International Communist Party Against Capitalist War


History of the Communist Left
Chapters 12-22
 
 12. The Contribution of the Youth Movement 18. May 1915: the Bologna Conference
 13. The last Socialist Congress Before the War 19. The Rome Conference, February 1917, and Other Events of the Left
 14. Socialist Struggles in Naples and the Origin of the Left. 20. Caporetto and the Florence Meeting
 15. Toward War in Europe 21. The 15th Socialist Congress: Rome September 1-5, 1918.
 16. The First World War 22. The Socialist Youth During Wartime
 17. Socialist Debates in Wartime


12. The Contribution of the Youth Movement

By the early years of the 20th century, numerous socialist youth circles had sprung up in Italy, backing up party action. They had already formed a national federation, which held its third congress in March 1907.

Although it was argued that the youth shouldn’t be concerned with the struggles between tendencies, it’s well known that the liveliest and most extremist tendencies gathered the most sympathy among the youth. Since in those years, due to a false illusory assessment that we have well clarified, it appeared that in the socialist movement the boldest tendency was the syndicalist one, close to the anarchist positions, so a large section of the youth oriented itself toward syndicalism, which in that year, as we have reported, split from the party in Ferrara. The same happened among the youth, and, perhaps because of the greater frankness of relations within the bosom of a fresh and naive movement, the split was desired by both sides. Of the syndicalist fraction we can recall the names of Orano and Masotti, later well known as leaders of the economic movement of that address, while the socialists were headed by Arturo Vella, Morara, Mariscotti, Altobelli (Demos, son of Argentina, a female reformist organizer), whom the Almanacco Socialista 1919 fancies as “reformist-integralist” fraction. In fact, we know that in 1907 such were the names of the majority currents in the (what was called) adult party, and the revolutionaries were still swaying between voting with the syndicalists and splitting from them as well (Ferrara).

The agenda isn’t very explicit: it says: “The Young Socialists, considering the differences in concept, method, and doctrine, concerning anti-militarism, relations with the party and economic organizations, emerged between the fractions formed at the congress, approve the separation from the syndicalists, which the latter themselves proposed”.

The Young Socialists gathered at a congress, the first of the new Federation, in Bologna on September 25, 1907, and began to better qualify their position. It was reiterated that they were putting “an end to the misunderstandings, splitting from the syndicalists who have an anarchist program”, and the National Youth Federation adhering to the Italian Socialist Party was founded. In the unanimity of that congress, a number of fundamental vows were adopted. On anti-militarism it was affirmed that propaganda should be made so that, in conflicts between capital and labor, soldiers would never carry out the order to fire on strikers, and about international action there was a reference to that of the socialist parties, while invoking the possibility of “simultaneous action” of soldiers from the various belligerent countries.

On anticlericalism, reference was also made to party policy, but there was no silence on the religious problem, stating the need to “propagandize the youth especially so that they do not become manciples and servants of religious practices”.

Naive form, but solid content.

On relations with economic organizations, the obligation of young socialists to be union militants was sanctioned, again in harmony with the party.

A somewhat generic programmatic motion was then voted, reiterating the concepts already mentioned.

The Second Congress took place in Reggio Emilia in August 1908. Some interesting theses should be noted. It was decided that “Christian Democrats” could not be admitted, and it was resolved to reject applications from “militant Catholics”, inviting the party to do likewise; first example of anticipation towards the party still being ruled by right-wing elements. Another vow mentions “socialist, rationalist, anti-religious” propaganda. For anti-militarism, the best formulation is about the need for a “preparatory work in the proletariat so that it will be ready to prevent wars by resorting to any means... in accordance with the deliberations of the Stuttgart Congress” of 1907; a reminder that was all the more remarkable in that, at the congress in September of the same year, the “adult” party wouldn’t even find time to discuss “socialism and anti-militarism”, and Bacci would then have to withdraw his motion on this issue, which on the other hand made no mention of the Stuttgart deliberations, in which not only was the proletariat called to the struggle against war, but it was instead inextricably linked to the struggle for the overthrow of capitalist domination.

It should be noted, however, at this congress that one still feels how reformism dominates Italian socialism, not least because one is in Reggio Emilia where youth organization is as widespread as it is influenced, unlike everywhere else in Italy, by the right-wing tendency. There are in fact two agendas on the address of the L’Avanguardia newspaper. The right-wing one is by the Reggio Emilia native Bonini, who wanted to dull out and play down the tone of the newspaper’s writings, reducing it to the educational function of young workers who are still immature; and this agenda prevailed with 131 majority votes. On the left is Consani’s order of the day, which emphasizes the political and battle-like character of the youth organ. The clever Arturo Vella, who feels he doesn’t have a secure majority, proposes an addition on “relations with the Party”, in which, not countering the thesis that the youth movement does not want to be a new party, it’s said that the thinking of the young recruits of today “will be the action of the party of tomorrow”.

It was already known that the right-wing leadership of the party tended to liquidate youth sections, which were too revolutionary, and absorb them into the “adult” cadres, as they were rather philistinely called.

Of importance is the September 1910 youth congress in Florence, following the one held in the same city by the party in September 1908, which had seen the revolutionary Marxists finally measure themselves alone against reformism and integralism, having at the same time been able to free themselves from any sympathy for Sorelian syndicalism. While only in Milan in October 1910 will the revolutionaries be the strongest in the party, and only in Modena in 1911 will they gain control of it, the youths already on the eve of the “adult” congress in Milan clearly show their tendency, although this is discernible only in some of the passages among the many deliberations.

The L’Avanguardia had been fighting the reformist right for some time, and the address was approved by as many as 2,033 votes to Bertieri against 944 to Consani. The winning agenda says among other things “that was often an effective incitement and stimulus to the party, especially to induce it to more effective action in the field of anti-militarism and internationalism”.

The vote on organization and propaganda by the right-wing Demos Altobelli wasn’t very significant, and a brilliant comrade, Sole, unhappily added that he wanted the youth “to not get exhausted with trendy polemics”.

Good theses were enunciated on anti-militarism: “the bourgeois conception of the fatherland is nothing but the official justification for the crimes and nefariousness committed by militarism through the history of centuries” – and again, albeit with somewhat naive wording: “Further intensify anti-militarist and unpatriotic propaganda in families, so that these educate their children in love and not in hatred, especially among future conscripts, with the son of the people who shoots on people being infamous and fratricidal”, – “fight by all means the irredentist propaganda that seeks to push two great nations into a war, and resort to any extreme in order to prevent the legal murder of thousands of human beings” – “to put lively pressure on the party” to induce the parliamentary group “to take active action for the reduction of military expenditures and to reaffirm the unpatriotic and internationalist ideals of the Socialist Party”.

On anticlerical action there are also notable statements. “Young people, in addition to anticlericalism (which has become a kind of sport for a section of the bourgeoisie) must carry out assiduous anti-religious action” – “religious sentiment is a prejudice tending to enslave consciences to passive resignation and renunciation of the good in life... especially in women... – the anticlericalism of young socialists must be inspired by genuinely class-based concepts”.

And, in conclusion, it’s decided to expel anyone who performs “religious practices, which are in open contrast with the final ideals of socialism”.

And the rejection is reaffirmed of the Christian-socialists who appeared in Italy at that time, opposed by the church. The vote is theoretically clear, and the vote on Freemasonry equally so; it calls for the party to exclude Freemasons, and it decides this equally for the ranks of the youth.

It would be interesting to give the votes on young socialists and sports. The Sgai order of the day, which would like to exclude sportsmen, is rejected. There’s protest over the fact that socialist newspapers give place to sports columns. Notable text from Sole: "recognizing for other things that socialism tends to instill in the human soul a love of life, beauty and enjoyment, against religious conceptions that are inspired by renunciation and a desire for dissolution”, calls on youth circles to organize, “with sagacity and seriousness of purpose, festivals which, while on a carefree day of joy and instruction lift the spirit and refresh it from the daily bitter struggle, divert the comrades from ordinary amusements which foment vice and pervert the soul; such festivals may rejuvenate and temper the body, from whose physical state in great part ideas take strength and vigor”.

A truly happy formulation of a not so easy point.

A fine agenda by Romita against the monarchy “deplores the tacit recognition of monarchy by many comrades”, and a no less happy addition by Consani “declares all activities must be separated from those of the republican party, which has eminently bourgeois origins and program, and on recent occasions has done scab work and initiatives aiming at dividing the workers within the labor movement”.

Words that sit well in the archives of the left.

An honest order of the day on the workers’ movement, by Baldoni, starts from the exact premise “that the economic movement is the basis on which the political movement must arise and develop, which constitutes its soul, guide, and inspirer, so that the two movements supplement and complement each other”.

A good addition on the right to strike in public services is based on the obvious thesis “that in bourgeois society the State cannot be considered to represent the collectivity”.

We close with a good thesis regarding the woman’s vote: “the empty political program of the bourgeois feminists cannot be confused with our feminism based on economic interests” and “characterized by socialist aims and the action of class struggle”.

This laborious congress was followed by one in Bologna in September 1912, following the party congress in Reggio Emilia in July at which the right-wing reformists had been expelled. The youth were now in unison with the extremist revolutionary tendency. At the party congress, justice had finally been done about the propensity to liquidate the youth organization. On that occasion the youth delegates had had to convince with some difficulty a few “adult” leftists to abandon such prejudice: we remember the step that had to be taken towards the grim Serrati.

We are still in Emilia, however, and the reformists try to fight against the left, though not declaredly. They pass unanimously the Borni and Rainoni order of the day approving the C.C. report. But the battle sparks off on L’Avanguardia, which had always openly supported the revolutionary left. The leftists beat, with 2730 votes against a whopping 2465, the Turin-based Tasca’s order of the day. The one approved says, among other things, that the youth movement “in addition to a propaganda and cultural mission also has a fundamentally political character and of an anti-bourgeois battle...and of combat."

On party relations there is a sharper victory in noting that the “proposal of the past party leadership for the forfeiture (sic) of youth circles” has fallen; 3412 votes to 1428. With the anti-militarist and anti-Masonic votes reconfirmed, the congress will have no more room for another contest over votes, an exercise from which we stopped giving even the tiniest bit of credit to for a good half-century, even internally.

There would, however, be an intense and vibrant debate on the issue, which thus took the famous name of culturism and anti-culturism (see texts 1-2 in Part II).

It was Tasca who fought, supported by the Reggio people, for the cultural argument for the youth and even non-youth movement. These positions from back in 1912 are of the utmost importance. In them, Tasca is the forerunner of Gramscism or Ordinovism, which emerged in 1919 after the war and was mistaken for a leftist current while it was the opposite from its birth.

The battle of the anti-culturists, passing over the ugly adjective, wasn’t easy. It was the acme of the true disengagement in Italy of materialist Marxism from the tremendous seductions of the demo- bourgeois Enlightenment. It will be convenient, in the appendix to these chronicles, to report the two motions, and a lively controversy that followed in Salvemini’s newspaper, the Unità. Salvemini was, as we know, a reformist, and therefore also a culturist and problemist, indeed perhaps the spiritual father of all of them; but he was certainly not... uncultured.

Among Tasca’s statements, these are now to be noted (which, to get the truth, we take from the speaker Casciani’s conclusions): “Preparatory function... of education and culture, aimed at the purpose of... refining and elevating the soul and mind with a generic literary and scientific education... creating competent organizers and good producers (sic) by means of a work of elevation and professional technical improvement, without which the socialist revolution will not be realizable... and taking care of the enrollment of young socialists in cultural associations...”

The speaker of the left came to the opposite conclusions; and that they weren’t occasional or contingent conclusions is apparent from multiple texts reproduced in the second part of this volume.

In essence, to the series: study, profession of socialist opinion, political activity, is opposed the series that really answers to determinist materialism: class and economic inferiority, instinctive rebellion, violent action, socialist sentiment and faith, and, in the party that affixes individuals: conscious doctrine of revolution. These were the theses that Lenin, then unknown to us, had affirmed in 1903.

The bourgeois school even if secular and democratic (today Catholic!!!) is the most powerful weapon of conservation – our aim is opposed to bourgeois systems of education: to create young people free from all forms of prejudice, “determined to work for the transformation of the economic foundations of society, ready to sacrifice in revolutionary action every individual interest” – rejecting every “scholastic definition of our movement and every discussion of its so-called technical function [an exquisitely ante litteram ordinovism]”.

And again, “the education of young people is done more in action than in study regulated by quasi-bureaucratic systems and norms”.

The final conclusion is: avoid any bourgeois environment, live in the revolutionary class and party environment, act and fight even in the trade unions for the political goal of the highest achievements.

This very remarkable debate, which even among the extremist current found some initial difficulty in being correctly evaluated, had a great echo in the party press, with maximum contribution to the action to lead the Italian movement back on the revolutionary path. [1]

We shall return to the influence of the youth, their federation and their newspaper when we will deal with the period of World War I: an influence that was fundamental and perhaps decisive.



13. The last Socialist Congress Before the War

It was the one in Ancona on April 26th to 29th, 1914. The new attitude of the party and its combative newspaper Avanti! had brought in the most enthusiastic adherence of the Italian proletariat, which was reacting to the imperialist exploits of the Libyan War with very lively class activity. In October-November 1913 there were general elections, approached with criteria of vigorous socialist agitation and not of a parliamentary nature program. The Reggio split had reduced the group from 33 to 26 deputies, the other seven having formed a bloc into the reformist or “labor” party with the four who had been expelled. Fifty-three were elected, including 13 in the second ballot, while the reformists returned in 26 to the Lower House; mostly from the South. Naples was the hotbed of a seriously opportunist situation that was one of the centers of the congress’ attention and against which the extreme left, largely made up of young members, had been fighting for some time – as we shall see in the next chapter.

Lazzari reported for the Directorate, amid general consensus, upholding his traditional 30-year formula: the objective of the socialists is the economic and political expropriation of the ruling class, and they must in all their actions attack “the political regime that maintains the established order of property and capital”.

The formula was accurate, but it didn’t contain the clear development of the historical turning points of the political and economic struggle, that is, the idea and de facto program of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the organ of social transformation. Mussolini reported for the newspaper. The party had reached 50,000 membership, and since Reggio Avanti! had tripled its circulation.

Already during the debate over the reports the Neapolitans clashed, and the Left revealed its notion that since the bourgeois State in Rome was the central enemy to be overthrown, the Party’s methods had to be the same across the country, and indeed more intransigent where the conditions of regional society appeared to require a further stage in the development of liberalism. In fact, the mass of Southern deputies was the maneuvering force of the Italian bourgeoisie in Parliament, and the party’s non- class-based position in the South was the greatest danger that threatened to crush the boldness of workers’ movements in the richer regions. Hence a radical denial that a “special” socialist method should be followed in the South while, throughout the country, there was only one enemy to overthrow: the central State.

The reports were approved by acclamation, and the section attributing the Party’s successes to the revolutionary method, by an overwhelming majority, after Treves’s almost ignored criticism of the supposed neo-idealism of the left-wing current.

Also very important in this congress were the meetings of the majority fraction, of which we don’t have the minutes. The first thing decided was the reversal of the agenda in order to discuss immediately and finally, after the long delays, the condemnation of Freemasonry. Ciarlantini took the proposal to Congress, which approved. Here, too, they had to react to the weakness of the agenda, which was in the pair of rapporteurs Mussolini-Zibordi, a revolutionary (up to that point) and a left reformist (always). It contained the declaration of incompatibility, but it lacked the best part, namely the appeal to the sections to expel Masons. In his brief but very lucid speech on this issue, Mussolini recalled, “Socialism is a class problem. Indeed, it’s the one and only problem of one and only one class, the proletarian class. Only in this sense did Marx say that socialism is also a human problem: the proletarian class represents all humanity and by its triumph abolishes classes. But we cannot confuse our humanitarianism with the other elastic, vacuous, illogical humanitarianism advocated by Freemasonry”.

