From For A Lasting Peace, For A People’s Democracy
March 15, 1948, No. 6 (9)

Italy on the Eve of the Elections

Juiliano Pajetta

The election campaign now underway in Italy has brought to the fore the new relation of political and social forces in the country. The struggle of Italian democracy for victory at the forthcoming election is an expression of the vigorous struggle which the people of Italy have been waging in the spirit of unity for work, bread, freedom and national independence.

The growing opposition of the Italian people to this policy is causing alarm among the American imperialists who fear for their positions in Italy. Some 8-10 months ago they were sure that they were firmly entrenched in the country and could dictate their will.

Last autumn and winter the people of Italy passed over from resistance to a counter-offensive, answering reaction's challenge with strikes and demonstrations of a social and political character. This struggle of the workers, agricultural labourers, and landless peasants was joined gradually by new social strata: peasants, handicraftsmen, office workers, small shopkeepers, small and medium industrialists and the intelligentsia.

Indignant at the domination of Italian big capital and at the results of American “aid” the people are resorting to struggle.

During recent months industrial output has dropped from 75 to 60 per cent compared to 1938; the internal trade turnover has dropped by 40 per cent compared to the summer of 1947; the fall in wholesale prices for agricultural produce, which, in the main, affected the peasantry, has not been followed by any reduction in retail prices. The total sum of earnings has considerably decreased of late due to the shorter working week and to the army of unemployed, which now numbers almost two million persons.

Despite the heavy taxation the budget deficit approximates to 800,000 million lira, while the Treasury's short-term debt reaches 450,000 million lira. Last December notes in circulation increased by 85,000 million lira.

The Political and Government apparatus of the Christian-Democratic Party is utterly corrupt and closely interlinked with the capitalists and landlords. Commenting on this Palmira Togliatti wrote in the magazine “Rinacita” (No. 2. 1948):

“A large number of representatives of the Christian-Democratic Party today hold positions in the capitalist apparatus similar to those formerly held by the fascist rulers. Naturally, the key positions are, as before, in the hands of the big monopolies, but the intermediate posts, which are most lucrative – and this is important – are staffed with Christian Democrats instead of the former fascist swashbucklers.”

The same holds true for the Saragat party, which is openly financed by the US, while its leaders are in the pay of Italian big capital (Ivan Matteo Lombardo is supported by the Milan capitalists, Tremelloni by the Genoa oil magnates, Corsi by the Sardinia coal industrialists, etc.). Perhaps the most glaring of these corrupt practises in high Government places was the scandal of the distribution and actual selling of the goods received as “presents” from the US.

Linked together by a chain of treachery this handful of people today in power, are awaiting uneasily the result of the election, despite all the advantages which give them full control of the Government apparatus and despite the unrestricted support of the Vatican and the United States.

In the course of their struggle for bread, work, independence and freedom the people of Italy have not only replenished and tested their forces, have not only foiled the plans and upset the hopes of the reactionaries. They have also created a new political organisation – the People's Democratic Front.

A powerful alliance of the working people, whose activities are varied, has taken root in Italy. The Front is waging a daily struggle for the solution of important national problems and the introduction of social reforms which Italian public opinion, disillusioned in the Christian-Democratic government, is pressing for.

The appearance of the Front on the political scene and its participation in the election campaign, on the basis of common lists, has started a panic in the camp of reaction and the bourgeois parties. The lists include Socialist and Communist candidates, not to mention the names of representatives of the Democratic Labour Party, the People's Republican Alliance, the Social-Christian Party, the Christian Movement for Peace, the Sardinia Action Party and outstanding figures in science, culture and art. In presenting its concrete programme the; Front has exposed the members of the Saragat party and the Republican renegades.

All the democratic and progressive forces of the Italian people are joining the People’s Democratic Front. The forces of reaction, the enemies of democracy and progress on the other hand are grouping around the Christian-Democratic Party. The election campaign is actually being fought out between two blocs – the People's Democratic Front and the Christian-Democratic bloc, on which all the Right, monarchist and pro-fascist parties are relying.

On the “left” flank of the Christian-Democratic bloc are the Saragat men and Government Republicans, on the Right – the monarchists, various nationalists and outright fascists from the “Italian Social Movement”. Their collaboration takes the form of coordinated election propaganda, agreed lists of candidates and in some provinces in drawing up common lists of candidates for the Senate.

The Saragats and Republicans for whom all observers predict a complete fiasco at the election, have announced their readiness to collaborate in the Government with the Christian-Democrats after the election. This would deprive them of any possibility of “left manoeuvres”.

