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R. Fahan

Armistice Does Not Halt War in Italy

The Fight for National Independence
of Italy Still Has To Be Won

(September 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol.7 No. 38, 20 September 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

These lines are written immediately after the surrender of Italy and it is therefore impossible to guess what the military fate of that country will be in the next few weeks. In large measure, that depends on how much resistance the German army will be able to put up. Most likely, the country will be divided into two warring camps, with the front somewhere near the Po River line. In any case, Italy is doomed to be the battlefield for one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, a war in which its people have no stake or interest either way.

The tragedy of Italy is manifold: national disintegration, economic prostration, political confusion. It is a nation which has been so bled white by the ravages of twenty years of fascism and war that it is like a stunned, punch-drunk boxer. Its only sign of revival – but a magnificent sign, nonetheless! – was the spontaneous mass demonstration in the big cities which arose immediately after the downfall of Mussolini, and most important, the wave of revolutionary militancy which swept the workers of Milan. This force has, if only temporarily, been negated as a result of the invasions from North and South.

How can the Italian people extricate themselves from this terrible position? In our opinion, the task of a genuine socialist movement in Italy today would be along the following lines:

The prime task of the Italian people today is to rid itself of all foreign domination. Only if the national arena is cleared of warring belligerents can the internal process of social development, which began so promisingly with the downfall of Mussolini and the rise of Soviets in Milan, continue its natural course.

Those who believe that Mussolini fell as a result of a “palace revolution” are fooling themselves. As in, all revolutions, the initial fissures in the old regime take the form of a move by the “least discredited” part of the bureaucracy of the old regime to set up a temporary stop-gap to placate the anger of the masses and to attempt to prevent their further revolutionary development. Such a regime was the Badoglio regime. Given the absence of foreign intervention, Badoglio would long ago have lost power and perhaps by now Italy would be experiencing the “Kerensky” period or, better yet, it might have been able to skip that altogether. But one thing is certain: the Badoglio putsch would never have come were it not for the deep and swelling unrest of the Italian people.

If, on the other hand, Italy falls prey to either of the belligerents, be it under the iron heel of the Gestapo or the more velvety domination of the AMG, its proletariat will be unable to finish the process of political fumigation which began with the downfall of Mussolini and for which there are many other candidates, not the least of whom are the House of Savoy and Badoglio and his clique of fascists and near-fascists.

The only possible force capable of generating new vigor and strength into Italian life is its working class; so long as either the Germans or the Allies dominate the country, they will make very certain that the Italion workers will be kept under heel.

The major slogan for the Italian people in the coming period is therefore: For National Independence of Italy! For an Italy freed of both warring powers!

It is obvious that a free Italy, playing second fiddle to NEITHER warring side, must be an Italy at peace. The people of the country demand it and they are absolutely right. They have no stake in the war on either side, and the first premise for the solution of their grave internal problems is that their country withdraw from the war and not permit any part of the war to be inflicted on its soil.

It may be asked: will not all the capitalistic politicians, the fake liberals, also clamor for “national independence” and for “peace”? But it is precisely in the differing contents which the socialists and the national liberals give to the slogans of peace and national liberation that the superiority of the former can be seen.

Do the nationalist liberals of the Salvemini and Scorza types really want peace for Italy? No, they merely want Italy to switch sides in the war. But that is a prospect, we are certain, which the Italian people view with little more enthusiasm than that of continuing the War on the side of Germany. Do the nationalist liberals really want national liberation for Italy? Then how can they support a set-up which entails AMG domination over Italy?

In reality, we can now see that the struggle for the most elementary demands and needs of the Italian people can be successfully led only by a militant arid maturing revolutionary proletariat. All bourgeois nationalist movements are by their very nature – the necessary and inevitable dependence upon Allied imperialism – incapable of achieving the aims they professedly desire. National liberation today for Italy is therefore a profoundly revolutionary task; it can come only as a product of a struggle against all foreign imperialist domination and the domestic agents and partners of that domination. For the revolutionary socialists, by virtue of their independence from all foreign imperialisms, are the only consistent democrats in Italy today.

It would, therefore, be a tragic error if revolutionary socialists in Italy or those in other countries attempting to estimate a program for it would allow themselves to be diverted into a sectarian impasse by mouthing valid but insufficient, generalizations about socialism being the only hope for humanity and thereby neglect the burning immediate issue of national independence, which is intimately tied up with the problems of peace, political freedom and economic rehabilitation.

If they prove themselves, in actual practice, the most valiant and consistent lighters for the national independence of their country and thereby demonstrate to the people of Italy the indissolubility of the national liberation and socialist class struggles, then the Italian socialists will succeed in forging a powerful chain linking them to the masses of Italy. That is the major transition they must effect in the political thinking of the Italian proletariat: the struggle for national independence can only be successfully achieved by a militant proletariat on the read to socialist power. And to do this, the revolutionary socialists themselves must understand the burning nature of the national liberation slogan and the urgent need for them to be its most consistent and bold champions.

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