He added that one thing is Masonic anticlericalism of the rationalist type and another is class anticlericalism proper to the Party. But, again, he forgot about the fraction codicil: he had to be called from the benches, and he read it amid a hurricane of applause and the astonishment of good Zibordi, who had make the best of it. In fact, the agenda that stopped at doctrinal incompatibility had 2,296 votes and the revolutionary one 27,378, while 2,185 were for ambiguous disinterestedness, and only 1,819 for compatibility. Despite very long years of intrigue, the Masonic plague had been eradicated. It must be said that pure Turatians had always condemned it.

There followed the great battle of local elections. The points supported by the Left at the congress were mainly two [2]. First, that the backwards conditions of the South in the process of differentiation of social classes not only didn’t justify a different tactic from the general tactic of the Party, but imposed an unitary tactic common to the whole Party: if in fact the Party “wants to work towards breaking the bourgeois structure which, taking advantage of the political unconsciousness of the southerners, maintains exploitation over the entire Italian proletariat, it must establish a unified tactic and strive to frame even the small phalanxes of the southern socialist army within the precise boundaries of a class program”.

Secondly, it was necessary to react with the utmost vigor to a praxis that smuggled into the party, through local elections, the famous moral question: “We would reverse our propaganda”, it was shouted from the Left’s benches, “shouting against only the thieving or dishonest bourgeoisie and making the proletariat forget that it is daily the victim of another theft far greater than that which can be carried out in local government, namely the continuous theft that the bourgeoisie exercises on it by exploiting its labor in the fields and workshops... When the moral question is made, it absorbs all others; it becomes harmful; it leads us towards solidarity with all honest people of all parties and classes... Ours is not a patient process of reconstituting the crumbling organism of the present society; it is a process of demolishing the whole present social organization”.

The regionalist southerners defended themselves against the attack with a skillful speech by the strong orator Lucci. Modigliani, also ably, said he was ultra-intransigent, but proposed that lists of agreement between parties and confederal unions be allowed. On this point, albeit briefly, Serrati replied, opposing it “for the interest of economic and political organization”, and noting that, if Modigliani’s thesis was accepted, the party was in danger of being “controlled by the uncontrollable, of having to be judged in its own program... by those... who are not in our ranks”.

Behind Modigliani’s beard, he said he saw the beard of former comrade Bonomi, that is, the specter of cooperation ideology, of the labor party, of labourism.

Today we know the future balance of Serrati’s life, but it’s certain that on that occasion he touched on an essential point of the true position of leftist Marxists, which is not always clear to all. Another hint of this can be found in the speech of the then leftist Ciarlantini, head of the Teachers’ Union, a well- deserving professional organization, who not only defended the struggle of the Commune against the capitalist State, but condemned the demagogic and Masonic formula of attributing primary schooling to the State and not to the Commune, rebutting the banal platitude that it’s the priests who want school autonomy. Opportunists in 1963 confirmed that the error is still alive: we’ll have to go through this all over again.

In Naples, for example, there had been a de facto experimental test (not just dogmatism!) for an administrative bloc in the confluence in the popular bloc (which won in June) of Freemasons, right-wing reformists and revolutionary syndicalists, all of whom had sprung from the party; they had spat on it, but the party knew how to kick them out. The kick on the traitor’s ass is a physical fact that marks the historical course, and it’s useless to deride it as “theoretical”. Others tasted it later, and the path of the revolution was and will be marked by it. But a good rule, which we have drawn from well over half a century of experience, is that they should be done on a living pair of buttocks, not a dead one.

Modigliani had 3,214 votes, Mazzoni (for some exemptions) 8,584 and Ratti for absolute intransigence 22,591. For the administrative blocs, too, it was the end.

These two battles exhausted the energies of the congress, which had other topics to deal with, such as the attitude of the Confederation of Labor, which, although it showed up at the three previous congresses and also at this one as under accusation, had continued, before, during and after the Libyan War, to act divergently from the party without the Direction, in the name of the usual abused unity, intervening to call it to order. The left-wing of the intransigent fraction – as reflected in the Party’s central organ and that of the youth federation – had repeatedly risen up against this course of action, and an article in the August 1913 issue of Avanti! (“L’unità proletaria”) is worth a mention for all of them, in which it is recalled that “the Reggio Emilia vote represented not the lynching of a few men, but criticism of a method encouraged and desired by all those who have given the proletariat a reformist and purely egoistic soul... That socialists should foster the development and ascension of a resistance movement, which cannot be flourishing and robust unless it gathers into its cadres an increasing number of organized people, no one doubts. But in fostering the development of economic organizations we socialists must never regard them as ends in themselves, but as means for the propaganda and future realization of socialism. That is why our point of view cannot coincide with that of the leaders and organizers of the labor movement who see the union as the ultimate end (as do syndicalists, on that topic), are concerned only with its development and thus also with its preservation, and are unwilling to compromise it in struggles that transcend immediate and category objectives”.

This is a point that was to be reaffirmed with extreme vigor in the postwar period, and unfortunately it was still not enough (see 1962-63!).

Important above all, however, was the topic of anti-militarism. No one predicted that just a few months later the topic wouldn’t just be topical, but outright tragic. In the fraction assembly the young leftists pointed out that the two speakers had been unhappily chosen by the leadership: the reformist Treves (admittedly intellectually qualified) and the Neapolitan Fasulo, a pro-bloc, pro-Mason syndicalist who, as a result of the administrative vote, was to leave the party. This was easy to foresee, but it was not so easy to know that from angry anti-Libyan war militant he would turn into a social-patriot. Minor matters; far more serious was that the protests of the fraction were all directed towards Mussolini, in whom the youth saw their supreme leadership. No other conclusion could be reached than that the problem of war and fatherland would be dealt with at a forthcoming congress, to give it a radical Marxist figure as had been done for the others.

The same agenda that the Youth Federation added to that of the two speakers contained the condemnation of imperialism, but lacked anything on the defense of the fatherland, which was badly mentioned, regarding the abolition of permanent military service.

Mussolini promised that he’d come for the next congress, and the young Reds left enthusiastically for the struggles to come, and in fact there was no shortage of them in the streets.

But the congress didn’t come. The war did instead.



14. Socialist Struggles in Naples and the Origin of the Left

If we’re making a history through congresses, we’re nevertheless convinced that something more and better than congresses is needed for the communist revolution. But, if it’s useful to draw conclusions from past events for the study of the future needs of the revolution, even of deep crises, we well need to remember that in subjecting the Reggio Emilia and Ancona decisions to criticism, even as they framed the issues then dealt with, we were on the cutting edge of our task. Indeed, if it’s fair to say that the Italian Socialist Party, a section of the Second International, well knew by its aversion to the bourgeois left, its total intransigence in elections, and its break with Freemasonry and the mania for “local situations”, to place itself in a better position as far as fidelity to Marxist doctrine and method is concerned than other European sections of the International, this could not and should not have been enough, in the early postwar period and in the formation of the Third International – as we shall see throughout all that followed – to exaggerate such merits to the point of absolving the prewar reformist right, against whose desperate resistance those successes were achieved.

It’ll all be evident in the following chapters, and which will report on the behavior of the Italian Socialist Party during the 1914-18 war and the struggles that took place within it, with far better outcome than beyond the Alps, but equally with delineating a clear break between the Social Democratic current and our own, Communist one.

We aren’t alone in writing the “history of the Italian left” and the origins of the Communist Party (Livorno 1921). We are distinguished from all other chroniclers not only by a strict concern for historical truth and true useful evidence, but also by method. Ours (and we cannot repeat this enough) is not based on persons and names more or less known to the popular voice or which are frequently used in the “literature”, which on the subject in recent years has become denser and perhaps less false. Even when we have to make use of persons and names to point to errors, bad theoretical approaches, and even stigmatizable episodes and maneuvers, from which the “theory of opportunism” is derived (which with the unfolding of 1914 finds another wave of resounding material), we are not interested in the faults of individuals, but in social historical causes.

We could not miss, about the history of the origins of the left fraction in socialism and communism in Italy, a series of clichés. To those who graze on the names of individuals, factional conflicts or, worse, group leaders and party heads or brains, we will not devote a single line, and no space will be wasted in enriching the anecdotal record concerning great personalities and famous names, fear not! We will only be able to contribute to one anecdotage, and not even that to end by whetting the reader’s curiosity: that of the humbugs and fools, mostly dead, and dead as such.

But we will not be able to keep silent about those commonplaces about the left being treated as myth, which even in their vapidity are swamped in theory and sometimes have a geographical formula.

The left, and especially the left that, apart from the patent ownership that, to say the least, could claim those who invented it, was the communist “abstentionist” fraction (then, as is well known, beaten on the organizational and political terrain, but, like it or not, never taken back by its group of origin, alive to this day), the left was born in the south of Italy and in Naples. And here the specialists of commonplaces have great pasture: a region and city where capitalism and the proletariat were undeveloped (among the words of today’s extremely awkward fashion, development is one of those that “sparkle”) and therefore there could only take root a deformed, petit-bourgeois, anarchoid theory, with empty purely braggish and extremist gestures: an expression of this verbose revolutionarism would have been the fraction that in 1919, the year of supreme revolutionary vitality up to the present day, tried to prevent in Rome and then in Moscow the ill-omened shipwreck in the ballot-box booze-up. This is, in our view, a matter judged in retrospect, on the grand historical scale of the Italian party and the Moscow International ending in disgrace and revolutionary impotence – or far worse, in a powerful counterrevolutionary influence. And the passage of time will make this grave judgment even more obvious. But at the point we’re at, it’s not wrong to see it even a priori, in the situation of 1914, on the eve of the First War, and when at the congress of Ancona the lively group of Neapolitan revolutionary Marxists drew the conclusions of the long and violent battle against the superappearances of electoralist ignominy, which has a history of infamy everywhere and always, but saw a climax of its infectious pathology precisely in Naples and in the early twentieth century.

We shall therefore pause to trace this history, on the track of a 1921 pamphlet of the Party then born in Livorno, and which started from a similar 1914 text presented at the Ancona congress by the "Circolo Socialista Rivoluzionario Carlo Marx" of Naples, which had for several years struggled outside the PSI only because the latter recognized in Naples a section it considered non-socialist, and which on that occasion closed its violent campaign against the falsifiers of the party’s name and the socialist program, which it instead fully accepted and defended [3].

It’s thus a relation of objective and material facts and forces that links in further steps the reaction to the old petty-bourgeois forms of the proletarian movement, and the defense of the national and international values of socialism as they were in the historical framework of that time, with the demand that the whole World Movement be freed, after the coming war, from further anti-revolutionary dross and take the path, unfortunately broken in the postwar period and after the second war much worse so, of further rectifications and drastic selections.

In Italy, after 1860 and with the beginning of the parliamentary form just coming out of the wars and uprisings of national liberation, it’s clear that the first workers’ forces had for a time supported the liberal and radical-democratic bourgeois left, beginning in part to lean toward the republican party for its anti-institutional content. They were moving toward the foundations of the so-called extreme left of the following decades, which had a clear anti-clerical stance. Catholics, as is well known, by papal will disavowed the new power of Rome and boycotted political elections, but not administrative elections where they formed a bloc with the bourgeois right (clerical-moderates).

Naples and the South in general, apart from the Bourbon remnants, were immediately useful supports of the famous but unorganized “great” liberal party, a literary rather than political form and a refuge for the forces of the middle classes and intelligentsia. If there’s ever been a century-long plague in Italy, it’s the intelligentsia, which if it’s phosphorescent, it is so as long as it does not forget when it is convenient to be maintained by Rome and suck the delicious Government money. These social relations also apply today, and are all the more fetid. But, if in “Italy down south” a bourgeoisie capable of being maintained by its indigenous proletariat could not be born, that’s an issue that isn’t resolved in the sphere of the South, but is a function of the whole course of the national capitalist State, and of world capitalism. So it isn’t resolved in the national sphere either. Perhaps an autochthonous class struggle would have arisen if the Bourbon king had remained in place of the Savoy, and of today’s half-Vatican republic.

In Naples until 1900 the left liberal party had dominated, but toward the last decade of the past century, apart from its play in parliament, marked by a permanent to let (or si loca, in Neapolitan slang), in local government it had made, as they say down there, “carne di porco (pork meat)” by largely mocking, under the protection of conventicles and canvassing clienteles, the common law.

Clerical-moderate opponents to the Summonte municipal administration had an easy time raising the moral question, prejudicially! A small proletarian and socialist movement existed in Naples, which drew its origins from the first branch of the International founded in Naples by Mikhail Bakunin in 1870, with few and sporadic penetrations of the Marxist method in later times, so much so that a not to be sneezed at group of young scholars of social questions would soon turn, bringing substantial contributions, toward the syndicalist doctrine of Georges Sorel, which came out of France clearly inspired by Proudhonism and Bakuninism.

This group, strengthened by the evidence offered by the working masses in the uprisings of 1898, in which the powers in Rome had no small trouble to play in maintaining a State of siege in rebellious Naples, founded its own combative organ with the well-chosen title, La Propaganda.

Between 1898 and 1900, the target of the socialist paper’s strides was the liberal administration, and thus it found itself on the same side of the fence with the clerical-moderates we have mentioned, and who then passed for the “party of the honest”.

To those who were then still learning the ABC of Marxism, already this choice between the party of the honest bourgeois and the party of the non-honest must have seemed farcical: and yet, after so many decades the formula is still being used and abused today by the parties, which, as then, make it the currency of great success with the masses. O hapless masses!

Since we’ll turn immediately to the critique of the bloc “on the left”, motivated by the same argument of the boring moral question, we want to say at once that blocism was born, in beautiful southern Italy, as milazzismo, which is to say, the united front of the left and right against the center. In 1900 in Naples the center was the liberal Summonte, in Palermo years ago it was the no less clinging to power Christian-Democracy, and after all even after the last elections in 1962 in Naples probably a little neo-milazzismo would be the only formula for exit, since none of the three forces can hold the city’s administration alone, and since from the moral, local, and technical point of view (usual key motives in municipal politics) the worst of everything is to be expected from a municipal government held by the party of the central government of Rome, italic Capital of supreme intrigue, devastating the underdeveloped cities with the sordid handling of state subsidies, which emanates the same stench whether in democratic, podestarial, or commissarial form.

A bigwig of Summonte’s party, Alberto Agnello Casale – to return to our Neapolitans and our turn of the century – had as his opponent in the political college of Avvocata the then radical, later socialist, Carlo Altobelli, supported by La Propaganda. The latter wrote that Casale was a thief; there was a lawsuit, a memorable trial and an acquittal. Victory therefore of socialism, sanctioned by the magistrate of the bourgeois State.

It made, then, an immense impression, and on the momentum were the local elections of 1902 by which the liberal and Masonic Casale-Summonte administration was brought down; which Giolitti from Rome had already decided to execute, by ordering the famous inquiry conducted by the upright official Saredo, a true proper fussy Piedmontese who uncovered myriad improprieties. From the 1902 elections the clerical-moderate majority emerged victorious, with a strong socialist minority.

But from this point on, the “honest party” changes geographical location, and the sentry of corruption becomes the new clerical administration of Del Carretto, Rodinò and others. The minority position is uncomfortable for anything other than the practice of civic virtue and respect for the penal code, and the new goal of winning a majority in the municipality begins to be agitated for, something that could never be done with the forces of the Socialist Party alone. Having thus discounted the victory of the anti-liberal bloc, plans began to be made for the construction of a new bloc, this time an anticlerical one, in which the socialist forces were to be joined by those of other far-left parties. But these were the radicals and republicans, few even in Naples, and the bloc-making had to be erected on a much broader foundation.

The documented pamphlet of the Left Communists clearly shows what these foundations were: first Freemasonry, which stretched its whole net and excelled in the maneuvers of its subterranean and treacherous work, especially by bribing with promises of rapid careers the young men to whom it guaranteed mysterious protection; then the Giolitti government, which, in its notorious total absence of principles, intrigued in many areas with Catholics (and finally fished them out with the famous Gentiloni pact of 1913), but in others, as in Naples, favored the game of anticlerical blocs.

