Palmitro Togliati

In the International

The Present Crisis in
the Italian Socialist Party

(19 September 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 81, 19 September 1922, pp. 609–610.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Congress of the Italian Socialist Party was finally set for the beginning of October. The various factions within the Party therefore had over two months time after the last governmental crisis and the general strike to determine their theoretical attitude and their line of action at and after the next Congress, But we cannot say that all groups within the Socialist Party are fully clear on this matter and up to their task.

In their manifesto to the working masses and since their Milan Conference, the Reformists have acted unequivocally. This manifesto is especially important on account of its sharp polemics. Theoretically, it contains nothing new; it is a mere repetition of the criticism which the Social Democracy has for years been directing against the Marxian conception of the immediate tasks and the tactics of the revolutionary workers’ parties. The Italian Reformists did not hesitate to accuse the Maximalists and the Communists of the responsibility for the outbreak of the Fascisti reaction. They declared that the intransigence of these parties had prevented the workers and the peasants from making full use of the post-war period to gain for themselves some real advantages, and to better their economic and political situation within the bounds of the existing laws.

In reality, the contrary is well-known to the world. The Italian proletariat was defeated because it did not get rid of its reformistic leaders at the right time, and because a firmly constituted party with a clear program capable of leading the working class to effective action did not exist. The Reformists attempt to make us forget these historical facts, and throw the whole weight of their hatred against the Communist as well as against the Italian Maximalists. We insist on this fact because it proves that in Italy as well as in all other countries, the Social Democracy becomes the faithful ally of the bourgeoisie and the reaction when it thinks the time fit. Their work consists in discrediting those parties which are actually leading the fight for the proletariat.

From a purely Italian point of view, this reformist manifesto and its valiant polemics against revolutionary and semi-revolutionary groups is of great importance, because it will render the split between the Reformists and the Maximalists inevitable. At the Conference recently held in Milan, it appeared distinctly that should the Reformists win the majority at the Rome Congress, they would expel the Maximalists from the Party, or themselves leave the Party in case they found themselves in the minority. In that case, they would proceed with the formation of a new party, which would constitute the final autonomous organization of the Italian Social Democracy.

It is more difficult to predict the attitude of the Maximalists. Their official organ, Avanti, took a sufficiently clear position in respect to the split. There is open talk of a split. The recent activities of the Right Socialists, especially their open attempts at coalition during the last ministerial crisis, are considered sufficient grounds for the split which did not take place in Livorno.

This proves again the dangers of the Maximalists’ duplicity, which is responsible for the defeats of the Italian proletariat. It is not the intention of the Maximalists to separate themselves from the Reformists, and openly to fight them in order to destroy the Reformists’ influence upon the proletariat. The Maximalists intend to continue their former activity within the trade unions, i.e., to capitulate before the Reformists, and to unite with them against the Communists, as they have done recently when the Communist Trade Union Committee sought to reach an agreement among the Left organizations.

Politically, the Maximalists believe that it is impossible at the present time to effect any change in the conditions under which the class struggle is waged. And they have the audacity to declare that they have always been Communists. They probably mean that they intend to continue a similar activity to that of 1919–1920, that is, to keep on talking Communism and class war. But they do not have the courage to turn their words into action, to develop a concrete program for the material and spiritual preparation of the working class, which would enable it to hold its ground in its present struggle. For Serrati, it is merely a question of how he can retain his leadership of the Party of demagogues and bureaucrats. It is characteristic, and a fact, that up to now no concrete will to action has been shown by this fraction.

Under such circumstances, it becomes clear that it is necessary, once for all, to put an end to the duplicity of the Maximalists. The position of the Reformists, historically considered, will mean their defeat in the future. Their expulsion from those organizations which gather the proletariat for its struggle, is an unescapable necessity which will proceed the more rapidly the clearer the situation is stated.

The greatest obstacle to this liberation from the Reformists, is the existence of a central, ambiguous, undecided party. It is certain, however, that the absence of an independent program of combat to oppose to the Communists and to the Reformists, will lead to the disappearance of the Maximalists from the fighting front of the proletarian parties, unless they are able to convince the working class that their present intransigent attitude is something “higher” than their former insignificance, and unless they make use of this “advance” to mask the bankruptcy of certain leaders and of a few thousand officials.

The workers’ movement at the present time is suffering from a serious disease, due partly to the reaction, but also, in a large measure, to this process of weeding out from the Socialist Party that false revolutionism which had served as motto to the masses during the great revolutionary wave of 1919–1920.

In the course of this cleansing process, a part of the proletariat actually left the political class organization. The present adherents of Maximalism are not workers or peasants, but officials, people incapable of recognizing the necessity of the hour or of undertaking the necessary preparatory and organizational tasks of a real revolutionary party.

The are attempting to take advantage of the great prestige of the Communist International to regain their power. We must defeat this attempt by putting it clearly before all workers and peasants in whom the spirit of a class war is alive that it is not sufficient today, in order to be a revolutionist, merely to leave the Reformists after one has helped to cover their betrayal for three years, but that one must have a program of action, and submit to an iron discipline, to become a true class fighter, not a demagogue fighting for his job

The split in the Socialist Party of Italy will accelerate the influx of the masses to the Communist Party, for this it is necessary that Maximalism should also be gotten rid of. The Italian Communists believe that the liquidation of the Maximalists may best be brought about by their complete isolation, so that they may have no opportunity to delude the workers that they have a program of their own, and that they are capable of any action.

We can say with certainty, that if this happens, the crisis in the Italian Socialist Party will turn into a great victory for the Communist International. It is not that we have any particular satisfaction to see Serrati and his adherents confess their mistakes, but because this is the way which will lead to the final victory of the working class. The inert body of the Maximalist group was the block in the way of the working class. The gradual development of the political conflict in Italy will remove this obstacle and form around the Communist Party an organization uniting all those workers who are determined to lead again their class on the road to victory.

Last updated on 31 August 2020