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The Missing Insurrection

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The Rebirth of Italian Communism, 1943–44
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This chapter focuses on the Liberation of Rome, and the reasons the communists were unable to fulfil their plans for a popular insurrection in the capital upon the Allies’ arrival. It explains that the weakness of the city’s Resistance movements was compounded by the institutional deal following the Salerno Turn, as well as both Allied and Vatican efforts to prevent social unrest. Communists celebrated the end of Occupation, but their newfound freedom also came with definite limits.

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  1. 1.

    ‘Food situation in Rome’, 21.3.1944, National Archives (henceforth NA)/WO204/2452/46/150/5, shows AMG fears that they would arrive to find a starving population. Sir D’Arcy even suggested that flour be delivered to the Pope in order to alleviate popular suffering (see e.g. Foreign Office, henceforth FO, 371/43870/5055), though this was ruled out on the grounds that it would indirectly aid the Germans.

  2. 2.

    Giorgio Bocca contradicts Roberto Battaglia’s argument that the lack of insurrection in Rome was a ‘masterpiece of Vatican diplomacy’, instead rightly drawing attention to the weakness of the Resistance as well as the fact that ecclesiastical pressure was insufficient to preventing insurrections in the Northern cities. See Bocca, Giorgio. 1966. Storia dell’Italia partigiana, Bari: Laterza. Missing from this analysis, however, is any understanding of Resistance forces outside the CLN (Bocca refers to the ‘loss of the Roman Resistance’s only effective armed force, the gappisti’, notwithstanding its tiny numbers even in the months before the Fosse Ardeatine massacre forced its militants to flight; p. 342), as well as the PCI’s own different attitude towards what insurrection would entail in these other cities: see Sect. 8.5.

  3. 3.

    Bonomi, Ivanoe. 1947. Diario di un anno (2 giugno 1943-10 giugno 1944). Milan: Garzanti, p. 191 (4.6.1944 diary entry).

  4. 4.

    See Chap. 9.

  5. 5.

    Fondazione Gramsci, Archivio Partito Comunista (henceforth APC)/Comitati Dirigenti/62/Roma/1235–1245. Idem, 1257–59, the Catholic-communists likewise complained of ‘four of the six’ other CLN parties’ non-participation in the strike.

  6. 6.

    NA/FO37/43873/8769, 2.6.1944.

  7. 7.

    Ibid., A 27.4.1944 report from AMG to ACC (in NA/WO204/2452) aptly noted the reconciliation of political and military leadership thanks to the new government, thus identifying the real threat not in ‘civil war’ between the CLN parties and the royalists, but rather ‘anarchy’ owing to the desperate food situation.

  8. 8.

    Notizie sui partiti della concentrazione di sinistra’, 8.5.1944, copy in APC/62/1362–4.

  9. 9.

    Similar themes were present in Vatican communications to the AMG, and D’Arcy’s views likely influenced by the Holy See’s own.

  10. 10.

    NA/FO37/43873/8769, 2.6.1944.

  11. 11.


  12. 12.

    NA/WO204/2452/2879, 1.6.1944.

  13. 13.

    See 27.4.1944 report in NA/WO204/2452.

  14. 14.

    Poce to Bencivenga, 2.6.1944, in Museo Storico della Liberazione, Fondo Silverio Corvisieri (henceforth MSdL, FSC)/91.

  15. 15.

    Kurzman, Dan. 1975. The Race for Rome. New York: Pinnacle, p. 374, highlights Poce’s role in dampening any idea of insurrection, following the meeting with the British major.

  16. 16.

    Secchia, Pietro. 1974. Il Partito comunista italiano e la guerra di Liberazione 1943–45, Milan: Feltrinelli, pp. 440–1. He further remarks that Bonomi’s diary shows ‘how in those days the CLN was thinking about anything other than popular insurrection’. ‘In the North, too, there were no lack of manoeuvres to impede the insurrection, but [t]here unity was not considered a fetish, an inviolable taboo’. In his reconstruction he uses a 10 April 1945 instruction from the PCI leadership in the North to highlight the Party’s strong stance against whoever would block an insurrection.

