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New International, September 1948


Andrzej Rudzienski

Italy: Third Front Versus CP

The Revolt of the Masses and the Danger of Stalinism


From The New International, Vol. XIV No. 7, September 1948, pp. 219–220.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following discussion article by Comrade Rudzienski comes to us with the following appended note: “I have not dealt with the moral problem of the attempt on Togliatti’s life since surely other, comrades will deal with this problem. Naturally, we condemn the act, although the Stalinists always use political assassination as a weapon. Whoever sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind.” – Ed.

The attempt to assassinate the Italian Stalinist leader, Togliatti, unleashed a general strike spontaneous in character, something which has not been seen in Europe for some time. Enormous gatherings in Turin, Milan, Genoa, Rome and other Italian cities demonstrated the indignation and anger of the laboring masses. Before the Stalinist-controlled Confederation of Labor could decree a general strike, the factories had come to a standstill, the drivers had left their buses in mid-street, and the printing presses and hospitals had been abandoned by their personnel.

The spontaneity of the workers’ movement was undeniable and had an eminently political character. This was not an instance of a general strike inspired by the desire for higher wages – even though controlled by the Stalinists – but of a strike that was above all political, caused by the criminal attempt against a Stalinist leader whom the masses consider a workers’ leader.

Masses in Latent Rebellion

We must ask ourselves: Where is this enormous and spontaneously revolutionary movement going? Did the shots fired at the Stalinist leader mobilize the workers or was this act merely an immediate and superficial motive? And. does there exist a more profound cause, more powerful forces, which pushed the Italian workers into the streets?

Undoubtedly it in a question of a latent rebellion of the laboring masses against capitalism. The laboring masses of Western Europe are as much in rebellion against the capitalist regime as the masses of Eastern Europe are in revolt against the bureaucratic Stalinist regime.

The new wave of strikes in France and the anger of the Italian masses constitute evident proof of this latent rebelliousness on both sides of the Iron Curtain. They give a living example of the spontaneous international unity of the working class and of the vitality of the spontaneous socialism of the proletariat.

The general strikes in France and Italy, the splintered and stifled strikes in Poland, the rebelliousness of the masses in Czechoslovakia, and the Tito opposition in Yugoslavia – these represent fragments of the ill-fated European revolution cut in two by the Iron Curtain and shackled by the reactionary capitalist governments in the West and the reactionary Stalinist governments in the East. The movement of the musses is spontaneous, marching blindly against the bulwarks of reaction and tyranny; and the principal factor which checks and retards this movement, which throws it into the arms of the Stalinist counterrevolution in the West and of capitalist restoration in the East, is the crisis of the revolutionaiy cadres and the lag in the development of Marxist theory.

We cannot say what turn the Italian events will take. For the moment, the De Gasperi government seems to have control both of Parliament and the apparatus of state power.

Needless to say the Stalinists are politically responsible for this fact. They checked the revolutionary movement of the masses when the Italian bourgeoisie was impotent and power lay in the streets. The present revolutionary surge of the masses seems to be a final eruption, artificially blocked until now, and not at all politically synchronized with the decomposition and demoralization of the ruling class.

Neither Bourgeois nor Socialist

But leaving to one side the political fate of this movement, we ought to ask ourselves: What would the attitude of revolutionary socialists be in the event that the Stalinists conquer the government of Italy? In order to answer this fundamental question, we must draw the analogy with the Russian October of 1917.

The Russian working masses supported the S-R and Menshevik majority, the Bolshevik Party remaining a minority until the eve of the revolution. In Italy the working masses support the Stalinist-reformist majority, but here there is no revolutionary party that can act as a political force as was the case in Russia. This constitutes the fundamental difference in the historical situation.

The second difference has its roots in the character of the Stalinist party which is not a reformist party but a bureaucratic counter-revolutionary party. The Menshevik Party in Russia attempted to limit the revolution to the bourgeois-democratic stage, opposing the socialist revolution. The Stalinist party of Italy strives neither for a bourgeois nor a socialist revolution, but fur a conquest of power in order to install a bureaucratic regime based on nationalised economy, a regime which signifies social and political reaction.

