Gramsci and Togliatti; Stalinist counter-revolutionaries

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28/07/2021 by socialistfight

Letter to the Weekly Worker 17-4-21

Gramsci and Togliatti: Of course, the PCI had to pretend that they had a hidden, revolutionary agenda behind their class collaboration and betrayals. There was now a big fear in the PCI that all these disparate oppositionists would coalesce and begin a revolution.

I must apologise to David Broder and Toby Abse for the misattribution of the quote from the latter to the former. However, the essence of the article remains as the correctly attributed orientation of Broder after the misattribution. His statement that “the PCI should nonetheless be credited with a real achievement after 1945” makes it clear that he thinks that Stalinism had played a real progressive role in Italy in the middle and at the end of WWII.

That Togliatti had slaughtered the Polish communist party leadership in the Great Purges, that he had slaughtered revolutionaries in Spain in the late 1930s and had done the same in Italy post-WWII does not mean he had not made “real achievements”, according to Broder. He led the CPI into the fascist-led government of Badoglio on Stalin’s instructions in order to crush the revolution that was developing in the Italian working class at this time. This is implicitly dismissed as a fantasy. Mike Makin-Waite sets us straight on the Stalinism of Gramsci and Togliatti in WW on April 8.

The Allied bombing to the Italian cities had the same class character as the bombing of the German cities. Stalin was in full agreement with it. Hence his refusal to call on the working class in Germany to rise up to overthrow Hitler because the Red Army had come to liberate them. No, indeed, all Germans were treated as Nazis. But I am not telling you something you don’t know, David. You translated the French Trotskyists Arbeiter Und Soldat, Trotskyism in occupied France and this is from your own introduction:

“Despite the USSR’s August 1939-June 1941 pact with Hitler to carve up Eastern Europe, Stalin’s imperialist (?) ambitions were now completely intertwined with the war aims of the Allies … The nationalist and anti-German chauvinist hysteria promoted by Moscow, which portrayed the war to the Russian people as just another chapter in the Slavs’ struggle against the Germans must be seen as largely responsible for the vengeance exacted on the German people at the end of the war with hundreds of thousands of rapes of women and girls, the murder and leaving to starve of millions of civilians as well as organising huge population transfers. In France the Communist Party raised the slogans “everyone, united against the Krauts” and “everyone kill a Kraut”, refusing to draw any distinction between Nazi-led German imperialism and the working-class German conscripts in the Wehrmacht.”

And the Trotskyists appeal to the German soldiers in France in August 1933:

“They (the Nazis) know well enough in Berlin that such thoughts can become, and have been proven to become, dangerous for the leading Nazi party dignitaries. Although some of you talk of untrustworthy allies, it is not the Italian people who are to blame. Fascism is at fault. The whole world is today the victim of the folly of the fascist powers and capital’s quest for profit. Stalin, who betrayed the proletarian revolution, is the right-hand man of this imperialist-capitalist clique. But the current war, in its terrible absurdity, lays the ground for the future workers’ revolution in every country. The Fourth International will lead it to victory.”

This was Stalin’s popular front agreement with the Allies, which had the same class character as his previous alliance with Hitler; no revolution was to be allowed to develop as it did after WWI. The Allies knew that was threatening, as did Stalin, so they bombed the working class areas of Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, Milan, Turin, Genoa, and Naples to make sure revolutions were impossible to organise.

Arturo Peregalli, in The Left Wing Opposition in Italy During the Period of the Resistance, sets the matter straight. He is clearly no revolutionary but does seek to tell the truth. After the Allies landed in Sicily in June 1943, Mussolini was overthrown in July and Badoglio became prime minister. Mussolini was arrested but on 12 September he was freed by the Nazis, with the co-operation of Badoglio, and headed the puppet German Republic of Salò until 27 April 1945, when he was captured and executed by the partisans.