  17. 17.

    Otello Terzani, letter to Silverio Corvisieri, 8.8.1979.

  18. 18.


  19. 19.

    Zolla, Giacomo. 1972. 30 anni di storia e di lotte dei comunisti di Soriano nel Cimino. Soriano nel Cimino: La Commerciale, p. 40.

  20. 20.

    ‘Il comizio di Piazza del Collegio Romano’. Bandiera Rossa, 6.6.1944.

  21. 21.


  22. 22.

    ‘Un delitto della V colonna fascista’. Armata Rossa, 14.6.44.

  23. 23.

    See report in ACS/Comando Generale dell’Arma dei CCRR/Ufficio Servizio Situazione e Collegamenti/3779/2441/3.12.1944.

  24. 24.

    See 9.10.1944 report in ACS/MI/Gabinetto/Partiti Politici/181/3212.

  25. 25.

    ‘Informazioni sul Movimento Comunista’, 26.2.1945, in Fondazione Gramsci, Fondo Mosca (henceforth FGFM)/275/47.

  26. 26.

    ‘Saluto a Bencivenga’. Bandiera Rossa, 14.6.1944.

  27. 27.

    This inelegant translation of epurazione [purges] was commonly used by Allied officials.

  28. 28.

    ACS, ACC, 1082C/230, letter to Pollock from Major A.W. Nattersbey, 18.7.1944, cited in Gremmo, Roberto. 2015. I partigiani di Bandiera Rossa, Biella: ELF. Second edition, 2015, p. 149.

  29. 29.

    In Fondo Otello Terzani, Biblioteca Comunale di Follonica.

  30. 30.

    ‘L’esercito del popolo’. Armata Rossa, 14.6.1944.

  31. 31.


  32. 32.

    ACS, ACC, 1082C/230, letter to Pollock from Major A.W. Nattersbey, 18 July, cited in Gremmo, I partigiani di Bandiera Rossa, p. 149.

  33. 33.

    Ibid., pp. 149–150.

  34. 34.

    ‘Programma politico-economico’, May 1944, FGFM/275/1.

  35. 35.

    ‘Relazione al comitato esecutivo del PCI’, [n.d./June 1944?] FGFM/275/18.

  36. 36.


  37. 37.

    ‘Noti sui dirigenti dell’Armata Rossa’. 17.6.1944, FGFM/275/7.

  38. 38.

    ‘Discorso sulla liquidazione dell’Armata Rossa’. 2.7.1944, FGFM/275/16.

  39. 39.

    ‘Brevi note su “Bandiera Rossa”’. 15.7.1944, APC/63/1344.

  40. 40.


  41. 41.


  42. 42.

    [Untitled], 26.7.1944, FGFM/275/14.

  43. 43.

    ‘Carte in Tavola’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, 27.7.1944.

  44. 44.

    [Untitled], 31.7.1944. APC/63/1357.

  45. 45.

    ‘Colloquio con De Luca del Movimento Comunista’, 22.7.1944. APC/63/1346.

  46. 46.

    Recalled by Ivo Lupi in a later letter to the local PCI leadership: ‘Relazione riservata’, 29.9.1945, FGFM/275/56.

  47. 47.

    As noted by Corvisieri, Silverio 1968, Bandiera Rossa nella Resistenza romana, Rome: Samonà e Savelli.

  48. 48.

    ‘Dal rapporto del compagno Novella’, 24.3.1945, Fondazione Gramsci, Fondo Agostino Novella (FGAN)/87/311–318.

  49. 49.

    Cited in Secchia, Il Partito comunista italiano e la guerra di Liberazione 1943–45, p. 509. Lambert, Tradition révolutionnaire et ‘Nouveau Parti’ en Italie (1942–1945), presents the PCI’s use of insurrection as a pressure valve for militancy, which would also demonstrate the Party’s ability to rein in disorder.

  50. 50.

    Cited in Secchia, Il Partito comunista italiano e la guerra di Liberazione 1943–1945, p. 441.

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Broder, D. (2021). The Missing Insurrection. In: The Rebirth of Italian Communism, 1943–44. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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