propaganda of urging the Italian people to revolt against Mussolini, patronizingly wrote:

“We are not opposed [how magnanimous!] to the Italian people carrying out a blood purge of the fascists who have terrorized and oppressed them for the past twenty years. But we believe they should have the courage to do so before and not after the Allied armies have occupied the country.”

The leaders of the two great “democracies” however greeted the Italian revolution once it actually started with fear, with a gnashing of teeth and with frenzied attempts to bolster the makeshift, reactionary Badoglio government and to aid it in its attempts to throttle the heroic struggle of the Italian workers who were engaged in extirpating the Black Shirts, and fighting for freedom and a workers’ government of their own choosing. All through August, the Anglo-American propaganda machine was inundating the world with propaganda which all added up to a political build-up for the government of Badoglio and the King. The Anglo-American forces were already in control of Sicily, and their armies stood poised ready to invade the mainland. The invasion was, however, delayed for weeks, in deference to Badoglio and the King, in an attempt to give the new military dictatorship an opportunity to put down the popular revolt. So cynical and unabashed did Allied propaganda become that Amgot openly announced that Italian officials would be permitted to remain at their posts,—while the Italian people were warned that no political activity would be tolerated. The Anglo-American program of reaction was revealed with such a lack of ambiguity or disguise that even the thoroughly housebroken liberals were embarrassed. They began whimpering, in the general vein of I.F. Stone’s article in the August 7 Nation:

“I am beginning to feel that while we are ready to make deals with any crooks at the top except full-fledged, fully labeled Nazis and Fascists, we are out to demand ‘unconditional surrender’ of the peoples of Europe to what must begin to seem to them Anglo-American imperialism. The Europe that Amgot would restore is not a Europe in which the Four Freedoms could be achieved.”

But the Badoglio government was being torn apart by its unsolvable crisis. Threats, repressions, martial law, promises of reform, and concessions had availed nothing in the face of the rising revolutionary tide. The Badoglio government was obviously impotent to hold back the revolutionary advance. Its resources were dwindling by the hour and its regime hung by a hair. The Italian army meanwhile was fast melting away; discipline was breaking down, the authority of the officers was on the wane and in the North, the Nazi armies were preparing to advance and in the South the Allies stood in Sicily, poised for the invasion of the mainland.

The Italian capitalists, behind Badoglio and the King, decided their best chances for survival lay in throwing in their fate with the Allies.

“All legitimate hope—I do not say of victory, but even of resistance—had vanished,” Badoglio truthfully stated in his declaration to Hitler, announcing his government’s capitulation to the Allies.

At this point occurred one of the most brazen betrayals of a people: between Badoglio and the Anglo-American imperialists a conspiracy was hatched to betray the Italian proletariat in the North to the Nazi beasts, to drown the revolution in blood while foisting in the allied-occupied territory in Southern Italy the Quisling government of Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio.

Secret conferences between the Allied imperialists and Badoglio were in progress all through the latter end of August and beginning of September. While the terms of the armistice and Italy’s “unconditional surrender” were being drafted, the Italian workers of the industrial north were clamoring for arms to defend themselves against the Nazi hordes. But neither Badoglio nor the Anglo-American “democrats” were interested in defending Northern Italy against the Nazis. They were not interested in organizing the workers and the revolutionary soldiers to fight the Nazis: they had already reconciled their plans to the Nazis’ marching in and subduing the revolutionary proletariat.

The Secret Conferences

On September 3, the armistice between the Badoglio government and the Allies was signed. It was made public only a week later on September 11. Discerning commentators had no difficulty in establishing the fact that another, more cynical “Darlan deal” had been contrived, that the Allies were preparing to prop up a reactionary clique of monarchists and capitalist politicians whose hands dripped with the 20-year crimes of the Fascist regime.

The September 4 dispatch of Herbert L. Matthews, New York Times correspondent, stated that:

“The AMG experience in Sicily would seem to strengthen Marshal Badoglio’s chances of continuing in power after the Allies enter Rome. He could prove highly useful and that was the criterion in the case of Admiral Jean Francais Darlan.”

