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The Guns in the Hills

The Guns in the Hills

Stanton H. Burnett (October 8, 2007)

(This article first appeared in US Italia weekly on February 19, 2006)
Last week we watched Palmiro Togliatti’s peremptory shanghaiing of the 1944 gathering of the Communist clan in Salerno, forcing through the transformation of the movement into a mass party, seeking broad popular allegiance, alliance with other parties, and offering full support to the constitution that would be written in the days ahead.


The shocks to the party leaders did not end there. Togliatti ended the meeting by saying, “I have called a press conference for tomorrow. There will be journalists from the Allies and from newspapers of the liberated parts of Italy.” At that press conference, Togliatti was asked about the government of Marshal Badoglio, the clear bridge to the return of the monarchy.

Togliatti: “We don’t have anything against Badoglio.”
In the months that followed, despite instances of near-revolt against Togliatti’s leadership (some future column will describe the politics of Pietro Secchia [a former PCI leader]), he succeeded in imposing the Salerno Switch on the party. The two questions one must answer to understand this episode are (1) What caused the Switch? and (2) How did Togliatti manage to sell it to the comrades? It is complicated by the fact that he may not have been entirely candid about the causes when speaking to his party. We’ll consider three possible causes, not as a history game, but because the answer to these questions shaped the development of the party and Italian politics, spawned the many varieties of Communist experience (labor, non-Marxist members, miglioristi [PCI reformers], etc.), led directly to the decapitation effected by Mani pulite, and produced Fausto Bertinotti, Massimo D’Alema, and that chaotic gaggle of the Left that is today being herded, like kittens, into the April elections.
The first possible answer relates directly to Togliatti’s situation within the movement. He was faced with the political necessity of convincing many militants that the Switch was mere tactics, was designed to fool and pacify the Allies, and that if the comrades buried their arms in the hills, the time would come when they could dig them up. As we look back over the PCI’s participation in the post-war republic, it seems patently implausible that the Switch was mere tactics-for-the-moment. But a reading of biographic materials on the Red Brigades and other revolutionaries of the anni di piombo reveals case after case where rebels of the 1960s and 1970s were the sons and daughters of Communists militants who had believed that the guns in the hills would be dug up, and felt betrayed when it became apparent that the tailored Pooh-Bahs in party headquarters had no such intention. (Does anyone remember Forattini’s cartoons of Enrico Berlinguer in a velvet smoking jacket holding a long cigarette holder?)
So this first possible explanation was hinted at to the rank-and-file, but little documentation supports its veracity. The last possibility, to be examined next week, has iron-clad documentary support, but was never mentioned, at least above a whisper, by Togliatti and his team. Between these lies a quietly-discussed partial explanation: simple over-confidence. Togliatti managed to convince many of his colleagues that the party, after sewing up the rips and shreds of its alliance with the Socialists, could win, could rule Italy in the very near future through electoral victory. The fact that some of their political opposition feared they might be right produced the great political effort, with significant American and Soviet involvement, of 1947-1948.

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Gothic | i-ITALY

Rather, you should soft towel dry this and then input it into a Ziploc bag.