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‘You Just Wait Till Stalin Gets Here…’ Communist Conspiracies in Rome, 1939–42

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Abstract

This chapter examines the culture of the Roman communist underground in the early phases of World War II. It highlights the culture clash between the intellectual fellow-travellers drawn into the orbit of Togliatti’s party during the Popular-Front era, and the proletarian underground that had survived across Fascism. This chapter highlights the effects of the Fascist experience on this clandestine milieu, including the spread of a millenarian cult of Stalin, outside of and in tendency opposed to the PCI’s new strategy.

The resurrection of communist consciousness in Italy is the privilege of no man. The indomitable will of the few who had the courage to profess their faith under Fascist tyranny, the undeniable triumph of the Soviet experience, the destruction of the Fascist bourgeoisie’s capacities to govern, and the need to see with our own eyes the end of the causes of this barbarism, directly resulting from the whole organisation of global capitalism—all this determined the formation of groups of the faithful, at first isolated, then ever more compact, in all Italy.

The Higher Path, programme of the Communist Movement of Italy, 1944 (MCd’I. 1944. La Via Maestra. Rome: Bandiera Rossa, p. 3)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    27.2.1944 report in Archivio Centrale dello Stato (henceforth ACS)/PS/1942/65/6.

  2. 2.

    Cf. Armata Rossa 6.6.1944, 14.6.1944; Chap. 8.

  3. 3.

    ACS/PS/1943/80/Ariccia, p. 7.

  4. 4.

    Ibid., p. 14.

  5. 5.

    ACS/PS/1942/65/14.

  6. 6.

    For example, ACS/PS/1943/79/Bottiglieria del Gambero; ACS/PS/1943/79/Giuseppe Degni.

  7. 7.

    From the biography of Scintilla co-founder Ezio Lombardi in MCd’I. 1944. I nostri martiri. Rome: Bandiera Rossa.

  8. 8.

    Terzani, Otello. n.d. Ricordi di Vita 1915–1950 (unpublished typescript, available at the Biblioteca Comunale di Follonica) pp. 138–39. Dionysus’s Ear was a mythical fourth-century-BC jail in a Sicilian cave, whose acoustics allowed for easy surveillance.

  9. 9.

    PCI Federazione Laziale, Comitato direttivo federale, ‘Rapporto politico’, late November 1943: in Fondazione Gramsci, Archivio Partito Comunista (henceforth APC)/7/2/14, p. 4.

  10. 10.

    ACS/PS/1942/65/Scritte sovversive/12.4.1942.

  11. 11.

    ACS/PS/1942/65/Scritte sovversive/7.12.1942.

  12. 12.

    ACS/PS/1942/65/Scritte sovversive/10.11.1942.

  13. 13.

    Cf. Pavone, Claudio. 1991. Una Guerra Civile. Saggio storico sulla moralità nella Resistenza, Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, pp. 404–6.

  14. 14.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/30.6.1942, p. 7.

  15. 15.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/30.9.1942, p. 4.

  16. 16.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/30.6.1942, p. 8.

  17. 17.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/30.9.1942, p. 5.

  18. 18.

    ACS/PS/1942/65/14.

  19. 19.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/30.9.1942, p. 5.

  20. 20.

    ACS/PS/1942/76/Roma/31.12.1942, p. 7.

  21. 21.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026198.

  22. 22.

    See the Note on Sources above, p. xxx.

  23. 23.

    It changed name to’Italian Communist Party’ only after the Comintern was dissolved in May 1943.

  24. 24.

    Bertelli, Sergio. 1980. Il gruppo: la formazione del gruppo dirigente del PCI, 1936–1948. Milan: Rizzoli, p. 41.

  25. 25.

    Cited in Agosti, Aldo. 2004. ‘The Italian Communist Party and the Third Period’. In In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the Third Period, ed. Matthew Worley. London: IB Tauris, p. 97.

  26. 26.

    Tresso was murdered by French Communist Party partisans in 1943; see Azzaroni, Alfredo. 1962. Blasco: la riabilitazione di un militante rivoluzionario. Milan: Azione Comune; Broué, Pierre and Raymond Vacheron. 1997. Meurtres au Maquis, Paris: Grasset. The standard study on interwar Italian Trotskyism is Francescangeli, Eros. 2005. L’incudine e il martello: aspetti pubblici e privati del trockismo italiano tra antifascismo e antistalinismo (1929–1939). Perugia: Morlacchi.

  27. 27.

    Notably his lectures to the young PCI exiles in Moscow in the first third of 1935: Togliatti, Palmiro. 2010. Corso sugli avversari. Lezioni sul fascismo. Turin: Einaudi.

  28. 28.

    Lo Stato Operaio, 1936, April, ‘Per una politica estera del popolo italiano’; 1936, August, ‘Per una politica di pace’.

  29. 29.

    Ibid.

  30. 30.

    Theorised in Lo Stato Operaio, 1936, October, ‘Per un movimento giovanile italiano’; ‘A voi, uomini di cultura’.

