Pietro Secchia 1975

The Salerno Turning Point

Source: Il Partito comunista italiano e la guerra di Liberazione, Feltrinelli, Milano, 1975;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2010.

The “Salerno turning point,” though representing, by the rapidity and way in which it was carried out, a kind of thunder bolt that incinerated the past, was in reality the arrival point of a long series of attempts to arrive at a positive conclusion that until that moment had failed ...

The Italian question had taken on great importance, and was awaiting a solution that could not be delayed until the taking of Rome. Given the need to remove every obstacle in the path that led to the defeat of Hitlerite Germany, it had to be resolved.

The National Council of the PCI began its work in Naples on March 30 with the report of Velio Spano on the situation in the country and the party. From this emerged the embarrassment of those who had previously been convinced of the impossibility of resolving the situation while maintaining the tactical positions of the congress of the CLN in Bari and the logic of the old starting point: “Constituting a democratic government, which is our objective, we will take a decisive forward step in the Italian situation and we will at the same time put ourselves in a position to make a greater contribution to the war effort.”

Togliatti in his speech, also based on an analysis of the Italian and international situations, posed the question thusly: “No liberty can be guaranteed to the Italian people as long as the Nazis will not have been driven from the national territory. And so we must reinforce the war effort in order to liberate the country. We will thus constitute a government of national unity and in this way we will take an important step in resolving the situation. I have demonstrated that we need to leave behind a situation characterized by, on the one hand, of a part of the government invested with power but deprived of authority because lacking the support of the mass parties, and on the other hand of an authoritative mass movement that is excluded from power... This situation feeds confusion and disorder, exhausts and deludes the masses of the people, and creates an atmosphere favorable to reactionary intrigues and thus for the rebirth of a fascist movement, while at the same time weakening and discrediting our country “

The National Council approved the remarks and initiatives taken by Comrade Togliatti to constitute a government of national unity, voting the following resolution:


The National Council of the Italian Communist Party, meeting at a time (March 30-31, 1944) when the development of the international and internal situations more forcefully indicate to all Italians the need and the duty to reinforce and extend national unity in the fight for the liberation of the country from Hiterlite and fascist traitor occupation, greets Comrade Ercoli [i.e, Togliatti] who, at the head of the delegation of the Central Committee is again assuming his post as militant and leader, the sure guide of the parry and the Italian proletariat; reconfirms the policies followed by the party for the unity of the working class and also for the fraternal and consistent collaboration with the Socialist party, of the unity of the democratic and liberal anti-fascist forces of the movement of the Committees of National Liberation, and the unity of the entire Italian nation in the fight for its freedom, its independence, and its resurrection.

The National Council of the Italian Communist Party, having examined the internal political situation of the liberated zone, highly appreciating the efforts of the Committees of National Liberation and the executive junta to direct and lead the entire people into action for the liberation of the country and for the destruction of the remains of the fascist regime;

Considers that at this moment when the final crisis of the war approaches, when all the people in struggle must unite their forces for the definitive crushing of Hitlerite Germany as quickly as possible, the existence in Italy on one hand of a part of the government invested with power but deprived of authority because lacking the support of the mass parties, and on the other hand of an authoritative mass movement that is excluded from power, harms the country’s war effort and is fatal to Italy. In fact, this situation feeds confusion and disorder, exhausts and deludes the masses of the people, and creates an atmosphere favorable to reactionary intrigues and thus for the rebirth of a fascist movement, while at the same time weakening and discrediting our country.

The Communist Party, conscious of its responsibility to the working class and the entire people, believes that this situation must be quickly settled and proposes to settle it:

1. Maintaining intact and consolidating the front of anti-fascist democratic and liberal forces;

2. Formally assuring the country that the institutional problems will be freely resolved by the entire nation through the convocation of a national constituent assembly, elected through secret and direct universal suffrage immediately after the end of the war;

3. Creating a new government of a transitory character, but made strong and authoritative by the adherence of the majority of the masses. A government capable of organizing a true and great war effort throughout the country and, in the first place, of creating a strong Italian army that will truly fight against the Germans. A government capable, with the assistance of the Allied great democratic powers, to take the urgent measures needed to alleviate the sufferings of the masses and to effectively confront all attempts at the rebirth of reaction;

4. Assuring all Italians, whatever their convictions or political, social or religious beliefs, that our struggle is aimed at liberating the country from the German invaders, from the traitors to the fatherland, from those responsible for the national catastrophe, but also that in the national front there is place for all those who want to fight for the freedom of Italy, and that tomorrow all will have the possibility of defending their positions before the people.

5. The National Council of the Italian Communist Party gave the party representatives the mandate to expound and defend this political line in the executive junta and in the Committees of Liberation. It invited comrades, workers, and all consequent, sincere, and combative, anti-fascists conscious of their responsibility, to unite and fight so that Italy, actively participating and with all its forces in the war against Hitlerite Germany, should bring closer the hour of its definitive liberation; the hour in which the entire people can set to work at the construction of a progressive democratic government that will clean the wounds left by twenty years of fascist tyranny and render the Italian nation completely free and master of its destiny.

