World War II
Imperialist Conflict on Both Fronts Against the Proletariat and the Revolution
Presented in the September 1995, January and May 1996 Party meetings
Since the official end of the Second World War, war has never ceased: Korea, the Middle East, India, Vietnam, Iraq... the list could go on. For the last five years, guns have been fired in Europe as well, in former Yugoslavia. A clash that they would like to consider as merely regional, in reality has proved itself to be intentional – conducted and controlled by the great powers – in an area where a vacuum is opening up or the opposing influences and claims of Germany, Russia, the USA and minor European powers are overlapping. The great and powerful capitalist States do not want, nor could they, stop the more or less regular brigades that are massacring each other and above all are massacring civilians. It is these very States, all indiscriminately interested in maintaining the instability of the region, that supply the competing sides with weapons, careful to maintain a balance of forces that ensures that none prevails. They split shares of control of the defunct Yugoslavia among themselves as they do with the shares of the stock of their anonymous companies. For the bourgeoisie, war is an investment like any other.
In this booklet we report our original analysis of the second war, which for us was not Nazi and fascist on one side and anti‑fascist on the other, but imperialist and anti‑proletarian on both sides and as such to be fought against by the healthy proletarian and communist forces. This condemnation of ours is fifty years old, as we document in the appendix; it has nothing to do with inconclusive revisionism or fashionable partisan warfare. Today’s Balkan war reproduces, on a – for the moment – smaller scale, that same criminal falsification against the oppressed classes who, after a subdued but courageous and prolonged opposition, were sent to slaughter under false flags for the interest of their oppressors.
As before and during the second war, in the former Yugoslavia and in all countries, today, the proletariat still lacks its own communist party, the only one that due to material historical determinants can collect and coherently direct the workers’ instinctive refusal to the war of their slave-masters towards the revolutionary destruction of capitalist society and war at the same time.
Marxist revolutionary communism, traced in its doctrine and party’s coherence since the mid‑nineteenth century above the series of its corruptions, inserts the phenomenon of wars within the general dynamics of the historical struggle between classes. War is not, for Marx and for us, the product of particular cruelties or attitudes of leaders, peoples or nations culpably breaking the continuity of a peaceful and progressive development of humanity. On the contrary, war is the expression of economic forces which must be taken into account in order to gauge the real historical forces which determine it, the sense of which alone explains wars and alone gives a basis to the attitudes the communist party takes towards them.
There have been revolutionary wars – independence wars in recent times – inscribed in the cycle of struggles of bourgeoisie and proletariat united against reactionary imperial autocracies. That phase ends in Europe in 1871 when, as all the major national – meaning bourgeois – States of the old continent were formed and consolidated, the Paris Commune, first expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat against the already allied bourgeoisie, sees, in the expression of Marx, all the bourgeois States united against the working class. From that moment on, in Europe, we no longer see wars between nations, for the purpose of national formation or consolidation, but wars between States for no other purpose than to rob each other’s markets and for the military and financial subjugation of vast regions. The aim is not to destroy fetters from the middle ages, but to prevent or delay economic and social progress.
The bourgeoisies of all countries no longer have any historical end goal as their political action, in peace and war, is now devoid of a strategic plan as of any principle: world capitalism now has one and only one strategy, the defense of the present state of affairs. Since the only threat to the preservation of the society of profit and money comes from the revolutionary descent of the proletariat – a threat which today is only potential but no less real – the strategy of all States is reduced, in peace or in war, to a systematic permanent war against the proletariat.
The imperialist wars, inevitable for the destruction of the accumulation of the excessive wealth generated by the anarchic mode of production of commodities and its insane exponential growth, is indeed conducted between opposing fronts of States, modern slave-owners, so they can share among them, by force, the product of those slaves. However, the obvious common interest of the contenders is for the slaves to not rebel: those of the enemy included because the contagion could easily spread to their own. The contemporary wars are therefore conducted with the economic aim of slaughtering the exceeding labor power, which for capital is only a cost and which could be brought on communism’s side. The slaughtering happens both on the fronts and in the working class neighborhoods by ruthless bombings disguised as military actions against the enemy. The political aim of disrupting the proletarian ranks, getting them drunk on bellicose and patriotic propaganda, breaking the international solidarity of the proletariat while subjecting the communist party and workers’ organizations to the exceptional laws of wartime is also assured.
Two wars have already demonstrated the bourgeois bestiality in pursuing the goal of their own preservation at the cost of the blood of many tens of millions of proletarians: a slaughter carried out systematically, as we show in this pamphlet on the second war in Italy. Such agreement between the chancelleries of Berlin, Rome, London, Washington, Moscow is permanent: the documents that in fifty years have slowly escaped the censorship of both the victors and the vanquished will suffice...
The address of the communist party in the face of imperialist wars is unequivocal and codified in memorable battles both against the enemy and against the traitors of our movement who, in the first as in the second war, trampled on every class principle, voluntarily becoming propagandists of the carnage and ideological conscripts of the workers by forcing them to the pipelines, to the discipline of the trenches and to shoot their class brothers across the fronts. For uncorrupted communism, as Lenin and the left‑wing of the Second International affirmed against social-chauvinism in the first war and as our comrades of the Communist Left repeated against the pro‑Allies myth of the war of liberation and anti‑fascism in the second, imperialist wars are inevitable. They are an economic necessity of capitalism: whoever accepts capitalism must also accept its wars.
All the many‑colored components of the large and small bourgeoisie, more or less enlightened, come at a time when they are inexorably attracted by war and support it, knowing that only by throwing into the heart of the conflict even one of their own children can their class survive. And more importantly, their bank accounts. Historical confirmations are not lacking. Whoever, like the bourgeois pacifist movement, invites the workers to join a side of the bourgeoisie that is “for peace” invites them to a sure defeat, even if only to avoid the horror of modern war. The word that is too often missed by the proletariat is WAR AGAINST WAR – AGAINST WAR BETWEEN STATES, FOR WAR BETWEEN CLASSES – FOR REVOLUTIONARY WAR. The proletariat is the only class which can prevent or put an end to war by overthrowing the power of the capitalist States thus starting its own revolutionary war for the world proletarian republic.
This revolutionary line, the only emancipator of a humanity that the uncontrollable forces of capital have transformed into an object of sale, presupposes that the proletariat escapes the overdose of drugs provided by the falsely proletarian and Stalinist parties and the regime unions, both which have made inter-class pacifism, democracy and loyalty to the fatherland their sacred laws. The revolutionary line presupposes that the proletariat organizes itself into real, class loyal militant unions, returning to its original internationalist program and to the revolutionary communist party. The first step on this road will be to unmask the vile myth of the Resistance and denounce the collaboration of the working class that Stalinism offered to the last world imperialist war.
The premises for the unleashing of the second imperialist carnage had already been laid at the end of the First World War. The oppressive treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, with the dismemberment of the Central Empires and the economic and military conditions imposed on the defeated, had to be called into question as soon as the capitalism of those States, and Germany specifically, had resumed its vertiginous pace of accumulation and, consequently, had the need to break the narrow boundaries within which the victorious powers had necessarily enclosed it in.
The questioning of these treaties, however, could not be done peacefully, but only through a new and bloodier massacre of the proletariat.
While capitalism, even before the guns stopped thundering, was organizing the next armed clash, on the other side of the class barricade the proletariat was trying to put an end to war – any war – by launching the watchword of proletarian fraternization between opposing armies and the transformation of the imperialist war into class war.
The victorious revolution in Russia imposed on the bourgeois States the cessation of the conflict long before it should have lasted according to their destructive plans and needs. This is because the danger they now faced was not that of seeing enemy armies marching over various capitals, something which could have damaged the ruling houses, the military castes, the political apparatuses, but certainly not the capitalist mode of production; the real danger that appeared on the bourgeois horizon was the proletarian revolution. Faced with this danger, immediately, the bourgeois rediscovered their class solidarity and mutual aid to suppress proletarian insurrection wherever it occurred.
Capitalism, however, in addition to its repressive apparatus, in addition to the help that the various bourgeoisies, “friends” and “enemies” alike, were able to grant each other in the name of common salvation, in addition, international capitalism possessed a further weapon, the most refined and therefore the most deadly: the weapon of betrayal executed by social-democratic opportunism.
The decisive importance of social democracy had already been experienced during the first imperialist massacre when the Second International completely reversed its political plan according to which the outbreak of the war between States would have been the best moment to unleash class insurrection and the assault on bourgeois power in all countries. On the contrary, social democracy figured that it was not true that the proletariat had nothing to lose but its chains, according to what the Manifesto says, but had many “heritages” to save: the freedom and independence of the fatherland and the democratic content of the bourgeois revolution, threatened by the danger of a return to the despotic, absolutist, theocratic, feudal Middle Ages.
The opportunism of the Second International, however, when it sent the proletariat into the 1914/18 carnage, did not disavow, in words, socialist aims, it only said that those goals should have been temporarily set aside because, at the time, there were more urgent issues; the bourgeoisie would be granted only a temporary respite and, once the war was over (which Mussolini had even called “revolutionary”), class struggle and internationalism would resume for the achievement of proletarian emancipation.
But this could not happen because one cannot pass with the utmost indifference from the camp of one class to that of the other, and in fact there would be no reason to help the bourgeoisie to survive if you cared to wring its neck. It is clear that the “socialist intentions” were part of a system of lies which it would not have been possible to gain a foothold within the working class without.
As soon as the war was over, the return to the principles of “socialist internationalism” was manifested, according to the cases and the bourgeois needs, either through the fierce repression of the proletariat or by delivering the latter, unarmed, into the hands of the legal and illegal reaction of the State.
The degeneration of the Russian Revolution and of the Communist International, which occurred after Lenin’s death, still represents an element of disorientation in the hands of the counterrevolution.
The Fraction of the Communist Left, in its emigration, paid the greatest attention to the war issue since its birth in 1928, and to the necessity of the reconstruction of the revolutionary political organization of the proletariat to oppose what would have been the second world armed conflict. Anti‑militarist mobilization should have proceeded hand in hand with the preparation of the revolutionary insurrection for the seizure of power: the only way to prevent and avert war.
Therefore the Fraction, in the light of Marxist doctrine and the confirmation coming from the events, tirelessly denounced the true militarist and warmongering meaning of any “pacifist” movement: both those promoted by the Social Democrats and the Stalinists, and those promoted by the democratic, fascist and Soviet States which, with their peace agreements, with their disarmament conferences, with the League of Nations (to which the degenerate Soviet Union hastened to join) did nothing but prepare the sides, the terms and the timing of the new proletarian bloodbath.
The proletarian revolution which, in spite of the social-democratic betrayal, had nevertheless broken out – and which was an international revolution even if only in Russia was it possible to maintain the power that the insurrections conquered – gave such a vigorous blow to the whole bourgeois political framework that it forced the latter to organize new forms of repression and deviation of the revolutionary class movement.
The parties of the Second International had succeeded in delaying the insurrectionary movement for the time required for the bourgeoisie to recover from its shock and to consolidate its power, however these parties had had their day, just as the political orders of democratic liberalism had had their day.
In the hotbeds where the social struggle was at its most acute, parliamentary and social democracy switched to direct action with no regards to legal trifles and, getting rid of the cumbersome and useless parliaments, democratically proceeded (remember this characteristic aspect of both fascism and Nazism) to class dictatorship. And fascism in its contents and methods, even if only in a few countries it ever wore black or brown shirts, was unanimously adopted by all the civilized and industrialized nations: United States, England, France, etc.
If the capitalist States had to take on a different guise from their usual one, opportunism too had to adapt to new needs. Stalinism did not limit itself to morally and materially disarm the working class so that it would be meekly included in the bourgeois armies, Stalinism did something more: it organized “proletarian” armies under the red flag so that they could slaughter other proletarians, thus escaping the danger of revolution. The first of these experiments was carried out in 1927 in China and, in subsequent years, was perfected in the Spanish civil war.
With the labor movement, brutally repressed in the countries under fascist regimes, now subjugated in the countries with a democratic guise to the bourgeois interests in the name of anti‑fascism, and with the revolutionary party dispersed and its most representative leaders exterminated by Stalinism, the former Communist International was enslaved to the interests of the Russian State. Thus, international imperialism had by now a free hand to unleash a new regenerative bloodbath in which everyone, indiscriminately, would win as the only loser was, once again, the world proletariat.
In the face of this immense debacle, only the small organization of the Communist Left held high the banner of revolutionary communism, that of Marx, Lenin and other countless anonymous comrades: if it could not influence the course of events, it nonetheless never stopped calling the proletariat to its true program of emancipation and peace: struggle against national solidarity, struggle for class solidarity, against all wars, for social revolution and for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Our “schematic” position based on class struggle, revolutionary intransigence, refusal of any kind of class collaboration – not allowing ourselves to be diverted by contingent situations – is often accused of being sterile, negative theoretical and practical indifference. We wrote in the October 3, 1946 Prometeo issue: «Is it ever possible for Marxists, supporters of the most unprejudiced, free from dogmas scientific analysis applied to social and historical phenomena, to assert that it is really indifferent, for the whole unfolding of the process that will lead from the capitalist regime to socialism, the victory or the defeat of the Central Empires yesterday, of Nazi‑fascism today, of the American plutocracy or the pseudo-Soviet totalitarianism in the future? It is with this insinuating thesis that opportunism has always started, and so far won, its battles. Now it is not true that deliberate ignorance of these options characterizes the communists of the left and neither does the refusal of the most subtle analysis of the successive and complicated events and relations of the capitalist crisis (...) We affirm without any doubt that different conclusions not only to the great mercenary wars all over the world, but to any war, even the most limited, have corresponded and will correspond to very different effects on the relations of the social forces in finite areas and in the whole world, and on the possibilities of development of class actions. Marx, Engels and Lenin have shown applications of this to the most diverse historical moments, and in the elaboration of the Platform of our movement it must be continuously applied and demonstrated (...) If the two solutions to the conflict bring different possibilities, which are certainly foreseeable and calculable for the movement, the very utilization of these possibilities can only be ensured by avoiding compromising the main energies of the class and the possibilities of action of the Party in the policy of opportunist feuding (...) In conclusion, admitted for a second that “charters”, parliaments, liberal laws and similar paraphernalia – which in the most recent phase of history are nothing but empty phrases not only to the shrewd Marxist but also to the most naive observer – may by chance come useful to us in given moments in time and space, we will, dialectically, let other forces and other parties fight for them, unceasingly devoting ourselves to shaming and sabotaging such aims and their champions».
The text published in this issue is a continuation of the studies that previously appeared in installments and under the title “Decennio di preparazione della seconda guerra mondiale”, to which we refer the interested reader. Having the present investigation limited to only a few aspects of the Italian campaign is simply due to the fact that we do not have, at least for the moment, sufficient material about the propaganda, agitation and theoretical works produced by the Left in other European countries. The only complete document we possess and only by second‑hand, the Manifesto to the Proletariat of Europe, is republished in the Appendix. However, we can safely say that what was written and demonstrated in the Italian case can be extended to the entire development of the war, namely: the inter-imperialist coalition against the world working class as the war’s main essence. We support this general historical thesis of ours by republishing, on these pages, the party work which appeared in installments in our then newspaper, Battaglia Comunista, between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1948 and which is to be considered an integral part of the present study.
The rereading of the 1947 text demonstrates once again the courageous position of the Communist Left that certainly did not wait for times of historical revisionism, but right in the middle of the democratic and resistance psychosis posed the the war question in all its raw class truth without any concession, not even that little bit which, without going beyond the limits of orthodoxy, could have made us more accepted and could have perhaps made a greater number of elements flow into our ranks, weakening, however, the effectiveness of the work of the party over the long run we foresee to be ahead of us.
At the end of 1943, in the crumbling Italian Social Republic, a “Special Secretariat” was established which, among its other functions, had that of collecting, cataloging and studying all the clandestine press. Periodically, reports on the subject were drawn up. In the first of these reports, dated March 9, 1944, we can read: «PROMETEO - “Organ of the International Communist Party”. It bears on the header. “Year 22, Series III: On the Path of the Left”. Sole independent newspaper: Ideologically the most interesting and prepared. Against any compromise preaches a pure communism, undoubtedly Trotskyist (...) Fights the war on any aspect, democratic, fascist or Stalinist (...) This attitude is clearly exposed in the opening article of November 1, 1943, “La Nostra Via”, (in English: “Our Path”) in which it is elaborated, in the light of Leninist doctrine, the nature of the present conflict, and the position of both belligerent groups are defined as “different faces of the same bourgeois reality” (...) This attitude of “Prometeo” could not fail to provoke the violent reaction of the Italian Communist Party and of Ercoli (Togliatti, editor’s note) especially».
In a subsequent report the anonymous speaker wrote. «The clandestine subversive press prefers to limit itself to an attitude of low invective, with rare exceptions (e.g. “Prometeo”), doctrinal polemics not being too much to its taste». In Report No. 3 of May 1944, we further read: «“PROMETEO” (...) as already mentioned is the most independent of the newspapers that have come into our hands, despite the accusations of the Togliatti inspired papers (...) It would be interesting to know what actual following the “Prometeo” movement has. It is to be believed that it is scarce, due to its intransigent position too much in contrast with the rampant opportunism of the anti‑fascist masses, result of moral and physical cowardice of which the events of July and September were only the most striking manifestations».
