Gregory Zinoviev 1922
Fourth Congress of the Communist International

Report on Italian Question

December 4, 1922

Source: Published in Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922 (, pp. 1031–1055.
Translation: Translation by John Riddell.
HTML Markup: David Walters for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018.
Copyright: John Riddell, 2011, 2017. Republished here with permission.

I want to tell you of a chapter in the history of our contemporary workers’ movement, a chapter that is written with the blood of the best sons of the Italian working class. It is a chapter that well portrays the overall situation of the working class, or at least, its weaknesses. When historians of the proletarian revolution characterise the current decade, they will say that in this last decade of bourgeois power the proletariat was numerically strong enough to overturn bourgeois rule but was too weak in its politics and ideas to carry out this task. Fighters for our class long ago had the physical strength to overturn capitalism, and the objective preconditions for the victory of our class have been in place for some time. However, the tragedy of our class in recent decades has been that our class still contains such powerful survivals of bourgeois ideology, and the bourgeoisie’s influence inside our class, despite the workers’ numerical superiority, is still so great, that we are unable to achieve an immediate and conclusive triumph over the bourgeoisie.

That is the lesson of the years 1914 to 1919, and this fact is displayed with particular clarity in Italy.

1914 and 1919 are dates of great importance. The role of Social Democracy, of the Second International, that is, of the forces that represent the bourgeoisie’s influence within the working class, was best illustrated by what the Social Democracy did in the years 1914 and 1919.

In 1914 the Social Democracy did not lead but misled the working masses. The Social Democracy, the Second International, pushed our class into the war. They stabbed in the back the workers who resisted the war, in order to drive them onto the battlefields.[66] In 1919 – 20, when the war was over, and the discontent of the masses had everywhere reached its highest peak, when after four years of dreadful war the masses in different countries had awoken to consciousness and wanted to throw themselves into struggle against the bourgeoisie, it was the role of Social Democracy to stand protectively in front of the bourgeoisie. They played the role of tripping up the workers and taking from them the possibility of turning on the main enemy, the bourgeoisie. The Social Democracy created a situation that can be summed up in this way: Only over my dead body will you be able to grab hold of the bourgeoisie. The Social Democracy, the Second International, took up position between the working masses and the bourgeoisie. The workers’ fists crippled the Social Democracy in many ways.

In 1914 the working class placed the noose around its own neck. In 1919, the working class was ready to throw away this noose and perhaps circle it round the neck of the bourgeoisie. But once again – and to an even great degree than in 1914 – the Social Democracy sowed confusion in the ranks of our class, thus saving the bourgeoisie. The entire situation during these years is characterised by the counter-revolutionary role of the old Social Democratic party. That is the essence of the tragedy that the working class has experienced during recent years. This fact is particularly evident, as I have said, in Italy.

During the years 1919 – 20, the mood of the working masses, especially in Italy, was fully revolutionary. I believe I will do well to characterise the situation in Italy with the words used by the Italian Socialist Party to describe it. In a socialist almanac, an official publication of the Italian Socialist Party, the situation in 1920 was described as follows:

The proletariat rejoiced when the war ended. It saw at last the end of its martyrdom. It saw a new era before it that would bring it victory. It prepared for struggle. It wanted no revenge. Burning with a previously suppressed and hidden anger, bleeding from a thousand wounds, it prepared to seize power from the hands of the impotent, murderous bourgeoisie, and proclaim its rights. The proletarians looked to the Socialist Party. All their fondest hopes were concentrated on this party. Hardly had they cast off the hated uniform than they hurried to join the ranks of our party. They demanded that it provide advice and action. They challenged it and drove it to unite the working masses and lead them to the conquest of power.

That was the mood of the depths of the working class, of the Italian proletarians, in 1919 and 1920. In other countries it was similar, but in Italy this mood was particularly pronounced. The bourgeoisie was impotent and paralysed. The bourgeois government was feeble and rotten. The working masses poured into the ranks of our party by the thousands and tens of thousands. As you have heard in the quotation, the demobilised soldiers streamed in great number to our party and pressed it for revolt.

I cannot avoid quoting Serrati, who described the situation in a report in 1920 to the Communist International Executive as follows:

After the conclusion of the armistice, the situation in Italy became more acute and complex. All factions of the bourgeoisie recognised that the war had ended with total bankruptcy and the complete denial of the principles for which, according to its supporters, it had been undertaken. As for the masses, their irritation and discontent grew every day. Not only the causes of this sentiment but also its forms of expression were not economic but socialist in character. This was most clearly expressed in the constant slogan, ‘We do not want to work for capitalists’.

In short, the working masses stood ready, with clenched fists, pressing for a decision. The party grew enormously. That is shown by the following figures. The Italian Socialist Party had 58,000 members at the beginning of 1914; 83,000 members in 1919; and 216,000 members in 1920. In one year its membership total had almost tripled. In 1919–20, that is, at the close of the war, the working masses had the greatest trust in our party and came to it in droves.

The trade union movement went through a similar process during this period. At the beginning of the war, in 1914, the trade unions had only 320,000 members. In 1919 they had 1.15 million; in 1920, 2.15 million. Here too, the membership total more than doubled in one year. The masses had confidence in the trade unions, hoping that the unions and our party would lead them to struggle and victory.

However, we cannot say that our party at that time was fully conscious of the situation. Mind you, if you read the resolutions – for example, from the party convention in Bologna in 1919, you will certainly believe that the Italian party had understood the situation well. This resolution is framed in a Communist spirit. I will not quote it all; it is enough if I simply recall what was decided by the Bologna convention:

  1. The Italian Socialist Party will be brought into step organisationally with the Communist principles described above.
  2. The party takes its stand for affiliation to the Communist International, the organisation of the world proletariat that champions and defends these principles.

It then continues, and I quote:

The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for the forceful overthrow of bourgeois rule and the organisation of the proletariat as the ruling class must begin. Those who still believe that collaboration with the bourgeoisie is possible, that a life-and-death struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie can be avoided, that amiable agreements and a peaceful transition will lead to socialism – they have no further rights in our party. Those who hesitate, those who are not with us, begone! We have a world to win! But it is not won with weaklings and waverers. For that we need courage and complete commitment to the goal! Come to us, comrades!

Brave and golden words were spoken by the convention in Bologna. It seemed that our party was then really on top of the situation and was ready to become the megaphone for these rebellious proletarian masses. But that is not what happened. After all these decisions of the Bologna convention, the question immediately arose whether the reformists should stay in the party or not. And here we had to witness the sad event that the majority decided to keep the reformists in the party.

