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Communism in Modena: The Provincial Origins of the Partito Comunista Italiano (1943-1945) Author(s): D. J.

Travis Source: The Historical Journal, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 875-895 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2639360 . Accessed: 13/04/2013 10:02
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The Historical Journal,29, 4 (i 986), pp. 875-895 Printedin GreatBritain

IN MODENA: COMMUNISM THE PROVINCIAL ORIGINS OF THE PARTITO COMUNISTA ITALIANO


(1943-1945)1
D.J. TRAVIS
St Anne's College, Oxford

Few fields of study are as frequently subject to revision as the history of contemporary politics. This is especially true for communist movements, where new interpretations constantly rework the old. The outpouring of recent work on the Partito comunistaitaliano (PCI) is a case in point. The peculiarity of Italian communism and the popularity of the PCI within Italy pose intriguing problems which have attracted the attention of many political scientists. In the search for answers to these questions, most authors also end up recounting the Party's history. Unfortunately, the inspiration for these projects is rarely historical per se, but is rather 'scientific', intended in the outdated sense of a discipline which extracts its subject from a specific environment in order the better to study it. Despite the amount of recent work on the PCI, the historical understanding of Italian communism thus remains remarkably underdeveloped. We have ridden through three waves of interpretations on the PCI,2 but we are still not much nearer to a convincing explanation of the nature of the phenomenon. A very brief introduction to the most popular approaches in political science reveals some of the major problems left unresolved by that discipline. First came the works relating Italian communism predominantly to the international communist movement and the USSR.3 These studies, influenced by an American tradition in the political sciences, often refused to look beyond basic ideological labels and acknowledge the importance of the national character of some communist movements outside the Soviet Union. They continued to assert the primacy of the Russian connexion even after the PCI began to distance itself from the USSR in the I96os. At best, these accounts
1 I would like to thank St Anne's College, Oxford, the British School at Rome and the Fondazione Einaudi in Turin for their support at various times in the preparation of this article. 2 A fourth 'wave' might be identified in the writings of Italian authors on the PCI. Their accounts, as distinct from the English language works considered here, focus on organizational italiano,5 vols. (Turin, history and the Party's leadership. P. Spriano, La storiadelpartitocomtinista comunista italiano(Milan, I976) are two well-known examples. I967) and G. Galli, Storiadelpartito 3 The most influential of these studies is still D. Blackmer, Unityin diversity: Italiancomnmnunism world(London, I968). The same approach but in a weaker alnalysisis evident and the communist (Notre Dame, i967). in Bolognla, andits practice Communism in R. H. Evans, Coexistence. i945-1965

875

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captured something that had once been true about the PCI; more often they asserted that it was still valid. Furthermore, some writers appeared reluctant to ask their subjects what they thought of themselves.4 All these restrictions seriously limited the relevance of the many Soviet-oriented attempts to explain the PCI. Next came the Gramsci studies, already far too numerous to list fully.5 Authors writing from this perspective attempt to explain what was 'new' about Italian communism by focusing on one of the PCI 's earliest theorists. This had a side effect of limiting their best historical accounts to the moment of origin of the Communist Party - the years around 192 i. The hallmark of this point of view is the identification of the Party with the man to an embarrassing extent in the study of this, a marxist movement. Additionally, many authors seem to sift through the Party's thinking through the years, on the lookout for the kernel of Gramsci lying within. But the Italian Communist Party must be more than an organizational footnote to the Prison notebooksand a simple enough admission is overdue: Gramsci's reflexions on the factory council movement and on the rise of domestic fascism have very little to say about of I9I9-20 the nature of the mass, parliamentary Communist Party in post-war Italy. The 'Gramsci' approach, a quite literally single-minded one, does a disservice to the historical investigation of Italian communism and raises important questions about the ability of marxism to take itself seriously as the subject of historical investigation. Studies of strategy currently dominate our understanding of Italian communism.6 These works promote theory as the explanatory key to communist political behaviour in Italy. They tend to portray the history of the PCI as the gradual elaboration of a chosen strategy over time. Inherent in this approach is the absolute priority given to the movement's hierarchy - the
4 Blackmerconcludes with the observation, 'The weight this point [the importance of the PCI 's international connexion to its militants] deserves would be difficult to ascertain without careful study of the attitudes of those who have joined aindvoted for the Communist party' (Blackmer, Unity,p. 389). It is not only an issue of the weight to ascribe to the Soviet connexion within the PCI, but, as we shall see, the very nature of that connexion itself. 5 Among these are: J. Cammett, Antonio (Stanford, and the originsof Italianco?nmnunism Gramnsci thatfailed(Londoii, I977); A. Davidson, Antonio Gramsci andtherevolution I967); M. Clark, Antonio (Oxford, politicalthouight (London, I 977) ;J. Femia, Gramsci's biography anintellectual towards Gramsci: and (London, I970); C. Mouffe (ed.), Gramnsci life of a revoluitionary Gramsci: I97I); G. Fiori, Antonio (London, I 979); S. Tarrow, 'Le Parti communiste et la soci6tt italienne' in Sociologie theory AMIarxist enItalie(Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1974), pp. I-54; G. Williams, duCommunismne of comnmunism in Italy, I91I-I92I factory councilsand the origitns order:AntonioGramsci, Proletarian (London, I975). 6 Works in this genre include: G. Amyot, The Italian Communist Party. the crisis of the Popular vol. I Front strategy(Loindon, I98I); A. Davidson, The theoryand practiceof Italian conzmmunism, (London, I982); S. Hellman, 'The PCI's alliance strategy anid the case of the middle classes', P. Lange, Franice (Prinicetoni, I977); in Italy atnd chapter Io, Blackmer and Tarrow, Communism 'The PCI at the local level: a study of strategic performance', ch. 7, Blackmer and Tarrow, to the h-istoric the resistance Commuinist of the Italiani D. Sassoon, The strategy Communism; Party:fromti (London, I982) . An insightfulcritique of the strategic studies 'school' is T.Judt, ' " The compromise spreading notion of the town": some recent writinigsoni French and Italian communism', The Historical Journal,XXVIII,4 (i 985), I0-I I-1.

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assumption that this is the level which ' really' counts. More difficult to locate in these works is an acknowledgement that political action may have many components, among which poor information and simple misjudgement may be as determinate as the published opinions of the leadership. Ignored almost entirely are discussions of what inspires the thinking of the leadership, of why certain opinions from on high might make sense of the world to a party's supporters and of the mechanism whereby the ideas of the leadership might become the foundations for the political action of the base. These trends in the interpretation of Italian communism are important, though, for each captures something true about the PCI at particular moments. The Italian Communist Party was closely tied to the Soviet Union from the I920S to the I950s; however, the PCI's subsequent break from the USSR makes the unique nature of the Italian comnmunists' connexion to Moscow clear. Gramsci remains important to the contemporary PCI, not as the prescient theoretician which some accounts make him out to be, but rather as a hero who gives the Party an historical continuity which Fascism denied. The PCI does indeed have political programmes (sometimes several and not always consistent with each other), elaborated by a powerful leadership and changing (sometimes dramatically) over time, but these may not be the same thing as a single strategy. All of the usual approaches in political science accounts of Italian communism, then, have significant shortcomings. I suggest they are weakest when it comes to explaining change in the movement over time and in a social context (which may be one and the same thing). The resolution of this analytical dilemma lies in developing a more fully historical account of the Italian Communist Party. While everyone seems to be searching for a 'key' to the PCI, few consider the obvious: communism in Italy is inescapably Italian. It is social life, in this case life in Italy at particular times, which not only defines what is political as well as problematic to Italian communists, but further limits the range of possible solutions to these issues. In a word, social context provides the crucial background to political action. The theory and practice of Italian communism may be better understood when integrated into the history of Italy. This article attempts to offer an historical explanation of some aspects of Italian communism and the Communist Party. I locate the beginnings of the Party as a mass movement in the months of the resistance, from the fall of 1943 to the spring of I945. I argue that many of the political ideas which we call Italian communism have their origins in this crucial period for the PCI and for Italy. The specific focus in the article is on the province of Modena in Emilia-Romagna.7 The provincial emphasis is peculiarly valid for a country like Italy and it is moreover an appropriate way to reveal most satisfactorily the connexions between social context, political allegiance and ideology. It is not intended by this selection to suggest that Modena represents a 'typical' or even remotely 'representative' Italian province - no such place exists in the
I Modena is one of eight provinces in Emilia-Romagna. Bologna is the largest province in the region and borders Modena to the south.