We are not interested at all in the enemy’s acknowledgements, but it is very significant that, in its secret services, the enemy is able to identify the class party. On the other hand, the same Stalinist scoundrels who so furiously raged against the comrades of the Communist Left were of the same opinion. Precisely, because of their exact knowledge of our positions and the danger we posed to Stalinist opportunism, even if not immediate, they collaborated with the fascists they supposedly had hate for to both eliminate our influence and exterminate our comrades.
In the numerous and circumstantial reports submitted to the general meetings of the Party we demonstrated that the Fraction of the Italian Left had immediately declared the inevitability of the future inter-imperialist war and, through economic, political, social and historical analyses, had also predicted with great precision what the future war line‑ups would end up being.
We have never claimed to ascribe certificates of infallibility to the Fraction (we do not claim infallibility for the Party either, we are not papists). But we recognize the continuity of revolutionary direction, both in the Fraction and in the various groups and individual comrades who, in the face of the tragedy of the Stalinist counterrevolution, of Nazi‑fascism, of democratic intoxication, of the imperialist war, were able to keep the October Revolution, Lenin, the Livorno Party and the Italian Communist Left as their point of reference. Those who come to us talking about wrongful predictions, internal disputes, tactical mistakes, and the errors committed by some of our comrades only make us smile condescendingly.
There are those who, for example, accuse us of having in fact dissolved since the beginning of the war, while we “largely had the means to ensure (our) political continuity”. Perhaps these gentlemen, who have a very theatrical conception of revolution, dream of red flags waving over the battlefields and heroic internationalists contemptuously offering their chests to the firing squads. No, those who expected individualistic theatrics from the comrades of the Left were very wrong; they would have compromised the future of the organization if they had indulged in such behavior. However, as soon as the conditions allowed it, our comrades immediately reestablished contacts and, risking their lives, exposed to the proletarians who were able to hear their voices the positions of truly revolutionary communism, of anti‑militarism, fraternization between the proletarians in military uniform, the need to transform the imperialist war into a class civil war.
In 1942, in France, a “Nucleus of the Communist Left” was formed with the following clear characteristics: 1) Rejecting the defense of the USSR «The Soviet State, instrument of the international bourgeoisie, exercises a counterrevolutionary function. The defense of the USSR in the name of what remains of the October conquests must therefore be rejected in order to make way for the uncompromising struggle against the Stalinist agents of the bourgeoisie». 2) Realizing that the democratic and fascist blocs were no different. «Democracy and Fascism are two aspects of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which correspond to the economic and political needs of the bourgeoisie in determined stages». It follows, therefore, that adherence to the imperialist war represented «a class barrier that now clearly separates the Fraction from all other parties or groups that represent in different ways the different counter-revolutionary imperialist interests».
Almost at the same time, in the North of Italy, the International Communist Party was constituted on the basis of a small platform in which, however, the following characteristic lines were already been set: 1) Denouncing the war as an ideological crusade; 2) Denouncing the degeneration of the Workers’ State and of the International, which was enough to get reconnected to the positions of the party of Livorno and the Left. And the connection with Livorno 1921 and the Left was also recognizable by the name chosen for its newspaper: Prometeo. The second issue of the newspaper states «Prometeo, which in its first series was the spokesman of the Italian Left within the young Communist Party of Italy as its theoretical magazine of Marxist education under the leadership of the small vanguard that created the Party and for some years held its direction, defending the Party’s ideological purity against the opportunism of the fractions of the right; which in its second series has been the organ of the left fraction of the Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I), constituted in Pantin (France) in 1928 in order to continue, from the outside, the work of theoretical elaboration on the basis of the mistakes that had been made and the defeats suffered by the proletariat all over the world, now comes out as the organ of the International Communist Party, direct heir of that tradition and vindicator of Imola and Livorno. Its task is to insert itself in the terrible crisis that is upsetting the capitalist world, with the precise intent of carrying out the task entrusted to it by the Italian proletariat, to be a safe guide in the social battles that are approaching, for the proletarian and communist revolution in Italy and in the world. “PROMETEO” [“Prometheus”, editor’s note], the name of the mythological hero chained on the rocks of the Caucasus for having stolen fire from the gods and given it to men, represents an entire tradition and program: it is the organ of the approaching revolution, the newspaper that Italian proletarians will consider their own» (Prometeo, issue 2, December 1943).
On July 25, 1943, following a session of the Grand Council of Fascism and the approval of Grandi’s motion (in Italian: “Ordine del Giorno Grandi”), the Italian bourgeoisie, by means of fascism itself, decreed the end of the Mussolini regime and the return to the bourgeois democratic legality.
The International Communist Party immediately intervened to warn the proletariat of the danger of indulging into very much easy enthusiasms and, in a pamphlet, unmasked the bourgeois maneuver of the Badoglio government: «The Badoglio experiment can be defined as a bourgeois attempt, resting on the conservative basis of the monarchy, to solve the problem of fascism and of an extremely unpopular war, parrying at the same time, with the mirage of a return to constitutional freedoms, the threat of a proletarian assault on power. It was a matter of separating the responsibilities of the bourgeoisie as a whole and in the variety of its institutions from those of a government supposedly “above classes” by making a scandal around a small group of men, so that the indignation of the masses would focus on them and them only, not affecting the inviolable majesty of the bourgeois institutions.
«Mussolini was thrown to the crowd, and then the party and its major hierarchs in small doses, so that from day to day the masses could find a new small target to hit, never finding themselves face to face with the real, essential enemy. With the same cunning, demands and promises were dosed little by little, so that when a regime of constitutional freedom would be suddenly reached, the proletariat would not be tempted to overthrow it. As for the big bourgeoisie, a leopard can’t change its spots: repeating the 1922 experiment – when the big bourgeoisie created fascism for it was unable to hold back within the framework of democratic institutions the revolutionary wave released by the post‑war crisis – but in reverse; the big bourgeoisie, once again in agreement with the monarchy, now liquidated fascism for the exact same reasons.
«The maneuver was even more effective than hoped for, due to the degeneration of the largest workers’ party, the Italian Communist Party, that had prepared the ground for it among the masses with its heated campaign in favor of the National Front.
«All the bourgeoisie had to do was to cosign the anti‑fascist slogans of unity launched by the centrists to thus obtain popular consent towards the monarchic military dictatorship. It is true that the war continued and the Axis remained intact, as it is true that the work of constitutional rehabilitation proceeded very slowly, however the bogeyman of the German invasion, to which no serious barriers were put up against, was used to justify that very delay in the supreme decisions».
Manlio Morgagni, president of the Stefani agency, as he learned of Mussolini’s arrest, ran home and shot himself in the head. Il Duce, in fact, had taught Fascists that “Whoever is not ready to die for his faith is not worthy to profess it”. We do not know whether to classify Morgagni as the only “worthy” Fascist or as the only Fascist “foolish” enough to fall for the propaganda but the matter of fact is that the other Fascists all suddenly realized that they had always been viscerally anti‑fascist all along and, starting with the head of the OVRA (“Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti‑Fascism”, in Italian: “Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell’Antifascismo” – editor’s note), nothing short of the Italian Gestapo, they put themselves at the use of the Badoglio government. Symptomatic example of Italian turncoatism was the July 26 issue of Popolo d’Italia. This issue of the newspaper, although printed and formatted, was not distributed, remaining in the premises of the printing house. Well, this newspaper that under the header bore the words “founded by Benito Mussolini”, which was owned by Benito Mussolini, directed by Vito Mussolini, this very newspaper, on July 26, the day after the arrest of Benito Mussolini, bore full page the following headline: “In the solemn hour that hangs over the destinies of the country / badoglio is appointed head of government / patriotic demonstrations throughout italy / long live italy!” It is unnecessary to emphasize that the “patriotic demonstrations” were nothing more than anti‑fascist demonstrations. In the article we read, among other things: «Today more than ever we need firmness of mind, harmony of feelings and increasingly tenacious will to fight. No words, no gestures of dissent, absolute dedication, complete collaboration with the authorities. This is the watchword for us all».
SS Colonel Dollmann recounts that the German command expected some fascist to lead a pro‑Mussolini uprising. “Until 9 o’clock in the evening, von Mackensen (the ambassador) and I waited in vain for enthusiastic Fascists to meet at the embassy for advice and to proceed to the conquest of Rome at the head of the “M” Battalion. Not a single rifleman, or officer, or policeman appeared: neither Vidussoni, nor Muti, nor Scorza”.
Carlo Scorza, secretary of the National Fascist Party, along the line of Mussolini had proclaimed that «whoever is not willing and ready to make the supreme sacrifice has no right to spiritual citizenship in the party. If he manages with hypocrisy and fakery to stay, he is a traitor». Just two months earlier he had solemnly sworn: «whatever happens, wherever we go, we will fight with decision, with passion, with fury (...) If we have to fall, we swear to fall in beauty, with dignity, with honor». Scorza, on July 26, in order to fall in beauty, with dignity, with honor, had already placed himself at Badoglio’s disposal and, with a written letter, had asked for an assignment. «Testa, the former prefect of Fiume and last special trustee of Sicily (...) did not leave Badoglio’s antechamber and urgently asked for a position. Until now Testa was considered (...) a fanatical fascist and a pillar of the party» (F.K. von Plehwe, Il Patto d’Acciaio).
At 10:15 p.m. – Dollmann recounts – at the gate of the German embassy appeared «Farinacci, the person who, according to our predictions, would have most opposed the King’s decisions. (But) the anxieties of the hero of Cremona did not concern the fate of the poor Duce (...) With a pale face and trembling with fear he wanted nothing more than to take the first plane to Germany (...) Not a word about the Duce, not a word about the “M” Battalions, not a hint about attempts of liberation». Disguised as a German aviator, Farinacci was taken to Frascati from where he took a plane to Munich. In the aftermath, the flights of the mass of fleeing fascists followed one another at a relentless pace, to the point where Dollmann notes that the German embassy looked like a travel agency. On the evening of July 26, the German ambassador von Mackensen, at 11:30 p.m., closed his telegraphic report to Berlin with the following remark: «The extent to which the internal decay of the Fascist party was truly advanced seems to me to be demonstrated by the fact that it has disappeared from the scene without as much as a peep, as today’s course has confirmed».
An armored militia division had been organized in Rome: it bore a red “M” (the M Battalion alluded to by Dollmann) and was made of veteran legionaries from various fronts. It was equipped, by Himmler, with 36 massive Tiger IV tanks and 24 pieces of artillery, in addition to that, as a sign of brotherhood of arms and intent between the Nazi SS and the blackshirts, a large number of military instructors was also sent. But the “M” Battalion did not mobilize! Scorza, moreover, had constituted an armed formation, a sort of forerunner of the future Black Brigades, with the task of defending the “revolution” and the fascist party, in view of an eventual danger of political crisis: this formation was called La Guardia ai Labari [“Guarding the Labarums”, editor’s note]. But not even the Guardia ai Labari moved a finger! Finally, to safeguard the physical safety of Mussolini and his family, special units of militia officers had been set up for the defense of Palazzo Venezia and Villa Torlonia. The task of this special corps was to watch over, and, dutiful to the received task, that is all the special corps did! For his part, General Badoglio announced to the jubilant people that the war on the side of Germany continued and the military government issued very clear directives to prevent and bloodily repress any popular demonstration. A ban on gatherings of more than three people was immediately issued, going out after 9 p.m was prohibited. Restaurants, theaters and cinemas were closed. The Piave Division entered Rome and occupied the city’s traffic centers. «The members of the German embassy received special passes in order to be able to circulate freely during the night». (F.K. von Plehwe, Il Patto d’Acciaio).
The one that went down in history under the name of Roatta Circular, but that was actually signed by Badoglio, ordered verbatim: «1) In the current situation, with the enemy pressing, any disturbance of public order, even minimal, and of any color, constitutes treason and can lead, if not repressed, to very serious consequences; any mercy and any regard in the repression would therefore be a crime. 2) Spilling a little blood initially saves rivers of blood later. Therefore every movement must be inexorably crushed at the beginning. 3) The antediluvian systems, such as cordons, rings, intimidation and persuasion must be absolutely abandoned, and civilians must not be allowed to stay with the troops around positioned weapons. 4) The units must assume and maintain a tough and extremely resolute attitude (...) 5) Against groups of individuals who disturb order and do not comply with military authority prescriptions, proceed in combat formation and open fire at distance, even with mortars and artillery and without warnings of any kind, as if you were proceeding against enemy troops (...) 6) Shooting in the air is not allowed; one must shoot to hit, as in combat (...) 7) The leaders and instigators of disorders, recognized as such, are certainly shot if caught in the act, otherwise they are immediately judged by the war tribunal sitting as an extraordinary court. 8) Whoever, even individually, commits acts of violence and rebellion against the armed forces and police or insults them and the institutions is to be immediately put in arms (...) This is to be imposed immediately with inflexible rigor».
Thus, a few hours after the fall of Mussolini and after a few moments of false illusions, workers were massacred by machine guns and tanks. The official figures on the victims of the “45 days government” (from July 25 to September 8), certainly lower than the real ones, speak of 93 dead, 536 wounded and 2,276 arrested. Even the Stalinist historian Ernesto Ragionieri is forced to admit that «during the twenty years of Fascism, the army had never been sent to machine‑gun the crowd».
If the Roatta Circular was not clear enough, the new Minister of the Interior sent the following order to the prefects: «It is necessary to act with the utmost energy so that the current agitation does not degenerate into a communist or subversive movement». The results of these directives were not lacking: July 26 – 11 dead, 83 wounded, 494 arrests; July 27 – 11 dead, 42 wounded, 388 arrests; July 28 – 43 dead, 144 wounded, 413 arrests; July 29 – 12 dead, 38 wounded, 160 arrests; July 30 – 6 dead, 1 wounded, 109 arrests; July 31 – 9 wounded, 39 arrests; August 1 – 3 dead, 12 wounded, 51 arrests...
This was in the very first days of the “liberation” from the fascist dictatorship! Even better than the number of dead and wounded it is the directives of the military leaders that give an authentic picture of the anti‑worker ferocity of the Badoglio government. The Minister of War Sorice, in a telegram to the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote «In Turin, at two Fiat departments, a work-to-rule strike has begun. Agitators were arrested and referred to military court for immediate proceedings. It is programmed an artillery attack against the aforesaid building if workers do not obey to the intimation of returning to work» (July 29).
The same day the general Adami Rossi gave the following orders to his troops: «Intimidate for the immediate resumption of work giving a five minute warning, hinting that, if work is not resumed, it will be imposed by force. If, at the end of the fifth minute, the abstention continues, fire a few short volleys, and do not fire in the air or on the ground, but on the unruly. After the volley, repeat the order once and, if it fails, fire volleys at short intervals until the order is carried out».
At the San Marco shipyard in Trieste, thirteen of the striking workers were arrested and a threat to kill two of them, taken at random, was made. A threat to refer all the other workers to the military tribunal if work was not immediately resumed was also made. In his history of the PCI, Spriano, comments. «By early August, calm had returned. The iron fis tworked, even though no one wanted to push for insurrectionary action, neither the communists, nor the Action Party, or the MUP [“Movimento di Unità Proletaria”, in English “Proletarian Unity Movement” – editor’s note]». It is true that the scums of the PCI had been very careful not to point out to the working class the road to revolutionary action, however, as we will see in a moment, they were even going to lend themselves (or better, propose themselves) to collaborate with the terrorist Badoglio government.
Badoglio, as soon as he was appointed head of the military government, hastened to send Hitler a telegram in which he said: «As already stated in my proclamation addressed to the Italians (...) the war continues for us in the spirit of our alliance (...) I am grateful for the opportunity, Fuehrer, to extend my cordial greetings to you».
It is evident that Badoglio’s honeyed words did not quite charm the Berlin leaders. Germany was well aware that the new government represented a transitional phase and that it had the sole purpose of carrying out the betrayal of the alliance in order to pass to the other side of the barricade. Ambassador von Mackensen, at 5 p.m. on the 27th, telegraphed his government warning that the next move would have been to «disengage from the conditions that today still keep Italy tied to its Axis partner». Having said that, he suggested to «fill the Boot with so many German forces that we [the Germans – editor’s note], at any given moment, will be able to put the head of State and whatever intrigues of his on the menu». Hitler, for his part, would have wanted to resolve the situation in a more radical and hasty manner and, immediately after Mussolini’s arrest, proposed to take definitive measures that can be summarized as follows: 1) Have the 3rd Panzergranadier division occupy Rome; 2) Arrest the king, the crown prince, Badoglio and his entire government. «We will prepare to capture this entire rabble with lightning-quick speed. Tomorrow I will send a man to give the order to the commander of the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division to enter Rome with a special squad and arrest the entire government, the king, all that riffraff at once, and first of all to arrest the crown prince and arrest these scoundrels, Badoglio and the whole gang»; 3) Penetrate the Vatican and seize the entire diplomatic corps. «The rogue is there, let’s take out the whole gang of pigs (...) Then we apologize (...) Nothing changes for us anyway»; 4) Take possession of the documents proving Italian treason.
On the afternoon of July 31, a meeting was held in Frascati in which, in addition to Kesselring, Aviation General Student, Navy Captain Neubauer, Navy Captain Juege, and First Staff Officer von Plehwe participated. During these meetings the details of “Operation Schwarz”, which was to put Hitler’s directives into execution, were finalized.
