283. Editorial Note

In April 1961 the President’s Special Assistant, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., accompanied by James E. King, a senior analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis, attended a Bologna conference on the subject of U.S. foreign policy. The meeting was sponsored by a group of Italian intellectuals, organized around the journal Il Mulino, which favored Socialist Party participation in Italy’s Government. Following the conference, King met with a number of senior Italian Government and party leaders together with Chargé Horsey to explore their views on the possibility of an opening to the left, by means of the inclusion of the Italian Socialist Party in a governing coalition. Although King explained his status as a private citizen, both U.S. and Italian officials regarded him as an unofficial emissary of the Kennedy administration.

In addition to his meeting with Nenni, King was received by President Gronchi, Prime Minister Fanfani, Christian Democratic Party secretary [Page 806]Aldo Moro and a number of senior parliamentary leaders. In a 40-minute discussion with King, Nenni expressed generally favorable views of the Kennedy administration’s policies and sought to explain the current positions of his party on entry into government and Italy’s foreign policy. As a result of these talks, King concluded that an opening to the left was probable and that it was unlikely to destabilize the Italian Government. He also noted a strong desire among proponents of the opening for some form of active support from the U.S. Government. King forwarded a copy of his report to Walter Rostow on the National Security Council on May 3. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Italy—Notes on Italian-American Relations) Horsey’s comments on the King visit together with his response to King’s recommendations is in telegram 4320 from Rome, May 8. (Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/5–861)

According to Arthur Schlesinger (A Thousand Days, pages 877–878), he and Robert Komer of the NSC staff hoped to utilize Fanfani’s June 1961 visit to the United States as the platform for a formal statement of U.S. support for the opening to the left. On June 8 Schlesinger met with William Knight and William Blue of the Department of State for a discussion of the respective positions of the Italian Socialist and Italian Communist Parties. A memorandum of their discussion is in Department of State, Italian Desk Files: Lot 68 D 436, Pol 7 Visit—Fanfani—1961. In a June 9 memorandum Komer outlined the rationale for including the PSI in a governing coalition:

“The only thought I would suggest adding on the ‘Opening to the Left’ would be that Italy’s series of delicately balanced Centrist governments, hobbled by barely half of the parliamentary votes, have been characterized by a form of ‘immobilismo’ which has hampered dynamic movement toward reform. Meanwhile, Communist strength has been inching up on the Left. A final break between the PCI and the PSI, which would result from an opening to the Left, would destroy Communist hopes of achieving a parliamentary majority and create a dynamic non-Communist alternative.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Italy—General)