Interesting here is the position of the reformists themselves.

I must say that if you trace the natural history of reformism, you must give it credit for one thing. Reformism as a world outlook displayed great flexibility and an endless capacity for adaptation. That is of course a characteristic that makes it very precious for the bourgeoisie, which needs a reformism that is not set in stone but is flexible and can adapt to all conditions. The Italian reformists showed just how adaptable a creature this reformism is.

In this situation, when the working masses followed the Red banner and pressed for decisive struggles, when the soldiers – as stated in my quotation – entered the Socialist Party as soon as they had taken off the uniform – in this situation the reformists were able to avoid a break with the party, to remain within it, and to sabotage it from within.

Russian Menshevism, which we know well – we studied for about fifteen years in this university, and that was rather decisive for us all – was also able in 1905 to demonstrate great flexibility. It clung to us with the slogan of ‘party unity’, and only in 1912 were we finally able to free ourselves from the Mensheviks’ embrace.

The Italian Mensheviks have showed – and this must be conceded – that they possess no less adaptability and flexibility than the Russian ones. The Italian Mensheviks’ outstanding technique is their balancing act. They have been able to achieve much in this field. Turati and D’Aragona declared that they are staying in the party, giving it their obedience, ready to collaborate – and they are for the revolution too. That was the decisive moment. Many of our friends believed that the more members, the better; if the reformists say they will obey and want to stay with us, that is all to the good.

So it was decided that the reformists would stay in the party.

Now the masquerade began. D’Aragona, Serrati – he perhaps less than the others – and Turati, a bourgeois for sure, but one who had already for many years operated as a socialist in the ranks of the working masses: these people dressed themselves up as Communists and joined in their comedy act.

D’Aragona and Dugoni and a number of others came to Russia in 1920, led by Serrati. I myself heard speeches from D’Aragona that resounded with the cry, ‘Long live communism’. That was a time when Russia was under blockade and the Russian workers were thirsting for international contacts. Any comrade that came from abroad was greeted like a brother, and we had to witness the sad spectacle that our Petrograd and Moscow workers carried D’Aragona and Colombino literally with their hands, because they regarded them as representatives of the revolutionary Italian proletariat and gave credence to their words.

This was then an international phenomenon. Reformists not just from Italy but from other countries hurried to us in Moscow and attempted to win admission to the Communist International. It was the time that we characterised in a resolution with the words: ‘The Communist International is beginning to be in fashion’.[67] As you recall, in this very hall Dittmann and Crispien made enthusiastic speeches for the dictatorship of the proletariat, declaring that they were no worse Communists than the others and that they too wanted to belong to the Communist International.[68]

Reformists and semi-reformists came running to us then from every country. I remember a Spanish professor, De los Rios, who came to Moscow as a representative of the Spanish party seeking admission to the Communist International. But this professor was simply a professor, who knew nothing of politics. (Laughter) The professors present here today will forgive me; there certainly are exceptions. Comrade Graziadei –

Graziadei: I am a former professor.

Zinoviev: There certainly are exceptions. So this professor told us with almost touching naiveté: ‘You see, comrades, I personally am a reformist, but the Spanish workers are pressing me. They want to be part of the Communist International, and they have sent me here so that they will be admitted to the Communist International’.

This professor was truly almost saintly – he blurted it out quite openly. D’Aragona and Colombino were anything but saintly and anything but naïve. These blackguards preferred to come here with speeches honouring communism.

The Twenty-One Conditions were thus very therapeutic for our International. I grant you, there were some who slipped through even that, but by and large our front held firm, and not many slipped through.

So it was at that moment that the Italian tragedy – or, if you will, tragicomedy – was played out here in Moscow. But the comedy soon ended. The Italian workers were pushing forward. Decisive events took place. In the autumn of 1920, the Italian workers began to occupy the factories. And at that point, as you well know, the pleasantries stopped. When the workers began to occupy the factories, when they began to form Red Guards – at this moment the reformists cast aside their good nature, and the D’Aragonas had to take off their masks. At that point D’Aragona had already returned to Italy, while Serrati was still in Moscow.[69]

If we study this episode a bit more closely – the autumn events of 1920, the Italian workers’ seizure of the factories, the workers’ first steps to form Red Guards – and if we observe the role of the reformists in this, we must ask: Can there be any betrayal more blatant than that of these people in the autumn of 1920?

For five days and five nights – literally – the leaders of the trade unions and the Socialist Party met in conference. Five days and five nights. At a time when the workers had already occupied the factories and were pressing for further struggles. At such a moment, the worthy leaders sit and deliberate for five days and five nights, in a situation where five hours was decisive. Now that Mussolini has seized power, Turati and D’Aragona – as you will see from what I will say – have been rather quick in declaring their readiness to support him. For that, they did not need to deliberate for five days and five nights. But at the moment when the workers began to convert the dream of their entire lives into reality, to really combat the bourgeoisie, they told the workers: Do not worry, we are already busy deliberating! And they needed five days and five nights for that. And the results of this thorough discussion were as follows.

The trade union leaders had a kind of formal agreement with the Socialist Party. The agreement stated that in all decisive struggles the trade unions would follow the lead of the Socialist Party. I recall how in 1920 we alerted Serrati to the fact that the leadership of the unions was held by reformists, and that this could lead to great misfortunes for our movement. He tried to appease us by saying that there was a pact between the Socialist Party and the trade unions, and that provided a sufficient guarantee.

During the struggles of 1920, the reformists obviously threw this alliance into the wastebasket. Here is how they did it. D’Aragona and his co-thinkers said: Yes, we have an agreement, and we will hold to it. But if you decide to continue the struggles, we will have to resign and give up the leadership of the trade unions.

That was quite enough for the Italian centrists. They immediately threw themselves onto their knees before D’Aragona, saying: Father D’Aragona wants to resign. We cannot bear such a misfortune. Better that we betray the working class and halt the struggles – only D’Aragona must not abandon us –

It came to a vote. A million and a half workers took part in it. Despite all the betrayals by trade union and party leaders, it was decided by only a very small majority to break off the struggles. D’Aragona came to the meeting still warm from the embraces of the bourgeois ministers. He did it in this order: first consultation with the bourgeois ministers, then consultation in the Confederazione del Lavoro [Labour Confederation], then consultation with the Socialist Party.

You see now quite clearly how this chain of betrayal reached from the bourgeoisie to the leadership of the Socialist Party.