What was it that made Hitler give up on his plans? The day after the German summit in Frascati, Badoglio, warned through the Vatican of the Operation Schwarz, met von Rintelen and warned him in these terms: «If this government falls it will be replaced by one of Bolshevik inspiration. This is neither in our interest nor in yours». On the morning of August 2 von Rintelen left for Berlin by plane, and there he pointed out to Hitler that «only the Badoglio government could prevent Italy from sliding towards communism. Therefore it had to be supported». And Operation Schwarz was halted.
«But there is more – Spriano writes – in a confidential memo put into circulation on August 13 by Ribbentrop’s office, the draconian measures already introduced by the Italian government are praised».
Colonel Montezemolo would end his days as a martyr at the Fosse Ardeatine; Dr. Rodosindo Cardente, who was a doctor at the Nazi prison in Via Tasso, wrote of him, «the proletarians and the superior officer of the General Staff met again as they did on the battlefields, so do in the prison cell and in the quarry of martyrdom, fraternally united forever». But the martyr of the Ardeatine, in private conversations with German officers, could not praise the repressive measures taken by Badoglio against his “proletarian brothers” enough. «First, he [Montezemolo – editor’s note] cited, as the clearest expression, the harsh application of the state of siege. The Fascist government never knew how to find the force to do such a thing. It had only maneuvered with half‑measures, much to the anger of the army. But Badoglio had already militarized post offices and railways, put severe restrictions on the civilian tourist movement, declared three-quarters of the country a war zone, and integrated the militia into the army» (F.K. von Plehwe, Il Patto d’Acciaio).
Although Germany knew that Italy was consummating its betrayal, it decided to support the new government in Rome because this was the only way it could be assured that the contagion of the revolt would not spread within its armies. Or, if we want to be more precise, we should say that only by supporting the Badoglio government could the Germans have stopped the bacillus of insurrection that had already manifested itself within the army.
General von Rintelen writes that, at the fall of Mussolini «even German soldiers took part in demonstrations of joy (...). Fortunately for the participants there was no denouement before the court-martial». This is also very interesting: the German commands preferred to integrate the protest movement rather than take action by the court-martial law.
Just as Hitler accepted to play along with the traitor Badoglio as long as he continued to play his role of executioner of the working class, Churchill and Roosevelt did not fail to appreciate the qualities of the Savoy general and put all their military power at the service of the common cause: bleeding the Italian proletariat out as the latter, because of the tragic condition in which it found itself, could have represented the first spark of an enormous international revolutionary wave.
In one of his letters to Roosevelt, Churchill wrote, «My position is that once Mussolini and the Fascists are gone, I will deal with any Italian authority which can deliver the goods». This was at the end of July. In early August, in a new letter to the US president, His Majesty’s prime minister stated what the goods he alluded to were exactly: «Fascism in Italy is extinct. Every vestige has been swept away. Italy turned Red overnight. In Turin and Milan there were Communist demonstrations which had to be put down by armed forces. 20 years of Fascism have obliterated the middle class. There is nothing in between the King and the patriots who have rallied round him and rampant Bolshevism».
And it was to assist the enemy’s police forces, on the front not of war but of class, that the Anglo-Americans unprecedentedly increased their bombing of working class urban neighborhoods. The “liberation” of Italy was part of the Allies’ military plans, but first and foremost it was to free it from the danger of a revolutionary proletariat. It is still Churchill who wrote on August 4: «In the interest or putting the maximum political and military pressure on the Italian people and Government as well as for strictly military reasons we are most reluctant to interrupt the bombing of the marshalling yards, etc.». The military aspect is put on the back burner, while in the spotlight is the “political and military pressure on the Italian people”.
The British Official History of the second world war, with regard to the directive of February 14, 1942 to the Bomber Command, states: «(bombing operations) should now be focused on the moral of the enemy’s civil population and in particular, of the industrial workers». Moreover, this camouflage of class warfare as war between armies was applied against the working-class neighborhoods of all defeated countries: in Dresden, in the night between February 13 and 14, 1945, 135,000 people were killed with absolutely no strategic justification. Cartier reports that «at the end of July 1945 the five largest Japanese cities were destroyed in proportions ranging from 40 to 65%; secondary cities are the subject of a special incendiary program, from June 17 to August 14 sixty of them are attacked, many burned at 60, 70, 80%, up to 99.5%; the number of victims reaches a million».
In this anti‑proletarian Holy Alliance that saw post‑Mussolini Italy, Nazi Germany, and the democratic powers united, could have Stalinism been excluded? Absolutely not! At the beginning of August, the Stalinist Giovanni Roveda sent a letter to General Ruggero in which he put forward the proposal to «invest with the powers of extraordinary commissioners two old organizers of the traditional General Confederation of Labour, who I propose in the name of the writer and the Honorable Ludovico D’Aragona». When Roveda made his proposal to collaborate with the government, his fellow party members were still inside the prisons and correctional facilities where they had been locked up by Fascism.
It was no coincidence that Carmine Senise (who until April had been chief of the Fascist police and in July took part to the conspiracy of the Crown, and who was now again head of the Badoglian police) had issued the following circular: «I beg you to immediately arrange for the release from prison of the convicted disposed of by the State police authorities responsible for political activities, excluding those referring to communism and anarchy. At the same time, today the Signorie Loro will compile lists of all those convicted or judgeable for the above-mentioned activities, again excluding communists and anarchists, and refer them to the competent Royal Prosecutor’s Offices, proposing royal pardon».
Badoglio, a registered member of the National Fascist Party (with his entire family, including his wife) set up a government dubbed “fascism without Mussolini”. Ragionieri writes, «Only the State Councilor Leopoldo Piccardi was known to have anti‑fascist sentiments and it was no accident that he was given the Ministry of Corporations». The “fascist government without Mussolini” put into action the fascist-catholic-liberal-Stalinist collaboration proposal that had been put forward by the PCI since 1936. On August 8, the PCI member Roveda, the socialists Buozzi and Lizzadri, the Catholics Grandi, Quarello, Vanoni, the Action Party members De Ruggiero and Calamandrei and the liberal Storoni, were appointed commissioners of the formerly fascist unions. That the purpose of the government was clear and, consequently, that the PCI cannot seek extenuating circumstances is confirmed, once again, by Ernesto Ragionieri (we can afford the luxury of quoting our worst enemies!). «The contacts [of Badoglio – ed.] with anti‑fascist exponents were conducted in the light of a fundamental necessity, that of relieving the pressure of the working masses with measures not alternative, but complementary to military repression while not further exacerbating a terrain of struggle and confrontation – the factory. A terrain that threatened to become explosive after the end of July strikes and demonstrations which presented clear demands (such as, above all, internal commissions) which seemed to alarmingly confirm an awakening of the dangerousness of the working class».
There couldn’t be a more thorough and sudden confession than this. Stalinism, even if its adherents remained locked up in prisons, was nevertheless always willing to cooperate, even with Nazism, when its... counterrevolutionary handiwork was necessary.
It was in this situation that Roveda, upon written request, was put in charge of the former fascist trade unions with the pretended reservation that it would not entail any political co‑responsibility with the government, «as if the fact of taking official positions did not in itself, beyond any mental reservation, entail co‑responsibility with its employer» (International Communist Party, October 3 Document, 1943). The “Roveda case” appeared to be of such gravity that even the PCI leaders who had emigrated to France, informed through the radio, were appalled. This is evident from the “Spartacus’ Letters” of August 8 where it is stated «Should the news be correct and Roveda and Buozzi really collaborate with Hitler’s agents in the Badoglio government, this would show that we are dealing with two militants who in good faith make a very serious mistake and who will want to correct it immediately by sending the reactionary and militarist government their resignations, else becoming two traitors who have passed to the enemy camp, who the working class and anti‑fascist parties are to interrupt all relations with». The mistake of these PCI emigrants was to speak out driven by emotions, yet they should have known that Stalinism does not allow mistakes: before speaking one must wait for party directives! It thus happened that it was not Roveda who had to justify himself, but rather, it was those comrades with just a glimmer of class consciousness left that had to engage in self‑criticism. Those very ones who advanced the hypothesis that Roveda was a traitor who had gone over to the enemy had to bow their heads and declare that «once they had the assurance that Roveda was in agreement with the party, there was also agreement among the comrades» (Spriano, Storia del PCI).
The French Communist Party had also spoken out on the issue by disavowing the collaboration with Badoglio «Hitler ally and head of a government at war with the Soviet Union». Moscow, on the contrary, passed it over in silence. For the central Counterrevolutionary International, what would have changed, for the purposes of the military campaign, whether or not the PCI collaborated with the Badoglio government? Absolutely nothing! On the contrary, for the purposes of the inter-imperialist collaboration for the sake of repression it assumed significance of the utmost importance. Thus, green light to the collaborationist experiment even if alongside Hitler’s sidekicks.
We read the passages from Churchill’s letters in which he said that the bombing of Italian proletarian cities, particularly Turin and Milan, should have continued and intensified in order to sap the proletariat’s resistance and will to fight.
It did not take long for the bombings to bear fruit, just as Badoglio’s machine guns had. Nevertheless, in August, class struggles in the two major industrial cities resumed. On the 9th, in Milan there had been strikes against the war at Pirelli, and on the 10th at Breda in Sesto S. Giovanni. Over the next few days strikes followed one after the other. On the 17th, unrest affected the entire province of Milan. Roveda’s timely firefighter‑like intervention allowed work to resume the next day.
In Turin, the unrest was much stronger. The spark of the new wave of strikes started from the Fiat Grandi Motori plant. At first General Adami Rossi urged the workers not to «hinder the work of the government with strikes (...) In the meantime a considerable number of workers had left the workshop, before the troops arrived. The freshly arrived soldiers pointed their machine guns at the remaining workers in the workshop, while the officer in charge ordered them to fire at the rest of the workers wanting to leave. The soldiers refused to fire. Then the officer grabbed his machine gun and fired at the workers» (Remo Scappini’s report to the PCI Center). In the following days protest strikes spread throughout the city and province. Once again it was Roveda and Buozzi who promptly intervened to put an end to the proletarian unrest. In the same days, other strikes, though smaller in scale, occurred in Biella, Vercelli, Modena, Spilamberto, Reggio, Tuscany and Umbria. Then again in Varese and La Spezia.
In Turin, the soldiers refused to fire on the workers who they felt complete solidarity with. Spriano writes, «Many soldiers actually encouraged the workers to strike». Both the proletarians in overalls and in uniform were just waiting for the Party to give them the plan to organize, coordinate, and extend that struggle which, born out of the material need for bread, now demanded an immediate end to the war and thus put the issue of taking power on the agenda. The PCI tried its best to throw water on the fire of class struggle and unleashed its agents, fresh out of jail, to soften up the proletariat, to convince it that it must go back to work and not demand even the most universal of needs: a piece of bread. But despite their counterrevolutionary militant effort, the situation continued to grow more critical by the hour.
In the spirit of the best Italian tradition, the PCI proposed the establishment of a government, under the aegis of the monarchy, of national reconstruction against Germany. In factories and squares, Stalinist orators urged calm, called on workers not to strike and to resume work. Popular Frontist politics continually widened its mesh: no longer support for Blum or Daladier but support for Badoglio, all while the bodies of slaughtered proletarians still laid unburied in squares and factory yards. The bourgeoisie knew how to raise its dogs very well!
However, the bourgeoisie could not sleep soundly; it is true that the machine guns and mortars were ready to again open fire on the proletarians, it is true that the class instincts of the workers were being suffocated by the poisonous gasses of the democratic and collaborationist slogans disseminated by the Stalinists... It is true that the political prisoners who had just been released from prisons were rushing to give declarations of patriotic and “realistic” loyalty; but to what extent would it have been possible to contain the proletarian pressure without running the risk of a disruptive explosion?
It was for this reason that the cowardly Italian bourgeoisie decided to pull out of the game and let others defend its class privileges. The German and Anglo-Saxon invasion was the providential solution to achieve the goal of crushing the revolt of the proletarian masses. «Should we still be surprised that Badoglio, from July 25 to September 8 and especially from the signing of the armistice announcement, allowed the German occupation of northern and central Italy? After having snatched the weapon of peace out of the hands of the masses and having thus lulled them to sleep by making itself – the Italian bourgeoisie – promoter of peace, it was necessary to abandon the reluctant country at the mercy of the two belligerents, to hand it over bound hands and feet so that it would cease to be the arena of political struggle and become field of military battles. The German heel would stifle the resurgent idea of proletarian revolution in the great industrial centers, and the British would be left with the task of re‑establishing Italy’s faltering capitalism on solid foundations» (Internationalist Communist Party Document – October 1943).
The armistice granted to Italy by the Allies was perfectly within this very framework of repression, containment and distortion of the feared proletarian uprisings. Only this explains what happened, since from a military point of view the disengagement of Italy from the Axis did not disfavor the Germans who were left with freedom of action, having no more ties to the former ally and, on the other hand, did not benefit the Anglo-Americans at all. As early as January 1943 Eden had stated that «it might well be in our interest that Italy, as a component of the Axis, should turn out to be a burden on the German and increasingly weigh down on forces».
With the armistice, in fact, Germany was relieved of the Italian burden and, for their part, the Allied forces that landed in Italy were limited to a positional war giving the Germans time to militarily occupy the country, organize the administration and stabilize on the “Gustav line” that cut Italy in two: from the Garigliano to the Sangro.
The Anglo-Americans would have been able to land in the north of Rome, which would have created the conditions for a rapid occupation of a large part of the peninsula. They would also have been able to launch a powerful offensive by also exploiting the psychological factor to the full disadvantage of the Germans who saw themselves, once again, betrayed by the Italian fascists, and, above all, by exploiting their enormous war potential which was far superior to that of the Germans. In this regard, a look at the forces fielded in early August to carry out the landing in Sicily will suffice: 1,380 ships; 1,850 landing craft; 4,000 planes and 12 divisions. A deployment of means and men greater than the Normandy landings themselves. Churchill himself had implied that this was how things would unfold. On August 26 he wrote to Stalin: «The war in the Mediterranean is to be pressed vigorously. In that area our objectives will be the elimination of Italy from the Axis alliance and the occupation of Italy, as well as of Corsica and Sardinia, as bases for operations against Germany». On Sept. 3, another letter to Stalin states, «we shall send an air‑borne division to Rome to enable them to hold off the Germans who have gathered Panzer strength in that vicinity». On September 5: «The invasion of the toe has been successful and is being pressed, and the operation “Avalanche” and the air‑borne venture are both imminent (...) I believe we shall get ashore at “Avalanche” in strong force«
“Avalanche” was the code name given to the large landing that was to follow the armistice announcement. Evidently the Allies did not tell the Italian commands where the landing would have taken place, and it did not take place between Civitavecchia and La Spezia as had been requested by Badoglio’s emissaries. Nor did the promised launching of the airborne division on Rome take place. The Allied landing took place as far south as possible, where the most painless intervention against enemy forces could be: Salerno on Sept. 9. From here they arrived on Oct. 1 in Naples, when the city was already cleared of Germans and in the hands of the population. Not even the second landing, at Anzio on January 22 1944 (four and a half months later) was an exception to this strategy. The Anglo-American forces were immediately circumscribed by German troops. The bridgehead remained stationary until the spring.
Historians agree in blaming both the monarchy and Badoglio for the fall of north-central Italy into German hands and for taking for granted the capture and annihilation of the Italian forces outside the country. What the bourgeois and opportunist historians do not say is that this was part of a general framework that aimed at nipping any potential proletarian uprisings in the bud.
On this matter it is good to recall a little fact that one does not read in most history books. On September 3, in Cassibile, General Castellano signed the armistice with the Allies; immediately afterwards the Italian government went back on it. This latest change of mind must not have pleased the Allies very much, and General Eisenhower threatened “the destruction of the government and the country” if the armistice clauses were not observed in full. Instead, Churchill, the old English fox, did not flinch and, when it was most useful to the Anglo-Americans, announced to the world, which is to say, to the Germans, that Italy had withdrawn from the war. This is noted in the letter sent exactly on September 8 to Stalin: «At the last minute the Italian Government have backed out of the armistice alleging the Germans will immediately enter Rome and set up a Quisling government. This may well be true. We are, however, announcing the fact of the armistice at the hour agreed, namely 16.30 hours Greenwich Mean Time today».
This fact, by itself, casts even more shame on the Italian bourgeoisie which, through its cowardly representatives, attempted to betray both the Germans and the Anglo-Americans. However, this fact also demonstrates something else: the Allies put the Italian government, with no knowledge and against its will, in front of a fait accompli so that total chaos and disintegration would result. At the same time, by cooling down the war operations, they gave the German occupying army a free hand so it could do the dirty work of repressing the working class that had once again taken up the struggle.
On the morning of September 8 Victor Emmanuel received the new German ambassador, Rahn, and, during the conversation, reconfirmed «the decision to continue until the end the struggle alongside Germany, with which Italy was bound for life and death». However, this does not at all mean that the king was sincere. After Radio London made the announcement of the Italian capitulation, the Council of the Crown prepared a communiqué denying the “supposed armistice”. This communiqué was not broadcasted because, in the meantime, Badoglio, from the microphones of the EIAR (“Italian Body for Radio Broadcasting”), confirmed the announcement given by the British. However, even at this point, some ministers demanded for Badoglio to be publicly disavowed, «pointing him out to the country as responsible for the contacts made with the Allies and consequently for the signing of the surrender», and asked for a reconfirmation of «Italy’s intention to continue the war on the side of the Germans» (Puntoni, Parla Vittorio Emanuele III). All this sufficiently demonstrates that the British, with their sudden announcement of the surrender, put the Italian government on the spot as the latter was trying to extend its fence-sitting charade.
