International Communist Party English language press

On the Thread of Time
Socialists and the South

Battaglia Comunista, no.48 of 1949


In the life of the Italian Socialist Party, it has bothered idiots a lot – that in the south of Italy, from Naples to Palermo, let’s say in Cosenza or Isola Capo Rizzuto, there were card-carrying members who pretended to hold positions of integral radical revolutionary Marxism or left-wing communism on the questions of the party’s orientation, contrasting for example bitterly the tactic of making blocs with parties and movements deriving from the middle and non-proletarian social strata in local and national elections.

The question is simple. Localism, a good companion in the cauldron of opportunist betrayal for the sake of “the needs of the moment”, is inherent in all anti-Marxist positions of the federalist Proudhonian workerist and syndicalist type, no less than in those that exalt parliamentary election as a supreme function. Two vain perspectives: to concretely implement case by case, place by place, time by time, a relative economic advantage for those who are ill, who have little, for the poor and the general less well off – to succeed in all the municipalities or in all the constituencies to have a good result in the poll counts according to the bourgeois democracy – lead to do the opposite of what is the task, first in the national sphere and then in the international one, of the class proletarian party.

It was obvious that the number of unionized workers as well as the number of members of the socialist party was lower in the southern regions, where capitalist industry was less developed, and that statistically the weight of the middle classes was greater, just as it had to be understood that the number of votes in the elections could be much lower. But they wanted to transform the different quantitative situation and the different ratio of forces into a different political method, and to impose that in the name of the same party one could propagandize in Milan the class struggle and the revolutionary program, while in Naples one had to deal with the infamous "local problems" and the even more evil smelling "moral issues".

This was tantamount to accepting the thesis that in united Italy and in the parliamentary State of the Savoy monarchy the application of immortal liberal principles had already led to perfect administrative problem-solving, to lucid technicality and to honesty in public affairs for the civilized provinces of the north, while only in the filthy South remained to be sent away asinine administrators and thieves of social wealth, raising the flag, not of the overthrow of the capitalist system and bourgeois power, but merely of the application of the hydraulic siphon to the latrine.

It was thus very annoying that one could go give a propaganda conference south of the parallel of Rome where one would pretend to condemn perfect advanced capitalism and say all about the Marxist positions on the condemnation of parliamentary democracy and the lie of liberal bourgeois civilization, or that by arriving at a socialist congress from a section that was not at a higher latitude than Florence one would contribute to chastising reformist, coalitionist and accommodating socialism; or just engage in clownish and masonic anticlericalism.

Over there, one always to think "before anything else", according to the big exponents of gradual progress, about completing bourgeois evolution and democratic habits. In Italy, things were going badly, since there had been the two-piece costume ever since. It still hadn’t been done a great number of things, besides the historical regime of the W. C., to be up to the high standards of Anglo-European civil liberalism, from the affirmation of God to the spread of the Lodges to the Southern or Liberal Revolution. What havoc then when the storms of history force those same juggernauts to ask for Italy the exact same democratic revolution, the second Risorgimento, and the renewed blessing of all the pacts from the top of the Vatican...

Needless to say, analyzing the history and the social situation of Southern Italy according to the serious Marxist method, it was clear that the anti-feudal struggle had preceded the one in the lands of the King of Sardinia, and that the liberals, since 1821, had been fighting not so much against a feudalism that had already been eradicated, but against the Bourbon monarchy, when they had a vague idea of a bourgeois future, with the rifle then and not with the ballot; they already saw the social question as set and Carlo Pisacane spoke of the struggle of the working class before having read Marx. It was clear that the halt in industrial development, in addition to other reasons of a technical and productive nature, was due to national unity and to the historical alliance between the bourgeoisie of the north and the south in a symbiosis that suited them in exploiting and subjecting the working class in Italy, which only with a united policy could stand up to this regime and threaten it.

Marxists, thus, have claimed to unite workers everywhere and not only in the shadow of the factories. They know well that they don’t have the same chance of becoming union secretaries or deputies in all areas. On the contrary, if they are serious Marxists, they are pleased not to have such a prospect, mostly ending in shit.

If the bourgeois economy is par excellence nourished by freedom of autonomy and competition, as the pure bourgeois claim, and as the socialist theory describes in its first elements, if the development of capitalism takes place in a continuous race of destruction of the most modest and least equipped productive centers in order to make room for new concentrated behemoths, the disparity of distribution of the "benefits of progress" in the different areas of the world and in the bosom of the same nation is one of the direct consequences of the bourgeois disorder of the economy. The famous "neglected areas" are therefore not a legacy of pre-bourgeois times but one of the many gifts of capitalism, of its original "lack of plan". When it begins to make plans for the purpose of the world class defense, it also puts into the plan a few hypocritical and demagogic tears about the fate of the unfortunate backward areas with the sole purpose of making those who live in the more developed areas, where it establishes concentration camps or drops atomic bombs after having reached capitalism’s logical conclusion, feel lucky.


