Palmiro Togliatti 1948
Written: By Palmiro Togliatti, 1948;
Source: For a Lasting Peace, for a People's Democracy! Vol. 2, no. 2; January 15, 1948;
Transcribed: David Adams, March 2022.
I think that our country is impatiently looking forward to the discussion and decisions of the VI Congress of the Communist Party. And this is understandable for the congress has convened in a situation which is of serious political import to us, and what is all important, that leading political and social forces have rallied around the banner of our Party.
Today we Communists, together with the working class and the people of Italy, are facing a very difficult situation, a situation which differs radically from the time of the V congress of the Party, that is, at the beginning of 1945. Two years have elapsed since then and we must now review the results not only of our work for this period, but also that accomplished by the democratic forces as a whole.
In, January 1946 the so-called transition regime existed in Italy. We had not yet rid ourselves of the monarchy. And only in the subsequent months did we realise how difficult it was to complete this job. Nevertheless, the Communists, jointly with the other democratic forces, won a resounding victory, which transformed the country into a Republic and gave it a new constitution. True, there are many gaps and weak spots in this constitution. Even so it is an imposing charter, which obliges all Italians to complete the national rehabilitation begun when the Republican order was established.
In January 1946 our country was still occupied by foreign troops. Today, in keeping with the Peace Treaty, which inevitably contains onerous conditions, we are again a free people. True, we have other forms of foreign interference, but the responsibility for this rests with the leaders of certain parties, who have entered into the service of foreigners. Because of them we failed to gain admittance to UNO.
At the beginning of 1946 Italy experienced a most difficult period of economic decline. Today, thanks mainly to the efforts of workers by hand and brain and of the peasantry, considerable headway has been made in the sphere of economic reconstruction. Last September the monthly output averaged 70 per cent of the 1939 figure. Naturally, this figure does not tell the full story, it calls for comment since production has developed unevenly in conditions of chaos and capitalist anarchy.
Although production has not yet reached the 1939 level, some industries, are already betraying symptoms of a crisis, which threaten to decrease output. But this is not the crux of the matter. What is all important is that acute economic and social contradictions are apparent in industry. And responsible for this are those people who are obstructing the rehabilitation of our industry and economic life. This, in turn, has aggravated class contradictions. Despite the increase in output compared to 1946, poverty among the people has, if anything, increased.
The number of unemployed has reached a new high and there are no signs of any improvement in the conditions of the most impoverished section of the population in the big industrial cities, countryside, and more especially in the most backward villages in the South and on the islands. Statistics on this question tell the story.
While the market price of agricultural produce was 36 times higher in 1946 than in 1938, wages of agricultural labourers were only 26 time higher. While in 1945 the wages of industrial workers were six times the pre-war figure, prices were 30 times higher. Last May nominal wages were 30 times pre-war figure but prices were 50 times higher. These figures show that the rehabilitation of the country as projected by the so-called policy of “healthy freedom for private enterprise” has aggravated class contradictions, has caused impoverishment and unemployment and has created a new gulf in the economic and social structure of the country. The wage increases in no way correspond to the increased output in industry and agriculture and consequently, to the increased profits of the manufacturers.
In fact the wage increases bear no relation at all to the increased prices, which determine the general level of subsistence of the worker, office employee, peasant.
To date the democratic movement, which first began a mere two years ago, can record serious successes. The trade unions and cooperatives embrace millions of members. The workers' parties have become stronger. The Communist Party has grown into a mass organisation youth a membership of over two million men and women. Also the number of Party cadres and cadres in the trade union and cooperative movements has increased.
The democratic movement has to its credit such achievements as unity of the working class, and in the first place, a pact of unity of action with the fraternal Socialist Party. We salute the Socialist Party, which prevented a split in its ranks, and which reduced the splitters to a small group of renegades, without popular backing. Our work during the past two years shows many positive factors, but we must not lose sight of the negative aspects.
The main weakness of the Italian democratic movement is expressed in the slow recovery of the economic and social life of the country. We have not succeeded in making any substantial headway towards a democratic reorganisation of the economic structure of the country. The urgency of this matter was recognised by all democrats in the parties represented in the National Liberation Committees, including many Liberals. At the time everybody realised that such reorganisation was essential to prevent the restoration of fascism and to secure a relatively peaceful solution of the acute social problems, and questions that arose in the course of the popular offensive. Our partisans fought for this programme of regeneration and it was supported by the National Liberation Committees.
The fact that the programme was not carried out constitutes a big weakness of Italian democracy, of the National Liberation Committees and of all the democratic parties, including our Party.
The specific conditions under which our country was liberated from fascism partly account for this. These conditions differed considerably from those in which the countries of the new democracy were liberated. The latter have made giant forward strides on the basis of democratic reforms.
This does not justify our shortcomings, but it should be borne in mind in any unbiased review of our activities.
It is possible that the Italian people were too naive at the time of the liberation, that some of them thought that a delayed rate of democratic development was necessary in the interests of peace. But the representatives of the capitalist powers seized on this weakness to retard the democratic development of our country, to hinder the birth of a new democratic regime, and to transform our country into a centre of intrigues against the countries of the people's democracy in Eastern Europe and against the Soviet Union.
This weakness is reflected in our Constitution, the first section of which points the way to profound economic, and social reforms, and proclaims the new rights of Man: the right to work, to rest, to education and social security, without indicating, however, how these rights are to be secured. Elsewhere, the conservative forces managed to introduce into the, Constitution a number of points that retard progress towards fundamental changes.
The weakness of Italian democracy was reflected in the policy which, at, a certain period ceased to be the policy of democratic unity and led to the formation of a government under pressure from reactionary forces and by direct interference of imperialist powers.
