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The following information about the Italian political situation is relevant to the problems dealt with in this article.
There are three main parties in Italy: the Christian Democrats with 207 seats in the Constituent Assembly; the Socialists with 115; the Communists with 104. To the Right of these parties are the Monarchists with 16 seats, the Democratic Union with 41 and the Uomo Qualunque (a near-fascist party) with 27 seats. Other right-wing groups have 32 seats.
The elections held on June 2nd, 1946, were the first free elections after twenty-one years of Fascism. De Gasperi, a Christian Democrat, continued as Premier of a broadly based Coalition Government in which both Socialists and Communists were represented. (Saragat's new Socialist Party is now outside the government, as are all groups to the right of the Christian Democrats.)
Last spring, municipal elections were held all over Italy except in six important towns. The Communists and Socialists together were successful in 1,976 communes, the Socialists alone in 140 and the Communists alone also in 140. The Christian Democrats won in 1,907 communes. The remaining 1,433 communes were gained by various other groups.
In November, municipal elections were held in Rome, Naples, Palermo, Florence, Genoa and Turin. The extremist parties gained at the expense of the Socialists and the Christian Democrats. In all but Palermo the Communists emerged as the strongest party. The Uomo Qualunque beat the Christian Democrats in Rome and led the voting in Palermo.
WITHIN the past eleven months there has been a split in the two parties of the Left whose strength and cohesion were of vital importance for the reconstruction of Italian democracy: the Action Party (February, 1946) and the Socialist Party (January, 1947). The Communist Party did not provoke the disruption of these two non-communist parties; on the contrary, on both occasions Palmiro Togliatti, the Communist leader, gave warning of the dangers of a split.
Togliatti realised that such a split might strengthen the Communists inside the Left but would weaken the Left inside the nation, which would not be in the interest of any of the Left parties. When Pietro Nenni, as president of the Socialist Party and Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered his speech at La Spezia in November (one of the major factors which led to the split in his party), declaring as his aim a purely socialist-communist government, it was Togliatti who replied publicly that this aim was inopportune. He pointed out that it would isolate the working classes from other democratic forces whose growth would thus be discouraged.
It appears that on this matter, as on others, Togliatti is a more astute and capable politician than Nenni. Like Saragat he believes that there is room in the Italian economic system for the progressive industrialists and for private initiative. He does not put his whole trust in nationalisation. Nenni, on the other hand, has little economic knowledge and believes in the traditional slogans of the movement. On the issue of fusion between Socialists and Communists, Togliatti certainly wanted a strong, united party and since liberation he has worked for this aim. Nenni's changing emphasis in defining his attitude to fusion has been largely determined by his desire to ensure that his own influence in the Socialist Party remained paramount. The methods which he used to achieve this end have done much to split the party.
Thus there is no alibi of "Communist manoeuvring" to explain the splits which first rendered the Action Party nearly non-existent and have now decisively weakened the Socialist Party. In our opinion on neither occasion was there any objective justification for the split, although afterwards it was easy to find many reasons for it, to explain it as a confirmation of the present trend towards extremism and as another symptom of the crisis which has gripped so many socialist movements. In the case of the Italian Socialist Movement the inability to resolve conflicts between personalities, created by incompatibility of character, and the over-development of doctrinaire ideological argument, as well as the lack of experience and tradition in practical compromise, are all legacies of many years of emigration and underground work.
The case for splitting the party on ideological grounds is no greater in Italy than in France, for instance, where the same conflicting tendencies exist in the Socialist Party. Yet in France they have been able to co-operate smoothly inside the recent socialist government, which incidentally was the best France has had since Liberation. And while in France the Communist Party is far stronger than the Socialist Party, in Italy the contrary is true and there was no need for the Italian socialists to be so hypnotised by the communist strength. Yet among the many urgent problems which a great political party has to solve to-day, none has engaged the attention of the Socialist Congress which met in Rome from January 9th to 13th so much as relations with the Communist Party.