It was now a matter of making an urgent and final decision. The decision was to leap into the arms of the future victors.
But the king and the post-Mussolini government not only thought about getting their people to safety with their shameful escape to Brindisi, in addition to it they prepared something more. They made sure that the bourgeois order would not be disturbed and that the proletariat would not be given either the opportunity or the chance to move.
When the German commands were already aware of the Italian surrender, as Vittorio Emanuele was hurriedly filling his suitcases and Badoglio his own, General Roatta was conferring with the German commanders von Rintelen and Toussaint. During the meeting arrangements were certainly made to favor a painless transition of the State administration, which, abandoned by the Italian government, came under the protection of the Reich. This, which at first glance may appear to be an imaginative statement, will seem somewhat less so as we recall some significant events.
All Italian commands deployed in the various theaters of war had possession of the document “Memoria O.P.44”, which scheduled the start of the hostilities against the Germans. After Badoglio’s proclamation confirming the signing of the armistice with the enemy, the executive order “Memoria O.P.44” should have been triggered. Instead, Badoglio, after saying that «all acts of hostility against the Anglo-American forces by the Italian forces must cease», merely added, «they will, however, react to any attacks from any other source». “Memoria O.P.44” remained halted. But, since Badoglio’s proclamation could be interpreted as an order of resistance, General Ambrosio, at 12.20 a.m. on September 9, gave orders to «let the Germans move and transit through the Italian lines, from the South towards the North (...) provided they do so without acts of violence».
And why would they perform acts of violence when no one was preventing them from carrying out their maneuvers and movements? A later communication from Ambrosio was even clearer: «The agreed-upon plan of interrupting connections with the Germans will not be implemented unless it results that German units have disrupted our connections, occupied telephone exchanges and amplifiers and otherwise carried out acts of hostility». Basically, the “invaders” were authorized to occupy all vital and strategic centers; after that any resistance, besides being futile, would be suicidal.
Another indication of agreement can be identified in the king’s escape. Between the announcement of the surrender and the escape, about 12 hours passed. During that time there were no hostile acts, movements or signals from the German side, even though the “Student” plan involving the arrest of the king and the government had been ready since the day after July 25. Instead, on the morning of September 9, the caravan consisting of seven cars (inside which were the royal family with its 17 suitcases, Badoglio who had misplaced his own suitcase, generals and ministers each of them with little or lots of luggage) quietly set off and quietly headed south crossing the German troops going up north. Just as quietly they passed the roadblocks encountered: five in all, two of which were German.
Arresting and deporting the royal family and its followers would have only caused problems for Hitler, if nothing else it could have triggered a generalized conflict with the Italian troops who, no matter how exhausted their forces were, at least on Italian territory would have been able to prevent that freedom of movement essential for the German army to counter and slow down the Allied advance. If the Germans did not arrest the fleeing king, three days later, at the Gran Sasso, the Carabinieri allowed them to take Mussolini without even a pretense of resistance. The Duce’s guards had been given the order to kill Mussolini if he attempted to escape, however on September 8 (on the very September 8, incidentally) this order was changed to one that said to “use the utmost caution”, and the Carabinieri, out of caution, let him go.
Another fact that may be of minor importance, but is not entirely unimportant, is that a relative of the Savoy family, Count Calvi of Bergolo, was referred to by Kesselring as the first commander of “Rome, Open City”.
Much has been written about the defense of Rome to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Germans, but this defense, in addition to the fact that it had nothing to do with the orders given by either Badoglio or Ambrosio (indeed, it went in direct defiance of those) must be downplayed from the hagiographical exaggerations of the Resistance historiography. To explain this we just have to quote Giorgio Bocca, noted partisan and arch anti‑communist: «The sacred history of the Resistance – Bocca writes – has in part endorsed the legend of a Rome defense accomplished in spite of the king’s escape by the divisions of the Mechanized Corps and a group of anti‑fascists at Porta S. Paolo. That is because it suited the image of General Cadorna, commander of the Mechanized Corps and later of the Volunteer Corps for Freedom, and because it symbolically placed in the capital the first act of popular resistance against the occupier. Certainly it was fought valiantly both at Porta S.Paolo and in the capital’s environs, but those who mistake these quick clashes against an advanced German patrol and some positional resistance for a defensive battle are goring history» (La Repubblica, July 8, 1977).
Once again enemies, betrayers and traitors, were in agreement so that everything would take place as painlessly as possible, without disturbing order and without creating a power vacuum during which the Italian working class could have risen up and passed the torch of revolt to the uniformed German proletarians, leading to their mass desertion on all the European fronts.
The two fascist governments in the North and the monarchist government in the South ensured the continuity of the domination of the capitalist State over the working class. Italian soldiers in disarray, who could have posed a serious danger to the stability of order, were rounded up by the German army and sent to Germany. Those in Italy who escaped the roundups were later caged within partisan organizations. The danger of insurrection in the most volatile theater of war was averted.
The American spy Peter Tompkins, referring to the House of Savoy, wrote, «never finished a war on the same side it started on, unless the war lasted long enough to change sides twice». This gentleman’s irony is misplaced: the Savoyards may have always betrayed their allies, but never did they betray the class they represented, and even the betrayals they consummated were not out of private interest, but out of the interest of national capitalism and its bourgeoisie.
Not purely for the record we may recall that even before July 25 proposals for separate peace had been made and attempts undertaken, Mussolini consenting and all. The Undersecretary of State, Bastianini, recalled that in early 1943 General Castellano had told him «plain and clear that we had to disengage from our ally and end the war because the armed forces were unable to fight, lacking the necessary weapons». After the enormous bombings of Cagliari, Bottai noted in his diary, «According to new revelations, Mussolini is, by now, mulling over possible maneuvers to break away from his Axis partner».
On May 15, Victor Emmanuel III filled out three “notes”. “Note No. 3” reads «One should think very seriously about the possibility of disengaging the fate of Italy from that of Germany». In the same month, lieutenant colonel pilot Ettore Muti, being in Portugal, approached Anglo-American elements. It was not known on whose behalf.
On June 19, the 452nd Council of Ministers of the Fascist Era was held, the last of its kind. On this occasion Senator Cini publicly expressed the opinion that peace had to be made, and, addressing Mussolini, he said, «And if peace is to be made (...) in order not to be taken by surprise as the war took you by surprise (...) it is necessary for us to prepare to make it as it should be made, creating favorable conditions, establishing indirect relations for possible solutions, not closing the doors behind you, on the contrary preparing possible ways out». To this end, the undersecretary of State, Bastianini, had a meeting with Cardinal Maglione on July 17. The Vatican, after probing the Allies, equipped the Roman banker Fummi with one of its passports. The banker, acting as administrator of the Holy See’s assets, arrived in Lisbon, first stop of his trip to England. There, he conducted a survey directed at the possibility of dealing with the withdrawal of Italy, Romania and Hungary from the war. Mussolini was, of course, aware of this unofficial mission.
The Germans were behaving in exactly the same way, in fact they started it first. Already in May 1941 there had been an attempt (although officially and embarrassingly disavowed) made personally by the German Reich’s No. 2: Hess. Hess affair aside, Hitler had repeatedly, unbeknownst to Italy, conducted soundings to the enemy through qualified agents: in Sweden with the Russians, in Spain and Switzerland with the British. On Jan. 16, 1943, Ciano wrote in his diary, «In the intercepts there is a telegram in which the terms of the conversation between the German General von Thoms and Montgomery are summarized (...) von Thoms said that the Germans are convinced that they have lost the war and that the army is anti‑Nazist since it attributes all responsibility to Hitler».
In a 1946 party paper of ours entitled “La Classe dominante Italiana e il suo Stato Nazionale” (“The Italian ruling class and its National State”), in regards to the events of 1943, we wrote: «Just as it can be said that the most disgraceful and pernicious product of fascism is anti‑fascism as we see it today, so it can be said that, at the same time, the very fall of fascism, on July 23, 1943, brought shame to both fascism itself – as not one of its millions of muskets was ready to fire for the defense of the Duce – and to the anti‑fascist movement in all of its various shades, which, as fascism was about to collapse nothing had dared, not even the little required to make an attempt at falsifying history and taking the credit for the fall».
On Sept. 9, 1943 (watch the date!), with equal representation, the PCI, PSUP (Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity), Pd’A (Action Party), DC (Christian Democracy), DL (Labour Democratic Party), PLI (Italian Liberal Party), under the chairmanship of Ivanoe Bonomi (a pro‑fascist in 1919), gave birth to the CLN (National Liberation Committee) with the specific purpose of preparing the psychological ground to deviate class demands into the field of participation to the imperialist war, in an anti‑German function. In fact, the CLN’s proclamation said, «At the time when Nazism is trying to restore its fascist ally in Rome and Italy, the anti‑fascist parties form a National Liberation Committee, call on the Italians to fight and resist to give Italy the place it deserves in the assembly of free nations». Having brought the working class to the false ground of democratic freedoms, they were now imprisoning it in the meshes of imperialist war.
As usual, our sharp statements strike the sensibilities of our opponents and the gullible. The most common, and also most true objection is that many proletarians that were fighting in the mountains considered the anti‑fascist struggle as a stage, after which guns would have continued to fire and this time against the bourgeoisie and the bosses. We do not deny this, just as we do not deny that workers, until a few years ago, believed that the PCI would have led them to socialism. These tragic illusions will never be completely extinguished and will always be revived whenever the proletarian threat approaches. It can only be so, otherwise opportunism could not play its role as agent of the bourgeoisie and its function would be exhausted. But what the working class believes it to be (especially in the absence of a strong revolutionary party) is one thing; what opportunism actually is... quite another. Thus, the PCI manifested itself immediately and loudly as guardian of bourgeois legality and barker of the working class. The Stalinist party wanted the working class to mobilize, in the factories and on the mountains, and to pour its blood into the battle, but only to defend the fatherland and the bourgeois nation. «When we ask the Allies – Togliatti declared in 1944 – we know that we speak not a class language, not a party language; we speak a language of the people and of the nation, we speak in the name of all of Italy and we know that we speak in the very interest of the great Allied democratic nations and in particular of the Anglo-Saxon nations».
The Italian bourgeoisie, which at the beginning of the war had predicted that «a few thousand dead will be enough to get a seat at the peace negotiations», now more than ever needed to offer the proletarians’ blood so that, as it sat at the peace table, the victors would have behaved more “humanely” in its regards. So Togliatti, head of the party that had picked up the tricolor from the mud, continued, «We know that we are speaking in the interest (...) of the Anglo-Saxon nations; in their military interest, because the organization of our country’s greatest effort inevitably means and will mean a saving of blood of British and American soldiers, which will be especially important when the British and American soldiers will have to fight in the great Po Valley (...) That is why we say – and this is the main slogan that we launch – as a Party in the international arena: give the Italian people the chance to side with the great democratic allied nations, to conquer with the blood of their own children the liberation of their country. Give the Italian people the chance to fight thoroughly for the destruction of the fascist regime that has ruined our country».
The Italian bourgeoisie was fascist when it had to fight against the specter of the proletarian revolution, was fascist when it was a matter of ruining the living conditions of the working class and when it was a matter of making Italy “great and respected in the world” through its colonial adventures. But now that the war was irreversibly lost and the bourgeoisie knew that it only had one hope of receiving a less harsh treatment from the future victors, it sided with them. Throwing the Blackshirts and fascist pennants under the bus, it supported them in the war against Germany, using the blood of the proletariat as a bargaining chip.
But it could not have been the old bourgeois parties that demanded this sacrifice from the proletariat; only a party with an historical background granting it the confidence of the working class could (and should) have done such a thing. That party was the PCI.
Since it was not a class war but a national war, all bourgeois components had to join together. Hence the insistence with which the PCI made continuous appeals to all the Italian political groups: Catholics, socialists, monarchists, liberals, and... fascists. In reality, this was not an initiative to bring the bourgeois parties to the democratic front, the bourgeoisie had already chosen sides. It was a matter of numbing the proletarians’ class consciousness by making them believe that even the socialists, even the Christian Democrats, the monarchists, and even the fascists, thanks to Togliatti’s wise policy, would have taken sides in the struggle to destroy the fascist regime. The workers, among other mockeries, had to swallow the bitter pill of being told that Catholics and monarchists (former fascist collaborators) had now become sincere comrades in arms, and they had to witness a true floodgate of cynical filibusters that from fascism passed over and were welcomed with full honors into the ranks of the PCI.
When the controversy broke out a few months ago about the Rome mayor’s proposal to name a street after Bottai, the Corriere della Sera reported a personal reflection that Antonello Trombadori had written, by his own hand, in the margins of Bottai’s “Diary”. Trombadori’s reflection was as follows: «But one that resents degenerated fascism as Bottai does cannot remain locked (hidden) in the shelter. He should have made a brave contact with the Resistance: opened his soul, precisely, to the people, “proclaiming” his reflections if only as a “betrayed fascist”, not closing himself off more and more to the end! Would we, if he had turned to us, to Valli Federico, for example, and through Valli to Guttuso and Mario A(licata - ed.) have rejected him? It is difficult to answer, but, if he really was capable of that, I don’t know, maybe we would have said: yes, come with us» (Corriere della Sera, Oct. 10, 1995). Should Trombadori have any doubts, we are sure of it: the “betrayed fascist” Bottai didn’t join the PCI only because he didn’t apply for it, but this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a copious flow of personnel between fascism and the PCI.
If in the program of class collaboration and national unity the PCI proposed itself as the unifying glue of the various political groupings, this does not detract from the fact that through its adherents, when it had the opportunity, it also collaborated with the “enemy”, precisely in the name of class collaboration and national concord. We have recalled the case of Roveda who was put in charge of the ex‑fascist trade unions during the 45 Badoglian days, that is, during the pro‑Nazist, enemy of Soviet Russia phase. Protagonist of another case of direct collaboration, this time with the Republic of Salò, was Concetto Marchesi. In the aftermath of July 25, he was appointed Rector of the University of Padua. After several public and private meetings with the Minister of National Education of the Republic of Salò, he was reappointed to his position. On November 9, Concetto Marchesi, in ermine, inaugurated the 722nd academic year of the University of Padua in the name of “this Italy of workers, artists and scientists”. The reference to the “Labor State” that the Social Republic was vaunting is more than evident, and the entire fascist press extolled the oration of the “illustrious master”. This incident, of no small importance, did not at all compromise, in the future, Marchesi’s right of citizenship in the PCI.
This was the terrible situation the proletariat found itself in the fall of 1943. And it was in this situation that the Internationalist Communist Party launched its appeal to the proletariat: «Against the watchword of national unity, which for us translates into the formula “let the proletariat bleed itself dry so that order may be saved”, we launch the watchword of class struggle, prelude and instrument of the revolutionary seizure of power» (October 1943).
Our comrades were first and foremost concerned with clarifying to the proletariat the revolutionary Marxist position, that of Lenin and the Italian Communist Left, toward the war. Thus the first article in the first issue of the clandestine Prometeo carried this unequivocal title: «To the Imperialist War the proletariat opposes the firm will to achieve its historical program». In fact, only after identifying the true character of the ongoing war could any tactical approach then follow.
The war, on both sides of the front, was imperialist in both character and objectives: it was being fought for the conquest of new markets, for financial control, for the exploitation of less developed areas that were nonetheless rich in economic possibilities. It was being fought for a new partitioning of the world. Consequently, the Party denied that the conflict had originated from ideological contrasts: between freedom and dictatorship, civilization and barbarism, and other nonsense like that. The fact that the countries adhering to the different warring sides had, roughly speaking, the same form of government (democratic or fascist), was itself only the «product of the different situation of each of the belligerents in the framework of world politics and economics, (on one side standing) the countries that emerged victorious from the 1914/18 conflict (and on the other) the countries that had emerged defeated or less well‑off from it; and it’s no coincidence that those two blocs took on a different political structure and ideology, the rich countries being democratic, the poor countries being fascist and authoritarian» (Prometeo, December 1943).
In addition to the economic aspect, the war also has a political aspect and it represents the highest expression of the bourgeois crisis, representing the impossibility of the peaceful settlement of class contradictions and antagonisms. Then the capitalist State is faced with the dilemma: war or revolution. And if revolution does not break out, then war inevitably breaks out, or it serves to break, preemptively, the revolutionary wave believed to be coming. «In this sense all belligerent countries have a common interest in the crushing of the proletariat as a class» (Prometeo, December 1943). «Neither of the two sides at war with each other today is fighting for freedom or any such nonsense, but for the supremacy of one over the other, and of all of them over the proletariat» (July 1944). Between the proletariat and the war, therefore, no possibility for compromise could exist because both of the sides at war were nothing but different faces of the same bourgeois reality: both were to be fought because they were «intimately bound, in spite of appearances, to the same iron law of the preservation of capitalist privilege and thus to fight to the death against their common enemy: the proletariat» (No. 1, Nov. 1943).