This was followed by the political and economic offensive of the conservative sections, supported by the present Government. The egoistic reactionary circles were able to raise their heads because we failed to uproot them. They found fertile soil for their development because we did not wage the struggle which could have destroyed the roots of the reactionary and fascist movement. The working class and the people had to defend themselves, and here it should be noted that during the past few months the workers peasants and middle classes have begun to realise that they must resist the offensive of the conservative and reactionary forces. The past few months were months of great economic and political struggle. True, this struggle was for the most part of a defensive nature, even when the agricultural labourers in the valley of the Po staged a big strike and won substantial improvements in their standard of living and labour contracts. This defensive struggle in which the Communists took a leading part, ended in a big victory for the working people.
The militant elements of the working class were successful in struggles of a purely political nature. They compelled the fascist groups to retreat, even if only temporarily, who thought that the time had come for terrorist acts against the organisations of the working people.
When speaking of successes in the political and economic spheres mention should be made of the fact the question of unemployment was sharply raised before the country and the Government. De Gasperi is speculating on creating a national unemployment fund. He presents himself as a benefactor, but it certainly is no credit to the Government that only in the middle of winter did it discover that there are two million unemployed families in Italy. The credit for this initiative belongs to the working people who made known their proposals through the General Confederation of Labour.
The workers, trade union committees and their leaders must be vigilant when collecting contributions to the unemployment fund, they must insist that the employers also contribute. The people must demand a share in the distribution of these funds. We must see to it that the money contributed by the Italian workers doesn’t go to swell the election funds of the Christian Democratic Party.
Along with the victories gained in the recent great defensive struggles note should be taken also of other achievements.
The conviction that radical economic reforms are needed has taken deep root among the factory workers of the North, among the peasants and the working people of the South and on the islands, and among the middle classes. Popular initiative in the matter took organisational shape in the congress of the Joint Production Councils, in the democratic congress of the South, in the congress of the democratic municipalities, in the Agricultural Labourers' congress, and finally, at the public demonstration in the Rome “Planetarium” where the new front of the people's democratic forces, was formed, a front which is battling for bread, for work, for the freedom and independence of Italy.
The people are passing through a critical period in their history and we know that a serious danger looms over Italian democracy, over the Italian people.
The attention of all democrats must be centred on the danger contained in the expansion of American imperialism. The present upsurge, the result of the big struggles of the past few weeks and months, must serve as our starting point and foundation for organised action which will rescue the Italian people from the danger of imperialist bondage.
This danger threatens the peace in our country, threatens the independence of Italy and the freedom of the Italian people. It may seem strange that only two years after the end of a terrible war, which shook Europe and indeed the whole world, there should be talk about a threat to peace, about the danger of war; hanging over the destines of nations, over Europe and the whole world. This may appear strange to the simple minded, but we, Marxists, are not at all surprised, for we know the source of the war danger.
War is an integral part of capitalist society which. as the teacher of French socialism, Jean Jaures said “carries war just as the cloud carries a thunder storm”. We know quite well how the danger of war arises, how it deepens and how the threat to peace becomes a reality. The threat of war becomes a reality due to the uneven development of capitalism. This uneven development gives birth to the imperialist strivings, to expansionist tendencies and plans for world domination by one imperialist power, or a group of powers. This is how the concrete danger to peace arises.
Such uneven development, both during and after the war, could be observed in the United States. This development shattered the framework of the old system of relations between the capitalist and imperialist powers. The Truman Doctrine is based on this. The main features of this doctrine are: the striving of the US to play the dominant role in the world; the idea of world domination and the desire to realise this, with all the consequences arising therefrom; operations on an international scale to implement the principle of “free enterprise”.
“Free enterprise,” means giving a free hand to the capitalist forces, to the vast monopoly organisations which, having taken the destiny of the USA into their hands, plan to control the destiny of Europe, which is experiencing economic, and consequently, political and social difficulties.
It should not be forgotten that there, are still European countries, among them ours, where the roots of fascism and the national treachery of the ruling reactionary capitalist strata, have not yet been destroyed. We must not forget that there are countries in Europe, such as Spain, where an open fascist regime continues to prosper under the guardianship of the American and other imperialists. We must not forget that there is a country like Greece, where the people after making a major contribution towards winning their independence and freedom, have once again been hurled back under fascist tyranny, thanks to the intervention of the imperialist powers, first Britain, and then the USA.
Thus, on the one hand a bloc is created, composed of forces who are assiduously engaged in drawing up plans for world domination, and to that extent are acting against the independence and peace of the peoples. On the other are the forces of Socialism, who suffered heavily from the war, but who are conscious of their strength, and of the stability and firmness of the socialist regime. This country, which is consistently fighting for peace and for cooperation between peoples, is steadfastly carrying out a programme for the restoration of Europe and the world in conditions of peace and the cooperation of peoples—a programme which was blueprinted in the course of the war. Together with the Land of Socialism are the other nations of Europe, which have not yet built a socialist society, but have already set up the regime of the new democracy; where the foundations of fascism, the foundations of the old reactionary groups have been destroyed; where new unity has been effected between the popular forces who are sparing no efforts to build a new society along socialist lines. The existence of these countries acts as an irritant on the imperialist circles who have tried in every conceivable way to prevent the establishment of the new democracies, and would like to see them destroyed. They realise the enormous significance of these regimes for the new Europe, the example that they are to the peoples of Europe and the world, who are trying to find new ways to liberation, democracy and social justice.
Inevitably, in such circumstances people are conscious of the danger of a new war. This feeling, which is steadily growing among the masses, must be taken into account. It is necessary to answer the question: is war near; is it possible to avoid war?
This depends on the relation of forces between those who are working for war and those who are consistently fighting for peace. Long before World War II the leaders of the international Communist movement, after careful and thorough consideration of this question, came to the conclusion that the menace of war was growing in the capitalist world, but that peace could be saved if all those, who were opposed to war and who were striving for peace, joined forces and countered the instigators of war with a peace front. Unfortunately, the popular forces failed to achieve their aim, they managed to postpone the outbreak of war but failed to prevent it.
However, the situation today is different from that on the eve of World War II. First, the great Land of Socialism—the bulwark of peace has enormously strengthened its international prestige. Second, one should bear in mind the existence of the countries of the new democracies, whose people are consistently fighting for their independence and for peace. But the desire for peace is strong also in other countries of Europe where the democratic movements have not yet led to the establishment of new, democratic states. This is the desire of the masses who remember the horrors of the last war too well to be indifferent to the provocative role of the instigators of a new world war.