Badoglio’s government initially pursued the war, but its main object was to prevent revolution and in this, it got the support of all ‘anti-fascists’ including the PCI. Peregalli comments:

“The extremely moderate policies adopted by both the Socialist Party and the Communist Party (PCI) left a gap in which movements inspired by revolutionary Socialism could develop. The PCI and the Socialist Party did not intend to fight against the whole ruling class, but rather to align with those sections of it which accepted the struggle for ‘democracy’. In practical terms, it was like re-enacting the wars of the Risorgimento in order to re-establish the unity of the national territory, but with one essential difference: this time, the working class, which by now had become a ‘national class’, would act as a vanguard, and set an example to the other classes.”

But there were all these ‘ultraleftists’ who were subjective revolutionaries who sought the overthrow of capitalism; they had to be stopped and Togliatti now embarked on his “real achievement” project. But the exceptionally large groups that emerged to the left of the PCI in 1943 had no cohesion, though they contained many who had been in the PCI in its early, revolutionary years before it was made illegal by Mussolini. Moreover, the ranks of the PCI itself were full of the mad ultra-leftists who did not understand that Stalin and the Comintern now had set their faces definitively against revolution. The popular front phrase ‘national unity’ repelled them. They had to be persuaded otherwise, and those who would not capitulate must be killed.

Peregalli tells us that Giorgio Amendola wrote for the PCI: ‘as the Central Committee carried out its political activity along the lines of national unity, nearly all the groups with which it was in contact had a sectarian orientation, and, because of this, they tended not to understand or approve of the political initiatives taken by the Central Committee’. For example, Velio Spano’s pamphlet, The Communists and National Unity, which appeared in Southern Italy towards the end of 1943, was denounced by many of the old militants as ‘a downright betrayal of Communism’.”

Of course, the PCI had to pretend that they had a hidden, revolutionary agenda behind their class collaboration and betrayals. There was now a big fear in the PCI that all these disparate oppositionists would coalesce and begin a revolution. This is how the leading Stalinist, Scoccimarro, put it in 14 December 1943:

“There is opposition in Naples … there is opposition in Rome, in Milan, and undoubtedly elsewhere. There is opposition even in our rank and file … These various and diverse trends could at some point start to coalesce and find fertile breeding ground in the political immaturity of the Italian working masses, especially amongst the young. Our present policies could offer them some pretexts of apparent justification if they are not conducted and developed with the necessary far-sightedness and with a strict sense of the limit which must separate them from any opportunistic deviations, the germs of which could easily develop, especially if we are to take on responsibilities in the government. So long as we strive towards unity with the Socialist Party, we must at all costs avoid the creation of a pseudo-Communist Party alongside us, a party which would represent a new element of division within the working class.’

“This shrewd understanding explains the ruthlessness with which the official Communists attacked the left wing groups, and why they maintained that those who fought for the Socialist revolution were, in the last analysis, Fascists.”

Paolo Casciola, in his work, Trotskyism and the Revolution in Italy (1943–44) explains what happened:

“By crushing the Fascist state, the bourgeoisie has also broken the chains that paralysed the proletariat … thus 25 July was not only the last day of Italian Fascism, but also the first day of the proletarian revolution in Italy, the first day of the coming European revolution. Thrown into the revolutionary struggle without a leadership, an organisation or a programme, the workers of the biggest Italian cities spontaneously revived in the internal commissions the form of organisation that had marked the highest point of the postwar revolutionary wave; in the factories they are building the first elements of workers’ power … The first elements of a dual power began to appear.”

He goes on to tell us that in the middle of 1944 Charlie Van Gelderen, “a Trotskyist in uniform and a member of the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)” made big efforts to contact other Trotskyists in uniform and did establish contact with Romeo Mangano, the leader of the Apulian Federation of the Italian Communist Party which had remained broadly on the positions of the old Bordigist Left.

 The details are in his interview with the Al Richardson recorded on 4 October 1979 and published in Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson, The War and the International: A History of the Trotskyist Movement in Britain 1937–1949.

Gerry Downing Socialist Fight ▲

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