ITALY's last parliamentary elections on June 7, 1953, brought about an extremely involved situation. The law under which the elections were held provided for a premium allocation of seats to the coalition of parties polling in excess of 50 percent of the popular vote. In case no party or group of parties obtained an absolute majority, the allocation of seats was to be made-- and in effect was made--through a proportional system, with limited corrections in favor of the major parties at the expense of the minor ones.

As a matter of record, the democratic coalition formed by the Christian Democratic, Social Democratic, Liberal and Republican Parties fell short by a few thousand votes (exactly 57,556) of obtaining an absolute majority. But 1,400,000 ballots were contested and are still under scrutiny by the special parliamentary election committee. This was because the Communist Party, through its representatives in the polling stations, brought forward the largest possible number of legal technicalities in order to contest the validity of the maximum number of ballots. The slightest trace of lipstick on the ballot of a woman voter, the absence of a mark next to the party symbol, even though the voter's preference was clearly shown in the name of the candidate he had inserted in the proper column, enabled Communist representatives to contest a great number of ballots and have these subtracted from the total of votes polled by the centrist coalition.

The Chamber of Deputies thus elected presented the following line-up of parties: Left-wing (Nenni) Socialists and Communists, 218; Centrist Democratic coalition, 304; Monarchist and Neo-Fascist extreme right, 68. The democratic coalition therefore still held an 18-vote majority over the combined opposition, even though it had failed to poll the 50.1 percent which would have entitled it under the law to a premium allocation of seats. In the Senate, too, the center parties had a slight edge.

After this electoral setback it was natural and understandable that the parties of the democratic coalition, especially the lay parties which had been allied with the Catholic Christian Democrats, should have experienced a crisis in their political thinking. Within these parties there were discussions and recriminations regarding the wisdom of the electoral law and the general advisability of lay parties concluding alliances with a clerical party. Most seriously affected was the left wing of the democratic coalition--the Social Democrats. They immediately denounced their agreement with the Christian Democratic Party and took up a strong leftist position. By so doing, they prevented for eight months the formation of a constitutional and democratic majority and the establishment of a democratic government.

What other solutions were available for providing Italy with an administration? There were two: either an agreement between the Christian Democrats and the extreme left--the Communists and left-wing Socialists; or an agreement between the Christian Democrats and the extreme right--the Monarchists and Neo-Fascists. But each of these two alternatives--the risks to democracy itself aside--would have split the Christian Democratic Party wide open. To avoid this, the Christian Democrats tried to form one-party minority cabinets. These cabinets, headed in turn by Alcide De Gasperi, Attilio Piccioni, Giuseppe Pella and Amintore Fanfani, fell one after the other. The succession of parliamentary crises and the seemingly inherent inability of Italy's democratic institutions to function normally, created the impression abroad that Italy was in the grip of a crisis of real magnitude. It was thought that the Communists were about to take over the government. Now it is true that there is a Communist menace in Italy, and it has become more acute in recent months. Even Moscow believes, perhaps, that a Communist triumph in Italy is possible. It may be more than coincidence that just at this time the Soviet Ambassador in Rome has been replaced by a man with a reputation of a very specific sort--Alexander Bogomolov, who was Ambassador in Prague in 1948 when the Communist coup was engineered from within the democratic coalition, ending the liberty of Czechoslovakia and leading to the suicide of Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk.

At present, the Italian Communists and their left-wing (Nenni) Socialist allies are at work in Italy to make sure that no government can be formed without their active participation. They are bent on forcing the Christian Democrats to come to an understanding with the extreme left. The Communists know that once they are in the government, be it even a coalition cabinet, they will be able to open the door to the Communist revolution from within. This danger may appear remote to those who are not aware of the strategy adopted by international Communism in its effort to seize power, and who sincerely believe that an agreement with the Communists is possible and would assure Italy a stable government dedicated to social reforms. There have been recent indications of this naïvete in the labor camp when democratic and Communist unions joined forces in the quest for higher wages. But the political significance of these incidents should not be overrated.

We have seen some similar examples in the Catholic camp. There is, for instance, Giorgio La Pira, Christian Democratic Mayor of Florence and widely known as the "lay saint," who expressed his solidarity with Communist workers when they forcibly occupied a foundry that was about to be shut down. But that was a human interest story more than a political development.

The strategy of the Communists in their attempts to seize power is clear. They usually develop their action in four stages. First stage: coalition government. Second stage: assault on free institutions from the advance positions in the government. Third stage: elimination of the opposition. Fourth stage: military and political domination by the Soviet Union without external aggression, i.e. without war.

When I was Minister of Defense I made this point on the floor of the Italian Chamber amid shouts and catcalls from the extreme left. I cited names and events which revealed the frightening uniformity of the Communist technique in all the countries that have been to all intents and purposes conquered by the Soviet Union. In 1945, Bulgaria had a "national front" government which included the Communists. In 1947, the leader of the peasants, Petkov, was arrested and hanged. The Socialist leader, Lucev, was jailed. Then Bulgaria concluded a pact of friendship, coöperation and "mutual assistance" with the Soviet Union which established Soviet control over the country. The same pattern was followed in Rumania. First stage: a national coöperation government under the Crown. Second stage: seizure of power from within. Third stage: arrest of the anti-Fascist Liberals Bratianu, Argetoianu, Tatarescu and Maniu, whose whereabouts are today unknown. Fourth stage: the usual treaty with the U.S.S.R. and the usual Soviet domination. In Hungary the same procedure applied, leading to the elimination of political and religious opposition. There the usual treaty was followed by the appointment of a Soviet general of Hungarian origin to head the armed forces of the nation. In Poland the picture did not change: after the habitual four-stage course of action came the nomination of a Soviet general of Polish origin to head the Polish armed forces. In Czechoslovakia it was the same story: first, a coalition government, followed by the Communist seizure of power, the elimination of anti-Fascist democratic patriots and the establishment of Soviet domination.