The workers were betrayed and sold out. That was the decisive fact. This was the point where capitalism began its political and economic offensive, which ended with the victory of Mussolini.

What was the role of the Communist International in all these struggles? We can record with pride, comrades, that the Communist International, acting through its Executive, perceived the situation with complete accuracy. Even before the occupation of the factories, at the end of the Second Congress, the Executive wrote an official letter to the Italian Socialist Party that said, in part:

Italy is now experiencing a time in which the revolution’s victory is being delayed only by the fact that the working class is insufficiently organised. This is making it quite possible that raging bourgeois reaction will score a temporary victory. Anyone who at such a moment hinders the party from finding a correct orientation, anyone who at such a moment busies themselves with ‘unity’ with reformists and semi-reformists, is committing a crime against the workers’ revolution, whether they wish it or not.[70]

We wrote that before the September events. We experienced the first disagreements with Comrade Serrati during the Second Congress. If I now ask what Comrade Serrati’s basic error was, I must say, assuming the best of him, that the basic error was a false position on the question of working class unity, of party unity. The reformists utilised the slogan of unity to achieve brilliant victories over us in many countries, Russia being not the least of them. The concept of unity has such great attractive power in the ranks of the working masses that the reformists can use this idea to lead the workers around by the nose. It is easy to understand why this is so, because the working masses need unity just as we need the air. The power of the working masses resides chiefly in their numbers. It is only through unity, through numbers, that the working masses gain the strength to defeat the bourgeoisie. The aspiration for unity is elemental, and it often thrusts everything else to the side. The reformist leaders, the experts at reformism’s balancing act, are the bourgeoisie’s most clever agents. They are quite skilled at making use of this drive for unity, and the masses fall for this quite readily. As I said, if I assume, in the best of cases, that Serrati simply made an error, I would say this is the error he fell into. He let unity be the deciding factor, and all his other errors, it seems, flowed from this basic error.

Among other things, Serrati said the following in 1920:

At present we are winning hundreds, thousands of municipalities. Thousands of cooperatives and thousands of other proletarian institutions are already won or will be won. Every the party is searching for the best people to work in the municipalities, the communities, the labour councils [camere del lavoro],[71] and so on. There is a lack of competent people, and now the Second Congress of the Communist International writes that we should put Communists in all these posts, without regard to whether they are competent. Here we are in a fantasy world. Imagine the Milan municipal council led by a group of incompetent novices who have just announced that they are eager Communists.

These words of Serrati could be dismissed with a joke, but I believe that at a moment when the situation in Italy is so tragic, it is inexplicable how a man like Serrati could come to such conclusions. For him, the main issue in 1920 was where to find competent people. He was trying to find people to fill out thousands of village and city councils, and he was particularly concerned to find the right people to sit in the Milan city council. He asks: Can we put up novices, untested Communists? A false attitude to the question of the united front, an attitude of ‘the more the better’, led to an entirely wrong way of looking at the situation. The slogan of unity became a fetish; belief in unity became an idol. And in this way Serrati deprived himself of the possibility of resolving the basic political problem of that time.

He committed the first basic error, and from it everything else necessarily followed – all the other mistakes and all his frivolous conduct toward the Communist International and communism in general. We were told that immediately after the Second Congress, Serrati formed a faction that took the name: ‘Socialists-Communists for Unity’. Socialist is good, Communist is good as well, and unity is even better, so if you put them together: socialists-communists for unity, you figure that you have the best thing in the world.

In reality it was a mishmash, in the best of cases, and objectively it was not what we Communists needed. Before the Livorno convention,[72] as we were urged from all sides not to drive Serrati into a split, we responded that we simply cannot be talked into thinking that Turati’s Critica Sociale is a Communist publication.

We have known this publication for more than a decade. Even the late Plekhanov, when he was a Marxist, combated this magazine as being half bourgeois and half reformist. We wrote the comment:

All the ‘unitarians’ of the world will not be able to convince us that Critica Sociale is not a bourgeois paper.

We did not then know that Critica Sociale and the Banca Commerciale had something to do with each other. (Laughter) We viewed the question in terms of theory. Now we know that when Critica Sociale is written, we must read it as ‘Banca Commerciale’, because it is now known that Critica Sociale was supported financially by the Banca Commerciale. And they wanted to remain in the same party with these people!

So, comrades, let us imagine the situation at Livorno. In September 1920, the working class suffered the most grievous betrayal. D’Aragona and his friends carried on consultations for five days and five nights, and their achievement was that the Socialist Party threw itself on its knees, and the working class was betrayed. Critica Sociale, as the voice of the Banca Commerciale, remained inside the Socialist Party, and that all happened behind a curtain of ‘working-class unity’.

In such a situation, a split was unavoidable and necessary. We say frankly and honestly that if we are ever again in a similar situation, we will regard it as a revolutionary’s most sacred duty to take a stand once again for a split. We are now living in a new period, in which Communist forces are being drawn together. The period of splits is by and large behind us. But precisely for that reason we must state that we are not against splits in principle, and that if we ever encounter a similar situation in the future, we will once again advocate a split.

Then came Livorno. The centrists preferred to part company with the International in order to retain 14,000 to 16,000 reformists. You will perhaps remember the letter written by Comrade Lenin to Comrade Serrati, in which he said what we all were saying.[73] We do not ask that you immediately make the revolution. We ask only that you be a revolutionary party and prepare the revolution, that is, by excluding those who are against the revolution, the reformists. And you will also recall that Comrade Serrati – I cannot spare him this – responded to Comrade Lenin’s article as follows:

You ask whether reformists can be tolerated in the ranks of the party. Permit me to respond with another question: Who is reformist?[74]

This was the almost philosophic question that Comrade Serrati posed after all that had happened in the autumn of 1920. I believe that events have given a clear answer, and Comrade Serrati could now give us a detailed lecture on who in Italy is reformist. Reformists are those who have for many years advocated so-called class collaboration. Reformists are those who, like Turati, with his entire heart – and the more heartfelt, the worse for our cause – has abandoned the working class. Reformists are whose who in 1920, at a moment when hundreds of thousands of workers were streaming to our banner with the most deeply felt conviction that we would lead them in struggle, slipped into our ranks in order to appease the working masses and hold them back from struggle. Reformists are those who now busy themselves shining Mussolini’s boots. It certainly does not take any great flair for politics to recognise that. I believe the crows flying about Italy these days can answer for Serrati the question of who is a reformist. But even in 1920 it did not take any great political skill. You had to be blind not to see and deaf not to hear what was then happening in Italy.