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country and approaches based on such an assumption leave themselves open to serious challenges. Modena may, in fact, be decidedly unique.8 But by highlighting the course of the resistance in one province and by studying the appearance of the mass party in the context of an armed struggle for national liberation, an attempt may be made to locate political ideas in their historical setting and to construct the necessarily fragile bridge between society and politics. In this way, a study of the provincial origins of communism in Italy offers insights that stretch far beyond the boundaries of one single area. In Modena, as elsewhere in central and northern Italy, public celebrations greeted the news of the fall of Mussolini on 25 July 1943. Marshal Badoglio, in a brief message carried by radio and press, informed the nation of the king's dismissal of the Duce and the military's assumption of the powers of government.9 To the people of Modena, this change meant the end of the war.10 Expectations centered on the probable date of the return of Italian soldiers from the fighting. Though political parties remained illegal in Modena under military rule, the provincial governor - an army general - permitted the formation of several committees to represent the interests of the provincial population to the new government. The most important of these provincial committees was 'Italia Libera', located in the city of Modena itself. It was a small group, of ten to twelve men from five political parties: the PCI, the Partito d'azione (Pd'A), the partito socialista italiano (PSI) and two independent, left groups.1" Catholics and ex-popolariattended as individuals. The Communist Party was by far the largest and most significant participant. The PCI's survival as an organization during fascism gave it the dominant role in 'Italia Libera.' The Communist Party in Modena had never enjoyed a large membership; its open political life had been limited to a period of only
8 Clearly, the situation in southern Italy, occupied by the Allies during I943, was much different. The history of the Modena PCI may therefore bear few similarities to the development of the Party in the South. Only the areas north of the Gothic Line (I944-5) along the crest of the Apennines experienced a twenty-month resistance. Rome was liberated in June, I944 and Florence in September. 9 Gazzetta dell'Emilia, 26 July I 943 (26/7/43). 10 The basic works on the resistance in Modena are: L. Arbizzani and L. Casali, 'Montefiorino: L. Benedetti, 'Vent'anni distretto partigiano' in La resistenza in Emilia Romagna (Imola, I970); 2 vols, unpublished di lotte contro il fascismo nella clandestinith e nella resistenza, I925-I945', manuscript (I963), PCI ModenaArchive (hereafter, PCI: Mo); F. Canovaetal., Lottadiliberazione L. Casali, Storia della resistenza a Modena (Modena, I980); nella bassa Modenese (Modena, I975); E. Gorrieri, La repubblica di Montefiorino M. Cesarini, Modena M, Modena P (Rome, I955); M. Nardi, Otto mesi di guerriglia (Bologna, I976); M. Pacor and L. Casali, Lotte (Modena, I975); sociali eguerriglia in pianura: la resistenza a Carpi, Soliera, Novi, Campogalliano (Rome, 1972); 0. Poppi, M. Ricci and A. deMichels, Armando racconta (Milan, I982); In commissario (Modena, I979); Istituto Storico della Resistenza a Modena e nella Provincia (hereafter, ISRMo), Rassegne and Quaderni. 11 These were very small organizations which quickly disappeared from the scene: In Gruppo Socialista. Other provincial Movimentodi Unita Proletariaper la Repuibblica di RicostruzioneLiberale and IM committees formed during the 45 Days in two larger towns of the countryside - Nonantola and Mirandola.

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a few months between the formation of the national Party at Livorno in I92 I and the collapse of political liberties under fascist violence in Emilia by the end of I922. During the I920S and I930s, the PCI in Modena became a small, clandestine organization.12 Contacts between the province's few hundred communists were infrequent and strictly personal - security interests and difficult communications limited the number of larger meetings. Access to materials from outside even the province was limited and contacts with the national leadership exiled in Paris and Moscow were rare. Graffiti, limited recruitment efforts within the province's small industries and occasional pamphleteering characterized the communists' political activities during 13 much of the ventennio. Importantly, the Communist Federation in Modena did not merely survive fascism - it also profited from the period of clandestinity. For over fifteen years, fascist propaganda stressed one major point: opposition to the regime was communist-inspired. This message prepared a favourable reception for the PCI as the leading exponent of antifascism.14 Secondly, political suppression during the I930S made the PCI relatively unimportant on the world stage at the time of the stalinization of the international communist movement. Because the PCI did not exist as a mass party, it could not be directed towards the interests of the Soviet Union in the same way (nor nearly as efficiently) as other communist parties, the French, for example. Finally, clandestinity demanded certain skills of the communists. Obedience, discipline, secrecy and the defacto preeminence of local leaders were the stock in trade of the limited communist activity under fascism. All proved essential to the armed resistance struggle after iq4w.15
12 Figures on membershipin the PCI during both clandestinity and the resistanceare imprecise. Estimates for the I920S and I930S are: I927- 250-400 members: 0. Cremaschi, 'Dati riassuntivi dell'attivith del PCI svolta in alcuni comuni della provincia di Modena dal I921 al I945', interview with L. Casali, I 967, 4; I 929- 75-80 members, but perhaps for the city of Modena only: (Istituto in Italia duranteil fascismo, I926-I932 P. Secchia, Azione svolta dal Partito Comnunista members, with a further I 77 in Communist Party Feltrinelli, Annali,I 969), p. 223; I932 - I 00-200 e la societaModenese fra le due guerre,i919-1939 youth organizations: G. Muzzioli, L'economia

(Modena,

I979),

table

31,

p.

I43.

In

I928,

after an inspection of the province, Secchia wrote

that 'In the city of Modena there is no longer anything; in the province there are some groups which have formed a committee, but even these have not been seen by anyone for six months' (Secchia, Azione,p. I30). 13 The histories of the province during fascism include: G. Muzzioli, L'Econlomia; I, Vaccari, 'Il sorgere del fascismo nel Modenese' in Movimnento operaio efascismonell'Enilia-Romagna (Rome, I973); an extensive series of interviews compiled by ProfessorL. Casali, now found in the archive of the Associazione Nazionale dei Partigiani Italiani (hereafter cited, ANPI Mo). In addition to the interview with Cremaschi above (n. I2), two others are of special interest: 'Appunti per una storia del PCI a Modena: dall'occupazione delle fabbriche alla clandestinlita(ANPI Mo, I970); (ANPI Mo, I970). G. Turchi, 'Appunti per una storia dell'antifascimso a Carpi, I9I5-I943' 14 The language of fascism and its style of political harangue thoroughly influenced the PCI during the first months of the resistance. See, for example, 'Young men of Italy!' (I4/9/43) in p. 272. One historian of the national resistance noted, 'Antifascism had its tempo, Casali, Storia, e storia d'Italia: rhythm and characterinevitably conditioned by its enemies' (G. Quazza, Resistenza e ipotesidi ricerca, Milan, I976, p. I I 7). problemi 15 One of the major figures in the provincial PCI during the resistancetalked of the advantages for the Communist Party found in the 'conspiratorial instincts' developed during clandestinity. See Benedetti's interview in 'Appunti per una storia'.