Here it seems appropriate to compare the stages of the constitution of the bloc, which in Naples, after the elections of 1910, was to take the unprecedented form of a permanent bloc, with the issues between the tendencies of which we have given the history for the nation-wide socialist movement of those same years.

In Ferrara in 1907, as we know, syndicalists left the Socialist Party. Almost the entire Naples section followed after them, and they formed a syndicalist group, retaining the La Propaganda paper and the Borsa di Lavoro (called Borsa and not Camera, the French way).

The party section remains composed of reformist elements. In previous years there had been votes for congresses in the intransigent direction, but delegates had then violated the mandate by voting for the right; the product of elegant Masonic work. This section was certainly prey to blocism, but one could believe that this would not be so of the “syndicalist group” which by its ideological principles had to act, if not as anti-electionists, then at least, as then said, as “non-electionists”. The unheard of happens: the Group, the Labor Exchange, newspaper, enter the bloc with banners unfurled. There is a residue of reaction from the theoretical head of the syndicalists, Arturo Labriola (future bloc mayor), who from the Bologna congress lashes out at those who “gained personal advantages and gains by queuing up the workers’ organizations to very widespread Masonic misunderstanding”. This was followed by letters to the newspapers, announcements of lawsuits, but the bloc remained and in no time attracted Labriola. The chronicle would be long, and it’d be better to say: how easy is it to preach well, but difficult to practice well!

Having formed the permanent bloc with parties and types of all stripes, the revolutionary socialists, supported by the provincial groups, left the section in 1912, while declaring themselves part of the Italian Socialist Party and “trusting in a victory of the intransigent fraction for the definitive solution of the question” by the governing bodies of the Party, and founded the aforementioned “Circolo Socialista Rivoluzionario Carlo Marx”.

But meanwhile, having spoken of Labriola, one must speak of the Tripoli War. In spite of the fierce opposition led by the entire party, the corrupt Naples section tolerated its council members making apologia for the colonial adventure. The syndicalists were different, indeed the opposite: while Labriola (with the same handling of doctrinal theorems) applauded the Libyan war, La Propaganda conducted a violent campaign against it and suffered resounding trials: an attitude that would have been laudable, if it had not served the ends of the Masonic bloc and to muddy the waters in matters of party organization. The Naples syndicalists in fact merged with the Socialists of the reformist section into a Socialist Union closely linked to the bloc and maneuvered by the Masons. The La Propaganda syndicalists, no less averse to blocs and Freemasons, said that it was the party that had pushed to the left in Reggio Emilia, and that they had deigned to join it!

In October 1912, the Neapolitan Socialists supported the Mason Salvatore Girardi in the Montecalvario constituency against the clerical Marciano, and disavow the candidacy of Todeschini, placed by the “Marx Group”. The Party leadership elected in Reggio intervened sluggishly. In 1913 there was an agitation against the catenaccio decree on consumption duties, which was supposed to be directed against Giolitti and instead was yoked to a bloc that was even worse than electoral, in that it was economic and included bourgeois trade associations! In that year there were general political elections. The party had only two “enrolled” deputies, namely Lucci and Sandulli, who succeeded; but it did not have the courage to repudiate the “independents” Altobelli, Labriola and Ciccotti, who were, on the contrary, validated by Avanti! with the title of "valid Neapolitan auxiliaries," while they were completely – and in 1914 they proved it – in the orbit of the local bloc.

The preparation of the latter trumped fully as they headed toward the Ancona congress, whose decisions for administrative intransigence and against the Masons we have already reported.

The 1921 pamphlet also describes how party groups and individuals behaved after the Ancona vote. Very few remained in the national party; most followed section or “Union” discipline!

Other events had intervened, which are dealt with in the rest of this volume: the 1914-18 war, which saw a minority of Italian socialists, albeit numerically negligible, switch to social-chauvinism: then, after the end of the war, the split between communists and social-democrats (including maximalists) that led to the Livorno split but, in the Naples movement, as early as the end of 1918 manifested itself with the abstentionist current, whose lively disagreement with the “electionist” communists (such as Misiano) led to a peculiar situation in the 1919 (socialist party still united) and 1921 general elections.

We take from our source only the story of the famous five Neapolitan MPs Lucci, Sandulli, Altobelli, Labriola and Ciccotti. Then we will go further, neglecting many minor episodes, however expressive they might be. In 1910 the PSI elects Misiano and Buozzi. In an independent list is elected the blocist Lucci, who however always remained opposed to the war. Sandulli ends up in another “of the clock” independent list with Bovio (a chameleon that we don’t want to make a historical subject and who changed membership every two months before ending up a fascist). Labriola, ultra-interventionist in the war, forms a list of L’Avanguardia. Into it goes the purported neutralist Ciccotti, who in 1921 will switch directly to fascism, remaining grounded as they say in that jargon. Altobelli during the war had no clear position; a few years later he died.

If, therefore, the genesis of the Communist Party, which is the subject that interests us, was complex in Italy, it was more so in Naples, especially if we follow it in figures of votes at congresses, in electoral results, and in the vicissitudes of men and exponents.

But, if we’re interested in following it, it’s in tracing the formation of the revolutionary method and program, national and international: an inseparable aspect from all-out war against traitors and opportunists

The Naples movement could give a contribution that won’t, even in later times, be measured by “political successes” and advantageous towing of majorities of followers, but will remain fundamental in the field of the most vital questions of method of revolutionary Marxism. This contribution is even less measured by the appearance of outstanding figures, valiant writers, orators, and organizers, whose names matter nothing to us, either in our camp or in the enemy’s.

The serious deviations and swerves of the class movement of the proletariat could be detected and denounced and even thoroughly scourged with notable results – although opportunism is a die-hard beast that in various waves rises from the ashes and succeeds in reforming a wretched popularity around its infamous maneuvers – because it was clear that no defense and guarantee would ever be found in the apparent extremism of the anarchist method of 1870 or in the Sorelian syndicalist method of 1907. These “immediatist” forms (i.e., which deny the inevitable mediation, between the proletariat and the revolutionary victory, of the political party form, of its program, power and dictatorship) are the real root of the false leftist extremism of which the traitors of the era of 1926-1963 dare to find the first origin in the Italian left within the Moscow International, and in the abstentionist communist current (later fraction) born in Naples in 1918.

By contrast, the faithful history of the facts comes to show how the just criticism directed at the anarchists in 1892 and the syndicalists in 1907, though theoretically imperfect, saved Italian socialism from the disaster of 1915, and how similarly the formation of a left during the war and after the war, even with respect to the socialist party, found in the Marxist groups in Naples and elsewhere the strength to bring themselves to the same line of doctrine and history on which the events of the Russian October and their doctrines, called Bolshevism and Leninism, stand.

These coincidences, carefully diagnosed in a historical analysis, in order that they may still be useful tomorrow when the struggle against a bunch of bastard leaders and great men worse than those we presented in pre-war Naples arises, demand that they not be given the indignity of names and surnames – specially when some could be found who in the threads of the narrative never bartered, even in long individual lives, the theory, the principles and methods they held as a guide for action.

It should not seem strange that the nefariousness of the parliamentary method, which in the Italian party caused the drastic sanctions of the Reggio Emilia and Ancona congresses, and which, as we shall see, during the first war at certain times threatened to blow up the good politics of the party, where they determined the most shameful facts, found in the collective experience of the Marxist wing of the proletarian party the disposition for cutting off that ruinous evil at its root, especially at the moment in the postwar period when history appeared to be ready to place in Italy, and conclusively, the antithesis between the legal and the violent way to power

More important still is to note that the proposal, which seemed too pushy, started from an environment in which the leftish method of putting forward local contingent interests and infamous moral issues had had its most ruinous effect, and in which the false leftist immediatism had already gone bankrupt, showing the confluence in the same sins of anarchist derivations and traditions or syndicalist imports.

The proletarian Marxist group that noticed the effects of this ruin and rose against it was one of the first historical critics of the fallacy of any extremism disguised as leftist attitudes, in the roots of whose errors and theoretical blasphemies lay that contempt for the party, that worship of individuals and of their demagogy and buffoonish attitudes, which easily had and would still in other long phases stun the beguiled and naive “masses”, which tend to see see the man while forgetting parties and programs and principles.

It’s worth quoting the postulates which, by way of conclusion, the Neapolitan revolutionary socialist group expounded, submitting it to the Ancona Congress: “1) Final resolution of the situation of the Party in Naples, which can only be achieved by giving a mandate to the Party leadership to dissolve the Neapolitan Socialist Union, to reconstitute it then on the basis of the program and statute of the Socialist Party.

2) Denial of any local autonomy in administrative tactics, even to very limited extents, demanded under the pretext of special local conditions, and which in reality would sanctify the fait accompli of a whole system of commitments made in some locality prior to the congress.

3) Resolute affirmation of the incompatibility between Freemasonry and socialism, also in relation to the established fact that Masonic pollution has poisoned in its rise, not barren of true hopes, the socialist movement in a large part of Southern Italy”.



15. Toward War in Europe

The Ancona congress, the 14th of the PSI, had closed on April 29, 1914, and the party was preparing for a showdown, however entirely on legalitarian ground, with local elections in June. The firm intransigence meant, however, that the party, with its own lists in all municipalities, and after the violent denial of the notorious local, popular, anticlerical blocs, and with the filthy background of Masonic intrigues, a masterpiece of the servile politics of the middle class and intelligentsia, eternal bootlickers of the capitalist master, was to measure its forces for a confirmation of the 1913 battle, to which it would have given flavor the whole range of positions of the congresses, anti-war, anti-colonial, anti-dynastic, having among its opponents also the renegades expelled at Reggio Emilia and Ancona.

But the events of the class struggle anticipated the times of the legalitarian struggle. On Sunday, June 7, 1914, bourgeois Italy celebrated its annual celebration of the Statuto Albertino.The extremists called a series of rallies directed against militarism and the famous punitive disciplinary battalions against which the Youth Federation had been fighting for years. In Ancona the rally was held at the “Villa Rossa”, the headquarters of the Republicans, who were as strong in that city as the anarchists. Nenni, a republican, and Enrico Malatesta, an anarchist, had spoken to the crowd in a lively anti-establishment tone. The crowd after the speeches was flowing toward the center when the Carabinieri opened fire: three young workers fell and many were wounded. A spontaneous wave of indignation erupted throughout Italy at the news. Before the organizations decided to strike, workers were already in the squares, especially in Marche and Romagna. Some provisional regional republics were naively proclaimed (Perugia’s Spello). Among the big cities rose Turin, Milan, Parma, Naples and Florence, where the crowds faced firefights without recoiling. It was the formidable “Red Week”.

Avanti! had contributed to this in the first place. In commenting on the periodic proletarian massacres that had always distinguished democratic Italy (o youth, there was no fascism yet, as there is no longer today, and Mussolini hadn’t gone over to the other barricade yet, but as a rule the rifles of liberal and pro-bloc constitutionalism ripped through the chests of crowds demanding bread) the socialist newspaper had repeatedly written: At the next massacre, the national general strike! After the shootings in Villa Rossa, the proletariat didn’t need suggestions or orders: it went into action.

In May the General Confederation of Labor had held its congress, where the reformists beaten in the party won again (Mazzoni presented an anti-Masonic agenda that was rejected). However, in June the leaders of the Confederation, grudgingly had to call a national general strike. But on June 12, when the State powers and the bourgeoisie were already bewildered, the CGL rendered them one of its countless services; it ordered an end to the general strike. Violent controversy followed in the party at this betrayal. This was a quintessentially political and not an economic move; only the political party should have given the signal of the beginning and eventual end, but the ideas weren’t clear enough, and from this once more emerges the need for true revolutionary theory. The Sorelian anarchist and syndicalist tradition, according to which the trade union has for its function direct and violent action and the party legal action, was recent. The confusion of directives frustrated the generous courage of the Italian working class.

Mussolini wrote the famous article “Tregua d’armi”  [4] on June 12, in publishing the communiqué, where he called the Trade Union Confederation “felon”. Commentators or purported Social Democratic historiographers say that this violent article lacked theoretical ideas. The criticism was partially correct, but it must be said in what sense.

The general position raised boundless enthusiasms. The game between the struggling classes is not to be played with cards but with arms. It was not over but only suspended; the bourgeoisie would see its historical opponent again in arms before it, and the newspaper of the class party wrote this in capital letters, even if to the pacifist union leaders advantage had played the elections concern of the right-wing of the party, which lamented: after such extremes, the voters will abandon us. That was not the case, however, and shortly afterwards Benito wrote another article, “Barbarossa, padrone di Milano”, when the Socialists took over the municipality. Jokes of rhetoric; Barbarossa is a Teutonic, anti-national and anti- Italian image par excellence: we well reminded the eloquent gentleman of this in the polemics a few months later.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that, in the article, the opposition between war of States and war of classes is clearly placed: did you believe, cries the future Duce to the bourgeoisie, that after the union sacrée of the Libyan War, strikes would end? Here you are served.

The characters of the strike are well reiterated: aggressive, not defensive; and up to this point it’s impossible to deny the author a great fidelity to Marxist ideology, all the more so when we think of the wicked deed of Mussolinism only five (let’s say it’s five) months later, all hinging on the most ramshackle defencism, of France, of “little Belgium”, of freedom, of world democracy!... This fact of rightly formulating a vital doctrinal thesis, which we can write: Function of the proletarian revolution is attack and not defense, for which the workers’ chests should receive lead in the various “resistances” directed at saving the supreme achievements of capitalist institutions; what’s “felony” is the rigging of the offensive by arguing that a defense of false historical conquests is needed, the proletariat in Marx being the class which nothing has yet conquered, for which no one has yet conquered anything, and which must conquer everything, as a body of shock troopers that will overwhelm not only all previous historical institutions and forms, but especially the most infamous, its own class nature and servitude; this historical fact, then, of the article “Tregua d’armi”, in relation to the other article that came out of the same pen in October 1914: “From Absolute Neutrality to Active and Operating Neutrality” – a title as convoluted as the former was razor-sharp – only proves that it is not enough to once see revolutionary Marxism, one must have the guts to do so for at least three generations.

The assessment of the “Red Week” events is still most valid when it emphasizes its extent and intensity. For this, the article writer’s own inherent naive insurrectionism notes, with undoubted courage, the armed skirmishes, the assault on gun stores, the fires set ablaze, “and none of this over taxes”, as in the revolts of the smallholders of the South; and the great cry: al Quirinale! al Quirinale! But, O Sir Benito, can you tell us from the grave whether the cry meant: to the Quirinal in frock coat and coattails???

The commentary on the extent of the movement is even better; from one end of Italy to the other, from industrial workshops to country villages, from skilled workers to peasants and farm laborers, second to none; and this salute to the class strength of the Italian agrarian proletariat, which fascists and anti- fascists have worked hard together to castigate, is valid; and we always hope, though so far in vain, that one day those flames will flare up again.

A rebuke goes to the General Confederation of Labor for decreeing “unexpectedly and arbitrarily, without the knowledge of the general party leadership, the end of the strike as soon as the sacramental forty-eight hours were over”, and to the railwaymen who didn’t strike, which if they had it would’ve stopped the movements of the bourgeois defense forces. Valid rebuke, the latter, to a trade spirit that kept them, anarchist or socialist, in their union not confederated to any other, playing into the hands of the confederate, firefighter and criminal, Right.

We can pardon the rest of the article, which we never liked. Personalism and aestheticism reign free in that section. The motion was a prelude, indeed “a moment of the symphony”. Which one, the Heroic? Who shall be the Hero then; I, Benito? Our theory about the beauty of these Heroes is that, provided that the individual Hero rises up and the masses believe in him, shortly the revolution remains fucked.

