DON'T VOTE

Italian Elections 1948

CWO Introduction

With another UK General election now upon us we are reprinting here a document on elections from our Italian comrades that goes back to the early years of their organisation which was founded in 1943.

On April 25 1945 the German Army in Northern Italy surrendered to the Allied Powers. This is now a national holiday in Italy which mythologises the “national liberation” of Italy as the work of anti-fascist partisans rather than the outcome on one side’s victory in an imperialist war. The Internationalist Communist Party (PCInt) had been formed in 1943 as the only organisation to oppose all imperialist alliances in the war. Many of its founder members participated actively in the strikes in Piedmont and Lombardy of that year which seemed to show that a proletarian revival was in the making. In 1945 the PCint could emerge from its clandestine existence. But the end of the Second World War in Italy was not the end of the threat of war. With the Axis Powers defeated, imperialist rivalry now shifted to the “cold war” between Stalin’s USSR and the USA, led then by Truman. Despite the “Salerno turn” by Togliatti’s Italian Communist Party (PCI) in which he agreed to support capitalism and take part in a national unity government after the war, the USA was terrified that Italy “would fall to the communists” (by which they of course meant the Stalinists of Togliatti’s PCI). To fight this they not only set up the Marshall Plan (where $13 billion was allocated to restore European states) but in the first democratic elections of the new Italian Republic (the constitution came into force on January 1 1948) the CIA flooded the country with money to ensure the victory of De Gasperi’s Christian Democrats. It is this Cold War struggle fought by proxy in the ballot boxes that is referred to several times in the leaflet below.

For the Internationalist Communist Party the elections posed a challenge. With sections in 73 towns and cities and thousands of members the Party was growing rapidly but was no match yet for the parties backed by the various imperialist powers. Some wanted to return to the positions of the old Abstentionist fraction of 1919 and simply condemn the elections tout court. The majority though argued that whilst all could agree on the principle that the proletarian revolution could not come via parliamentary methods the question posed by the elections was a tactical one. Should the party participate on an anti-parliamentary basis? The Party had already participated in local elections in 1946 for propagandist purposes but a parliamentary election was a bigger issue. The decisive factor for participation was the fact that parties which put up candidates got the right to speak in the hustings or public meetings held in every town square. By using the public platforms the PCInt (amongst whom were some excellent public speakers like Damen) could reach more workers and at the same time attack the system as a whole. The aim of the party remained anti-parliamentary as the following leaflet shows. The key passage is

We internationalists entered this electoral battle not to ask for votes, but only because it allows us to say with more effectiveness and sense of reality to the masses, who still believe in the mystification of elections, that the proletariat will revive, will find itself and the way to overcome the forces of war, only on the day that it acquires the consciousness and the power to sweep away all the rotten ballot papers and parliament.

Although not ruling out electoral participation as it remains a tactical question of what is the best way to develop class consciousness in practice the PCint (Battaglia Comunista) have never found any tactical advantage to be gained from participating in any subsequent election. On the contrary as all their later election documents show, they can see that the increasing domination of the capitalist media over the political system means that participation in parliamentary elections today is not only tactically pointless but strategically helps to legitimise the system.

The leaflet also demonstrates that in 1948 the PCInt had no illusions about the state of class consciousness in Italy. They recognised that the proletariat was still largely under the domination of capitalist illusions (largely through the class collaboration of Togliatti’s Italian Communist Party) and that the fight to reverse this would be long and difficult. No-one then could have predicted just how long and difficult that would be. In the April 1948 elections 92.2% of the electorate participated and the post-war reconstruction of capitalist Italy was underway.

DON’T VOTE

Don’t Vote for any Party or For any of their Fronts

That would mean voting for war and for a new triumph of capitalism

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

Again parliamentary democracy grants you the freedom to elect your bosses, and to choose between those who have already shown that they know how to defend their class interests. They did it yesterday under the principles and institutions of the fascist state, and do it now with the principles and institutions of the democratic state, in both cases with the principles and institutions of the capitalist state.

The story of the last few decades is the story of the victorious advance of monopoly capitalism throughout the world; it is the story of permanent war for dominance now by this, now by that imperialist force; it is the story of the defeat of the proletariat and its material destruction as a united political and revolutionary force.