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These particular traits gave the PCI a headstart within the committees. The communists' lead over the other political parties of' Italia Libera' rested not only on the fact that it had at the outsetof the Badoglio period an organization, but also because the PCI had a membership greater than all the other parties combined, two operating headquarters in the province, representation in most of the larger communes and the small industries of Modena and two printing presses - an invaluable asset unique to the communists.16 All of these resources gave the PCI a political presence in Modena far greater than that of any other group during the 45 Days. The Communist Party's relations with the provincial military government changed quickly from cautious support to harsh criticism during the summer of I943. L'Unita celebrated the dismissal of Mussolini and endorsed the call for 'Peace and Freedom', but the communists' newspaper also noted that Badoglio's government represented only the first step towards the complete withdrawal of Italy from the war.17 In September I943, the provincial PCI circulated a petition of six major demands in the factories - each one directly opposed to the policies of Badoglio.18 The Communist Party stressed the ominous implications of the German military presence in Italy,19 even to the point of leading 'Italia Libera' on three occasions in a request to arm the civilian population against a feared German invasion. As the war continued under Badoglio, popular discontent with the government, veiled for a short time by the euphoria following the demise of Mussolini, grew. Food rationing continued and seemed particularly harsh in a province as agriculturally rich as Modena. Major demonstrations against the ration levels began and the withholding of grain from the government's storehouses assumed such notable proportions that the failure to consign certain agricultural products came to be prosecuted as an act of sabotage. Two industrial strikes, both protests against the war, were broken up by the police.20 Considerable evidence, then, shows that while expectations for major changes ran high, political, civil and economic rights were not much improved by the substitution of the military for the fascists. Even though the Communist Party had warned of the likelihood of Badoglio's collapse, the suddenness of the fall took Modena by surprise. After the announcement of Italy's armistice with the Allies, Badoglio left Rome for
16 The history of the PCI 's clandestine press is documented in five sources: A. Bellelli, 'Come era organizzata la produzione della stampa clandestina della provincia di Modena', ANPI Mo, I967-8; E. Borsari, 'Contributo alla storia della stampa clandestina di Carpi', ISRMo Rassegna 8 (i 967), pp. 50-5; R. Gozzi, 'Diario della tipografia clandestina', ANPI Mo (no date); G. Musi, 'La stampa clandestina del PCI presso la tipografia Cervi', ANPI Mo (no date); I. Vaccari, 'La raccolta della tipografia Cervi', ISRMo Rassegna 8 (I967), pp. 7-36. 17 l'Unita 28/7/43 and I2/8/43 ('But the musicis still the same!')showthe PCI's transition from celebration over the fall of Mussolini to grave warnings about Italy's future under Badoglio. 18 Casali, Storia,pp. I24-5-

19 l'Unita 7/9/4320 L. Arbizzani, Azioneoperai, contadina di mnassa (Bari, di liberazione, guerra pp. 64-5; Casali, Storia,pp. 127-3I.

I976),

vol. iII of l'EmfiliaRonmagna rnella

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the safety of southern Italy. Within thirty-six hours, the province had been occupied by invading German troops. The manner in which the 45-Day government ended had an important implication for the resistance which followed. The flight of the king, Marshal Badoglio and the government, followed shortly by the reinstatement of Mussolini as the head of the Republic of SalI, devastated the remaining traditions of loyalty to the state which had survived twenty years of fascism, three years of world war and forty-five days of Badoglio. The near total capitulation of the Italian army only deepened this political vacuum.2" Indeed, the invasion of 8 September marked the end of the army as a political actor and eliminated it as a legitimate participant in the resistance to fascism.2 The people of Modena, and for that matter most Italians, were 'free' of allegiance to the state and the armed forces in a way which was uncharacteristic of other occupied countries of the Mediterranean in which resistance to the Germans developed. At the edges of this political vacuum stood the parties of the 45-Day period, foremost among them the PCI. The communists had played the leading role in the interim committees, making specific demands and issuing clear warnings. The German invasion proved most of their analysis correct. The Communist Party, newly strengthened, somewhat larger and certainly vindicated by the 45 Days, returned quickly to the familiar terrain of clandestinity on 9

September

I943.

Immediately following the German invasion of Modena, 'Italia Libera' reformed into a provincial Comitatoper la Liberazione Nazionale (CLN). Its political composition changed in the process: the most important development was the entry of the Christian Democrats, newly formed during the 45 Days. The question before all of these people was the obvious one: how best to resist ?23 The Communist Party again took the lead.24 For the communists, resistance
21 Only at two locations in Modena was there army resistance of any kind to the German invasion. In both cases it was quickly overcome (Casali, Storia,pp. I50-2; Cesarini, Mlodena M, p. 39). In the haste to abandon their barracksin the mountainis,Italianisoldiers left behinidstores of arms and munitions. These later became the first weapons of the partisans. 22 The army lost more than its 'legitimacy' in September I943; it also lost most of its soldiers. The Germans imprisoned several thousand Italian troops in the days immediately after the invasion. These men were later sent to fight on foreignifronts, includinigYuLgoslavia and the Soviet Union. Those Italian soldiers not captured, attempted to retur-n to their homes. Many laterjoined the partisans, not as regular troops of the army but as members of the various political divisions in the resistance. 23 Many of the publications of the provincial CLN are gathered in Atti e docutmeniti del CLN clandestino a Modena,ISRMo Quaderno 9 (1974). The communal CLNs in the larger towns formed during the winter of 1943-4; those in the smaller villages formed later, duLring the spring anld summer of I944. 24 One important reason for the communists' lead in the CLNs was the scarcity of repr-eselntatives from other political parties. Socialist participation in Modena was problematic. At least oine CLN participant claimed that 'During the clandestine struggle, whenl the idea was the construction of the Comitati di liberazione we PCI members created niazionale, socialists.We artificial

