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M. Morrison

On Italian Slogan: “For the Republic”

(5 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 18, 5 May 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In The Militant of March 17 there was published the program of the Workers Communist Party of Italy, the party of Italian Trotskyism. The first demand of that program was the abolition of the monarchy and institution of a democratic republic.

I am of the opinion that our Italian comrades are absolutely correct and have followed the best traditions of revolutionary Marxism in making the demand for the abolition of the monarchy and the institution of a democratic republic, at the present time, one of the basic demands of their platform. The American party has taken no position on the question and since there are differences of opinion among the party members, I wish to emphasize that I am speaking only for myself and those who agree with me in giving whole-hearted support to the slogan for the abolition of the monarchy and the institution of a democratic republic.

Accepting, as we do, the term “democratic republic” as indicating a capitalist democratic republic, is there not a contradiction between the fact that the Italian Trotskyists stand for a Soviet republic in Italy and for a Socialist United States of Europe and their demand for a democratic republic? Absolutely no contradiction whatever. Just as there is no contradiction in fighting for the abolition of the capitalist system and at the same time struggling for higher wages under the capitalist system.

* * *

When the German army was driven out of Naples in October 1943 and when Rome fell to the Allies in June 1944 the Italian masses clearly showed their hostility to the monarchy. The capitalists, the church, the Allies rallied to the support of the monarchy, basing themselves on the proposition that the monarchy would constitute a rallying center for all the conservative and reactionary layers of the population to struggle against any possible revolution.

Relic of Feudalism

To the masses the monarchy was especially hateful because it was closely tied to their hated enemy, fascism and Mussolini. The King had supported Mussolini and only when he saw that the war was lost did he consent to the ousting of the fascist regime. The masses had to tolerate the monarchy only because it was supported by the bayonets of the Allies.

That Trotskyists fight with the masses against such a reactionary institution as the monarchy must be taken for granted. We are for greater and ever greater democracy for the masses. The institution of an hereditary monarchy is a relic of feudalism and contrary to all principles of democracy.

If a democratic demand is important for us under normal circumstances, how much more important does it become when the masses are aroused over it and are willing to struggle to achieve it? That our Italian comrades gave the demand for a democratic republic first place on their platform is an indication that the Italian masses deeply resent the continued existence of the monarchy. Our comrades in Italy, understanding the mood of the masses, had no hesitation in raising the slogan for the abolition of the monarchy and the institution of a democratic republic. It is undoubtedly one of the most important slogans from the viewpoint of setting the masses into motion to struggle against the capitalist class and all its open and veiled supporters.

* * *

The Stalinist and Socialist parties also claim that they are against the monarchy. But ever since the fall of Mussolini they have taken an equivocal attitude, one which is against the monarchy in words but not in deeds. If a serious party is against the monarchy it refuses to enter a cabinet which supports that institution. The Bonomi cabinet is that kind of a cabinet. Less hypocritical than the Stalinists, the Socialists have refused to enter the present Bonomi Government. In reality however they play the same deceitful role as the Stalinists, but not so openly and brazenly. Supported by the prestige of the Soviet Union the Stalinists are bolder in their support of reactionary institutions.

Expose Reformists

The slogan and struggle against the monarchy and for a democratic republic can very well serve the purpose of exposing the reformist parties for what they actually are – supporters of the capitalist system. If a party claims that it is socialist how does it come that it tolerates a monarchy that once worked so closely with Mussolini?

* * *

But some may say to the Italian Trotskyists: we are with you when you are against the monarchy but why do you ask for a democratic republic? Why don’t you limit yourselves to demanding a Soviet republic?

Answering such critics the Italian Trotskyists would undoubtedly say: Of course we are for a Soviet republic and for the Socialist United States of Europe, but unfortunately we do not have a majority of the masses behind us. We say to the masses that we are for a Soviet republic but we also say to them that the majority of the workers are not with us as yet but they are for the abolition of the monarchy and for a democratic republic. We must ask them to fight with us at least for a democratic republic. We do not create any illusions that such a republic will solve their problems but it is a step forward insofar as it mobilizes the masses for struggle and will help them go forward to the establishment of a workers’ republic.

These critics would place us in the position of saying that we are for the overthrow of the monarchy only on condition that a Soviet Republic replaces it immediately. And since the majority of the workers arc not with us it would in effect mean that we would be willing to let the monarchy continue. This would be far from the political tactics as practiced by Lenin and Trotsky.

* * *

Slogan Correct

As I write the German army is rapidly evacuating Northern Italy. Millions of industrial workers will enter upon the scene of Italian politics. They do not want the monarchy and they may settle that question very quickly. They may settle it in the best way possible – by establishing their own power. The situation may develop to a point where our comrades in Italy will no longer give the slogan for a democratic republic the important place they have given it up to now.

The slogan may be dropped altogether, for under conditions when the masses are ready to take power, the slogan can acquire a reactionary content. But all that is a matter for the future – even though the immediate future.

When our comrades adopted the slogan in favor of the democratic republic they were correct in doing so, under the conditions then prevailing. They have thus shown the ability to judge events and conditions and to adopt the correct slogans at the proper time.

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