Let Us Close Our Ranks!
(from Il Socialista, 12th November 1914)
The major political and economic bodies of the Italian proletariat have thus energetically initiated the dutiful agitation on behalf of political prisoners, and a first demonstration of our forces will take place alongside “meetings” throughout Italy on Sunday. About time! The bourgeois government in the various incarnations of Antonio Salandra has been carrying out since June a work of tenacious and implacable persecution against the subversives who participated in the riots of the general strikes against the whole proletarian and socialist movement that was growing and prospering, as it was more and more specifying its revolutionary aims. The defender of the institutions and the monarchy who succeeded Giovanni Giolitti thought that the latter’s policy was ineffective against the rising proletarian tide, which had opened its eyes to the pitfalls of governmental democracy; and it wanted to test the return to reaction by evoking the specters of ’98 (1) to strengthen the foundations of the monstrous altar of authority.
This policy had effects not unlike that other one, for the proletariat responded, and the response was an ominous show of its subversive force. The game did not end after the general strike with the audacious relay of punishments to the railwaymen and police and judicial reprisals: the working class was preparing for the new battle that would cut off the claws of reaction. The Socialist Party and the great organizations were studying its tactical errors in order to correct them in further movements, and Benito Mussolini was writing from the columns of Avanti! that article Tregua d’armi that remains for us, who followed and felt the phases of the battle of which he was the standard bearer, the last gesture of a gladiator who was left destroyed and aged more in a few days of combat in which he gave all his soul and all his strength than in a long cowardly life.
But then came the terrible diversion. Socialism had to turn its attention elsewhere and stem another threatening tide: war! The fate of the proletariat, the plans of our ideology made up of science and faith, doctrine and action, the marvelous fusion of our party’s forces, seemed disrupted and undone by the avalanche of events.
Our opponents frolicked in the joy of diversion, and hoped to shatter socialism. The bourgeoisie, which trembled on hearing the working class crowds, behind their closed shutters, excited by the prospect of the coming victory, emerged triumphant, wishing from the example of other countries to bury socialism in the coffin of national unanimity and party conformity.
Many of our comrades hesitated and wavered, before the mirage of a war against the Germans, succeeded at the first opposing dangers – the Republicans, united with us in June against the Nationalists, became with them the vanguard of intervention – the democrats and reformists wanted to take revenge for the electoral anguish due to our intransigence by mooting repeated assaults on what they called the dogmas of socialism – the monarchical and bourgeois State with its reactionary Triple Alliance government took advantage of the new historical phase to continue the fiercest reaction and strike the proletarian movement in the back, while on all sides so-called national solidarity was invoked.
And the investigations, the arrests, the trials, the punishments of the striking railwaymen, the vicious little art of reprisal and revenge continued.
But at last the proletariat rallied. It has heard the lamentations of the victims of bourgeois peace even amid the clamor of the war pressing on the frontiers and has understood its twofold task: Against war and against reaction! Against the manifestations of the present society, which all unfold in the harm and heartbreak of the working majority!
We will not leave to fight against the so-called enemy, say the proletarians of Italy, and we will not go out to massacre the workers of other countries, on the pretext that the current historical epoch allows no progress besides national massacres; we remain here to fight the real enemy who oppresses us and who, while telling us to keep us ready to march under his flags, unceasingly tries to break the weapons of our redemption and freedom by undermining our class organizations.
Hon. Salandra, you’ve revealed to us the true field for our action! An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We will prevent you from throwing yourselves into military adventures, keeping you under the relentless pressure of our momentum of revenge against the oppression and infamies of your class politics.
You’ll have less luck than the great German chancellor and M. Viviani!