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meant an armed struggle, and marxism, as it was then understood, pointed to the industrial working class as the group most naturally inclined to revolt.25 The PCI's own strength among the limited number of workers in the small industries of the province confirmed this theoretical inclination.26 Consequently, the PCI promoted an armed and urban resistance.27 The other parties of the provincial CLN strongly objected.28 They stressed the risks that an armed movement in the cities and towns would pose to the civilian population. There was, in addition, an important subtext to the protests of the socialists, the a7ionisti and the Christian Democrats: the disorganization in their ranks. They were not in a position to contribute to an armed resistance movement in the fall of I943. They needed first to create their own groups and gain a membership.29 But, as we have seen, the organizational question was one which the PCI had already largely solved in the province by the fall of I943. The 45-Day period had increased the communists' lead over the other political parties in Modena. The PCI was, in fact, the only party capable of taking the leap proposed by Secchia late that year: It is necessary to act immediately and as widely and as decisively as possible because our organizations will form and develop in action. It is not the case that we first must organize ourselves and then act, that if we act first we will be cut off. If we have organizations with a military character that don't act, then these will in a short time disintegrate and break apart. Instead, action will train these military organizations, it will harden them in the struggle; action will strengthen and develop them.30 Debates about the nature of the resistance continued in Modena's CLN until liberation. But events themselves resolved this first crucial issue of where and how to resist.
took our comrades and said to them, 'You are now a socialist !' They were not at all happy about this... However, some of them, because of the effort required "to be a socialist", remained in that Party' (A. DelMonte in ANPI Mo, I970). 25 'There is a class instinct in the workers which is nourished by the permanent ties with the factories, the masses and the reality of working life. When this is united to revolutionary ideology, it gives them a secure orientation in action ' ('Due Svolte' in La nostra lotta,October, I943; quoted in Casali, Storia,p. 297). 26 360 of the 520 PCI members in the city of Modena at the end of I943 were operai(Casali, Storia,p. 274). 27 The emphasis on the recruitment of the relatively small, industrial working class for the cadres of the resistance also reflected a genlerationalsplit within the PCI. Older members relied on a political formation that included the Bolshevik Revolution, the Bienniolosso anidthe split of the communists from the socialists in I92I; younger members' political experiences were more directly tied to the situation of provincial agricultural workers under fascism. The first group concentrated its energies on industrial workers; the second on the mass struggle against fascism in the mountains and the countryside. The question of who would make the resistance came to be resolved by events themselves: the appearance of armed groups in the mountains during the winter of I943-4. 28 Casali, Storia,p. 226; p. 87. Gorrieri, La repubblica, 29 The PCI responded to the other parties in the CLN with charges of attelndismllo - a 'wait and see' attitude. Cesarini, ModenaM, p. I76; Poppi, I commissa-io, p. i8. Gorrieri (La r-epuibblica, p. 86) rejects the PCI 's criticism of the other CLN members. 30 Secchia in La nostra lotta (November I943), pp. 20-I.

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The return of limited political freedoms during the 45 Days had been a busy time for some in the province. A particularly active group in Sassuola, an agricultural centre in the north of the province and near the mountains, made no secret of its discontent with both fascism and Badoglio during the summer. The group, with approximately thirty members, met secretly after the German invasion. The police of the Republic of Salo were aware of their activities. When word of imminent arrests reached one clandestine meeting in mid-November, the seven people present took to the hills. They found weapons among the arms removed spontaneously by the civilian population from Italian army barracks in the mountains after the fall of Badoglio. In this rather abrupt manner, the first provincial example of the vita partigiana came into being in the rugged terrain of the Apennines.31 The Sassuola group immediately began to fight the Italian fascists. Always short of weapons, they disarmed enemy patrols on the isolated roads in the area and attacked carabinieritrying to enforce Sal'o's new conscription orders. They burned the buildings of the fascists in a few hill towns. Funds for the group came from armed withdrawals against the accounts of the Fasci at local banks. In one extraordinary raid, these first partisans defeated a small fascist garrison in the mountains, then occupied the neighbouring village, burned both the police archives and the Casa del Fascio, distributed stored grain to the local population and danced at the village hotel until enemy reinforcements arrived from the countryside below.32 The success of the Sassuola group focused the PCI's attention on the mountains. Two problems soon found a single solution. The first was strategic. The example of an armed resistance active in the hills ended the tortuous debate within the provincial CLN as to 'where' best to resist. The Communist Party quickly abandoned its advocacy of an urban guerrilla movement; the other parties supported in principle - though still lacking in resources - an armed movement of national liberation. The second problem was a political one and concerned the control of the growing movement. The leaders of the Sassuola group were overtly 'independent' of politics. A PCI representative in the town had been working on political orientation before the abrupt flight to the hills in November. The suddenness of the departure and the charisma of the two commanders ruined the communists' hopes of influencing the Sassuola partisans. The PCI responded early in I944 by accepting the advice of one of their members (a militant who had fought in the Spanish Civil War) and formed a Garibaldi brigade, the first provincial partisan group commanded by Communist Party members.33 The Modena M (Montagna) Command was largely composed of peasant farmers who owned their own small plots of land in the mountains.
31 A brief history of the Sassuola group is 0. Tassi, 'La prima pattuglia partigiana di Sassuolo', ISRMo Rassegna 6 (I965), pp. 55-7. 32 Gorrieri, La repubblica, p. I I9. 33 This militant was Mario Ricci (Armando), a native of one of the more important towns in the mountains, Pavullo.

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In this moment, the exclusive focus on the industrial working-class as the heart and soul of Italian communism and the resistance changed. Equally as troublesome an issue as political influence was the question of discipline. Not all of the Sassuola group's activities were as inspirational as those listed above. Their dominance in the mountains led to excesses and the line between antifascism and common crime blurred.34 These problems reached a point where the Communist Party's partisan police arrested the leader of the Sassuola partisans in March I944, after he had ordered the execution of sixteen young men whose complicity with fascism was far from clear. His troops were integrated into the fighting units of the PCI.35 The way the Communist Party organized and disciplined the early resistance reflected an important fact about the movement. The Apennine mountains were particularly well-suited for guerrilla warfare: the land was rough and concealment was easy. For these same reasons, the area was also a difficult place from which to extract a living. Resources for the partisans had to be drawn from the limited supplies available to the local population. This required full, if also quiet, support. Banditry, because it jeopardized that support system, threatened the early partisan movement perhaps even more than fascist patrols.36 But it wasn't enough that the partisans not harm the population. To ensure popular support, the partigiani had also to help the local residents. The nature of the resistance in the mountains, then, created a mutual dependence between partisans and civilians. To some extent, this was an entirely natural development, particularly in the early stages of growth in the armed antifascist movement when the partisans were most commonly the sons and daughters of the villagers themselves. But the Garibaldinialso increased the number of actions which directly aided the local population, including the distribution of stored and requisitioned foodstuffs, interference with the roundup of livestock by the Germans, burning of draft, police and animal records and attacks on draft patrols. All of these efforts served to tie the civilian population more thoroughly to the partisans by helping with some of the worst problems of life in the mountains.37 These acts also led the partisans to a direct and on-going involvement in the practical exigencies of daily life in the hills.
pp. 2 I-4. p. I22; Poppi, II C01omm7lissario, p. i83; Gorrieri, La r-epuibblica, Ricci, Armanido, Poppi, II comnlrissniSio, pp. 43-8. Benedetti, 'Venti'anni', I, 2I6-22; 36 The Communist Party took great pains to distance itself fiom the bandits, warning civilians never request par-tigianli of criminals 'acting in the name of the partisans' and noting that 'TThe provisions at night, ... they are never masked [and] they leave a regular receipt', ISRMo
34 35

T. IV/26 (no date). pp. I I 4, I 42. Similar descriptions of the popularity of these actions are found 37 Ricci, Ar-nmanido, in nearly all thediariesofthe communist Garibaldi brigades (ISRMo S. 11/6, S. 11/8 and S. III/ I4) and in most memoirs, too. Alfeo Corassori, PCI member and later mayor of the city of Modena, noted that the acts which aided the peasalntry ' ... constittute material for a detailed study, above all better to ulnderstand the colnditiolns in which this battle saved thousands of peasalnt households from certain ruini and allowed our agricultural ecolnomy to grow again relatively easily once liberatioln had come' (PCI, Alfeo Corassori (Modelna, i968), p. I5).

