Memorandum by Mr. Irwin M. Tobin of the Office of European Regional Affairs


Norman Thomas has informed the Department that he will come in soon to discuss the Italian labor situation, and particularly the issue of non-Communist labor unification, in which he is deeply interested. In communications to the Department, he has criticized severely what he and some of his American and Italian friends and associates consider to be the United States Government’s position in this matter.

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Officers of the AFL and CIO, who are also deeply concerned in Italian labor affairs, are frequently in touch with Department officers on this subject.

The attached policy statement with accompanying background information has been prepared to serve as a guide and summary for officers of the Department who may discuss this subject with Mr. Thomas and others. It is also being sent to our Embassy in Rome for information and comments.


Policy Statement and Background Data on Unification of Italian Non-Communist Trade Unions

i. department’s position on unification of the non-communist labor organizations in italy

Our objective, with respect to the Italian labor movement, is to encourage the Italian non-Communists to achieve the maximum possible unity of purpose and action, with a view to curbing Communist control over Italian labor. We hope that non-Communist trade unions will find it possible to combine forces, freely and harmoniously, at a time and in a manner most likely to be effective. But, of course, all decisions, including those on timing and method, must be taken only by the Italians themselves. We have no intention of trying to impose any program.
The American Embassy and Labor Attaché in Rome are informed of the Department’s attitude. We rely upon them to carry out our objectives in the light of local circumstances as they see them. The U.S. Labor Attaché in Rome, who also serves as Labor Adviser to the ECA Mission, is the principal U.S. official in Italy concerned directly with Italian labor developments. He is responsible, as attaché, for keeping the Embassy and the U.S. Government informed on labor developments and, as ECA Labor Adviser, for seeking the greatest possible cooperation of Italian labor in achieving the purposes of the ERP.
In viewing his activities, a distinction should be kept in mind as between his representing the official attitude of the U.S. Government and the assistance he must give to U.S. trade unions and political groups which are in intimate contact with Italian labor and attempt to influence its development. Some of these Americans differ sharply in their approach to Italian labor problems, and in aiding them the U.S. Labor Attaché does not necessarily identify himself with their views or activities.
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ii. attitudes of non-communist italian trade union organizations towards unification

The elements which would be most likely to join an Italian non-Communist labor federation if the conditions of its formation met with their approval are: the LCGIL, whose membership (about 1.5 million) is primarily Christian-Democratic (CD); the FIL, whose membership (about 150 thousand) is mainly right-wing or Saragat Socialist (PSLI) and Republican (PRI); the “autonomous” Socialists, composed of ex-left-wing or Nenni Socialist (PSI) and ex-CGIL labor leaders of high reputation in the labor movement but with little organized following at present; and the “independents”, whose membership (14 unions of unrevealed total membership) is primarily ex-PSI Socialist. In addition, several other important non-Communist and non-fellow-traveller labor groups and unions both in and out of the CGIL might become interested in joining a strong non-Communist labor organization.

The LCGIL under the leadership of Giulio Pastore has taken the lead for unification, and in an effort to pave the way has tried from the time of its foundation (October 1948) to demonstrate that it is not controlled by the CD’s or by the Church. Pastore resigned his position in the Catholic labor welfare organization (ACLI) and declared himself independent of the CD party. While remaining a CD deputy in Parliament, he has several times opposed CD-sponsored legislation, such as the proposed Fanfani labor law. Under his leadership the LCGIL accepted a PSLI union leader, Alessandro Cappelletti, as head of organization of its agricultural workers’ union (present membership about 250 thousand). Yet, despite all these efforts, the LCGIL is still widely regarded as a CD-dominated, Christian labor organization, which is an important obstacle to unification.
The top leadership of the FIL—Giovanni Canini (PSLI) and Enrico Parri (PRI)—have favored early unification from the time the FIL was founded (May 1949). To this end they have also done their best to demonstrate that the FIL is independent of any political party. But some of the lower-ranking leadership (e.g. Alfredo d’Andrea (PSLI) and Giovanni Pasqualini (PRI)) and many of the rank and file, especially in the smaller, less well organized unions of the FIL, seem to oppose early unification, on the grounds that the FIL should first become stronger so that in joining with the LCGIL it will have more influence and be less likely to be swallowed up by much stronger CD elements.
The “autonomists”, headed by Romolo Bulleri, Italo Viglianesi and Enzo Dalla Chiesa, ex-PSI and ex-CGIL labor leaders, strongly oppose early unification with the LCGIL and propose joining the FIL [Page 709] on condition that it postpone unification with the LCGIL and work for its own strengthening first. The autonomists apparently follow the political leadership of Giuseppe Romita, ex-PSI independent Socialist, who favors unification of the various anti-Communist splinters of the Socialist Party before trade union unification with the CD’s. Thus the position of the autonomists is similar to that of some of the lower echelons of the FIL, with the addition that they do not feel that the Socialist trade union organization can be strong until the party is united. However, prospects of Socialist party unification seem to have become less auspicious lately with the resignation from the Cabinet of the three PSLI Ministers—Saragat, Tremelloni and Ivan Matteo Lombardo—and the announcement that they will not meet in December as planned with the Romita and Silone Socialist factions to discuss party unification. In view of the position of the autonomists, this would seem to postpone indefinitely their joining the FIL.
The “independents”, grouped loosely around Paolo Consoni, ex-PSI, and composed of unions of various political tendencies, do not favor early unification with either the LCGIL or the FIL, fearing domination by both groups. They are reportedly advancing the notion that their own group should form the nucleus for eventual unification, as a means of averting political domination.
Several non-Communist unions which have remained in the CGIL, regarding the advantages thereof as greater than they would now get by joining the LCGIL or FIL, are unenthusiastic about LCGIL-FIL unification at this stage. However, they might be induced to leave the CGIL and join a unified non-Communist labor organization once it became strong enough to offer them advantages comparable to those they now enjoy in the CGIL.