The article closes with an attack on the bourgeois left, a lumping of Salandra with Bissolati as “tomorrow’s enemies”, and the claim for the riots to the party and Avanti!, tarnished only by the signature to the article. The commitment (now that required real courage) to take advantage of the truce, “short or long we don’t know”, for the work of preparing the proletariat didn’t even last five months, facts tell us. Benito and Leonidas together became corporals in the Royal Army!

The Red Week came to an end, the local elections took place, and as we said the party did not lose votes as a result of trying out extremist methods and the vigorous repulse of votes from the parties of the popular left. It is truly characteristic how the same interpretation of the 1914 votes is given by writers of Second International-type opportunism and those emanating from today’s “official” Communist Party, old suitor of votes from wherever they come. Given the method of votes, and if one doesn’t have the stomach to say, Let us lose all our votes and all our electoral successes in order not to put ourselves at odds with the political ends of the party, one has only to conclude that the vote of a pure proletarian is worth just as much as that of a scummy petty bourgeois or even a capitalist boss. Democracy is the anti-Marxist realm of that quantity forever impotent to become quality.

The reasoning of the aforementioned gentlemen is really just gibberish. We won in Milan and Bologna, but the reason was that the names of the reformist candidates (among them were people who as comrades and as Marxists were worth far better than today’s scribes) had attracted many votes from the middle classes. The evidence for Milan is outright hilarious. The leading lawyer Maino had 34,876 votes while the revolutionary Mussolini was “defeated” with 34,523. So only 353 fewer votes, one percent of the list’s strength! Is this not a victory for the party of the time, which obtained such compact and impersonal votes? Today the ringleaders have millions of votes, and the Average Joes have zero preferences, because that’s how the parties based on the “migliori” order it to feel.

In Turin, on the other hand, we lost after a generous and memorable struggle. although in a political constituency where they did not want to bring Mussolini or Salvemini, but the simple worker Bonetto. And here are today’s communist commentators (as ordinovists they’re the last ones able to understand proletarian Turin and its history) ironizing about the vexed “intransigence” as they fail to understand that the petit-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisified workers prevailed in Turin (o defamers of the Turin proletariat?). Isn’t it worth it to lose a seat in the Chamber and pit a simple worker (Mario Bonetto) against the smoky and hateful nationalist Bevione?

Even speaking of Lenin himself, we’ll have to say that his notion that we can measure the balance of forces by means of elections was naive. Lenin is certainly the man who seemed to have the good fortune to lift a hundred years of history on his very fragile shoulders by taking immense Russia from last to first place in drawing the proletarian dictatorship without having first tolerated the bourgeois one, that is, to do first what “should” have been done last. An achievement that was paid dearly for, having “passed over” the most poisonous and verminous phase of capitalist power: full parliamentary democracy. Russia, in the Leninist epic, guzzled the cup of bourgeois freedom within a few months. Vladimir, colossus of history, gave the sign that one should spit into it by spewing the champagne soured into rough proletarian stomachs; and the parliamentary plague could not spread.

When it came to truncating it in that West where it had spread as far as it possibly could and where the proletarian bellies had been tamed by the numbing lechery of electoralism, the great Lenin, convinced that the capitalist catastrophe in Europe and the world couldn’t be reversed any further, thought that the danger could be defied – that it was much easier to do in Western Europe and perhaps in America the same as in Russia, playing out the history of a century; and too bastard are those of today who pretend that he had given the rest of the world the gift of not suffering the red dictatorship, the same that disperses democratic assemblies at gunpoint.

A colossal Marxist, he did not, however, see that a deterministically sure cause – if there ever were any – is not to be defended even in the face of half-hearted dialecticalists with theoretically unrigorous arguments, not even to hasten the taking of chances that history might push away; and in order to drive revolutionaries into parliaments he also employed arguments which he didn’t hide he didn’t believe in, such as the radically nefarious one of the numerical counting of opinions. A great effort was made to show him what the historical power of bourgeois parliamentarism was: his eyes had all the elements of the picture, but he felt that our subversive force would be greater. Trotsky had also lived in the West, and he didn’t see the issue properly either. People went to the parliaments to kick parliament to the curb. It’s still standing, and those we sent there reason as if Lenin had sanctioned a literal iron rule that went: Only when, by counting the votes, we have proved that the majority is ours, will it be a case of thinking about power! So they have fallen back into the theory of the classical social democrats. And of all the vigor that Vladimir had restored to Marxism, nothing has remained firm. Does it marxistically matter who do we blame? Certainly not, and it’s of no use. But he’s also to be blamed.

The clouds of war, looming over Europe in 1914 at the height of electoral contention, could have untied the knot that clutched the world’s working class at the throat, and given way to arms, taking it away from the ballots. The time was missed, and the knot became tighter.

The bourgeoisie, which took up arms twice as States, and many times as a class in society, taught us nothing, and we returned the head of the noose to its hands.



16. The First World War

If in Italy the lively struggle against the Libyan war of 1911 had been a great test for the proletarian forces, which already had a tradition of battling against the Ethiopian venture of the late 19th century and colonialist activities, throughout the world the first decade of the new century was preparing by various means to close the idyllic period of the last decades of the previous one. There had been the disputes over expansion in the western Mediterranean, settled for the time being at the Algeciras Conference, and not a few periods of tension between Britain and Russia at odds in the Middle East and Asia, apart from the bloody Russo-Japanese war of 1905 that provoked the first Russian revolution. Italy’s attack on Turkey caused the breakdown of that Balkan balance painstakingly woven at the Congress of Berlin after the Russo-Turkish War of 1878, and there were the two Balkan wars of 1912: the Balkan League against feudal Turkey, which was won, and then the new war between the victors to take the lion’s share from Bulgaria.

The tremors of all these conflicts kept in increasingly critical motion the foreign policy of the famous “Great Powers” divided between two alliances: the Franco-Russian Dual Entente and the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy.

Very complex were the contrasts of interests between the various powers, even if allied, fundamentally due to the conquest of markets and the difficult partitioning of colonial spheres of influence, in which Britain and France were in the vanguard. England had always flaunted that she stood outside the alliances between the mainland States, in the famous “splendid isolation”, but for several years now, having put an end to more ancient contentions, African in particular, she had linked up with France in the “Entente cordiale”. At the beginning of the century, Italy, although bound by the Treaty of the Triple Alliance to the Central Empires, had shown a strange sympathy for the Entente, and this brilliant foreign policy favored by the populist and Masonic parties was presented to the naive readers (but are today’s any better?) of the great press as “waltzing”, permissible even to ladies who don’t yet go so far as to cuckold their husbands.

The nightmare of a war, which it was understood could only be generalized, was self-evident, and so was it to the socialists in the various countries. The Basel Congress of 1912 (November) launched the memorable To Prevent War manifesto, taking as its motive the flare-up of the Balkan conflicts, which kept Austria and Russia in particular always on the warpath. The principles laid down in Stuttgart didn’t even need to “forbid socialists from supporting national war”, rather calling on the working class and sections of the International to make every effort to prevent the outbreak of conflict, and, in case it did break out, to act to bring it to an end, “utilising the economical and political crisis created by the war, in order to rouse the largest masses of people and to hasten the downfall of the dominion of the capitalist class”. The question of the seizure of political power is crystal clear here, although the doctrinal formulation could be better. One cannot bring down the capitalist social system without overthrowing the political domination of the bourgeoisie; and this is true in peacetime. Wartime is not only no exception but also presents the best conditions for attempting to achieve such a revolutionary result.

The same concepts were reiterated not only in the aforementioned 1912 congress, but also in the 1910 Copenhagen congress. Lenin in 1915 pointed out that the Basel Manifesto had pointed to two explicit historical examples: the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Revolution of 1905, in which, taking advantage of the fall of the national state in war, the proletariat had resorted to civil war by means of armed uprising, and in the first case they achieved power (historical notion of proletarian defeatism). In the motions of the world congresses of the Second International, the insidious right-wing formula – in Lenin’s writings forever condemned as revisionist and opportunist – that the action of socialist parties in warring countries should be limited by the senseless condition of simultaneity on both sides of the war front had never been allowed to prevail.

If we return for a moment to the Italian Socialist Party, we shall have to repeat the negative observation that, despite the long struggle of the revolutionary current to prevail against the right, a complete formulation of the party’s tactics in the event of war, and especially in the event of a general European war, had never been arrived at. On the subject of anti-militarism, such questions had in the previous years always been agitated by Sorelian anarchists and syndicalists with falsely extremist watchwords, such as personal refusal of obedience, conscientious objection and the like, nor had been perfect the work of the socialist youth movement, though it, first in this, had been able to keep itself distinct from the libertarians and to fight reformism when it still dominated in the party.

The drama of Europe was marked by a few revolver shots fired in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, a Slavic province under Austro-Hungarian rule, by young Prinzip on June 28, 1914, killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Crown Prince of the Empire.

The Austrian government attributed the act to Serbian conspiracy favored by the government in Belgrade and the anti-Austrian Karađorđević dynasty, and after agitated weeks of vigilance notified Serbia on July 23 of an ultimatum imposing harsh conditions. Some of them were refused in response, and the situation, despite attempts at arbitration, became very serious. The one who broke the deadlock was Tsar Nicholas of Russia, who in support of Serbia, threatened of invasion, ordered general mobilization on July 30; the Kaiser followed suit on the 31st, declaring war on Russia; on August 1st Austria-Hungary mobilized, and the vanguards of its armies crossed the Danube. Everywhere troops obeyed, reservists showed up, departed, and fought. A sense of chill loomed over Europe. On August 3, Germany declared war on France and intimated to Belgium to let its armed forces through. Belgium mobilized to defend itself. August 4th is the day that remains in history: Great Britain declared war on the grounds that the treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of “little Belgium” had been violated. In its hypocritical steps for peace until a few hours before, London had declared in public and in diplomatic secrecy that it would not move: if it had openly announced that it would move perhaps others would have delayed taking the first irrevocable steps. The lesson of history is for us that, for war to break out, “provocateurs” are not needed. But if one wanted to identify them, one should only look among the “pacifists”. Things are no different today than they were then, nor did it change in the late summer of the other cursed year, 1939.

In both the one and the other summer we Italian observers were not struck ad horas by telegrams of mobilization, but invited to a window from where we could directly observe the fire. What fortune! And what lessons could come out of it!

August 4th was also memorable because the socialists reached the apex of shame. In Vienna in Berlin in Paris in London, which is to say, on both sides of the rift in which the bourgeois themselves still did not believe, the unanimities of the socialist parties not only found nothing to say to the proletariat and their adherents from the much vaunted, before and after, tribune bestowed by democracy, but said that the war orders of the governments were just, did not pronounce a word in opposition to them, and voted for approval of the war policy and military credits. The powers of the capitalist States had their hands freer than the old absolutist and unconstitutional historical powers, in which the monarch had the right to declare war without anyone’s consent or vote.

Parliamentary socialists did even more: they entered the governments that took the ignoble name of union sacrée, such as Vandervelde, Belgian secretary of the International, and the French, who were indifferent to the assassination of the right-wing Jaurès, killed on July 31st by the nationalist Villain; the only one who died in time to retain his dignity.

There were a few but glorious exceptions. Among the various groups in the Duma, the left-wing one of the Social Democratic Party (the Bolsheviks) took a proud attitude of opposition and started agitation in the country: they were all sent to Siberia. Only a worse part of the right-wing (Mensheviks) and social-revolutionaries and populists voted for the war credits; intermediate groups were not that guilty but still kept an ambiguous policy.

In England, where parties also differed, the large Labor Party fully supported the war; better behaved the British Socialist Party, and courageously opposed was the Independent Labor Party (MacDonald). True example of consequential internationalism was seen in the Serbs. In what country was there more reason to advocate national defense? The only comrade deputy, Lapčević, refused a vote on credits on August 1st. Another opposite was the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

In the alluded-to special situation in Italy, it can be said that all parties and parliamentary groups opposed intervention in the war, which at first was diplomatically demanded by the Triple Alliance. On August 2nd, the Salandra government announced that, since the casus foederis (extreme foreseen in the Alliance treaty) didn’t exist, Italy would remain neutral, and there was no opposition from the Catholics and Giolittians, but only from the young nationalist movement, which in the very early days was in favor of intervention alongside the Central Empires and shortly afterwards clamored for war against them: which, let it be said in passing, shows how for Italy’s great industrial capitalism, which famously financed the nationalist press, the important thing was to wage war at all costs, no matter which side.

We’re interested in saying what happened in the Socialist Party. It’s quite clear that at the first outline of the danger in Europe, which formally meant the risk of a war on the side of the Central Empires, both the right and left-wing rose as one against the war, and this from the days of late July. For the revolutionaries, opposition to any war wasn’t up for debate, but war in Italy would have been hateful in such a special way, that it was solved in a radical way even by the reformists and “moderate socialists” the problem that immediately arose: How to prevent the war, if the government out of fidelity to its commitments declares it and orders mobilization so that, in case, it attacks France in the Alps? The right- wing chose the revolutionary solution: the word of armed insurrection would be given! Turati, a theorist a thousand times over of non-bloody proletarian action, declared that, although not a young man, he would be the first to pick up a rifle and take to the streets to invite mobilized citizens and soldiers to insurrection and insubordination. It was soon seen that this much, despite the scope and even the unquestionable sincerity of his position, wouldn’t be needed.

The right-wing of then, as indeed those of today, have by uniform: to every concrete situation a concrete answer; never should the party pose an unnecessarily abstract problem: If the situation was different, what would be the different answer? Such fancies make great political leaders severely uncomfortable; why bother to imagine that all the forces at play are shifting on the chessboard, one day changing from friends into enemies? This mutates and spoils everything, and is dismissed with disdain: it’s doctrinarism!

Then this seemed like an empty question: If we know what to do in the case of a war against France, that is, to fire on Italian officers, can we know what to do in the case of a war against Austria? Those who think, as we do, that the two cases are equivalent may have the right to give only one answer, but it’s precisely those gentlemen who see enormous practical differences between the two cases who have a duty to have two answers ready, if they don’t want to betray their own party and class.

This is but one example, and it’s from the past, but entirely concrete; and the eternal question of tactics always lies in these terms, and always will lie there in the future. It’s thus appropriate to take stock of it.

Between August 1914 and May 1915, in fact, everything had to change in the diametrically opposite direction, and the other war, the war in reverse, the war in favor of the Entente, was questioned.

So those who first posed the tactical problem did not display doctrinarism, but only showed a better historical view of the practical facts.

If then seeing the facts not only as they happened and after they happened, but also before they happened, you like to call it doctrinarism, go ahead. Such a word pleases and cheers us.

From July 26 Mussolini raises from the columns of Avanti! the cry of: Down with war! and writes in all capital letters: Mobilize, and we’ll resort to force! On July 29th the party leadership launches a Manifesto to the workers after a vote on the 27th jointly with the parliamentary group: mention is made of the recent general strike and the proletariat is urged to prepare for new tests of strength.

But, if the Triple agreement was to play out, not only would Mussolini and Turati be the ones to lead the insurrectionaries, but also other political leaders, and among them the first to reveal all their intentions were those of the Reformist party, which came out of the 1912 split; a correspondence of Bissolati with Bonomi dated August 2nd reveals that they had asked for neutrality but aimed at war, meaning against Austria.

Other groups and parties of which we shall speak were taking to such terrain, and among them not only republicans, radicals, Freemasons, many defectors also from revolutionary syndicalism and anarchism, but even in fine cahoots with this breed the exalted nationalists, predecessors of the fascism that came later. It was evident that the steadfastness of the Socialist Party in the struggle against the war could be compromised if these errors were not clarified and if the two possible perspectives were not openly discussed, all the more so since the pro-Austrian one in the first days of August had already fallen below the horizon.

We would like to refer to an article from the extreme left tendency of the party, which appeared with the title “Al nostro posto” in the August 16 issue of Avanti! [5] and was written ten days after the outbreak of the general conflagration, which is also of interest because of the “presentation” that the editor Mussolini added to it, from which the future crisis is clearly foreshadowed.