In this situation, comrades, it was our duty to work for a split in the old party. And now, after two years, when we ask whether the young Communist International and the Communist Party should repent of having carried out a split in Livorno, we answer, Not on your life! Should a similar situation arise, we would once again have to advocate such a split. We have nothing to repent of here. True, the Italian Communist Party has not yet led our class to power. It cannot do that because it is too weak and the moment was already in the past. Our young Communist Party was not capable of achieving that, but it has rescued the honour of the Italian working class and the revolutionary banner in Italy. (Loud applause) We owe it to you to recognise that fact.

What did the reformists make of the party and the trade unions? As far as the party is concerned, the figures tell the story. As I said, the Socialist Party had 326,000 members in 1920. Avanti [Forward] had a press run of 400,000 copies, which was the most that it was technically able to produce. It was not just a workers’ paper but a people’s paper for all Italy. Those were the paper’s most glorious days. It was a model of a revolutionary newspaper, recalling the best days of the French revolution.

What did the reformists make of this? As you know, comrades, the Italian Socialist Party has been unimaginably weakened. When we called on Serrati in 1920 to break from the reformists, he said that one had to await the moment when the masses would understand this. Well, comrades, it is enough to cite a single fact. In Livorno, Serrati had the support of almost 100,000; the Communists, 58,000; and the reformists, 14,000. In Rome, a few weeks ago, the reformists and the Maximalists of both factions had almost the same number, about 25,000 each.[75] So the reformists have almost doubled in number, while the total party membership is down by three-quarters. The policy of unity has thus brought the party to the point where the reformists, who at Livorno were a negligible factor, have really become a powerful force. And to say that the split would have been misunderstood in 1920 but will be understood in 1922 is pure sophism. The masses would have understood and carried through the split much more easily and better in 1920 than they will in 1922, and the party would not have gone to ruin.

That is what the reformists made of the Socialist Party. They were convinced: The more members the better! They wanted to maintain the proud old structure of the party, and they have managed to bring it to collapse, and in this process half the members have deserted into the reformists’ camp. They have betrayed not only the revolution but also the party, if the party can at all be counterposed to the revolution. There are some who do that. The Social Democracy said that they would perhaps have fought against the war in 1914, but there were the splendid trade unions and the full treasuries, built and assembled with such great effort, and they did not want to sacrifice that, and so on.

Well, comrades, it is not just the working class that has gone to ruin in Italy, but the party as well, because the party is the leading force in the working class.

What have the reformists made of the trade unions? Unity of the trade unions is as necessary as daily bread. We are for unity of the unions, and for the greatest caution on this question. But it has now been shown how severely history punishes us when the trade union leadership is held by the reformists. The trade unions, which in 1920 counted more than 2.25 million members, now have barely half a million. And we must realise that if we do not take the trade unions out of the hands of the D’Aragonas, he will betray them entirely to Mussolini, blatantly playing into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

I will pass on to you a little discussion that took place in the Italian parliament a few days ago.

As you know, Mussolini made a programmatic speech there, which was in some respects quite interesting. For example, he said:

Please avoid so much empty chatter, gentlemen. Fifty-two speakers on the list who wish to discuss my remarks: that is excessive.

Mussolini wound up his speech as follows:

So may God assist me in carrying through my difficult task to its victorious conclusion.

As you see, Mussolini is now good friends with God. That goes with his profession. Bourgeois dictators must make friends with God.

But it is noteworthy that Mussolini has also made friends with Turati. I will report to you the duet that Mussolini sang with Turati in parliament.[76]

Turati said that he was against the fascist march on Rome, and continued that what Mussolini had just done in parliament was a parliamentary continuation of the fascist march, or, as he put it: ‘It is the essence of the March on Rome, which is carried out here in a flawless dress suit.’

Mussolini breaks in, saying: ‘Not a dress suit, but a black smock.’

Turati continues: ‘This means – there is no need for me to document this fact – that, in the view of the government, after the vote of confidence that is now to be held, the Italian parliament will politically cease to exist.’

Turati continues: ‘The Italian parliament elected by the Italians has ceased to exist. We do not deny the right to revolution. We are and want to be a revolutionary party.’

The parliamentary record notes at this spot, ‘Ironic laughter from the fascists.’ I can well imagine how ironically the fascists laughed when Turati stated that his party was a revolutionary party.

Turati then said: ‘We do not deny the right of the fascists to revolution, but we say that your seizure of power is not revolutionary in character.’

Mussolini: ‘That will be apparent to you soon enough.’

Turati continues: ‘And we say that it has not followed a logical course –’

So Turati finds that Mussolini is not entirely consistent. He continues: ‘– be it the logic of revolution or of revolt, for there is a logic of revolution. You have not kept your promise to chase away half of the ruling class’.

Mussolini has not carried out this little promise. Mussolini says, ‘I will keep this promise.’

Turati then ‘praises, as a socialist and patriot, the instructions that Mussolini gave for foreign policy, despite their nationalist phraseology. But he is not in agreement with Mussolini’s judgment regarding re-establishing peace within the country. The conflicts will continue –’

Mussolini says: ‘In two weeks there were only four deaths. Think of the past.’

Turati continues:

‘The government’s financial and economic policies have the same line as that laid out recently by the General League of Industrialists. ...

‘In order to carry out his programme, Mussolini has created his demagogic reserve force, the national syndicates.[77] Democracy must necessarily triumph. The proletariat has nothing to fear. Democracy is history itself.’

Mussolini takes pleasure in remarking: ‘There is no unavoidable path in history.’

That is the discussion between Mussolini and Turati.

Now please allow me to pass on to you another duet, this time between Mussolini and D’Aragona, in which the latter touches on the trade unions.

He begins with the statement that he is speaking not on behalf of a political party but for the trade union movement.

I must make a short clarification here. I have already told you that until 1922 there was an agreement between the trade unions and the party. This agreement, this gilded document, which Comrade Serrati always carried in his left pocket (and which, he felt, protected him against any betrayal by the reformists), has been solemnly cancelled. After the split in Rome was carried out, the trade union leaders said the agreement no longer existed.

And another interesting event. D’Aragona immediately donned the clothes of trade union neutrality. He said: Politics have nothing to do with us. We are neutral and independent. We do not want to conduct any kind of politics.

This is a very significant development. D’Aragona is one of the founders of the new Social Democratic party, to which he has led quite a number of workers, given that he has control of the unions.