The Action Party was broken up by the joint vote of a moderate wing (led by Parri, Spinelli, Lamalfa) who wanted a progressive centre party, and of an extreme, romantic section (led by Lussu) who wanted a left mass party. They had little in common apart from their opposition to the committee in control of the Party. The opposition against Nenni in the Socialist Party also came from two different groups: "Critica Sociale" (Saragat, Fravelli) which is reformist in the old Turati tradition and "Iniziativa Socialista" (Matteo Matteotti, Zagara) which is left of the communists in the maximalist tradition. Here also these two factions were agreed only on negative issues, on their opposition to Nenni and to fusion with the Communist Party. How they can build a new socialist party, more united and more efficient than the old one, and thus from a long-
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term point of view justify breaking up the old party, it is impossible to see.
It may be remembered that at the socialist congress which took place at Florence in April, 1946, the opponents of Nenni and of any further move towards unity with the communists won the day. But even then it was clear that they were unable to use their victory. It is true, Pietro Nenni was ousted from his position as secretary and a new honorary office was created for him, the "presidency". But the responsibilities of the president were not clearly defined, though the intention was that he should have no more power than the chairman of the Labour Party in Great Britain. When Nenni referred in Rome to "the honour" bestowed upon him in Florence, as "the honour of directing the party", he left no doubt as to his interpretation of the function of party chairman. And he and his fraction certainly made the fullest use of the situation. On the other hand the new secretary, Lombardo, did not seize the opportunity afforded by his key position. The publications of Saragat's group (Critica Sociale, Battaglia Socialista) have been full of complaints about the cunning activities of Nenni's supporters. We do not doubt that often there were very good reasons for complaining about their methods. Matteotti, when asking the delegates in Rome to declare the conference invalid because it had been convened in an unconstitutional manner, gave many examples of pressure, intimidation, participation of communists in local party meetings before the congress; even the beating up of members was reported. Yet many of the reproaches seemed to reflect an indignation that Nenni's supporters were always present at every meeting of every section, that they were always well organised; in short, their untiring efforts to transform defeat into victory and a minority into a majority seemed to be resented. The question is precisely why there was no leader of the other group - who after all occupied many positions in the party besides the secretaryship - able to expose and oppose Nenni's usurpations. Why were the partisans of Saragat's views inside the local parties so ineffective in comparison with Nenni's supporters? Why were the attempts which were undoubtedly made to intimidate them so unsuccessful?
Nenni, whatever his political outlook and his demagogical and unscrupulous methods, has great capacities as a party organiser and orator. The moderate wing, although it has more outstanding intellectuals such as Saragat and Silone, proven trade unionists like d'Aragone and Carmagnola, more parliamentarians of personal prestige and ability than Nenni's group, has had nobody who knew how to handle a party machine as Nenni did. Moreover, there are indications that Nenni's growing support was at least partly due to his claim to represent the "left trend" against reformism.
If there had been in the Socialist Party of Italy a strong influence within the executive able to hold together two or rather three conflicting groups, the present crisis could have been averted. Each of these groups could have been of value to the Party. There was Saragat with his unique personal appeal to non-proletarian socialist voters, the man who could convince the middle class that socialism would not mean a transition to communist dictatorship. There was Nenni, and even more Lizzadri, the party representative in the Trade Union Council, who could organise a modern mass party that would be something more than a purely electoral machine for gaining parliamentary seats. Finally there was the extreme left-wing whose main strength lies in the socialist youth. It is not surprising that a large, indeed the best part, of the radical Italian youth has become exasperated by growing mass misery and delays in reconstruction, by the frustrations of post-war Italian politics and the coalition of the Left with conservative and catholic forces. Its allegiance is, therefore, to revolutionary slogans, to workers' councils and mass action rather than to parliamentary activity. (Such trends also exist inside the Communist Party and are known to give Togliatti some considerable trouble.)
There would have been nothing Machiavellian or inherently wrong in the attempt to find a working compromise which would hold together these different currents. But was it at all feasible that they could find a common policy to which the intellectual standing and electoral appeal of the Saragatians and the organisational ability of the Nennians would, each in its own way, have contributed? They might have agreed on a foreign policy which would not link Italy with any "bloc", east or west, on a programme of industrial reconstruction, workers' councils, capital levy, currency reform and agrarian reforms in the south.