However, in order to break the proletarian class front and true proletarian internationalism, the petty-bourgeois ideology of anti‑fascism, national defense, and above all hatred towards Germans were inoculated, with the complicity of the socialist traitors. «The astonished and dismayed masses have taken the bait of the anti‑German crusade, obeying in part to the atavistic voice of hatred against the German oppressor, a distant and unconscious sediment formed in the souls of so many Italians and which revolutionaries must, however, know how to identify and overcome, because it is precisely what Reaction has so far relied on for their wars of robbery and extermination» (Prometeo, November 1943). In the midst of the infamous anti‑German campaign, internationalists, apart from very rare exceptions, were the only ones saving themselves from the morbid war psychology that set the proletariat of Germany as complicit of Nazism and thus of the war and its atrocities. These primitive patriotic slogans, which had been elaborated by the chauvinists of the previous world war (ironically, by the very fascists of the first hour), were now being picked up and made their own by the demo-social-stalinist parties to demonstrate that the word German was to be lumped together with Nazism, barbarian, bloodthirsty. And from this came the watchword, touted as revolutionary, of “death to the German”.
On this occasion, too, Prometeo, drawing its inspiration from the doctrine of revolutionary Marxism, knew how to distinguish itself from all the democratic rot and, on August 15, 1944, published an article with the very clear title, “The German Proletariat: The Key to the Revolutionary Strategy”. The article, after highlighting the incredible revolutionary merits and combativeness of the proletarians of Germany, analyzed the causes of their tremendous defeat, which affected the entire international proletarian movement. These causes were to be sought in the pitchfork policy of social democracy first and, later, in both the very severe mistakes of the Communist International and the counter-revolutionary policy of Stalinism. «Hitler’s victory – the article reads – was the result of this short-sighted policy of compromise; it was the first stage of triumphant centrism, which consolidated the basis of its power on the blood of the German proletariat and on the ruins of the Communist International. This and no other is the real bleeding tragedy of the German proletariat, which was actually regarded as the backbone of the world communist organization» (Prometeo, August 1944).
With extreme clarity and foresight, the article predicted that, when the war was over, it would be the bayonets of the Allied armies that would ensure, in the defeated Germany, the victory of the democratic bourgeoisie «no longer against Nazism, but against the return of the proletarian offensive», and, again in the same article, it anticipated, «There will be the dismemberment of Germany and its proletariat, which in reality is the number one danger to the future democratic peace, just as it was to the Nazist “peace”».
Nazism was certainly a German phenomenon, but not because it was rooted in the “Germanic soul” or in some dark curse of its race, but because capitalism in Germany had reached its most exasperated manifestations. After separating the responsibility of the German workers from that of the German bourgeoisie, Prometeo went on to indicate to the Italian workers how they should behave toward their class brothers who had been forced against their will into the Reich’s armies. «How will the Italian proletariat cooperate in the liberation of its German brothers from their bloodsuckers? In only one way: by carrying its class battle to the end, since the proletarian battle is an international battle, and every victory achieved by one proletariat is a victory of all proletariats in all countries. To blow up the war machine that oppresses the German proletariat, do not call another war machine (Anglo-Saxon or Russian) to the rescue, but spread among the ranks of the German soldiers the seed of fraternization, anti‑militarism and class struggle. Spread the contagion of your revolutionary will. This, and only this, is your battle, Italian workers» (Prometeo, March 1944).
But the fraternization hoped for by the comrades of the Left, which for the bourgeoisie represented the specter of a future revolutionary redemption, was being sabotaged with all its might by the very party that called itself communist and presented itself as the defender of workers’ interests: the PCI. Such sabotage was carried out with much greater violence and brutality the more episodes of fraternization spontaneously occurred.
Togliatti had showed us to what lows these self‑described communists were willing to stoop when, from the microphones of Radio Moscow in early 1943, he had said, «When the war is over, on the steppe that stretches before the great city of the Volga the crops will grow more beautiful. On every meter of ground a German bandit has left his bones». But the epigones of the “Best” are certainly no less than the big boss. Luciano Gruppi, in Critica Marxista (No. 7‑1974), wrote: «One speaks of Germans because he makes a political judgment, scientifically rigorous: if one cannot forget that it is Nazism that has dragged the German nation into this war and that guides its atrocious actions, it is also true that the German people – wanting or not – were up to that moment rallying for Nazism, and that the Italians had to fight not only against the SS or other Nazi or fascist formations, but against German soldiers». Such disgusting statements were being written in a magazine that had the shamelessness to refer to the name of Marx! That of Gruppi is not to be considered an accidental error of judgment: five years later, in the columns of L’Unità, Pajetta recalled the racist hatred that the PCI preached to the Italian workers against the German soldiers, on whom, indiscriminately, they mercilessly had to shoot even if «they could have been a worker, even a communist» (L’Unità, Jan. 29, 1979).
Already in 1944 our comrades had responded to these disgraceful statements, «It is part of the narrow-minded patriotic mentality to put on the same level of co‑responsibility and complicity the forces that provoked the war and the proletariat» (Prometeo, August 1944).
Returning to the episodes of fraternization, we can recall those that took place in the aftermath of July 25, 1943, which we have already mentioned as we quoted General von Rintelen. After Mussolini’s arrest, rumors had spread that Hitler had committed suicide. We quote what F.K. von Plehwe, who was at that time in Rome as the first staff officer, wrote: «On July 28, around noon, Lieutenant Colonel I.G. Jandl entered my room (...) Jandl was coming from a tour of the city [Rome – editor’s note]. In Piazza Esedra an excited crowd stopped his car and gave him passionate ovations “Hitler is dead! Long live Germany! Long live Italy! Long live peace!” It seemed to him that he was being celebrated as a leader and he was unable to do anything but smile benevolently from all sides. Only after several minutes he was able to continue on his way. Near the church of S. Maria Maggiore this scene repeated with the same insistence. Still very close to the embassy, many passers‑by made lively signs to him with their hands and shouted, “Hitler is dead!” (...) Almost in despair the German commander of the train station was asking for instructions because irrepressible demonstrations of joy by Italian and German soldiers took place on a sidewalk at Termini Station, where a troop train had just arrived. The Italians celebrated and embraced the German soldiers getting off the train and the Germans (...) joined in the chorus of joy at the news (...) Unpleasant consequences could have easily resulted for those Germans who greeted the news with too much haste and obvious satisfaction. The Italian commander of the city of Rome had to send some armored reconnaissance wagons through the main streets to break up other demonstrations which the news provoked» (F.K. von Plehwe, Il Patto d’Acciaio).
The popular jubilation and spontaneous fraternization, the fact that the German soldiers had enthusiastically welcomed the (false) news of Hitler’s death and the fact that the army commands preferred to pass over in silence these manifestations of serious insubordination completely show how little the Nazist spirit was rooted into the Germans and how, on the contrary, they were averse to the war. Let us read more from L’Altra Resistenza by A. Peregalli: «When a few days after the coup d’état [Badoglio government – editor’s note] the news spread that Hitler had committed suicide, there were impressive demonstrations of joy by the German military who in several cities fraternized with our soldiers» (Giaime Pintor, Il Colpo di Stato del 25 luglio). A September 1943 PCI peripheral report states, «From some kind of survey and findings in Turin and the region, it appears that German soldiers are hostile towards the SS, that they are tired of the war (...) Several German soldiers seek civilian clothes to desert (...) and try to approach the population cordially; especially in the factories, German soldiers approach the workers. Typical is the behavior of the air force, they frequently abandon their guard posts and weapons to go and talk to the workers during refreshments and work». Another PCI report mentions “a petition made for partisans by four German soldiers”.
These are a few examples that serve to demonstrate a generalized state of mind, and very little would have taken to cause insubordination and thus a general mutiny to break out. But what saved discipline in Hitler’s armies were, on the contrary, the anti‑fascist organizations, with the PCI leading them, which by barring the way to the process of fraternization forced the German soldiers to be reabsorbed by the only body that could have in any way guaranteed their defense: the Nazist army. Thus, while on the part of the invaders it was manifested the will and desire to draw closer to the working class to solidarize and join in, by the dirtiest means a wall of mistrust and hatred was erected between the proletariat in overalls and the one in uniform, to the benefit of the plans of imperialism.
If the German soldiers were proletarians, equally proletarians were those who had to put on the uniform of the Italian Social Republic’s forces, whether they had been victims of the roundups or had spontaneously presented themselves at the military districts as they came to know the tenor of Graziani’s recruitment. If the Salò army had been exclusively composed of fanatical diehard fascists, the hierarchies of the Social Republic would not have admitted that the sentiment of the troops was troubling, especially since in addition to a sense of demoralization and the attempts to desert, a sentiment of sedition took wide hold among “fascist” soldiers: the singing of the Internationale and other subversive hymns became a generalized phenomenon. Graziani issued notices against the draft dodgers, calling for the «shooting at the very place of capture or in the locality of his habitual residence», and later retaliation was announced on families, either by confiscation of property or through other types of reprisals.
These are systems routinely used by all armies, so we do not cite the shootings of renegades and deserters to make a scandal out of the Fascist brutality. We cite these systems to say that the soldiers of Salò, like all the soldiers in all the armies around the world, wore a uniform and carried a weapon because they were compelled by State terrorism.
Since the use of force alone did not yield the desired results, the Salò republicans announced an amnesty to all the renegades who had not already passed into the rebel ranks. As a result of this amnesty, 44,000 young men turned up at military districts, although later many of them and others deserted again. However, this fact is symptomatic: tens of thousands of young people, certainly not Fascists, who had already been ambushed, presented themselves at the districts only because they had been forcibly conscripted. Wouldn’t these young people have constituted a huge contribution within the ranks of the Resistance? Why did they miss out on them? Again, the answer is the same as always: the partisan movement was the first to fear proletarian reactions which it could not control. For the future democratic order, it was preferable for young Italians to sing the Internationale inside the barracks of the ISR rather than on the mountains if only because, this way, they would come under the scrutiny of a double repression: the fascist-Republican one, because they were subversives, and the monarch-partisan one, because they were “fascists”.
One of the most shameful operations (thus considered by the Stalinists as one of their noblest deeds) aimed at arousing “justified” hatred, both of the Germans against the Italians and viceversa, was the Gappist bombing that took place in Rome, in Via Rasella. Not coincidentally, the mastermind of the attack was Giorgio Amendola, one of the PCI leaders. Proof that the Via Rasella attack was of great importance to capitalist plans is shown by the fact that the Italian bourgeois, demo‑papal republic, through the Court of Cassation declared it to be a legitimate “war deed”, proclaiming its perpetrators “national heroes” who, as such, were decorated by the anti‑communist De Gasperi. It is therefore worth spending a few words on it.
Prior to the Via Rasella attack, in Rome, other attacks had been carried out against Fascists and Germans the most important of which were: 1) Bomb attack at the cinema in Piazza Barberini, right after the show: two dead; 2) Fire attack against a motorcart: three Germans killed; 3) Bomb against a German military truck: soldiers seriously wounded; 4) Bomb against the Bernini hotel; 5) Gunshots against German guards surveling a Tiber bridge: two dead; 6) Attack against a truck at the Colosseum; 7) Attack against the Milano hotel; 8) Attack at the Foro Mussolini; 9) Attack against the garage in Piazza Barberini: some wounded and serious material damage; 10) Attack, in Piazza del Gesù, against two German officers; 11) Attack in Piazza Cola di Rienzo, dead and wounded; 12) Bombing in Piazza Fiume at the Tassi & Rivoli garage: one dead and two wounded; 13) Piazzale Romania: bomb attack, 4 dead: two Germans and two Italians; 14) Bombing of General Maeltzer’s office at the Hotel Flora: one woman wounded and serious damage. «In addition to these bombings it was not uncommon for corpses of soldiers to be found in the Tiber» (from Kappler’s deposition).
March 23, 1944, was the 25th anniversary of the founding of the “Fasci di combattimento”. The celebrations took place in Milan, in Piazza Sansepolcro. The fascists organized an extraordinary commemoration that included a solemn mass in honor of the fallen fascists, the swearing in of the new adherents to the Republican Fascist Party, a parade through the streets of the city and a large demonstration inside the Adriano Theater. The German command banned the demonstration, believing that «parading to the sound of music through the city with fascist pennants was nothing more than an unnecessary provocation».
The GAP (“Patriotic Action Groups”, in Italian: “Gruppi di Azione Patriottica”) had organized an attack against the fascist demonstration, but, following a change of plans, they thought of enacting another resounding action and, at the suggestion of Giorgio Amendola, the 3rd battalion of the Bozen regiment was chosen as target. This was even though it was known that the men of the Bozen regiment had all been recruited in South Tyrol, and had been incorporated a few months earlier into the Reich under the name Alpenvorland. These soldiers of rather advanced age and with no weapons experience, had never participated in warfare. They were under training and were assigned to maintain order with security police functions.
The attack was carried out as follows: inside a garbage cart a metal box was placed. It contained 12 kilograms of TNT and a sack with another six kilograms of TNT and pieces of iron pipes filled with other explosive charges. The fuse was lit. «After a few moments, just as the 156 German soldiers are about to reach the entrance to Palazzo Tittoni, the gigantic explosion takes place, hitting in full force the tight group of soldiers who, in rows of three, were walking uphill, more slowly. It feels like a huge blast that kills dozens of soldiers on the spot and injures a hundred. The explosion is heard throughout the city (...) Immediately afterwards, the other Gappists throw, on the German company, “brixia” mortar bombs. On Via Rasella at the corner of Via Boccaccio, another group of Gappists engages in a shootout with some Germans (...) Above, in front of Palazzo Tittoni, dozens of wounded groan on the ground, while everywhere there’s scattered limbs, helmets, belts, glass, pieces of wall and plaster. There’s blood everywhere. The explosion even pushed a bus in transit on via Quattro Fontane against a wall» (W. Settimelli, Processo Kappler). This was a cruel carnographic spectacle.
Peter Tompkins, OSS (Office of Strategic Service) major, who was on a secret mission in Rome, immediately expressed the judgment that the partisan strike was entirely without military and strategic justification. There was no reason, he thought, to kill randomly chosen German policemen: «Why hadn’t whoever was responsible for the attack tested his courage in Via Tasso (where political prisoners were held, many of whom were later slaughtered at the Fosse Ardeatine – editor’s note), or picked off Kappler and his gang of butchers?»
That the men ripped apart by the bombs in Via Rasella were not bloodthirsty beasts is proved by the very fact that when the Bozen regiment was granted the honor of carrying out, at the Fosse Ardeatine, the reprisal to avenge their murdered comrades-in-arms, their commander opposed a sharp refusal. After Major Dobbrick, commander of the Bozen regiment, refused, the order was given to Colonel Hauser of the Wehrmacht, but he too refused. «When Malzer hung up, he repeated what Hauser had said. He now looked at the Gestapo officer. “It’s up to you, Kappler,” he said» (Robert Katz, Death in Rome).
In response to previous partisan attacks that had occurred in Rome – those we have briefly listed – the German police responded with harsh repression, but never reprisals. Facing a carnage as bad as that of Via Rasella – one, among other things, without any justification from a military point of view –, that reprisals would have not been carried out was unthinkable. If the American spy could not understand the motives of the attack, they were well understood by the Germans. «[Dollmann] and Moellhausen would later conclude that the attack in Via Rasella had been a ploy to provoke the Germans into striking — the fiercer, the better — against the people of Rome, in order to intensify the hatred for the occupiers and to increase the popularity of the Resistance» (R. Katz). Of the same opinion was Kappler, who at his trial said, «I thought that the bombing was committed to provoke reprisals, because I believed that in certain circles existed the idea of provoking hatred in the German troops».
This intention, which was later also confirmed by the organizers themselves, was openly stated in an article in the “L’Unità” issue of March 30, 1944. In this article, referring to those slaughtered at the Fosse Ardeatine, it was said that they had «the right to expect from us that no sacrifice was too great, that no risk was to be considered too serious, no effort too hard for them to be avenged». Giorgio Amendola later claimed to be the author of this writing and also the mastermind of the Via Rasella bombing.
The partisan action was defined by the CLN as a genuine act of the war of liberation, however it is very strange that after a military action carried out so perfectly, the partisans completely disappeared, not giving the slightest thought to the reprisals coming from the German side. It would have been logical, and it would have been a real military action, to prevent or at least disrupt the carrying out of the reprisal. Most of those slaughtered at the Fosse Ardeatine massacre were taken from the Via Tasso prison. The latter was certainly kept under partisan surveillance since an attack to free Second Lieutenant Giglio was planned.
On March 24, the transit of military trucks was intense as the 335 condemned prisoners from the prisons of Via Tasso and Regina Coeli were being transported, however, it aroused no suspicion in the partisans. No one paid attention to such unusual traffic. Yet the latter had been noticed by part of the population, and some people somehow witnessed, even if indirectly, the mass execution. «Before the seven o’clock curfew a few people who lived or worked in the sparsely settled area of the catacombs were becoming aware of what was taking place in their midst. A young engaged couple, out strolling in the warm, early evening, heard the repeated crackling of the muffled shots. When they approached the barricaded Via Ardeatina, they were warned by some of their neighbors not to go farther. “The Germans are in there”, they were told. In between the Appian Way and Via Ardeatina, some of the guides of the Saint Callixtus catacombs tried to learn what was going on. They were turned away at gunpoint by the Germans. A youth from a nearby osteria sneaked alongside one of the German trucks and stole a rifle. He was caught, put up against a wall, and threatened with immediate execution. A Silesian monk named Szenik, who was one of the German guides at the catacombs, intervened and saved the young man. A Roman priest, returning from the countryside, was stopped as he tried to enter the city by Via Ardeatina. From the entrance to the caves he heard the voices of some of the prisoners singing the Garibaldian hymn “Si scopron le tombe”. The priest knew at once that it was the wail of tragedy. He prayed: “In manus tuas Domine...”. Unseen by the Germans, however, a forty-five-year-old hog keeper (...) would observe the entire operations» (R. Katz). Certainly strange that the Resistance remained in the dark.