There participated in the national council of Naples the entire provincial committee of Naples and the delegations: from Sicily with Umberto Fiore at its head; from Calabria led by Fausto Gullo; from Puglia with Luigi Allegato, Antonio Di Donato, Giusepppe La Torre and Raffaele Pastore; from Lucania with Michele Mancino. The assembly named a new leadership of the PCI, in which there entered, to join with Palmiro Togliatti, General Secretary, Velio Spano, Eugenio Reale, Umberto Fiore, Fausto Gullo, Antonio Di Donato, and Marcello Marroni.

The road was rapid from the National Council of the PCI to the “turning point” of Salerno. Togliatti’s initiative exploded like a bomb, giving rise to lively discussions in the other parties of the junta and the CLN, but they couldn’t ignore its realism; they accepted the position and were influenced by it.

Toglaitti’s initiative and political line were naturally discussed, and it would be strange had this not been the case, given the two leading groups in occupied Italy, that residing in Rome and that of Milan.

This discussion, which concluded in a unitary fashion, has been stressed in recent publications on the history of the PCI. Nevertheless, without overstating its importance, it must be said that in order to make an objective judgment possible it would be useful to give a complete summary of all the interventions taken from the minutes of the leadership of the PCI. Once again, all can note how, especially in crucial moments, neither debates nor internal dialectics were lacking in the leading organs of the PCI.

Vineis (Secchia): The first question that I’d like to pose is that of seeing what we have to do in order to realize our policy. Above all, we must seek to understand the value and the importance of the road indicated to our party and people by Comrade Ercoli and to do everything possible, because this is the road we are marching down.

We are favorable to everything that reinforces the war against Germany and against everything that weakens it; it is necessary to pay attention not only to the first part, but also to the second part of this assertion. Which means that we must do everything in order to realize the unity of all the healthy portions of the nation for the annihilation of Nazi fascism, and we must continue the struggle against the anti-nationalist forces, against the collaborationists with the Germans, against the capitulators and the traitors. In addition, when we call for a CLN government and fight for the elimination of the Badoglio leadership, we are doing it while having in mind the reinforcement of the war against Germany. We are not making this a “moral” question, but are saying that Badoglio was not capable of mobilizing all of the healthy forces of the country and leading the war against the Germans. Let us remember that last September Badoglio enjoyed absolutely no prestige because, aside from complicity with the Fascist regime, he was directly responsible for having opened our country’s gates to the German invader.

Today we must realize the unity of all national forces. But it would be an error to say that in Italy there are no other anti-national forces than those that openly proclaim themselves fascist republicans. Ercoli spoke of uniting all the “healthy” forces of the country, all truly national forces, which means that in the country there are anti-national forces we must combat because they constitute an obstacle, a weakening force in the fight against Germany. Are anti-national, for example, those industrialists who collaborated with the Germans, the high officials, the supposed Badoglians who openly collaborate with the fascists in the hunt for patriots and fighting partisans.

The unity of all national forces will not be realized by opening only to the right; there are also notable mass forces that are not represented in the CLN, from which comes the need for the creation of mass CLN’s.

The second question is that of seeing if the policy followed by the party was correct or incorrect, and up to what point it was correct or incorrect. There are those who think that we are too close to things to carry out a complete and thorough self-critical examination because many elements of the situation are still that would enable us to give a definitive judgment. Nevertheless, some things can already be said.

We would like to say that Comrade Ercoli’s initiative does not in fact mean a condemnation of the political line followed by the party. The political line followed by the party was fundamentally correct. Affirming this does not mean a refusal to carry out self-criticism, because self-criticism can also be done if a policy was fundamentally correct. There certainly were errors and insufficiencies in our policies, but I feel that we must pose the problem of the leadership of the CLN. We must do everything to eliminate the conservative-reactionary forces from the government who were a weakening element in the conduct of the war against Germany. We couldn’t renounce the leadership from the beginning. The relation of forces seemed favorable to us. Not only in Italy were all the popular democratic forces anti-Bodoglian, but also the international democratic forces acted in the direction of realizing in Italy a democratic government in the light of the decisions of the Moscow conference.

Our attitude is aimed at provoking shifts and concessions on the part of the Bodgolian-monarchist forces. Our policies have obtained results. Our error was that of becoming fossilized, of maintaining our positions when the situation demonstrated that it was impossible to succeed in realizing an exclusively CLN government. Especially after Bari we had to see that we had created a vicious cycle from which he had to escape as quickly as possible. First we had to change. It was in this sense that we had to carry out our self-criticism, and not in that indicated by Gino [Negarville] and the two other Roman comrades.

Another error was the insufficient activity for realizing unity of action with forces outside the CLN. It is true that we said that on the front of the fight against Germany there was a place for everyone, even for monarchists and Badoglians, but practically we did very little in this direction, not having seen the problem as one of how to organically connect these forces.

The third question which we would like to address is this one: what did our policy consist in? I don’t share Gino’s judgment according to which it is a matter of saving our party from a vicious cycle. This is not true for occupied Italy, where the party in these months succeeded in unleashing a significant mass struggle against the Germans and the fascists. The policy of our party didn’t consume itself with the polemic against Badoglio as occurred in liberated Italy. In Rome the erroneousness of our entire past policies was spoken of. This judgment is not correct. But what, for the Roman comrades, did the party’s policies consist in? A fundamental part of these policies were the strike we led, culminating in the general strike of March; the actions of the Armed Partisan Groups, the organization of the Garibaldi Brigades, and the leadership of the partisan war. In occupied Italy the preeminent activity of our party was that of leading the war against Germany and fascism. This is why our balance sheet is positive.