  31. 31.

    This document called for ‘national reconciliation’ under the Fascist programme of 1919: see ‘Per la salvezza dell’Italia riconciliazione del popolo italiano!’. Lo Stato Operaio. 1936.

  32. 32.

    Pavone, Claudio. 1959. ‘Le idee della Resistenza’. Passato e Presente, January-February.

  33. 33.

    For a discussion of the circumstances surrounding Togliatti’s release see Agosti, Aldo. 2008. Palmiro Togliatti: A Biography. London: IB Tauris, pp. 150–58.

  34. 34.

    See Amiconi, Nando. 1977. Il comunista e il capomanipolo. Milan: Vangelista, pp. 316 et sqq.

  35. 35.

    ‘Situazione estera’. Bollettino. 5, 4.11.1939 (in ACS/PS/1942/65).

  36. 36.

    Ibid.

  37. 37.

    ‘Situazione estera’. Bollettino. 1, 4.9.1939, p. 1.

  38. 38.

    ‘Francia’. Bollettino. 5, 4.11.1939, p. 2.

  39. 39.

    Vittoria, Albertina. 1985. Intellettuali e politica alla fine degli anni ‘30: Antonio Amendola e la formazione del gruppo comunista romano. Milan: FrancoAngeli, p. 83.

  40. 40.

    Ibid., p. 84.

  41. 41.

    According to Franco Rodano, quoted in ibid., p. 85.

  42. 42.

    Cf. interrogations in ACS/PS/1943/79/19/21.

  43. 43.

    Vittoria. Intellettuali e politica alla fine degli anni ‘30, p. 90.

  44. 44.

    Bentivegna, Rosario. 2011. Senza fare di necessità virtù. Turin: Einaudi, pp. 82–85.

  45. 45.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/027752, p. 1.

  46. 46.

    Ibid., p. 4.

  47. 47.

    Cf. ACS/PS/F1/68/198/0295.

  48. 48.

    Cf. Casula, Carlo-Felice. 1976. Cattolici-comunisti e sinistra cristiana (1938–1945). Bologna: il Mulino; Malgeri, Francesco. 1982. La sinistra cristiana (1937–1945). Brescia: Morcelliana.

  49. 49.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/027752, p. 5.

  50. 50.

    Vittoria. Intellettuali e politica alla fine degli anni ‘30, p. 99.

  51. 51.

    MCd’I. La via maestra, p. 6.

  52. 52.

    ‘Come vidi “Scintilla”. L’Idea Comunista. 2.12.1945, p. 2. Circolo Gianni Bosio, Fondo Alessandro Portelli (henceforth CGB/FAP)/Mucci/26.

  53. 53.

    Lenin, Vladimir. 1900. ‘Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra’. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1900/sep/iskra.htm.

  54. 54.

    ‘Come vidi “Scintilla”. L’Idea Comunista. 2.12.1945, p. 2.

  55. 55.

    Cf. Guzzo, Roberto. 1945. L’Inferno dei vivi, Rome: EILES, p. 56; Chilanti, Felice. 1969. Ex, Milan: Pesce d’Oro, p. 49; Chilanti, Felice. 1971. La paura entusiasmante. Milan: Mondadori, p. 210. On this formation, see Francescangeli, Eros. 2000. Arditi del popolo: Argo Secondari e la prima organizzazione antifascista (1917–1922). Rome: Odradek.

  56. 56.

    CGB/FAP/Mucci/17–24.

  57. 57.

    ACS/CPC/2817/2835.

  58. 58.

    ACS/CPC/1711.

  59. 59.

    ACS/CPC/1532; see obituary in ‘Un lutto dei comunisti rivoluzionari’. Bandiera Rossa (newspaper of the Trotskyist Gruppi comunisti rivoluzionari), May 1964.

  60. 60.

    Cf. Raponi, Franca 2012. Scintilla nella Resistenza romana. Rome: Edizioni Associate.

  61. 61.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/077849.

  62. 62.

    CGB/FAP/Govoni.

  63. 63.

    ACS/CPC/5423.

  64. 64.

    Cf. ANPI/Anna-Maria Enriques.

  65. 65.

    Note the near-identical set of novels and newspapers found by police at Aleandro Casadio’s house in January 1940: ACS/PS/1942/65/00185/18.1.1940. Gruppi d’Azione Patriottica (GAP) militant Mario Fiorentini (interview with David Broder, 10.4.2013) recalled young PCI members’ discussion of Iron Heel and Mother, as did Mario di Berto in Piccioni, Lidia. 1984. San Lorenzo, un quartiere romano durante il fascismo. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, p. 116..

  66. 66.

    CGB/FAP/Mucci/26; MCd’I, unnumbered, 1945, Museo Storico della Liberazione, fondo Silverio Corvisieri (henceforth MSdL/FSC)/26/89.

  67. 67.