The Via Rasella bombing, completely useless from a military point of view, not only provoked the brutal reaction we know of, but by declaring it an action of war, it endorsed the Anglo-American theory that Rome was an open city only in words and thus legitimized the Allied bombing of the city.
The Via Rasella attack and all the others carried out without any real military purpose had the effect of reinforcing discipline within the German army. The German proletarians in uniform, tired of continuing the war and predisposed to a military strike, finding the door to all forms of solidarity and help from the Italian proletariat barred, found their only defense within their army, directing their hatred towards the Italian traitors.
A few words also deserve to be spent on the hundreds of victims of the reprisal ordered by the German command. As we avoid speculating on the cheap cliché of the “German savagery”, the fundamental fact of imperialist warfare immediately comes to the fore: that is the extermination, in whatever form and under whatever pretext, of the workers and proletarian strata. In this regard we wrote in 1948: «Kappler claims that he and his security police organization had succeeded in identifying the names of the main leaders of the resistance movement in Rome (...) On the other hand, we know from the Bonomi Diary that those men and other exponents of the CLN met collectively in a barely clandestine way (American spy Peter Tompkins tells that he, in Rome, attended receptions also attended by German officers, and that they were playing around with the same girls). How did it come about, then, that when it came to carrying out reprisals, only those without specific responsibilities and mere proletarians, including some close to the Marxist left, were shot? Evidently, the ferocity of the two feuding bourgeoisies did not go so far as to induce them to exterminate each other, but took pleasure in exterminating the proletarians who by misadventure had followed one or the other warring party. This is what happened in Rome, this is what happened generally wherever the hideous SS operated. Or did we not see typical exponents of anti‑fascism, such as Blum, emerge intact from the German concentration camps while hundreds of thousands of lesser personalities were coldly slaughtered there? How many “leaders” the German clutches knew about only to be able to boast about it after the war and the scare were over! These delicate attentions the Nazis reserved to the major poppies of social democracy did, after all, get their deserved recognition. When the Nazis had lost the game and their men saw the hour of reckoning approaching, the new authorities paid them forward, according the opposing chieftains favorable treatment. They too took up the habit of organizing trials and shooting guilty men, but trials and shootings always took place according to the very same tactic of striking low and saving high. Saving at the top as far as bringing men of the past regime back into the parliament, as far as procuring vacation places and publishers for the Grazianis, the Mussolinis, etc. The Kappler trial, a simple salaried executioner, is another example. It may be that the court will find him guilty of the crimes he coldly carried out but for which he is not responsible; but there is no bourgeois justice to prosecute the Kesselrings and those who ordered the Via Rasella attack» (Battaglia Comunista, No. 21 – June 1948).
Those who ordered the Via Rasella massacre are now regarded as fathers of the nation, but Kesselring and his comrades did not fare badly either: Kesselring, tried in Venice in 1947, by an Allied military tribunal, was sentenced to death; the sentence was later changed to life imprisonment and in 1953 he was pardoned and freed. Von Mackensen, tried in Rome and sentenced to death, he too had his sentence changed to life imprisonment: he was then freed in 1952. General Wolff, tried in Hamburg in 1949, was acquitted. Kappler, sentenced to life imprisonment, remained in prison until, in 1977, very ill, he was complacently abducted by his wife. As it can be seen, the “simple salaried executioner” Kappler, was the one who paid the most, while his immediate superiors, free in Germany, enjoyed their well‑deserved rest.
Our assertion that those who suffered from the horrors of war were first and foremost the proletarians could be refuted by the argument that the Nazis made their greatest victims not at the expense of a class, but of a people, the Jewish people, without regards to class distinction. Even at the Ardeatine, out of 335 victims, as many as 73 belonged to the people of Zion. But we do not accept the thesis that the persecutions against the Jews were carried out indiscriminately; here too, as in the case of the anti‑fascists, it was those belonging to the popolo minuto who suffered the most horrendous persecutions. In the roundup of Rome, ordered by Kappler on September 16, 1943, during which a thousand Jews were rounded up and deported, «the criterion of the economic capacity of the victims completely exulted, as is proven by the fact that the Monte Savello neighborhood, where the bulk of the withdrawal was carried out, was inhabited by the “popolo minuto”, who were not registered among the contributors [of the Jewish organization – editor’s note], and as remains confirmed by the fact that even in the other districts of the Urbe many people who were not enrolled in the list of taxpayers were sought and kidnapped, while others, who were on that list instead, were not sought» (Ugo Foà, President of the Jewish community – November 15, 1943).
On November 1, 1943, in its first issue, Prometeo wrote: «After having attempted to channel the rising of the masses into the comfortable bed of bourgeois democracy, the masses are invited to national unity in the name of the struggle against the invader, trying to offer to a people, which in three years of conflict has shown no desire to wage war, a plausible motive to forget, in drunkenness, the high road to the conquest of power. A motive to fraternize with the class enemy, to pave with that people’s blood the way to a resurrected democratic regime and to the victory of one imperialism over another. Powerless on its own to persuade the workers to fight for a cause not their own, the bourgeoisie mobilizes its faithful servant – opportunism – to muster, dusting off the old paraphernalia of the nationalist rhetoric, the proletariat under the worn‑out banners of the “fatherland”, of the “new Risorgimento”, of the “sacred frontiers” and the defense of Italy’s industrial heritage; in other words, immersing the proletariat into the terrible machinery of imperialist war».
Against the debased chauvinism of the parties of counterrevolution, the Communist Left launched its own class deliveries, «Workers! To the watchword of national war, which arms the Italian proletarians against the German and British proletarians, counterpose the watchword of communist revolution, which unites the workers of the whole world against the same enemy – capitalism – above all frontiers. It is necessary, now more than ever, for proletarians to clearly see this. The dilemma is not to fight in the democratic or fascist army or to join the partisan groups: it is only one – war or class struggle. Between the extremes of this dilemma, we can only choose the last one. The liberation of the proletariat will be achieved not by those who have invited it to fight under the banner of democracy, but by the only body that has launched to the proletariat of the whole world the true revolutionary watchword: Proletarians desert the war, under whatever disguise it presents itself to you».
The analysis of the partisan groups is found in issue 4 of the paper: «Our attitude to the phenomenon of partisanism is dictated by precise class reasons. Born out of the debacle of the army, objectively and in the intentions of their animators, they are instruments of the British war machinery, and the democratic parties exploit them with the double intent of reconstituting a war potential on the occupied territory and diverting the subversive proletarian mass away from class struggle by sending it into conflict. To the propaganda of the six parties that invites young proletarians to abandon their specific terrain of struggle – cities and factories – to join the partisan ranks in the mountains, thus bleeding the army of the revolution dry, we can only oppose the most categorical refusal».
In the August 1944 issue there is a lengthy account of a party propagandist who, with the help of a sympathizer, was able to penetrate into a partisan-controlled area and among them carried the word of revolutionary communism. After analyzing various aspects of the life, organization and components of the partisan groups, the propagandist ends his report with these words, «The communist elements sincerely believe in the necessity of the struggle against Nazi‑Fascism and believe that, having broken this obstacle down, they will be able to march toward the conquest of power, defeating capitalism”. What follows is our comrade’s comment, “This is the dangerous misunderstanding created by centrism [Stalinism], which takes away from the proletariat a part of its striking force by favoring the deception of a democratic solution that responds to the interests of Italian capitalism and the States that are about to victoriously resolve a conflict for which they are jointly responsible». This shows the falsity of the accusation leveled against us of making snap judgments without distinguishing and assessing personal motivations and the myriad situations by which individuals, despite themselves, are overwhelmed and imprisoned.
Rightly so, our comrades, after having affirmed, without reservation, that the partisan movement was in the exclusive service of one of the two belligerent imperialisms and the interests of the national bourgeoisie, nevertheless noted that the proletarian component was sincerely revolutionary and intent on fighting for the conquest of power. From this it followed that the Internationalist Communist Party would have to distinguish between the partisan movement and the partisans, or at least their proletarian component. The fascists saw in this attitude of ours an opportunist ploy and the reporter of the “reports to the Duce” wrote: «Here the Communist Left makes the language of the other subversive groups its own, no doubt with the intention of creating its own mass of maneuver». The Left’s position, however, was much more complex and simpler at the same time. Who were the partisan groups composed of? They were composed «either of deluded workers who believed they were taking up the rifle not to drive one imperialism out the door to let another in through the window, but to prepare the proletarian revolution (in the mountains!); or of young and old revolutionary militants who sought shelter from real or feared repression; or, finally, of poor soldiers who simply no longer had the desire to sell their skins to the bourgeoisie. Here the general problem is faceted into a thousand particular problems. What path to point out to these men pressed by the storm of war?».
And here is how the party answered the question: «For those who have not compromised too directly, invite them to join their fellow workers who are fighting their battle amid equally serious dangers and pitfalls on the long‑lasting front of class struggle; for the others, to separate their action from that of the defenders of the bourgeoisie’s homeland and the national war, and to transform their armed nuclei into organs of workers’ self‑defense, ready to resume their place in the struggle tomorrow, not for the phantom of “democratic freedoms”, but for the harsh but luminous reality of the proletarian revolution» (Prometeo, February 1944).
When the strikes of 1943 are mentioned in history books, more often than not, they are spoken of as class movements – even pre‑insurrectionary movements – which, organized and directed by the PCI, in July would bring about the fall of fascism opening the way for the resurgence of democracy.
This official interpretation has never been refuted by the PCI’s opponents, whether democrats or fascists. On the contrary, it was the fascists themselves, wishing to deny the material motivations that compelled the proletariat to come down and fight, who presented these episodes of the neverending struggle between classes as the result of communist fomentation.
We shall now try to see how much truth there is in these claims, showing, on the contrary, how the class struggle arose and developed independently of outside intervention, and especially of the PCI; how the PCI only attempted to ride an ongoing movement; how it never directed it toward class aims, but always drowned it or degenerated it to bourgeois ends, meaning to the end of the victory of one imperialism over another.
«From 1935 to 1943 the cost of living, calculated on the basis of 1928, had risen from an index of 109.22 to 164.99, while, at the same time, the index of the purchasing power of wages had fallen from 90 to 80. The black market was rampant, as the daily rations of 20 grams of meat and 150 of bread, in addition to small quantities of other commodities, were completely insufficient. While in 1938 common bread cost 1.80 Liras per kilogram, in 1943 it cost 8.50 on the black market; pasta, which cost 3 Liras per kilogram in 1936, had risen to 9; in the same period, butter went from 15.50 Liras per Kg. (again, of course, on the black market) to 122; eggs from 6.50 Liras a dozen to 96; oil from 7.80 Liras per Kg. to 640.50; sugar from 7 Liras per Kg. to 50; laundry soap from 4 Liras per Kg. to 337. This was what the harsh reality of wages stood against. While a first-class metalworker received an average of 4.60 Liras per hour and a common laborer 2.95, a textile worker did not exceed 1.90 Liras per hour: which is like saying that, to buy an oil bottle on the black market, you’d have to work for more than a month» (R. Luraghi, Dal 25 luglio all’8 settembre).
This was the food situation in 1943, but already in 1941 the workers, with their paltry wages, were unable to secure the minimum necessary for their sustenance, and the “120 hours” handout was intended to barely ease the social tension that was in danger of exploding, but it did not in the least solve the problem of feeding the proletarians.
On August 30, 1942 the fascists themselves, who had met in Milan at the union building, admitted that workers’ wages were 5.20 Liras per day lower than the official cost of living and that the food rationing was insufficient to cover the bare minimum of the working-class needs. Fascist unions not only recognized that wages did not cover the most basic needs of the workers, but even their newspapers were now forced to publish letters mainly from female workers protesting against the underpaid work of women.
Issue No. 2 of August 1942 of L’Unità reported that the workers’ «continuous complaining against the worsening of their physical conditions suggested to the Fascist hierarchs the idea of measuring the workers’ weight». In the article titled, “Workers Are Being Weighed Like Cattles”, it said that over the past year there were proletarians who had lost 10 to 15 kilograms in weight and that workers who were about 1.70 meters tall weighed 53 to 55 kilograms.
In the face of this tragic situation, it is interesting to see what directive the PCI was issuing to a proletariat bled dry in the true meaning of the term: «In each workshop, in each family – L’Unità wrote – let the workers weigh themselves and take stock of their physical weight and the health they have lost in the last years of the war».
Issue No. 3 of September 1942 of L’Unità reported news of street demonstrations carried out in Grugliasco by about 150 women and in Melegnano by about 300: the former demanding and obtaining an additional distribution of foodstuffs and, the latter, summoned by precept card to the local employment office, refused to accept the work that the fascist authorities wanted to impose on them. At the same time at Alfa Romeo in Milan and Tedeschi in Turin workers had carried out a work-to-rule action.
In September, the proletariat’s struggle spread to various industrial cities. The agitations that resonated the most (but were by no means the only ones) were those at Fiat, where workers entered the struggle in response to a wage decrease of about 20 percent; at Ilva, in order to obtain a wage increase; and at Caproni, against low wages and extreme exploitation. These factories were used in whole or in part for war production, both for Italy and Germany.
Commenting on the strikes of September 1942, L’Unità did not fail to highlight its own counter-revolutionary chauvinism when it wrote that the workers had «forcibly demonstrated their opposition so that Hitler would treat the Italian workers in the same way he treats the workers in occupied countries» (L’Unità No. 4, Oct. 5, 1942). No doubt about it, a fine example of proletarian internationalism!
Workers’ strikes and agitations lasted continuously throughout the year 1942 and often succeeded in forcing improvements, whether in wages, working conditions, or even additional distributions of food and clothing. A real strike movement, however, broke out and spread from the first days of 1943, intensifying more and more until it reached, in March, dimensions that were truly worrying for the bourgeoisie.
The struggle, which started on March 5 at Fiat Mirafiori, spread immediately and went on, on March 9, to Fimet, Ambra, Manifattura Tabacchi, Viberti body shop, Lancia, Ceat, Michelin (where the management, after half an hour of work-to-rule granted the workers an advance of 300 lire), the Florio tanneries, and Fest in Rivoli. On the 10th, workers in the plants of Capiamanto, Frigt, the Riunite tanneries, and Fatis in Collegno went on strike. On Thursday, March 11, the abstention from work took on even greater dimensions. On the night of March 12‑13, at Fiat Mirafiori, about 2,000 night shift workers walked out of the factory. At Riv, the strike that had began days earlier was still developing with two suspensions from work; three suspensions were carried out at Fiat Lingotto, others at the plants of Fornara, Sigla, Bona, Fiat Materiale Ferroviario, Farina, Allermann in Avigliana, Nobel dynamite factory, Magnoni & Tedeschi, Snia viscosa in Venaria, etc. Monday, March 15, more strikes took place at Fiat foundries, Gutermann, Passard foundry in Pinerolo, Savigliano, Talco, Valdisusa cotton mill, Fergat and many other small factories in Turin.
On Thursday, March 18, the Fiat management issued a communiqué informing that “for the meantime – at the end of the week – a first advance of 300 Liras will be paid to all the workers in those departments remaining disciplined at work”. All other companies in Turin complied with Fiat’s conduct. The workers returned to work, but they returned knowing that they had achieved a victory.
Even in Porto Marghera, beginning on March 14, unrest and strikes broke out, which, starting at Vetrocoke, spread involving companies such as Breda, Fertilizzanti, Azotati.
The class movement, temporarily dampened in Turin, was now exploding in Milan where, from the 23rd to the 28th, it involved no fewer workers than in Turin. On the 23rd, at a Falck plant, a fascist squad intervened with batons and pistols to restore order and get work resumed. However, these black-shirted “heroes” stayed very little in the factory and, after earning themselves a copious beating, thought it was best to get off their heels and quickly. The agitation then continued until the 29th. Pirelli went on strike from March 24 to 27. Police interventions failed to convince the workers to resume work. At Ercole Marelli, 4,000 workers went on strike on the 24th; on the 25th it was the turn of the Borletti, Brown-Boveri, Face‑Bovisa, Caproni, and Bianchi workshops. Cinemeccanica, Olap, etc. went on strike on March 26, Motomeccanica, Kardes, etc. on March 27. On March 29 Breda Aeronautica, Magnaghi-Turro, resumed striking at Falck, Borletti, Brown, etc. The strike then extended to the Biella area, Valsessera.
The Fascist regime found itself totally unprepared to deal with the wave of strikes, partly because the struggle of the proletariat, when it explodes, extends its action over the whole class by getting rid of the artificial ideological divisions achievable only as far as it is possible to corrupt layers of workers. Consequently, the repressive action of the fascist police was quite mild and was careful not to provoke the escalation of the crisis that would have triggered far more massive proletarian movements.
Even the action of the squadristi, attempted in some places, were completely abandoned after the farcical results achieved. It was preferred to play the sentimental card by having groups of war amputees parade in front of the striking factories. On the other hand, it was not only communist workers who went on strike, it was workers organized in fascist unions, it was PNF (National Fascist Party) members, it was members of the Militia (even if they had been ordered to go to work in black shirts).