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COMMUNISM

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A communism thoroughly integrated with the actual conditions of life was created during the resistance. Discontent with the Republic of Salo grew enormously during the winter of 1943-4, fuelled primarily by the military draft and the first German reprisals against the civilian population. Concealment became the common response to the new conscription lists issued in November 1943. Deserters, first local men of the mountains but increasingly also youths from the countryside, came into contact with the small groups of partisans already in the Apennines. Over the winter months, they joined the movement. The core of the resistance in Modena was made up of young men whose first political act was draft evasion. German reprisals in the mountains, though infrequent, contributed to the popular support of the partisans.38 The worst of these raids took place in March 1944, around the small hill town of Monchio, an area by then notorious for partisan activities.39 An assault on the villages - preceded by an intense artillery barrage - left one hundred and thirty seven civilians, mostly women, children and elderly men, dead. The Germans expected that the example of Monchio would terrorize the population into denunciation of the partisans. The opposite occurred for several reasons. First, the bond between local partisans and the civilian population was not easily broken. Village loyalty to local youths and their friends withstood this dire test. Secondly, Monchio was a Germanaction - the first major military undertaking in the province which revealed clearly the Republic of Sal'o's reliance on foreign troops. From this point onwards, nationalism found a secure home in the resistance. Finally, the reprisals ended the possibility of civilian neutrality. Silence and non-involvement were no longer guarantees of safety for oneself or one's family after the spring of 1944. Activities which fell far short of armed resistance henceforth met with the same capital punishment at the hands of the Germans. The elimination of options ended apolitical discontent among the population and marked the beginnings of a much more active antifascism and wider popular support for the partisans. That this new antifascism might have been considered 'communist' from the outset is not entirely surprising. Fascist propaganda had made its own contribution by equating communism with opposition to Salo even in the remote areas of the Apennines. Additionally, by the spring of 1944, the Garibaldi brigades of the Communist Party were the only active partisan forces in the province.40 Finally, the communists controlled incidents of banditry and they acted as much as possible in the interests of the local population. They soon provided convincing proof of the plausibility of armed resistance to the Germans and the Italian fascists.
38 The Communist Party and the provincial CLN published numerous pamphlets calling attention to the reprisals carried out by the Germans. See R. Pinelli, I Volantini della resistenza Modenese, vol. i, Tesi di laurea, ISRMo U . V/26. 39 P. Alberghi, Attila sull'Appennino: la strage di Monchio e le origini della lotta partigiana nella Valle del Secchia (ISRMo Quaderno7, I969) is the best account of the reprisal. 40 Though at this time there were partisans of other (and no) political affiliation (Pd'A, PSI, ex-Army and DC) within the various communist brigades.

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June I944, was an important month in the provincial resistance. After several weeks of attacks against fascist barracks in the hills, the partisans began an assault against the garrison at the village of Montefiorino. Five days later, the presidio fell. The partigiani unexpectedly found themselves in control of a large area, nearly I,200 square kilometers, in the mountainous northeast section of Modena. They had created the first 'free' zone in German-occupied Italyi41 The Republic of Montefiorino - as it came to be called42 - inspired the resistance movement for it showed that an armed struggle was feasible. The Republic lasted forty days. During this time thousands of new recruits came to the resistance. Numbers swelled from an estimated I,500 at the end of May I 944,43 to over 5,000 by August:44 most were young men and women of the countryside. The majority of the new arrivals joined the Garibaldi brigades, testifying to the prestige of the PCI and furthering the communists' domination of the resistance in Modena. Others joined the smaller groups, either independent formations or those led by the Pd'A.45 It was only during the days of Montefiorino that enough Christian Democrats gathered to permit the formation of a separate Catholic partisan command. The enormous and sudden growth in the partisan forces created serious problems. Foremost among these were military concerns.46 Weapons and ammunition were in short supply; perhaps as much as one-third of Modena's partigiani were always unarmed during the resistance. Thorough military training was impossible with recruits arriving at the rate of several hundred a week; further complicating this situation was the fact that group commanders often had only a little more experience in the mountains than the newest arrivals. There was also an unresolvable problem of political orientation. People with a knowledge of the fundamentals and history of communism were much scarcer than those with adequate military experience. A political commissar for the
41 The Republic was established,not because the partisanis were partictllarlystrong, but because the enemy was rather weak. By the summer of I944, the Italian fascists lacked a reasoll and a once their communications will to carry on the fight. They generally surrenderedto the partisalns were severed. The German military was hard-pressed by the Allies in mid-I944, immediately before the June liberation of Rome. 42 There is an historiographic debate concerniingthe correct label for Montefiorino: republic or district. It has little bearing on the concerns of this article. 'Republic' was chosen because it was the term most ofteniused by the partisans durilngthe forty days of Molntefiorillo. 43 Arbizzani and Casali, 'Montefiorino', p. I 2. Estimates of the partisans' strength at the time of the attack range from 500 to I,000. 44 Ibid. p. 65; Poppi, II comniissario, p. 89. 45 Figures again are imprecise. Arbizzani and Casali ('Montefiorino', p. 44) claim that of the I,000 partisans involved in the attack on Montefiorino, 6o were enrolled in the Pd'A anld onlly 40 in the Christian Democracy. Most often socialists and commulnistsfought togethel in the Garibaldi brigades. 46 The first direct contacts with the Allies were estabiished at the time of the Republic. Several of Modelnadurilngthe su-mmer English 'missions' set up permalnentheadquartersin the mountailns of I944. Three sources recount their work among the paltisalns: B. Davidson, SpecialOperationis Europe. Scenesfrom the anti-Nazi war (Londoln, I980); C. MacIntosh, Fromicloakto dagger:AniSOE agent in Italy, I940-I945 (London, I982); C. MacIntosh, 'Le missiolni avalnzate Inglesi e la vol. i of V'Einilia gierra Roiniagina niella battaglia degli Appennini' in L. Bergonzini, La lottaarmata,

di liberazione, pp. 541-76.

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887

PCI circulated among the partisans at Montefiorino, but his effectiveness was limited. Letters to the regional command of the PCI in Bologna and the testimony of many participants at Montefiorino reveal the plasticity of politics in the Republic: the ideals of the struggle, Slowly, as I was able to explain to these young Garibaldinii the sense of duty and of discipline, the love of our country which we wished to free from the German invaders and the fascist traitors,the opportunity for freedomfor our people, etc., etc. slowly, the political consciousness and the degree of discipline and combativeness was raised.47 We will send the lists of the P[arty], which are by now almost complete, with the next We call attention, however, to the fact that adherence has occurred in mass, staffetta. without, however, a deep or intense enough Party life to make these adherents truly solid and secure - there is always lacking among the troops that minimal willingness which would allow us to undertake an intense and profound political education.48 Looking back on it, one hears, 'they were all communists.' But it wasn't like that; many became communists, it's true, but after the end of the war. At that time those enrolled in the antifascist parties and even those who were not, saw themselves in a single common denominator: fightersfor freedom.... I will be more precise. Most of the time those young men did not even know what communism was, but they knew very well that they had come to me to fight against the Nazi fascists.49 What was true in Montefiorino, because of the sudden growth in the number of partigiani, was true more generally in the provincial resistance: the PCI, the leading party in the armed struggle, had neither the time nor the human resources to impart a political education to the partisans.50 'Politics' was a straightforward matter - a fight for national liberation led by Communist Party memnbersand organized in the Garibaldi brigades of the PCI. What little was known of the Soviet Union only reinforced this equation. The USSR, especially after the defence of Stalingrad (that is, at precisely the time when the Italian resistance got underway), was the leading country in the antifascist struggle, for Russia had saved Europe from Hitler by inflicting the first great defeat on the Germans. The basic stuff of political allegiance and ideology in Italian communism in the months of the resistance was remarkably simple. The chaotic retreat from Montefiorino underscored the lack of military preparation among the partisans.51 A Communist Party pamphlet extolled the 'victory' in the hills;52 the exact opposite was really true. The Gerrnans attacked in force from all directions except the south ;53 the effects of the retreat
47 Letter of the Political Commissar of the PCI to the Communist Par-ty Feder-ationi in Modena (August 1944) in Benedetti, 'Venti'anni', I, 245. Also in Istituto Nazioniale per la Storia del Movimiienlto di (I6/9/44). 20 II, 48 Ibid. Liberazione in Italia, Le Brigate Garibaldi, ii, 601--3 (Milan, I979). 49 Ricci, Armando, p. i 8i. An observation with which the Political Commissar for the PCI at Montefiorino agreed in 5 full in the 1970s (Poppi, II commissario, p. 93). 51 Arbizzani and Casali, 'Montefiorinio', p. 49; F. Bellei, 'La formazionie "Italia Libeia'

(ANPI Mo,
52

I970).