    Cf. for example, ‘Orfeo, scampato al massacro grazie al coraggio della moglie’. Il Messaggero. 3.8.1996; his interview in the 14.9.1996 edition of Rifondazione Comunista’s newspaper Liberazione, ‘Una Bandiera Rossa a Roma’ and his letter in its 4.7.1997 issue, ‘Partigiano di Bandiera Rossa, mi autodenuncio’; or his comments in Bermani, Cesare et al. 1998. Guerra Civile e Stato. Per un revisionismo da sinistra. Rome: Odradek.

  68. 68.

    CGB/FAP/Mucci/26.

  69. 69.

    ‘Primo incontro con Chilanti 3.6.1966’: MSdL/FSC/26/22.

  70. 70.

    ‘Il comunismo in stato d’accusa’. Scintilla, 1, p. 8.

  71. 71.

    Corvisieri, Silverio. 1968. Bandiera Rossa nella Resistenza romana, Rome: Samonà e Savelli asserts that ‘Sator’ was Pietro Bàttara’s pseudonym. ‘Sator’ was the sole name in this issue, but one of four appearing in the second.

  72. 72.

    ‘Il comunismo in stato d’accusa’. Scintilla, 1, p. 7.

  73. 73.

    ‘Il patto URSS Inghilterra e USA’. Scintilla, 2, p. 1.

  74. 74.

    Ibid.

  75. 75.

    Mucci claims in his interview with Alessandro Portelli that Scintilla was a weekly, a claim disproven by the numbering of the only two issues apparently published before the police crackdown. This is likely a matter of simple confusion with Bandiera Rossa, which appeared weekly over October–November 1943.

  76. 76.

    ‘Quando verrà Baffone…’ Scintilla, 2, p. 2.

  77. 77.

    Ibid.

  78. 78.

    Thus curiously implying that Abyssinia (Ethiopia) had indeed been ‘liberated’ thanks to Mussolini’s invasion.

  79. 79.

    Ibid.

  80. 80.

    Ibid.

  81. 81.

    ‘Parliamo a voi’. Scintilla, 2, p. 2.

  82. 82.

    Ibid., pp. 2–3.

  83. 83.

    On Pappalardo’s activity in this earlier period, see ‘Un direttore irresponsabile’. Sicilia libertaria, 1.6.2005; and the newspaper he edited, Il Vespro Anarchico.

  84. 84.

    Unnumbered 1945 typescript, MSdL/FSC/29/87, p. 1.

  85. 85.

    ‘Manuale del comunista’. Scintilla, 2, p. 4.

  86. 86.

    Quoted in Spriano, Paolo. 1973. Storia del Partito comunista italiano, Vol. IV, La fine del fascismo. Della riscossa operaia alla lotta armata. Turin: Einaudi, p. 146.

  87. 87.

    Unnumbered 1945 typescript, MSdL/FSC/29/87, p. 1.

  88. 88.

    Ibid.

  89. 89.

    Described in ‘Primo incontro con Chilanti 3.6.1966’, MSdL/FSC/26/22.

  90. 90.

    Unnumbered 1945 typescript, MSdL/FSC/29/87, p. 1.

  91. 91.

    ‘Lettera di Luca alla direzione’, 25.1.1944, in Istituto Piemontese per la Storia della Resistenza e della Società (Turin), Fondo Arturo Colombi (henceforth, IPR/AC)/3.

  92. 92.

    Secchia, Pietro. 1974. Il Partito comunista italiano e la guerra di Liberazione 1943–1945. Milan: Feltrinelli, p. 437.

  93. 93.

    Lombardo-Radice, Lucio. 1946. Fascismo e anticomunismo, appunti e ricordi 1935–1945. Turin: Einaudi; Alicata, Mario. 1976. Intellettuali e azione politica. Rome: Riuniti; Bentivegna, Rosario. 2011. Senza fare di necessità virtù, Turin: Einaudi.

  94. 94.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026463.

  95. 95.

    Ibid.

  96. 96.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026198.

  97. 97.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026730.

  98. 98.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026745.

  99. 99.

    Ibid.

  100. 100.

    Ibid.

  101. 101.

    ‘Il patto URSS Inghilterra e USA’. Scintilla, 2, p. 1.

  102. 102.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/026745.

  103. 103.

    Ibid.

  104. 104.

    Ibid.

  105. 105.

    Ibid.

  106. 106.

    Ibid., p. 5.

  107. 107.

    Ibid.

  108. 108.

    Ibid., p. 7.

  109. 109.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/0704, pp. 3–4.

  110. 110.

    Ibid., p. 4.

  111. 111.

    Ibid., p. 5.

  112. 112.

    Ibid.

  113. 113.

    Unnumbered 1945 typescript, MSdL/FSC/29/87, p. 1.

  114. 114.

    ACS/PS/F1/68/198/0704, p. 8.

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Broder, D. (2021). ‘You Just Wait Till Stalin Gets Here…’ Communist Conspiracies in Rome, 1939–42. In: The Rebirth of Italian Communism, 1943–44. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-76489-0_2

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