You see how ill-mannered the reformist card game sometimes gets.

In a single breath, a single moment, at noon he founds a reformist party with an openly collaborationist programme, and at 1 p.m. he says: As a trade unionist I am neutral; my unions are independent and do not engage in politics. The betrayal is that crude. And nonetheless many comrades of our class are still so inexperienced that even so crude a betrayal can sometimes be effective.

It is interesting evidence of the reformist party’s weakness that it does not dare have its trade unions appear as openly reformist but has them sail under the flag of trade union independence.

D’Aragona thus says he is speaking not as a party member but as an independent trade unionist. And he says:

‘I urge the government (that is, Mussolini, who is sitting alongside), in the response that it will give to this chamber, to inform us with the greatest clarity and precision what are its intentions with regard to the working class and the trade union movement.’

Mussolini says: ‘Good.’

D’Aragona continues: ‘We want a trade union movement within the framework of the law. That has long been my opinion. In any case, history shows that the Confederazione del Lavoro [Labour Confederation] was never responsible for illegality.’

That is how he bows to Mussolini.

‘I have always maintained that it is easier to offer the working classes a twenty-cent raise in daily pay and an hour’s reduction in the working day, than to arouse them to consciousness and educate them.’

That is what he tells Mussolini about the working class. This man treats the working class with such impudence and vulgarity.

And he continues: ‘I ask the government whether such a movement, which protects the working class, has a right to exist.’

Then Mussolini stands up and says: ‘Yes, such a movement has the right to exist.’

Literally – this is all in the proceedings.

D’Aragona continues: ‘If that is true, as we are told from various quarters, then it would seem that the government’s intention is to permit only those trade unions that have no ties with unions in other countries.’

So: Amsterdam![78] And D’Aragona, as you know, is decidedly an internationalist.

It should be said in passing that D’Aragona was here in Moscow as a co-founder of the Profintern [RILU]. In the first session, where the Profintern was founded, D’Aragona signed the proceedings as representative of the Italian workers. You can see that in our revolutionary museum, if you wish. So this gentleman now says to Mussolini, with regard to the question of the International:

‘We are affiliated to an international movement, as are also the White trade unions and the industrialists themselves. We want to stay in the International and do not believe that doing so conflicts with the interests of our country. How else can we Italians defend the interests of our countrymen who emigrate to foreign countries?’

Do you want to know why Turati belongs to the International? Because he wants to protect the interests of Italians who emigrate to other countries.

‘I have heard it said that an even larger portion of our workforce will have to go abroad. I hope that this will prove possible. And we must strive to ensure that our labour is not demeaned by the trade union movement abroad. There too we wish to protect the dignity of Italy. We want an end to the times in which foreigners say how our emigrants lived in poverty. I was in emigration, as were you. (Mussolini nods in agreement.) And you know that everything that raises the dignity of emigrants also protects the dignity of the fatherland.’

As you see, the dignity of D’Aragona is the dignity of all Amsterdam. Their types of ‘dignity’ are quite similar, and I am really envious of the Amsterdamers that they have such a dignified representative in Italy. I believe that Mussolini will nod his head in agreement that D’Aragona should feel free to stay in Amsterdam.

D’Aragona, however, cannot resist instigating a pogrom against the Communists. He ends his duet with the following words:

‘We oppose every form of violence, whether it comes from these benches (he points to the far left) or from the right, because we believe that the triumph of violence always entails great danger’.

So that, comrades, is the present situation in the Italian trade unions. You see that Comrade Serrati did not entirely succeed in holding on to the trade unions of the working class by means of the gilded document that he had in his pocket. This document did not prevent the unions from now becoming a tool in the hands of our worst enemies. I have read the most recent resolution by the leadership of the [Italian] Confederation of Labour, in which it is said that the trade union congress that the Communists and the Socialists are demanding is to be postponed for an indefinite period. D’Aragona even says, in his resolution, that the congress will be convened in some still to be defined future epoch. First a new epoch must come. D’Aragona has shown that he really thinks only in epochs. During the war, he did not call a trade union congress for seven years, even though we pressed for it, and now he says that only in a new epoch will he call one. That means that D’Aragona, despite the majority arrayed against him, now wishes to hand over the organisation directly to the bourgeoisie. That has been proven.

That is the situation of the unions in Italy. They are reduced to rubble. What still exists is in the power of D’Aragona. A congress is now impossible, and the delegates will be convened only in a new epoch. What remains of the trade unions is available to D’Aragona to sell on a daily basis to Mussolini, and he will do it, if we do not succeeded in mounting powerful opposition.

That is the balance sheet of two years of chasing unity.

They wanted unity; they wanted a large party, a unified workers’ movement, a great and firm united movement, and everything now lies in rubble. The working masses have been betrayed and sold out.

D’Aragona has raised the question of making sacrifices. He said: I am for you; I only do not want workers’ blood to be shed. That is why I am for an evolutionary path. But we are not going to get an evolution, and we face the losses. Thousands and thousands have already fallen in the struggle, and the Italian proletariat is still only at the beginning of a new coming together and a new struggle. That is the situation.

A basic error made by a party leader in a revolutionary epoch draws after it, inevitably, a series of further errors, and finally leads unavoidably to a catastrophe for the party and the entire working-class movement. That is what happened in Italy, and that is why it is in this country, which stood closest to revolution, that we have the clearest lessons in general questions of Communist International policy, on the evaluation of centrism, and so on. We tried to draw conclusions from this in the first part of the resolution.[79] The conclusions, briefly stated, are these:

  1. Reformism is our main enemy.
  2. Centrism poses a deadly threat to a proletarian party.

That is the second lesson. These two lessons are the most important that we can draw from the Italian chapter of the broader tragedy of our times, and we must take that to heart at this congress. We must never let this chapter be erased from our mind. We will probably have to experience other defeats in this decade, but the Italian chapter is the richest in lessons. It is not a matter of discovering the guilt of this or that leader, although the history of our workers’ movement will of course weigh all the errors we have made along with the good that each of us has contributed to the movement. Something greater is at stake here. The task is to learn by heart the lessons of the class struggle, of the civil war in Italy. At a time when the working-class masses are truly pressing forward for struggle, we must not rely on this shallow notion of unity at any price, or the slogan of mixing together the Social Democrats and the Communists, of an alliance with the reformists. Rather we must advance to the masses, with devotion and with bold Communist tactics. That, comrades, is how our commission views the past.