The PCI pamphlet which made this claim, 'The trtuth about the battle', is founid in ISRMo T. 111/28 (4/8/44) and in Gorrieri, La repubblica, PP. 426-7, n. 42. 53 Estimates of the number of German troops in the battle r-ange from s,ooo to 30,000.

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were grave. Several hundred partisans died in battle.41 The resistance split into three groups: one headed north into neighbouring Reggio-Emilia; a second stayed just ahead of pursuing enemy troops in the rnountains for the next several months until the majority crossed German lines anld joined the Allies in the autumn; the remainder returned singly or in small groups to their homes in the countryside.55 The mass, organized resistance in the mountains crumbled in the wake of the defeat at Montefiorino. It reappeared only in the spring of I945, in the months immediately before liberation in April. But during the winter of I 944-5 the resistance grew spectacularly in the flat agricultural countryside, the pianura.5f The movemenit took longer to develop there than in the mountains because the risks for both partisans and civilians were far greater; concealment was more difficult for the partigiani and communications much easier for the Germans. Nonetheless, by the late autumn of I 944, a substantial resistance movement, led again by the Communist Party, had taken hold. A pattern of allegiance and enrollment to the PCI similar to the resistance in the mountains held true in the pianura. The PCI's strong social presence and its solid antifascist reputation, far greater than the other parties of the CLN, were important in attracting recruits.57 There were, as in the mountains, sources of great popular discontent in the pianura with the new fascism of the Republic of Salo. Food and livestock requisitions were, if anything, harsher and more efficient in the agricultural heartland of Modena.58 The threat of conscription was a very real one for both country peasants and city dwellers. Arbitrary reprisals were a constant fear. Forced deportation of labourers and the expropriation of valuable machinery to Germany were grave problems in the factories. The Communist Party mobilized around all of these grievances. The most popular initiative among the peasantry was the communists' anti-harvest campaign of I944.59 The PCI and its partisans urged sharecroppers (the mezzadri) and day labourers (the braccianti) not to harvest their cereals; the partigiani immobilized balers by slashing the rubber transmission belts whose replacement in the war-time economy of Italy was virtually
p. 428, n. 43). 250 partisans died during the retreat (Gorrieri, La r-epuibblica, 54 Approximately There may have been as many as 2,000 Gelman casualties. 55 By the end of the battle, somewhere betweenl 2,000 and 2,500 partisanis were dispersed throughout the mountains in small groups (Nardi, Otto inesi, p. I41). 56 Pacor and Casali (Lotte sociali, pp. 87, 97) give the following figures for growth of the early partisan movement in the pianura: end of Dec. 1943, 150; end of Mar-ch 1944, 350; end of April 1944, 450; eind of May I944, 650; end ofJune I944, 850; end ofJuly 1944, I,ooO; eild of August 'Diario storico Aristides') fol the growth in seven I944, I,300. Figures (from ISRMo S.III/I4, brigades of the Modena P (Pianura) command give the following totals: auttumn 1943, 91 ; autumn I944, 1,462; spring I945, 2,493; Liberation I945, 3,I96. in the diaries of the Garibaldi brigades. 57 A point repeatedly emphasized pamphlets focused on these issues exclusively: 'Agiricoltoiri -- il gr-ario al popolo! 58 Two Lavoratori, tutti! Difendiamo il grano!' and 'Difendiamo il inostro bestiamiie'. Both wer-e spoinsor-ed by the Provincial Committee for the Defence of FarmnWorkers (ISRMo T. 111/44--6). 'Diario storico Aristides', p. io. PCI propaganda was slow in comlling 59 See ISRMo S. 1I/I4, to the peasantry. Only sporadic and uncoordinated efforts were imade in their directioni before July 1944. See L. Casali, 'Formazione della " lilnea politica" del PCI, in ISRMo Rassegna n. 9-10 (I968-9), pp. I8-I9.

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impossible. And the Garibaldiniencouraged peasants who were forced to harvest under the supervision of the fascists to conceal as much grain as possible. The Communist Party partisans also took action against the flourishing black market in the province.60 Patrols threatened those individuals dealing in contraband or stolen goods of primary necessity.61 They requisitioned other products for distribution to the population, fixed prices at acceptable levels and on some occasions even shot the most flagrant violators and profiteers. Finally, Communist Party propaganda began to stress the identity of interests between fascism and the large landed estates in the countryside.62 This drew peasant grievances over harsh work contracts into the orbit of the national liberation struggle, thereby setting the stage for the communists' post-war insistence on drastic agricultural reform. The PCI was active within the factories as well. The Communist Party endorsed sabotage on the assembly line and organized the removal of key pieces of machinery to safety in the countryside.63 Indications are that these efforts were well-received by metal and steel workers and that industrial output in the province fell by significant levels.64 A series of industrial strikes promoted by the PCI found widespread support in thepianura factories during the spring of I944.65 General discontent underlay the agitation, but the immediate spark was the threatened deportation of workers to Germany. In April, the fascist civilian administrator for the province notified the directors of several factories of their quotas for 'emigration'.6 When only one worker volunteered at the FIAT Grandi Motori plant, the management posted the names of seven others selected for the 'training programme' in Germany. The workers came out on strike and FIAT remained closed for two days.67 The strike spread to other industries in Modena and eventually included 5,000 workers.68 The PCI played the principal role in the organization and coordination of the April strike.69 All of these acts tended to organize and mobilize popular discontent. This appears to have been the work almost exclusively of the PCI; the communist partisan divisions gave high priority to these undertakings, while the next largest group in the resistance, the Christian Democrats, rarely mentioned such
60 ISRMo S . III/I4, 'Diario storico Aristides', p. 76. 61 One PCI warning to black market profiteersis found in ISRMo S. III/ I4, 'Cronistoria della 62 ISRMo S. II/ Io, n. 256. Brigata Matteotti', allegato n. I8 (I9/2/45). 63 L. Guerrieri, 'Come il CLN salv5 la Maserati', ANPI Mo, I969; ISRMo T.III/Carpi, n. 45; Cesarini, ModenaM, p. I6I. 64 Pacor and Casali, Lottesociali,appendix 8, 'La Magneti Marelli di Carpi', pp. 3I5-20. 6 Arbizzani, Azioneoperai,pp. I8o-2. The March I943 industrial strikes in northern Italy found little reflexion in the province of Modena. 66 The Podesth set the province's contribution of manual labourers at 20,000, excluding from consideration those with more than five children, the parents of soldiers killed in the war, students in their last year of studies and directorsof' important' industries. Local prefectswere encouraged to select for deportation the unemployed and those on communal welfare roles. See F. Gorrieri, popolaredi massa, attive a movimento nella bassa Modenese:da initiativedi minoranze La resistenza Tesi di laurea, ISRMo U. V/ I5. I943-I945,
67 l'Unita (clandestine)
69

10-v-44.

