740.00119 Control (Italy)/5–1545

The Department of State to the British Embassy


The Department shares the apprehensions of the British Foreign Office regarding the internal political situation in Italy. The interests of the Government of the United States are similar to those of the British Government outlined in the Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire of May 15.

The pledges of the Government of the United States and of Great Britain toward the Italian people are clear: a free and untrammeled choice of their permanent form of government after the termination of hostilities. Now that the war in Europe has ended and all Germans have been expelled from Italian territory, the institutional question enters a new phase. Hence it is necessary to be prepared to state publicly and precisely how the occupying powers intend to implement their pledges.

It has been the constant purpose of the Government of the United States to encourage the Italian Government to stand on its own feet. In lieu of elective bodies we have recognized the claim of the anti-Fascist parties to be represented in the Italian Government. Yet it is the conviction of the Government of the United States that a free and untrammeled choice by the Italian people of their permanent form of Government means some form of national election and that a national election can scarcely be held with success unless it be preceded by the institution and operation of local elections.

[Page 973]

The Department proposes this program for joint action by the British and American Governments as the powers responsible in Italy, the Soviet Government to be invited to concur:

I. That the two Governments formally and publicly take cognizance of the Decreto-Legge Luogotenemiale No. 151 of June 25, 1944, which reads in part:

Article 1. “After the liberation of the national territory the institutional forms shall be decided by the Italian people who for that purpose will elect by universal, direct, and secret suffrage a Constituent Assembly to determine the new constitution of the State.”

Article 3. “The Ministers and Under-Secretaries of State swear on their honor to exercise their functions in the supreme interest of the nation and, until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, not to commit acts which in any way would prejudice the solution of the institutional question.”

By explicitly and formally accepting this decree-law the British and American Governments would achieve the aim of avoiding intervention in Italian internal affairs or with Italian political parties. They would place upon the Italian Government itself the burden of responsibility of maintaining the present provisional structure of the Italian Government until convocation of the Constituent Assembly. This structure includes: (a) the Lieutenant General as titular head of the Italian State and (b) the Council of Ministers which is charged with the administration and which collectively has the power, by virtue of Article four of the decree of June 25, 1944, to issue decrees with the force of law. The British and American Governments will continue to recognize this government as the legal government of Italy.

If the Government should resign in response to new conditions and a new Government be formed, the newly appointed Prime Minister will solemnly pledge the acceptance of his Government of the obligations to the Allied powers under the Armistice terms. The new Prime Minister and the new Ministers and Under-Secretaries of State would furthermore reaffirm the decree law of June 25, 1944, and take the oath provided for in Article three of that law.

II. That the two Governments require, with the concurrence of the Soviet Government, that satisfactory electoral machinery be established and put into operation in the communes before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.

The United States Government considers it a solemn obligation to see that the Italian people are given a truly free and untrammeled choice of their permanent form of government. It wishes, as does the British Government, to avoid interference in Italian internal affairs or with Italian political parties. The Department also wishes to avoid for the occupying powers the obligation of detailed supervision of an Italian national election of the constituent assembly which could only be possible if satisfactory electoral machinery were already established and operating.

[Page 974]

The British and American Governments will jointly urge the Italian Government to provide for the creation of adequate democratic local electoral machinery and local elections. Only when these local elections have been held throughout Italy would it be appropriate to convoke the Constituent Assembly. A public statement of the Allied Governments’ position might be useful in this regard at the appropriate time.

III. The phrase “convocation of the Constituent Assembly” will be interpreted to mean the issuance by the Italian Government of a call for election of members of the Constituent Assembly.

Between the issuance of the call for elections and the actual assembling of the members of the Constituent Assembly there should naturally be an appropriate interval permitting campaigning by the various political parties. Inasmuch as the form of the State will be a fundamental issue in this election, the party leaders who are ministers or undersecretaries will be relieved of their pledge regarding the institutional question at the time the call for the election is issued.

At this time the Italian Government should provide legislation suspending for the Italian armed forces the oath to the Crown, in order that this traditional obligation may not impede a free expression of the members of the armed forces themselves, as well as lessening the chances of possible coercion of the electorate by the armed forces.

IV. That the British, Soviet, and American Governments jointly and publicly proclaim their program of implementation of the pledge that the Italian people shall have the free and untrammeled choice of their permanent form of government.

As the Aide-Mémoire of the British Embassy of May fifteenth suggests, there is the likelihood, now that hostilities in Europe have terminated, that some parties in Italy will seek to re-open the institutional question at this time. Furthermore there is a widespread interest in this question in other parts of the world. It is quite possible, unless their position be made clear and public, that the British and American Governments will be accused of perpetuating the Italian monarchy by means of their military occupation and for ulterior purposes. Such accusations might be made to appear the more plausible if the occupying powers should insist, without explanation, on renewal of the pledge by members of the Italian Council of Ministers not to re-open the institutional question.

The Department of State takes this opportunity to recall point six of the Moscow Declaration on Italy of November 1, 1943,42 that “Democratic organs of local government shall be created.” It is the view of the Government of the United States that some steps should be taken now in implementation of this pledge. Accordingly it has proposed through its Embassies in London and Moscow a plan for regional decentralization of the Italian Government. It is the view of this Government that reconstruction of local government should logically precede the establishment of the permanent national government of Italy. Accordingly the British Government is invited to [Page 975] concur with the American Government in advising and urging the Italian Government to take the initial steps leading to regional decentralization.