As the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe approaches and the British ruling class is trying to use the occasion to stoke patriotic fervour, when we are once again being told we must suffer in the ‘national interest’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis, it’s a timely reminder that even in the most extreme of circumstances, the brutal imperialist slaughter of World War II, the Communist Left stood for the principle ‘no war between nations, no peace between classes’.
Wander round any town in Italy and you’ll not be long in spotting some plaque or monument to some fallen “partisan”. Significantly they are always victims of “Nazi-fascism”, never just good old homespun Italian fascism. This is all chimes in with a national and nationalist mythology of Italy as “victim of war” which began on the date referred to in the document which follows.
Badoglio’s coup d’état on 25 July 1943 to remove Mussolini (assisted by some Fascist leaders and the monarchy) as soon as the US and its Allies landed in Sicily, was to turn Italy overnight from failed predatory imperialist power into another “victim” of Nazism. From then until April 1945, when this document was circulated, Italy was divided into two, with the US and its Allies occupying the south, whilst the Nazis rescued Mussolini from prison in order to install him as the puppet leader of the Italian Social Republic, more commonly known as the Republic of Saló, after the Northern town where it was based.
By June 1944 the Nazis had abandoned Rome but a vicious war carried on for almost a further year in the North. Hundreds of thousands died on both sides at this time but the partisan resistance all represented the interests of the coming new post-fascist democratic order after the war. The Committee of National Liberation (CLN), which directed much of the resistance, was a coalition of Stalinists of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) of Togliatti, Catholics, liberals and socialists. It was they that planned the insurrection as a great national uprising against the last remnants of the Germans and their Fascist allies.
Wikipedia is unusually accurate in describing what happened next.
"The April insurrection brought to the fore issues between the resistance and the Allies. Given the revolutionary dimension of the insurrection in the industrial centers of Turin, Milan, and Genoa, where concerted factory occupations by armed workers had occurred, the Allied commanders sought to impose control as soon as they took the place of the retreating Germans. While the Kingdom of Italy was the de facto ruler of the South, the National Liberation Committee, still embedded in German territory, existed as a populist organization which posed a threat to the monarchy and property owners in a post-war Italy. However the PCI, under directives from Moscow, enabled the Allies to carry out their program of disarming the partisans and discouraged any revolutionary attempt at changing the social system. Instead, the PCI emphasized national unity and "progressive democracy" in order to stake their claim in the post-war political situation. Despite the pressing need to resolve social issues which persisted after the fall of fascism, the resistance movement was subordinated to the interests of Allied leaders in order to maintain the status quo." (en.wikipedia.org)
And the Stalinist support for the preservation of capitalist democracy made the Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) especially hated by the Italian Communist Party of Togliatti. Not only did Togliatti personally, though unsuccessfully, order the murder of Onorato Damen, but other leading militants were actually murdered. Fausto Atti was shot at home in March 1945 and Mario Acquaviva, who was increasingly making the Party’s message of condemning all sides in the Second World War as imperialist, was assassinated in the street in July.
The concern throughout the document which follows – which dates from the last weeks of World War II – is to stress that the working class needs to strengthen its opposition not only to the remaining Fascist forces but also the ‘democratic‘ bourgeoisie while recognising that, for the time being, the task of giving the existing movement a truly proletarian character, as opposed to merely an ‘anti-fascist’ one, was extremely difficult in the context of the balance of class forces in 1945.
Though the text relates to a time and place, it also expresses a more general truth that is still as relevant now as it was 75 years ago – the interests of the working class are never served by lining up behind bourgeois factions, in wartime or in peacetime. As the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe approaches and the British ruling class is trying to use the occasion to stoke patriotic fervour, when we are once again being told we must suffer in the ‘national interest’ due to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis, it’s a timely reminder that even in the most extreme of circumstances, the brutal imperialist slaughter of World War II, the Communist Left stood for the principle ‘no war between nations, no peace between classes’.
The Italian original can be found in the pamphlet Il process di formazione e nascita del Partito Comunista Internazionalista (The Process of Formation and Birth of the Internationalist Communist Party).
Internal Circular of the Executive Committee of the Internationalist Communist Party
Since the current phase of political struggle in Italy is rapidly evolving towards insurrectional forms dominated and guided by parties with a bourgeois character, and also to avoid misunderstandings in the attitude of our territorial and factory groups, it is necessary to carefully clarify the Party's perspectives and directives about the "national insurrection".
Previous documents have already clearly defined how we saw the situation. Since our first appearance on the public scene, we had expressed the opinion that the 25 July [of 1943, see introduction – ed] represented – albeit with its coup d' état character – a first fracture of the bourgeois political and social order, but that capitalist society had managed to heal this wound by mobilising the masses in the service of democratic war and thus subjugating them to the will of what we then called the "hegemonic forces" of the conflict. From the social and class level, the proletarian struggle was, in short, moved to the field of pure anti-fascist and anti-German struggle, and the phases of this struggle were resolved, in theory and in practice, in so many episodes of the ongoing war.
