96. Airgram From the Embassy in Italy to the Department of State1
- Lt. Gen. De Lorenzo’s Comments on Security and Political Subjects
This report contains the gist of a long after-dinner talk the reporting officer had May 19 with Lt. Gen. Giovanni De Lorenzo, Commander of the Arm of the Carabinieri, at the residence of the Embassy Air Attaché. The General commented frankly but, of course, off the record, [Page 189] on such issues as the strength of Pacciardi’s movement for a “second” Republic, the political thinking of the top Italian security and military officers, and the Communist menace in Italy. During part of the conversation Brig. Gen. Luigi Violante, until recently Italian Air Attaché in Washington, was also present. The two men differed markedly in their ideas on the Italian political situation. While De Lorenzo was tolerant and even sympathetic towards Moro’s center-left government, Violante was violently opposed to it and predicted that the government would resign by the end of summer.
The ideas expressed below are those of Gen. De Lorenzo, unless otherwise indicated.
Pacciardi’s Movement Belittled
Randolfo Pacciardi’s Democratic Union for the Second Republic (cf. A-1581 of May 14)2 was not taken seriously by Italy’s security and military leaders. Pacciardi had some good ideas and was honest and in earnest, but his approach was totally wrong. His weakest point was to attempt to attract all kinds of people and to draw everybody in his movement who had a grudge against the present Italian Republic, from the extreme left to the extreme right. This motley group of people had no political or ideological cohesion; their only common denominator was dissatisfaction with the status quo. Particularly weak and uninfluential were old ex-military officers who have flocked to Pacciardi’s banner. Pacciardi’s movement will end like Giannini’s Qualunquismo of the late 1940’s.
Armed Forces Could Support Well-Organized Rightist Party
The top security and military officers would very much prefer to see organized a strong rightist political party which they can support and from which they can obtain political and ideological orientation. But such a party must be democratic and ready to respect the Republican Constitution. Unfortunately, however, the Italian right is in disarray and, aside from the Liberal Party (PLI), poorly led and generally discredited. The Monarchists are all but finished because they lack political vision and realism. The Neo-Fascists (MSI) leaders are hopelessly divided, squander their time in gambling houses, and still pretend to live in an age (the Fascist Era) which the great majority of the Italians abhor. There is no future for them in Italy; both should dissolve themselves as soon as possible. The Liberals are a respectable and democratic group, but they are too preoccupied with the preservation of their vested interests. They have made no serious attempt to establish contact [Page 190] with the military. What the country’s security and military leaders wished was the emergence of a new party, with the PLI as the nucleus, which would embrace all the right-wing forces, including moderate-elements that now belong to the MSI and the Monarchist Party, who believe in the preservation of the Italian Republic. Such a party would have the full support of the security and military establishments either indirectly in elections or directly, if need be, should the security of the state be threatened through Communist subversion.
Reliability of Security Establishments
Gen. De Lorenzo gave a detailed account of what he called the “order of reliability” of Italy’s security and military establishment. As expected, he placed the Carabinieri Forces at the top of the list as the mainstay of the state institutions. These forces of some 80,000 strong (the figure is the General’s) were most reliable because of their long tradition and their recruitment procedures. A thorough investigation was conducted on each member of the force, and particular care was taken in checking the records of prospective brides of all Carabinieri troops and officers. Second in reliability come the Public Security (Pubblica Sicurezza, some 75,000 strong) forces, whose ranks are also carefully checked before they are recruited. In the three armed services (Army, Navy, and Air Force), the cadres (officers and professional non-commissioned officers) are reliable, but the situation among the “troops” (ranks) is not so good; too many of them seem to have voted for the PCI in the 1963 national elections. Generally reliable are the Alpine and the Bersaglieri units.
The morale of the Carabinieri is very high despite constant snipings by the Communist and Socialist press. It is the policy of the Carabinieri high command to promote or otherwise confer deserved rewards on any officer or man who gets into difficulties during labor disturbances. Also, it is the policy of the high command to exaggerate the number of Carabinieri casualties as a consequence of such disturbances in order to discredit the labor unions (principally the Communist-controlled CGIL). For instance, De Lorenzo revealed, his command claimed that there were nearly 150 Carabinieri casualties during the labor riots last October at Holy Apostles’ Square in Rome, whereas actually only four or five Carabinieri were hurt (Embtel 1008 of October 10).3 De Lorenzo personally visited the injured men in the hospital at once and either promoted them on the spot or commended them for their valor.[Page 191]
There is general agreement at the top levels of the security and military establishments that the most efficient way to eliminate the internal Communist menace would be for the PCI to take the fatal step of staging an open revolt. The revolt would be so ruthlessly suppressed that the PCI would be eliminated for good. Unfortunately, however, Togliatti and his associates are fully aware of the consequences of an open rebellion, and they are accordingly banking on assuming power through parliamentary procedures. De Lorenzo did not think they had a chance to assume power this way, but General Violante violently disagreed, fearing that the PCI would continue to gain among the electorate and that following a few more national elections, the PCI and the Socialists (both Nenni’s and Vecchietti’s) might manage to obtain an absolute majority. In De Lorenzo’s view, however, the Nenni Socialists (including Riccardo Lombardi and his associates) had crossed the Rubicon and had burned all bridges behind so far as collaboration with the PCI was concerned. The PSI could therefore be counted on to stay in the democratic camp, unless it sought its self-destruction.
On Moro’s Government
Despite De Lorenzo’s unconcealed hope for the creation of strong rightist party which would enjoy the support of the security and armed forces, he was not critical of Moro’s center-left government, although it was obvious he did not think much of Moro as the leader of the government. De Lorenzo would have preferred Colombo or Rumor, especially the latter, whom he had learned to respect and admire when he was Minister of Interior in Leone’s government last year. (De Lorenzo had no respect at all for the present Minister of Interior Taviani; Taviani, he confided, was timid to the point of being a coward in cases involving labor disturbances.) De Lorenzo expressed high respect also for Nenni, who, he said, had demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility on problems dealing with labor strikes.
Although Gen. De Lorenzo gave the impression that he was expressing the general views of the security and military establishments, the reporting officer had the feeling that the General was revealing mostly his own position. It would be presumptuous to gauge the political climate of the security and armed forces leadership on the current situation in Italy by two or three samplings. The reporting officer has, however, had previous conversations with Brig. Gen. Franco Picchiotti, now De Lorenzo’s assistant, and Colonel Vito Mele, Commander [Page 192] of the Second Carabinieri Regiment in Rome, both of whom have expressed ideas akin to those of De Lorenzo.
First Secretary of Embassy