292. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)0


  • Meeting on Italian Policy

This memo is for your private contemplation. I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose to send it down the line.

The policy laid down in Airgram A–98,1 sent to Rome under the signature of Secretary Rusk, is as follows: [Page 823]

Unless PSI as organization is willing and able to disavow or decisively to modify Lombardi line we would be forced to consider formation of government subject to PSI influence (that is, depending on PSI support even if it did not participate directly) as potentially very serious for West.

This is a demand for a formal public recantation by the PSI as condition precedent to US acceptance of an Italian government dependent on PSI support.

From the statement that, without such recantation, such a government must be regarded as “potentially very serious for West,” there presumably follows:

a) we should actively oppose the formation of such a government

[1 paragraph (2 lines of source text) not declassified].

All this raises at least two questions:

Is the policy laid down in Airgram A–98 a sensible and realistic policy? is the prior public recantation “as organization” demanded by Airgram A–98 a condition that can be reasonably met? or will it have the effect of locking us back into the Luce-Dulles policy of rigid opposition to the “opening to the left”?
Should so important a policy decision be taken without consultation in the highest levels of the State Department—especially when it runs contrary to the evident line of thought in Amembassy Rome (see Airgram A–324)2 and when its spirit would seem to conflict with the spirit of President Kennedy’s assurance to Prime Minister Fanfani that we had no objections to his exploring the possibilities of a center-left coalition?3

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Italy. Secret.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 291.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 291.
  4. Reports of a Kennedy statement of support for the formation of a center-left government led the Embassy to request clarification from the Department. In a December 28 letter to Horsey, Tyler noted that “to the best of our knowledge the President made no comment of his own but merely asked unslanted questions and listened to the answers.” (Department of State, Italian Desk Files: Lot 68 D 436, Italy—Nenni’s Proposed Visit—1962)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.