Subsequent events were to demonstrate the correctness of this interpretation and confirm the Party's perspective which recognised that the working class continued to act as a pawn of one of the two belligerent blocs, and therefore for the preservation of bourgeois order – and that this would continue until the overwhelming impulses for war were exhausted. Short of intervention by unknowable influences, we recognised that the crisis of bourgeois society, and therefore the possibility of a rising revolutionary wave, shifted over time, to coincide with the exhaustion of the forces that had driven the conflict and supported the military effort of the belligerents. In the face of the recurring ambitions for an insurrectional strike, we therefore logically assumed a critical position, not because we were against the use of weapons and the strike, but because, in the actual situation and under the rule of the dominant political forces, they represented an attempt to engage the proletariat in a struggle that is not its own and which instead corresponded to specific bourgeois aims.
We therefore also pointed out to the workers that, if mass movements were to take place, our duty would have been to intervene in them with a clear anti-war and anti-patriotic character, the same character – moreover – that we would have liked to impress on the hoped for but non-existent united front from below.
These premises need be briefly remembered in order to define our attitude in the face of the suggested and certainly forthcoming anti-fascist insurrection. We do not deny at all that there is a problem of destruction of the surviving fascist repressive apparatus: it would be ridiculous for us to deny it.
But we also recognise that, in the current state of affairs, anti-fascist action remains circumscribed, by the dominant political forces, for the purpose of bourgeois preservation and defence of the fatherland. While it is aimed at the physical elimination of the official representatives of the fascist repression, it tends not only to keep the social bases of fascism (the capitalist production regime) intact, but to divert proletarian energy towards war, the fatherland, democracy, instead of towards revolution. It is clear that for us there is no anti-fascist struggle detached from the struggle against capitalism, and that one can never speak of radical extermination of fascism until the historical bases from which this form of capital domination originated are eradicated. For the same reason it is clear that, for us, the historical task of destroying fascism belongs only to the working class as long as it acts on a revolutionary and class terrain, and can never follow organisations like the CLN, which move in the orbit of bourgeois politics. On the other hand, we would commit a sin of abstraction if we did not recognise that, in the insurrectional events we will witness, the initiative is and remains in the hands of those very forces that have dominated the world conflict and that, in the current state of relations of strength, it would be romantic to dream of changing the course of history with only our intervention and to turn a democratic-patriotic movement into a revolutionary-class one.
Our intervention will therefore be inspired by these criteria:
1. Preventive criticism of the political aims and tactical direction of the national uprising and the armed strike;
2. Intervention in the insurrectional movement wherever it takes on a mass character, and action in it as a differentiating political force;
3. Exploitation of the ongoing agitation for the conquest of that position that can benefit both the continuation of the proletarian struggle in the months to come, and the strengthening of the Party.
Regarding the first point, the work of the comrades must be extremely vigilant and tactical: not to base our criticism on the abstract sabotage of the strike and insurrection, but on the clarification of their aims and objectives, on showing the political error of insurrectional movements for merely democratic and, even worse, patriotic and bellicose purposes: always stating that, however, in the event that mass movements occur, our place will be alongside the proletariat to guide it and to participate in the struggle with both our own and classic slogans.
As far as the second point is concerned, it is obvious that, by intervening in mass actions and only in them, we fight the same fascist repressive apparatus that other political movements fight; but our task always remains to increase our influence within the working class so that, in this bloody experience, armed with the necessary political and practical tools, we can go beyond it towards the final goal of the conquest of power in the later stages of the crisis.
Regarding the third point, the slogans that the Party will launch through its press to the rank and file comrades will be:
1. The arming of the proletariat;
2. The establishment of united front of organisations operated from below (workers' councils, etc.) in defence of any achievements gained and for the extension of the class struggle according to a unitary plan decided democratically.
These slogans are binding on Party members and factory groups: the first, in the sense that nothing should be overlooked to reinforce the armament of the Party and of workers' bodies in general; the second, in the sense that our factory groups must be the driving force behind every single initiative with class goals in the workplace. It is obvious that in all the episodes of proletarian struggle that may occur (factory occupations, expropriations, etc.) the comrades will always participate with a dual function of clarification of the objectives and an impulse to bring the struggle to an explicit class terrain and not limited to the immediate fight against fascism.
The comrades will avoid – in order not to compromise our already slender cadres – any partial activist initiative that goes beyond the limits outlined above. Practical clarifications will be given in the next group leader meetings.
The Executive Committee of the PCInt
April 13, 1945