Stop Tiptoeing Around Russia
It Is Time to End Washington’s Decades of Deference to Moscow
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.
Dissensions within the party were a reflection of these diverse elements, together with a third, the intellectuals. Disagreement was emphasized by the fact that the Italian Government acted as a sort of carabinier, with the function of defending private property against the rights of the workers. Italy was a country, too, which, although industrially backward, sacrificed money, human lives and the possibility of economic development to fighting a series of colonial wars, the first of them at the end of the last century, the second, leading to the conquest of Tripolitania, in 1911, and the third in Abyssinia, in 1935, under the Fascist dictatorship.
This is why the P.S.I. was so intransigent in the struggles of the last decade of the nineteenth century, why it constantly battled against militarism and colonialism, under the slogan "Not a penny or a man for the war in Africa." The fierceness of this battle, fought in the streets and in parliament, diminished somewhat in the years 1900-1910, with the growth of industry, the recognition of the right to strike and the beginnings of social legislation. In the years after the Tripolitanian war and the war of 1914-1918, the party became more intransigent, more revolutionary. In a theoretical sense it became more "maximalist," which means that it stressed the long-range and maximum aims of the party as opposed to "reformism," which emphasizes the immediate gains obtainable within the framework of a capitalistic society.
In 1914 the P.S.I. was one of the few European Socialist parties to oppose the war, and hence it did not share responsibility for the collapse of the Second Socialist International. When Italy entered the war in 1915, the party stuck to its neutralist convictions under the slogan, "Neither support the war effort nor sabotage it," and it gradually sharpened its stand as a result of its isolated position and the increasingly radical character of its philosophy. This attitude contrasted with that of other major Socialist parties from England to Germany, which adapted themselves to a policy of national unity-union sacrée, as it was called in France-and gradually let the spirit of out-and-out struggle against bourgeois society and its capitalist governments die out.
In 1919 the P.S.I. reaped the fruits of its battle against militarism and imperialism. It found itself unexpectedly powerful; it elected 156 deputies to parliament and came into control of local government in 26 provinces and over 2,000 towns.
But this moment of power was also a moment of error. Under the influence of its Communist wing, the party dribbled away its strength in disturbances and agitations aimed at bringing about a Bolshevik-type revolution which was not justified by the country's historical and social background and had no natural point of departure like the military disaster which engulfed the Tsarist régime in Russia. In Italy, the immediate postwar problem was how to achieve a democratic revolution and establish a modern republican government. In those tumultuous days it was not immediately possible to evaluate the new factor created by the emergence of a strong Catholic party, the Partito Popolare, forerunner of the present-day Christian Democratic Party, which elected 100 deputies to parliament and came into power in more than a thousand local governments, largely in rural districts. The upshot of the events of 1919-1922 was the collapse of liberal and constitutional government, the advent of Fascism and the tragic dictatorship of Mussolini, which lasted till 1943 and was carried over until April of 1945 in the self-styled "Social Republic" of Salo, named for the last-ditch Fascist capital during this final phase of the Second World War.
The foregoing will have made clear that the differences between Italian Socialism and Socialism in other European countries have had an historical basis. These differences persisted during the 20 years of the Fascist régime, so that it was said of Fascism, quite erroneously, that it was the expression of a superannuated horse-and-buggy society in a steam-engine world.
The P.S.I. is not, and never was, a copy of the Communist Party. This remains true though the differences between them in ideology and policy have taken varying forms and were diminished, although not abolished, by the fact that for two decades they had to take action in common against Fascism.
In Italy, as well as in the rest of Europe and in America, the Communist Party started in January 1921 as a secessionist movement from the Socialists. But whereas in other countries the scission arose from an irreconcilable divergence in doctrine and method, in Italy it seemed as if it were brought about by minor things, motives of form more than substance. There was disagreement, for example, as to the party's name, which the maximalist majority wanted to remain P.S.I., and as to the interpretation of some of the 21 conditions laid down by the second congress of the Third Communist International as the basis for an alliance with Moscow.
In Italy there was no time to ponder these things, for the split between Socialists and Communists coincided with the outbreak of Fascist violence, of which it was, somehow, both the cause and the consequence. The working- class movement found itself catapulted from the offensive position of 1920 back to the defensive position of 1921-22, and in these conditions the sharpness of the attack launched by the Communist minority against the Socialist majority made for weakness and disintegration.
