No. 338


Memorandum by Daniel L. Horowitz of the Office of European Regional Affairs to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright)1


Review of U.S. Policy Toward Italian Trade Unions

While some progress has been made in weakening the hold of the Communists on Italian labor during the last few years, the Communist-dominated CGIL is still by far the predominant labor organization. It has been U.S. policy to support unification of all non-Communist trade unions into one organization as the most effective means of overcoming CGIL domination of the majority of organized workers. To this end, CISL was sponsored and has received recognition and support of the U.S. Despite the efforts made toward unification, however, two non-Communist trade union organizations exist in Italy, the CISL and the UIL, and there is no immediate prospect that they will unify. In the light of this situation, it is necessary to review existing policy and determine whether our basic objective of overcoming Communist predominance in the Italian trade union movement is best served by continued exclusive recognition and support for CISL or whether such recognition and support should be extended both to CISL and UIL.

1. The efforts of the last few years to establish a single non-Communist trade union organization have consistently been opposed by some non-Communist trade union groups with the claim that a unified organization having predominantly Christian-Democratic leadership would have limited appeal because of the strong traditions of anti-clericalism among the bulk of potential union members in Italy. These groups argued that the Republican-Socialist traditions, which have so effectively been capitalized upon by the CGIL, represent a more effective basis upon which to compete with the CGIL through a non-Communist organization making an appeal to those traditions. As a result, the UIL was established in 1950 by those trade unionists who had left the CGIL but refused to go along with the unification plans in the establishment of CISL.

2. CISL is by far the larger of the two organizations, with CISL claiming a membership of 1,800,000 and UIL 425,000. Both figures are considerably exaggerated, probably in about the same proportion. Despite some expectations that lack of financial resources [Page 752] would force UIL into extinction or into unification with CISL, it has managed gradually to build up an organization in most industries and Provinces. Nor is there any indication that this situation will change in the near future.

3. UIL has recently been admitted to the ICFTU and thus has been accorded recognition by the international free trade union movement. While admission was opposed by the AFL and CISL, the European trade union members of ICFTU favored admission, recognizing UIL as a legitimate non-Communist organization. The fact of recognition by the ICFTU and the European unions creates a situation in which it will be increasingly embarrassing and unrealistic for the U.S. to continue withholding recognition and support from the UIL.

4. CISL has attempted to build its organization as a “new kind of unionism” in which political and ideological identification of the organization could be avoided. In the class conscious, highly political worker atmosphere in Italy, this is a particularly difficult concept to put across. It has been made more difficult by the fact that the leadership of the organization is predominantly Christian Democratic and the bulk of the membership came from LCGIL, an organization established by the former Christian Democratic faction in CGIL on the basis of a decision taken at a national convention of ACLI (Catholic workers’ education and welfare organization). There is some disagreement as to the extent of progress made by the organization in overcoming the Christian label. On the whole, however, it appears that the organization is still identified by the bulk of workers as a Christian organization. To the extent that this is the case, it is unlikely that CISL will have significant further growth in the near future.

5. Those workers whom it is most important to reach, the members of CGIL, are the most influenced by militant Socialist trade union traditions. Their evolution away from CGIL might most easily be accomplished by a Socialist trade union appeal. At least it may be worth a trial in the form of UIL. Lack of material resources has hampered large scale intensive UIL activity. On the other hand, the organization has in its national and provincial leadership many able young trade union leaders who could supply the energy and effectiveness for a serious membership drive.

6. The UIL has consistently repudiated the Communist political use of the trade unions and has taken a line parallel with the CISL in opposing political strikes. On the other hand, it has cooperated with the CGIL on many economic issues. This is not a reflection of a basic ideological orientation. It represents a judgment, generally erroneous, that it had more to gain than CGIL from such tactics. In addition, it has devoted a considerable amount of energy in attacking the CISL. This has by no means been a one-sided affair, however. The ICFTU in its consideration of UIL’s membership application recommended that the CISL and UIL should cooperate on specific trade union matters and cease attacking each other. While these were not made conditions for UIL admission to membership, it is understood that UIL had indicated a willingness to accept these recommendations. The continued efforts of the ICFTU and, in addition, the policies followed by the U.S. may be influential in determining [Page 753] the extent of actual cooperation between CISL and UIL. Recognition and support of both organizations by the U.S. would make it possible for the U.S. to further the improvement of relations between the organizations and to encourage common action against the CGIL.

7. CISL at the present time is facing two disturbing tendencies which have been developing during the last number of months. On the one hand, many of the Socialists within the organization have become restive and the possibility of their shifting away from CISL to UIL has become an increasing possibility. The other tendency has been some discussion by various Christian Democratic forces of the desirability of Christian unions as opposed to the type of unionism urged by the Pastore leadership in CISL. Both tendencies are to a large extent a natural reflection of the limits set on CISL’s development by the attitude of most workers that it is a “Clerical” organization. In the case of the Socialists within CISL there is the additional element of their small influence relative to the Christian Democrats. In the case of the pro-Catholic union tendency, which is reflected more outside CISL than within the organization, another element is the resentment by the Christian Democratic Party that CISL has on occasion been critical of government policies. Recognition and support of the UIL might strengthen both these tendencies. In neither case, however, will it be a decisive element. It is increasingly evident that regardless of what policy the U.S. follows some of the Socialists in CISL will move over to UIL. This may not be altogether disadvantageous, since dissatisfied Socialists trade unionists within CISL may be less effective in opposing CGIL than they could be as part of an organization more congenial to them.

8. Recognition and support of both organizations would result in the inclusion of representatives of both organizations in the local ECA Labor Advisory Committee, in EGA and State Department exchange program grants, and in other ways put representatives of both organizations in a relationship which might develop generally better understanding between them. Such better understanding, cooperation on trade union policy, and common efforts against the CGIL can be firmly developed only over a period of time. Recognition and support for both organizations by the U.S. would be an important element in making this possible.


The U.S. should recognize and support both CISL and UIL, making its support conditional upon honest efforts by both organizations to develop cooperation on specific trade union problems, refrain from attacking and raiding each other, and make their principal goal that of gaining strength at the expense of CGIL.2

  1. This memorandum was sent to Bonbright with a covering note which referred to a meeting held at the Department of State with several officers of the C.I.O. on December 18. A memorandum of this conversation is in file 865.06/12–1851.
  2. Bonbright sent a letter to Ambassador Dunn on January 7, 1952, in which he stated that this recommendation would now be the policy of the United States. (865.062/1–752)