Libera Stampa, Italian anti-fascist newspaper, published in Lausanne, Switzerland, revealed the whole treacherous conspiracy in its October 1 report. According to Libera Stampa as soon as Turin learned the news of the Armistice:

“The workers through their leaders suspended work in the big factories ... to assume ... the armed defense of their city (against the Nazi troops). But they needed arms. Representatives of the Turin workers therefore called in the Commander of the Turin garrison, General Adamirossi, (one of Badoglio’s appointees) and asked for arms to repel an eventual attack on the part of German armored troops which they knew were advancing on Turin.

“The workers’ representatives assumed full responsibility for the distribution of arms to their organized supporters, promising not to give them to suspicious elements.

“General Adamirossi courteously asked them to be patient during the few hours necessary for transportation and delivery of the arms.

“However, a tragic betrayal was being prepared: the workers’ leaders were handed over to the Germans who had arrived in the meantime. The time which General Adamirossi had demanded for the delivery of the arms was used by him to conclude an agreement with the Germans for the surrender to them of Turin.

“General Adamirossi apparently has already paid with his life, at the hand of a worker, for this treachery.” So it was throughout the northern cities. Like the workers of Turin, the workers of Bergamo demanded arms. The Associated Press reported on September 12 that the military commander stalled them off with the pretext “that only a few outmoded rifles were available.”

In Milan, the betrayal took a different form. The workers and soldiers, by their own actions, succeeded in wiping out the Nazi forces stationed in the city. General Reggiero, Badoglio’s commanding officer, frightened to death by this success, hastened to proclaim the city as surrendered to the Nazis at a time when the Nazi army had not even reached the outskirts of the city. He reached an agreement with the Nazi commanders and proceeded to maintain “order” in the Milan area for the Nazis! The workers continued their resistance; two days later the Nazis took over the counter-revolutionary work themselves.

The Anglo-American imperialists did not limit themselves to mere moral encouragement of Badoglio and his generals in this butcher’s work. They made no attempt to impede Nazi forces from pouring into Italy. As a matter of fact, they facilitated their entrance through the use of the Allied air force. Gaetano Salvemini voiced his indignation at their brutal counter-revolutionary work in a special interview published in PM on October 10, 1943:

“America sent bombers to bomb the people of Milan, Genoa, Turin in August to smash the revolution. There were demonstrations in the streets, but instead of bombing the Brenner Pass, through which the German army was pouring in, America bombed the Italians. Badoglio’s soldiers wouldn’t shoot Italian demonstrators: So we sent bombers—American liberators.”

This saturation bombing of the revolutionary centers was so scandalous, it showed so unmistakably that the political war of the Allies, the war to destroy the European revolution took precedence over the imperialist war with Germany, that even some of the British laborites like Anuerin Bevan protested in the British Parliament, bluntly accusing the Churchill government of being counter-revolutionary.

Thus, in the very midst of the imperialist slaughter, the imperialist leaders reached out across the battle lines, to establish collaboration, and each in his own way and in the manner available, rained blows on the first large-scale attempt of the European workers in the second World War to throw off the yoke of despotism, to break out of the bloody ring, and to take their destinies into their own hands.

It was only towards the middle of September, only after the Nazis had occupied most of Italy, only after the Black Shirts dared show their faces in the streets again, only after the workers were hurled back to the defensive, that the Allies breathed freely again. The crisis, they thought, was over. The revolution had been crushed, they thought, with the timely and blessed assistance of the Nazis, through their conspiracy with Badoglio.

Today, thousands of American and British soldiers are dying in savage battles in Italy. For what? In an attempt to win back the territories that Churchill and Roosevelt helped Badoglio hand over to the Nazis last September.

Only after the Anglo-American imperialists were convinced that the situation was beginning to stabilize along “normal” lines and felt that they could manipulate the political situation in their own imperialist interests, did they proceed to launch the military campaign against the Nazis.

The military strategy was obviously aligned in every detail with their political aims and purposes. The Allies moved at a measured, leisurely, and phlegmatic pace, solidifying each new position before proceeding further not only from a military point of view, but what was even more important from the political point of view. Even though Italy is a secondary military battlefield of the second World War, and the number of troops engaged is relatively small, the whole Italian campaign provides a clear and instructive example of how military strategy is subordinated and, as a matter of fact, determined by the basic political aims of the ruling class waging the war. Just as Salvemini had predicted, the Anglo-American imperialists now proceeded to put into effect, step by step, their whole counter-revolutionary program of converting Italy into a semi-colony and imposing on its people a military dictatorship based on the monarchy, the Vatican and the capitalist and landlord cliques.

