89. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • The Italian Political Situation

PARTICIPANTS

  • Italy
    • Foreign Minister Giuseppe Saragat
    • Ambassador Attilio Cattani, Foreign Ministry
    • Ambassador Sergio Fenoaltea, Italian Embassy
    • Minister Franco Malfatti di Montetretto, Chief of Cabinet to Minister Saragat
    • Minister Gian Luigi Milesi Ferretti, Italian Embassy
    • Miss Bonaccorsi, Interpreter
  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. George W. Ball
    • Governor Herter
    • Mr. William R. Tyler
    • Ambassador Frederick Reinhardt
    • Mr. Francis E. Meloy, Jr., WE
    • Mr. Walker Givan, WE
    • Mr. Neil Seidenman, Interpreter

The Secretary told the Foreign Minister that we welcomed the opportunity to hear observations and suggested that he select his own subject to begin the discussion.

The Foreign Minister preferred to comment first on the Italian political situation. He thought Italy’s greatest contribution to Atlantic solidarity could be made by strengthening democratic institutions in Italy and further isolating the Communist Party. His own political activity [Page 176]over the past eighteen years had been aimed at isolating the Communists, particularly at pulling the Socialists away from the Communist Party, which implied abandoning some pro-Communists to the far left. He had always received his greatest assistance from the Christian Democratic party and specifically from Prime Minister Moro, who ranks second only to De Gasperi as the most significant political personality in postwar Italy. This policy is beginning to bear fruit. The Socialists are agreeing, unenthusiastically but increasingly, to move away from the Communists, and they are in the government. In an important speech in Rome recently Nenni said that even if his party had a majority in Italy, it would nevertheless regard the Atlantic pact and Atlantic solidarity as “permanent facts.” The internal situation has improved and the shadow of a Communist-Socialist alliance has passed. The present government has better than a sixty per cent majority compared to only fifty-one per cent for its predecessors, which makes it far more stable. The Foreign Minister said that the position of the Socialists has now become irreversible and, after the administrative elections within a year or even earlier, this will in his opinion lead to a new Social Democratic party along the lines of the German party or the Labor Party in the UK, though not so strong.

The Secretary asked what Minister Saragat thought would become of the new faction of the PSI: there seem to be several possibilities; one is that this faction will move toward the extreme left. How much possibility is there that it will take a large part of the Socialist following with it?2

The Foreign Minister replied that, as shown by Nenni’s statement, the trend toward democracy is irreversible. Seven years ago the Socialist Party listened attentively to Stalin; six years ago it listened to Khrushchev. Now it listens to the British Labor Party and soon it may pay attention only to what is good for Italy. At any rate it has clearly become westernized. In this regard, contacts between the Socialists and American political parties would be extremely useful. We have reaped the fruit of years. This is not a haphazard happening; we knew what we were looking for.

The Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister and asked when he expected the Socialists and the Social Democratic parties to unite. The Minister said that the first step after administrative elections would possibly be to organize the two parties into a federation, to be followed [Page 177]later by an organic merger. The new dissident Socialist party would end as Daniel Mayer’s dissident group did in France; it had dwindled to nothing two years after it left the French Socialist Party.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2356. Confidential. Drafted by Givan and approved in S on January 19. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Reference to the “Carristi” faction of left-wing Socialists which broke off from the Italian Socialist Party at the time of its entry into the Moro government and formed the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP). The Embassy analyzed the impact of this development in telegram 1882 from Rome, January 14. (Ibid., Central Files 1964-66, POL 12 IT)