Communism and Democracy in Italy

The existence of a powerful Communist Party in Italy has been a constant source of concern to me in over 50 years of political activity, first as a clandestine anti-Fascist in the Resistance movement, and finally in the free democracy that Italy has enjoyed since the liberation.

As a young Sicilian of 22, I first joined a democratic party in 1925. This was the National Democratic Union, founded by Giovanni Amendola, a highly distinguished politician of irreproachable moral standing. Among the members of this party were Mario Berlinguer, father of the present Secretary of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and Silvio Trentin, my old professor at Venice University and father of one of the most intelligent and forceful exponents of Communist trade unionism today.

A few months after I joined this party, Giovanni Amendola was beaten to death by the Fascists, and I found myself at his deathbed with his son Giorgio, whose politics were the same as his father's. In 1930, with the Fascist scourge at its height and the ominous threat of Nazi dictatorship looming on the horizon, Giorgio Amendola abandoned the democratic cause and threw in his lot with the underground Communist Party. Gradually, most of the young men who had been my companions in the early clandestine resistance to Fascism between 1925 and 1930 decided to carry on the fight under the hammer and sickle, and I was left virtually alone with just a few like-minded friends.

I have often wondered why so many brilliant and undoubtedly sincere young men lost faith in the democratic cause during the 1930s and went over to the Communists, particularly the three sons of Giovanni Amendola, a great democratic victim of Fascism, and those of such noted democrats as Silvio Trentin and Mario Berlinguer. I can only explain this by recalling that at the time, in the wake of Italy and Germany, the whole Western world seemed about to succumb to Fascism. The Spanish Civil War, which showed up the weaknesses of the Western democracies and culminated in a triumph for Franco, and the incredible appeasement of Hitler at Munich can only have lent weight to this argument. In the West, the fabric of democracy appeared to be gradually crumbling under the pernicious onslaught of Nazi-Fascism. Yet in the East there stood a champion in the struggle against Fascism, the mighty Soviet Union, governed by an all-powerful Communist Party, which gave support and a haven to communists from all over the world.

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