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Henry Judd

On the Significance of
the Results in Italy’s Elections

(3 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 18, 3 May 1948, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The results of the Italian elections gave the American press, and the world supporters of American imperialism, their first cheering news in many long months. A wave of optimism is sweeping over political leaders and spokesmen who, a brief few weeks ago, were sunk in gloom and despair about the westward surge of world Stalinism,

The election results and bare statistics apparently justify the smiles that, so it was said, lit up the face of the Pope and his escort, We shall see whether all these cheers and shouts are entirely justified, but first the actual statistics:

How They Voted

Out of the 26 million Italians who voted for members of the Chamber of Deputies (that section of the new Parliament for which the largest number of people voted), the final vote was as follows:

  • Christian Democrats:12,752,000 votes – 48.7 per cent
  • Stalinists: 8,026,000 votes – 30.7 per cent
  • Saragat Socialists: 1,861,000 votes – 7.1 per cent

The balance of votes was scattered among various parties to the right of the Christian Democrats. On the basis of this vote, the party of de Gasperi has an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and close to it in the Senate; thus, it can claim a sweeping victory and proceed to the setting up of a government ini ts own image which may, or may not, include representatives of other parties.

So far, it is clear, the conservative Christian Democrats (much to the right of the French MRP of Bidault and Schumann), the Pope and American imperialism well may chortle over their great victory, particularly since they hardly expected it! A blow has been dealt at Stalinism by its major rival, and the onward march momentarily brought to a halt. Momentarily, we repeat, for this was a blow from the right, from conservatism, reaction (in the form of the Catholic Church), and imperialism.

Let us probe the statistics a bit further. Stalinism indeed lost, but not so much as one might expect. The only basis for serious comparison we have are the 1946 Constituent Assembly electoral figures. If we contrast the two, we see – to begin with – that in actual votes the Stalinists gained, not lost! They received about 7,500,000 in 1946 (it can only be approximately estimated since there was likewise a Stalinist-front slate in 1946, but at that time the right-wing Saragat Socialists were included in it), which means they gained half a million actual votes. But, since more people voted this time, one can estimate that the percentage of the Stalinist vote declined by about 2 percent – a not very large figure.

Actually, the real defeat of the Stalinists lies in the field of strategy, where they failed to achieve their coveted goal of a majority or, at least, a plurality vote. The fact nonetheless remains that Stalinism represents a formidable mass party of 6,000,000 people, on the whole the working class, poor peasantry and most oppressed people of the Italian nation. Nothing can conceal this blunt fact. Since the de Gasperi regime cannot solve the social and economic problems of these masses, it is idle even to speculate about the “finish” of Stalinism. A strategic defeat, yes; a fatal blow, no.

We must therefore reject as not worthy of serious consideration the loud and vigorous victory claims of American imperialism. Stalinism can easily cope with, survive and outlast such defeats. But, at the same time, we consider that the Italian elections did chalk up a far more real and substantial victory for the Italian people.

Significance of the Saragat Vote

We refer, of course, to the surprisingly large popular vote attained by the Saragat Socialist Party, the anti-Stalinist, ring-wing Social Democratic movement founded in opposition to the pro-Stalinism of Nenni. This Party, whose principle publicist is the famous novelist Ignazio Silone, staged a surprising comeback at the polls and emerged as an independent force to be reckoned with.

What it the significance of its 2 million votes? It lies, above all, in the fact that enormous numbers of workers turned away from Stalinism, in the Northern Italy industrial cities, but refused to go to the Pope, or clericalism, or American imperialism (despite threats and letters from their American kin). In the key city of Milan, for example, the Saragatists received 250,000 votes and ran the Stalinists a close second. We do not support or agree with the political program of Saragat – that goes without saying – but we hail this vote as proof that substantial numbers are prepared to vote for socialism but not Stalinism; prepared to fight for democracy, but not the reactionary Papist clericalism.