The newspaper in fact agrees with the content of the article, but premises a rather fragile distinction between logical socialism and historical socialism. The revolutionary should be historical even if he is not logical. The sense of this palinode is that it’s logical to say that even for the other war the socialist position wouldn’t have to change, but that in fact the other war is... something else, that France is not Germany and defense is not aggression.

The article was written, it’s understood, precisely to support the opposite criterion from the presentation.

A few quotations will suffice to clarify the setting of the Left’s theses, since they were not those of the whole Italian party (though not wrecked in ruins as the other European parties) but only of a clearer and more resolute wing [6]

The “feeling of lively sympathy for the Triple Entente” that many comrades are betraying “does not adhere to socialist principles in the realm of ideas, and in the practical realm all it does is play into the hands of the government and the Italian bourgeoisie, which is dying to intervene in the conflict”.

So, the question of principle and the historical question were both posed; and both correctly so.

The justification of defensive wars is denied with the example of Germany, which, in the inauspicious statements of the Socialist deputy Haase, was forced to defend itself against Russian danger. All fatherlands are actually in a state of defense; aggression is one thing, offensive another. Wartime violence (see France-Germany 1870) is quick to turn an aggressor into an invader defending himself. It is from those distant days where the theory of “responsibility” was denied with the words, “in reality the bourgeoisie of all countries is equally responsible for the outbreak of the conflict, or more accurately, it’s the capitalist system itself which is responsible, which for its needs of economic expansion has engendered the system of large armaments and armed peace”.

The theory of bourgeois militarism as opposed to feudal militarism is then developed; elective democracy is the breeding ground of the former. It is recalled against well-known polemical theses that France had always considered doing with Switzerland what Germany did with Belgium, and about the whole rhetorical slurry of civilization versus barbarism, there’s the matter of the presence of the fierce and bloodthirsty Tsarist Russia among the champions of freedom...

Is this doctrinal sensitivity or a practical rallying cry? “This tendency [of going to war with Austria] broods in the shadows. It will erupt in the streets if the government wants to wage war against the Germans, and perhaps we will witness the scenes of September 1911 [Lbyan war], especially if we are disoriented by Francophile sentimentality [...] The government might feel that its hands are free, invent a German provocation, wave the rag of the fatherland in danger, and drag us to war on the eastern borders.

Tomorrow, under the weight of the state of siege, we shall see spread over the world the other official lie that even in Italy there are no longer any parties, thanks to warmongering unanimity.

At our place then, for socialism!”



17. Socialist Debates in Wartime

It is, of course, impossible to deal here with the struggle between the two fronts in Italy that defined themselves, as is always the case, with fashionable labels: “neutralists” and “interventionists”. Soon all Triple Alliance interventionism disappeared from circulation and Masonic interventionism remained in the picture, to which the nationalists immediately complied, even passing into the lead. But the public at large saw in the advocates of so-called absolute neutrality a purported bloc of socialists (then: official socialists), Catholics and Giolittian liberals, all opposed to war against the Central Empires.

What was the exact position of the revolutionaries, as reiterated by the various weekly Left publications of the federations (including Il Socialista of Naples)?

The subject of the proposed neutrality or proposed intervention in the war was Italy, the Italian State. For the flabby democrats, just like those who today defraud the proletariat’s proxy and fill the benches of the Italian Chamber, every political action and position is reduced to an indication of what the State should do, as if we were part of it. But the class party is the opposite party, the enemy of the bourgeois State, which only by its pressure and in extreme historical cases by arms can bend it, and indeed can destroy it. We then, therefore, anti-bourgeois anti-war and anti-State Italian socialists, were not neutralists of the State, but interventionists of the class struggle and tomorrow of the civil war, which alone could have prevented war. It was they, the warmongers, the interventionists, the patriots, the chauvinists, who deserved the proper name of neutralists of the class struggle, of disarmers of the revolutionary opposition.

We were saying then that we wouldn’t tolerate a political bloc, as it was advocated, in agreement with Giolitti and the Catholics, just because by coming to power these would not wage war. If our parliamentary group had given such support we would have disavowed it for the same reasons we deplored French, Germans, etc. They wouldn’t have opposed the war other than by legal means (such as that in articulo mortis of the three hundred calling cards at Giolitti’s door in the radiant May that came in 1915), never by the action of the masses.

But the important problem was one within our party. Very few came to admit defeatism as Lenin theorized it, and not only for absolutist Russia, but for every bourgeois imperialist State. Least of all was the Turatian right, which had in turn threatened sabotage action against the mobilization should the kinglet give the order to leave (while defying the wrath of Wilhelm II, who allegedly telegraphed him: Winner or victor, I will remember you).

In the center they were swayed by the winds of hard weather and were carrying out the castrated tactic of Costantino Lazzari, a man of many merits and many mistakes, which was summed up in the phrase: “neither adherence nor sabotage”. Perhaps the safe uniform of today’s 1963 skunks would be better: “in case of war either adherence or sabotage”. Lazzari’s ugly formula meant that after warding off the bourgeoisie in every way to not wage war, the first columns were to say: Well, we’ve done our duty, now we can’t cut at the heels of the national army because we would be playing into the hands (it always comes good again, this famous playing into the hands of whoever) of the enemy armies ready to invade and destroy – let us thus give ourselves over to a work of civilian Red Cross, of patching up wounds.

The Left’s watchword was this: Respond to the mobilization order with a national general strike.

No congress or meeting could discuss these serious alternatives. The party as a whole defended in all ways and on all occasions its watchwords of opposition to the war, to every war. When pro-war socialists from the Central Empires and the Entente came to Italy, they were duly rebuked and asked to turn back with their corrupting proposals (German Sudekum, Belgian-French Lorand and Destrée).

The most serious threat of crisis came because of Mussolini, whom leftist elements tried in vain to keep from making fatal mistakes. There is an autographed letter from him (hey, it’s not for sale!) that says: “It should be you in my place.... Must all the sentimentalist boils discharge their puss? I get letters every day telling me: will you let France’s throat be cut?”

He added that he wouldn’t fold. “For me, a war against Austria would be a socialist and national catastrophe”.

Badly sworn, we said: it wouldn’t be, nor was it, a national catastrophe, but what do we care about that in the first place? We’re here to avoid the socialist catastrophe.

But they weren’t boils: it was a pimple, and it burst, even though we were bewildered by it at first. On October 18, 1914, Avanti! came out with the article: From Absolute Neutrality to Active and Operative Neutrality. It was a prelude to the pro-war thesis.

Not a single section of the party wavered. A fine example, and especially for the Left fraction, of no personal attachment to even a brilliant leader. The Milan section expelled Mussolini for political and moral indignity, it was then said. Moral because of the agreement money brought by Cachin, which funded the interventionist newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia that came out a few days later.

The Executive confirmed and appointed a new management of the newspaper: Lazzari, Bacci and Serrati. Finally it was Serrati alone, a man of undoubted energy.

Not even a small fraction was formed. Thus the traitors sub specie aeternitatis should be liquidated. There were comrades who offered to go shoot him with a revolver...

It’s not possible for us to consider included in our theme the history of the whole political contest in Italy between August 1914 and May 1915 in order to get the government of the country to follow the line of neutrality or to accept the suggestion of intervention in favor of the Entente. The various traditional political currents almost all went into crisis and many split into two opposing camps. We must mainly follow the affair within the Italian Socialist Party, which didn’t have a visible internal crisis at that time, and while we have already mentioned Mussolini’s going away from the party, it was an event that can be described, with a fashionable word, as spectacular, but not profound.

The characteristic feature of the interventionist movement of the famous Fasci di combattimento, whose name Mussolini later retained in his postwar movement, was to get out of the realm of mere parliamentary and legalitarian pressure to settle the issue with pressure on the State government and the monarchy, and make determined appeal to a people’s mass movement, which would, even by methods of violence, force Rome’s hand. War is violence, but it is legal and State violence; the advocates of war had an easy time camouflaging their conversion into the formula of “revolutionary war” not proclaimed by the powers of the State or the king, as the constitution intended, but imposed by the people who had descended into an insurrectionary type of struggle.

The characteristic feature of the interventionist movement of the famous Fasci di combattimento, whose name Mussolini later retained in his postwar movement, was to get out of the realm of mere parliamentary and legalitarian pressure to settle the issue with pressure on the State government and the monarchy, and make determined appeal to a people’s mass movement, which would, even by methods of violence, force Rome’s hand. War is violence, but it is legal and State violence; the advocates of war had an easy time camouflaging their conversion into the formula of “revolutionary war” not proclaimed by the powers of the State or the king, as the constitution intended, but imposed by the people who had descended into an insurrectionary type of struggle.

Some of the philistine historiographers of that Italian period have remarked, in a whining tone, that that was the first example of the violation of the freedom of parliament, and paved the way for the ultimate indignity that would give opening in the postwar period to the two decades of fascist dictatorship.

However, there’s no shortage, in the current confessed heirs of the national liberation and anti- fascist movement, of those who don’t deprecate the nationalist violence of the radiant May, and are ready to tell it with the best rhetoric that democratic ideology has to offer while at the same time they have come along the long degenerating path of condemning violence when it serves not to go to war, but to bring down the power of capitalism, which instead should fall by constitutional and bloodless processes!

The two notions – apologia for the 1915 intervention and the condemnation of the 1922 March on Rome – stand together, to give just one example, in the skull box (hard for his own sake) of one Pietro Nenni, stand together as judgments made after a course of half a century in which such subjects have run the entire gamut of positions.

But already in the Socialist Party before May 1915 there were those who put this point of State violence and class violence in the correct historical terms. A short note in the Naples’ Il Socialista [7] that made the rounds in the party’s weeklies, had a critique of the term neutralists. We were neither neutralists nor pacifists, nor did we believe permanent peace between States was possible as a programmatic end point. We deplored the disarmament of class struggle, of class warfare, to make way for national war. Our alternative was not to suspend the legalitarian class struggle, but to fight in the direction of proletarian revolutionary war, which alone would one day kill the basis of wars between peoples. We were the true class interventionists, interventionists of the revolution.

Quite different of course was the position of the right wing of the party, now a minority. But apart from the fact that this Right controlled the Parliamentary Group and the Confederation of Labor, and had only had to leave the political party leadership, the position of the leadership itself, which passed for an expression of the intransigent revolutionary fraction in Modena, Reggio Emilia and Ancona, was also quite different.

However, the right and what we can now call the center were on the ground of ruling out any support for a war government, any vote for military credits, any declaration that the party in case of war would “suspend” its opposition. But this was little, very little, it was a kind of clean hands policy, worthy yes of pacifists and neutralists, certainly not of class revolutionaries. Come the war we would have said: We have done our duty and secured our responsibilities. It was said in those months: We saved our souls!



18. May 1915: the Bologna Conference

On May 19, 1915 as events escalated a convention was convened in Bologna between the Party leadership, Parliamentary Group, Confederation of Labor and peripheral party delegations (Reggio Emilia, Rome, Turin, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Pisa, Venice, Naples, Parma, Modena, Ravenna). There were 20 MPs, 9 members of the Directorate, and 8 members of the Confederatation.

It’s not known to us whether anyone still has the minutes of this meeting and the others that followed in wartime. As of the date of May 16th, there was still no censorship, but the report in Avanti! is completely discolored. The published vow is weak and doesn’t go beyond the tone of “separate responsibility”; it’s true that it proclaims “the unwavering aversion of the proletariat... to intervention in the war” and declares forever binding the decision to vote against any request for war credits, but it limits itself to calling the proletarians to demonstrations and rallies marked by a “character of discipline, dignity and impressiveness”, after which the socialists, conscious “that they cannot today be arbiters of the capitalist world, certain that they have fulfilled their duty to themselves, to the country and to history, before Italy and the International, have kept and will keep separate their responsibilities from those of the ruling classes”.

Even in articles in Avanti! and in Turati’s famous speech to the Chamber to deny the full powers demanded by the Salandra government on the eve of the declaration of war on Austria, an unfortunate phrase recurs: Let the Italian bourgeoisie wage its war! The bourgeoisie would indeed make its war, but they used the life of the Italian proletarians to slaughter the Austrian ones to do it.

According to the right-wing and centrist historiographers of those days, the Bologna meeting would give rise to Costantino Lazzari’s famous phrase: neither adherence nor sabotage, and we would have done better had that old socialist not come up with that slogan. The phrase and the imbecilic policy it expressed from the very beginning found lively opposition in the party; Serrati himself, editor of Avanti!, disagreed with it, although the various wartime decisions of the Directorate were all weak and hesitant. Lazzari’s apologists said he was dedicated to saving the unity of the party, and his “honor” of not adhering to the massacre.

At the Bologna meeting, various members of the intransigent revolutionary fraction, including some members of the Directorate itself, and envoys from various federations, took a position quite opposite not only to that of the parliamentarians and Confederation leaders, but also to the hesitations of the Directorate.

We can reconstruct the position that some delegates from Lombardy, Piedmont, Romagna and Southern Italy took, thought after so many years there’s no texts available [8].

First, the issue was raised that the purely political problem of the action to be taken against the war had to be dealt with by the party organs, and accepted as such by comrades with mandates for parliamentary and trade union functions. This objection would recur throughout the course of the struggles and up to the Livorno split.

A direct clash took place between those who spoke for the Left of the party on the one hand and the deputies and union leaders on the other. The deputies saw the issue on the parliamentary level. It was known that the majority of the deputies were neutralists, as was proven by the three hundred business cards left at Giolitti’s door when the king had called Salandra. Giolittians, Catholics and socialists could have “outvoted the war in the House”. The Left railed against this prospect, which unfortunately shone through in the motion that was voted on, saying that the pressure of the interventionists from the rock of Quarto “was unconstitutional”. Even then we made the obvious remark: What could be better? Let us be the first to go against the bourgeois constitution!

The discussion with the Confederation leaders was just as tense. They scrambled to say that the general strike against mobilization “wouldn’t succeed” and challenged exponents of the Chambers of Labor and trade federations in order make defeatist statements. We told them to their faces: You don’t actually fear that the strike won’t succeed, you fear that it will succeed. You know that the workers are enraged at the war, but you don’t dare to give the word to strike to prevent mobilization. It’s not that you fear the consequences of repression; it’s not cowardice that we accuse you of, but you fear that you will be stained with betrayal of the fatherland. Your bourgeois prejudices are such, that you think that even in the case of a war not of defense but of exquisite aggression and real conquest, in which we find ourselves, the socialist has a duty not to harm the military operations of the fatherland. Needless to say, the will to war of the Italian people is a detestable lie, when raising one’s hand against so monstrous a war is considered a guilt!

When Turati took the floor to respond with his sarcasm to the statements of the “revolutionaries” in the Directorate, he premised that the position of the extreme leftists was in its logic coherent and respectable, and he, while not sharing it theoretically, took note of its consistency.

Castrated commentators now dare to say that no one in Italy took Lenin’s position for the sabotage of any war, even defensive wars, while that position, as seen in articles in the newspapers Avanti! and L’Avanguardia and from proposals made at party conventions, was, before Lenin’s theses were even known, taken by the extreme left in Italy: and we document this in the second part, where it’ll become clear how, between 1914 and 1918, despite the absence of international ties, the revolutionary left developed in rapid succession in the party press the same basic themes of the Leninist battle against the suggestions of warmongering propaganda (all the more insidious the more it was clothed in democratic trappings) in the ranks of the labor movement. And it’s a fact (in recent years recalled by a historian who can’t be suspected of sympathies for our current) that from the Left came, in Avanti!, on the very eve of the declaration of war, the only unequivocally classist and internationalist word:

“Once again, O trepid servants of the fait accompli, who would have us lick the hand that has struck but not weakened us, the two opposite paths are drawn clear and precise:

Either in or out the national prejudices and patriotic scruples. Either towards a nationalist pseudo- socialism or towards a new International. The position of those who in opposing the war did not conceal a miserable duplicity can only be one, today that the war is a “fait accompli”: against the war, for internationalist anti-militarist socialism”. [9]

The vigor of leftist pressure stems from the fact that while it was resolved to hold proletarian rallies on May 19th, Sunday, to avert the declaration of war, the discontent of many areas represented at the conference forced the decision, not proposed by true leftist Marxists, to leave the strike initiative free to local organizations. The envoys from Turin, where the proletarian masses were in turmoil, called for this. As on so many occasions, there were the “events of Turin” on the very 19th, with all factories being walked out of, violent demonstrations and clashes in the squares. The prefect gave powers to the military forces, and the headquarters of the AGO (Chamber of Labor, of left-wing directives) was bestially looted, while the soldiery popped the necks of thousands of dainty bottles from the cellar of the famous Turin Cooperative Alliance.