Every upper class organization in Italy, the brass hats, the Vatican, the church hierarchy, the monarchy, the big capitalists and landlords had all thoroughly discredited themselves with the whole of the Italian people, through 20 years association, support and participation in the Fascist regime. Their hands were soaked with the people’s blood. The only forces which could possibly enjoy a certain credit, a certain support among masses of the population were the Allies themselves. Unquestionably, in the first days, considerable sections of the Italian people were fooled by Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s professed aims of “liberation” and “democracy” and really welcomed the Allied armies.

The Allies manipulated these illusions of the Italian people to wage against them, as soon as they had cleared a given territory of the Nazi forces, a virtual war, now masked, now open, to violate their wishes, and to impose upon them a government of the self-same elements that made up the warp and woof of the Mussolini regime.

“Democracies” and Sicily

The Allies had already acquired a certain experience in this dastardly work. In Sicily, the Amgot first went into action under the chairmanship of Lord Rennell of Rodd, British millionaire banker, partner of Morgan Grenfell, London affiliate of J.P. Morgan and Co., and bosom friend of Volpi, one of Mussolini’s financial backers.

Rennell and his gang of dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries proceeded to install what Salvemini has designated as “fascism minus Mussolini.” On July 18, a week before the fall of Mussolini, General Alexander, then Allied Military Governor of Sicily issued a proclamation ordering the dissolution of the Fascist party. The decree outlined the new government in the following manner:

“All administrative and judicial officials of provinces and communities and all other government municipal functionaries and employees, and all officers and employees of the state, municipal or other public services except such officials and political leaders as are removed by me are required to continue in performance of their duties subject to my direction.”

This of course meant that the Black Shirt set-up was preserved virtually intact.

Herbert L. Matthews, New York Times correspondent, described how this policy operated in practice. In the reorganized government apparatus of Palermo, Sicily’s largest city, every official included was a fascist and appointed by the fascists. Matthews explains:

“There must be a great degree of leniency, because every post, however insignificant, had been filled under Premier Mussolini, by a fascist. To eliminate all the fascists would completely paralyze every function of the government. The real anti-fascists here do not like that so much. Apparently they had expected the whole fascist set-up to be swept away, but that is impossible and will be so throughout Italy ... Naturally the primary consideration was the swift restoration of law and order. That could toe accomplished; only with the help of the Italian police.”

Amgot also announced that they were ready to bring the blessings of democracy to the Sicilians and that “within the limits of military necessity a free press and free speech is to be allowed, but that no political activity of any kind will be allowed.” Salvemini correctly demanded to know: “How can free speech and a free press exist if no political activity of any kind is allowed?”

Matthews summed up the Amgot method several weeks later in an article in the August 22 New York Times Magazine. There was first fear among the Fascists, Matthews explains, “that the Allies would prosecute them because they were Fascists.” He then adds:

“In Sicily we have demonstrated that we have no such intention, for the obvious reason that something like 90 percent of the administration in every walk of life is Fascist and to eliminate all Fascists would mean complete paralysis and chaos ...”

Matthews sums up: “Fascism is being destroyed—at least on paper.”

All the old, moth-eaten, cynical imperialist formulas were dragged out once again to alibi this act of betrayal—“Military necessity,” humanitarian considerations ( “saving human lives” ), “no politics until the Nazis are driven out,” etc., etc.,—all the hollow phrases that had been employed before in North Africa in the case of the Darlan Deal. But here even the pretext that allegedly existed in North Africa was lacking, inasmuch as all military activities had ceased. Upon the signing of the Armistice, the Allies had complete undisputed control of the Mediterranean.

Once the full meaning of Amgot policy was understood, its effect on the Sicilian population can easily be imagined. The disillusionment must have been especially sweeping, after the revolutionary upsurge in the mainland and the open Allied support of Badoglio and the King. An article signed “A Combatant” printed in the British Observer at the end of October 1943 depicted the disillusionment and despair engendered by the cold blooded Amgot policy even among the Allied soldiers themselves. This article stated:

“The writer has personal knowledge of a case in which two members of the OVRA—the Fascist secret police—were arrested, sent off to the local Amgot headquarters, and returned twenty-four hours later as qualified Amgot officials to the same town which they had bossed for the Fascists.

