[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


Italian workers had control

[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 20, October 1943 - Not signed]

Events in Italy have moved to a tragic climax for the workers’ and peasants’ revolution. The occupation of the greater part of the country by the troops of the Nazis, and the other parts by the Allies, has for the time being, paralysed the social revolution, which had reached a ripe stage of development within a few weeks of its commencement.

The Stalinists and Labour leaders have maintained a conspiracy of silence as to the meaning of events in the Italian peninsula. Nowhere have they explained the meaning of the heroic steps taken by the Italian working class. The formation of soviets, of workers’ militias in the industrial cities of Northern Italy; and in the last few days before the surrender of Badoglio to the Allies, the establishment of workers’ control in Italy.

The information that Badoglio had signed an agreement with the leaders of the trade unions and workers’ committees, was published in their press without comment. What preceded this agreement was not explained to the working class. But it is quite clear from the press, despite the severe censorship, that when Mussolini fell, the big capitalists in Italy fled as rapidly as they could to Spain and to Switzerland. The workers already had direct control of many plants; they had blown open the safes and started to investigate the profiteering of the boss class and their fascist gangster protectors. It was this factor alone – that the workers had control – that forced Badoglio to “sign an agreement” and give it the appearance of the granting of a concession.

But this was not all: the press also reported that there was to be a “government investigation into the fortunes of the fascist politicians.” Again, this was presented as if the Badoglio government was to make real investigations into the racketeering of the fascist bosses. But the facts are that the workers had already started the process. By smashing up the fascist offices; by raiding the homes of the leading fascists and taking the initiative into their own hands, the workers had commenced the investigations. It was the workers who discovered the stores of loot and food; it was the workers who exposed the graft and corruption. Badoglio gave it a legal form, only to take the movement out of the hands of the workers and cover up as best possible, the real ramifications of the graft and corruption, which undoubtedly reached up to the King and a large number of the new brand of Italian “democrats” who have decided to become quislings for the US and British imperialists.

So strong was the movement among the workers that the Badoglio government was compelled to legalise the factory committees, which, in great part supervised and regulated the workings of the factories and had control over the books and accounts of the factories to check the real profits being made by the capitalists. All these were the first stages to the taking of complete power by the working class.

It is this movement of the masses which the ruling class of Italy and of the Allies regarded with dread and hatred. It was fear of the revolution which had caused Badoglio and the King to remove Mussolini, whom they had supported and aided. Having calculated that Germany would be defeated, the Italian capitalists, financiers and landowners sold out to “democratic” imperialism in the confident knowledge that they would be protected from the revenge of the masses, by the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism.

But the events of the last few weeks have another significance. More than six weeks after the fall of Mussolini, the capitulation of Italy was announced. Yet the Germans were enabled to occupy the greater part of the country within a few days. Badoglio had been negotiating secretly for terms for weeks. Had the masses been organised for resistance the Nazis could never have taken over with such ease. Despite the heroic resistance of the workers in the industrial cities of the North, their lack of equipment and organisation, together with the bewilderment and demoralisation of the soldiers, led to a collapse. Milan was conquered by 1,500 German soldiers and 12 tanks; Como by 85 German soldiers, Venice by two E-boats. So it was in all the industrial cities of the North.

Thus it is clear that the Italian capitalists and militarists deliberately betrayed the newly awakened workers into the hands of Hitler. Terrified by the threat from the workers, they apparently believed that to send them to school to Hitler for the time being would cure them of their aspirations towards socialism.

But the actions of the Allies, who murderously bombarded the Northern cities and laid waste the anti-fascist and socialist strongholds of the working class in Milan, Turin, etc., would indicate that they were not at all disappointed at the developments as a temporary stop-gap. The British and American rulers are not at all averse to having their dirty work carried out by Himmler and the SS troops. Churchill’s speeches make no secret of his fears of the revolution in Italy which he terms “anarchy”. To set the British and American soldiers to destroy the factory committees, the soviets, and workers’ rights, would not be such an easy task. It would embody the danger of the complete demoralisation of the British and American armies and the spreading of revolutionary feelings to their ranks.

The Nazis are doing the dirty work. British and American imperialism calculated on driving the Nazis out fairly rapidly and occupying these areas before the soviets can be reconstituted. And as in Sicily, so in Italy, AMGOT will be clamped down on the Italian masses. The military rule of British and American imperialism under which the Sicilian people are deprived of “political activities”, and where the fascist administration has been preserved virtually intact, will be transferred to the Italian mainland.

The Italian revolution has been caught between the hammer of the Axis and the anvil of the Allies. In this situation, no words can adequately condemn the foul role played by Stalinism and the Socialist parties in the Italian revolution. By their echo of the imperialist demand for “unconditional surrender”, by sowing illusions in Allied aims, they assist in the martyrdom of the Italian workers and peasants.

The statement of Roosevelt and Churchill hailing Badoglio as the “liberator” of Italy front fascist servitude, is a conscious attempt to deceive the workers of Britain and America.

The first stage of the Italian revolution has ended in defeat. But the Italian workers will rise again in the coming months and years together with the workers of all Europe. According to Pietro Treves, right wing Socialist leader, writing in Labour Discussion Notes of August, of the six democratic and workers’ parties which made their appearance on the fall of Mussolini, the only party which stood for the socialist republic was the Italian Trotskyist Party. Under the banner of the Fourth International the workers will avenge the crimes of capitalism and establish a new world in which the horrors of fascism and war still be banished forever in a socialist Europe and a socialist World.