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25 April and the proponents of “national reconciliation”
This year’s 25 April is not the first anniversary of the “anti-fascist resistance” to be celebrated under a right-wing government. It already happened in 1993, when the Berlusconi government took office in Palazzo Chigi. Against the decades-long eulogy to democracy as a political regime opposed to fascism, and the celebrations inspired by the anti-fascist partisan resistance – and the writing of a new republican constitution – one can find a relentless attempt since the 1990s to reconcile the so-called “two Italies”, the one born of the democratic and Christian-liberal‑communist “Resistance” (La Resistenza, Italian resistance movement against the fascist regime and German occupation), and the one that – equally democratic and Christian‑liberal – representing all the “good things” that the fascist regime did for the nation.
The opposition between the political parties that constituted and still constitute these so-called “two Italies” was, after the period of the second imperialist war and the first post-war years, democratically carried out in the halls of the new parliament and under the economic, political and military control of the real victors of the imperialist war: that is, the British and the Americans. The project of a post-fascist Italy, conceived by the glorifiers of national identity, of democracy born of the “Resistance”, of the values of Christian and Western civilization, could not have come into being except on the basis of the agreements which the imperialist powers which had won the war had established in terms of their imperialist interests, within the framework of which the various Italian bourgeois factions sought their “place in the sun”. Anglo-American imperialism, which represented the European and Atlantic democratic West, thus had to face Russian imperialism, which represented the European and Asian East and which Stalinism falsely labeled “communist”. The clash of the two belligerent imperialist blocs – the Allies, of which Russia was one, against the Axis powers – ended in victory for the Allies; but this victory did not open the door to universal peace, but to a new world order in which the contradictions that characterize imperialist capitalism by its very nature inevitably resurfaced. Europe was divided in two, with Germany also divided in two, and a genuine Russian-American joint administration was established, in which the Franco-Anglo-American side divided control of Western Europe and the Russian side took control of Eastern Europe, naturally with the aim of “to guarantee peace in Europe” (while in the rest of the world the two blocs waged war against each other). This “peace” was, of course, “guaranteed” by the military occupation of the countries that could cause the greatest problems for this project: first of all Germany, which was not in vain divided in two, and thus subject to the strict control of both the Americans and the Russians; and Italy, where a strong “communist” party, ideologically (and later economically) linked to Moscow, was active, although after the 8th September 1943 (the date of the formation of the Committee for National Liberation, Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, CLN), submitted to Anglo-American orders and formed its own guerrilla groups under their command to fight the fascists. That the objective of the Italian Communist Party was not the organization of the proletariat as revolutionary class, its class and revolutionary struggle – that is, against the two imperialist war fronts – and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat and, against the bourgeois dictatorship, the establishment of its class dictatorship, was clear to the Italian Communist Left of the time, which had survived fascist, democratic and Stalinist repression, as documented by their activities in exile abroad and in Italy during that “partisans war”. The 1922 united front policy of the Communist International applied to the socialist and social democratic parties, and subsequently the popular fronts in 1936, prepared the ground in the degenerated communist parties for the more large-scale reactionary class collaboration that later took hold in the second imperialist world war and its post-war period.