“Military expediency may provide a sound reason for decisions taken in certain cases, but there is an unmistakable worried feeling among the troops that something has gone wrong—even that they have been misled.”

Toward the end of October, four months after the military occupation of Sicily and one month after the signing of the Armistice, the Allied Military Government first issued its decree restoring the Camera del Lavoro, the trade union Center in Palermo.

This decree was at first hailed by several British and American trade union bureaucrats as a restoration of the pre-fascist trade unions. Once the actual decree was published, it was obvious that the Allies were attempting to perpetuate Mussolini’s system of government — sponsored company unions. The decree provided for:

  1. The director and staff of the Center are to be appointed under AMG supervision instead of elected by the union members.
  2. Present wage contracts—negotiated by Fascist officials and employers—remain in force.
  3. All public meetings remain banned by AMG.
  4. If any disagreements arise on wages or working conditions, they are subject to compulsory arbitration. Strikes and lockouts are strictly forbidden and will be punished.

This new trade union restoration was on a par with the previous “restoration” of freedom of press and speech. It fully tallied with Mark Twain’s aphorism that freedom of speech is something you’ve got provided you don’t use it. Even the Sicilia Liberata, the only newspaper permitted to appear in Sicily (Mussolini, too, permitted that kind of freedom of press) came out with sharp criticisms of the new decree.

In an editorial entitled Cards on the Table the newspaper stated:

“All positions of responsibility must be held by proven antifascists. This is the appeal we made to the Allied authorities. This is no time to take a middle course. To entrust positions of authority to those who tomorrow would become our executioners would be a grave and unforgivable error. The time has come to assume the responsibilities for our own future.”

It is easy to imagine the reaction of the Sicilians to Allied occupation and Amgot policy when the only paper permitted to appear speaks in terms of bitter complaint.

The vile hypocrisy with which the Allies carry through their dictatorial reactionary policies is well illustrated by an incident reported in the pro-Allied, pro-Roosevelt, pro-war, Daily Worker of January 13, 1944. Charles Poletti, then military Governor of Palermo, opened the new City Hall in the latter part of November and hailed in his address the “rebirth of Italian democracy.” He elaborated on the “new era of dignity—the dignity of free men — begins for the people of Palermo.” But it turned out that the new mayor and city council had all been hand-picked by Poletti himself; they were all either dukes, lawyers and men of wealth who had for 20 years supported Mussolini. “Not a single anti-fascist was among them,” says the Daily Worker.

Such is the democracy which the Allied military occupation authorities have devised in Sicily. Freedom of press—with only one newspaper permitted to appear; freedom of speech—with all public meetings banned; freedom of trade unions—with all union officials appointed by Amgot, and with the old contracts imposed during Mussolini’s regime remaining in full force, with all grievances subject to compulsory arbitration, with all strikes banned and severely punished; the “rebirth of Italian democracy” —with all public officials appointed by Amgot, from among the wealthy landlords and capitalists, the bulwark of Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

This was the type of regime that the Allies aimed to impose on the whole of Italy. But a regime of this type proved far more difficult to force on all Italy than on small, predominantly agricultural and backward Sicily. And what is more, much to Allied chagrin, a revolution, not called for in their schedule, erupted on the mainland; it was checked only with the greatest difficulty and only by turning over the bulk of Italy to the Nazi butchers. The Allies could not proceed on the mainland in the same crude manner as in Sicily, lest they provoke armed clashes between their military forces and the native population of every village, hamlet and city. They had watched Hitler’s occupation methods and learned how difficult it is to subdue a hostile population, by naked military force alone. Far more expedient is to rule through a subservient native government, which bears the onus of imposing “law and order” on the sullen and rebellious populace.

