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Where the Italian Socialists Stand
American newspapers frequently describe the Italian Socialist Party in oversimplified terms. For instance, they say: (1) that it differs, for the worse, from the other Socialist parties of Western Europe; (2) that it is a copy of the Communist Party; (3) that it does not make much effort to exercise a democratic influence inside Italy; and (4) that in foreign policy it espouses the brand of neutralism often identified with the Soviet point of view.
Such criticism is heard in governmental circles and is widespread among the few socialist groups active in the United States, as well as in the labor unions. It may be useful for me to answer this criticism in as objective a manner as possible, making due allowance for the fact that for 40 years I have been leader of the party in question. As such I am not a disinterested witness or an historian; I am so deeply involved in the party's action that I may be mistaken as to its validity and effectiveness.
The Italian Socialist Party (P.S.I.) does indeed differ from the other European Socialist parties. It is more strongly attached than most of them to the doctrine of scientific Socialism, that is, Marxism. It operates in quite different economic and social conditions, partly because the development of democratic government and a democratic way of life has been slower in Italy than in other countries.
The P.S.I. is 70 years old, having started in 1892, in the epoch when the major European Socialist parties all came into being. It arose in response to two distinct pressures, which have persisted throughout its history: the pressure of the rural population, especially in the south, and that of the working class in the north, which grew during the early years of the twentieth century along with big business and industry. It therefore had to satisfy two demands: the tumultuous, somewhat anarchistic demands of the associations of poor peasants and agricultural day-laborers (braccianti) and the demands of the factory workers' unions growing out of the modern class struggle.