What are the prospects now? The split has divided the socialists into two camps with about equal support and neither will be strong enough to play a decisive rôle in the forthcoming important period of Italian political developments. If it brought about a certain "clarification", it was at too great a price. Nenni retains his hold on the party machine, the link with the trade unions and many local parties. He has resigned from his position as Foreign Secretary to devote himself entirely to party work. The majority of the militant rank and file will probably continue to support him. As he announced on the last day of the congress, he will, for the first time, make the pact with the communists a working proposition. He will exclude further ideological discussions and strengthen party discipline. Many voters will fail to see any important distinction between this party and the Communists and will prefer the original to the Nennian substitute. Nenni may now be dragged into complete fusion with the Communist Party which he does not desire since his position has become so greatly inferior to that of Togliatti.
Saragat will probably have the allegiance of many of the older, politically educated industrial workers of the north and of the middle class socialists (i.e. of roughly two out of four million socialist voters). A large part of the present parliamentary group support[s] him. But lacking a good party organisation, it is doubtful whether he will be able to reach the voters in election times as he could before, despite the financial support which he can count on from American sources (probably mainly A.F. of L. unions).
Many people, even amongst those who sympathise with Saragat's ideas, think that he should not have split the Socialist Party, but continued the struggle for his point of view inside the Party, where, it must be assumed, there were still possibilities of propaganda and education and thus of strengthening the ranks of those who want to develop the party as an instrument
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of democratic socialism. To say this does not mean that we underestimate the serious handicaps which existed; apparently many good members had come to despair of such efforts. They felt that they were wasting their time and energies in a disrupting and corrupting fractional struggle: they wanted a fresh start.
In taking his decision Saragat was greatly influenced by the relative failure of the Socialists when allied to the Communists in the municipal elections. Another factor which affected his judgment was that Truman's invitation to de Gasperi was not extended to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nenni, whom the Americans distrust. Nobody can blame Saragat for being concerned with this point at a time when materially Italy depends overwhelmingly on American aid and credits. He is rightly opposed to any attempts to drag Italy to the Russian side. Politically and morally, apart from any economic considerations, nothing could be gained by the socialists if they showed signs of favouring a "Balkan democracy" on the lines of Tito's Yugoslavia which the majority of Italians, weary of dictatorship, do not want.
Apart from conflicts of personalities and the ideological divisions in the Socialist Party, the international situation has had a great - perhaps the decisive - influence on the split. It may be wrong to call Nenni simply a communist fellow-traveller. But he has never ceased to believe that eventually Russia will gain control over Europe. As early as 1939/40 he was the only Italian socialist leader who did not condemn the Stalin-Hitler pact. "On the side of Stalin and Hitler there is more socialism", he said, "than on the other side". At that time he was not ousted from his position in order to save him from persecution by the French police. Nenni believes that nothing would be worse for Italy than to appear as a supporter of the anti-Soviet, pro-American camp in Europe.
Saragat and Faravelli on the other hand believe that Italy should look west. They do not favour a western bloc; they are genuine supporters of a European federation. But if the choice lay between a western and an eastern bloc, they would side with the west where they see more prospects of democracy and freedom. Because they are opposed to a revolution in Italy which would lead to a communist dictatorship, their political perspective is a gradual advance inside the given democratic framework.
It is evident that the difficulties of holding together groups with such divergent views on internal and international policy were tremendous. But the will to reach some practical political compromise and to eliminate or diminish personal conflicts could have been fortified by an interest common to all, the interest in preventing a come-back of the reactionary forces in Italy which are gathering strength.
A word here about the accusation, levelled against Saragat and his friends by pro-communist elements in Italy and elsewhere, that they are tools in the hands of the bourgeoisie, anxious to save the old bourgeois order and, if need be, to crush left-wing socialist movements by force. Their future rôle is compared with the part played by German social-democrats such as Noske and Scheidemann after 1919. We might quarrel with Saragat as to whether his appeal to the middle classes is too unqualified. A large part of the Italian middle class is purely parasitical. Whether Saragat likes it or not, his "humanistic" rhetoric appeals greatly to them. Unfortunately the necessary distinction between the parasitical and the useful, potentially progressive sections of the middle class is too often obscured or lost sight of, both by those who engage in wholesale denunciations of the bourgeoisie and by those who regard the wholesale courting of the middle class vote as essential. But in fairness it must be stated that no Italian right-wing socialists have ever forcibly crushed a left-wing movement. Reformist leaders, such as Turati, Treves, Modigliani, have in the main shown as much, if not more, character and consistency in the anti-fascist struggle as those on the Left. Bombacci, a typical left-wing maximalist, went over to the communists and then became fascist. Moreover, those who quitted Nenni's party include, as we have mentioned, many with genuinely left-wing convictions, comparable with the spartacists of 1919. In this connection it may also be useful to quote from Silone's book Fascism, published in 1934: -
"In fact fascism was far more concerted to crush reformism than maximalism. The revolutionary eloquence of the maximalists endangered only the lamp posts and sometimes the bones of a few police agents. Reformism with its co-operatives, its fight for higher wages in times of crisis, threatened something much more sacred: capitalist profits."