Churchill himself had made this thoroughly clear in his eloquent speech to Parliament when the Italian masses first took to the streets. On July 27, Churchill said:

“Now that Mussolini has gone and the Fascist power has certainly been irretrievably broken, we would be foolish to deprive ourselves of any means of coming to a general conclusion with tie Italian nation ... Past experience shows that in cases of great change of heart and character in government of a nation very often one stage is rapidly succeeded by another ... It would be a grave mistake when Italian affairs are in this flexible, fluid and formative condition for the rescuing power of Britain and the United States so to act as to break down the whole structure and expression of the Italian state. We certainly do not wish to reduce Italian life to a condition of chaos and anarchy, and find ourselves without any authority with whom to deal ...”

Churchill and Roosevelt after the signing of the Armistice on September 3 were fully embarked on their campaign against “chaos and anarchy” and for the restoration of “law and order.” They began to impose their counter-revolutionary regime step by step on the Italian people by strengthening and buttressing the authority of Badoglio and the decrepit monarchy, by strengthening the authority of the Vatican and the church hierarchy, by attempting to provide the discredited upper class scum, with a reconstituted military force.

On September 21, ten days after the Armistice had been made public, Churchill came out flat-footedly for the government of Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel. In his report to the House of Commons, Churchill stated:

“It is necessary ... that all the surviving forces in Italy’s national life should be rallied together around their government and that the King and Marshal Badoglio should be supported by liberal and left-wing elements ...”

Roosevelt sent Adolph A. Berle, Assistant Secretary of State to the Columbus Day meeting of the Italian-American Committee in Boston, with a personal message calling upon labor to throw its support behind the Badoglio government. Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel were afforded the facilities of the Allied radio to broadcast their propaganda to the Italian people, while everybody else was gagged and anyone attempting to speak thrown into jail.

On September 22, Badoglio, feeling more confident, with the Anglo-American bayonets propping his government, told the Italian people over the Allied radio that “The King, the royal family are the expression of the will of the Italian people.” On October 2 the King ordered the people to obey Badoglio as “the interpreter of my will.” The King apparently had plans of staying on for a while to come:

“Yesterday, as always, your King is with you, indissolubly linked with the destiny of the immortal fatherland.”

On October 1 the Allied armies entered Naples. There was no military encounter with the Nazis. The Italian anti-Fascists had just finished a savage four-day battle with the Nazi invaders; the Nazis facing an Allied attack in the midst of this hostile and aggressive population, decided the better part of valor was to retire. Hal Boyle, the Associated Press correspondent received the following description of the events from Umberto Franco, a local glass manufacturer:

“Street fighting broke out after the Germans ordered the citizens to give up their guns and told 30,000 Italian men to report for labor conscription on September 24.”

Mme. Maleville, Secretary to the Naples Hospital, reported that:

“The civil war started last Saturday while the Germans were burning and looting the city of everything they could take. The people took up guns, knives and anything they could and fought the Germans and the Fascists who still supported them. There have been hundreds and hundreds of persons wounded.”

Hal Boyle who entered Naples with the Allied troops described the anti-fascists as “young Italian guerrillas, fighting with collars open and no helmets, looked like something out of the French Revolution.” Boyle states that “the whole (Naples) Battle was fought without a single American casualty.” Herbert L. Matthews in his cable to the New York Times on the Naples battle spoke of the conduct of the Italian anti-fascists in rapturous terms: “an episode of genuine heroism.”

In a later dispatch Matthews reported:

“When Badoglio’s government announced its armistice on September 8, the people rose joyously. All that night and all the following day they had the Germans on the run. The Germans were surrendering their arms to Italians ... Had Naples been properly organized ... it would have made all the difference. However, there was no anti-fascist organization ... So the Germans quickly regained control, but they did it with the help of fascist hierarchs and above all many fascist Black Shirts. Those Black Shirts became marked men ... When those days of reckoning came, everyone of those Black Shirts ... met death at the hands of the citizens. They were willing to take the Germans alive ... because after all they were doing only what they had been ordered to do. But when the Italians caught a Black Shirt, he died.”

The Events in Naples

The Naples proletariat showed again that the Italian revolution had not been crushed; it had been merely delayed. The Naples proletariat revealed those traits that the workers have displayed again and again in every real people’s revolution: their genius for organization and their contempt for death. Unfortunately, they had not had the time to organize themselves politically and build a leadership that expressed their revolutionary aspirations and aims.