This shows that at present the forces of peace in the world arena are more numerous than the forces preparing a new war, that it is possible to ward off the menace of war to avoid war, provided that the nations anxious to maintain peace will not be intimidated by the warmongers, provided they are conscious of their strength and fight consistently for their independence and peace in Europe, and throughout the world. It is, therefore. essential, above all, consistently to expose the instigators of war.
The press repeatedly carries statements (crazy in my opinion), by representatives of American imperialism who advocate war against the land of Socialism, wiping out the Socialist capital with atom bombs, and who talk of a war with new weapons of large-scale destruction.
We must expose the warmongers, both outside and within the country. This must be done not only because we have a government which has sold itself to American imperialism, and which is selling the independence of Italy, but also because there is another active alien power in Italy—the Vatican, which deceives naive people by allegedly defending peace, but which always, in every critical international situation, supports the power pursuing a policy of imperialist expansion and warmongering. Last autumn, when international tension was at a peak, the Vatican displayed a curious vacillation. Hitherto, the official organ of the Vatican carried articles condemning war and calling for the unity of the peace forces, but some weeks later, and I wish to emphasise precisely at the moment of the greatest tension in the international situation, the Pope not only accepted the message of the President of the US but replied to it with a document that sanctioned the war directives of American imperialism.
That is why we must be particularly vigilant in our country. and create a broad popular front in defence of peace. This task, which is not an easy one for us, is the task not only of our propagandists, but of the Party as a whole. The peace front must be based on the wide unity of all those fully conscious of the threat from imperialism.
It will be appreciated that under such conditions the vanguard forces of democracy and of the working class, and particularly the Communist Parties organising these forces in the larger countries of Europe, in the countries of the new democracy, and in France and Italy, which today constitute the direct object of the offensive of American imperialism, realise the need for contact in order to coordinate their forces to defend the independence of all the European people, and peace in Europe and throughout the world. Such was the purpose of the conference of the nine Communist Parties in Poland, concerning which you all know. There are present at our congress representatives of some of the Parties, which took part in the Polish Conference. I salute these comrades, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of France, our French comrades and the comrades from the countries of the new democracy (applause).
Comrades, representatives of the fraternal Parties. We have known each other for a long time; we are veterans of many struggles. There is nothing in the recollection of our common past, of our common work, and struggle, when we were united in the great proletarian organisation—in the Communist International,—of which we need feel ashamed. On the contrary, we are proud of our past. When we decided jointly to dissolve the Communist International we were aware that this organisational form no longer corresponded to the conditions in which the struggle of the working class and of the people for freedom, independence and liberation, was developing.
We know that the paths of the democratic movements in the different countries cannot be the same, since capitalism did not develop in the same way in each country: there is a difference in the hangovers of the feudal past, in the organisational forms of the working class and of the democratic forces, and there is a difference of traditions, which should be utilised or cast off, in accordance with circumstances.
The Italian Communists clearly realise that solidarity on the part of the working people of Europe is of paramount importance for the purpose of resisting and destroying the common enemy.
We believe that our voluntary and fraternal cooperation, enunciated at the conference in Poland, and which has now a consultative character, is a great event for all the peoples of Europe if they wish to avoid a new war and to retain the freedom they have won.
We know what the danger to peace means for Italy. If there is one country in Europe which needs peace, and a people for whom the threat to peace endangers their very existence, then Italy and the Italians are that country and that people.
Consequently, the call of the Communist Party congress is addressed not only to the workers and to the progressive democrats but to all Italians who cherish the destiny of Italy. We must at all costs prevent our Government from turning Italy into a tool of any imperialist government and its policy of war.
We must demand that the Government, guiding the fortunes of the Italian Republic, shall pursue a policy of peace.
The threat to peace is closely linked with the danger to Italy's independence. This danger is the more acute because our country, let us admit it, is weak politically and economically, and its status as a free nation has not been completely regained.
The matter of our independence calls for special consideration. This question is connected with the problem of the so-called American aid, the need and inevitability of which for our economic rehabilitation we hear so much. This necessity requires, it would seem, a definite policy, the policy now being pursued by the de Gasperi Government.
Far be it from us to deny that Italy is in need of help from the country, which today is economically the most powerful. But we would remind those who talk so much about American aid, and we would also like to remind the representatives of the American people that America has certain obligations towards the European countries. We do not forget that the war was won by all the European nations, and in particular, by the great democratic nations; but we remember also that the US profited from the elimination of German imperialism, an elimination which was secured by the decisive participation of the Land of Socialism—the Soviet Union—and by the struggle of the European peoples who rose in defence of their independence and freedom. Let the US remember these things just as we remember them.
The losses suffered by the US in the war are nothing compared to the losses of the Soviet Union, or even of Italy or France, which were plundered by the Hitler invaders, or the losses of the countries of the new democracy in Central and East Europe—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia.
We are grateful for the aid offered us, but we believe that we have the right to consider the conditions of this aid. On what terms is the aid given, and what is expected of us in return?
Concerning the free “gifts” which Italy receives from the US partly in the form of raw materials, it should be stated that it is not a matter of gifts in the real sense of the term. Were it so the Italian Government would find no difficulty answering the following questions: if the grain is a gift why has the price of bread gone up? If it is true, as is printed on the demand notes for gas payment, that the gas is produced from coal received from the US free of charge, why has the charge to consumer been increased, instead of decreased? Clearly, there is something wrong here.
Actually these “gifts” are accompanied by the accumulation of a special lira fund, which, since it was created by the Italian Government, should come under scrutiny and supervision. Who should exercise this supervision? And in considering this question we come to the essence not only of the system of gifts, made by AUSA (American organisation for rendering assistance to Italy, set up after the winding up of UNRRA), but also the manner in which the Marshall Plan is realised. As a matter of fact the Marshall Plan envisages the delivery of US goods in exchange for the currency of the given country, which is accumulated by the Government of the given country in the form of a special fund.