Saragat's party takes with it the ideological disputes between the old and young generations, between reformism and revolutionarism, and there are so far no signs that these disputes will be overcome. The new Socialist Party might gain by fusion with the remnant of the Action Party which has little parliamentary strength but a good party organisation in many towns and villages. It is not impossible that as a genuine reformist, social democratic party, with a programme similar to that of the British Labour Party, it might exercise some considerable influence on Italy's next government. But in Saragat's party, both on the Right and on the Left, there is now an urge to appear as a perfectly Marxist and purely proletarian party so as to deny this prestige and tradition to Nenni. The older leaders like d'Aragona and Modigliani are certainly not contemplating anything other than a party on traditional Turati lines. They will go on blaming Nenni for having abandoned true Marxism and revised the sacred doctrine. And this petrified orthodoxy is no foundation for a new proletarian middle class party on a democratic basis which would be ready to assume governmental responsibilities.
Ignatius Silone who, we believe on grounds of ill-health, was unable to put his views to the Rome conference, has since declared that he would wait for three months before defining his attitude to the two camps. Since then Silone has pointed out that a deeper analysis of the crisis is needed if the process of reorientation, which has only begun, is to succeed. As to the new party, he thinks it must first of all prove convincingly its independence of foreign Imperialism and of reactionary groups at home. Secondly, it must show, not in words but in action, that it is able to lead the socialist forces out of the opportunism and sterility which have weakened them in the past.
Saragat's party has added to its name the attribute "Section of the Socialist International". Apart from the fact that there is no properly constituted Socialist International in existence to-day, there are so far no grounds on which he could convincingly claim this title and deny it to Nenni's party which is the internationally recognised socialist party of Italy. However, in view of the accusations that Nenni did not obtain a congress majority in a proper way, and of the prospect of two probably equally strong Italian socialist parties, Saragat has been invited to put his case to the June meeting of the International Socialists.
The split in the ranks of Italian Socialism will be deeply regretted by socialists in all countries. The hope of reconciliation seems, however, slight. A bitter struggle is proceeding in some places between the two parties. Fortunately, in others, local co-operation is being attempted. At this stage we hope that the Labour Party will encourage any attempt that may help to restore a united socialist movement in Italy.
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By an Italian Correspondent
ITALY is a country with few natural economic advantages. She is blessed with sunshine and an abundance of marble - but these things do not add up to prosperity. With the exception of the rich agricultural land of the north, her soil is generally poor, she has practically no coal, and is dependent on the rest of the world for nearly all raw materials. It is little wonder therefore if the forty-six million people this country supports are poor and live precariously. To add to our difficulties the population has been increasing at the rate of about 400,000 a year and the problem is: how can everybody find a living? The only way is by industrialisation and emigration. These are the keys to Italian prosperity.
The fascist régime, the war, and now the peace treaty have only aggravated Italy's difficulties. Mussolini's policy of autarchy and "the Battle for Bread" meant a whole distortion of our economy. Then came the war. It has been estimated that out of a total of public and private national wealth valued at about 25,000 milliard lire before the war, about 5,000 milliards' worth have been destroyed. The national income has apparently declined as follows.
(In milliards of lire at present value.)
The average income of the Italian is now only about £ 15 per annum, i.e. 10 d. per day per head, one half of the pre-war standard. One can say that the war has put our country back economically for at least half a century.
It is clear that whatever efforts and sacrifices we may make we shall be quite unable to reconstruct our country without the help of richer nations. We need loans to help in the industrialisation of our country, and we hope too that nations with scanty populations, especially those who are rich in raw materials, will open their doors wide to our manual labour.
