291. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State0

1475. Dept A–98.1 We are in agreement with Dept that Lombardi’s speech was disappointingly rigid expression of PSI desire to see definite change of direction in GOI foreign policy. Even allowing for tactical and personal elements (need to placate PSI left wing, circumstances of delivery by opposition party in parliamentary debate, and Lombardi’s own polemical style and predilection for theory), fact remains that text stands as an official expression of long-range PSI on objectives in foreign policy.

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As Dept has pointed out, speech constitutes catalog of implications for US which might ensue from PSI influence on government, and no doubt if PSI were admitted to government support it would press for action to reach these ends. Also appreciate risks inherent in continuation of such pressure over period of time. We do not believe, however, that PSI would be able to oblige GOI to accomplish these objectives, and we doubt that they need be taken as literal statement of what we should expect to happen in short-term if PSI voting support accepted by future coalition. Our reasons for doubting PSI ability to reach stated goals derive from divisions within PSI itself and from potential opposition of center parties.

Lombardi’s stress on doctrinaire objectives is not shared by all elements of PSI. His approach is more moderate than left wing would like and more drastic than Nenni’s. While Nenni’s report in PSI Central Committee meeting on October 19 (A–324)2 endorsed Lombardi’s speech, it then proceeded to modify tone of latter and to stress theme of practical short-term objectives rather than of PSI’s long-term aims and neutralist policy. Latter were absent from Central Committee’s October 12 resolution. Embassy officers have found in conversations with autonomist leaders Demartino, Pieraccini, Cattani, and Bensi that they were dismayed by tone of Lombardi’s speech and do not realistically expect center-left government to have much more effect on foreign policy than reinforcement of such initiatives in favor of negotiations and détente as have characterized recent Fanfani actions. We are inclined to think that division in PSI itself would hamper concerted pressure by PSI on center-left government to accomplish long-term policy objectives and that some compromise of these aims with Christian Democrats would be likely, both because of PSI desire to make cooperation in center-left government work and as consequence of any advance that might be made in measures for social problems in domestic field, which are of particular importance to PSI.

PSI ability to push national government toward its long-term foreign policy objectives would also be qualified by potential opposition within DC and other parties composing center-left coalition. If difficult issues of foreign policy should arise, we believe there would be sufficient support for Western objectives, particularly from Saragat in PSDI and from many elements in DC, to resist PSI pressure and even bring government down rather than move toward neutralist position. Reluctance of DC majority to engage in center-left experiment would accentuate this resistance, and assistance might be obtained from group of six pro-NATO ex-PDI deputies close to DC who could provide a DCPSDIPRI [Page 821]government with a majority if PSI should balk on a key foreign policy issue.

As Dept has observed, clarity of Lombardi’s statement in parliamentary foreign policy debate has done nothing to settle issue of PSI suitability for voting cooperation with center-left government. We do not think that government based on PSI support is inevitable alternative to present formula. Administrative government or prolonged crisis with present government continuing in caretaker position, with or without national elections, are other possibilities. Also we do not think that present international situation makes this a propitious moment for center-left experiment with PSI to be attempted, for very reason that it might founder on foreign policy question.

No doubt Fanfani, Moro, and other DC leaders are fully aware of foreign policy implications which formation of center-left government would have in terms of questions it would raise in minds of Italy’s allies. They are also aware of inevitable divisions that foreign policy issue would create domestically within DC. Although Fanfani and Moro may be favorably disposed toward eventual opening to left, they are sufficiently astute to realize that alliance with a party whose stated long-range foreign policy aims with respect to NATO are so glaringly disparate from those of the DC would be particularly difficult to justify at present time. Even if center-left alliance could be rammed through, intra-DC dissension would probably doom it to eventual failure, with consequent damage to Fanfani and Moro personally. Accordingly, both these leaders, privately and publicly, have maintained that prior to embarking on center-left, PSI would have to commit itself to support DC foreign policy.

Center-left issue appears, however, to be absorbing attention of all political figures, and many seem to believe that time is running out and experiment must be tried soon or indefinitely deferred. It is possible that government may be brought down even before November 11 date on which President’s power to dissolve Parliament expires.3 If this should happen, center-left experiment probably has been talked about too long and exerts too great a political attraction for it to be prevented by efforts on our part except such as would go far beyond measures proposed in A–98.

As opportunities have presented themselves, Embassy officers have expressed negative reaction to Lombardi’s speech in conversations with PSI autonomists Demartino, Pieraccini, Cattani, Bensi, and Vittorelli, [Page 822]and with some exponents of center-left in PRI, PSDI, and DC. We have, for example, on occasion politely questioned whether Italy’s own best interests in security and international relations would be served by a PSI-influenced foreign policy, and we have asked whether period of international tension would be propitious for launching of center-left experiment, in view of Nenni’s own statement in June television interview that atmosphere of international détente would be more conducive to the operation. Further, with foregoing individuals and with opponents of center-left, who are also anxious for statements which could be utilized as US support for their views, we have taken line that despite our doubts on international grounds, US neither favors nor opposes creation of center-left government.

Thus, we believe that we have already taken action similar to that contemplated in A–98. We have proceeded cautiously, for we believe that we should avoid impression of conducting campaign and that we should not go so far become publicly identified with opposition to center-left, thus damaging our position in Italy. Without seriously running these risks, however, we could discreetly do more, if Dept desires that we do so, we would appreciate instructions, indicating as completely as possible position we should take.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 765.00/10–2861. Secret; Limit Distribution.
  2. Airgram A–98, October 18, expressed disappointment with the tone and substance of the statement by Socialist Party leader Ricardo Lombardi on foreign affairs before the Italian Chamber of Deputies. It advised the Embassy: “If DCPSI cooperation is tried and fails, it must not seem to have failed because of American opposition. Would be counter-productive to identify ourselves with those who oppose DCPSI cooperation for domestic policy reasons. However, we are considering desirability of expressing to our PSI autonomist contacts in Italy disappointment that Lombardi statement of policy in foreign affairs debate has by silent acquiescence of autonomists, been permitted to stand as official position of Party.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Italy)
  3. A–324, October 19, analyzed Nenni’s report on foreign policy to the PSI Central Committee. (Department of State, Central Files, 765.13/10–1961)
  4. Under the Italian Constitution, the President of the Republic may not dissolve a government during the 6-month period immediately preceding the election of a new President.