This raises a number of questions. First, delivery and distribution of raw materials and of goods are effected in accordance with the plan elaborated by the American Government. Second, the administration of this special fund has strings attached and is controlled by the American Government. At present the Italian people have no control, whatsoever over the administration of this fund.
There is no guarantee, for example, that this special fund will not be administered in such a way as to become an election fund for the Christian Democratic Party. To avoid such misgivings it is essential to secure at least Parliamentary control of the fund.
The so-called gift system leads to direct interference by the foreign power in our economy.
I think that nobody in Italy, having at heart the destiny, future and independence of our country, would give his consent to such interference. The Marshall Plan envisages a solution of the German problem contrary to the obligations entered into at Yalta and Potsdam. These obligations provide for building up a united democratic Germany. American policy, however, strives to divide Germany into two states, to create a West German state under US control, enjoying maximum American aid with the aim of restoring the heavy war industry there.
Such a solution of the problem is not in the interests of Italy. Germany must be restored as a united country, for only then can Italy renew her trade with Central Europe. We are interested also in the stamping out of any possibility of the revival of fascism in Germany. The splitting of Germany into two aims at preserving those forces and organisations which formed the base of German fascism.
We send greetings to the glorious Greek partisans, who are battling for the independence of their country. We greet them not only as Communists, not only because among them are our comrades in ideas, but also because we know that throughout the last century the cause of freedom and independence of Greece was closely linked with the struggle for the unity and independence of our own country.
We wish the Greek people, and the democratic government formed by General Markos every success, for we know that their victory will be also the victory of the cause of the independence of the Italian people. At present American imperialism is striving to create in South and Central Europe, and also in the Mediterranean a bloc of Catholic countries, which would include France, Franco Spain, Italy, Austria, and fascist Greece. This bloc is visualised as a permanent threat to the countries of tile new democracies and to the USSR.
If we wish to secure for the Italian people an open road for contact with all the peoples of Europe, an open road for contact with the whole world. then our national policy must aim at preventing the establishment in Europe of a new bloc of reactionary states. especially the establishment under American imperialist auspices of a bloc of the reactionary Catholic states. which would mean the end of sovereignty and independence for our country. We need trade relations with all Europe, and particularly with Eastern Europe, since from these countries we could get raw materials and food in exchange for our industrial goods, and thus improve our economic base.
Unfortunately, the present Government shows no sign of any such desire. True, some weeks ago we signed a trade agreement with Yugoslavia. However, the conclusion of this agreement took a long time. After the agreement was initialled by our commission in Belgrade, it did not go into effect for several months, but was sent to all the ministries for consideration, as to how and when this agreement could be put into practice.
The de Gasperi Government follows an entirely different line when obeying the behests of American imperialism. In such cases it hastens to dispatch ministers to Washington or New York, prepares documents, sanctions them sometimes without first submitting them to the Parliamentary commission. However, when it is a matter of political action, which really corresponds to the interests of our economy, or when it concerns the interests of the countries of the new democracy, then the de Gasperi government acts in a different way altogether. This situation merely reflects the influence and the political and economic control of the US in our country, about which I spoke earlier.
It is obvious that Italy's trade with the Eastern countries irks those who aim at mobilising the whole of Western Europe for the struggle against these countries. It is quite possible that this trade is not to the liking of those economic circles in the US who are hostile to the rehabilitation of our iron and steel industry, the basis of our industry in the North.
This evidently explains also the reluctance to supply our industry with means for overcoming the crisis, for starting out on full-scale production, for the return of the markets, which Italy is able to satisfy.
The question boils down to the fact that Italy needs trade relations with the world, and it is impossible to think of our economy developing as an appendage of American economy, or even of France or Great Britain.
It is now clear that the interim aid and policy of “gifts” a la the “Marshall Plan” are nothing other than a device to prevent Italian economy from developing independently. This is being recognised not only by the representatives of the most progressive democratic thought. the Socialists and Communists, but also by those leading representatives of the industrial world. who are still capable of reasoning soberly and independently.
It is said that American aid does not depend on any political conditions. But here we ask the members of the present Government to agree among themselves for, on the one hand, de Gasperi proclaims that there are no political strings entailed while, on the other, Paccardi frankly declared in his paper that American aid was dependent on the removal of the Communists from the Government.
Such are the facts. Consequently, we have the right to say that when our Foreign Minister pretends to be naive, and when de Gasperi denies certain facts, both of them are simply lying. And 1 think that both know that they are lying. But the situation in Italy is of grave concern to us today, especially after the statement made by Marshall two weeks after the last contingent of American troops had left the country. According to this statement the US Government unilaterally takes upon itself the right to safeguard the independence of our country. And in the Constituent Assembly we were compelled to listen to the Foreign Minister shamefully defend this declaration, which is a blow to the honour and dignity of Italy.
The independence of Italy will be safeguarded by us Italians, who remain united and vigilant towards foreign intervention and the agents of American imperialism trying to penetrate into our ranks. If any other kind of guarantee or protection is needed it can only be of a collective or international character, otherwise Italy may become a semi-colony of a foreign imperialist power.
This is the spirit in which we should view the recent statement circulated by an American agent to the effect that the presence, or more correctly, the dispatch of American marines to Mediterranean ports, or, to be more exact, to Italian territorial waters, will be effected as a means of protecting our country against the danger of Communism. I don't know who is responsible for the statement, but I regard it as the raving of a lunatic.
The Italian people are not at all unfriendly towards the American people; on the contrary our people admire the rich traditions of the American people, and especially the traditions of their struggle for independence.
It is our wish that Italy should pursue a policy of friendship with all peoples; we reject any policy that would split Europe into two parts; we reject any bloc that specialises in intrigues in an attempt to isolate the Land of Socialism, the peoples of the Soviet Union from all other countries, to prevent the fraternal cooperation of all the peoples of Europe in building a new society. We do not reject the aid of peoples richer than we are; indeed we appreciate their generosity, but we shall not agree to any conditions which in one form or another, directly or indirectly, would be detrimental to our independence.
