Yuri Ivanovich







INT: So if I could ask you again: was there a sense in Italy that to be anti-fascist, having defeated the fascists in the war, was to be pro-Communist; therefore the Communists benefited from a sense of anti-fascism that the war had generated?

MW: Very definitely. There's very little question about it. My visits to Italy, starting back in '38 and '39, and then after that, briefly, prior to the elections, showed that the great speeches made by Togliatti and [Devittorio], the great labour leader, really assembled enormous crowds. De Gasperi spoke, and he wasa marvellous leader, and really one of the great saviours of democratic Italy at the ti. But the fervour, based upon the partisans and their exploits against the Nazis, and the fact that Badoglio had pulled Italy away from their northern ally, who had... was just going beyond the pale, and learning that Italian troops, elite trops, the Alpine forces... Hitler leaned heavily on Mussolini: "You're not doing your share, and Stalingrad has to be won," and this elite group... these were not just ordinary soldiers, they were the outstanding ones; they were from middle-class families, they were... and many aristocrats as well, that had this fervour; and here they were sent to the slaughter of the Battle of Stalingrad, and this was a frightful thing, that Mussolini kowtowed to Hitler and permitted this to happen. Anti-fascism, I noted in Italy in the Forties, and it was a thing that you didn't see in Berlin or Nuremberg at all, but you could see in Rome; more so to the south, less in Milan and Turin, probably. But I think the point is well made, that, I think Mussolini made errors. He admired the discipline that Hitler had, and he had slogans on the walls: "Obey, obey." It was almost blind obedience. Italians... that simply is not an Italian sort of a thing; they do not take that. They're very independent-minded, they're very creative in themselves, and if they know a leader and if a leader knows how to lead, that's fine; but jamming it down your throat, "You obey," and I think that was truly an error, and it played definitely into the hands of the Communists in the immediate post-war period.

INT: Right. Can we just cut there, just for a second.


INT: Where did... again, looking at that period in 1947, early 1948, where was most of the financial backing for the Communist Party in Italy coming from?

MW: The Communist Party of Italy was funded, in the first place, by black bags of money directly out of the [Villa Abomelek], the Soviet compound in Italy, in Rome; and the Italian services were aware of this. The amounts... as the elections approached, the amounts grew, and the estimates - that eight to 10 million dollars a month was actually... went into the coffers of Communism; not necessarily completely to the Party: Mr [Devittorio] and labour was powerful, and certainly a lot went to him. But a very important factor was what we called "the friendly firms arrangement": big industries in Italy had had to really deal with the leftist labour union of [Devittorio], and to be friendly they had to carry out certain things, or there would be serious strikes. And... but there were certain friendly firms dealing not only from the Soviet Union, but from Hungary, from Czechoslovakia, from Romania, where, if a country... a company in Western Europe, specifically in Italy, wanted to import, they made the licence, and the agreement was made that a large sum of money would be paid, way over the cost of the goods itself, and the excess went to the Communist elite, to the Communist Party and other Communist organisations. And so we... our intelligence showed us that not only was it a black-bag operation of green dollars, but it also was an arrangement where, through labour power, you had firms in Italy that were not really pro-Communist but they were forced, in order to get the deal, to listen to what Moscow said: "This is the way you get the contract." And so money really flowed into Italy. We had the intelligence that the situation was perilous, and that the Communist Party could well win the elections in April of 1948.

INT: So would it be true to say that most of the Communist Party support in Italy at the time was in the industrial giants, the big factories of Turin and Milan?

MW: Yes, it was, definitely. Now, without getting into the covert action operation, but the Marshall Plan moved into Italy quite swiftly. Mr Zellerbach, who later became our ambassador there and a San Francisco industrialist, picked outstanding men, and they were very alarmed that well-known European firms of high reputation - and I don't exclude Fiat or Montecattini or Olivetti or you name it - but they were playing the Communist game, and this was annoying. The most dramatic person to move in on that came much later - that was Clare Booth Luce, who said, "I will knock off every cent you get if you do not have your workers join a free labour union." She was very dynamic about that and is to be credited for that. But to answer that question: yes, the Italians made a remarkable rebuilding. I mean, this country didn't have all of the natural resources of a Germany, but just through their own skills Italy did come up, and they were eager and they were working fast. And Italian... many Italian industrialists played the Communist game, and this played directly into the... the hands of the Communists, just before these great elections of '48.

INT: And Togliatti himself, how much did he toe the Moscow line?

MW: Palmiro Togliatti, I think, was without question the most fascinating Communist in Europe. He spent, of course, all of the war in exile, as being a violent anti-fascist. He was in Moscow. He understood what Lenin wanted, and how Stalin wanted Communist parties that would be under Moscow's aegis, about how they should operate. And Togliatti wanted, of course, to be... to go back to Rome and be number one, which he was. But he had to tell the Soviets time and time again - whether it was the KGB resident in Rome or the ambassador, we know that he said, "Look, I know Italy; you do not. I believe in Communism; I've studied and I want to achieve what world Communism wants. But I have to do it the Italian way." And that attitude of Togliatti was a great plus to the Party, because if you analyse Togliatti's speeches today, he did not praise the great Stalin and this abject absolute obedience idea, that we know Communist apparatchiks believe in absolute abject obedience. And he avoided that very carefully. And our propaganda... later we were biting into that, but Togliatti was wise enough not to be subject to extreme criticism from that. He was a really very remarkable politician, very skilful.

INT: I'd like to come on now to the debate within the young CIA in the... months of late 1947. Can you describe the decision-making process that led to the justification of intervening in the Italian elections?

MW: Yes. Truly... I think that General George Marshall, who just was becoming Secretary of State, became aware of the perilous situation in Italy; there were all the indicators...

INT: I'll just stop you there, Mr Wyatt - the aircraft.

(Some non-interview chat while waiting for plane to pass)