At the end of 1926 the opposition parties were dissolved and the anti- Fascist press was wiped out. Thenceforth the factional dispute was relentlessly carried over, in prison and exile, into the underground struggle. This was the period when the Communist International evolved the theory of "social Fascism," especially in France and Germany, and thereby split the forces which were attempting to face up to the common enemy. This state of things continued until Hitler's rise to power, when Communist tactics switched from the concept of social Fascism to that of the "popular" or common front; and in 1935 this was elevated to the rank of dogma. A year earlier it had already begun to draw Socialists and Communists together, through the first pacts for united action signed in Paris between French and Italian Socialists and Communists.
This common cause, which lasted until the eve of the Second World War-that is, until the Nazi-Soviet agreement of 1939-fulfilled a common need, both offensive and defensive. After Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union it again came into being and grew in strength through the resistance movements and partisan guerrilla activities until the end of the war. The fall of Fascism created a situation diametrically opposed to that of 1922. The workers were united in their claims and stood in the forefront of a broad anti-Fascist movement embracing all the forces of both secular and Christian democracy.
A decisive factor in the Socialist-Communist rapprochement was the abandonment by the Communists (in an even more pronounced degree than by the Socialists) of the maximalist position. The Communists adopted a policy of participation in the government-sometimes participation at any cost and sometimes involving gross errors, the consequences of which are still felt today. This led to a new pact for unity of action signed in 1946. The basis for this pact was a common desire to avoid the mistakes of 1919 and also what was called the "Greek alternative," referring to what had happened in Athens when the Partisan and Communist movement made excessive demands, came into conflict with the British occupying forces and was crushed. The prospect of the same disaster hung over the democratic and workers' movement in Italy in relation to the British and American forces of occupation. Later on, after the controversy between Stalin and Tito, it became evident that although Communist tactics were intuitively sound in estimating what was and was not feasible, they were essentially part of the general Communist scheme to block the division of the world into two zones of influence, with Italy in the Anglo-American zone.
Awareness of this Communist aim was increasing in the P.S.I. when Saragat's withdrawal literally threw the Socialist movement into the Communists' arms. It took years of effort to rebuild the Socialist Party structure and to give it, toward 1953, a new political orientation. Day by day it became more necessary for the Socialist Party to follow an independent course of action, especially after the Twentieth Communist Party Congress's repudiation of Stalin in 1955 and the tragic events in Poland and Hungary in 1956.
The protest made at the Socialist Party Congress in Venice in 1957 was political rather than merely sentimental. The party contested the assertion that Soviet power had been weakened solely by the crimes, errors and "personality cult" of Stalin; and proceeding from there to matters of principle, it criticized the Communist conception of party, government, power and the construction of socialist society. In what happened in Hungary it saw confirmation of the fact that, for the Communists, successive experiments with a "popular front" were nothing but historical and tactical variations of the theme of domination and dictatorship by the Communist parties. This, rather than expediency or parliamentary tactics, was the basis of our condemnation of pacts for united action and of the "popular front," as also of the statement made during more recent P.S.I. congresses as to the impossibility of a joint Socialist-Communist effort to attain power on the governmental level. Thus after a long and very special sequence of historical events the two parties are back in a position which they would have assumed 40 years ago had not Fascism forced them into a common line of action.
This position does not conflict with the defense of trade-union unity, which we Socialists net only wish to preserve in the General Italian Confederation of Labor but which we also seek to extend to the dissident Italian Confederation of Independent Labor Unions and Italian Workers' Union; nor does it impair our defense of the command posts held by workers in the various cities and provinces. The Communist majority in the trade unions is not a settled fact, but depends upon factors which changed circumstances may very well modify or even reverse. Meanwhile, the division among the union groups creates a weakness in the whole labor movement.
The P.S.I. is not, then, either a copy or a counterpart of the Communist Party. In the particular configuration of Italian society, its half-million members and its more than four million voters constitute a powerful element in support of the doctrine and ideals of modern Socialism. It has a makeup and a method all its own, well established for 70 years, wholeheartedly dedicated to the interests of the working class and of democracy.
The P.S.I. has made a large contribution in theory, action and initiative to the democratization of Italian society and the Italian Government. It has taken part in all the struggles for liberty and democracy in the last 70 years, often in the forefront of the battle, paying a heavy toll, even in human lives, for every advance of political democracy.