We Italians want to decide in our own way the destiny of our country. We want to be friends with all neighbouring peoples. In particular we abhor the daily attempts being made to incite hostility between us and the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. (Here Comrade Togliatti, amid a storm of applause conveyed the greetings of the congress to the Yugoslav people, to the Yugoslav Communists and Marshal Tito.)
It is necessary to establish friendly relations and bonds of fraternal cooperation with the people of France and the French Republic. Regarding the so-called plans for closer economic relations between Italy and France the peoples of the two countries should be allowed freely to consider these problems, without the interference of the foreign imperialist powers, which are trying to destroy the independence of Italy and France.
Of course, we want our country to be admitted to UNO. But we know that before this can be done Italy must cease to be a tool in the eyes of the world, of the expansionist and military policy of American imperialism.
But it’s not only our independence that’s threatened, our liberty won at the cost of much sacrifice is menaced.
We communists are usually asked:
“Do you agree to respect the Constitution? Will you wage your struggle on legal grounds, or do you intend to go beyond the law and violate the charter which pledges all Italian democrats to observe certain constitutional norms?”
We have only one answer to this: hitherto it has been the representatives of the privileged section of our country who have demonstrated that they are ready at any moment to violate all constitutional norms in order to maintain their privileges, in order to hold up the onward march of the people.
The march on Rome in 1921 and 1922 and the subsequent fascist tyranny was not organised by the people, by the workers, by the Socialists or Communists. It was the work of the reactionary class, the privileged strata in our country, supported by leading circles of the Church, monarchy and army. It is precisely from this direction that danger threatens.
Naturally, the reactionary forces have learned from experience; for instance, it is obvious. that it is now well-nigh impossible to renew a fascist movement in the country along the lines of 1921-22. Reaction, therefore, is looking for other forms, is thinking of using the State apparatus in combination with terrorist and provocative groups to endanger our democratic gains and to hurl us backward.
This danger exists and it is all the more serious in view of the existence of a political force in the country, which recently has taken up a totalitarian position. I am referring to the Vatican and the policy now being pursued by leading Roman Catholic circles who have issued the challenge: “For or against Christ!”
This challenge was made, on political grounds for the purpose of initiating a political struggle in favour of the side allegedly following Christ. This side is supposedly represented by the Christian Democrats and the “Acione Cattolica”. All who are against Christ are excommunicated and only those who are for Christ, that is, politically speaking, those who support the Christian Democrats, the “Acione Cattolica” and organisations, tolerated more or less by the Christian Democrats, have the right to legal existence. This challenge was accompanied by frantic appeals issued by the Catholic dignitaries to wage a desperate and resolute struggle.
We would like to submit these facts to the attention of at least those honest Catholics, who are perturbed about the future of society, about the problems facing mankind today. The problem is that the capitalist system must be abolished, that a profound revolution is maturing, which must give rise to a new system of society, to socialism. Dying capitalism must be abolished so that mankind can guide its destiny and build life on a new, higher plane than hitherto.
What is the position of the Catholic world in this struggle? What is the position of the Catholic hierarchy? These two forces do not hold the same outlook. The honest Catholic worker, interested in social questions, feels and recognises, as we do, that it is necessary to build a new society in order to avoid once again slipping into the past through new wars and crises. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, is no longer capable of realising this, for it is forging ever closer bonds with the leading elements of declining, capitalist society, has become not only an appendage, but part of big capital. This is particularly true of our country where we daily learn of the Vatican buying up shares in various industrial companies.
The Vatican, which has penetrated into the apparatus and system of capitalist society, is inevitably siding with those against whom the working people and all free and honest men are taking action.
Taking into account the openly totalitarian position of the Catholic hierarchy and the links between the Church dignitaries and the leading forces of American imperialism, our Party must not change its attitude with regard to religious questions. From the very outset we declared that we have no intention of interfering with the religious world in our country, and for this reason we voted for Article VII of the Constitution.
On the other hand, we say to the Catholics and to all believers that unity of the democratic movement, of the working people, of the progressive forces is imperative if we wish to see our country liberated from serfdom, from capitalist anarchy, if we want to regenerate our economic and social life. When we vigorously expose the policy of the Church hierarchy, which we consider harmful to the political and social progress of our country, we do so in the hope that the Catholic workers will understand us, understand the necessity of unity between us and the forces of democracy, whose sole aim is the political, economic and social recovery of Italy in the interests of all, and above all, in the interests of the people who live by their labour.
This question, of course, is directly connected with the policy of the Christian-Democrats, who have traversed a long path during the past two years. On the eve of the election campaign they announced their programme which coincided, in the main, with the statements of the Communist and Socialist Parties. These statements spoke of reforms in State structure, industry and agriculture.
The Communists considered it possible to cooperate with this party in the Government on the basis of this programme. Unfortunately we soon discovered that their programme statements were not followed by deeds, by measures to carry out the plan for economic and social recovery. When we discussed the details of the Government programme, the Christian- Democrats practically disavowed their initial statements.
The Communists insisted that obligations, undertaken on behalf of the people, be honoured. Later, de Gasperi travelled to the US, either to receive his instructions or for other reasons. The result of his visit was a crisis and the formation of a government without the Left parties.
Thus began the consistent policy of splitting the forces of democracy, a policy which was steadily intensified until the congress of the Social- Democrats in Naples. The keynote of the congress was that the Socialist Party should annul its unity agreement with the Communists, that the Communist Party be declared illegal—the Party which not simply by words, but by its blood and sacrifice made the biggest contribution of all to setting up the democratic order in Italy.
The desire to ban us is the fantasy of the lunatic fringe. It would mean the annihilat.ion of the democratic traditions of the Italian people.
Thus, the Christian-Democratic Party defined its position as the leading party of the conservative forces. The policy of division and dissension is apparent in all its activities. Three yellow newspapers which indulge in the most vile slander are published in Rome. They are directly financed by the Christian-Democratic Secretary of State in the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. We were astounded to read in of these rags praise for the Pope’s latest encyclical which appeared alongside a tirade of anti-working class vituperation.