The armistice that the fascist Badoglio (Prime Minister of Italy between 25 July 1943 and 8 June 1944 after Mussolini was deposed), in clear opposition to Mussolini and his loyalists, signed with the Anglo-Americans on 8 September 1943, after the Nazi-fascist prospects of a “military victory” against the “plutocracy” had miserably foundered, did not bring peace; on the contrary, thanks to the Allied invasion from the south and the German military occupation from the north, the war flared up again on Italian territory. If a section of the Italian bourgeoisie, which had supported Mussolini and fascism for twenty years, turned away from Mussolini and sold out to the Anglo-Americans out of economic calculation and for social privilege, another section of the Italian bourgeoisie remained in support of the Nazi-fascist regime to the extent that after the fall of the fascist regime it participated in the creation of that stillborn republic that was the Republic of Salò; and it was able to organize, on the basis of the earlier experience of the fascist troops of the 1920s, its own militia, whose aim was to defend its honor and “national identity” vis-à-vis the German ally. A ridiculous national identity, in fact, given the historical tendency of the Italian bourgeoisie to change allies at the prospect or in the course of a war, which was already demonstrated during the First Imperialist World War. Then it waited a year before switching from an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany to the rival Anglo-French-American front, whereas in the Second World Imperialist War it took just a bit over two years to turn away from its German ally and into the hands of its former enemies, who had suddenly become friends and who were destined to remain so – given the victorious outcome of the war – until in the ensuing military clash the current enemies could become tomorrow’s friends. Which, with typical English irony, prompted Churchill to comment: “Strange people the Italians. One day 45 million fascists. The next day 45 million between anti-fascists and partisans. Yet these 90 million Italians do not appear in the censuses…” (1).
In both cases, the turncoat behavior of the Italian bourgeoisie was determined by the fact that the aims of the war were material, not ideological. Of course, this can be said of all bourgeoisies, but it is all the more true of the Italian bourgeoisie when we consider that its historical formation, unlike that of the other great European bourgeoisies – French, German, English – was among the last to arrive, economically and politically, at territorial unification under one central state, and that it had to suffer for a long time the weight, activity and influence of the Roman Church, which represented not only a national but also an international power.
Fascism, on the other hand, with its “cult of the state”, responded to a twofold need of the Italian bourgeoisie: to unify its various branches under the leadership of the most organized and powerful industrial bourgeoisie, and to effectively oppose the advance of the proletarian struggle on the revolutionary terrain after the victorious October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. All this, of course, with all the illegal and legal violence that such a prospect required, especially against the proletariat, which both before and during the war and especially after it, in 1919–1920, was really pushed for revolutionary action. If, from an economic point of view, Italian fascism, once it came to power, represented, historically late and for the first time in the history of the Italian bourgeoisie, the highest degree of national unification, from a political point of view it succeeded in institutionalizing a social policy that would be a model for all the bourgeoisies in the developed countries of the world: the policy of class collaboration. From an ideological point of view, fascism had no identity of its own, being a mere child of liberal democracy and a typical of the Italian bourgeoisie compromise between Catholicism, secularism and socialist reformism; but it found its originality in social policy by stealing the immediate workers' demands from socialist reformism and implementing them.
Democratic and Stalinist propaganda unanimously claimed that fascism represented a step backwards in history, mainly because of its dictatorial political regime and its overt use of violence against any dissent, organized or not. But in fact fascism – and even more so Nazism – proved to represent a much more overtly forward step in history, namely the historical development of capitalism in its imperialist phase, i.e., the phase of maximum political centralization and economic concentration. Post-fascist democracy thus was left with nothing else against the fascist “cult of the state” but to “appeal to the individual and to the sacred and inviolable dignity of the human person” (2): the individual, the human person, have always been the myths of bourgeois ideology. The democratic deception thus joined the fascist deception. With fascism, once the proletarian unions and the proletarian parties were destroyed, the capitalist bourgeoisie forced the proletariat to regard bourgeois and proletarian interests as common interests, which therefore had to be defended even with blood in the workplace and in war – interests that had always been antagonistic in capitalist reality – and to this end it organized a corporative system with common organizations of workers and bosses (Ital. corporazioni) and compelled both the bourgeois and the proletarians to participate in them. With post-fascist democracy, once the momentary fascist period was past, the capitalist bourgeoisie allowed the proletarians to “freely” organize at the level of economic defense in trade unions and at the political level in parties, while extolling the constitution, which does not speak of capitalists and proletarians, but of citizens of a republic founded on labor, individuals with “equal rights”, with the equal aspirations to “personal dignity”, and subject to the law, which is claimed to be “equal for all”. This aspect is not marginal, because to speak of “labor” in bourgeois society is essentially to speak of the exploitation of wage labor by capital, since capitalism excludes other kinds of labor.