Matthews correctly states that the Neapolitan masses could have been organized to drive out the Nazis when the armistice was announced. The Allies were interested in just the opposite. They were determined that the Italian proletariat remain disorganized and unarmed, and if necessary they were willing to turn them over temporarily to the tender mercies of the Nazi wolves.

What the Nazis were unable to accomplish, the Allies quickly achieved: they disarmed the Neapolitan masses (after all, were they not “liberators” ?) and proceeded to restore “law and order.” They now proceeded to carry through their perfidious program with the greatest possible energy. Naples had been occupied militarily. It was now indispensable to conquer it politically and convert it into a solid bastion of reaction.

On October 13, one month after Italy’s “unconditional surrender” and the imposition of armistice terms, reported by the correspondents as harsher than those Hitler imposed on France, the Allies suddenly announced that Italy was recognized as a “co-belligerent” and would be a partner of the Allies, albeit a minor one. This time, Roosevelt and Churchill had succeeded in having their counter-revolutionary schemes underwritten by Stalin. The Mediterranean Commission, composed of representatives of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, was set up. From now on, the counter-revolutionary program in Italy was to have the full endorsement of the Kremlin bureaucracy. Stalin fittingly appointed Alexander Vyshinski, prosecutor in the infamous Moscow frame-up trials, as his representative.

All correspondents freely admitted that the new Allied stratagem was devoid of military significance. Its purpose was exclusively political — to bolster the shadow Badoglio government and to provide it with an ostensible military purpose for creating a new army.

Badoglio took the occasion to inform the Italian people that he was going to stay on indefinitely as their minister:

“The present government has clearly defined the task of leading the country until peace has been won. With that its mandate will cease.”

From the day of the recognition of the Badoglio regime as a co-belligerent in the Allied camp, dates a whole series of incidents, suppressions, arrests, etc., in the systematic war of the Allies and their Badoglio shadow government against the Italian people.

On October 21, Herbert L. Matthews suddenly revealed that three prominent liberals of Apulia were jailed for printing and disseminating an “unauthorized newspaper.” Matthews apologetically explains that he is recording the incident “because it has created such a sensation and such unhappy bewilderment in liberal circles here.” We learn that in Southern Italy, as in Sicily, only one newspaper is permitted, in this case the Gazetta del Mezzogiorno. “A group of important liberals who had suffered imprisonment under Fascism say that they tried to get their ideas published in the Gazetta but failed.” Matthews further revealed that on the same day, “A communist named Senisi also was arrested for disseminating a sheet called Civilta Communista.”

In his next day’s dispatch Matthews reported that Count Sforza who had just arrived from the United States was “saddened” by the “vestiges of Fascism that cling to official life in Allied-occupied Italy and the machinations of the court circle.”

For an old monarchist politician to oppose the Badoglio regime so demonstratively upon his arrival in Italy, to so sharply change his tone from the statement he issued on leaving the United States when he told newspapermen that it would be “almost an act of treason” to oppose the Badoglio government and that loyal support should be given Badoglio as long as he enjoys the confidence of the Anglo-American leaders — this change of front shows eloquently enough what the political temper of Naples must be.

But in spite of the mounting dissatisfaction and indignation of the masses, the Badoglio regime for the first time began to breathe freely. The Italian capitalists were finally resting on Anglo-American bayonets. On November 3, King Victor Emmanuel, for the first time since the downfall of Mussolini, dared show himself in public. The King rode through the streets of Naples in what was intended to be a monarchist demonstration. Matthews explained:

“At present, as long as the Allied Military Mission sits at the King’s side, he is immune ... Since the Allies are preventing political agitation, whatever Marshal Badoglio and the King decide will stand up.”

A week later, Badoglio demonstratively announced that the new political government to be set up in Rome would be “formed by the King.”

On November 9, it was reported that the units of anti-Fascist volunteers, which had been set up in Naples, since the October days, had been ordered disbanded, and that the men would be drafted into the regular Italian army under General Basso, “one of the King’s generals.” Basso is a reactionary monarchist officer who served as director general of Artillery under Mussolini.

It was further decreed that “the cross of Savoy over the left breast pocket” was to be placed on every soldier’s uniform and that “all vehicles are also marked with the cross of King Victor Emmanuel’s house.”