Thus there was a Socialist basis for the political struggle for the reconstruction of the nation which began in 1944 with the watchword "A Constitutional Assembly and a Republic." This struggle rallied all the democratic and labor forces of Italy and, after much parleying, won the support of the Christian Democrats as well. Although the Socialist Party mistrusted the pre-Fascist liberal groups it considered that collaboration with them was necessary both before and after the war in order to rebuild the country. In the governments which preceded the first general elections and the referendum on the question of Republic or Monarchy, it ran the special Ministry of the Constitutional Assembly and directed its studies toward writing a modern and republican constitution. After the elections for the Constitutional Assembly (June 2, 1946) where it emerged as the second largest political party, next to the Christian Democrats and ahead of the Communists, it made a noteworthy intellectual contribution to the formulation of the constitution itself. When the peace treaty was signed, it took over the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a platform of neutrality, a position that until 1948 was common to all the democratic parties, and took part in the efforts of various Ministries of Economic Affairs to work out a program for developing southern Italy and strengthening the national economy. It thus brought to the fore problems which are still seeking solution today.
As I see it, the democratic course of Italian politics was interrupted in 1947-48 by three events. First, the split in the Socialist Party brought about by the Social Democrats under Saragat lost it its primacy as the largest working-class party and handed this position over to the Communists. Second, Premier De Gasperi's trip to the United States, during which the Christian Democratic leader decided to make a turn to the right, was intended to weaken the Communists but in fact strengthened them. The third event was the upset of alliances in the international field and the beginning of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
It was said then and has been repeated ever since that what led the Socialist Party to cross over to the opposition was that it was unwilling to take a position different from that of the Communists. This was not so. The Communists had not hesitated to take part in the second Bonomi government (1945), while the Socialists were in the opposition. And there was nothing to prevent the Socialists from collaborating with De Gasperi while the Communists opposed him. But two prerequisites were lacking. The collaboration would have had to originate in a context of Italian social and political realities instead of from a sudden anti-Communist prejudice which had no real psychological or political basis. The Italian political current should also have broken away from the influence of the Right; but instead, as time went on, the Italian political scene was increasingly dominated by the conservatives and, at certain moments, by the extreme right-wing Monarchists and Fascists.
In the light of the past 14 years we can see that the direction taken by Italian domestic politics in 1947, with the Socialist split and the turn to the right of the Christian Democrats, is the Italian aspect of a similar course of events in the world as a whole which thwarted hopes for a rapid development of democracy in a way that would absorb or isolate all forms of right-wing or left-wing extremism. In the 1948 elections the Christian Democrats had a startling triumph and won an absolute majority. But from this time on none of the fundamental problems of our society has been faced or resolved, and the military and civil establishments have returned to their old authoritarian and paternalistic ways. The electoral defeat of De Gasperi in 1953, shortly before his lamented death, bore witness to the fact that no progress had been made, and indeed that there had been a retrogression. Since then the country has been ruled by unstable and unenterprising center governments, often condemned to immobility or mere everyday routine administration, whether they were supported by the secular Left (the Social Democrats) or the Fascists of the extreme Right, until, as in July 1960, they brought the country to the verge of civil war.
For the past several years Italy's greatest problem has been how to get out of this situation. The solution lies in the possibility of direct or indirect Socialist collaboration with the Christian Democrats.
What Italian and also American newspapers call "Operation Nenni" has nothing so personal about it. It answers the demand for an "opening to the Left," which has been voiced by a majority of the people and by strong elements of both secular and Catholic democracy. Today the prospects for this opening are favored by propitious economic circumstances which, together with the new technical discoveries, have stimulated production in what can only be called a miraculous manner. The fact remains, however, that the recent economic boom has left behind it vast areas of poverty and backwardness in Southern Italy as well as in several central and northern provinces; there is an agricultural crisis and a serious imbalance between north and south, between city and country, which means that the nation is in constant danger of slipping downhill in case an economic recession should occur.
At its last party congress and again in recent weeks the P.S.I. has declared itself ready to support a new parliamentary majority and a government with leftward tendencies, even though conditions are not such that it can participate in the government itself. A fresh program and a break with the Right-these are the necessary conditions for winning its support. The problem is now being debated in Italy. The situation is rendered particularly thorny by the breakup of the former Centrist government majority and the reluctance of the Christian Democrats to demonstrate their characteristic flexibility by executing a turn to the Left instead of, as heretofore, to the Right. During 1961 some progress has been made toward solving the problem in a number of cities-Milan, Venice, Florence and others-where the municipal governments include both the Christian Democratic Party and the P.S.I. The same is true, on the regional level, in Sicily, though the situation there is rather precarious because of the narrow party majorities and the particular social and economic background of that region.
Now comes the question of neutralism. The P.S.I. is indeed neutralist and firmly believes in the validity of its foreign policy platform both from the national and the international point of view. Throughout its history it has opposed military pacts and alliances. This was true in the far-distant time of the Triple Alliance between Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary, which was based on dynastic rather than national interests. It was true at the time of the Rome-Berlin Axis, dictated by the Fascists, again contrary to the interest of the country as a whole. It was and is true in regard to NATO, which was subscribed to by the Italian Parliament for reasons of domestic rather than international policy. Conditions ten years ago were such as to guarantee that through a policy of neutrality both Italy's security and her capacity to contribute to world peace were assured.