66 Gorrieri, La repubblica, p. 217.

Ibid. pp. 215, 2I6; A. Bellelli, 'Gli scioperi dell'aprile, 1944 a Modena', ISRMo Rassegna,

V (I964), pp. 45-8.

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efforts. Again, the historical records reveal a mass Communist Party, thoroughly involved in the conditions of daily life in Modena. Other political parties never gained a mass membership during the resistance and they most often accepted the communists' leadership. The Christian Democrats' insistence on a separate command limited their participation to a minority of about Io per cent of the total partisan forces in the province. Liberation came in the spring of I945. After the disastrouswinter pause by the Allies, the English and American troops began to move again late in March I945. By early April, Modena was poised for insurrection. The partisans liberated most of the towns and villages of the province by on 22 April, a few hours themselves. The city of Modena was freed bypartigiani ahead of advancing American troops. The self-liberation symbolized the strength and independence of Modena's communist resistance. The provincial CLN immediately took control of local administration and the Allied Military Government later confirmed most of its appointments.70 The first mayor of the city of.Modena was the Communist Party's representative to the CLN and a PCI militant since the late I920S. The resistance in Modena was over. It is hard to overvalue the importance of these twenty months to the provincial federation of the Italian Communist Party. Modena celebrated for several days after liberation.7' Many of the partigiani, totalling between i8,ooo and I9,000,72 participated in one major parade through the provincial capital on 25 April I945. The vast majority of the officially recognized partisans (perhaps as much as go per cent) were men and women in the Communist Party's Garibaldi brigades.73 The PCI itself, at the moment of liberation, counted upon approximately 6,ooo members in the province of Modena.74That figure, however, soared in the immediate aftermath of the war, passing 50,ooo by the end of I945 and reaching 73,76475 in time for the administrative elections of March I946 - the first held in Italy in twenty years. In the Constituent Assembly vote on 2 June I946, the first national election after the war, the communists in Modena received 44 per cent of the popular vote.76The republic defeated the monarchy in the institutional referendumon the same day by a provincial margin of three to one.77 Clearly, Modena became very 'red' during and immediately after the resistance.78 Why?
p. 22. Cesarini, ModenaM, pp. 417-9; PCI, Corassori, The official CLN pamphlet on 25 April I945 captures the atmosphere in Modena on the i, i960, p. 85). day of Liberation (ISRMo Rassegna I (ig60), pp. I3-15; also ISRMo publication on the 27th 72 'Dati Statistici', ISRMo Rassegna anniversary of the Liberation (0972). 73 The high estimate of go9% is drawn from Istituto di Studi e Ricerche 'Carlo Cattaneo', La Socialedel PCI e dellaDC (Bologna, i968), tables 2.2 (p. 296) and 2.4 (p. 301). Presenza 74 Istituto Gramsci, Rome (hereafter, IstG): Modena, I945 and Modena, 1946 folders; Partito Comunista Modena Archive (hereafter, PCIMo): I945 folder. 75 IstG: Modena, I946. 76 PCI = 44-I Costituente %; PSIUP = 26-o%; DC = 25-2 %; ISTAT, Elezioniper l'Assemblea 2 giugnoI946 (Rome, I 948). Istituzionale, e Referendum 77 Republic = 75 2 %; monarchy= 2488%. ISTAT, Elezioni,I946. 78 Though by the time of the administrative and constituent elections in 1946 other issues were important in attracting and maintaining support for the provincial PCI. These included the
70
71

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The explanation of the communists' domination of the resistance has been set out in the preceding pages. The PCI was the only antifascist organization at the outset of the 45-Day government. It enjoyed a nearly twenty-year history of opposition to fascism, acknowledged by the regime itself. The Communist Party correctly noted the weaknesses of the Badoglio government and warned against the German invasion. For many reasons, the PCI was best able to step into the gaping political hole left after the flight of the monarchy and the capitulation of the army. It was the first political party to promote the armed struggle after September I943, and it went on to organize the most effective fighting units in the partisan movement. The communists led these troops to their first great victory at Montefiorino. And the PCI profited from being ' communist' at the right time - after the Soviet Union stopped further German expansion at Stalingrad. Simply put, the PCI was the first, the biggest and the best in Modena, and all of these factors counted heavily to those making the dangerous decision to resist. The communist resistance gained further support because it acted as much as possible in aid of the civilian population, thereby tying the antifascist armed struggle to the conditions of life of the population. This had the further effect of making the issues which were of greatest local importance central to the political activities, and hence the political thinking, of those who called themselves communist. And, finally, support came to the PCI during the resistance because the communists, unlike the Christian Democrats in the province, practised unity in their programmes and actions. A dedication to fight fascism qualified one for entry into the Garibaldi brigades. Who were the partisans? Precise figures on the social composition of the resistance in Modena are unavailable; some general indications, however, may be offered. Official figures place men's participation in the resistance as high as 85 per cent of the total;79 however, these statistics omit the staffette,mostly women, who were numbered in the hundreds. Most of the partisans were peasants (34 per cent) or urban workers in the small industries typical of the province (I7 per cent) ;80 however, given that most of the provincial population before 1945 worked in agriculture (approxicommunists' defence of the resistance heritage against the Christian Democrats in the national government, the Party's protests against the arrests of its members and ex-partisaiis in the province and the PCI's promotion of the first agricultural reforms in the countryside. 79 From 'Dati Statistici'. Of the I9,3I8 total officially recognized paitisans and patriots, I,984 (io%) were women in the province of Modena. 80 L. Casali, unpublished data; Provincial figures from Co?npendio, p. i6. The complete comparisons show the following distribution of partisans according to general occupational category: Partisans Province Partisans Province (O%) Ag. workers Industrial Commerce Artisans Intellectuals
34-4 i6-8 9-8 8-o
5-2

(%)
62-8
2PI

(%)
Clerks Transportation Military Various
5.2

(O%)
2.7

34 I II 8.7

6-7

7.2

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mately 63 per cent) and onily a fifth found employment in industry,81 the relative presence of industrial workers was therefore higher (as much as one-half greater) than that of agricultural labourers. The strength of the PCI among industrial workers during the resistance testified to the propaganda and recruitment efforts made by the Communist Party in the factories during the years of fascism. Finally, we may consider the age of the partigiani. Figures exist for only one group, the first division of the Modena M command.82 In the absence of any counter indications, I assume that this division was typical of the provincial partisans more generally. Most partigiani, near the day of liberation in I945, were aged between I 5 and 65. One-half were less than 25 years old and nearly

one-third between 2I and

25.

The most important features of these figures on social composition of partisans in Modena may be quickly summarized. The majority of partisans were men; over one-half were either agricultural or industrial workers. If the definition of an urban working class also includes those in transportation and commerce, then agricultural and urban workers accounted for nearly twothirds of the partisans. Finally - and this seems to be the element of greatest significance - the partigiani were very young. Two-thirds were under thirty, born sometime after I9I5. This meant that they had effectively known no government in Italy other than Mussolini's. Their political experience was limited to life under fascism. While they may have had little familiarity with the maximalist/minimalist debate in the Italian Socialist Party after the First World War, they certainly knew quite a bit about the dangers of military conscription under the Republic of Salo, about the hunger and deprivation caused by war and about the consequences of the German invasion of Italy. Taking up arms in resistance to life under Italy's second fascism was their first, and very courageous, political decision. The Italian Communist Party formed as a new, mass political movement out of thousands of these 'first' decisions and the inspiration they provided. It was notjust the youth of the partisans which contributed to the formation of a remarkably new communism in Italy. The conditions of battle had an effect, too. The necessarily nomadic and perilous existence of guerrilla warfare did not permit a theoretically informed and programmatically specific communism to develop. Even during the only period of semi-permanence in the provincial resistance - the forty days of Montefiorino - the movement lacked both the qualified individuals and the time to develop a political explanation of communism more detailed than that of a struggle for national liberation from fascism. The conditions of battle during the resistance and the partisan's age therefore combined to produce, if not a 'pure' communism, then a purely
81 From the I936 national census, in Camera di Commercio, Modena, Comllpenldio table Statistico, (Modena, I958), p. i6.