Fascism was defeated on the military level, but on the social level it won. In fact, the post-fascist democracies have inherited the entire system of class collaboration, for which the only workers' unions organized according to state laws and recognized by them are those union organizations that confirm this collaboration in their statutes and programs, both at the level of economic and regulatory bargaining and in terms of the objectives of workers’ struggles. The same applies to political parties, even to political organizations that refer to fascism (such as the old MSI, which later became the Alleanza Nazionale, or the more recent Forza Nuova and Casa Pound), but which envisage in their programs not the overthrow of parliament and political dictatorship exercised by a single party, but electoral competition, parliamentary action with expected majorities and minorities, and governmental action based on the results of a “free” political vote.
We, revolutionary Marxist communists, have always fought against both fascism and bourgeois democracy as political manifestations and methods of government of the same bourgeois dictatorship. We reiterate what Marx and Lenin had already argued about bourgeois democracy as the best method of government of the capitalist bourgeoisie, because democracy has proved to be the most appropriate political weapon to deceive the proletariat and to divert it from the terrain of its class struggle. The most insidious fruit that fascism could produce was democratic anti-fascism, i.e., the politics of class collaboration cloaked in the guise of democratic deception. Capitalist reality, despite being embellished with the symbols of democracy, remains what it has always been: the political domination of the bourgeoisie based on the capitalist mode of production. Neither Gobetti’s (Italian intellectual and journalist, symbol of liberal anti-fascism in the 1920s) self-proclaimed “liberal revolution”, nor Mussolini’s blustering “fascist revolution”, nor even the “new Italian Resurgence” (the “anti-fascist resistance”) of the renegades in the style of Togliatti (chairman of the Stalinist PCI until 1964) ever sought to eradicate the capitalist mode of production from society.
Over the decades, beginning in 1945–1946, the fascist danger was repeatedly recalled in an attempt to renew the proletariat's commitment to the defense of bourgeois democracy and state. Again and again the proletariat was urged to believe in a republican constitution “born of the Resistance” and to swear by it as if it were the magic shield against every abuse of power, against every violence, against every war, against every “return of fascism”. But the economic and social reality tells a different story: every day so far has been continuously marked by abuse, violence and war – ever more bestial exploitation of wage labor, resulting in constant massacres of workers in workplaces, ever more widespread misery for the masses affected by unemployment and the rising cost of living, ever more job insecurity and ever more dramatic insecurity of life.
Successive governments over the past 77 years, which have sworn allegiance to the bourgeois republic and its constitution, have done nothing but affirm the unchallenged domination of the bourgeoisie over society, defending social relations in which wage labor is constantly subjected to exploitation, which for the proletariat means drudgery, insecurity of life and future, and for the bourgeois means privilege, wealth and enjoyment.
The fact that the current right-wing government is led by a far-right party, formerly MSI, formerly AN and now Fratelli d’Italia (with the neo-fascist tricolor flame still in its emblem), does not mean that the door is open to a future fascist government. The historical situation in which we find ourselves is not characterized by a resumption of the proletariat's class and revolutionary struggle, neither in Italy nor in other industrial countries; the bourgeoisie therefore does not fear the outbreak of proletarian revolution led by a class party, which, moreover, is not yet present and cannot be, since it lacks the oxygen of proletarian class struggle. The successive capitalist crises so far are leading the international situation to an unprecedented crisis of overproduction and hence to the Third World War. What troubles the Italian bourgeoisie today, as it does every other bourgeoisie that needs to ally itself with a stronger imperialism, is the question of how and with whom to ally itself in the coming and future wars. In peacetime, the bourgeoisie has an interest in having a collaborative working class in order to exploit it more and control the inevitable social tensions through opportunist forces. All the more so in times when war clashes on a more general level are expected, the bourgeoisie needs to subject its proletariat to strict discipline on the front of national defense in order to have greater strength to attack the rival bourgeoisies. It is no coincidence that in recent years, all the main representatives of the bourgeois government, from the head of state to the prime minister to the many ministers of foreign affairs, defense and economy, have been singing the same song of national cohesion, of the defense of superior national interests, of national identity. As it happens, it is the song sung by both democrats and fascists.