In this dark and painful vigil that is opening the door to a third global massacre, the proletariat cannot see that its class interests are opposed to those of capitalism and its economic and political organisations. The proletariat as a whole has still not grasped the idea that if capitalism has yet not kicked the bucket it is not because of the perpetual revival of its economy and its ideals. History and science clearly deny that. Time after time capitalism overcomes its mortal crisis by destroying in its class enemy, the proletariat, the consciousness of its historical tasks. It can do this because the political forces which arise from within the class are seduced by the practice of compromise and collaboration.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

Capitalism knows it is condemned by its very system of production; knows that it is ready to explode from its internal contradictions; knows from the signs which daily become more apparent that it is on a fatal and tragic arc of decline. If it wants to live it has to resort to violence, deception and war.

But war is impossible without the labour and the blood of the proletariat; capitalism needs to violently tear the proletariat from its class ideology and activity to turn it into a mere manipulated mass, firmly linked to the cause of imperialism and war.

That this has happened and that we face a new capitalist victory is demonstrated by the fact that the current alignment of political forces in the electoral struggle exactly matches the deployment of the imperialist powers in the war. The proletariat as a class has virtually disappeared from the political scene, engulfed by opportunism in relation to the war that is being prepared.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

In this situation, even the traditional electioneering carnival of bourgeois democracy has been put into action as a tool of war. A vote today for De Gasperi or Togliatti does not means voting for greater parliamentary democracy or for the gradual and peaceful conquest of power, but means only allowing the economy, labour, the living forces of the country to be driven towards the real war of the parliamentary democracy of the Anglo-Americans, or towards the war of the People’s democracy of the Russians; ensuring, in a word, that the masses of the workers will go back to being cannon fodder for the victory of a new imperialist robber.

We internationalists tell you, or workers, that there is no historical antithesis between people’s democracy and parliamentary democracy; between Russia and America; between Stalin and Truman. The real historical and living antithesis, is between the dictatorship of capital, however it masquerades as democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

Don’t be fooled by the programmes which are rich only in words and demagogic claims that the parties of both sides have made the basis of their propaganda, whether it is about bread, housing or employment problems, that nobody will solve for the benefit of the workers, or about structural reform whose implementation would only result in consolidating this monstrous body of a state that imprisons the proletariat.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

However you vote, and you will vote, in part from the fear of losing, through unemployment, the possibility of a piece of bread for you and your children; and in part under the illusion that it might solve the serious problems that plague your daily life.

Our duty as revolutionaries is to tell you: DON'T VOTE, DON'T VOTE FOR ANY PARTY FOR ANYBODY THAT WOULD VOTE FOR WAR AND FOR A NEW TRIUMPH OF CAPITALISM.

We internationalists entered this electoral battle not to ask for votes, but only because it allows us to say with more effectiveness and sense of reality to the masses, who still believe in the mystification of elections, that the proletariat will revive, will find itself and the way to overcome the forces of war, only on the day that it acquires the consciousness and the power to sweep away all the rotten ballot papers and parliament.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

Don’t give your solidarity to the war parties and their fronts, on both the right and left of the bourgeois spectrum. They are jointly and severally responsible for having harnessed the popular movement of April 25 to make it a weapon of defence of the factories, homes and property of the bourgeoisie whether fascist or anti-fascist; are jointly and severally responsible for the farcical purge and amnesty of the fascist leaders; are jointly and severally responsible for starvation wages and unemployment insofar as they are all conscious creators of class collaboration, the wages truce and national reconciliation.

PROLETARIANS, WORKERS,

The symbol of our struggle, that of the Russian Revolution of October, that of Lenin does not demand votes for the bourgeois parliament, but for a sign of the revival of the proletariat, a sign of its resurgent revolutionary class consciousness for the victory of socialism.

Down with all war parties and fronts

Down with the deception of the bourgeois parliament

Down with the peoples and democratic wars of imperialism

Long live the proletarian revolution!

THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE of the Internationalist Communist Party

April 1948

Friday, May 1, 2015