To sum up: The LCGIL and the top leaders of FIL appear to favor early unification of their two organizations but the lower rank FIL leaders and the autonomists seem to fear absorption or domination by the stronger LCGIL, still in their view closely tied to the CD and the Church. While not necessarily opposed to unification at some later date, the latter put first Socialist Party unification and strengthening of the FIL.

iii. main factors in the italian trade union situation affecting non-communist unification

The labor groups which now find themselves split into five main groups (CGIL, LCGIL, FIL, autonomists and independents), were from 1945–48 united in the CGIL. As of November 1949, however, the issue which had caused four of the groups to withdraw from the CGIL—opposition to Communist domination of the labor movement—had not yet proven of sufficient force and urgency to overcome political and other differences between them and enable them to form a [Page 710] single non-Communist labor federation. One reason for this seems to be that they had learned from their CGIL experience that unity is not desirable in itself without basic understanding and agreement.
The intensity of the opposition to early non-Communist labor unification became apparent only in late October 1949, in contrast to earlier indications that it might be achieved by the end of 1949. When ECA brought top leaders of the LCGIL and FIL—Pastore (CD), Canini (PSLI), and Rocchi (PRI)—to the United States in April 1949, in their capacity of ECA Trade Union Advisory Committee in Italy, it was hoped their visit would serve as a means of helping them through close personal association over a period of weeks to agree upon unification. This it did, and at meetings with leaders of the AFL and CIO in New York they announced their agreement to complete unification by the end of 1949. After their return to Italy, the first step in this informal agreement, withdrawal of the PSLI and PRI unions from the CGIL, was carried out on schedule in May 1949. The PSLI and PRI unions then promptly formed the FIL as a temporary organizational maneuver to prepare for amalgamation with the LCGIL. As late as September 8, 1949, when a top level CDPSLI–PRI labor conference was held in Rome, it seemed that the entire unification schedule would be carried out. But by late October evidence was mounting that many serious difficulties were arising and that unification might be postponed indefinitely. Apparently there were four main reasons for the change between early September and late October:
The LCGIL, despite all the efforts of Pastore, had failed to convince the Socialist-Republican rank and file that it was wholly free from clerical influence, which the Socialists and Republicans have traditionally fought in trade union affairs. This failure of the LCGIL to overcome their doubts became increasingly important as the time of unification approached.
The FIL Socialists found as the test approached that their right-wing leadership was not sufficiently strong to carry even its own following into unification. This was partly due to the desire of lower echelon FIL leaders to strengthen their organization before amalgamating with the stronger CD’s, and partly to the influence of the ex-PSI autonomists, who argued, perhaps as pawns of Romita’s political ambitions, that Socialist trade unions could only be strong if the Socialist party was first unified. There was also the influence of the Socialists among the independents, led by an ex-PSI, ex-CGIL labor leader, who feared both CD and Communist domination and saw the independents as a possible nucleus for a new, non-political, non-Communist trade union federation.
Despite all efforts to the contrary, it has so far proven impossible for Italian trade unionism to divorce itself wholly from political affiliations. The Italian labor movement has traditionally been highly political, with the result that political schisms are bound to accentuate rivalries among the unions.
The … support for unification given by the AFL and (to a much smaller degree) by some elements of the CIO was directed to the top leadership only, and had no discernible influence on the rank and file. The misgivings of some Americans and Italians aired in the Italian press in late September and early October found an unexpectedly wide response, showing plainly that insufficient ground-work had been done to prepare the way for unification.