During the election campaign in Rome, when the Christian-Democrats failed to secure victory thanks to the splendid resistance and counter- offensive of the population of the capital, they used the votes of the fascists to capture the municipality and to install a Catholic mayor in Rome.
So far I have been speaking of the Christian-Democratic Party, and I beg to be excused by the workers in this party who are disgusted with the reactionary policy of their leaders; I know that they comprise the mass, that although they are striving for a democratic policy, their strivings are not meeting with the corresponding political action by the leaders. The so-called Christian-Democratic Left have so far shown themselves to be nothing more than a refined society of Jesuits.
With regard to the situation in the General Confederation of Labour it should be noted that trade union unity is threatened by the splitting policy of the Vatican and the Christian-Democratic Party. Despite all the past and present weaknesses in trade union unity, it continues to be a decisive weapon of struggle in the hands of the working class and the people. The existence of united trade unions made up of all categories of workers, immeasurably enhances the chances of victory of the working class and people in the struggle against the employers. That is the real reason why the numerous strikes which followed the war were of short duration,—the employers were compelled to capitulate before the solid front of the working masses.
That is precisely why the anti-democratic forces, the privileged section, the big industrialists in the “Confindustria” (Federation of Industrialists) and the landlords in the “Confida” (Federation of Agrarians), would like to destroy trade union unity, why they are issuing the corresponding orders, which are obeyed by the Christian-Democrats in the trade unions.
At the recent session of the Executive Committee of the CGT the Christian- Democrats demanded that politics be banned in the trade unions.
Why shouldn't there be politics in the trade unions? It is no secret that the secretary of the “Confindustria,” Signor Costa, exacts a tribute of thousands of millions of lira from each industrialist and that the money is used by the “Conflndustria” to finance reactionary newspapers and political parties serving the interests of the industrialists, and above all the campaigns of the Christian-Democrats. When this is done by “Confindustria” it is permissible. But the members of the Confederation of Labour are asked to make the trade unions non-political.
Actually, another problem should be raised: the members of the Joint Production Councils and factory trade union committees should insist on getting from the Councils, of the employers an account of all monies contributed to “Confindustria” for reactionary campaigns and that the money be allocated to all the “non-political” parties, which are waging a struggle in the interests of the workers, the people and the nation as a whole. The allegation that the Communists and Socialists jointly compelled reluctant workers to take strike action, is nothing but a blind.
Actually, all the big strikes, starting with the strike of the agricultural labourers and ending with the strikes in Rome, were enthusiastically supported by all the workers. Together with the Communist and Socialist agricultural workers, Catholic workers took part in the strike, which was denounced by the Christian Democrats and the US Department of State. The strike ended in a smashing victory. All but a few thousand workers took part in the strike in Rome, which was a splendid demonstration of unity on the part of the workers of the capital.
Trade union unity cannot be separated from trade union discipline. There can be no such thing in the trade union as part of its leaders obeying orders given by the democratically- elected organs, and another part taking orders from the employer. Trade union membership demands discipline. The workers closely followed the discussion at the session of the CGT Executive Committee and expressed their satisfaction at the agreement reached, even though it is but a provisional agreement. However, a detailed study of the agreement, and above all of the fact that one clause gives part of the trade union membership the right to abstain not only from definite action, but also from the decisive struggle of the working class, the success of which calls for unity, of action, compels us to ask: haven't our leading comrades in the CGT paid too high a price to preserve unity?
At any rate we raise this subject for discussion by the congress and its commissions.
With regard to the relations between the different parties it may be said that practically all the parties of the Right and of the centre are experiencing a crisis. This is the outcome of the conservative policy of the Christian- Democrats, a policy which deprives the Right and centrist groups of a basis and opportunity for development, since the Christian-Democrats are displacing them by coming to an agreement with the more open fascist groups.
In the circumstances the Liberals tried to save the remnants of their party by resurrecting their moth-eaten traditions, which it would have been better to have kept in the dark, namely the pro-fascist position of their party during 1922-23. At their recent congress they went so far as to give themselves credit for their contribution to the fascist “March on Rome”, to the victory of fascism, and the destruction of democratic order. Even so, they failed to build up a new base for their party, it has taken another step further towards its disintegration and eventual disappearance.
The same thing happened to Giannini, the founder of the “Fronte Dell Uomo Qualunque”, who appeared on the political scene as the Southern Pu1ccinella (“Punch”), and who ended up the way all Pulccinellas end, by getting kicked on all sides. When he had sobered up and decided to go in for politics alongside or in competition with the representatives of other more or less serious political trends, the reactionary bourgeoisie, who until then had used his services, discarded him.
Until now the reactionary and conservative forces have found organisational anchorage in the Christian Democratic Party, in the “Acion Cattolica” and in the Church hierarchy, under the patronage of imperialism. Thus, the Christian Democratic Party, has become a party of conservatives, an American party, a party which wants to restrict and destroy the independence of our country. That is why the democrats must direct the fire of their struggle against this party.
The two parties—the Republican and Saragat parties— which represent themselves as the advocates of the so-called third force, are by no means a united force. On the contrary, they differ sharply from each other.
Although there are members of the Republican Party who cherish democracy and the independence of the country, they nevertheless entered the Government, set up on the orders of American imperialism.
Saragat’s party has a very small following, but it contains people who are opposed to the Communist mostly because of prejudices dating back to 1919-21, when the Communists withdrew from the Italian Socialist Party. I am referring to the older people who are organically incapable of understanding the essence of the new problems and the new tasks of the political struggle in our country. Those who actually lead the Saragat party are people who pleaded for dollars to find their political bearings, which they found once they received the dollars.
These people are viewed by the country as the hired agents of American imperialism, and it is in this role that they are taking part in the Government. They cannot be-called a “third force”, cannot be separated from the Christian Democratic Party, from the leading reactionary circles in the country, who are operating under the auspices of American imperialism, in whose service they are.
