Fourth Congress of the Communist International - Resolutions 1922

Resolution on the Italian Question

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (, pp. 1138-1142.
Translation: Translations by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission.

The Second and Third World Congresses of the Communist International have already had to take up the Italian question in detail. The Fourth Congress is in a position to review some of the results.

At the end of the imperialist World War, the situation in Italy was objectively revolutionary. The bourgeoisie had lost hold of the reins. The bourgeois state apparatus had broken down. The ruling class was unsure of itself. All the working masses were enraged by the war and, in various parts of the country, were in open insurrection. Important sectors of the peasantry began to rise up against the landowners and the state, and they were inclined to support the working class in revolutionary struggle. The soldiers were against the war and ready to join with the workers.

The objective preconditions for a victorious revolution were in place. What was lacking was the most important subjective factor: a determined, battle-ready, self-confident, revolutionary workers’ party, that is, a genuine Communist party, which would have decisively taken leadership of the masses.

Broadly speaking, the situation was similar at the end of the war in almost all the belligerent countries. The failure of the working class to achieve victory in the decisive countries in 1919 – 20 is attributable to the lack of a revolutionary workers’ party. This was most strikingly the case in Italy, the country where revolution was knocking at the door, and which has now plunged into the deepest abyss of counter-revolution.

The occupation of the factories by the Italian workers in the autumn of 1920 was a decisive moment in the course of the class struggle in Italy. The Italian workers were pressing instinctively toward resolving the crisis in a revolutionary fashion. The absence of a revolutionary workers’ party, however, determined the fate of the working class, sealed its defeat in this moment, and prepared the ground for fascism’s present victory. Because such revolutionary leadership was absent, the working class did not display sufficient determination to take power into its hands when its strength was at its peak. As a result, after a certain period of time, the bourgeoisie, deadly enemy of the working class, acting through its most energetic wing, fascism, was able to put a pistol to the head of the working class and erect its dictatorship.

The Italian example has enormous importance. Nowhere has the historical role of the Communist party for world revolution been more graphically portrayed than in Italy, where the lack of such a party changed the course of history to the benefit of the bourgeoisie.

That is not to say that there was no workers’ party at all in Italy during these decisive years. The old Socialist Party had a large membership and, to all appearances, had strong influence. Nonetheless it sheltered in its bosom the reformist forces that crippled its every revolutionary step. Despite the initial split that took place in 1912 (expulsion of the extreme right) and the second split-off in 1914,[1] there were still a large number of reformists and centrists in the Socialist Party of Italy in 1919 – 20. In every decisive situation, the reformists and centrists were a dead weight on the party.

Nowhere was it as obvious as in Italy that the reformists are truly the most dangerous tools of the bourgeoisie in the camp of the working class.[2] They used every means possible to betray the working class to the bourgeoisie. Betrayals like those of the reformists during the factory occupation of 1920 have often been recorded in the history of reformism, which is an unbroken chain of betrayal.

The reformists are the real precursors of fascism; they prepared the way. The reformist betrayals are the primary cause of the dreadful suffering of the Italian working class. This class stands once again, so to speak, at the very beginning of its march to revolution, and must travel an immeasurably difficult path. And this is because the reformists were tolerated too long in the Italian party.

At the beginning of 1921, the majority of the Socialist Party broke with the Communist International. In Livorno the Centre preferred to break from the Communist International and from 58,000 Italian Communists in order not to have to break with 16,000 reformists.[3] Two parties were formed. The newly formed Communist Party decisively and resolutely took up the struggle against the bourgeoisie and all its reformist accomplices, but despite all its courage and devotion, it was too weak to lead the working class to victory. And there was the old Socialist Party, in which now, after Livorno, the pernicious influence of the reformists was even more decisive. The working class stood divided and powerless. With the aid of the reformists, the bourgeoisie gained control of the battlefield. This is when the capitalist offensive built up steam in both the economic and political arenas. Only after almost two full years of retreat and of uninterrupted and base betrayal by the reformists did the leaders of the party’s Centre current, under the pressure of the masses, see the disastrous error of their ways and declare themselves ready to draw the necessary conclusions.

Only in October 1922, at its Rome convention, did the Socialist Party expel the reformists. Matters had reached the point where the most prominent leaders of the reformists were now openly boasting that they had succeeded in sabotaging the revolution by staying in the Socialist Party and preventing it from taking action at all the crucial moments. The reformists left the ranks of the Socialist Party and passed over openly into the camp of the counter-revolution. They left behind them, among the masses, a feeling of powerlessness, dejection, and disappointment, and they greatly weakened the Socialist Party, both numerically and politically.

Three sad but instructive lessons of the Italian developments must be taken to heart by all class-conscious workers around the world: (1) Reformism is the enemy. (2) The vacillation and hesitation of the centrists is a mortal danger to the workers’ party. (3) The presence of a united and self-confident Communist party is the first precondition for victory in proletarian struggle. These are the lessons of the Italian struggle.

Given that the Socialist Party in Rome (October 1922) expelled the reformists from the party and declared its readiness to affiliate unconditionally to the Communist International, the Fourth Congress of the Communist International resolves:

1. The overall situation in Italy, especially following the victory of fascist reaction, urgently demands the rapid unification of all revolutionary proletarian forces. Italian workers will breathe more easily when, after the defeats and splits they have suffered, a new gathering of revolutionary forces gets under way.