Hence, all the efforts of the Government parties, and above all, that of the Christian Democrats, aim to avoid any discussion on the record of the government headed by it, or on the responsibility of this Government for the collapse of the national economy and the future programme of the Italian Government.

De Gasperi and his party are contesting the election without any constructive programme. Their election manifesto, published on March 5, consists of general phrases and makes no mention of the question of reforms.

Typical in this respect are de Gasperi’s words in Turin when he said: “Boldly cast your vote, have no qualms about the morrow!”

In their propaganda the Christian-Democrat leaders are sporting a feigned optimism. As a matter of fact their behaviour, the tone their press, the sudden switch from threats, intimidation and police force to an open appeal for US military aid show that de Gasperi and the Vatican, together with their American friends, are very uneasy about the results of the election. The London “Times” has already predicted the possibility of a Front victory, while the “New York Times” thinks that the Front will poll 45 per cent of the vote. Even de Gasperi allows for the Front receiving a comparative majority of votes. However, in an interview granted to the reactionary newspaper “Tempo” he hastened to declare that at any rate the formation of the government after the election should be entrusted to him. His election speeches are the fruits of his fear and naked clerical-fascist behaviour. In Rome he said: “I have given the Communists freedom, even though they don't deserve it...” In Taranto: “If it is necessary to give battle, better start now. Let heads fly... We hold power and we shall use it.” In Ancona: “We must win, no matter the price...”, etc.

These statements, which have been denounced by the Parliamentary commission on the election truce between parties, not only reflect the confusion and panic of de Gasperi but also fully coincide with the general line of action, outlined by the Christian-Democratic Party during the election struggle.

The entire propaganda of the Christian-Democratic Party is being conducted in pursuit of three main aims: creating panic in the country, influencing the electorate by means of clerical terror and blackmail, trying to frighten the people with possible loss of “American aid”. In their endeavours to bewilder and stampede the electorate, the reactionaries have seized upon the events in Czechoslovakia to let loose floodgates of vile and poisonous calumny and falsehoods.

The clergy are the most active canvassers in the election campaign. Many bishops are already carrying out Cardinal Schuster's directives denying religious rites to the Front supporters, and exorcising all except the Christian-Democratic Party...

The religious terror of the Catholic Church, widely utilised by the Christian-Democrats, aims at preventing the carrying out of reforms that would deprive Italian reaction of its economic positions, and which would cut into such a financial force as the Vatican whose “worldly” interests have been vividly revealed in connection with the recent sensational scandal concerning Cippico and Guidetti.

The Christian-Democratic leaders have become quite shameless in their propaganda in favour of American imperialism. The American Ambassador, Dunn, is actually canvassing for the de Gasperi party. Dunn is so blatant that even the Saragat newspaper “Italia Socialista” counselled him recently to speak less about Italian affairs...

“America is providing the most generous aid; Italy cannot manage without this aid; nobody else can help Italy… America will stop all aid if the Front wins” – such are the “arguments” of the Christian-Democrats and the Saragat group. However, very few nowadays believe in the generosity of the American rulers. The national dignity of the Italians is deeply hurt by this constant blackmail. On the other hand, the economic and financial position of Italy instead of improving, has worsened precisely since the beginning of “American aid”. This “aid” has already reduced industrial output in Italy while the peasants are horrified at talk about the import of 280 thousand tons of potatoes from the US. The people are becoming increasingly indignant at the servility of de Gasperi and Sforza to the American expansionists, at the exclusive orientation of Italy's foreign trade on the US and at the growing hostility of the de Gasperi Government towards the Soviet Union arid the new democracies. The economic successes of these countries have made a big impression on Italian public opinion.

The People's Democratic Front stands for peace and cooperation between all peoples; zealously defending the political and economic independence of Italy, the Front is winning new successes in the struggle against the enslavement of the country by American capital. The Front does not confine itself merely to election propaganda, it is conducting all-round activity in defence of the vital interests; of the working people, and has achieved major successes in this sphere.

Trying to preserve power in their hands, the Christian-Democrats, as stated by de Gasperi himself, are ready for anything: for provocations, for a direct appeal for help to the American marines. In particular they have already made use of the Institute of Statistics, which is now under their influence, for the purpose of adding to, or decreasing, insofar as this suits their election interests, the number of deputies in certain constituencies.

The people of Italy are watching vigilantly the .manoeuvres of internal and American reaction, and they will never allow themselves to be put under the yoke of colonial bondage and slavery. April 18 will bring victory to Italian democracy, a victory that will be a big contribution to the common struggle for democracy, progress and peace.

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