Bogomolov was in Italy when the Armistice Commission, representing the American and British Governments, asked the government of Marshal Badoglio to allow the entire Italian Communist high command, headed by Palmiro Togliatti, to return home. This was a master stroke. Russia was not directly represented in the Allied Military Government. But with Togliatti back in Italy, it was now directly represented in the Italian Government! Togliatti had pledged his support to the Badoglio Cabinet and kept his pledge dangling over the Premier's head like a hangman holding the noose over his victim. When the American forces reached Rome, Badoglio disappeared. But Togliatti remained. It was at this time that the Allied Military Government denied me authorization to return to Italy because I refused to sign a pledge of coöperation with the Badoglio Government.

The Soviet strategy in Italy was halted at the first stage (formation of a coalition government of all parties, including the Communist) because the Christian Democrats succeeded in ousting the Communists from the government before they could go on to the second. Then, on April 18, 1948, the Christian Democrats won the parliamentary elections. From that day to the present, the Communists and their allies have had but one objective--to get back into the government. And now, at this critical moment for Italian constitutional democracy, there arrives in Rome as Soviet Ambassador none other than Mr. Bogomolov, who was so successful in his dealings with Badoglio in Salerno and with Masaryk in Prague.

This Communist and Soviet strategy has by now, however, become familiar to all the Italian democratic parties. I told Togliatti myself during the last parliamentary debate on the Fanfani Cabinet that if the "Communist revolution" wants to succeed in Italy it can no longer avoid risking something. Nobody in his right mind will open the back door of the Italian Government to the Communists. Even if we should remain without a government for four years, there will never again in Italy be a coalition government with the Communists. In our country the Communists will have to devise some other method of seizing power.

Recently, the Social Democrats, after giving much thought to the situation, have made it possible for Premier Mario Scelba to form a government, just as the Christian Democrats made this possible through substantial concessions to the lay parties. If even the Scelba Cabinet should fail, we could still fall back on a Government of Public Safety to prepare new general elections. Italy's democratic forces are far from dead and far from spineless. And the Communists themselves are well aware that the bulk of the Communist vote is made up of the disgruntled, the dissatisfied and the poor and that it does not signify an endorsement of Communist revolution and dictatorship.

I believe that it would not be impossible to bring about a complete change in the psychological attitude of the Italian nation if a government--it might well be the Scelba Government-- made an all-out effort to eliminate unemployment and mitigate poverty. This effort, in order to succeed, must impose the necessary sacrifices on the wealthy and introduce a life of austerity. This is indispensable as an economic measure but even more as a moral factor in a country where hundreds of thousands are homeless and millions are insufficiently fed. At the same time, such a government must uphold the authority of state institutions and the integrity of the law with uncompromising and vigorous determination.

I have been asked what the United States could do to facilitate the task of the Italian democratic parties and of Italian democratic coalition governments. An American policy, which, without interfering directly in Italian affairs, attempted to ease the current depressed mood in my country, should, I believe, move along the following lines:

1. It should give Italy greater authority within the Atlantic Community. We have made a substantial military effort during the past five years and have the strongest armed forces on the European continent. Yet the Atlantic Pact Standing Group has remained confined to three Powers since the beginning of NATO.

2. It should be instrumental in extending the Atlantic Pact from a purely military community to an economic community.

3. It should help solve the problem of the Italian frontiers. American and British prestige has suffered a severe blow in Italian public opinion following the recent events in Trieste. Twice solemn Western declarations have been issued, but no action has been taken. The statement of October 8, 1953, announcing the Anglo-American decision to withdraw from Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste and to turn over its military and civil administration to Italy, came to the same end as the Anglo-Franco-American Declaration of 1948 advocating the return of the entire Free Territory to Italy. A threatening gesture on the part of Marshal Tito was enough to prevent the Allies from keeping their word. A demonstration of Trieste youngsters was smothered in blood the way riots are suppressed in colonial countries (in England, remember, the police never use firearms). The United States declared its solidarity with General Sir John Winterton, the British Zone Commander. This, in addition, is a policy which gives comfort to the Communists.

4. Very little has been done to help us solve our emigration problem. Two hundred thousand young workers are added every year to our labor force. Young graduates from our universities face the specter of unemployment because the professions--law, medicine, engineering--offer no openings. Thousands of young lawyers compete for low-paid jobs and risk remaining dissatisfied and humiliated all their lives.

Italy has the duty of ratifying the European Defense Community treaty and of coöperating in the creation of the European Political Community. We shall certainly do so, now that the Berlin Conference is over. There does exist in the present Parliament a majority which is determined to ratify the E.D.C. treaty as the first step towards the establishment of the European political community, but as long as the German problem was under discussion in Berlin neither France nor Italy could take action.

I personally believe that it would be easier to obtain parliamentary ratification of E.D.C. in Italy if the six countries of the European community endorsed the pledge contained in the Anglo-American Declaration of October 8, 1953, awarding Italy control over Zone A of the Free Territory of Trieste. The problem of our border would thus become a European question to be solved as time goes on without causing again in Italy the disappointments and apprehensions that have loomed so prominently in recent months. But Trieste aside, if America really wants to help us she can do so. She can help us above all by saving our young people from being forced, in despair, into extreme positions which defy reason and common sense.

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  • RANDOLFO PACCIARDI, Vice-Premier of Italy, 1947-48; Minister of National Defense, 1948-53; leader of the Italian Republican Party
  • More By Randolfo Pacciardi