By combating these people the Communists will save Italian democracy. They must call again upon the broad masses and organise them in a united front, which will answer the needs of the democratic struggle and life of the people.
In the movement to form an alliance of struggle of the working people and to save democracy the Socialist Party, played its part. This movement is not the creation of our Party nor of the Socialist Party, or of the two parties taken together. Our activities as the vanguard unit which organises the masses, did not proceed beyond the framework of the movement that arose among the working people when they were faced with the task of solving the economic structure of our country and felt the need of an organisation capable of solving this task. Hence, all criticism of this great new movement, today developing in the country, is unfounded.
We are told that the new movement runs counter to democratic methods. But democracy does not at all signify intrigues in the lobbies of the Monteccitorio (Parliament - Ed.) The people have the right to organise in order to rescue control over production. And the people of the South and the peasants have the same right to settle their problems.
Our method is absolutely democratic. Let the people who accuse us of ignoring the democratic method, of violating the law, of using force, remember that we have not forgotten our experience of the past. We will not be caught off guard by fascist methods a second time; we know the fascist game and we can see through the plots being hatched by the reactionary circles in Italy to take the democratic forces by surprise, to provoke them into a hopeless position in order to rout them. Reaction will lose: the situation in Italy today is not what it was in 1922-23; today the active forces who took part in the liberation of country, who won national renown fighting in the army and partisan detachments for the freedom of Italy, constitute the progressive forces who in their majority are members of the Communist and Socialist parties, that is, of the parties which under no circumstances will allow the rebirth of the fascist movement, or our' country to be placed under the yoke of a new tyranny. We are not threatening. Before us stretches the great path of democracy. But let those who are dreaming of blocking this path with the aid of provocations, terror, discord and confusion among the people, remember that we are not blind to the danger. We shall observe the methods of democratic struggle, but we shall not allow ourselves to be taken unawares by provocations and reactionary plans.
We have behind us the experience of guerrilla warfare; tens of thousands of people, who know how to wield arms in defence of the freedom and independence of the country, have the same experience and should it be necessary to defend and win freedom, these people will carry out their duty to democracy and their native land.
Concerning the democratic front I reject the criticism of the method applied in organising this front. It is said that the organisation of the front concerns only workers and the more progressive forces of the countryside. But in the Joint Production Councils the worker is in contact with the office employee, with the technical personnel and with the employer's representatives. The Council is, therefore, an alliance of all the forces engaged in production. The congress of the South was attended not only by representatives of the countryside, but also by representatives of the intelligentsia, of the urban and rural bourgeoisie, who are resolved to throw off the yoke, which has been weighing on the South for centuries.
The path outlined by the Communists and by all democrats, is the only correct path. Along this path alone will it be possible to solve all problems, coordinating the reconversion of industry with the reform in agriculture. It is said that the creation of a labour front may give rise to serious social repercussions. On the contrary: only cooperation between the different economic and social groups will help avoid serious conflicts. This has been proved in practice: Since de Gasperi violated democratic unity by forming his unilateral reactionary Government, the life of the country has been disturbed by conflicts and strikes.
The method proposed by us is the only correct method that can be applied in the country, which needs the cooperation of all her citizens on a democratic basis in order to ensure recovery. The method suggested by us is the method of unity of the democratic forces.
In this connection let us consider, from the practical point of view, the question of the means the forces of the democratic front will apply at the elections, that is, the question of submitting joint or separate lists. I favour the joint list, although I admit that there may be objections to this. The congress will discuss this question, which afterwards will be settled jointly with the Socialists, Communists and the democrats who support them.
The struggle for the unity of the democratic forces and for their welding into a new broad front, capable of embracing the mass of the population, remains a basic principle. It is clear that the Communist Party will not achieve its object unless all the other progressive democratic parties devote all their energies to this.
Note should be taken of the weaknesses in the activity of the Party when our representatives were expelled from the Government.
At the time many comrades were at a loss, for they began to doubt whether the aims for which the Communist Party had fought and is still fighting remain valid, namely the realisation of progressive democracy.
These comrades fail to understand that the slogan calling for the creation of a progressive democracy, that is, the creation of a new democratic popular regime, based on radical reforms in the economic structure of the country, and on the participation of the working class, the peasantry and the entire people in the political administration of the nation, was not something transient. This slogan corresponded, and corresponds now to the general strategic plan, which did not depend on our participation, on one condition or another, in the different governments; this slogan was an integral part of the strategic plan, which arose out of the development of the international situation in the given post-war period, out of the development of the situation within the country in keeping with the international state of affairs. (Here Comrade Togliatti, quoting from the works of Comrade Stalin, explained what determines the strategy of the Party, which corresponds to a definite historical situation, and changes only when the situation changes.)
The slogan of struggle for progressive democracy was proclaimed in different forms, corresponding to the conditions in the various countries of Europe, also by the various Communist Parties. This means that after World War II, all Communists were aware that we are experiencing an historical turning point. During this period our strategic aims differ from the aims we set ourselves at other historical periods. Naturally, each country has its own specific conditions, in view of which this main strategic plan is applied in accordance with the characteristic features and traditions of the given country, in accordance with its specific forms of organisation. Our country, too, has its definite peculiarities, which we have to consider.
This is what we wanted to make clear at the Florence conference of the Communist Party, when we stated that we must find an Italian way to the creation of a democracy of the new type, which opens the way to Socialism. This Italian way cannot be invented, cannot be charted on the basis of definite general principles—it is taking shape on the basis of daily concrete political struggle. Our way is still in the preparatory stage, and all we can see for the present is its first beginnings: the existence of trade union unity, the unity between the Socialists and Communists, the existence of a Parliamentary regime and, on the other hand, the development of a broad mass movement based on the organisations, set up by the people themselves.
We must advance along this path. Our Party must be able to march forward without ever losing sight of its main strategic aim, bearing in mind that this aim remains in force throughout the historical period. The Party must be able to adapt its daily tactical activities to this aim.