Once again the courage and decision of the proletarians of Turin were demonstrated, and also the good revolutionary spirit of those comrades; but on that occasion, too, a “cyclical” mistake was committed. Turin always moves with a phase-based error, which is to say, it’s hard to learn that certain decisions of class struggle must be national and not local. With the Italian confederation and party not working, nothing could be accomplished even though Turin had powerful organizations and cooperatives; useless waste of that good wine, in the rotten water of the firefighters. How difficult it was to make the Turin comrades understand this, even the best extreme-leftists! Turin has been the capital of the Kingdom, but it can’t make the Commune.

The course of the confrontation was as always. Factory workers compactly walked out of work and occupied the streets and squares. A few barricades formed and the population supported the demonstration and struggle from their homes. Socialist trade union leaders and parliamentarians went over to “calm them down”. Prefect and Interior Ministry exchange some telegrams and the armed forces intervene. The workers’ and socialist headquarters on Corso Siccardi is occupied. One worker is killed; many injured; many arrests, including of leaders; then trial and conviction. True, the devastated Corso Siccardi headquarters is returned on May 25th, but in the meantime, having crushed the workers by the force of the central state, the interventionist nationalists, rare in Turin, were able to go around the city extolling the glorious war... An early outline of what was to be the postwar period, the bourgeois illegalism of Fascism, the fatal error of the working class to respond with the silly formula: We’re here in defense of legality; instead of taking up the challenge, the best of historical opportunities.

Turin gave a dress rehearsal for such defeatist moves. A very young Gramsci, as one of his followers recounts, theorized about it. He didn’t yet know whether to be neutralist or interventionist, idealist or Marxist (and this was forgivable) but he was blinded by his admiration as a son of pastoral Sardinia for the industrial metropolis. He wrote, “Turin represents in a small way a true State organism”.

The remark is acutely developed “in concreto”, but it leads onto a non-Marxist road: State organism is that which rests on Sassari and Turin, but the problem to be posed isn’t municipal, it’s super- national, European, world-wide. Those with an “immediatist” outlook fail to see this.

The tremendous Italian war of 1915, a real slaughterhouse of which the second war, despite the torment of the noncombatant populations, was merely a dull repetition, with its 600,000 official combat deaths and the ten battles on the Isonzo, exasperated the proletariat’s hatred for the ruling class, which drank blood when it raised the democratic flag far more than when it later raised, with muted militarism, the Nazi-Fascist one.

The Socialist Party maintained its opposition, but unhappy phrases were the order of the day (a few phrases might not be so bad; but it was the position of an entire part of the movement, under the cover of unity, a unity that even before May 1915 we openly deprecated), such as the one for which the leftists of Turin (later called the rigids) stigmatized the very right winger Casalini: “the town council’s socialist group [usual ambition to pilot from “under the Mole” Italian politics], facing the irrevocable, proposes to use its forces so that Italy will not be weakened morally or materially in the face of the enemy” and closed with the double cry of Long live socialism, Long live Italy! But today this cry, even in the form, Long live communism, Long live Italy!, no longer even scandalizes. There’s no rigids anymore; they’re all flaccid now.

However, the party as a whole held a better course, at least in the field of resuming international relations. It was at Zimmerwald (September 5-8, 1915) and at Kienthal (April 24-30, 1916). We cannot give the history of these and other less notable international meetings here, but it should be noted that the Italian delegations, composed, for intuitable reasons, almost only of deputies among whom were staunch pacifists but not true revolutionary Marxists, could not reflect the positions of the party’s energetic Left.

That is why the Manifesto of the Zimmerwald Left with the signatures of Lenin and Zinoviev does not bear Italian signatures; in fact, due to the causes of war, the Italian leftists of the years 1915 and 1916 did not possess an organized link that did not go through the Party leadership. The Italian signatures on Zimmerwald’s General Manifesto are those of Modigliani and Lazzari. Lenin, as is well known, also signed that text, openly antiwar and explicitly condemning social-patriotism, considering it a good “step toward the real struggle against opportunism, toward rupture and split”; it was notoriously written by Trotsky and also reflected well the position of the German Spartacists, the heroic Liebknecht and Luxemburg.

Further on [10], however, the reader can find, at the date of 1916, a characteristic example of the battle waged by the Left for “the fiercest intransigence” in preserving and defending the Party’s “ideological frontiers” against every intermediate and supporter position, the classic, insidious position of the “independents” so bitterly criticized by Lenin.



19. The Rome Conference, February 1917, and Other Events of the Left

It wasn’t possible to convene a national party congress during wartime, but a convention was managed to be held in Rome (not clandestinely), which met on February 25-26, 1917. Even of that meeting not all the documents exist: however, it showed that there were two openly conflicting positions in the party.

Three points were discussed. The first concerned the report of the party Directorate and the Parliamentary Group. The latter was the subject of much criticism, and it was said on all sides that the responsibility lay with the Directorate on the fundamental principle that the group, like the Confederation’s leadership, could not have the right to make a policy of its own that was not in all respects that of the party. But, after two years of war, the party was hated and targeted on all sides, and the sentimental reasoning of not being divided in voting on its actions prevailed. Trozzi, from Sulmona, who was a leftist, presented an order of the day that applauded the Directorate; the other leftist Zanetta, from Milan, a similar order of the day of simple approval. The former had 23,841 votes, the latter 6,295. This doesn’t seem clear today: the fact is that the rightists, that is, the reformists opposed to the Directorate, did not want to be counted except in the number of 2,690 abstainers.

A second point was that of a meeting of the socialist parties of the Entente nations (including by then Italy) called in Paris. It would’ve been right not to go there in any case; instead they discussed the secondary fact that the French party had, of its own volition, divided the Italian international votes between our party and the ultra-interventionist party of the Bissolatian reformists. From the far left there was no failure to observe that the Second International and the French party were well dead, but a vote was taken on two almost similar agendas by Bombacci and Modigliani, which, at even strength, said nothing in principle. In any case, the party didn’t go to Paris; but the subject of the votes was pathetic.

On the vital third point, however, there was a clear division; the Left got over 14,000 votes against the center-right’s 17,000. About the motion submitted by the Left and unknown to the “experts” in the historiography of the workers’ movement, Avanti! could only mention that it “developed an intransigent theoretical directive about the Socialist Party’s criteria for peace and the postwar period”; but, in the verdict for the Turin trial a year later, having voted for that agenda “advocating revolutionary action to end the war” will figure as one of the aggravating factors against the defendant Rabezzana.

The few historians to whom we have sometimes alluded merely express astonishment, ignoring the text of the motion, that the Left collected – mind you, without abstentions, that is, against the forces of the right and the center (Directorate) – such a strong vote. The maniacs of the vain principle of head counting twist their heads bloody when this principle, duly applied, puts them in the wrong.

We shall give on this point the few clarifications in our possession. It should be noted that the text of the Rossi (center-right) motion (passed) says nothing, merely repeating that the Party secretary’s line of conduct is approved, to which the Party’s further action must conform. Instead, the debate was very profound. The war, it was said, has come, even for Italy, and it could not be prevented (for many, they wouldn’t dare or even wanted to try and stop it). But the war will end one day, and peace will come. What will the party say? And what will the party’s policy and action be in the future time of peace, and in the “post-war” already spoken of?

The pacifist wing, which was never disproved, advocated only certain vain principles of bourgeois democratic order about the characteristics of the peace that national governments would conclude among themselves, and they grazed on well-known formulas: peace without annexations (which was well silly in Italy when the war was justified by the purpose of annexing Trieste and Trent and a few other things) and without indemnities (reminiscent of those imposed by Bismarck on the French); the right of peoples to dispose of themselves and League of Nations (the baggage of what was later the unpleasant Wilsonism; but America had to make war first and only then set about governing peace). Of course, in the domestic camp we would have called for demobilization (how clever!), restoration of popular liberties, you name it.

The theses advocated by the Left fouled up all this limp ultra-bourgeois ideologism. Our thesis was clear; the war came because under capitalist rule it couldn’t not come (Zimmerwald had reiterated this), and the question isn’t to bask in a new historical phase of peace, but to pose the problem of not letting more wars come. What means does the proletariat have at its disposal? Only one: to overthrow capitalism; therefore, if today’s (1917) program has failed to be that of stopping the war with defeatism, the postwar program will have to be that of the proletariat’s seizure of power and social revolution. The Italian proletariat, going through the harsh trial of the disastrous war (at that time still victorious, despite the slow progress of the fronts), would take up this call of the party to wrest power from the warmongering bourgeoisie by revolutionary means; and it would not put forward the imbecile claim that it became pacifist.

The socialist goal after the war won’t be the shape of peace, but class revolution: this was said in Rome and this is the claim of the Left, of which today’s shysters have made themselves clear when they call it “theoretical”. It’s precisely because you’re not “theoretical” that you have become putrid traitors! And the best proof is your pacifism, rampant up to and especially in Moscow.

In the voluminous dossier of the proceedings of the aforementioned Turin trial now in the Turin State Archives – which has been happily accessed thanks to the collective work of our movement – is found, among other things, a clandestine pamphlet entitled “Memorandum to the Socialist Party of the Italian Youth Federation”, dated 24-5-1917, in which is included the left-wing motion that narrowly remained in the minority in Rome, and which in the entire party press had been censored.

The text of the motion may appear rather weak compared to the ideas advocated by the revolutionary left in Rome, which we have set out above. However, this supplementary chronicle will stand to show that the concepts of the extreme left of the Party were those; and it must also be borne in mind that, regardless of the personal signature or signatures that the motion bore, it was undoubtedly the result of an agreement between more decisive elements and others perhaps not completely in tune, as shown by the high vote of 14,000 to 17,000. It should also be noted that, in the hope that the motion could be published in Avanti! without incurring the wrath of the censor, from a purely formal point of view, it was perhaps convenient to tone down the phrasing. Here, then, is the text as it was included in the youth’s little memorandum and which it is not certain was totally faithful to the original: “The National Socialist Convention feels itself to be the sure interpreter of the Italian and world proletariat in calling for an end to the current deadly war, the continuation of which is antithetical to the intentions and aspirations of the working classes.

Above the contingent military and political situations of the States in conflict, the Conference thinks that the Socialist Party should direct all its efforts to end the war, which has proved incapable of reaching a solution from the mere military point of view.

Believing then that the discontent that’s spreading over the tragic consequences of the war must be taken seriously, and that the Party must aim to channel it into a conscious and generous action of solidarity with the victims of the present situation, illuminated by socialist reasons for proletarian aversion to war;

Placing all hope about the duration of peace and the hoped-for impossibility of new armed conflicts in the energetic class action of the international proletariat, outside the fetters of bourgeois prejudices, the Socialist Party vows that its peace action will take the following measures:

Intensification of the Party’s propaganda and organizational activity in the individual Sections, provincial and regional Federations, and in the relations between these bodies and the Central Directorate, in accordance with the plan of internal operation of which it delegates the study to the Directorate, so that the Party itself may be ready to fulfill its task in every eventuality;

Intensification of the socialist women’s and youth movement and of relations with the trade organizations on the basis of the anti-bourgeois and antiwar tendencies of organized workers;

Energetic work of international revival with the anti-war socialist movement of other countries, according to the resolutions already voted;

Parliamentary action to be the sincere and explicit echo of socialist thought and to reaffirm on all occasions the call for peace with firm intransigence and without contact with bourgeois pacifist currents.

The Conference appeals to all comrades and all organs of the Party, so that against the opposers allurements and threats they may know how to fulfill their duty in its entirety in the name of international workers’ solidarity and for the unfailing advent of socialism”.

Shortly after the Rome Conference, the party leadership continued to stick to the hesitant and bland policy it had been advocating, encountering strong resistance at the February meeting. Meanwhile, news of two important events had arrived: the first Revolution in Russia and the American intervention in the war. The right-wing of the party tended to exploit them in the opposite direction of decisive class opposition to the war, as the Entente front begun to emphasize its democratic clothes due to the presence of the American Confederation and that of a Russia that had gone from feudal to democratic, which the bourgeoisie then deluded itself into thinking would actively continue the anti-German war. The Left of the party did not fail to react to this misguided direction, reiterating internationalist positions (see, among others, Text 33 [this to be verified, or make reference differently ).

The Directorate continued its bad habit of dealing with the topics in mixed meetings with the Parliamentary Group and the leadership of the Confederation of Labor. A first meetings took place on April 9-10, 1917, and of course, since no grassroots organizations were represented, there is no record of dissenting positions. The communiqué hints at the new events we referred to in uncertain phrases such as these: “The different situations in which the PSI might find itself both during and after the war have been looked at, and the different attitudes which the Party should hold in order to preserve in its action its straightforward class characteristics, while attempting to take advantage of all the factual elements in order to act in concordance with the interests of the proletariat were aired”.

Mention is then made of the need to foil the pitfalls of other parties eager to remake their political virginity, with clear reference to the electoral exploitation in the postwar period of the merits of the Socialist Party; but, clearly in order to achieve the usual unanimity, it continues, “Without, however, refusing to leverage all the favorable forces in the country so that the aspirations of the Party [censored] reach a sure goal”.

On April 25th there was a meeting of the council of the Confederation of Labor, which greeted the Russian people, wished for peace, proposed some measures for the postwar period of an economic, welfare and reformist nature, and called on “the proletariat to make sure that the bourgeoisie does not exploit the abnormal state of affairs to crush those claims to which the war has given it an incoercible right”.

Another similar meeting was held on May 8th in Milan with only the Milan and Turin sections represented. A circular dated May 20th was found at the Turin State Archives reproducing the two agendas voted on in full, that is, including the part censored in Avanti! It mentions the effort of the international proletariat to achieve peace and the democratic features of this such as had been called for by the Russian socialists (these were at that time the Mensheviks and SRs prevailing in the Soviet). A second order of the day refers to the demonstrations that were taking place in various parts of Italy against the war and expresses itself in a, to say the least, equivocal manner: “It senses the whole spontaneous, fatal and human character of such movements and warns the government against any action that would intend to fail to appreciate their whole profound and cautionary significance; it declares that it’s the duty of the socialists to assist the proletariat even [sic!] at such junctures, and commits them as of now to this fraternal defense, but at the same time, aware of the delicate situation [!?] and in the face of attempts evidently directed at shifting onto the Socialist Party responsibilities that are not its own, warns organizations and individuals:

1° that more than ever they must feel the material and moral value of discipline...

2° that it is and must be the responsibility of the Party’s governing bodies alone to take the initiative in agitations of a general political character; it therefore invites organizations and individuals not to take isolated and fragmentary initiatives, which could compromise that political strength which, undoubtedly, has come to the Socialist Party from its attitude in the face of the war, and which will be worthwhile at the opportune moment to realize that political and social program which the PSI is preparing to defend strenuously”.

