865.00/8–2545: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

2465. I communicated yesterday evening to Parri substance of Dept’s 1417, August 22, 8 p.m., but regret to say that due either to his physical fatigue or his constitutional indecision or complicated political setup which confronts him, his reactions were far from clear. He spoke variously of the necessity for an electoral basis for Italian [Page 984] Govt, of his wish to hold elections before end of year, of the commitment to hold elections within a “reasonable” time, of thesis that perhaps they should not be held until next spring, of abstract view that one basis of necessity for a more enlightened electorate 3 or 5 years should elapse before balloting could be representative, of argument to which he appeared to incline to effect that national elections should be held first so administrative elections could take place when the basic form of govt had been determined, of the danger of local uprisings with Government crises during elections while the local police was too weak to cope therewith, of the importance of continued presence of Allied troops and finally of necessity of altering juridical status of Italy as a nation in order to strengthen Govt. Out of this maze of ideas only one clear element evolved, namely, the assertion on Parri’s part that the Government had not yet been able to reach an agreement as to when elections should be held.

I subsequently informed Minister for Foreign Affairs of my conversation with Parri and his position was more intelligible. In first place, he liked the views of American Govt which he said were more feasible than those of Bevin.54 He maintained that local elections should be held before national elections, that he saw no reason why balloting in certain communes should not be held very soon. They should be administrative rather than political in character and that danger of disturbances would be reduced if those elections were held successively in country instead of at one time. He said Parri’s state of indecision was due in first instance to his fear that if national elections were postponed, conditions in country with return of prisoners of war and probable improvement in economic life would be more favorable to retention of the monarchy as against a republic. Other considerations influencing Parri were the fact that as his party was numerically small, he disliked the idea of having that fact proved in local elections. Furthermore, he feared that as first elections would naturally be held in the southern provinces where population is more conservative than in industrial centers of north, a more moderate note would be struck which might influence subsequent elections. I gathered that De Gasperi considers preparing some statement for United States and British Govts in reply to these representations.

In conversation which followed, it appeared that De Gasperi’s chief preoccupation was situation which would follow the establishment of costituente. He said that it was erroneous to believe that elections for that body were same as those for legislative bodies in western democracies. According to majority views of Italian jurists, establishment of costituente would automatically put an end to all govt [Page 985] in Italy including Lieutenant General of Realm, Council of Ministers and present Presidents of Senate and Chamber and power would be vested in President named by costituente who would then form “provisional government” resembling that in France. This situation De Gasperi added set stage for dictatorship with either Nenni55 or Togliatti as probable candidates.

In connection with foregoing, any views which legal advisers in Department may have on law establishing costituente would be helpful to me.

  1. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Pietro Nenni, Vice President of Italian Council of Ministers, charged with preparation for the Constituent Assembly.