On November 22, Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, announced that he had named General Basso as head of the new Italian Military Command “over all Italian armed forces in Campania.” The appointment comes from “the Royal Italian government with my approval,” General Alexander’s order stated.

The drive to reimpose on the Italian people a naked military dictatorship became so sustained, all-sided, energetic and brazen that by November 22, only a month after he arrived in Italy, Sforza was already loudly accusing the Badoglio government of striving to build a “royalist-clerical-neo-Fascist movement.”

The “Blue Party”

While anti-fascists were being clapped into jail, while all anti-fascist activity was prohibited, the upper class scum highlighted their activity by attempts to organize again “punitive expeditions” as during Mussolini’s regime and by a new ambitious venture to reconstitute themselves as a political force. On November 26, the Associated Press carried the following information:

“The Monarchist ‘Blue Party’, newest group to enter Italy’s political arena, opened a high-pressure campaign today to rally support to the shaky cause of the Royal House of Savoy ... Placards calling on the people to rally to the monarch ... 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 ...”

The November 26 dispatch to the New York Times stated that Professor Omadeo, rector of Naples University, related:

“That much of the poster-erecting is being done by Carabinieri, sometimes in civilian clothes, at the orders of the military ... Other reliable quarters have given further evidence of what used to be called Squadrism—which is now being practiced by elements that must be considered the equivalent of Fascists—such as threats to burn houses, or to beat, and in one notable case, to kill known anti-fascists.”

The Monarchist “Blue Party” has its genesis in the Nationalist Party which was organized in Florence in 1910, with a program in American terms similar to a combination of the programs of the Navy League, the NAM and the American Legion. By 1921, the Nationalist Movement was accepted by Mussolini as a “parallel movement” in a common struggle. After the march on Rome, the Fascists having adopted all the tenets of Nationalism, the two parties merged.

Salvemini described the Nationalist Party as monarchist, militarist, aristocratic, anti-parliamentarian, protectionist, and favoring an alliance between the church and state:

“It was the party of toe general staff of the army and navy and big business ... Now that the Fascist Party has been discredited by all kinds of disasters, the old Nationalist Party renamed the Blue Party, has been revived under the wings of the AMG.”

This all-out campaign of reaction reached a climax when a unit of Italian soldiers was thrown into an attack on the Nazi lines. The New York Herald Tribune correspondent described the action as “little short of suicide ... 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.”

But the battle had a political, not a military purpose. It was widely advertised that the Crown Prince had flown over the enemy lines, “a trip which takes courage and demonstrates a general desire to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the people.” Salvemini correctly appraised the significance of this military action of December 8:

“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.”

Wooing the Vatican

Parallel with the attempt to recreate the old Monarchist party, to build up a military force at the disposal of the Big Business clique around Badoglio and the House of Savoy, and to suppress every manifestation of democracy, democratic rights and the independent organization and activity of the masses, went the attempt to build up the power of the Vatican and to increase its hold over the Italian people.

Shortly after the conquest of Sicily, General Alexander, the then military governor of Sicily, held a conference with Cardinal Laritiano, Archbishop of Palermo, and proposed that the public schools be reopened and proceed with their educational work “under the direction of the ecclesiastical authorities.” The reactionary depth of this proposal can be appreciated when we recall that the Italian public schools, even during Mussolini’s regime, have never been surrendered to the supervision of the clergy. The AMG thus tried to put over the program long cherished and advocated by the Vatican, of destroying the separation of church and state and putting all education under the control of the Catholic church—the powerhouse of reaction and obscurantism.

The New York Herald Tribune carried information on October 8 from Naples that:

“All schools remained closed, but the AMG will permit Catholic schools to reopen soon. The religious schools have received priority because the AMG feels that Catholic textbooks and teachers are less imbued with fascist doctrines.”

What lying scoundrels! Salvemini has demonstrated long ago that “books sent to this country for use in Italian-language parochial schools are stuffed with Fascist propaganda, and the Church has never objected.” As a matter of fact, why should the Catholic church object? The Pope considers the ruthless dictatorship of Salazar in Portugal as the “model Christian state,” the regime of the butcher Franco as ordained by God. The October 11 New York Times carried the following information :

“Mass was celebrated today at the Cathedral of San Gennaro in the presence of Alessio Cardinal Ascalesi, with Lieut. General Mark W. Clark and other high American officers in attendance.”