Following this meeting, a Manifesto of the three bodies entitled, “For Peace and for the Postwar Period; the Immediate Claims of the PSI” was published on May 16th. The manifesto recalls Zimmerwald’s principles and goes into the democratic characteristics of peace. It then moves on to a list of Italy’s own demands, which are those that will be widely abused in the postwar period: a republic, unlimited popular suffrage, non-secret foreign policy, development of municipal and regional autonomies and general decentralization (!), bureaucratic and judicial reform, labor policy, repression of emigration, land reclamation, nationalization, etc. There is no shortage of the overused phrase: effective recognition to all workers of the right to a decent and humane existence, with the usual references to the ancient reformists of old. For land, socialization is timidly called for, starting with charities (!) and the expropriation of uncultivated land, then the formula is introduced: land exclusively for those who work it; and so on, with other petty economic formulas that are not worth reporting.

Meanwhile, the Italian social atmosphere was becoming incandescent, and on all sides the deliberations of the meeting and the manifesto published by Avanti! aroused lively reactions. Very lively was that of the youth who made their own the motion of the minority from the February meeting, and many sections made similar vows: court documents recall the sections and federations of Vercelli, Novara, Alessandria and, above all, Turin, which rejected the intention not to promote agitations to obtain an end to the conflict and stated that the “most principal task of the PSI is to lead the proletariat to impose peace using all the means that circumstances can offer it, and to prepare and organize the forces of the working class for this purpose” (motion of July 1-2).

But the most significant document of this rising up of the whole Party against the sluggishness of the central organs must be found in the order of the day voted by the Naples section on May 18th, 1917 and circulated in the party, which can be considered expressive of the political position of the Left, and which because of its importance and systematic nature we quote in full in the second part (text 32).

That text, having reaffirmed the principled relationship between world capitalism and war, denies all modes of peace that are claimed to ensure its perpetuity before the bourgeois system is overthrown. It indicates that the postwar program can only be an assault on bourgeois governments in order to overthrow them; notes the impatience of the masses and asserts that it must be encouraged and organized in the Party; deplores the way in which the Party leadership subordinates its decisions to the Parliamentary Group and the Confederation of Labor, which should instead receive their direction from the center of the Party, and vows that the Party will know how to fulfill its duty by placing itself in the vanguard of the proletariat in struggle – precisely the theses advocated both in the debate at the Rome meeting and expressed here with extreme lucidity.

This vow, obviously censured from the first to the last word, we owe to the fruitful research done in the dossier of the Turin trial, which allows us to include it in the series of the most expressive manifestations of the address of the revolutionary Left.



20. Caporetto and the Florence Meeting

In the summer of 1917 the war was still being waged in the exhausting rhythm of the trenches; Claudio Treves incurred in the famous “accident” of the slogan “no more trenches by the next winter”. The phrase was not extremist, though it was resolute; it basically expressed the old reformist concept that the pressure of the proletariat would induce the ruling classes to find a path to peace. Instead, the Left clearly posited the other solution: ending the war through the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and its rule. Treves genuinely wanted an end to the conflict, but precisely to prevent it from turning into civil war.

There had been another meeting of the Directorate on July 23-27, 1917, which resolved to attend the conference of the socialists of the Zimmerwaldist wing called in Stockholm for August 10 in anticipation of the other conference of all the socialist parties of the Second International called by the Russian socialists, for which the Zimmerwaldists had not liked the fact that the Russians (then still right- wing) had invited the socialists guilty of supporting the war. These meetings in Stockholm did not eventually take place, as is well known, and various other convocations took place instead in the equivocal camp of the Second International.

It’s likely that this meeting of the Directorate, the demonstrations that followed it, and the general Italian tension, in which a violent reaction against the party was starting to take hold, provoked the establishment in Florence of a committee of the Left Fraction of which we are unable to give constitution documents but are only able to reproduce an important circular dated August 23, 1917, which refers to the convocation of the 15th National Socialist Congress (later postponed to the autumn of the following year), and announces that at the last meeting of the Directorate some sections and federations, “of Milan, Turin, Florence, Naples and other minor ones, decided to constitute the first nucleus of the intransigent revolutionary fraction”.

We will also reproduce in the second part (text 30) the text of this circular, which, while perhaps lacking a precise theoretical outline, expresses well an entirely opposite direction to the unsatisfactory one that the party leadership took.

In the riots of August 1917, once again it was the workers of Turin who led a lively action of real class warfare. The severity of the repression and the violence of the trials before a military tribunal against all the local party leaders, including Serrati himself who bravely rushed into it, as censorship whitewashed the entire newspaper, in addition to the lively discussions that followed within the party and the historical coincidence of the reversal of Caporetto that occurred shortly after, almost made a legend out of these uprisings. The able Marxist Treves was able to condemn the error of “localism”, while the Turinese rightly scolded the party for having left them to fight on their own, and in the controversy they failed to say that the local motion was caused by the fact that, under pressure from Treves and their tradition, precisely because it was not ignoble, the proposal for a “simultaneous national” rather than local motion would have to pass over the bodies of Turati and Treves before triumphing,; and from all Italy we left-communists responded to Critica Sociale (Turati’s periodical) by openly posing the need for the split in the party as a condition to the taking up of arms in revolutionary action.

From various quarters the truth about the Turin riots was distorted, even in favor of the workers and the vigor of the semi-left socialist leadership, from which the bourgeoisie built the dream of a national repression of the “defeatists” that fascism later implemented. Exaggerations were made, that there hundreds of dead and thousands wounded, but it’s a fact that there were about fifty dead on the side of the workers and only ten or so among the forces of law and order; that they started from a protest over the lack of bread and then proclaimed, from the crowds and organizations, the curse to war; that the workers took what weapons they could and the soldiers handed them some of their own; that women stormed the armored cars, and it took a huge deployment of forces, arrests of thousands of demonstrators and socialist militants, and unprecedented moral pressure from the parliamentarians and opportunist union leaders on the workers’ side, to disarm the movement as the usual ritual invasion in Corso Siccardi and then the resounding trial with huge convictions.

It should be noted that precisely the workers of Turin could not lack bread any more than elsewhere and the trenches were not scary because they were exempt being in war production factories; indeed, they braved the penalty of being sent back to the front losing the coveted “blue armband”. How to deny that it was political and not economic fact that drove such a workers’ vanguard to the struggle?

To true revolutionary militants it was easy to show, without any denial, that the charge that Turin was moved to work for the victory of the Austrians was false. If working-class Turin alone could have won, it would have been the best invitation to the workers in Vienna and the fighters on the Austrian front to rise up. The campaign of the filthiest bourgeoisie in Europe to prove that the Turin “plot” prepared the military catastrophe of Caporetto was thus vain, more than that Treves’ quoted sentence had provoked it.

Turin gave with class heroism a vivid, lofty example, which marked a stage on the road to the preparation of the Italian communist movement, until other contrary events that we will find on our path.

The military defeat, which left the Austrians with a large part of Veneto, created a fiery internal situation. The interventionists threw themselves into new extremes for the “defense of national territory” hoping to collapse the position of the proletarians and socialists in order to achieve total union sacrée and national unity in Italy as well, and it was calculated that the socialist group in the Chamber would lend itself to the game. That much, truthfully, came very close to happening; if the party Directorate hadn’t returned to a sound mind, and the whole party, despite the difficulties of the situation, had not rallied to support it, the “dirty crime” would have happened. In the following years, at not a few stages before and after the split, we had to ask ourselves whether it wouldn’t have been for the better!

But in those hours, while the real Italians were (very platonically) making a levee with their breasts against the Austrian “hordes”, many of us party militants were rushing to Rome to make a levee against the treachery of our deputies, and we were able to avert its full effect by holding them up almost physically on the way to the Quirinal, where, it was said, Turati had already dressed to go. (Whether in formally dressed or not, this didn’t matter to us in the slightest). Without mentioning the usual names one episode may be relevant. A good comrade from the Left (before and after: needless to say when, or else one understands everything, not to mention that he died) arrives transfixed at the Party Direction, where a group from the Youth Federation urges and begs the good Lazzari to hold on: he, fresh from the news from the press room, gasps; it seems they stop them at the Piave without retreating further! We kept our wits to stop the party on the road to class defeat and looked at him dumbfounded: in him was already speaking the complex of defending the Fatherland and of the tricolor flags on the topographical map; in our heads and hearts the issue was quite different, and we saw, perhaps naively, a red flag hitherto safe dragged through the mud. We shouted this in his face.

Throughout October and November (the famous “rout” and the throwing away of arms took place on October 24, 1917) this real scuffle continued in the party, which served in the aftermath to give undue credit to our faltering rightists for not having dishonored themselves. The fact is that we were so determined and active, that they were unable to shed themselves... of their honor!

Lazzari and the Directorate at that time were firmly determined to prevent what the strong majority of the deputies wanted to do: if not outright entering a “national defense” cabinet, at least not denying the vote to such a ministry and defense credits. It was an achievement that seemed to the youth that made up the extremist Marxist wing important, and for a moment silenced the disagreement over sabotaging the war that Lazzari had disavowed. In practice the proletarian soldiers had applied albeit insufficiently defeatism by deserting the front. They had thrown away their weapons instead of keeping them for class actions, as at the same time was the case on the Russian fronts; if they had not fired on their officers, it was because the officers had run away with them instead of wielding the historic guns of Amba Alagi 1897 (another great Italian milestone) in an attempt to stop the escape.

The masses had understood as much as they can understand until the revolutionary party sheds more light on it.

Now it was a matter of preventing the socialist party from joining in with the cry: Take up arms again and return against the enemy!

At that juncture it was not the Left of the intransigent fraction, but the whole fraction, which united to fight (we have already premised that perhaps it was better already then to break up the fraction itself; but such were the events). The Directorate joined the fraction movement and convened it when we proposed it, without convening the whole party, the deputies and Confederation leaders. It was our first victory. The meeting was held illegally (since it had been forbidden by the police) in Florence on the night on November 18, 1917. It was openly directed against the attitudes of the right-wing of the party, i.e. parliamentarians, union leaders, and mayors of some municipalities such as Milan and Bologna, all of whom were seriously vacillating. Even of this meeting we have no minutes, only the text of the vote, which, for the said reasons, had to be unanimous. It was thus not possible to prepare it in such a way that the zealots would denounce it as “theoreticism”, but it was agreed upon. Gramsci (against attempts at reconstruction) made no speech. He listened only with the glittering gaze of good times. Personal qualities, for us, never mattered much, but it can be said that a remarkable man can be of greater importance when he learns than when he teaches. Today, we’re stinked up by too many who teach without ever having learned anything; and we think, it’s understood, not of school, but of life, of history.

The motion is very brief: note the sentence that “the political attitude of the Socialist Party cannot make itself dependent on the ups and downs of military operations”.

This is followed by a sharp condemnation of any demonstration that has the sense “of adhering to the war or granting respite to the bourgeois class or otherwise changing the direction of proletarian action”.

Such demonstrations are struck down for inconsistency, indiscipline, and rejection of responsibilities that the whole party had already assumed and from which it could not divest itself. Finally, the resistance to any “enticement of bourgeois ideologies” and the “irreducible opposition to the war” are reasserted; to them all members, “and specially those who hold representative offices," are vigorously called upon to hold fast.

There is no more in this text; not even an injunction to the waverers to leave our ranks, but the meeting marked an important point and achieved the purpose, which then seemed preeminent, of curbing the equivocal moves of the rightists and taking away from the patriotic renegades the satisfaction of national concord. The prospect of the future and what the renegades call theoretical vision was there in the speeches, of which some witnesses, all but dead as left extremists, reported; and it left for the struggles of the future its indelible traces.

From that moment, the most decisive ones, rallied in that meeting, became better and better organized – as we shall see in later chapters – and the platform proper of the “Italian Communist Left” was outlined, which was not the same as the old intransigent fraction, but much more.

On the other hand, the repercussions of this decisive upsurge were felt in the governing bodies themselves: from November to January there was a succession of “circulars” that would later be challenged at Lazzari’s trial and that aimed to clamp down the independent action of deputies and confederates (on November 1 Rigola had written that “the Italian people must gather in a supreme effort of will to repel the aggressor”!) and keep the whole party, without exception, on the centrally established line, in the strictest “fidelity to socialist discipline”.

In the ensuing period the Italian ruling class and government, certain that the game of bringing the socialist party to its side would never succeed, simply started to enact the harshest repression of all criticism of the war and all workers’ movement and agitation. On January 24, 1918, the police arrested Secretary Lazzari and Deputy Secretary Bombacci and mounted a trial for conspiracy and defeatism. There was a threat to suppress the entire party press, already stifled by wartime censorship. In the Chamber, the deputies reacted in the name of violated democracy, but just then Turati delivered the February 23 speech in which is the phrase, “For the Socialists, too, the fatherland is on the Grappa”, since on the Grappa line the Italian army’s arrest front was being consolidated. But the left-wing of the party, despite the arrest of so many leaders, was again able to rise up and protest against the deviation from the policy of opposing the war; strengthened by its support, in May the Directorate was able to take energetic action against the deliberations of the Parliamentary Group and the Confederation (the latter later disavowed in July, albeit with ambiguous wording, by its National Council) to accede to the government’s invitation to participate in the constituent commissions to study the measures to make the transition from the state of war to the state of peace easy in due course, and in June to openly disavow the speech with which Turati, deserving of Bissolati’s embrace, had praised the Italian resistance on the Piave; calling the whole group back to the criteria set in the November 1917 conference (note that Turati himself had been the only one that refused to resign from the government’s “commissionissima” [11]). The June 17 agenda of the Directorate is, in fact, an explicit restatement of Zimmerwald’s and Kienthal’s theses.

In May 1918, Serrati was also arrested, and in July he was tried with his comrades in Turin: the sentences reached up to six years’ imprisonment, for Barberis.



21. The 15th Socialist Congress: Rome September 1‑5, 1918.

The Italian bourgeoisie was still gambling on its fate at the front, and in the shameful skirmishes between the future victors, in the event that things went well for them. It was doing the Socialist Party the honor of fearing that, should it provoke the Party, the Party knew how to give birth to another Caporetto. It was afraid of us, and to curb the revolutionary wrath it relied, as it does now, more on democratic illusion than on sleight of hand. It allowed the convocation in Rome of the Party congress, which it had forbidden in 1917: considering how many militants were arrested or drafted, our ranks were thinned and seriously strained; and the opponents hoped for the action of the parliamentary and trade union right-wing so that they would put water in the wine. But, in Italy, everyone had had enough of the war, even the right-wing, who thought that if the war did not end, even the stones would turn to the extreme left, their bête noire.

The congress disappointed all of them. As many as 365 sections were represented there. The Party was strong precisely because of the good effect of the hard struggle against the war, and to the debate brought heated contributions various proletarian militants from the North and the South, as rough and hasty as they were impatient – with a thousand reasons! – of the maneuverings and bungling of the parliamentary and trade union Right, and disdainful both of the Turatian defense of the principle that “national independence (!) is sacred”, and of Graziadei’s subtle and scholastic “distinctions”.

Repossi, an old leftist, gave the most decisive speech in favor of Lenin and the proletarian dictatorship (significantly, the right-wingers had avoided the slightest mention of the Bolshevik revolution, the glow of which kindled the enthusiasm of the congressmen), and for the impeachment of the king and the government: "No more niceties," he concluded, "Class against class: on the one hand the bourgeoisie, all together, against us; on the other hand we, alone, against the whole world: this is the task of the socialists”.

The argument of the extreme left was carried out by the lawyer Salvatori, from Livorno, who had been in Bologna 1915 and Florence 1917, and he deplored the fact that, from the beginning of the war, there had been no open split between the two extreme wings and that the party had lapsed into the formula of neither adherance nor sabotage: “You,” – he said addressing the right-winters, – “should have adhered to the war; we should have sabotaged it right from the beginning”.