Among all the great forces and the great firms on the Italian political scene, we see none directed against the central target of the ruling class and the State of Rome, against the complementary exploitation of the vultures of industrial and commercial business and the capons of real estate.

Instead, the question of freeing a part of the nation from a specific social form of economic exploitation, which would be that of the great agrarian property of the south, is brought to the stage with the greatest propaganda mobilization; this is considered such a heavy and important issue that the exploitation by the owners of industry, banks and commercial businesses becomes a problem of little importance.

Minister Pella, after having enunciated the new canon that the government, as a worthy business committee, will publish every year not only the balance sheets of the State but also a sketch of the whole national economy (these socialist achievements are truly exciting!) gave a first mirror of the situation up to 1948. One has the figures of the national income. In bourgeois and Marxist economics different languages are spoken. What then is the national income? Is it the sum of what is swindled from the Italian workers by the owners of companies of all kinds, or is it the figure that accumulates the "income" of all, workers for wages, employees for salaries, entrepreneurs for profits, owners for rents? In the second interpretation, the conclusions are even more suggestive. Among all in Italy we earn 63304 billion lire. We are 45 million. Division gives this result; for each Italian, these figures are available: 140,000 lire per year, 11600 per month, 380 per day. But wait a minute. All this fat average individual income is not consumed, we are too wise people to do that, and what is saved, set aside, and then – here we go to the highest levels of capitalist science – invested in new productive uses 12 percent of the total “income”. And so what each Italian has left for consumption is further reduced: 123,000 lire per year, 10,200 per month, 330 per day. We were going to say, if everyone smokes a pack of cigarettes. But then we run the risk of going to the dumbass desk: do you think even infants smoke? That’s right: we have to count by families and, if you want, by units of productive individuals. Productive in a very broad sense, including Pella’s civil servants and the millions of workers who could produce but cannot find a job. So let’s say those who smoke are one in three, since in large families it will not be just one to "produce". The average Italian budget rises to the following figures: annual 370 thousand, monthly 30 thousand, daily one thousand. What will the minimums ever be? Let it go, but evidently if the system is this, it is no wonder that the municipal guard of Melissa has thirteen thousand liras a month. They are always more than for a mechanic sacked by Isotta Fraschini. Fortunately, we have an elective chamber full of the best economic minds; unanimous, too, when the fortunes of the country are at stake.

Now how much is the income of all the landed property on six thousand billion? How much is that of the large landed estates? It is useless to roughly give two or three names that have a hundred and two hundred million in income. The firms are few, the unit incomes low. If at least these charlatans proposed to suppress the private income of high yield lands..! But certainly in Pella’s figures of the economy we would have the answer, reading how much of the trillion in taxes the taxman collects come from the large landed estates.

Let’s do the math like this. Let’s suppose that there are really a million hectares of wasteland in large estates. The taxable amount cannot be more than 250 liras per hectare for good pastures and poor arable land. That’s 1939 lire, let’s take it to ten thousand. That’s ten billion: all the pressure of the baronial backward classes on the nation is worth one six-hundredth of the total income, or 0.16%. This is the whole social scandal around which the Christian Democrats on the one hand and the Social-Communists on the other grapple with contemptible agreement.

As for the story that the liberated lands will be put to greater use, we already know how it’s going to go: in any case it is clear that it is necessary to invest; since we said (in agreement with Sturzo) that a thousand billion lire are necessary, and Pella does not want, with Keynes, to invest more than savings, while he prefers "productive" investments, that is, commercial, industrial and business investments; if ten percent of savings is taken from it, it will take fifteen years for the agrarian reclamation. It is clear that in a bourgeois regime not even this will be the case.

But all this is still not enough. The national income figures taken from official statistics are distorted. Everything that workers take in wages is known with certainty. The same certainty applies to the incomes of land holdings, lands and houses, and at most to the small industrial and commercial businesses which the tax collector easily skims off the top. Gigantic doubt concerns big industry, anonymous companies and the big business world. Here, too, Don Sturzo has stumbled on what’s been going on. Especially in that area of contact with the expenses of the State and the revenues of international plans, the trough of billions is fantastic. Therefore, not only the consideration that average consumption is evidently higher than what was deduced from Pella’s figures, but also the obvious observations and particularly the well-known tricks on the balance sheets, profits and dividends of the big anonymous companies, allow us to suppose that the "income" is much higher.

Now on this income the profits of capital represent an imposing part, which is not read in the statistics of mobile wealth even from a distance. How much can it be? At least ten percent, to be conservative. At least 600 billion. Sixty times more than those famous rents from the Southern landlords. And it’s largely the first, not the second figure, that’s already net of taxes.

Socialism, socialist economics, is something else, it has been said a hundred times. But if you want to give those of Cosenza the spectacle of a landlord on the gallows, you must offer here in Milan that of sixty capitalists.

Having made it clear that they can even be of "brilliant anti-fascist backgrounds", let us invest our Pellish savings in the expansion of Piazzale Loreto.