The Fascist national councilor, Malusardi, allowed himself to make remarks of the following tenor: «There is an instructive episode that took place at our great ally, Germany. In a large war factory, the workers crossed their arms: they were decimated as they were at the front; some workers who had collected money to help the families of those shot, were themselves shot».
But the Fascist regime, well aware of the dangers that it would incur to by unleashing a harsh anti‑worker repression, attempted to blandish the workers and the party secretary, Vidussoni, in a dispatch issued to the Federations gave the following directives, «We call the attention of the federal secretaries to the need to intensify contacts with the masses in order to follow closely moods and direct impressions according to the need of the moment. To achieve this according to the instructions already given, it is necessary to be physically and spiritually in the midst of the people and make them appreciate the Party’s continuous, affectionate concern for their needs. To this end it is necessary to streamline every procedure and facilitate direct contacts by receiving, among other things, in the federation and at District Groups those who wish to confer by patiently listening and especially by absolutely avoiding long waits and the always hated antechambers incompatible with the fascist style. On this last necessity be given very clear instructions also to the minor hierarchs and to the employees of every office dependent or controlled by the Alt Party».
The fascist regime not only did not dare to openly repress the workers, but even tried to show itself as affectionate and caring toward the workers’ desires and needs. The very manifesto with which the Fascist unions had invited the Turin workers to resume work, as Mussolini had noted, “had been printed in the bush”, that is, it bore no signature.
The Fascist government, defeated by the proletarian unrest, declared its willingness to accept part of the workers’ demands and on April 2 officially announced that «the two Fascist union confederations concerned are working out the measures that will come into effect on April 21». The measures consisted of a daily allowance against high prices that varied from centers “subject to enemy war action” to all others. This was but a small portion of what the struggling workers had demanded, but it still represented a victory and, above all, it represented the successful, autonomous reorganization of the working class. The specter of the reorganization of the proletariat made the Italian bourgeoisie tremble far more than the Allied bombs (which rained down on proletarian neighborhoods anyway) and, faced with such specter, the bourgeoisie set all its forces in motion: generals, industrialists, fascist hierarchs, the Crown, the Vatican. The bourgeoisie decided to eliminate fascism.
Togliatti’s party, still in the process of reorganization but already fully counterrevolutionary, will play a leading role in this. Faced with such massive proletarian action, which had spontaneously and impetuously flared up immediately assuming exquisite class connotations, the PCI immediately put all its energies into action in order to divert the movement into the terrain of the worst interclassism. To this end, L’Unità filled its pages with phrases such as: «Honest Italians who care about the future of our country have a duty to support (...) the workers’ movement». The workers «have the support of the whole nation that wants to put an end to war and the brigand of Palazzo Venezia who sold Italy to Hitler (...) The goals that stand before the Italian people today are set by the duty we all have to save the country from total catastrophe before it is too late (...) The working class feels that the time has come to resume (...) its important function as vanguard of the Italian people in the struggle against fascism and the (...) unjust and anti‑national war (...) Italian workers are aware that they stand on the right road, one that must lead the whole nation to revolt against the catastrophe’s government, to the salvation of the country».
And indeed the “revolt of the whole nation against the government” arrived. There came July 25: the elimination of fascism decreed by the supreme organ of the fascist regime. There came the arrest of Mussolini by the one who had welcomed him, with open arms, as a savior. There came the formation of a military dictatorship government headed by the general who had benefited most from the Fascist regime. But the L’Unità issue of July 27 wrote triumphantly, «No, we are not in front of a simple palace revolution (...) Those who live in contact with the masses know that the real protagonist of the crisis that culminated in Mussolini’s ouster from power is the Italian people, with its resistance to the policy of war and subjugation».
In a blurb, published on the same day, we read, «We are in Piazza Oberdan, at 4 p.m. (...) While an immense column is forming and heading to the center of the city and to the prisons of S. Vittore, from one of the square’s outlets, some massive tanks advance. One of them heads toward the square’s heart, cleaving with its bulk, in a deafening roar, the mass as the latter overflows the edges. A very young woman breaks away from the crowd, advancing, alone, toward the tank. Soon two, three men follow her. In one leap the woman is hoisted onto the running wagon, in one leap a hundred and one men and women are with her. The tank is crowned by a thicket of people, who huddle affectionately, familiarly around their soldiers. The tricolor is hoisted. People and soldiers fraternize and shout together: Long live the army! Long live peace and freedom (...) Everywhere the soldiers fraternized with the workers». This nauseating tale, a typical example of Stalinist rhetoric and certainly plagiarized from some cutesy, little article in the Pravda, shows us all the bad faith of the PCI; if the soldiers fraternized with the workers, not so much did the post‑fascist government and the army. Operation ‘public order’ was ruthless: in Milan, there were 23 deaths in a week, in Genoa 6, in Savona 2, in Reggio Emilia 9, in Bari 17. But L’Unità did not talk about these massacres, all busy as it was putting out the fire of the class struggle, and, while Badoglio’s machine guns mowed down the striking workers, Togliatti’s newspaper wrote that the «Italian workers (...) need a quick return to useful productive activity» (August 4, 1943).
The armistice came and Italy found itself divided into two parts, ruled by two puppet governments, emanations of two rival imperialisms. But Italian capitalism, especially in the large industrial centers, suffered no harm from the new situation; on the contrary, in the spirit of the country’s tradition, it endeavored to profit as much as possible from the new situation. We read in Spriano: «The industrialists deal with the political, military and technical personnel of the German occupiers directly, trying to derive as much advantage as possible, perhaps unloading the growing social tension in the factories on them. At the same time – a matter of fact as far as the big monopolies are concerned, Fiat above all – they are already turning to what will be their future ally, the Anglo-American power. The big industrialists do not neglect a contact and even some form of financial help towards the CLN, through their moderate groups and individual personalities somewhat found within all the anti‑fascist parties (except the PCI). In essence, however, there is no political line of the large private industry, nor its decisive intervention in favor of the war of liberation, nor open collaborationism. On the whole, industrialists remain intransigent in the face of workers’ demands. They intend to defend profits and privileges, guaranteeing the continuation of the German energy supplies and orders, blackmailing, if ever, both the Germans and the workers. They tolerate the low productivity as the latter must serve them to appear before the Anglo-Americans as covert ’saboteurs’ of the German war effort» (Spriano, Storia del PCI).
Aside from the shy fig leaf with which Spriano attempts to cover up the PCI’s shame by claiming that the latter was not taking money on the side, Spriano gives us an exact description of the true nature of capitalism in which only profit does matter and for which one imperialism is as good as the other, notwithstanding, however, that every last drop of surplus value and blood must be sucked dry from the proletariat.
After reading the passage from our PCI historian, we can better understand the motivations that prompted Fiat to light the fuse of the workers’ struggle again. The beginning of the new wave of strikes, in fact, arose as a result of the communication from Fiat management announcing that October wages would have not been paid until November 27 (as a rule they were paid on the 15th day of the following month). On the very day of the non‑payment, a strike began at Fiat Mirafiori, and from there, in the following days, it spread to all the other departments of the group: Great Motors, Lingotto, Parts, Aeronautics, S.P.A., Steelworks, Foundries. Coming out of Fiat, the movement also involved Riv and Michelin. Fascist authorities themselves admitted the involvement of about 50,000 workers. The strike erupted as a response to the Fiat arrangements and immediately extended its demands by demanding wage increases, benefits and food ration supplements.
On Monday, Nov. 22, the newspapers reported the list of improvements the workers had obtained: 30 percent increase in wages and salaries, guarantee of a minimum wage, 500 liras bonus to the male workers who were heads of families, 350 to all other male and female workers. The workers, finding these concessions insufficient to meet their minimum living needs, immediately resumed their struggle. At this point the German military authorities intervened directly and General Zimmermann declared the concessions already made to Fiat employees extended to all Turin workers and, in addition, promised an increase of the bread ration, the concession of 5 kilograms of potatoes, a massive distribution of oil, salt, wine, shoes, and wood. Turning from concessions to threats, Zimmermann warned that if the unrest continued all measures would be revoked, wage increases suspended, and, he said, «there will be very severe consequences for you and your families (...) I am determined to act with the readiness and harshness that characterize the German armed forces against those who desert work».
The strike then moved on to Genoa where concessions similar to those in Turin were granted. In Milan, the authorities granted the same wage increases and provisions before the strikes would begin. Some of these concessions had a national character and were extended, to varying degrees, to the trade and agricultural categories.
The PCI, too busy prostituting itself with the CLN parties (and not just them), had not given the slightest weight to the unrest maturing inside the factories, and when the Fiat strike broke out on November 16 it was completely surprised, clear evidence of its... constant action inside the factories. It is not we who say this, but the PCI Center itself, which wrote in a circular a few days later, «We understand that the recent agitations have once again surprised our organizations, which have not intervened (...) This fact is severe and demonstrates the detachment from the workshop (...) the lack of reaction to the news of upcoming agitations» (Nov. 22). The PCI Center then accused the Turin trade union committee of drafting an inadequate document as it should have put together «the general workers’ situation in the workshop and the occupation of our homeland by the enemy» and should have prompted the workers to «take to the streets, demonstrate against the Germans and fascists». About ten days later another PCI document said, «we must create an atmosphere of war, unleash a relentless struggle, which must result in the armed insurrection of the working class for the liberation of our country».
So, the Stalinists did absolutely nothing to reorganize the working class, either for the purpose of defending wages or, a fortiori, to prepare it for the revolutionary political struggle. But as the struggle breaks out spontaneously, the Stalinists are ready to throw the proletariat into disarray and slaughter for the bourgeois goal of “liberating the country”.
Of quite a different character was the indication that the PC Internazionalista gave to the workers and that was to unite the struggle for immediate demands with the struggle of the proletariat against the war: «Your demands can only be fulfilled on the condition that you, conscious of your historical role, link them in a direct line to the terrible situation in which the world proletariat finds itself. Your struggle will be able to take on a true class physiognomy on the sole condition that you link it to the action against the war, that is, on a higher level than what an economic demand can be».
Despite the economic improvements achieved, workers in several cities in the industrial triangle were forced to resume their struggle, starting the first days of December. On December 13, Breda workers in Milan went on strike, and soon afterwards Falck, Pirelli, Innocenti, Magnaghi, Caproni, Olap, etc., etc., entered the struggle. At Breda, General Zimmermann intervened, promising wage increases and additional food rations, but since his promises took on a very vague character, the strike continued throughout the week until the Germans militarily occupied the factory forcing the workers to resume work. At Falck, after three days of strike action the Carabinieri intervened, arresting ten workers, three of whom were handed over to the Germans. But the same day the workers forced the police to release the seven who were still in their hands. The next day the workers took possession of the chief engineer, Maino, releasing him only after the Germans had set the other three workers free. At Olap the same scene was repeated: the police intervened by arresting workers, but were forced to release them given the resolute demeanor of their fellow workers.
On this occasion, too, the Party issued an appeal to the workers in which they were urged to develop the struggle «to make your class strength a conscious revolutionary force. Only by uniting compactly against the war, against capitalism, against the exploiters of every color (...) will you succeed in breaking the chains that still imprison you (...) Against fascism, which wants the continuation of the German war, and against the six‑party National Front, which wants the continuation of the democratic war, you organize yourselves in the workplace, cement your common interests in a Proletarian United Front, your own class destiny» (Prometeo, No. 3 - January 1944).
The profound distress created by the war confronted the proletariat with survival issues that no demagogic measures would be able to solve, much less the “social” paint job that the Salò puppet government attempted to give itself. As inevitable, every strike, no matter how heroic and no matter how crowned by “success”, ended up leaving the workers with a bitter taste in their mouths in their impossibility of guaranteeing bread on the table, forced to resume work so that their, and their brothers, daily slaughter could continue. In this tragic situation, the Party’s Central Committee issued a directive to the workers pointing not just to watchwords but also to practical means to bring the social unrest back to a level of genuine class struggle, without patriotic interference, avoiding unnecessary dispersion of energy. The party proposed the establishment of a Proletarian United Front, which was not an amalgamation of heterogeneous political parties or forces, but a unification of proletarian struggles and aims. Against the two warmongering blocs of fascism and democracy, it tended to group the energies of the class around the one immediate demand that had real value for all workers: the cessation of war and the preparation for social revolution. «As a phase of your factory agitations just closed, already the resumption of the struggle arises; you are not being given what was only partly granted to you; and even if granted, that could not, as it will not tomorrow, meet yours and your family’s needs since your wages cannot afford the luxury of black market purchases, and your card leaves you with just enough to not starve (...) Against your fascist masters who, by partially satisfying your demands, are attempting to subjugate you once more to their war; against those who, taking advantage of your economic conditions and your natural hatred for bloodthirsty fascism, are inciting you to strike repeatedly because it fits wonderfully into their war‑mongering plan which operates, today, as the vanguard of the Allied – the so‑called army of liberation – and will operate, tomorrow, at its side for the continuation of the democratic war; against those who try to channel your struggle into the national liberation front by pretending to ignore that the homeland of the proletariat, that of labor and solidarity without frontiers, has nothing in common with the homeland of the bourgeoisie (...) Today, closed in on itself, the struggle for immediate economic demands loses its meaning and value; what good would the partial satisfaction of your demands do if the immense massacre continued, sucking your blood and sweat? (...) The present hour demands the formation of a united workers’ front, that is, the union of all those who do not want war, whether fascist or democratic. Workers of all the proletarian political formations and workers without a party! Join with our comrades, discuss class issues together in the light of the events of the war, and form by common accord in every factory, in every center, United Front committees capable of returning the struggle of the proletariat to its true class terrain (...) The watchword of armed insurrection, dear to the guerrillas of national liberation, is just revolutionary phraseology concealing the betrayal of the proletarian revolution, and aims to create a sufficient electoral base for the six parties for their ascent to political power (...) It is necessary to distinguish between the strike, organic expression of the workers’ struggle and normal means of class defense, and the strike-mania of those who bring into the leadership of the movement a Balkan guerrilla and armed gang leader like mentality. This ultimately serves to render the strike weapon ineffective, discrediting it in the consciousness of the masses (...) The workers’ united front regroups and cements the forces destined to fight on the class barricades against the war and its directing political forces, whether fascist or democratic. Its greatest and most urgent task is to prevent workers from being plagued by the war‑mongering propaganda: to unmask agents disguised as revolutionaries and prevent the spirit of struggle or sacrifice that animates the proletariat from being exploited in any case for the purposes of the war and its continuation, albeit under the banner of democratic freedom».
We have quoted these excerpts from the appeal to highlight the antithesis between the revolutionary class-based slogans and practical directions given by the internationalist party to the proletariat, and the collaborationist slogans and reactionary directives that lead to the massacre of the proletariat, launched by the traitorous party headed by Palmiro Togliatti.
That the PCI completely neglected the organization of the proletariat inside the factories is amply demonstrated by the fact that the mighty strikes that broke out at the beginning of 1944 took it completely by surprise. However, when faced with workers’ mobilization it did not hesitate for a moment to make use of the movement, born out of material needs, for war purposes, exploiting the workers as cannon fodder. The directive to “take to the streets and demonstrate against Germans and Fascists” could have only been aimed at unleashing a bloody repression. In the same vein should be seen the executions of fascist figures that took place in various parts of Italy in conjunction with the strikes. This attitude also gave the fascists and the German occupation forces a pretext to unleash a reaction against the working class. The CLN parties and the PCI, first and foremost, knew all too well that individual terrorism would result in mass repressions and deportations. The plan was clear: all the now suppressed or deported proletarians would miss, in the future, the final struggle to wrest power from the hands of the bourgeoisie. Weakened, oppressed, betrayed, the proletariat would no longer have the strength to rise up, and the bourgeoisie would once again triumph by saving itself under the mantle of democracy, as it had saved itself under the mantle of fascism in 1922.
In order to crush the vigor of the working class, since January the PCI had been publicly publicizing the preparation of the insurrectionary general strike. However, the organization of this supreme test of strength was not being woven through a clandestine network in order to set it off at the time deemed most opportune and unbeknownst to the enemy. Not at all, the insurrectional general strike was being flaunted in big headlines by L’Unità and all the newspapers emanating from the PCI, so the reaction had plenty of time to prepare for the event. Faced with yet another blatant betrayal, our organization drafted a manifesto entitled, “Revolutionary General Strike or Political Adventure in the Service of Capitalism?” This manifesto warned workers that «The general strike and armed insurrection are not weapons to be trifled with. They are used when the enemy is hit in his vital organs, not when he still has sufficient strength to crush the opponent: they are the final blow, the decisive weapons of the battle for the seizure of power, not the occasional weapons of war and bourgeois war policy» (March 1944). Unfortunately, the Stalinist plan had good play, and on March 1st the workers responded to the PCI’s call and went on strike, thus finding themselves «in the absurd and tragic situation of being at the same time both the real protagonists of the active struggle and the pawns maneuvered unscrupulously by the forces moving on the war level» (Prometeo, April 1944). No need to say that our comrades participated in the strike by bringing their class-based watchwords to it.
In response to the agitation the companies decreed a lockout, the repressive forces made indiscriminate arrests, more and more numerous as the days passed, and the bosses refused to consider the workers’ demands.