It is estimated that to cover the deficit in our trade balance in 1947 we shall need credits of about 900 million dollars. This is needed largely for current consumption and will leave little over for industrial reconstruction. Italy has joined the International Monetary Fund with a quota of 180 million dollars, which will give her the right to receive annually 45 million dollars in foreign currency. In addition, the United States through the Export-Import Bank has made a loan to us amounting to 100 million dollars and helped us in other ways. But this will not take us far. Our interest turns to the International Bank for Development and Reconstruction. Only with such loans can we reconstruct our destroyed property and purchase the raw materials to work the idle plants. Nearly a quarter of the industrial workers are affected by unemployment at present.
As regards emigration, the Socialist Party will not, of course, abandon interest in those workers who emigrate. It will try through the creation of suitable professional schools to equip them for their future tasks, and through the machinery of the trade unions and the World Federation of Trade Unions to see that their standard of living is protected in the new lands which receive them. Unfortunately the Argentine on whom we pin our hopes organises its immigration scheme through the Vatican, which has put a strong political weapon in the hands of the priests.
Whilst realising that we cannot pull ourselves up by our own boot laces, we nevertheless intend to practise all the "self-help" that we can. For reconstruction, it is the policy of the Socialist Party to carry through reforms which will help to increase national saving, and then to see that these savings are invested in the best way. To obtain an increase in saved income we propose to cut down the expenses of the State by reducing military expenses, and by liquidating, or at any rate reorganising on a simpler basis, many bodies which were set up during the fascist régime which are more or less useless. In this way we hope to do away with a lot of red tape and to make the public services more efficient. As soon as conditions are favourable we also wish to consolidate the public floating debt and to reduce the rate of interest.
It is expected that Italy will have a budget deficit of at least 500 milliard lire for the financial year 1946/47. For this reason, amongst others, it is important that the income now squandered in luxury spending should be transferred to the State through radical tax reform measure. This is one of the most important tasks which the Socialist Party has undertaken and which it intends to advocate with the utmost energy.
Our fiscal system needs overhauling. We have inherited from the fascist régime a patchwork system. Under the stimulus of necessity taxes were exacted without reference to any guiding principles. It is necessary for us now to bring our fiscal system up-to-date and to see that taxes fall on those most able to bear them. At the same time they must be adjusted so as not to discourage healthy private enterprise which contributes to the economic development of our country. At the present time three-quarters of the revenue is raised by indirect taxes and only a quarter by direct taxes. We wish to see progressive income taxes forming the main source of revenue, since indirect taxes fall hardest on the working class, and are in many cases regressive. Indirect taxation on the present scale encourages disorderly finance and ill-considered increases in expenditure because taxpayers do not realise clearly what they are paying, and therefore are not encouraged to take an interest in the efficient functioning of public administration. Nevertheless we shall have to proceed with caution in the easing of indirect taxation; for it will not under the present conditions be possible to obtain from direct taxes an income equivalent to the amount lost through the suppression of the very productive indirect taxes.
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In any case, before the success of direct taxation can be ensured a reform of the administration is necessary. This is one of the crying needs of Italy and should take priority over many other things. Not only is it necessary to simplify the number and nature of existing taxes, it is also necessary to make tax investigation much more rigorous. Income tax evasion is widespread. The yield is only eight per cent. of all the proceeds of direct taxes and only two per cent. of all state receipts. To ensure more efficient collection we propose that special municipal tax commissions should be set up to investigate evasions, and that tax collectors, who are at present very badly paid, should have their salaries raised. In this way we hope to combat corruption. It is probable that Signor Scoccimarro, up to February 1st, 1947, the Communist Minister of Finance, had to postpone exacting a capital levy because he could not count on a department of civil servants who were able to live on their salaries.
The left-wing elements in the Government have exerted pressure to exact a capital levy and carry through currency reform. These measures were agreed to in principle last autumn when Signor Corbino was forced under left-wing pressure to resign. Since liberation various Italian and Allied authorities have been printing money in Italy, with the result that not only the amount of currency in circulation is unknown to the Treasury, but also its origin. Under the currency reform plan all banknotes and bearer bonds would have to be handed in to the fiscal authorities, who would then exchange them for new notes or stamp them. This operation would provide a census of all liquid means, deposits of money and fixed income bearer shares, and so would reveal important holdings that have hitherto escaped taxation. In addition to helping the Government in tax collection, currency reform is also necessary to stabilise the lira before Italy benefits from the International Monetary Fund.
