108. Telegram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State 1

2659. Moro Visit. Italian Communist Problem. Embtel 25512 advised that Moro will expect be asked for his views on problem of Italian Communist Party (PCI). Embassy believes that occasion should be [Page 227] used by US to strengthen Christian Democratic (DC) determination to face this problem squarely. Experience in Italy supports belief that only by standing firm can anti-Communist content of center-left program be given fair test of ability to reduce Communist threat.

Majority of DC (including Moro) have no illusions concerning nature of PCI and threat it constitutes for Italian democracy. Nevertheless, important elements of DC, including factions led by Foreign Minister Fanfani, have at times shown willingness to deal with or attempt to use Communist Party to accomplish non-Communist aims. Interest by some members DC in current Communist maneuver to establish “dialogue” between Catholics and PCI, i.e. a debate which would lead to DC-PCI political understanding, is a case in point.

Indications of Pope’s displeasure in March 31 audience, and subsequent strong warnings by Vatican’s Osservatore Romano and Jesuit Civilta Cattolica against DC-PCI collaboration should put to rest trend toward dangerous assumption that it possible for Church to treat profitably with Italian Communists.

Strong Vatican position will have salutary effect at least for immediate future. However, US approach to Moro regarding PCI can benefit from climate of Vatican reaction and at same time contribute to broader scope and hopefully lasting nature of DC resolve to isolate Communists. Embassy therefore believes this is appropriate time for US encourage Moro to hold line against Italian Communists and press ahead with Italian effort to demonstrate that cooperation with PCI neither necessary nor compatible with good government.

Although we believe Moro will need little convincing on this subject, he may point out characteristics of PCI which are different from those of other Communist parties and which are changing to adapt to contemporary world. These phenomena are major subject of debate among democratic parties in Italy, where the issues are obscured by desire of some democratic elements to reject out of hand all reports of change, autonomy, or national motivation in PCI. Facts are that PCI leaders are efficient, pragmatic, and energetic; they have given PCI character of its own, and that character is subject to certain changes to adapt to developments in Italy and within international Communist movement. Embassy believes it important that we recognize the real elements of difference and change in PCI, bearing carefully in mind that in terms of basic nature and goals, the PCI is and will remain an unacceptable totalitarian party.

Moro may discuss following principal current problem areas of PCI question:

Autonomy. PCI policy is linked to Moscow but substantial autonomy does exist, and trend in international movement is toward increasing degree autonomy. Pertinent question in Italy is: will PCI be [Page 228] acceptable for cooperation with democratic parties if and when PCI can be considered autonomous? Answer is that if PCI were autonomous, it would still have to be judged on its domestic Italian attributes. And by PCI’s own statements, these attributes are and will continue to be Marxist-Leninist in organization and philosophy. They will include materialism, economic determinism, democratic centralism, Marxist concepts of history and truth, and the range of Communist theory and practice which is irreconcilable with democratic institutions.

Democracy. PCI strategy to seek power by parliamentary means has been exploited also by the Communists to project false image of respectable democratic party. Additionally, imperatives of membership appeal and popular image push PCI toward increasing semblance of democracy in internal and external practice. However, PCI Leninist control formula (democratic centralism) is authoritarian, and party consistently asserts that democratic centralism is basic to PCI procedure. As long as party holds to Leninist totalitarian concepts, PCI cannot be democratic internally or in its relations with other Italian parties. Moreover, lack of PCI democratic intent has been made abundantly clear by party leaders, despite effective propaganda to the contrary (see A-1828 June 30, 1964).3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 IT. Confidential.
  2. Telegram 2551 from Rome, March 30, provided an analysis of Moro’s character. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 107.