The third difference is that in Italy there do not exist organs of revolutionary workers’ democracy, workers’ councils. By means of its bloc with the reformists and its control of the trade unions, the Stalinist party bureaucratically dominates the working class. There is no possibility of creating authentic revolutionary and proletarian organs of struggle within this apparatus.

What, then, ought to be the attitude and policy of the revolutionary socialists in Italy? Can they repeat Lenin’s slogan “All power to the Soviets” when the historic conditions are so completely different, and when there are no Soviets?

Clearly they cannot, because Marxist theory is not a dead letter but a living thought which emanates from turbulent life, from its incessant movement. Lenin’s doctrine is a product of the Russian Revolution and cannot be transplanted into another historic epoch with altogether different conditions.

CP-SP Slogan in Italy

The slogan “All power to the CP-SP-CTI” would be nothing but a bureaucratic and mechanical modification of the old Bolshevik program and does not correspond to the Italian situation, because it does not correspond to the motor force of the revolution; it would only give power to the Stalinist counter-revolution, which on coming to power would drown all the living forces of the proletariat in blood, as it does in Eastern Europe and as it did in Russia after its Bonapartist coup. Given the actual historical circumstances, the present political conditions in Italy, we cannot propose the slogan “The Communist Party, the reformist party and the trade unions to power” because this would only mean sanctioning the enslavement of the proletariat.

What is our road, then, before this disjunction between Stalinism and capitalism? “To support capitalism, De Gasperi, the Pope, American capitalism, the real master of Western Europe?” some horrified comrades will ask.

Not at all! As revolutionaries we cannot choose a reactionary alternative. Confronted by capitalist and Stalinist reaction, we, the proletarian revolutionaries, must choose the road (or more precisely the narrow path) of the revolution, which is the program of the socialist third front.

We oppose capitalism, but we cannot for this reason favor Stalinism. We must oppose Stalinism and do so in the name of the socialist revolution. If there is no revolutionary party of significance we must oppose to Stalinism the power of our ideas.

A government of the socialist revolution, yes! A government of the Stalinist counter-revolution, a hundred times no! We are against capitalism and we are also against Stalinism – against Washington and against Moscow. Against De Gasperi’s Italy and against Togliatti’s Italy. We are against an Italy which is a colony of either Washington or Moscow.

Some comrades will surely adduce the fact that the slogan is not concrete and provides no immediate solutions. This is most certainly the case! But where history has not prepared the groundwork we cannot create immediate solutions. Where there is no revolutionary party mature enough to take the power and advance the cause of the social revolution, there does not and cannot exist the problem of revolutionary power.

In such a situation, we, the revolutionaries, must oppose both reactionary powers in spite of all the dangers involved for us. The honor of international socialism demands that we capitulate neither to Stalinism nor to capitalism. If the working class cannot understand this today, it must and will understand it tomorrow.

The policy of the third front of the socialist revolution seems to me the only road and the only tactic possible for Italy and all of Western Europe. Stalinism signifies the decline of the proletariat’s standard of living, signifies lower wages, greater exploitation and misery. It signifies not only a heightening of exploitation but also greater oppression. Socialism struggles against human exploitation and oppression. Socialism proclaims the abolition of exploitation and oppression as its ideal.

Stalinism, therefore, signifies historic retrogression for humanity, greater, far greater, for example, than American capitalism. Stalinist nationalization only serves to increase exploitation and human oppression. It is our duty to say this clearly to the working class and forestall it. It is our duty to oppose the taking of power by Stalinism, in the name of socialism.

We cannot present any immediate solution where there is neither a revolutionary party nor a revolutionary sector of the working class, in the sense of historic socialist consciousness. In such a situation our only weapon is Marxist doctrine and the policy of the third revolutionary front until the situation ripens, until a sector of the working class takes shape which is capable of resolving the problem of power.

Such are the lessons of the strikes in France and the spontaneous rebelliousness of the Italian working masses.

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