282. Despatch From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State0

No. 961


  • American Posture Toward Italian Socialist Party

Despatch No. 8991 described developments in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) in the last six months, the results of the recent Congress of the Party in Milan,2 and the position of the right and left wings of the Party on key issues. The present despatch draws certain conclusions and makes recommendations concerning the desirable United States posture toward the Party, and as to actions which should be taken to encourage complete independence from the Communists and the adoption of a pro-western foreign policy, as requested in the Department’s A–233 of March 17.3

The Congress produced no dramatic developments but it had the useful result of bringing out clearly the positions of all concerned, stripped of much of the evasion, euphemism and ambiguity which had covered public statements of Party policies in the past. A tenuous majority was obtained for an affirmation of the policy followed by Nenni and the autonomist majority during the past two years. Nenni personally moved further than he had in the past, publicly expressing readiness to [Page 803]cooperate with the DC Party as a whole, not only, as in the past, with the “Catholic workers” or the “democratic elements” of the Party. (Ricardo Lombardi, coming from the Action Party and with the extreme anticlericalism which is its hallmark, held back on this point and still views cooperation with the DC in terms of liberating the “Catholic workers” from the “domination” of the Church and the rest of the DC Party, i.e., of splitting the DC Party.) Most observers agree, however, not only has “autonomy” made no progress at the Congress but that, in terms of policy positions and of party following, it suffered a slight set-back. There was no sign of a favorable change on the key issues of internal security and foreign policy which still create a wide gap between the PSI and the “center” parties. The PSI autonomist majority was weakened by a slight reduction in its percentage vote, now only 55 percent. It was weakened also by the retreat of Lombardi to a position nearer the center, close to the ground previously occupied by Nenni.4 This division in the autonomist ranks deprives Nenni of full control of the formal party organs, reducing him to the rank of a factional leader, and, at least for the present, Lombardi seems to hold the balance of power among the autonomists, and in the Party as a whole. This situation was recently illustrated in the Chamber debate on Cuba, during which Lombardi spoke for the PSI. He saw no blemish whatsoever on the Castro record and his performance, seeming as it did to flow from full “autonomy”, did far more damage to the United States position and to the Italian Government than the shrill routine of the PCI.

Opinion in the “center-left” area of the democratic parties is now, finally, virtually unanimous in the realization of the difficulties facing the PSI autonomists and of the unlikelihood of substantial progress at least until after the next national elections. [Here follow a discussion of press commentary and an analysis of the history and current policy positions of the PSI.]

What is likely to happen for the next two years or so is that the PSI will continue to remain suspended between Communism and democratic socialism; that the habit of cooperation with the PSI and the DC at the local government level will grow, and that it will exert a spreading influence in both the PSI and the DC Parties. Before the local elections last fall, most observers over-estimated the electoral appeal of the PSI and it is likely that the contradiction in its present posture, i.e., cooperation with the DC (the traditional enemy) in some places and with the Communists in others, will lead to further losses. If the PSDI gains in this process, as it did last fall, there will be a reliable strengthening of the [Page 804]democratic area and a sure basis for further progress in the process of slow reform and social change which is now under way.

The “American ideal” or the “American purpose” exercises a certain attraction in the PSI, as it does in all constructive sectors of Italian society, and the composition and tone of the new Administration in Washington greatly helps the projection of this image. This disposes PSI autonomists more favorably toward the United States and we can and do see that this influence is brought to bear in every possible way. All this, however, has little if any effect on the pace of the development of PSI “autonomy” because it is only remotely related to the reality of the problems faced by the autonomists. Our posture toward the PSI should continue to be one of sympathy with the objectives of moving away from the Communists, of strengthening democracy and of adopting foreign policy positions in tune with the harsh realities of the day. Our interest lies in the systematic encouragement of this trend, in such a manner and to such an extent that what we do does not significantly contribute to governmental instability or give the impression that we believe that PSI support can yet safely be considered a determining factor in a governing majority. If such an impression were to be created, it would almost certainly lead to the fall of the government and to a prolonged period of paralysis and crisis with unpredictable but certainly very serious consequences, for the reasons analyzed at length in Despatch No. 257 of September 12, I960.5

We should change the visa regulations in the way, and for the reasons, suggested in Embassy Despatch No. 241 of September 17, 1959,6 so that our policy will not be burdened by the adverse consequences of the present presumption that we think past or present membership in the PSI is the same (for purposes of US national security and the Immigration Act of 1952)7 as membership in the PCI.

We should continue to urge on political leaders in the four parties supporting the Government the importance of further reform measures. The present Government has plans for many, and has made a start on some of them, continuing the slow but unspectacular progress of the last ten years. Most importantly, we should continue to encourage and support the kind of management of the national economy which has led to Italy being in the lead of all industrialized Western countries in the rate of expansion, creating the new national wealth which is essential for the [Page 805]financing of most of the necessary reform measures and which is leading to rising standards of living all over the country.

Primarily, however, our efforts to influence and accelerate the process of “autonomy” should be in the continuation and expansion of the activities described in Despatch No. 931,8 being alert to new opportunities and means of pursuing the same objectives, in political, labor, cooperatives, cultural and other fields, all under the tactical guidance of the Ambassador. Although the basic structure has been generations in the making, great change has taken place in the last five years and we can confidently expect further change.

Outerbridge Horsey
Chargé d’affaires ad interim
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/4–2661. Confidential. Drafted by Horsey.
  2. Dated April 11. (Ibid., 765.00/4–1161)
  3. The Italian Socialist Party held its National Congress in Milan March 15–20.
  4. This airgram requested the Embassy to “submit urgently” a review of developments within the Italian Socialist Party together with recommendations regarding desirable U.S. policy for the “immediate future.” (Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/3–1761)
  5. The satisfaction of the PCI with the outcome is evident from the analysis in Despatch No. 938 of April 18. [Footnote in the source text. Despatch 938 is ibid., 765.00/4–1861.]
  6. Despatch 257 assessed the “Prospects for Italian Political Stability.” (Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/9–1260)
  7. Despatch 241 discussed visa policy regarding members of the Italian Socialist Party. (Department of State, Central Files, CA)
  8. For text of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (P.L. 414), approved June 27, 1952, see 66 Stat. 163.
  9. Despatch 931, April 17, reviewed the evolution of U.S. policy toward the PSI and its specific recommendations: “(a) Broadening of existing contacts with PSI autonomists; (b) Inclusion of PSI autonomists in social functions; (c) Invitations to PSI autonomists for USIS cultural programs; (d) Contacts with PSI journalists, labor leaders, and communal officials in fields such as education, together with presentation of books and other USIS materials; (e) Loan of USIS films and equipment to PSI groups; (f) Development of low-key programs in USIS branches aimed at attracting labor audiences, particularly PSI; (g) Sponsorship of labor grants for PSI autonomists to visit the United States.” (Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/4–1761)