740.00119 Control (Italy)/7–945

The British Embassy to the Department of State

Memorandum of Conversation

1. Decentralization of Local Government

We would welcome this but feel that it is up to the Italian Government to take the necessary steps and doubt whether His Majesty’s [Page 977] Government and the United States Government should interfere in this purely domestic matter. An Anglo-American statement on the subject might imply a lack of confidence in the assurances of the Italian Government or doubt of their ability to implement them.

2. Institutional Question

Signor Parri44 has given the usual pledge not to raise the matter, and in the circumstances His Majesty’s Government feel that any Anglo-American statement would only attract undue attention. If the State Department feel strongly on the subject, His Majesty’s Government would agree to a short statement which might be issued after the meeting of the Big Three.45

It is regretted that the institutional question should have been publicly discussed as though it were simply a question of monarchy versus republic. His Majesty’s Government are by no means particularly attached to the House of Savoy. They merely wish to see the setting up of a Parliamentary Democracy in Italy, and it seems to them that the whole institutional question is whether such a government can be set up and made to function effectively as against the possibility of some totalitarian form of government.

3. While there are obvious difficulties in the way of the Allied Governments’ suggesting that the institutional question should be referred to a plebiscite, if the Italian Government themselves were to take the initiative in suggesting that the institutional question should be decided either directly by a plebiscite, or referred to a plebiscite by the Constituent Assembly, His Majesty’s Government would be inclined to welcome and endorse such a proposal. In particular, His Majesty’s Government feel that the real wishes of the Italian people are more likely to be ascertained by a plebiscite than by a Constituent Assembly.

His Majesty’s Government feel that there would be no objection to inserting in the peace treaty a provision, in quite general terms, to the effect that the Allies expected Italy to ensure that a democratic form of government was set up in accordance with the wishes of the Italian people. This would be fully in accordance with the Resolution of the Moscow Conference of October, 1943, in regard to Italy,46 and with the Yalta Declaration on Liberated Areas.47 The application of such a provision would presumably be left largely to the Constituent Assembly, but it would be the aim of His Majesty’s Government, and it is hoped of the United States Government, to give such encouragement as they could to the moderate elements in that [Page 978] body and among the population in general. For instance if asked for advice, they could suggest that the Constituent Assembly, which would presumably set itself the task of drafting the new constitution, should refer either the whole or parts of it to the people direct. Such a confirmatory plebiscite might deter the extremists in the Constituent Assembly from forcing other parties to accept a totalitarian regime as part of a political bargain.

4. Italy should be encouraged to look to the West for assistance and support. To achieve this the United States and the United Kingdom must maintain a continuing interest in Italy. They cannot disinterest themselves when our troops leave Italy. On the contrary, that is just when their interests will be most necessary, as Italy will then be most liable to internal disturbances.

5. Italy must be helped to attain essential supplies as far as practicable and compatible with the needs of other claimants. In particular, Italy’s claims for coal must, as far as possible, be met by the European Coal Organisation. His Majesty’s Government propose to bring to the attention of their representative on the E.C.O. the political considerations which make the supply of coal to Italy important, and hope that the United States Government may similarly instruct their representative.

  1. Ferruccio Parri, President of the Italian Council of Ministers.
  2. The Conference of Berlin, July 17–August 2, 1945. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference) 1945, 2 vols.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 759.
  4. Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 971.