Undoubtedly there are obstacles in the way. The greatest danger threatening us during the past two years was, and is now, the danger of opportunism. We must know where to draw the line between the policy of unity and the policy of capitulation, and under no circumstances whatsoever can the Party decline to defend its programme and aims. Our very participation in the Government contained the dangerous beginnings of opportunism, which at certain times hampered the development of a number of our organisations, with the result that at the time of our withdrawal from the Government they lost their bearings. A consistent struggle must be waged against this danger. We must also avoid another danger—Maximalism and phrase mongering. Following the conference of representatives of the Nine Communist Parties some comrades instead of correcting certain aspects of their activity, confined themselves to making radical speeches. It is important not to lose sight of the distinguishing features, which we have added to the Party during the past period. Above all, we have built a party which has become a mass party, and, undoubtedly, we would be committing a mistake if we were to forget this feature. Therefore, the formula “not too many members, but good members” does not suit us. We must take, measures to ensure a steady increase in the number of good Communists and leading cadres in the mass of 2,283,048 members.
Here credit is due to the Bologna Party organisation which on December 31 had already issued the 1943 membership cards.
A political party must always be able to pursue a policy of alliances, especially in Italy where there are so many political variations. We must learn to know our allies and how to approach them. When I mentioned the Christian Democratic Party and the Catholic Church, I pointed out that even in those groups. there are masses to whom we must draw closer and make contact. An ability to find allies has been one of the distinguishing features of the Communist Party of Italy and of its political activities since the liberation. We must not reject this ability. On the contrary, we must perfect it in the new situation if we want to achieve the progressive aims we have set ourselves.
The party, which aims to make a constructive contribution to the cause of democracy, must not confine itself merely to formulating slogans or to participation in Parliamentary life and drafting legislation. It must make a positive contribution to the establishment of a democratic regime, that is, to the concrete solution of building up the new democracy through all conceivable forms of struggle, primarily through the struggle of the people. Should we lose sight of the constructive character of our Party, all our activities may be reduced to purely demonstrative actions.
For more than twenty years we have been building our Party as a militant party, as a party of struggle. This feature should under no circumstances be forgotten if we mean to carry out our objects. Remember that it is not enough to speak correctly, or to compel the enemy or sympathiser to acknowledge our integrity. We must be able to organise mass movements around the initiative of the Party, which can advance the front of democracy. Had the Party not been able to do this during the war of liberation there would have t been no victorious uprising on April 25.
But the Communists were able to take the initiative even when they were numerically weak and alone and when hardly anybody listened to them; they were able to win over the masses by their example, their conviction and organisational work.
Certain shortcomings in Party work especially on the ideological front, call for criticism. A great share of the responsibility for this rests with those representatives of the Intelligentsia in the Party, who do not contribute sufficiently to its ideological development. The shortcomings of these comrades are expressed in the tendency to isolate themselves and in the form in which they often pose certain problems, a form which is unintelligible to the mass and which bears the imprint of decadent bourgeois culture. It is necessary to carry on steady educational work among the cadres not only in the Party schools, but also in the course of everyday concrete activities. Party cadres must practice criticism and self-criticism more extensively. This is important in eliminating shortcomings and educating Communists.
Special attention must be paid to the questions relating to the movement among the women and the youth. Statistical data go to show that the influence of the Party among the women and the youth is still insufficient, and this is explained to a great extent by the bureaucratic way in which this work is carried out.
Our congress is in session during the first days of 1948, but we are all thinking of the date 1848. This is understandable, for 1848 was a decisive year for Italy, which after a century of isolation and aloofness from the great currents of European thought and political life once again lined up with the great popular liberal, national and social movements in Europe. Therein lies the significance of the year 1848 to Italy: irrespective of the outcome of these movements, that year was decisive for the renascence of our country. For Europe, and indeed for the whole world, 1848 was the year when for the first time in history the working class appeared with its own programme, with its demands, when it took to arms and fought on the barricades for its demands.
(Quoting Engels' preface to the Italian edition of the “Communist Manifesto” in connection with this, Comrade Togliatti notes that 1848 marks the beginning in concrete form, of the struggle for the independence and unity of Italy.)
Today we are once again fighting for the unity and independence of our country, but what a difference in the conditions of this struggle compared to those times! Today, the working class in Italy is a mighty, organised militant force, which is headed by the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, which have taken upon themselves the task of guiding all the forces of democracy along the path leading to the creation of a new society. 1848 was the year of the “Communist Manifesto” on the pages of which the working people today can read the directives needed to understand the most complex problems, which the development of the contemporary world raises before mankind.
Marxism-Leninism contains the principles which enable one to understand history of human development, why the problems of building a new society are raised in one form and not another. In the “Communist Manifesto” we find the sources of the greatest streams of thought and action in modern history, the culminating point of which is the Great October Socialist Revolution, carried out by the Communist Party of the Bolsheviks, the party which was educated by Lenin and Stalin in the spirit of the teachings of Marx and Engels, in the spirit of the “Communist Manifesto”. This great party was able, for the first time in history, to lead the working class to the conquest of power, to transform it into a leading class, to lay the foundations of the new Socialist society.
I can think of no better way of concluding this session of our congress than by addressing ourselves, with respect and gratitude, to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its leaders, who were able to make a decisive contribution to the historical development of mankind because they, remained faithful to the principles of Marxism. Our Party, too, must be loyal to these principles if it wishes to go forward and develop as a great democratic revolutionary force. We must be loyal to the heritage of our Party, to its traditions. The comrades who founded our Party, Gramsci and the others, who together with him laid the first stones in its foundation and sacrificed their lives for it, have endowed the Party with a rich inheritance. We are confident that our VI Congress will mark a new stage in the development and consolidation of the Communist Party of Italy. This is our gift to the Italian people at the beginning of the new year, 1948. The people of Italy know that the Communist Party is the party which will do everything necessary to defend the gains of freedom, to advance the cause of democracy, to radically transform the life of our country and open to the people of Italy the road to a free and happy future, to the new Socialist society.