Salvemini correctly pointed out:

“... Attending mass officially with one’s retinue to the presence of a cardinal is not a religious observance. It is a political act. Cardinal Ascalesi is a man who has been discredited throughout Italy by his unbridled greed for money and his consistent servility to Fascism ... To Italians such a gesture could only imply that General Clark had been instructed to encourage some brand of clerical Fascism in Italy.”

The AMG is trying to restore the political power of the Vatican, not as it existed even under the Mussolini regime, but as it existed a century ago, before the Italian Risorgimento. United States imperialism, brash and arrogant, even ventures at times to flaunt its imperial aims and boast of its imperial power. We must go back to the writings in Britain of Disraeli’s day to find a suitable counterpart. Demaree Bess, on numerous occasions a semi-official spokesman of the State Department, afforded special privileges and confidential data by the State Department officials in North Africa and elsewhere, wrote an article printed in the October 30 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, under the self-confident title: Power Politics Succeeded in Italy. He discards all pretense, all diplomatic double talk, he casts aside all the apologetics and alibis and not only reveals but defends American imperialism and its quest for power. He writes:

“Most Americans have an ingrained distrust of power politics—those maneuvers through which clever statesmen get what they want from foreign countries by reinforcing their political negotiations with military pressure. And yet the American people have three times elected as our President a man who takes the keenest interest in power politics, and who is one of its most resourceful and successful practitioners.

“... The two allied statesmen were indeed negotiating with conservative Italians who had collaborated with Fascism and with Germany; they were trying to make ‘another Darlan deal’ in Italy. Where the critics made themselves appear ludicrous was in asserting that power politics wouldn’t work ... It is a cold-blood game, having nothing whatever to do with ideologies or crusades. It is the kind of game which Hitler and Stalin played when they struck a bargain with each other in 1939.

“... The men whom the Allied governments selected to abolish Fascism in Sicily were not the type to be rash in interpreting this directive. Most of them are conservative or moderate in their political views and this is particularly true of the higher ranks. Our soldiers thus invaded Italian territory with the effective slogan: ‘Abolish Fascism!’ but with such a conservative policy otherwise that it amounted to the freezing of the status quo in Sicily, once Mussolini’s personal party machine had been destroyed. The decks were thus cleared for negotiations with any group inside Italy which could get rid of Mussolini ... those hostile critics who complained that Allied statesmen were making another Darlan deal were, therefore, not unjustified in their contention, because our deal with Marshal Badoglio was indeed the same kind of deal ... This time, however, allied statesmen arranged to obtain in advance Marshal Stalin’s approval of their agreement with Italian military leaders ...”

With what results have the Anglo-American imperialists labored in the vineyard? What successes have they achieved in their program of counter-revolution, political suppression, the recreation of a military dictatorship and clerical and monarchical restoration? The results are very tenuous; their hold very uneasy. The waging of war upon the Italian population has produced a political crisis of the greatest tension and explosive power. Every political observer, regardless of his political beliefs, has asserted that once the Allied military are withdrawn, the Badoglio government will be blown skyhigh. It does not enjoy the slightest semblance of popular support. It faces instead the hostility of all classes of Italian society, except for the thin layer of the very wealthy. This is proved by every public manifestation, where the masses have had an opportunity to voice their feelings and demands and by the fact that prior to the Kremlin’s latest betrayal not one political figure, including a conservative monarchist like Senator Croce, could be found to associate himself or join with the Badoglio government and the House of Savoy.

“To find an exponent of the Royalist viewpoint,” wrote the New York Times correspondent, “it was necessary to go to the military ranks, for there is no civilian among the politically active elements who is not against Victor Emmanuel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The above analysis of the counter-revolutionary alignments in Italy comprises the first section of E.R. Frank’s review of the events in Italy since the downfall of Mussolini. The struggle of the Italian masses against the Nazis in the North and the Badoglio regime in the South, together with other aspects of the Italian political scene, in particular the new Stalinist policy toward Badoglio and the King will be discussed in a subsequent article. [1])


Note by ETOL

1. This article seems not to have been published—at least we have so far been unable to trace it as it does not appear to have been published in Fourth International.

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