I4

82 ISRMo S. 11/9. The dates of birth for thirty partisans, out of the Division's total of 383, were not recorded.

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Italian one - a movement whose terms of reference lay predominantly in the resistance struggle within Italy. A first major conclusion of the study of the Modena Federation of the PCI then is that Italian communism, in its origins as a mass movement in 1944 and 1945, carried very little historical or ideological baggage. Furthermore, such baggage as there was hardly measured up to traditional socialist standards. A communism based on nationalism and antifascism differed, right from the start, from anything marxist thinkers had imagined. Some of the PCI 's programmes advocated agricultural and industrial reform, but these were also to be found among the programmes of the other political parties, including the provincial Christian Democrats. While on occasion the PCI stressed the connexion between fascism and large landowners, there was remarkably little economics and still less class analysis in the resistance appeal.83 The Communist Party in Modena, for example, never talked of the expropriation of land84 or the nationalization of industries; furthermore, it left the resolution of the most basic political question in the country - the choice between the monarchy or the republic - untouched until after the war. The overriding emphasis within the PCI during the resistance was on the military and political defeat of fascism. Because antifascism itself was thought to entail a social revolution, there was little discussion about what a marxist revolution might involve in Italy in 1945. The ambiguity between reform and revolution in the programmes of the Italian Communist Party therefore dates from the resistance. There was neither the need nor the possibility of distinguishing between these two positions during the armed struggle. The Communist Party and its supporters were committed to a sweeping transformation of Italian society - a political, economic and cultural reorganization which would make the reappearance of fascism impossible. Reform and revolution were not the terms in which that battle was fought. But did this reorganization itself amount to a revolution? The question is historically unanswerable: we know only that the resistance did not make one. Did some Italian communists desire a marxist revolution, however loosely defined? Here the answer undoubtedly is 'yes', but we simply cannot say who or how many.85
83 Arbizzani's conclusions on the situation in Bologna appear equally applicable to Modena: 'The mass struggle for the small demands (higher salaries, more lard, more tyres fol the bicycles, etc.) contributed to the mobilization of thousands and thousands of people and to strengthen the preparation for the insurrection against the Nazi-fascists; the struggle for better conditions of work, for new divisions of agricultural products, foi the daily kilogram of rice and for a higher ration of cereal became the struggle against the proprietor backed by the Germans and the definitive defeat of the fascists.' L. Arbizzani, 'Notizie sui contadini della provincia di Bologna durante la in Italia, n. 75 (April-Julle I964). di liberazione resistenza' in II movimento 8, n. 6 84 L. Casali, 'Il programma agrario del PCI durante la resistenza', Critica Maiarxista, (I970), p. I72; E. Gatti, 'Propaganda e legislazione nella Repubblica di Montefiorino', ANPI Mo, I970. 85 Because we are unable fully to answer these questions, I believe that the debates on doppiezza within the Communist Party are incomplete. The problem may not be simply one of the PCI

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894.

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What we do know about revolutionary sentiments and their ties to the Soviet Union illustrates the difficulty of evaluating the revolutionary commitment of the PCI. A certain image of the Soviet Union was an important part of the communists' outlook in 1945. The Soviet Union was the country 'without exploitation', and the land of a workers' democracy,86 similar, somehow, to the 'progressive democracy' proposed by the PCI for post-war Italy. Led by Stalin, the USSR had made the prime contribution to the defeat of European fascism; marxism-leninism was commonly, but vaguely, seen to lie at the base of that achievement.87 All these aspects reinforced the PCI's connexions to the Soviet Union, and these ties in turn strengthened the emphasis on antifascism as the dominant trend in Italian communism at the war's end. While the image of the Soviet Union was thus important to the PCI in its antifascist appeal, the Communist Party's Federation in Modena (and I believe throughout Emilia and nationally as well) did not draw support by calling for class warfare and social revolution. Communist Party pamphlets, in fact, went out of their way to stress the unified and inter-class nature of the resistance. The enemies were defined in national and political terms - the Germans and the Italian fascists. All of this according to any marxist criteria, was decidedly vague. Yet this view of the state of things in Italy in I945 was specific enough, at least in Modena, to give the PCI an absolute majority of popular support - an outstanding achievement for any political party. With all its strengths and weaknesses, then, resistance, not revolution (and not 'merely' reform), was the raw material of Italian communism in this province. In April 1945, only the strengths were apparent. The PCI had organized and led a successful military struggle against powerful enemies. Liberation had triumphed. Whatever limitations there were in the nature of a political allegiance engendered by the resistance would emerge only when the conditions of social life and political struggle changed in the first years of the Italian Republic. The Communist Party carried into those years a set of political ideas drawn from the resistance, and eventually, through many campaigns and many changes, these ideas would come to shape a new, European communism. Finally, the resistance not only gave the PCI a particular political outlook in 1945, it also created a more general idea of the political process. The lotta
hierarchy minimizing its revolutionary appearance while secretly reassuringcadres of an eventual buliltinto the Party through the X-hour for revolution. Much more profound was the doppiezza nature of the antifascist commitment to the PCI - the 'two-sidedness' of Italian communism in which radical (socialrevolutionary)sentimentscoexisted with 'moderate' (antifascist)programmes for the duration of the resistance.After the war in the dramatically different context of the Italian Republic, these two aspects of Italian communism might have become incompatible. But when is seen as having social origins in the ambiguous heritage of the resistance and the mass doppiezza allegiance generated by the armed struggle, then this entire debate becomes a mole complex issue than merely one of the leadership's 'duplicity'. 86 ISRMo Pedrazzi, VII (CLN), 2, 42; ISRMo Pedrazzi VIII (PCI), 6, 8. 87 La nostra lotta(7/I I/44) in ISRMo S. II/io, n. 254. This issue of the monthly newsletter was dedicated to the celebration of the Russian Revolution, idolizing Stalin aindpresenting the Soviet Union in precisely this fashion.

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COMMUNISM

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armata, local initiative, the prestige of a few individual leaders, the overwhelming domination of one political party and a struggle in genuine, broad unity for one goal common to the overwhelming majority of people - these elements made up the communists' image of politics in 1945, and all figured importantly in the political and social history of post-war Italy. In conclusion, communism on the ground created its own set of political ideas and wrote a new definition of political allegiance during the resistance. This development related far more to conditions within the provinces than to either the earlier history of communism or the decisions of the PCI 's own exiled leadership. Importantly, it also prepared the way for a favourable reception for similar ideas which would be proposed by Togliatti and others to the Party as a whole in the years after the war. And lastly, the armed struggle provided a social base of peasants and industrial workers for communism in Italy and made the concerns of these two main groups central to the policies of the PCI after April 1945. The formation of a communist organization and ideology in the provinces of northern and central Italy during the resistance is the starting point for an understanding of the PCI's history and its strategies in the contemporary period.

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