The past is very important, but what is at issue here is the future. What should be done now? The commission resolved unanimously that a rapid unification of the Communist Party with the Italian Socialist Party, which has been freed of reformists, should now be carried out. That is the unanimous decision of the commission. Our friends of the Italian Communist Party majority have resisted this decision. I hope that the objections have been overcome.

I must tell you that I understand the psychological opposition that our friends of the Communist Party majority feel and must feel in this regard. The struggle during those months was often quite poisonous, not from the Communist side, but from that of the Maximalists. It is only too understandable why the average Communist worker feels anger, thinking: Yes, in 1920 we could have won everything, but instead we lost it all. We now are at the beginning of a hard and bloody road, for victory was knocked out of our hands. That is the dominant feeling among the workers. And it is bound to be dominant, indeed, it is a healthy reaction. We understand this mood among the majority in the Communist Party of Italy.

But comrades, we should not allow ourselves to be ruled by moods. We must overcome the psychological factor. The major political question before us is: Is the Socialist Party of Italy, so as it is now after the split from the reformists, a suitable candidate for unity with the Communists? Is the human material in its majority, its proletarian component, of a sort that is usable? That is the political question, and to that, the commission has replied, ‘Yes’. Personally, I am firmly convinced that this question can only be answered affirmatively.

We in the commission considered that we had a similar example in Russia. During our revolution we had a ‘party week’, a week during which almost every worker who wished to join our party was accepted. Tens of thousands joined us. When did that take place? It was at the time [1919] when Denikin stood before Moscow and General Yudenich was close by Petrograd. It was the most difficult moment for Russian Communists. It was a time when Russian Communists had sleepless nights, when each day could bring the decisive blow to the heart of Communist Russia. It was a time when everything was balanced on the knife’s edge. At such a moment, we thought, we could carry out a test. We called all workers, all proletarians, who wished to share the danger with us, who wanted to come to us at this difficult and decisive hour, to join us.

I believe that the situation in Italy today is similar. Of course not everything is the same, but it is possible to draw a parallel. The situation for Communists in Italy is now very dangerous. Now it takes courage and personal sincerity to come to the Communist International. It’s a matter of life and death – and now is the time to carry out a test. Granted, Mussolini says there have been only four deaths, for now. But we know that we are only at the beginning of the Mussolini period. This is a time when we can confidently say that we must certainly attempt unity with those who have finally shaken themselves free of the reformists and who now want to come to the Communist International.

Of course, the Socialist Party of Italy has failed in much. It has not created an underground organisation. It even revealed rather significant weaknesses during the first days of Mussolini’s regime. But nonetheless we see that the socialists have learned something. I have here an appeal of the Socialist Party that I obtained in the last few days. This appeal is very important. In it, the comrades propose a number of measures to prepare for an underground organisation. They say that tasks must be assigned in advance to the leaders of this organisation, and its workers must absolutely be prepared for this. Their stand here is correct. Of course stating the need for an underground organisation does not yet mean creating it in reality. Nonetheless, it is good that the Socialist Party has understood that this is necessary.

The overall situation in Italy is such that we believe the experiment can be made in confidence. And this is not an experiment in the frivolous sense of the word but an attempt to really unite what can and must be united.

That does not mean that the Socialist Party will necessarily come over to us in its entirety or in its present form. The commission decided not to accept the deputy Vella and those who declared their agreement with him, and more generally, not to accept those who raise objections to the Twenty-One Conditions. They tell me that Vella is personally an honest man – I do not know him myself – but he made a speech in the Rome convention where he said he was against the Twenty-One Conditions and for preserving the old name, ‘Socialist Party’. He proposed that the Communist Party dissolve itself into the Socialist Party. He is one of those who regard the Communist Party as a tool in the hands of the Russian foreign office. In one of his most recent editorials, Comrade Serrati responded to Vella’s claim by saying: Yes, let us concede that the International is really only a weapon wielded by the Russian proletarian state, but even if that is true, that is not so bad, because the Russian state is proletarian in character.

But this assumption of Comrade Serrati is not correct. We all know the situation very well, and it is not as presented in these words of Comrade Serrati.

In a word, Vella is no Communist, and we must keep him and his co-thinkers outside the unified party. That is what the commission decided, and I hope that the congress will approve this.

However, it is necessary that the congress unanimously tell our Communist comrades, that is the majority of the Italian delegation, that unity is absolutely necessary, and that psychological resistance must absolutely be overcome. We are convinced that if we have one single party in Italy, workers there will perceive this as a new era. The ordinary worker will say: The time of splits, defeats, helplessness, betrayal, and demoralisation is finished. A new chapter is opening. We are finished with all the defeats, and dreadful errors, and we have come to a moment when the task is to unify proletarian forces. And the Italian workers will breathe more freely when they see that the splitting is behind us and that all the revolutionary and proletarian forces are gathering under the banner of the Communist International.

In saying this, I do not mean to conceal that we are not at the end of the Italian chapter, but rather in the middle of it, or, better, just at the beginning of a new chapter. We will still undergo difficult struggles. The most irreconcilable Communists say: Today, in 1922, you are uniting the two groupings, and in 1923, at the Fifth Congress, you will make a speech on the Italian question similar to that of Comrade Trotsky on the French question.[80] People are painting dark pictures of this sort. I am certainly not going to claim that these difficulties do not exist. We face many difficulties. A Communist party cannot be created so easily; time is needed for that. There will be regroupment. Even with regard to the most prominent leaders, we cannot say where they are going to land. That will be decided in struggle and over time – I hope it will be a brief time. But the Communist International must do everything possible to enable each leader – without even speaking of the masses – to join with the masses.

This is not the time to argue about who was right. It’s a matter of gathering the genuinely Communist forces in the ranks of a single party. Major errors have been made, and many blows absorbed. There is a Russian proverb: ‘One who has been beaten is worth two who have not been beaten’. Well, the Italian Maximalists have been beaten good and proper. Perhaps the proverb will really be applicable to them.

There will be problems. But I do not believe that we will encounter problems in Italy similar to those we saw at this congress with regard to the French party. The very acute difficulties experienced by many currents in the French party took place in Italy in a different form before the split, and we are entering a period of recovery. True, illness may occur, but I believe the greatest illness, that of centrism, has been withstood, and things have now started to improve. In many ways it is the reverse of the evolution experienced in many parts of the French party over the last year.

We will certainly experience difficulties, and it would be thoughtless on our part to say that if we decide something now we will have the united party, and everything will go well. No, there will be regroupment. The Executive is telling the Italian comrades quite frankly that we will consider it our duty to follow the movement closely and to support the forces in the unified party that are truly Communist and that want to construct a Communist party.

