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John G. Wright

“Escape” of Fascist General Rocks
Bonomi Regime in Italy

(17 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 11, 17 March 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Bonomi government, whose precarious reign has been marked by increasing mass misery recurring scandals and political crises, tottered last week as thousands of Italian workers bearing Red flags demonstrated outside the Quirinal Palace in Rome. They later marched to the government headquarters to present a written demand to Bonomi that he resign.

The immediate cause of the demonstration and the resulting political crisis was the “escape” of the notorious fascist General Mario Roatta from a military hospital. Roatta had been transferred there on the pretext of “heart trouble” in the midst of a month-old trial.

Roatta’s Record

All the circumstances surrounding the Roatta case serve to expose the cynical pretense that the Bonomi government is conducting any sort of struggle against the fascists and their accomplices. Roatta was one of Mussolini’s most, trusted henchmen. Italian workers know him as one of their bitterest enemies. He was one of the cruel butchers of the Ethiopians.

When Mussolini sent his Black Shirt detachments to help Franco in Spain, Roatta was placed in command. He ordered helpless refugees on the roads machine-gunned. He later added to his bestial record of repressions in the Balkans, where his activities led to his being classified among the “war criminals” sought by the Yugoslav and Greek partisans.

Mussolini, in one of his last moves to preserve his rule, appointed Roatta as Chief of Staff. In the revelations since Mussolini’s downfall it has been established that Rotta was the bloody head of the secret spy machine whose assignment, was the murder of anti-fascists abroad. Specifically he is implicated in the assassination of the anti-fascist Roselli brothers, organizers of the Action Party,

After the collapse of Mussolini, this criminal turned up not on the gallows but in the Badoglio government, where he resumed his post of Chief of Staff. Despite vehement protests, he was not removed from this post until September 1944. Thereafter he escaped arrest for several more months.

When apprehended by the antifascists in November 1944, he was saved from summary justice at the workers’ hands by the authorities who succeeded in placing him in the Regina Coeli jail. Next came months of postponement before he was finally placed on trial. Then followed the legal farce, the brazen transfer to a military hospital, and his easy walkout.

The complicity of the Bonomi government is underscored by the fact that the chief of the Carabinieri, entrusted with “guarding” Roatta, was a general who had served on Roatta’s staff. The removal of this general after Roatta’s escape is a public admission of his guilt.

The telltale threads in the Roatta case go beyond the Bonomi government straight to the House of Savoy. It is no secret that Roatta was – and is – close to King Victor Emmanuel. Nor were the Italian demonstrators unaware of this. They made their protest against the fascist protectors and collaborators under the windows of the royal residence at the Quirinal.

But Roatta and his vile breed have more highly placed protectors. The Allied authorities cannot evade their responsibility. How anxious Churchill, for example, is to thwart the will of the Italian masses is clearly evidenced by his insistence upon the removal of Sforza as head of the committee in charge of the trials of the fascists. Even the conservative Sforza was not to be entrusted with so delicate a matter!

Nor is it hard to understand why. The entire ruling class of Italy is besmirched and compromised after twenty years of direct collaboration with Mussolini and his thugs. Very few Italian capitalists, least of all the royalty, could escape their lives if a half-serious attempt were undertaken to weed out the criminal crew.

It also provided the occasion for further revealing the treacherous role of the Stalinists. They first sought to divert the rage of the masses by confining action to a protest meeting in the Colosseum and a peaceful demonstration. But as the workers marched to the Quirinal Palace they were met by mounted Carabinieri, perhaps the same ones that helped Rotta escape. When the charge with drawn swords failed to disperse the angry demonstrators, they were subjected to grenades, rifle fire and sub-machine-gun volleys. One man was killed and a score wounded.

The Stalinist, Socialist and Action Party leaders alike thereupon felt that they were obliged to demand Bonomi’s resignation. Among the signatures appended to this demand was that of Velio Spano, editor of l’Unità and member of the Stalinist Central Committee. But it was Stalinist intervention that saved the utterly discredited Bonomi government, Stalinist Togliatti, the Kremlin’s agent in Italy, insisted that a reshuffle would suffice. A four man commission – a liberal, a Stalinist, a Christian-Democrat and a “labor democrat,” – has now been appointed to supervise the “purge.”

Meanwhile Roatta remains at large. As if to emphasize the mockery, the High Court has continued his trial in absentia.

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