Throwing the workers to the winds, the partisan movement let the reaction accomplish its work undisturbed. In a March 1st manifesto, the PCI wrote, «Patriots! Help the striking proletarians, attack the fascists and Nazis with redoubled audacity, above all immobilize tramways, railways, and all sorts of transportation». But the patriots did not answer the call and the proletarians waited in vain for the partisans and Garibaldians to intervene. What did not fail was the intervention of the bosses, police and German and Salò armies. The PCI did not criticize the patriots for deserting the appointment, its criticism was directed at the workers who had believed in that appointment. On March 14, the Milan federation of the PCI wrote: «The strike which began well and with great enthusiasm, immediately had its negative side (...) With the strike, the masses showed that they would have wanted to do away with the Nazifascists (...) but they were not yet aware of how this was to be done, and that is, that this was to be done with their own struggle and not (...) with the intervention of the partisans. So the lack of intervention from the partisans and Garibaldians immediately determined a state of mind of disappointment and discouragement that would later affect the morale of the masses».
The PCI could be proud of its service, for the benefit of the Italian bourgeoisie: for the latter, the success of the action lay not in the success of the working class, but in the repression to which it had been subjected. «Let the proletariat bleed out – wrote Prometeo, and the bourgeoisie blessed – the fascist axe, if it takes away as of now the strength to put the burning issue of power on the table» (April 1944).
We could be charged with wanting to accuse our opponents of excessive cynicism, and so, once again, it is good to let them speak for themselves. Let’s see what Pietro Secchia wrote in La Nostra Lotta (in March 1944): «Even if none of the economic demands that were the basis of the economic-political strike were achieved, even if the workers had to resume work with the wages of before, it would be a serious mistake to consider that the strike ended in defeat». In fact, the Stalinists did not evaluate success or failure by whether or not the goals for which the strike was called had been achieved, or by the strengthening of the organization and its fighting capacity; the Stalinists used another system of evaluation, namely the bourgeois military system according to which even a bloodbath of one’s own troops takes on a positive aspect as long as it succeeds in weakening the opponent’s resistance or as it unleashes a chauvinistic instinct of hatred.
In late March, the Anglo-Americans granted Togliatti permission to land in Italy. He had «left Moscow at least a month and a half earlier, having had to go around through the Middle East and North Africa, asking for authorizations, permits and means of transportation from all sorts of military and civilian commands» (Togliatti). Undoubtedly his party’s reactionary policy towards the working class made the Allies finally agree to let him set foot in the country again. And his arrival was hailed by the bourgeoisie as the arrival of a mythical figure; Ivanoe Bonomi noted in his diary, «A portentous knight, a reborn Lohengrin, has miraculously arrived from distant shores» (April 7, 1944). The bourgeoisie had every reason to rejoice because the “portentous knight” immediately set to work to liberate Italy from the proletariat’s pitfall, and by agreeing to be part of the monarchical government, freezing up all the demands of the working class.
The Party immediately circulated a leaflet: «Workers! the Italian Communist Party, which still usurps the title of communist, has given you in recent days by the mouth of its leader Palmiro Togliatti (Ercoli) the latest and most irrefutable proof of the betrayal of your revolutionary cause: the support of Stalinism to the Savoy monarchy. Bound hand and foot to the yoke of bourgeois reaction, to Badoglio who slaughtered you with machine guns and tanks barely a few hours after the fall of Fascism on July 25, the Stalinists are now no longer content to be servants and champions of anti‑fascist democracy, they make themselves the most shameless initiators of repression and imperialism».
In June 1944, Prometeo resumed the subject by highlighting the fact that the gigantic war operations on the Western Front took place only after the bourgeois rescue experiment had been accomplished in Italy with the peaceful transition from fascism to democracy, without violent social convulsions. In other words, the substance of fascism was left intact as only the form changed while spreading, among the working masses, the belief that the substance had also changed. The experiment successfully carried out in Italy was then repeated in all the other European countries.
The democratic experiment was able to take place thanks to the collaboration of two forces that were antagonistic on the political and military level, but not on the class level: the defeated fascist regime, which in its last hours of life unleashed a ruthless anti‑worker reaction, and the now victorious Stalinism, which had created the conditions for that reaction to be unleashed. In one of our leaflets from late 1944 we read, «The role of German and Italian fascism is now reduced to the function of the zealous jailer who, unable to do anything else, is concerned with handing over the European jail in good order to the new masters (...) In other words, it is necessary to bleed the working masses, to bleed them now in order to be able to dominate them afterwards».
In the course of this work we have availed ourselves many times, to prove our theses, of the unsuspected confessions of our enemies. Randolfo Pacciardi, who today could be regarded as the apostle of the Second Republic, in a 1949 article thus summarized the Togliatti’s role (and thus of his party) on the Italian political scene: «Togliatti calmed the fumes (of the working class and party members – editor’s note): he was the king’s minister, he was the lieutenant’s minister, he meekly obeyed to the Anglo-American super-government, he was in the tripartite government until he got himself put out at the right time, when democracy, consolidating, no longer needed him. Then he mobilized the streets, but in such a shrewd way that it posed no real revolutionary danger, exhausting the offensive capacity of the masses. Now he is furious, he calls De Gasperi a “buffoon”, yours truly an “insect” and he aims three columns of venom at Saragat. You insult us Togliatti. We, on the other hand, will one day proclaim you a “benemerito della Patria”. You are great» (Il Giornale, March 27, 1949).
Not just a community of purpose existed between fascism and Stalinism, but real understanding. And this was not because of a flow of men who, in both directions, moved and moved again from one organization to the other, not even because there were elements simultaneously participating into both (so much so that it is impossible to determine whether they were fascists infiltrated within the ranks of Stalinism or PCI moles within the fascist organization): typical, but certainly not unique, example is that of Licio Gelli. See the Anselmi report of May 1984. No, the collaboration between Stalinism and fascism was something different, it was a real intelligence and one that lasted for many years, and could have only been so given their common counterrevolutionary function.
It is good to recall, in this regard, the memo drafted in 1929 by the police chief and sent to Mussolini. The Fascist police chief was concerned about the developments achieved by the Left Fraction and the penetration it might have had or gained within the working class, and, in order to avert this danger, he proposed to the Duce the following solution: «The inspirator – albeit very indirectly – of the Left movement always remains Amadeo Bordiga, who had in the past a large following among the masses and who even today, because of his undeniable ingenuity, enjoys many sympathies. Bordiga, as is well known, has long been confined to Ponza. In anticipation of possible and foreseeable developments that the leftist fraction of the PCI may have and the consequent political repercussions, it seems it would be useful as of now to try to devalue and cast a shadow of suspicion on the most interesting and most dangerous man – Bordiga – by commuting his confinement into admonition and prudently circulating, in Leftist and centrist PCI circles, the rumor of a compromise between Bordiga and fascism». At the end of the year Comrade Amadeo was released and the Stalinists, for over 50 years, repeated the refrain, suggested to them by the Mussolini police chief, that Bordiga had sold out to fascism.
Why did we report this fact? To show that the understanding between the two components of the counterrevolution was neither episodic nor unintentional, but continuous and intentional. It is well known that the PCI, being unable to counter the positions of the Left from a doctrinal point of view, simply lashed out against the internationalists accusing them of being at the service of the Gestapo and fascism.
On January 1, 1944, Pietro Secchia, in an article that appeared in La Fabbrica wrote: «Death to the scabs and traitors (...) With the German occupation in Italy there have appeared some publications with pompous proletarian titles such as (...) Prometeo, which with bombastic maximalist and pseudo-revolutionary phraseology say they are on the path of the... Left. In reality they are on the path of the Gestapo (...) Today the most infamous betrayal is perpetrated by those who under the guise of a pseudo-revolutionary, maximalist, extremist phraseology (...) help the Germans oppress the Italian people». Punctually, on February 6, the Corriere della Sera took the floor, attempting to present our organization as adhering to the Fascist “socialization” program.
As the campaign of Stalinist slander intensified, inciting the isolation of our comrades and even their physical extermination as traitors, at the same rate the attention that the agonizing fascism reserved for our party intensified by giving it free publicity through the press and even through the radio. Thus the editorial offices and microphones of the Social Republic were giving ample space to the subject by presenting us as the pure, the intelligent, the honest, the true communists with all the credentials to take over the leadership of the proletariat, while the Stalinists were being branded for what they were by borrowing judgments and considerations expressed in our press. La Stampa of June 9, 1944, in an article entitled “The Crisis of Antifascism” wrote: «The dissident Communists count among their leaders undoubtedly superior brains to those of the officials who serve the Kremlin’s imperialist policy. Prof. De Luca, Fortichiari, Onorato Damen, Bruno Maffi, the Venegoni brothers and many others, are at this time gathering more and more adhesions among the members of the official party, which day by day is seeing a disbandment occurring in its ranks».
It goes completely without saying that these statements represented actual death sentences giving the partisan squads the go‑ahead to justify their assassinations under the pretext that the communists of the left were traitors and collaborationists. The fascists were merely paying off their debts to the Stalinists for the service the latter rendered in the 1930s, when by the same method, in the press, they denounced the names of the “Trotskyist-Bordigists” to the fascist authorities.
The aim of the maneuver was obvious: on the one hand, the immediate purpose of detaching the proletariat from the influence of the Stalinist party, drowned in compromise with the bourgeois-democratic forces; but, above all, there was a more important and long‑term intent which consisted in insinuating distrust against the only organization that remained faithful to revolutionary Marxist principles and tactics, a distrust that would have stemmed from the suspicion of an understanding with fascism. In addition to that, as we have said, the Stalinists would have had a moral justification to eliminate our comrades and many others who were not our comrades but who disagreed with the Togliattist directives.
And here was that party that still called itself “communist”, which to the open and loyal criticism of the vanguard of the proletariat responded with the characteristic weapon of the bourgeois reaction: political assassination. For years the PCI instigated the armed partisan formations against the Communist Left and its adherents. And the comrades who had returned from jails all over the world were accused of being fascists, OVRA agents, Gestapo goons. It was said that they should be “killed like dogs”.
In February 1945 the 7th sector of the Milan PCI federation, in an open letter to the “dear Falck comrades”, denounced our leaflets as fascist emanations and concluded, «It is understandable that policemen more or less disguised as revolutionaries are engaged in getting the filthy product of their dirty business into the factories. For the good name of us all and in our own interest, we must break the snout of such debased people!». In March 1945 a circular of the Milan federation of the PCI concluded the series of accusations in the following way: «Either way, the aim that the “internationalist communists” (...) propose is identical to that which the Nazi‑fascists and their leaders set for themselves and pursue (...) All comrades (...) must be vigilant and diligent in pointing out, detecting and exposing the counter-revolutionary work of the enemy’s agents in radical masks and teach them the lesson they deserve. The SAPs should intervene for the necessary purge». And the SAPs [“Patriotic Action Squads”, in Italian: “Squadre di azione patriottica”] intervened. On March 11 in Trebbo, in the province of Bologna, our comrade Fausto Atti was murdered. But the frenzied campaign against our party did not cease even after the end of the war.
The internal bulletin of the PCI federation in Parma, La Riscossa, in June 1945 wrote: «Circulating in Parma is the newspaper Prometeo, which bears the subtitle organ of the International Communist Party. We warn all comrades and candidates to whom Prometeo happens to fall into their hands that said newspaper has nothing to do with the Italian Communist Party, nor with the Bolshevik Communist Party, nor with any Communist Party in the world. Prometeo is simply the newspaper of the Italian Trotskyists. A newspaper supported by the fascists and reactionaries in which even the notorious Gestapo had a hand in».
On June 17, in the Turin edition of L’Unità, on the subject of party manifestos, we read, «The reactionary maneuvering is obvious, tending to hinder the formation of a progressive democracy and to discredit the new forces that must revive Italy. During the period of the partisan struggle, the same maneuvering was manifested by inviting the workers to wait-and-see and to compromise with the Germans, with the excuse that the anti‑Nazi war did not fit into the abstract schemes of pure class struggle. The proletariat of Turin, matured in the insurrection and educated by the sacrifice of its best sons, cannot be deceived by such traitors».
Mario Acquaviva belonged to the gang of those “traitors of the proletariat” who, as Rinascita wrote, were «more closely related to the underworld than to politics and in whom old and new Trotskyists, tenants of tabarins and clandestine gambling dens, speculators of the black market and night brigandage blend» (April 1945). This individual, who had always been accused of being a “fascist spy”, an “agent provocateur”, an “emissary of the Gestapo”, who had been threatened with death several times, was approached by the PCI, inviting him to join Togliatti’s party in view of the fact that he was “one of the most capable and most honest elements”. Faced with his clear refusal to take part to this sleazy Stalinist game, «two leaders of the Casale Monferrato section of the PCI, Scamuzzi and Navazzotti, had reminded him that the party had its secret tribunals and that their sentences are without appeal» (Battaglia Comunista, July 28, 45). A few days later, on July 14, Mario Acquaviva was assassinated by a Stalinist hitman.
The murderers of revolutionary communist militants did not even bother to conceal their heroic deeds, and two weeks later (on July 28) Turin’s L’Unità returned to the charge and with venomous rhetoric reproposed the filthy repertoire of accusations against the comrades of the Left. Curious coincidence: the one who on behalf of his masters was spitting venom against our party was one Davide Laiolo, former GUF frequenter (“Fascist University Groups”, in Italia “Gruppi Universitari Fascisti”), former editor of the Sentinella Adriatica and federal vice deputy of the PNF in Ancona.
In February 1921, after the events in Livorno, Spartaco Lavagnini was assassinated at the hands of fascism’s hired assassins. In July 1945, after the end of the war and fascism, in equally cowardly fashion, Mario Acquaviva was assassinated by the bullets of the new deserters of the proletariat, who had embraced both the program of nationalism and the methods of counterrevolutionary repression.
We recalled how the social-democratic traitors, in participating in the imperialist war of 1914/18, had no face to deny socialist aims. They said that the class truce granted to the bourgeoisie was only a momentary truce, for the preservation of “common values”; that then, when the storm had passed, the proletariat would have had to resume its independent path to the conquest of power.
Stalinist opportunism was not content with this and went a step further. First, in order to permanently bind the fate of the working class to that of its national capitalism, it was indispensable to erase from the heart of the proletariat the consciousness of being a social class that could not be limited within State, ethnic or religious boundaries; first, the Third International was dissolved, which, although now degenerate and servile, could have nevertheless represented a reference for the necessity of world organization. Second, the program of the new opportunism spoke not of truce, but peace between classes; the death of class struggle was decreed and it was set forth the adherence to the national governments, whatever their political orientation, and to the international organizations set up by the victorious imperialism for purely repressive and terrorist purposes.
Having eliminated the proletariat as a revolutionary class from the political scene, the end of the war (baptized by the atomic bomb) gave free rein, perhaps even more than during the conflict, to militarist programs and projects. Italy, by the mouth of “comrade” Togliatti, claimed the establishment of a powerful and modern army, not the caricature that fascism was able to put together. On November 9, 1945 before the military committee of the U.S. Senate, General Doolittle announced an air defense force of at least 5,000 planes with a permanent personnel of 400,000. On October 22, Churchill expressed a similar opinion when it came to the RAF (Royal Air Force): 4,000 frontline aircraft with 400,000 personnel, in defense of the peacekeepers.
The new European arrangement, based on Hitler’s concept of living space, saw its territory divided by a frontier line from Stettin to Trieste, cutting the German nation in half. That line, which had been drawn at the table since the summer of 1943, did not correspond to any historical, political or ethnic criteria, it did, however, correspond perfectly to the need for an iron dictatorship over the European working class.
As soon as Nazi‑fascism was eradicated immediately the propaganda mask of the “democratic” powers (let’s say the USA, because the others were reduced to mere vassals) and of the USSR fell, and the new arrangement of Europe represented «an even worse Versailles Treaty; the cold, scientific, historically inevitable preparation of the Third World War, because the conditions were created there for the outbreak of a new, more dangerous and more powerful German nationalism» (Battaglia Comunista, August 14, 1945).
The more thoughtful and shrewd bourgeois did not have too many illusions about the effectiveness of the peace treaties, the arrangement of the planet according to arbitrary spheres of influence, the new world order, and thoughtfully questioning the future spoke of dangerous unknowns inherent to those very decisions.
We said at once that history on its own had resolved such unknowns: new wars or the Proletarian Revolution. Since those years, a fifty‑year period has passed in which generations of workers have been intoxicated with the official lies of the ruling regime, basis of the Republic “founded on labor”, with the false myths of the Resistance and the “liberation” struggle. In all countries, after such a long succession of the capitalist economic cycle, consisting of national reconstructions, of the workers’ exploitation and misery, of ephemeral, insubstantial, demented and harmful consumerism, and finally consisting of crisis, endless, which inexorably sinks in unemployment and low wages every workers’ guarantee and security; after innumerable wars that grip ever more closely the “peaceful” and “rich” Europe, the crisis of its democratic, electoralist, social-democratic and progressive ideological trappings, of which its very philosophers fail to patch up the rips and glaring contradictions, is manifested in the ruling class itself.
It is time for the proletariat to abhor and reject such nauseating, rotting matter, to denounce it as bourgeois deception with a counter-revolutionary purpose, and to trace its crystal-clear class program, the one that has always been there and has never betrayed it. With this consciousness, with this party, it will be able to confront and finally overcome, after two centuries of social warfare, the ghosts of a past, which are armed with iron and falseness but are undermined by the very heap of their lies and their looming impossibility to feed the growing world ranks of a dispossessed working class.