The Fratelli d'Italia party, which overtook its ruling coalition's allies, Lega and Forza Italia, in terms of votes, and which installed Giorgia Meloni as prime minister and won the largest number of ministers, a party that has almost always been in opposition (except for a brief engagement in one of Berlusconi’s governments), not only has the problem of being directly responsible for the government's decisions, on which it has to agree with its coalition partners, who are constantly tilting at their own mill, but also of being accepted by the part of the electorate that did not vote for it, especially the “left-wing” voters. To this end, the neo-fascists of the tricolor flame can count on the steps already taken by the exponents of the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) in the 1990s, a few years after the collapse of the USSR. Indeed, in 1996, Luciano Violante of the PCI, as President of the Chamber of Deputies, argued for national reconciliation between the supporters of the Resistance and the supporters of the Salò Republic (3). Continuing in the same vein, there have been various subsequent attempts by Berlusconi himself to “overcome” the division between the supporters of these two camps, for example by proposing that the twenty-fifth of April should no longer be “Resistance Day” but “Freedom Day” – whereas freedom is a word that can suit all sides and everyone has a mouthful of it – and on 25 April, Meloni will accompany President Mattarella to the altar of the fatherland (the National Memorial of Victor Emmanuel II. ) to pay tribute to all the fighters for… freedom of the fatherland. It is obvious that in the personal history of all neo-fascists there remain deeply rooted political links to what constituted the twenty-year period of Mussolini. In Italy, which is still divided between two camps, one that is “indebted” to what fascism did for the fatherland, while the other is “indebted” to the legacy of the pseudo-communists and freedom fighters who equally fought for the fatherland, those who represent the country today, as they refer to the defeated in the last war, must show themselves conciliatory towards the part of the electorate that still believes in the freedom conquered by the anti-fascist struggle. That is why, like chameleons, while yesterday they were totally anti-American and anti-European, today they are so accommodating to Washington that they are putting themselves at its service, not only by supporting Ukraine with arms and billions in its war against Russia, but even by sending their own military ships to the Indo-Pacific to accompany American “military exercises” in the Sino-American dispute over Taiwan. The imperialist framework into which Italy is increasingly immersing itself is thus the framework that has been laid down for the umpteenth time by the United States and its imperialist aims; the Mediterranean is no longer mare “nostrum” (“our sea” as the Romans called the Mediterranean Sea): mare “nostrum” is where the United States needs it, in this case in the Pacific or in the China Sea, and tomorrow who knows? On the other hand, Italy has already excelled in military operations against Serbia (under the government of ex-PCI member D’Alema, when Mattarella was Defense Minister) for the bombing of Belgrade and in operations in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, where naturally – as in Ukraine today – it was about defending… the values of Western civilization, freedom, democracy and naturally Christianity.
The preparation of the proletariat for the war which will directly involve it requires a lengthy ideological preparation which can be carried out no otherwise than by relentless propaganda bombardment precisely for national unity. Who better to hoist the banner of national identity than the democratic fascists? Here, then, it is true that the Meloni government, in order to be accepted by the beloved Italian people, has been juggling the various factions with the old method of carrot and stick while trying not to repudiate the spirit of its fascist origins. In fact, when it spoke of the massacre in the Ardeatine Caves and the 335 civilians slaughtered in retaliation for the attack on Via Rasella by the Gruppi di Azione Patriottica (Patriotic Action Group, a formation of the Italian Resistance), it spoke of the 335 Italians killed, not of the 335 anti-fascists; and in order to prove that it is at the head of the government of all Italians, it will go to the altar of the fatherland on 25 April to honor the memory of all Italians who died for the fatherland. The efforts of these politicians, like those who preceded them, to present a democratic and conciliatory image, ready to get to work… for the good of all, are very similar to the attempts that criminal organizations make to launder dirty money and use it for legal activities. On the other hand, it's not today when pecunia non olet (Latin, money does not stink)…
But what can the proletariat expect from a right-wing government like the present one?