There will be regroupment. That is shown by the German example.[81] In Germany, the wound has now healed. The term ‘united’ party was dropped a year or more ago.

In Italy, things will probably not proceed so quickly. We will support the forces in Italy that want to be Communists. We will not ask where you come from – from the old party or the new one. We will only ask: What you are doing now? Where you stand now?

But we can tell you in advance that there will be problems. And the Communist International must see the situation as it is.

The first task: We must strike against reformism with our united forces. That is a task that can now be readily carried out in Italy, because Italy is in an epoch of civil war, and because this task is now clear for every Italian worker.

Second: We must carry out the united front in Italy in both the political and economic arenas. If there is a country anywhere that is designed for the united front, it is Italy today. Every worker, every non-party worker, will now be ready to fight against fascism.

The second task is therefore to carry out the united front on both the economic and political arenas. The Communist Party of Italy has had many failings in this arena, as has been indicated in other debates.

Third: The slogan of the workers’ government. There is no country where more can be gained by this slogan than in Italy. With every week, Mussolini’s regime becomes more hated. With every week broader masses raise the question: What next? What government will replace that of Mussolini? Here we must have a popular slogan, which every worker, every peasant understands, and that is the slogan of the workers’ government.

Fourth: Enter the fascist trade unions! That may sound somewhat strange, but it must be demanded. Many Italian comrades resist this, and in my opinion they are wrong. I have the proceedings of one of the most recent meetings of the fascist unions’ leadership – a couple of weeks ago. The leaders of these unions claim to have 1.5 million members. That is probably – to put it politely – highly exaggerated. Among those represented were associations of the merchant marine, agriculture, art, theatre, technical-industrial committees, and moreover forty-six trade union secretariats across the country.

Certainly, the fascist gentlemen are now trying to use coercion to force the workers into the trade unions. But if we want evidence that fascism is truly a petty-bourgeois phenomenon, there is nothing to equal the programme of their trade unions. I will provide you with only a short quotation. One of the leaders of fascist unions, Rossoni, says this:

The middle classes have always paid the bill, because they have never been so unscrupulous as to decide to ruin the nation to serve their own interests. The middle classes are the brain of the nation, the classes of culture and talent. National syndicalism, which claims to be a syndicalism of ‘choice’, counts above all on these middle classes, who – when the war was fought out by the peasants and workers as a mass – provided the cadres for our admirable officer corps.

The government’s present situation is characterised by the fact that the number of those who have joined exceeds a million.

We have won, but the revolution is not finished. Our revolution must be complete, in order to build the nation’s new harmony in the name of labour and in recognition of the value of syndicalism. Legitimate profit must be divided between industries and workers.

Here, comrades, you see the ideology of fascist syndicalism. It is a petty-bourgeois ideology that is actually not as far removed from that of Social Democracy as is sometimes thought. The ideology is fundamentally the same, but in a different form. It could be said to be closer to the Noske form of Social Democracy under Italian conditions. It is no accident that the reformists, the Italian Noskes, ally themselves with the fascists.[82]

Now in such a situation the question is raised: Should we remain outside these unions? Not at all. We must have the courage to pose frontally the demand: Into the fascist unions! True, they do not contain 1.5 million workers – perhaps only half a million – but there will be more now that the fascists control the governmental apparatus. We must enter these unions, and also the fascist cooperatives. Those who go in as true Communists will remain Communist. We must be in these organisations in order to win the majority of the workers. It is quite an unusual situation. Our Confederazione del Lavoro could soon be entirely smashed. Our trade unions, where they still exist, are for the moment in the hands of fascist agents, the D’Aragonas. On the other hand, in the fascist unions we find many civil servants but also workers, above all agricultural workers and poor peasants, whom Mussolini has been able to attract through social demagogy. If we wish to be a mass party, we must go into these unions. We must build our cells there. If we do not do that, we cannot act as a mass party. That is why I believe that this slogan must be raised, however unpleasant it is. We, the Russian Bolsheviks, took part in the so-called Zubatov unions, who were founded by a tsarist general. We sent our best workers into them and they worked there for us. That goes with being a conscious, well-organised, and solid Communist Party. We must also propose a united front to these fascist unions in certain situations. We should not shrink back from that.

Fifth: We must succeed in becoming a vanguard for the entire anti-fascist struggle. Our Communist Party has made gross errors in this respect. It failed in the challenge of the Arditi del Popolo [People’s Commandos],[83] an organisation of demobilised soldiers and officers, revolutionary soldiers, but also some confused people. We were too weak to convert them into a striking force against fascism. Our Communist Party committed a doctrinaire error – and doctrinairism is in general their greatest error – in ignoring the Arditi del Popolo. Our Italian friends looked down from on high. They said: These people are not Communists. To say this, to say we have a Communist party and we do not need these people, is to commit an error that I already characterised in the commission with a term used by Lenin. Lenin said, ‘We have some Communists who think they know everything and they can do everything. In Russian this is called komchvanstvo (Communist conceit)’. The Communist knows all and can do all. This Communist conceit is a disease that afflicts many Communist comrades in Italy.

This phenomenon was clearly displayed with regard to the Arditi del Popolo. It was said: Should we really get involved with such confused people? They have not even read the third volume of Marx’s Capital. That is very true. Perhaps they had not even seen the first volume, let alone read it. But nonetheless these were people who were ready to fight against fascism. And that is why it is now necessary above all to unite all sectors of Italian workers who are ready to fight against fascism, whether they be workers, peasants, or confused soldiers. We have to unite all forces around our banner – which does not yet mean taking them into our party. The party must remain closed. But we must be able to move on ahead of the masses. The anti-fascist slogan, which is still too weak today, will become stronger with every day until in finally thunders out in the struggle against the ruling class. We must be able to keep our attention focused on this growing anti-fascist movement and to act as a genuine vanguard of the proletarian revolution. That is the fifth point.

The sixth point is unity. A unified Communist Party in Italy, as decided by the commission, will be a symbol for the entire working class and will inaugurate a new era, raising the self-confidence of our workers. They have now lost their courage. After all these defeats, all these blows, after the splits and the splintering, it is understandable that some of the workers have lost heart. But unification will create a new mood among the masses. Unification will draw the working masses together into a real struggle against the reformists and fascists. That is why unity is absolutely essential and must be achieved.[84]

These are the motions that we are presenting to you. The chapter of errors of the Italian working class is, as I said, written with the life’s blood of Italian workers. True, it is not so easy just to put behind us all these errors – and that is certainly a euphemism with respect to what has happened in Italy – and go on with our business. But what has happened has happened. We must now focus on the future. And we hope that the severe defeat, the hard outcome that has struck us in Italy will lead to enabling our party to now turn this page of history and, when the time comes, to take to heart, at least, the lessons of the past.

