Workers’ Power –
The Way Out for the Italian Masses

(August 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 32, 9 August 1943, p. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

News from Italy, following the upheaval of the masses and the collapse of the fascist regime, has been very scant and not always reliable, after passing through the fine-grained sieve of at least two censorships.

But there are enough facts available to show that the revolution which has begun in Italy is still going on and is passing through familiar phases.

Why Mussolini Collapsed

The fall of Mussolini did not “create” the revolution. It was the revolution that brought about the fall of Mussolini. This murdering blatherskite collapsed amid the ruins of his system which looked so invincible the day before, because the masses refused any longer to fight for Italian imperialism and its German master-partner.

The fascist system was so rotten, and inherently weak, that it could not withstand even the silent pressure of the people in civilian clothes and in uniform, their lack of enthusiasm for the war, their lack of confidence in the regime.

The people didn’t suddenly acquire their hatred of the war and of fascism the minute it was announced that Mussolini’s regime no longer existed. That is a ridiculous notion. It was the gradual rise of this hatred that made it impossible for Mussolini to speak and act for another day as the representative of the interests of Italian capitalism. Then, as soon as the people saw that they had put the finishing touch on Mussolini and his gang, they showed their hatred and opposition OPENLY.

For years we have been hearing all sorts of crackpot theories about fascism being some kind of anti-capitalist movement. Some great minds even said fascism is a new and stable social order that destroys capitalism. Some have even called it “Black Socialism.” How hollow all these theories sound now!

Mussolini and his mobsters were subsidized and brought into power by the big trust magnates of Italy. The fascists served these capitalists loyally. In so far as they succeeded in murdering and imprisoning and exiling the best labor leaders, and crushing the organized labor and revolutionary movements, they served capitalism effectively. But they were servants, or, more exactly, gangster-policemen of capital. The minute the Italian capitalists saw that to keep these policemen in power meant to go down along with them, big business kicked” them out unceremoniously and without encountering any serious opposition from their hirelings.

Fascism – A Movement Of Rubbish

There is, however, another profound and encouraging lesson to be drawn from the collapse of Mussolini & Co. Before Hitler came to power, the great revolutionary leader, Leon Trotsky, described the fascists as a mass of human rubbish which a militant and united working class could sweep info oblivion with a single stroke.

The Stalinists and Social-Democrats in Germany prevented the masses from uniting and from acting militantly; and Hitler came to power without a struggle. Now we can see from the Italian events that fascism does indeed represent only a mass of rubbish.

The first little tempest, and it is swept away! It is a movement that cannot withstand a really serious crisis. It is an expression of the decay of capitalism and not of its consolidation. In Italy, after twenty-two years in power, fascism collapsed under the weight of popular pressure, and throughout the country there weren’t five hundred blackshirts who would assemble for a fight to preserve their regime.

It is not fascism that is invincible. The united, aggressive people are invincible! Where fascism is in power, the masses of working people can overturn it in no time at all. Where the fascist gangs are organizing to take power, they can be crushed in the egg without any trouble whatsoever, the minute the united working class, decides to do so. It is a great lesson which we have to learn in this country, too.

Who Is Badoglio?

Badoglio is only a stopgap. He represents no mass force save a disintegrating army composed of soldiers who want peace, who want to go home, who want freedom. Badoglio will never succeed in posing as a democrat and an enemy of fascism. He owes his rank of marshal to Mussolini; he owes his title of Duke of Addis Ababa to Mussolini; he owes his decoration of Order of the German Eagle to Hitler; he owes his present existence to the reactionary officers’ corps and the terror-stricken Italian capitalists and their King.

Is Badoglio interested in peace and freedom for the masses? Of course not. He is interested in preserving the rule of Italian capitalism and the monarchy. In their name he is maneuvering hopelessly between Hitler and the Allies for the purpose of getting the best possible terms on which to get out of the futile war, which is doubly futile now for Italy. That is why he stalls for time, trying at the same time to show that he is capable of mastering the country, by putting down the “popular turbulence” with a policy combined out of force and empty promises about the future.

The masses do not want empty promises, because they have eaten them for over twenty years. They want not only peace, but freedom, and Badoglio plus the House of Savoy can guarantee neither one.

Masses on the March

The masses are still uncertain of their road and of their power. That is not surprising. A prisoner released from twenty-two years of confinement in a windowless cell blinks a little in the light of the sun. Some of the younger people, especially in the South, greeted the fall of Mussolini with demonstrations bearing the banner of the House of Savoy.

In the North, In the industrial centers, where the old socialist, communist and trade union movements had their greatest strength, workers – we do not know exactly how many – poured into the streets with the red flag of socialism, with the socialist anthem, the International, on their lips, and with the cry of “Soviets!”

It is reported that in some sections Soviets have already been formed. Is the Communist Party behind this move? Nonsense! The Stalinists want anything but a Soviet movement and a Soviet republic in Italy! They would fight it tooth and nail. They have already come out for negotiations with Badoglio and the King, if these are possible. They are united in Italy in a bloc with the capitalist democratic parties whose slogan is: Give in to Allied imperialism.

After the first mass demonstrations throughout the country, there seems to have been a slight lull. That is understandable. The workers feel that the iron police hand of fascism is off their shoulders for the first time. They are looking around. They are taking their bearings. They are sizing up the situation. Some of them may look with hope to the new regime, but most of them regard it with suspicion and distrust. They are aware also of the great difficulties.

Threat to the Masses

The armies of Allied imperialism threaten from the South; the armies of German imperialism threaten from the North. They surely realize, also, that until they have perfected their own revolutionary forces, organized them, centralized them, worked out a clear-cut program, the remnants of the armed forces under Badoglio still represent a power to contend with. But those are forces that are falling apart, while the forces of the workers are certain to come together and consolidate.

The Italian revolution is at its beginning; the Italian revolution is a beginning. Given a favorable development, the revolution would explode tomorrow in the Balkans, the day after tomorrow in France, and then the center of reaction in Europe, German fascism, would not be able to resist the overwhelming tide. That would seal the fate of Stalinist totalitarianism, and mark the end of the ambitions of Anglo-American imperialism.

That is why Italy must be watched with hope and the most ardent wishes of the international working class, for a socialist victory.

The Italian revolution is the beginning of the European revolution. The European revolution can, must, will be victorious, if not today then tomorrow. Its victory will end the old order throughout the world, and usher in the new.

Italian capitalism understands this. German capitalism understands this. The spokesmen for Anglo-American imperialism understand this. On one point, all of them are united: “Order” must be established in Italy – Axis order or Anglo-American order.

“Order” to all of them means: Prevent the workers from taking control. Prevent the people from finally coming into their own. Prevent the collapse of Italian capitalism, for such collapses are contagious.

It is within the power of the Italian working class, so rich in revolutionary traditions, to establish order of its own, the order of socialism, the order of peace, abundance and equality, the order of freedom. As once before, in 1920, Italy is in the vanguard of the battle for a socialist world.

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