Berlusconi promised to create a million more jobs and not to put a strain on Italians' wallets. Instead, there have been redundancies, more and more precarious jobs and rising unemployment. Today, Giorgia Meloni is less boastful; she is not promising more jobs; instead, she is attacking the so-called idlers, those who years ago were called “bamboccioni” (a pejorative term for adults still living with their parents), those who are lounging around at home on “citizens’ income” without doing any “work”, she calls the unemployed employable. But after the industrialists complains about a lack of skilled workers, arises the brilliant idea of female labor (which, of course, costs less than male labor), and even of immigrants who, just a few years ago, would have had to be stopped, even shot: they no longer can be considered only as a category of illegals, but can be, at least in part, a category of workers with an already professional specialization usable in Italian industry, with great savings on the part of our industrialists and the State.
That famous freedom, which was won by the military victory over fascism and of which 25 April became the symbol, turns out to be the freedom of the capitalists to exploit wage labor without restraint. What is left for the workers? The satisfaction of electing politicians in every round of elections who will defend not their interests but the exploitation of wage labor by the capitalists, who will intensify their pressure and who will hit with the force of the state all those who rebel not with words but with organized struggle.
The myth of the partisan struggle, which had already surfaced in the Spanish Civil War, was in fact used against the proletariat, distracting it from the class struggle in order to win it over to the benefit of capitalism to support one of the two warring imperialist blocs. The guerrilla struggle, for the proletariat represented the prevention of the emergence in the imperialist war of even an attempt at an independent struggle of the proletarian forces, a struggle waged against the two war fronts. An independent struggle which, despite the counter-revolutionary and Stalinist triumph over the communist forces, had its example in the struggle of the workers in the Warsaw ghetto, during which it was the Soviets – boasting of being communists and representatives of the international proletariat – who stood a few kilometers from the city and waited for the German army to turn the Warsaw ghetto into a pile of rubble.
We revolutionary communists will always be against partisanship because we are against the bourgeois forces, both domestic and foreign; we are for the independent class struggle of the proletariat, that is, against any “25 April” that is celebrated around the world.
The resumption of class struggle and revolutionary struggle will never happen through the partisan struggle, because it serves exclusively the warmongering and counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.
(1) Cf. https://www.avvenire.it/opinioni/pagine/la-verve-di-churchill-in-3-attuali-battute-con-altrettante-repliche-e-un-v
(2) See the article “Abbasso la repubblica borghese, abbasso la sua costituzione”, published in the then party review Prometeo, No. 6, March 1947.
(3) See Adnkronos, “Violante, riflettere su resistenza e sui vinti di ieri”, 10 May 1996. “I wonder,” Violante remarked, “if today’s Italy should not start thinking about yesterday’s defeated. Not because they were right, or because it is necessary, out of a politeness that is not very clear, to reconcile a kind of unacceptable contradiction between the two sides. We must try to understand, without committing a falsifying revision of reality, the reasons why thousands of young men and especially girls, when all was lost, sided with [the Republic of] Salo and not with rights and freedom. This effort would help to understand the complexity of our country after half a century, to construct the ‘Liberation’ [i.e. the liberation from fascism] as a value for all Italians, to define the boundaries of a political system in which one recognizes oneself by the simple and fundamental fact that one lives in this country, that one fights for its future, that one loves it, that one wants to make it more prosperous and serene. Within this commonly shared system, then, all legitimate differences and opposition can exist”, as would befit democracy”.
April, 22nd 2023
International Communist Party
Il comunista - le prolétaire - el proletario - proletarian - programme communiste - el programa comunista - Communist Program
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