Parliament decided otherwise; and we have never raised the question of withdrawal, for two reasons. First, because to do so would convict us of demagoguery; and second, because to withdraw under present conditions would jeopardize the European equilibrium, which though it is dangerously unstable does contribute to the maintenance of a truce between the two opposing blocs. We have tried and are trying to go beyond these military blocs and render them unnecessary, in order that the United Nations may become the sole and permanent meeting-place of all peoples and nations, where every international controversy can be discussed and resolved.
Why are we attacked, then, both in Europe and the United States, because of our neutralism, and accused of taking up the same position as the Soviets? Did we not as regards Hungary, Jugoslavia and even Berlin give ample proof of our independent judgment?
I wish to make my answer to this question very clear because it lies close to my heart. If our neutralism is considered one-sided it is because of our struggle against colonialism and imperialism, a struggle in which the Soviet Union has obtained the greater successes while the European and American democracies have chalked up the worst failures. In China, South Korea, Indochina, the Middle East, North Africa, Cuba and other Latin- American countries, they have mistakenly bet on military adventurers or Fascist-type dictatorships; they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in shoring up rotten situations doomed in any case to crumble; they have opened doors to the Communists instead of supporting democratic and socialist forces that would be capable of directing the impulse to freedom of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples. The same thing has happened in Europe: in Spain, Germany, France, Greece and Italy, recent administrations have leaned on right-wing elements. If the United States and the West European nations do not correct this error they are in danger of suffering still greater failures.
It is said that the lessons of history are taught in vain. By now Americans and Europeans alike should have learned that liberty and democracy are not served by seeking support among ultra-conservatives but by relying on those who espouse liberal and democratic ideals.
I shall conclude with a rapid survey of the principal international problems of the day and our attitude toward them. We believe that the United Nations must be made universal by recognizing the actual government of China in both the General Assembly and in the Security Council. We believe that the U.N. Secretariat should be organized in such a way as to take account of the relationships existing in the Assembly but without paralyzing its executive functions. No "troika," and no veto, but likewise no exclusions and stand-pat positions based on prejudice.
We consider the failure to solve the problem of Germany one of the greatest international errors of the past 15 years. The problem is not purely German; it is not merely, to put it bluntly, a matter of free elections; it includes factors of world equilibrium and European security which cannot be ignored. Twice in a quarter of a century the militarism of the German ruling class has plunged Europe and the world into war; twice the United States has had to intervene in order to prevent pan-Germanism from extending its rule world-wide. Europe and the rest of the world, too, are right to be on their guard against the German peril. It is an error, however, to believe in the efficacy of dividing Germany into two parts, or, as Khrushchev jokingly says, into 250. Germany territorially divided is even more under the control of the militarists than a unified Germany. But a unified Germany must be neutralized and disarmed, in a context of other disengaged and denuclearized powers, along lines something like those proposed in Poland by Foreign Minister Rapacki, in England by Hugh Gaitskell and in the United States by George Kennan.
In these circumstances the Berlin problem should be considered merely one aspect of the wider problem of Germany. After Khrushchev's speech to the Twenty-second Party Congress the threat of a unilateral solution has faded and there seem to be increased possibilities for a Soviet-American compromise agreement. The compromise should guarantee the freedom of West Berlin and its communications. It should bring down the wall recklessly erected by the Pankow Government through the heart of Berlin, where dramatic episodes are enacted every day-each the possible cause of tragic provocations. It should include an international guarantee of the frontiers established by the armistice with Germany (and also the Oder-Neisse frontier). It should make use of whatever recognition is given to the de facto existence of two Germanys not in order to sanction it as something permanent but in order to work out the conditions for eventual reunification.
A Berlin compromise should further be an occasion for a resolute step forward in the fundamental question of disarmament and a ban on nuclear weapons. In this connection, and whether the talk is of atomic or super- atomic bombs of 50 or 100 megatons, we make no distinction between American and Soviet weapons; we condemn both as an intolerable threat to humanity, and in the same way that we considered the Soviet resumption of nuclear testing to be completely unjustified.
The whole matter is quite clear: either these problems are resolved or we shall have war. My optimistic conclusion is that from the dilemma facing the world we shall advance toward a solution. For this to come about we must consider that the consolidation of peace is more important than the power interests of nations and military blocs.