Considerable discontent is developing within the Italian Communist Party as a result of the growing feeling that the Kremlin is exploiting the party purely as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy and is neglecting the real interests of the Italian working class.
Pointing out that the existence of this unrest may account for the recent decision to postpone the party congress, the (US) embassy suggests that if a party congress is held, it may turn into a genuine debate on policy which may in turn lead to the establishment of an Italian Communist movement detached from the Cominform.
The Italian Communist Party has formally endorsed Rome’s membership in NATO in a Chamber of Deputies vote on forein policy. Since 1972, the Communists have claimed to support NATO, but the vote marks the first time they have formally joined the traditional governing parties in expressing support for Italian participation in the Atlantic Alliance.
The resolution will add to pressures for a larger, more direct Communist role in the governing process. This is the second case in recent months of formal agreement on foreign policy between the Communists and other parties. In October, the Communists joined in a Senate resolution on foreign policy. It was far less detailed, however, and avoided any specific reference to NATO.
The official reaction of most parties has been positive. The official journal of the governing Christian Democrats notes that the vote established a broad consensus “bound to strengthen the position of Italy” in the foreign policy field. Politicians on the left are likely to agree with the Socialists, that the vote removes another barrier to the Communists’ eventual participation in government.
Giulio Pastore, secretary general of the most important non-Communist labor union, CISL, has denied any implication of unity of action with the Communists and intends to avoid giving the scheduled strike any political coloring. Labor’s increasing dissatisfaction over economic conditions is giving the Communists the opportunity to seize the initiative again in the labor field and is forcing the more conservative unions to follow in their wake.
This situation would appear to favor the achievement of one of the Communist priority objectives, namely the unity of action of all labor groups, toward which Communist activity had recently been ineffective. The strike has been called by a joint meeting of Communist and anti-Communist labor unions. The strike is to protest as “inadequate 11 recent government proposals for wage increases averaging 3 percent for state employees, with. the greatest benefits for top-level workers.
The long-standing issue of wage increases for government employees is one of the few which has had the- support of anti-Communist as well as Conmunist unions. The last strike of government employees for pay raises, called by all unions on 22 June,
Communist inspired strikes in the port and industrial area of Genoa have increased in recent weeks as a protest against new regulations that would weaken the Communists’ hold on the port workers . The Communists have also scheduled work stoppages and demonstrations in and around Rome in an effort to prevent Senate ratification of the Paris accords.
The Communist port workers in Genoa have been on strike for over a month, and there have been short sympathy strikes by the stevedores union and by workers in various plants in the surrounding industrial area. Non-Communist union leaders in the port consider the police protection granted their workers insufficient.
To date the Rome government has taken no action but is prepared, if the agitation continues , to appoint a commissioner to enforce the new, controversial ordinance permitting private steamship companies to select ship repair workers rather than having to accept them from the Communist- dominated port labor company.
Labor unrest elsewhere in Italy is being aggravated by substantial layoffs and the threat of further dismissals in various key defense plants. These layoffs, caused mainly by cancellation and delays in letting offshore procurement contracts, will enhance Communist prospects for gaining greater public support.
Communist and non-Communist unions have joined in calling a 24-hour nation-wide strike for wage increases for ceramic workers on 24 February, the date set for the opening of the Senate debate on the Paris accords.
Party chief Palmiro Togliatti was openly criticized at the PCI national conference of 9-14 January, yet he appears to remain in full control and to be ready to continue the ‘’soft” policies of the past seven years . The recent shift in leadership and policies in Moscow has not been reflected in the adoption of a more militant political line by the Italian Communists.
Complete returns for the election of provincial councils in thirty Italian provinces for which voting took place on the weekend of 10 June showed gains for the Communist bloc and decreased strength for the government bloc over the national elections.
Although the Communist bloc lost control of administration in eight major cities, including Florence and Turin, it retained control in Italy’s main naval bases, Taranto and La Sepia, as well as in the ports of Leghorn and Brindisi.
Complete returns for the election of provincial councils in thirty Italian provinces for which voting took place on the weekend of 10 June showed gains for the Communist bloc and decreased strength for the government bloc over the national elections. Although the Communist bloc lost control of administration in eight major cities, including Florence and Turin, they retained control in Italy’s main naval bases, Taranto and La Sepia, as well as in the ports of Leghorn and Brindisi.
In the provincial elections, the Communist bloc won 38.5 %of the vote, compared with 36% in the same area in 1918. The pro-government bloc, led by the Christian Democrats, polled 50,3%, compared with 59.5% in 1918. The neofascist Italian Social Movement rose to 0.3% from 1.4% in 1940.
Partial results for the municipal elections showed the same trend. To Italian non-Communist political leaders, the election results showed the need for a stronger anti-Communist policy on the part of the government to curb left-wing propaganda and for more vigorous social reforms in order to better the conditions of large numbers of Italians who are either unemployed or living on near starvation wages.
Moscow has warned that this would increase the dangers to which Italy is already vulnerable as a result of its involvement in NATO.
Adapted from declassified CIA reports (1951-1975) published by archive.org. Published under a Creative Commons license. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.