2. The Communist International sends its fraternal greetings to the working class of Italy, which has been sorely tested. It is fully convinced of the honest revolutionary convictions of the Socialist Party of Italy, now freed of reformism, and resolves to admit the Socialist Party to the International.

3. The Fourth World Congress takes it for granted that the Twenty-One Conditions will be applied and instructs the Communist International Executive, in view of the developments in Italy, to watch with special care that these conditions are observed – with all that this implies.

4. After having learned of the speech of the parliamentary deputy Vella at the Rome convention, the Fourth World Congress decides that Vella and all those who agree with his viewpoint stand outside the future Communist Party of Italy.[4] The Fourth World Congress instructs the Central Committee of the Socialist Party of Italy to expel from the party all those who raise any objections against the Twenty-One Conditions.

5. Given that the Communist International Statutes allow only one section in a country, the Fourth World Congress resolves on the immediate unification of the Communist Party with the Socialist Party of Italy. The unified party will be named: ‘United Communist Party of Italy (Section of the Communist International)’.

6. To carry through this process of unification, the Fourth Congress names a special organisational committee composed of three members of each party, chaired by a member of the Executive. The elected members of this organisational committee are, from the Communist Party, comrades Tasca, Gramsci, and Scoccimarro; from the Socialist Party, comrades Serrati, Maffi, and Tonetti; from the Executive, Comrade Zinoviev; the Executive reserves the right to replace him, if necessary, by another of its members. The committee has to work out in Moscow all the conditions for unification and lead their implementation in Italy. In all disputed questions, the Executive will have the final decision.

7. Such organisational committees will also be formed in individual factories and large cities, with two comrades each from the Communist Party and Socialist Party and a chairman named by a representative of the Executive.

8. These organisational committees have the duty not only to prepare the fusion both centrally and locally but also from this point forward to lead the common political campaigns of both organisations.

9. In addition, a common trade union committee will be formed immediately, with the task of exposing in the Confederation of Labour [CGT] the betrayal of the Amsterdam forces and winning its majority for the Profintern. This committee too will consist of two representatives of each party plus a chairperson chosen by the Communist International Executive or by the organisational committee. The trade union committee will work under the direction and supervision of the organisational committee.

10. In the cities in which both a Communist and a Socialist newspaper exist, they must merge by 1 January 1923, at the latest. An editorial board of the official publication for the next year will be chosen by the Communist International Executive.

11. The fusion convention must be held at latest by the first half of March 1923. The Executive will decide whether, when, and under what conditions conventions of the two parties, with an informational and preparatory character, will take place before the fusion convention.[5]

12. The congress resolves to publish a manifesto on the question of unity, signed by the Presidium of the Fourth World Congress and the delegates of both parties to this congress, for immediate distribution.

13. The congress reminds all Italian comrades of the need for strict discipline. All comrades without exception are obligated to do their best to carry out the fusion with maximum speed and without difficulties. In the present situation, any breach of discipline is a crime against the Italian proletariat and the Communist International.


1. In 1912 the Italian SP expelled the rightist current that supported the Italian government in its war of colonial conquest in Libya. In 1914 the party expelled Freemasons from its ranks.

2. The Russian text reads ‘essentially no more than bourgeois agents in the camp of the working class’.

3. The Italian SP’s Livorno congress took place 15 – 21 January 1921, four months after the party had failed to give leadership to the half-million workers occupying factories during the great September strike wave. By January, fascist attacks, focused on the SP, had become a serious danger. In Livorno, the ECCI representatives demanded that the SP, a member of the Comintern since 1919, ratify the conditions for membership (Twenty-One Conditions) adopted by the Second World Congress five months previously. Serrati, leader of the SP majority current, insisted on the need to apply the conditions flexibly ‘in conformity with the context and the history of the country’. A left current, led by Bordiga, demanded their immediate and full application, particularly with regard to expulsion of the SP’s anti-Communist right wing. Serrati’s motion received 98,028 votes; that of the Left, 58,173 votes; that of the Right, 14,695. The Left current then withdrew from the congress and founded the Italian Communist Party.

4. The case of Arturo Vella is discussed in Zinoviev’s report on the Italian question, Toward the United Front, p. 1049.

5. The German edition of Fourth Congress resolutions contains an additional paragraph here, numbered as Point 12 (the final two paragraphs are numbered #13 and #14): ‘In present-day Italy, it has become absolutely necessary to carry out underground work. In this regard, the comrades of the Socialist Party of Italy must make up for what they have failed to do until now. It would be extremely dangerous to cherish any illusions regarding the character of fascism and its possible development. We must reckon with the possibility that the revolutionary workers’ movement in Italy will lose for a time the possibility of functioning legally. Times may be approaching that will bring a trial by fire for every revolutionary workers’ organisation and every individual revolutionary.

‘The congress assigns to the central commission of five the special task of developing a comprehensive plan for illegal work and doing everything possible to implement it’. See Thesen und Resolutionen des IV. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale (Hamburg: Verlag der Kommunistischen Internationale, 1923), pp. 90 – 91.