By him and Trozzi the extreme-left motion was prepared. Once again the question of the politics of the moment stood out in it, and not only was the Parliamentary Group disavowed, but the weakness of the Party Directorate itself was deplored. The discussion was diverted by a stormy incident: Modigliani rose to say that if such a motion was voted on, all the deputies would resign. Then Trozzi had the weakness to withdraw his signature, and only after lengthy debates did Lo Sardo, an able but never too straight man, come up with a mitigated formula that Modigliani also liked. It must be said that Congressmen Maffi, Caroti, Di Giovanni, Bernardini and Morgari detached from him.

Put to a vote, Salvatori’s motion had 14,015, Tiraboschi’s centrist 2,507, and Modigliani’s 2,505. The victorious motion reads, “The 15th Italian Socialist Congress:
     1. Applauds the work of the Party Directorate on the terrain of international politics and approves together its internal political attitudes, while noting of same Directorate, for the sake of the unity of all socialist forces, an excessive tolerance toward groups, organizations and individuals;
     2. Making judgment of Avanti! as marking, in this period of war, a glorious page of classism, especially for having raised the alarm against the collaborationist possibility by mobilizing all socialist energies around it, points it to the gratitude of the proletariat;
     3. In regard to the Socialist parliamentary group..., while taking note of its work up to the Rome Convention of February 1917, declares that in spite of the calls for a more energetic opposition to the war, and for greater contact with the masses, the Group, either by manifestations of individuals or by deliberations of its majority, has not corresponded to the deliberations of the aforesaid convention and to the directives marked by the Reggio and Ancona Congresses, recalled by the Party leadership and the organized masses, and this more especially with the last Turati speech and the subsequent vote of solidarity of the Group; invites the Parliamentary Group to adhere strictly to the will of the Party and to the directive marked by the responsible organs of the same;
     4. ... Reaffirms that the Socialist Parliamentary Group must in all its public political manifestations conform to the discipline of the deliberations of the Directorate, which is entitled to the responsibility for the directives of the Party; and in this concept, appropriately modifying the Statute, entrusts to the Directorate itself the mandate to regulate this relationship with all the necessary modalities, even with regard to sudden parliamentary situations and with the consequent sanctions up to and including expulsion. The possible appeal of the victim of expulsion, to be presented to the Directorate, will be considered at referendum by the Sections, or by the Congress if one has already been called”.

We brought back the motion thus toned down to show how, once again, the affirmation of valid and always reaffirmed principles by the Left was not here translated into a sharp and radical cut in practice, and the scruple of unity led to a de facto if by no means principled amnesty of the past. It will only take a few months – and we shall see for the Parliamentary Group to go back to its own way, and the leadership to... simply let things ride.

The truth is that the congress had sidestepped the fundamental issues to focus on a skirmish of accusations and counter-accusations about individual acts. A year earlier, when the congress was first discussed, the far left had demanded that the debate be exhaustive and not avoid the much-feared “theoretical” debates for fear of disagreements likely to undermine Party unity. It was precisely on the terrain of practice that the debate on the action to be taken in the country and the methods to be followed in international relations was taking shape, and, given the practical disagreement about what was said to be “going right or going left”, the best way to exacerbate it was to leave it suspended “entrusting its solution to chance, to the gentlemanly Events, to the most excellent ladies Situations and to the criterion of His Honorable Opportunity. The sincere, honest and virile way to resolve the question is, instead, to decide whether one or the other of the tendencies is in the line of the party’s program and corresponds to the aims it proposes” – thus, a practical question that cannot be resolved outside the theoretical question [12]

As things stand, the new leadership that emerged from the Rome congress cannot but perpetuate, precisely because of the failure to clarify the basic questions and the consequent failure to straighten out the organization, the hesitations and misgivings of the past, to the greater dismay of the “practicalists”, “concretists”, and “contingentists”, as well as of the unitarians-at-any-cost.

It’s claimed that the current later called maximalism was born from this congress. The most ardent would have been Gennari and Bombacci: the greatest credit for the orientation of the Rome “assembly” belongs to the true revolutionary Salvatori, who certainly does not deserve the stigma of having created maximalism. Gennari’s agenda on the national and international situation said that in socialism the concept of fatherland was outdated, and that it was necessary in practical action to hasten peace and channel general discontent toward the maximum program of bourgeois capitalist expropriation. It was only later that such phrases could be subjected to a better scrutiny in the light of Marxism – even if Gennari said it in good faith at the time – when “maximalism” revealed the paucity of its content and of its evaluation of the postwar historical transition.

Meanwhile, the war was coming to an end, albeit with the victory so magnified by the Italian bourgeoisie of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto and the entry into the “liberated” lands and cities. But the long-awaited “postwar” problems were rising in all their harshness.



22. The Socialist Youth During Wartime

Before turning to the interwar period, it’ll be useful to briefly return to the events of the socialist youth movement, whose remarkable support for the revolutionary left-wing of the party up to the eve of the 1914-1918 conflict we have mentioned. The Youth Federation, which since August 1914 had reacted to the outbreak of the European conflict by taking the same decisive stand against social-national betrayal that the left-wing of the party immediately took, and which we have documented with references to key articles in Avanti!, unfortunately did not escape a mild crisis when Mussolini, in October 1914, shamefully defected.

The newspaper L’Avanguardia was then entrusted to Lido Caiani, who unfortunately followed the future Duce and did not fail to bring some disarray to the ranks of the youth organization. An urgent meeting of the National Committee was convened in Bologna on October 25, i.e. a few days after the famous article of Mussolini’s volte-face, and a resolute agenda was voted on, putting an end to all interventionist hesitation, also presenting the defecting Caiani, who, a few days later, switched arms and baggage to the side of the traitors without, moreover, being followed even by a very small minority of the youth, and published a dissident little newspaper, which was titled after the famous background article of the 1st issue of Il Popolo d’Italia (Audacia - Audacity), brazenly embracing the thesis of immediate intervention. Here is the text of the agenda voted on in Bologna, as reported in L’Avanguardia issue no361, of November 8, 1914: “The National Committee of Young Italian Socialists, discussing the current international political situation and the attitude taken in this regard by L’Avanguardia;

believing that the youth movement must continue to be inspired by the directives of aversion to all war in both thought and action, because from the very serious and major current events and precisely from the failure of the work of the socialists in the belligerent States comes the lesson that every concession the socialists make to the fictions of State militarism lends itself only to drawing the proletariat into the bloody deception of fratricidal wars, which are the fatal consequence of the inherent economic and social structure of modern capitalism, of which socialism is the theoretical and working antithesis, and of which wars the motivations, initiatives and conduct are wholly removed from the control or influence of the proletariat, constituting the unilateral monopoly of modern States, even if they are governed by democracy;

decides that the Youth Federation should carry out its political action in agreement with the Italian Socialist Party and all the organs of the proletariat, appealing in the event of war to the working masses to express the most strident opposition, and disapproves of the intonation reserved by L’Avanguardia in the face of the war with visibly partial and premature judgments of foreign socialists, with sentimentalist sympathies for one of the belligerent parties and inappropriate bellicose intentions in particular circumstances of the development of the conflict, far removed from sound socialist conception as well as from socialist evaluation of the facts...”.

After this decision, the direction of L’Avanguardia was completely straightened out, and it took a stand for the most radical line on anti-war action. Very important confirmation of this was given at the congress of the Youth Federation held in Reggio Emilia on May 10 and 11, 1915, that is, on the eve of Italy’s intervention in the war, whose vote, most important because it contained the defeatist principle of a general strike in case of war, was then advocated (as we have set out) by the delegates of the extreme left and the Youth Federation itself at the May 16, 1915 meeting in Bologna of the party bodies. In attendance were 107 delegates and 305 sections with about 10,000 members. On the report of the Central Committee and the newspaper this agenda was approved: “The Congress, noting how the CC and the L’Avanguardia leadership, after the recall of the National Convention held in Bologna on October 25, 1914, have followed a course of action suited to the aspirations of the youth movement, approves its actions and passes the agenda”.

On action against the war the following agenda was approved by a large majority: “The Young Italian Socialists, while affirming that it is necessary to make the detachment between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat more and more sensitive at this time, and believing and hoping that the general strike in the event of war would be the truly effective sign of this separation, give mandate to support their convictions, and their will to affirm with whatever sacrifice the purpose of safeguarding the ideals and interests of the working class, to the representatives who will go to the National Convention in Bologna."

The newspaper took a left-wing direction soon after the party rejected the proposed general strike, and an article we will give in the appendix, from October 1916, develops the same ideas, the same directives that (as noted above) the extreme left affirmed with remarkable force at the Rome meeting in February 1917. In anticipation of the demonstrations for May 1st, 1917, the Youth Federation appealed to the party to see that the demonstration itself be informed by sharper and more energetic directives than those with which the majority of the February convention had contented itself with the vague slogan of “Uniform the future actions of the Party to the action hitherto taken”. In a later article in July 1917, entitled “Ancora più avanti”, the youth organ neatly expressed the idea that the Socialist International after the war should be split in two, and the old leaders, who betrayed in 1914, should be rejected beyond a true chasm separating the revolutionary Marxists from all those who defected to the social-patriotic camp (see texts 29 and 31).

Of the stances of the youth in the crucial period of February-June 1917, however, the aforementioned “Memorandum to the Socialist Party of the Italian Youth Federation”, dated Rome 24 May,1917 and signed by the then secretary Nicola Cilla, a leftist, informs in more detail. It is a lively critique of the party’s governing bodies, which failed to keep their promise to give serious consideration to the order of the day presented by the Left at the February meeting, and which, at the April and May meetings in Milan, held an essentially pacifist and gradualist attitude. Two proposed additions – or rather, clarifications – by the Youth Federation to the Left’s order of the day at the Rome meeting are given there; the first calls for “imposing on the General Confederation of Labor a distinctly class-based direction; on all suitable occasions (extraordinary anniversaries, political processes, parliamentary crises, international provocations, etc, etc) to proclaim a general strike and call meetings, affirming in this only program: ‘peace, not victory’; to keep the proletarian forces awake and ready and, should these break out outside our initiative, to intervene by enlightening them and defending them from bourgeois reaction”.

The second calls on “the CC to keep itself more closely united with the international socialist youth movement, to agree on possible future movements, and to keep alive and awake that international unity which is a great part of our strength”.

From the same pamphlet it appears that, in view of the aforementioned April 9-10 meeting in Milan, the Youth Federation had sent the following appeal to the Directorate: “Considering that it would be politically inappropriate and out of reality not to take into account the popular discontent that is a fatal consequence of the war, or to rely on a vague formula of “unifying the future actions of the Party to the action hitherto taken” – considering that the present popular discontent is on the verge of being exploited as a salvation plank of pseudo-democratic and republican interventionism for the end of directing it toward a non-socialist insurrectional action, or better, anti-socialist, which would lead Italy to a concretization of essentially republican-bourgeois programs – vows that the Party Directorate – inspired by the events of Russia and America and the state of mind created by the war – will concretize a line of conduct that directs, coordinates, unifies the spirit and action of the Italian proletariat”.

On 23/24 September 1917, the Italian Socialist Youth Federation managed to hold another congress, in Florence, with as many as 150 delegates representing 300 sections with about 9,000 members. On the political direction, there’s adherence to the circular of the intransigent revolutionary fraction, formed to react to the too weak centrist direction of the leadership, but there was yet support for the latter against the social-patriotic threat of a defection of the parliamentary group.

Of the agenda on the International, we quote the most notable part. “The Congress of the Italian Socialist Youth, seeing how the world-historical events in Russia brilliantly confirm the correctness of the principles of class struggle propagated by us, fraternally greets revolutionary Russia and glimpses in its triumph the triumph of revolutionary ideas; considering that just as the Russian Revolution can achieve its fully socialist triumph [we are about a month away from the October Revolution] only through the struggle against bourgeois rule and social-patriotism, so too in all other countries revolutionary tactics can triumph only through the bitterest struggle against social-patriotism in one’s own country; resolves that one of the tasks of the Socialist Youth is to operate within the proletarian movement by intensifying the revolutionary struggle for the triumph of our principles”.

At this congress, the adult party’s wavering and its attempt at false unanimity was also strongly deplored, recalling that at the Rome meeting in February 1917 it had been intended to play two agendas of almost equal strength as harmonious, “instead [of] divided by an irreconcilable antithesis”. The criticism was answered by Lazzari himself, who demanded respect for the concept of the fatherland; however, the vote gave more than 7,000 adherents to the communist line against 700 from the Reggiano groups alone, which tolerated the party secretary’s colorless position.

In the later period of 1917, the Youth Federation organ showed an immediate and vibrant sensitivity to the news of the Russian Revolution and the October victory. A series of notes with the titles “Mentre Lenin trionfa”, “La luce viene dall’Oriente”, and the like, very validly and promptly point out how the work of the Bolsheviks perfectly follows the fundamental dictates of Marxism. The problem of a new International also began to be agitated for more and more resolutely, as can be inferred from a May 1918 article entitled “Le direttive marxiste della nuova Internazionale”, among many other writings. Despite the mutilations of wartime censorship, this article clearly sets up the issues of the revolutionary conquest of power, the condemnation of parliamentary democracy, and the centralization of communist action.

Until the end of the war, despite the kaleidoscopic rotation within the management and the editorial staff of L’Avanguardia, due to the incessant drafting of younger militants, the youth movement is oriented with explicit manifestations toward the future battle between the left-wing of the socialist party and the residual forces nevertheless lurking in its ranks, from which the ground will have to be cleared. Let the pages we reproduce in Part II for the period 1917-18 speak for themselves.

 


1. The reader will find in our site more noteworthy documents of socialist youth, useful to clarify importante doctrinal issues – position relating to bourgeois culture, socialism and anticlericalism, political party and economical organization, elections issue, struggle against irredentismo, etc. – in this 1912-14 period.

2. Cfr. “L’irredentismo”, December 14, 1913 issue of L’Avanguardia,

3. “Ai socialisti d’Italia, il ’Carlo Marx’ per il Socialismo Meridionale e contro le degenerazioni della Unione Socialista Napoletana”, Naples, April 1914.

4. “L’equivoco regionale”, Avanti!, March 8, 1914.

5. Speech of the representative of the Left at the Ancona Socialist Congress, 1914.

6. It is, moreover, only the first in a series of articles, published between August 1914 and May 1915 and beyond, in which the current justifications for proletarian support for the war are systematically demolished, one by one.

7.La borghesia e il principio di nazionalità”, January 24th 1915 issue of Avanti!

8. It would be interesting to follow in the regional and provincial Socialist press in April and May the Party’s reactions to the increasingly immediate prospect of Italian intervention in the European conflict and to the cautious policy of the leadership. For our purposes it may be interesting to point out the motion, among many others, voted at the 8th Congress of the Socialist Sections of the Province of Forli, April 11, 1915: «The Forli Provincial Socialist Congress, recognizing that the affirmation of neutrality has today become insufficient, lamenting that the Party leadership has not been able to devise the effective means of opposition to the war, affirms the necessity of the general strike to prevent the proletariat from being thrown into a horrendous massacre in the interests of the bourgeoisie» (From La Lotta di Classe, April 17th, 1915 issue). It should be noted that, as reflected in the same weekly, the Left, especially the youth, had in the period following August 1914 and, in particular, Mussolini’s defection, carried out very active propaganda in the sections and cities of Romagna amid the clamor of interventionist and warmongering republicanism. For the motion voted in the same month and along the same lines by the Socialist Youth Federation, see further in Ch. 22.

9.Il fatto compiuto”, May 23th 1915 issue of Avanti!

10.Il fatto compiuto” cit. and “Le insidie degli indipendenti”, April 10, 1916 issue of Avanti!

11. [Translator’s note: Reference to the “Commission for the post-war period”, an industrialists’ commission entrusted with the task of studying “the entire post-war structure relating to legal, administrative or social matters” and “all economic issues, especially industry, commerce and agriculture”.]

12. “Per una discussione esauriente”, October 13, 1917 of Avanti!; cfr. also: "Discussioni in seno al partito - Fatti e principii nella dinamica socialista”, November 4, 1917 of Avanti!