There is no country in which we have been so led around by the nose by the reformists as in Italy. So I hope that hatred against the reformists will burn more fierce in Italy than anywhere else. I hope that we will yet experience that when the hour of revolution strikes, we will remind D’Aragona with his long beard and the other reformist gentlemen of those five sleepless nights during which they deliberated, remind them of the dialogues with Mussolini, remind them of all these betrayals that they carried out against the Italian working class. These are things the Italian working class will never forget, and it will make all this good at the proper time. In my opinion, comrades, this moment will come and it is not far removed. After the dark night will come the bright morning. And in the meantime, we will bear in mind that the darker the night, the brighter the stars! (Loud applause)




66. Zinoviev’s description of Social Democratic betrayal in 1914 does not apply to Italy, which entered the war only in May 1915. The Italian SP opposed their country’s entry into the war (see Radek’s comments, p. #311). Their representative joined with Zinoviev and other antiwar Socialists in organising the Zimmerwald conference in September 1915. The Zimmerwald Left, led by the Bolsheviks, and the Spartacists in Germany praised the Italian SP deputies for having fulfilled their internationalist duty. From 1919 until January 1921, the Italian SP belonged to the Comintern. See Riddell (ed.), Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1984), pp. 300, 415.

67. See the preamble to the Twenty-One Conditions, in Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite!, vol. 2, p. 765.

68. For the speeches of Dittmann and Crispien to the Second Congress, see ibid., vol. 1, pp. 351–67.

69. In September 1920, when half a million striking workers occupied most factories in northern Italy, Serrati was still in Moscow, where he had attended the Second Comintern Congress the previous month.

70. Zinoviev is paraphrasing an ECCI letter of 21 August 1920, signed by himself, Bukharin, and Lenin. See Kommunistische Internationale, 13 (1920), pp. 287–95 and Degras (ed.), The Communist International 1919–1943 Documents (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), pp. 188–91.

71. A camera del lavoro represented trade unions in a given locality, providing services to unions, workers, and communities.

72. The Italian SP’s Livorno congress took place 15–21 January 1921, four months after the party had failed to give leadership to the half-million workers occupying factories during the great September strike wave. By January, fascist attacks, focused on the SP, had become a serious danger. In Livorno, the ECCI representatives demanded that the SP, a member of the Comintern since 1919, ratify the conditions for membership (Twenty-One Conditions) adopted by the Second World Congress five months previously. Serrati, leader of the SP majority current, insisted on the need to apply the conditions flexibly ‘in conformity with the context and the history of the country’. (Broué 2005, p. 477) A left current, led by Bordiga, demanded their immediate and full application, particularly with regard to expulsion of the SP’s anti-Communist right wing. Serrati’s motion received 98,028 votes; that of the Left, 58,173 votes; that of the Right, 14,695. The Left current then withdrew from the congress and founded the Italian Communist Party.

73. See ‘On the Struggle within the Italian Socialist Party’, Lenin Collected Works, vol. 31, pp. 379–96.

74. For Serrati’s reply to Lenin, see Avanti, 11 December 1920.

75. Since before the War, Serrati’s current had been known as ‘Maximalists’ because of their insistence on the importance of the ‘maximum’ demands in the Social Democratic programme, which dealt with the achievement of socialism. After the 1921 Livorno congress, all Socialist and Communist currents were weakened by the decline of the workers’ movement under the blows of fascism. At the Fourth Congress, the CP of Italy reported 24,638 members, less than half their support at the Livorno congress.

76. By the time of this parliamentary exchange, Turati had left the SP of Italy and was leading the Unitary Socialist Party.

77. The ‘syndicates’ were fascist-led pro-employer trade unions.

78. ‘Amsterdam’ refers to the International Federation of Trade Unions, the Social Democratic-led labour International refounded in that city in 1919.

79. For the text of the resolution, see Toward the United Front, pp. 1138–42

80. For Trotsky’s speech, see Toward the United Front, pp. 963–1004

81. Zinoviev is referring to the fusion of the KPD with the pro-Comintern majority of the USPD in 1920 to form the United Communist Party of Germany (VKPD).

82. As a minister in a Social Democratic-led government, Noske organised the military assault on the German revolutionary workers’ movement in the first months of 1919. However, unlike Mussolini, Noske did not direct his attacks against the socialist trade unions and political party, which formed his base of support. This difference came to the fore the following year, at the time of the extreme rightist ‘Kapp putsch’, when Social Democratic labour leaders initiated a general strike that overturned the military coup.

83. The arditi were élite shock troops or commandos in the Italian army during the 1915 – 18 war. In June 1921, a veterans group of arditi in Rome launched the Arditi del Popolo (ADP) as a defence organisation against fascist assaults. Other ADP groups sprang up throughout Italy. Politically unaffiliated and ideologically heterogeneous, the groups defended all workers’ parties and organisations, and usually met in the People’s Houses – local headquarters of the workers’ movement. The ADP quickly grew to about 20,000 members in 144 branches, many of which were led by SP or CP members.

ADP armed resistance in July threw the fascists into a crisis, which they escaped, in part, by inducing the SP to disown the militant movement. As for the CP, although Gramsci’s Ordine nuovo urged support for the movement, on 14 July 1921 the party leadership disowned the ADP and decreed that party members could not join it.

Despite SP and CP abstention, the ADP scored several victories over the fascists, notably during the ‘first march on Rome’ of November 1921.

The ADP achieved their final victory in the defence of Parma in August 1922, before succumbing in the general defeat of the working class.

In January 1922, a letter from the ECCI, probably written by Bukharin, condemned the Italian CP for its ‘pedantic and formulaic’ hostility to the ADP. But in the Fourth Congress, apart from an unexplained mention by Bukharin, the ADP question did not figure in discussions of Italy or the united front question, in plenary sessions or in available records of the Italian commission and sub-commission, until Zinoviev’s summary speech in Session 30.

84. Despite the Moscow accords, the Comintern and its supporters in the SP proved unable to win the party for fusion. In 1924, Serrati left the SP along with other Comintern supporters in its ranks and joined the Italian CP.


Last updted on 6 January 2020