In order to make the best use of new capital we think an elastic plan in keeping with the structure of our economy is necessary. To advocate a return to laissez-faire and 19th century liberalism, as many of the right-wing elements are doing, is to advocate a return to a cloud cuckoo land. The battle of nationalization versus laissez faire as carried on in the Press is a mock battle. The needs of Italy are both nationalization and private enterprise, but both need to be co-ordinated by a plan which, through well-directed investment and elimination of widespread waste involved in our present productive and distributive system, will permit an increase in our national income. Private enterprise left to its own devices is not in a position to face and to solve a problem of such vast importance as the reconstruction of our country.
A considerable section of our industry is already nationalised. The State controls 73.6 per cent. of the bank deposits (9.2 per cent. of the rest are entrusted to a co-operative bank, and 17,2 per cent. to private banks); 100 per cent. of the passenger ships, and 40 per cent. of the merchant navy; two-thirds of the iron and quick-silver industry, half the steel production, four-fifths of the shipyards and half of the aeroplane factories. The State also controls 23 per cent. of the electric plants and three out of the five telephone companies. It owns a great part of the mines. Under pressure of the left-wing parties the Government has pledged itself to nationalisation of hydro-electric plants. But there is not a sufficiently strong central co-ordinating body. The Socialist Party has pressed for this in the Government, for an organisation for the whole of Italy analogous to the C.I.I.A. which functioned in Northern Italy after liberation. Although we would like more industrial combines and public services to be nationalised, it seems advisable to proceed with caution until the central co-ordinating organs have proved their efficiency. We have no hard and fast schemes; but we hope to avail ourselves of the experience of other countries, such as Britain, who are trying to make social democracy a reality.
Our problem is to retain the spirit of initiative with planning. The danger of bureaucracy can only be offset by increasing democratic control in industry. We propose that the organs planning the different sectors of economic activity should be autonomous, though under the tutelage of the Government. In the factories there should be Factory Councils composed of managers, technicians and workers to advise on production problems. In some cases factories are already being run by Boards composed only of workers. The development of this will help workers to contribute further in the formulation of the general economic plan for the country. Federations of Factory Councils should be formed which should serve to discourage management boards from pursuing sectional policies.
Our ultimate aim is the spiritual and material elevation of our people and the attainment of greater social justice in a really democratic climate. If, in a spirit of mutual collaboration and with a clear vision of the interdependence of the economic development of all countries, other nations will help us, these ideal should not be beyond our reach.
* * *
IN the recent developments which have led to the split in the Italian Socialist Movement the clash of personalities has played an important part. The following facts (taken from an article by a correspondent in the Swiss "Neue Zuercher Zeitung") throw some light on the life and background of Nenni and Saragat, the two main opponents in the struggle.
Pietro Nenni comes from peasant stock and was born in the Romagna, politically the most inflammable province of Italy, which was also the home of Mussolini. Like Stalin he grew up in an institute, an orphanage in Faenza, which was run on secular-republican lines. He was maintained there as the protégé of a member of the nobility. "My youth", he once wrote, "was the ever bleeding wound of my life". At the age of seventeen he left the Institute, a pre-destined rebel against the existing social order.
Nenni worked in several offices and took part in strikes and anti-clerical demonstrations. He continued his education and acquired some knowledge of political theory. In 1908 he became editor of a Republican paper in Forli. The socialist paper in the town was at that time edited by Mussolini. Both
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Mussolini and Nenni agitated in 1911 against the war in Lybia and spent a few months in prison.
When the First World War broke out, Nenni was again serving a term of imprisonment at Aquila. The young Republican immediately advocated the intervention of Italy in the war, and in 1915 he volunteered for the Isonzo Front. Soon he was wounded and sent home where, as editor of the Republican paper Mattine d'Italia, he had the difficult task of defending Italy's participation in the war without alienating his socialist friends. In the last years of the war Nenni again served at the front.
