Pietro Secchia 1977

In the War of Liberation

Source: Chi sono i comunisti, Gabriele. Mazzotta, Milan, 1977;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor 2008.

With the events of September 8, 1943 [1] the various action committees and national fronts transformed themselves into Committees of National Liberation (CLN). The Communists were the primary promoters of many of them and, actively present in all of them, constituted the principal force. In reality, after decades of study, of political work, of struggle and sacrifice in Italy and Europe, the Communist Party presented itself at the beginning of the war of national liberation as a political force of the very first order, with an ideal, a preparation, a direct experience and a united and well-integrated leadership that no other Italian political formation could have.

After the combats of September 9-10 and the German occupation of Rome the leadership of the PCI decided to divide itself in two groups: the first (under the leadership of Scoccimarro) with its seat in the capital, which it was assumed would be quickly liberated, and the other (under the leadership of Longo), with its seat in Milan, responsible for ensuring the political and military leadership of German-occupied Italy and for taking the initiative in the constituting of the Garibaldi Assault brigades.

The primary and most tenacious obstacle that the Communists had to tear down in order to extend and strengthen the armed resistance was put up by the wait and see attitude in its many and various forms, from one that explicitly appealed to conservative interests, to other perhaps even more insidious ones, supported by liberals, Christian Democrats and currents within the Socialist Party itself. Starting September 8, 1943 the PCI proposed as the principal, if not exclusive activity of the Resistance that of developing in two main forms: through the armed partisan struggle and by means of strikes of the large working masses of the city and the countryside. In keeping with this line the party issued at the very first moment the directives “General Mobilization for the War of Liberation,” “Everything for the Front,” and “Act Quickly” (October-November 1943), and imparted to its organizations the disposition (equivalent to an order) to send at least 30% of its members and 15% of its cadres to the partisan formations.

The example was set from the top: all the members of the leadership of the party were called on to engage in, along with their respective political work, a precise function within the partisan movement. Longo, who was in charge of the party leadership, also became the Commander General of the Garibaldi Brigades; Secchia, in charge of party organization became Political Commissar General of the same brigades; Giorgio Amendola, Atruro Colombi, Umberto Massola, Gian Carlo Pajetta and Antonio Roasio, members of the leadership, aside from being regional party leaders or in charge of insurrectionary triumvirates became inspectors or regional or interregional heads of the Garibaldi Brigades, whose command structure they entered and participated in. The party also called for the immediate return to Italy, overcoming whatever difficulties, of its four external leaders, many of whom were fighting in the French Resistance: Illio Barontini, Vittorio Bardini, Vittorio Ghini, Francesco Leone, Martinelli, Pietro Pajetta (Nedo), Giulliano Pajetta, Giuseppe Roda, Egisto Rubini, and dozens of others who, like the hundred of ex-Garibaldini of Spain came from the Ventotene and constituted the majority of the command structure of the “Garibaldi.”

Within the CLN the Communists strongly supported the need to carry out the struggle as well through means of agitation and factory strikes. Far from weakening national unity, as some maintained, this struggle strengthened it, giving the war of liberation a social content. The class struggle had to be the soul and cement of the national struggle. It was again the PCI that proposed, despite widespread skepticism and the initial opposition of some parties within the CLN, the general strike of 1944 in all of German-occupied Italy, a strike that is today remembered as the biggest, perhaps the only one of its kind during the war in Europe.

1. Date of the armistice signed by Marshal Badoglio with the Allies.