306. Editorial Note
On August 2, Presidential Assistant Schlesinger, NSC Staff member Komer, and Assistant Secretary Tyler met in Washington with Giovanni Pieraccini, editor of the Italian Socialist Party’s daily, Avanti!. In response to Schlesinger’s questions about the current relationship between the Communist and Socialist Parties,
“Mr. Pieraccini indicated that the situation had changed very much. The only way to overcome the Communists was not through violent opposition but through a vast-reaching program of effective social reforms. At the present time, with a left of center Government built around a grouping of Socialists and Social Democrats, the Socialists and the Communists find themselves for the first time in diametrically opposed positions as regards their support of the Government. And this diametrically opposed stand is stronger than may transpire in the news. The Communists, in their campaign against the Socialists, which is even stronger than that against the Christian Democrats, loudly proclaim the Socialist betrayal and selling out to management and U.S. interests, thereby labeling themselves the true representatives of the workers. The recent election results, showing slight losses for the Communists accompanied by slight gains for the Socialists, indicate the need to carry forward the policies of social reform advocated by the Democratic Socialists and which are aimed at the very heart of the basic political problems. Since the left of center Government has been in power the Communists have been in an awkward position, as they would lose strong arguments in their favor if they were to oppose frontally such measures as the nationalization of electric power. At the same time they fear that the workers may become convinced that Democratic Socialism can strike effectively against the forces of reaction.”
Pieraccini then outlined the difficulties that the PSI faced in breaking its ties with the Italian Communists. He noted, in particular, the perilous condition of Avanti!, and the PSI’s reliance on its newspaper to present its views to the Italian people.
“In reply to a question about possible sources of assistance, Mr. Pieraccini indicated that any help from Government enterprises such as ENI and IRI was rather minimal. He also contrasted the meager budget resources of the Socialists with the abundant ones of the Communists. The yearly budget of the Socialists has been around 500 million lire, part of it coming from contributions by workers and part from a yearly campaign organized by Avanti, which last year netted 200 million lire for the Party. Until now the Party has been operating at what might be called the subsistence level, and even though there seems to be no possibility of collapse—with victory assured at the next Party Congress—unless the Party is helped in carrying out an independent policy aimed at the consolidation [Page 850]of democracy, it shall have to limit itself to a defensive type of action. At the present time the Italian Socialist Party is in a difficult position, as it encounters varying kinds and degrees of opposition from all shades of the political spectrum. Yet it may well become the strongest party in Italy. Democracy can only win out in Italy if the Socialist Party becomes strong and effective. At the present time only a strong Socialist force can attract and enlist the support of Italian workers. But if this Socialist force does not become a reality, then the country will be split between the Communists and the extreme right. An effective strengthening of the policies advocated by the present Government will bring about unification within the Socialist Party. In order to carry forward policies likely to attract the workers economic help has to be found, but this help has to be without strings. It is necessary that the true friends of Italy understand fully the political situation, show their trust in the Democratic Socialists and give help without listening to those who consider the Italian Socialist as unsafe for democracy.
“Mr. Schlesinger asked whether those were also Mr. Nenni’s views. Mr. Pieraccini answered in the affirmative, and added that the long range policies of the Socialist autonomists were the only ones that could hold the workers in a democratic structure, even though it would be of course a Democratic Socialist Party. He recalled in this connection that the net result of the coming into power of center-oriented governments in the past had been a strengthening of the Communists. So the effort of the autonomist Socialists together with certain Catholic groups must be understood and helped.”
Regarding Avanti!’s financial difficulties, see Nenni, Anni di Centro Sinistra, pages 52, 87, 91 ff. [text not declassified]
At the conclusion of the meeting, Schlesinger and Pieraccini discussed the possibility of a Nenni visit to the United States during November 1962. (Department of State, Central Files, 765.003/8–2262)