As soon as the war was over, Nenni's patriotism receded. In Bologna he founded, together with some disillusioned revolutionary ex-servicemen, a group called "Fascio" which, however, was soon dissolved and replaced by a real fascist body. Whilst the socialist Mussolini became a fascist, the republican Nenni entered the Socialist Party in 1920, at a time when fascist terror had already set in. In Paris, where he worked as correspondent of the Avanti, he became acquainted with Blum, Cachin, Romain Rolland and Georges Sorel.
In 1922, Nenni became chief editor of the Avanti in Milan. The situation of the Socialist Party was desperate. On the Left, the communists had broken away, on the Right, some reformist elements. All energies were squandered in purposeless, provocative strikes and individual acts of protest, displays of heroism never rewarded. The Italian Socialist Party was only a shadow of its former self. Matteotti was murdered. The Avanti offices were set aflame. Nenni escaped again and again, until in 1926, aided by the Rossellis, Romita and Parri, he went abroad.
But the agitator did not rest. He organised the anti-fascist Italians in Paris, worked against Mussolini in Switzerland and Germany, and went with the Garibaldi Legion to Spain. June 22nd, 1941, brought for him, as for so many other Marxists, a psychological relief. In 1943 he was arrested by the Germans and taken into the Regina Coeli prison in Rome, being moved soon afterwards to Ponza. The socialists, who had started ro revive their organisation again, made him party secretary and director of the Avanti. The enemy, in defeat, inflicted a final blow by the death of his daughter Vittoria in Auschwitz.
His present opponents describe Nenni as a fanatic with a destructive nature, and the cartoonists give him the large, round and mischievous eyes of an insect. His friends, on the other hand, esteem him as a kind man, a gifted journalist, eloquent mass orator and skilled tactician. The outsider must bear in mind that Nenni is a man who has fought the powers-that-be for thirty years as a Marxist agitator on behalf of the proletarian masses. In his home-land now liberated from Fascism he sees a political constellation developing which seems to confirm his way of thinking. He has never had the opportunity of learning the art of administration and government. Whilst in many other countries socialists had this chance, he, like most of his Italian comrades, was in prison or in exile. His outlook may well have been affected by the methods of his opponents.
Guiseppe Saragat is a much more complex personality. He comes from a bourgeois family and was born in Turin where the political climate is more temperate than in the Romagna. He enjoyed the advantages of a good education and studied economics. At an early age he joined the socialist movement. He, too, was driven into exile by Fascism. Until 1930 he lived in Austria, and was considerably influenced by the views held in the socialist circles of Vienna. Like Nenni, he went to Paris to help in the work of the anti-fascist movement there. Some of the writings which he published appeared under the title of Marxian Humanism and Marxian Democracy.
Whilst Nenni's main place of activity was the market place and the streets, Saragat was at home in the study, in literary and philosophical circles. He is said to possess an expert knowledge of modern French literature and of the most up-to-date interpretations of Marx. He too found his way via the Regina Coeli prison back into Italian political life. After Liberation he, like Nenni, was a member of the Bonomi Cabinet, but in the spring of 1945 he was sent as ambassador to Paris. It was said that Nenni moved him there to get him out of Italy. A year later, it was said that Saragat, who had returned rather suddenly to Italy, was responsible for moving Nenni into the "Olympus" of the party presidency. When Saragat was made president of the Constituent Assembly, Nenni is said to have whispered into his ear: "In Florence I was made president through you; in Rome I have made you president."
Saragat, tall, slim and distinguished looking, of whom one might almost say that he was "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought", combines many elements in his character; he not only builds upon Marx and Hegel, but can also find solace in Goethe, Leopardi, Tolstoy and Johann Sebastian Bach. He appreciates the heavy sacrifices which the communists have made in recent years for the sake of freedom, but at the same time he is repelled by their ruthlessness which already threatens to destroy the fruits of the struggle. He knows that a world which is in such complete disorder can only be rebuilt by tremendous collective efforts. But he refuses to admit that the creative forces of the individual must be crushed in the process by shock troops who act without inhibitions because they have transferred the responsibility for decisions about right or wrong to an authority which thinks for them. He knows that the masses will only be moved by slogans, yet he hates the party cliché which kills all intellectual honesty.
A politician like Saragat may play a very important rôle within a party where he can make his influence felt in the direction of moderation and clarification. Whether he is suited for the part of leader of a mass movement is a question which it is as yet impossible to answer.
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