The coming struggle in Italy will not take place merely against the Stalinists. The latter, clearly unable to take power now because of their defeat, will launch a campaign of strikes and sabotage. But there will also be a reactionary threat from the Right, in the form of the new government, which will attempt to slip over anti-labor legislation, stall off the land demands of the peasantry and, in general, serve the common interests of the Papacy and America. The Saragat Socialist Party cannot dodge such issues. That is why it must become the arena for intense political struggles. That is why this Party, its vote and its future prospects, offer the one bright spot in the entire Italian political scene.


A Note on the RDR

Our Paris correspondent, Vincent Care, has sent us a sober and objective report on the newly-founded RDR movement in France, published in this issue of Labor Action. In a previous issue we have called attention to the vicious characterization of this movement by the Social Democratic New Leader. We must now deal briefly with another unwarranted attack not only on the RDR but on those French Trotskyists who have joined it.

Paul G. Stevens, writing in the Cannonite Militant (March 22, 1948) on the formation of the RDR, informed his readers about Franc-Tireur, publication of the RDR. “This paper, since its foundation during the resistance, has been close to the Stalinists, but recently aroused Stalinist ire by advocating a united front against de Gaulle between the CP and the SP.” He further quotes from the first RDR manifesto (published in toto in Labor Action) which takes its stand equally against Social Democracy and Stalinism. One is justified in concluding that on March 22 Stevens considered the RDR, whatever its faults and despite its failure to register or request permission for existence from the Cannonite central office, at least as an anti-Stalinist movement. So far, so good.

But by April 12, 1948, Stevens had changed his tune. The RDR has become suddenly a “pro-Stalinist movement”! Yes, believe it or not, the RDR – viciously denounced in the Stalinist press, berated over and over in the Social Democratic press – is a pro-Stalinist tendency in France! What caused this change on Stevens’ part? It appears that the party Stevens supports in France, the PCI, had meanwhile expelled Demazière, leader of the anti-sectarian wing of the PCI, together with 45 percent of the Party. This left the PCI with a handful of a few hundred isolated comrades.

Slanderer Stevens announced that Demazière is a notorious “pro-Stalinist” who proposed “... a line of adaptation to the Stalinist policy dominant in the French mass movement.” Labor Action, therefore,has an unprincipled alliance with Demazière, the pro-Stalinist, since Labor Action (as everyone knows) is pro-Truman!

We ignore the question of Labor Action’s pro-Trumanism – there is, after all, a limit on what must be replied to. We reject, however, the slander of Comrade Demazière as “pro-Stalinist.” After the war, and including last year, we had many serious differences with Demazière and his supporters, above all on the question of their attitude toward Stalinism. We spoke of this openly and frankly in our press. But this was last year, and Demazière has come much closer – along with many others – to our general point of view on Stalinism and other questions. Slanderer Stevens ignores this. We cite but one evidence. In his letter to the PCI, announcing his intention of adhering to the RDR, Demazière writes:

“The RDR, slow in coming into the world, seems to enjoy very lively success in its first days. My profound conviction is that it must develop seriously in the weeks to come to the point where it will rapidly reach a membership of some tens of thousands. It is the symbol of the confusion reigning, of the bewildered searchings of thousands of workers, intellectuals and petty bourgeois who do not wish to choose between Truman and Stalin – that is, between the innumerable evils of putrefying capitalism and the inhuman issue of bureaucratic and terroristic collectivism, as the form of society following such prolonged degeneration.” (our emphasis)

Is that the “pro-Stalinism” you’re talking about, comrade Stevens? Incidentally, comrade Stevens, isn’t it true that the Fourth International leadership supported the Stalinist Popular Front bloc in the Italian elections?

P.S. – Those interested in obtaining the full letter of Demazière to the PCI may obtain it for 15 cents from the Workers Party, 4 Court Square, Long Island City 1, N.Y. (Bulletin, Vol. 3 No. 2)

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