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loan we obtain."4
As the last month of the 1948 election campaign began, Time magazine
pronounced the possible leftist victory to be "the brink of catastrophe".5
"It was primarily this fear," William Colby, former Director of the CIA, has
written, "that had led to the formation of the Office of Policy Coordination, which gave
the CIA the capability to undertake covert political, propaganda, and paramilitary
operations in the first place."6 But covert operations, as far as is known, played a
relatively minor role in the American campaign to break the back of the Italian left. It
was the very overtness of the endeavor, without any apparent embarrassment, that
stamps the whole thing with such uniqueness and arrogance”one might say swagger.
The fortunes of the FDP slid downhill with surprising acceleration in the face of an
awesome mobilization of resources such as the following:7

A massive letter writing campaign from Americans of Italian extraction to their relatives and friends in
Italy”at first written by individuals in their own words or guided by "sample letters" in newspapers, soon
expanded to mass-produced, pre-written, postage-paid form letters, cablegrams, "educational circulars",
and posters, needing only an address and signature. And”from a group calling itself The Committee to
Aid Democracy in Italy”half a million picture postcards illustrating the gruesome fate awaiting Italy if it

voted for "dictatorship" or "foreign dictatorship". In all, an estimated 10 million pieces of mail were
written and distributed by newspapers, radio stations, churches, the American Legion, wealthy
individuals, etc.; and business advertisements now included offers to send letters airmail to Italy even if
you didn't buy the product. All this with the publicly expressed approval of the Acting Secretary of State
and the Post Office which inaugurated special "Freedom Flights" to give greater publicity to the dispatch
of the mail to Italy.

The form letters contained messages such as: "A communist victory would ruin Italy. The United States
would withdraw aid and a world war would probably result." ... "We implore you not to throw our
beautiful Italy into the arms of that cruel despot communism. America hasn't anything against
communism in Russia [sic], but why impose it on other people, other lands, in that way putting out the
torch of liberty?" ... "If the forces of true democracy should lose in the Italian election, the American
Government will not send any more money to Italy and we won't send any more money to you, our
These were by no means the least sophisticated of the messages. Other themes emphasized were Russian
domination of Italy, loss of religion and the church, loss of family life, loss of home and land.
Veteran newsman Howard K. Smith pointed out at the time chat "For an Italian peasant a telegram from
anywhere is a wondrous thing; and a cable from the terrestrial paradise of America is not lightly to be
The letters threatening to cut off gifts may have been equally intimidating. "Such letters," wrote a
Christian Democrat official in an Italian newspaper, "struck home in southern Italian and Sicilian villages
with the force of lightning." A 1949 poll indicated that 16 percent of Italians claimed relatives in the
United States with whom they were in touch; this, apparently, was in addition to friends there.

The State Department backed up the warnings in the letters by announcing that "If the Communists
should win ... there would be no further question of assistance from the United States." The Italian left felt
compelled to regularly assure voters that this would not really happen; this, in turn, inspired American
officials, including Secretary of State George Marshall, to repeat the threat. (Marshall was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.)
A daily series of direct short-wave broadcasts to Italy backed by the State Department and featuring
prominent Americans. (The State Department estimated that there were 1.2 million short-wave receivers
in Italy as of 1946.) The Attorney General went on the air and assured the Italian people that the election
was a "choice between democracy and communism, between God and godlessness, between order and
chaos." William Donovan, the wartime head of the OSS (fore-runner of the CIA) warned that "under a
communist dictatorship in Italy," many of the "nation's industrial plants would be dismantled and shipped
to Russia and millions of Italy's workers would be deported to Russia for forced labor." If this were not
enough to impress the Italian listeners, a parade of unknown but passionate refugees from Eastern Europe
went before the microphone to recount horror stories of life behind "The Iron Curtain".
Several commercial radio stations broadcast to Italy special services held in American Catholic churches
to pray for the Pope in "this, his most critical hour". On one station, during an entire week, hundreds of
Italian-Americans from all walks of life delivered one-minute messages to Italy which were relayed
through the short-wave station. Station WOV in New York invited Italian war brides to transcribe a
personal message to their families back home. The station then mailed the recordings to Italy.
Voice of America daily broadcasts into Italy were sharply increased, highlighting news of American
assistance or gestures of friendship to Italy. A sky-full of show-biz stars, including Frank Sinatra and
Gary Cooper, recorded a series of radio programs designed to win friends and influence the vote in Italy.
Five broadcasts of Italian-American housewives were aired, and Italian-Americans with some leftist
credentials were also enlisted for the cause. Labor leader Luigi Antonini called upon Italians to "smash
the Muscovite fifth column" which "follows the orders of the ferocious Moscow tyranny," or else Italy
would become an "enemy totalitarian country".
To counter Communist charges in Italy that negroes in the United States were denied opportunities, the
VOA broadcast the story of a negro couple who had made a fortune in the junk business and built a
hospital for their people in Oklahoma City. (It should be remembered that in 1948 American negroes had
not yet reached the status of second-class citizens.]
Italian radio stations carried a one-hour show from Hollywood put on to raise money for the orphans of
Italian pilots who had died in the war. (It was not reported if the same was done for the orphans of
German pilots.)
American officials in Italy widely distributed leaflets extolling US economic aid and staged exhibitions
among low-income groups. The US Information Service presented an exhibition on "The Worker in
America" and made extensive use of documentary and feature films to sell the American way of life. It

was estimated that in the period immediately preceding the election more than five million Italians each
week saw American documentaries. The 1939 Hollywood film "Ninotchka", which satirized life in
Russia, was singled out as a particularly effective feature film. It was shown throughout working-class
areas and the Communists made several determined efforts to prevent its presentation. After the election,
a pro-Communist worker was reported as saying that "What licked us was 'Ninotchka'."
The Justice Department served notice that Italians who joined the Communist Party would be denied
that dream of so many Italians, emigration to America. The State Department then ruled that any Italians
known to have voted for the Communists would not be allowed to even enter the terrestrial paradise. (A
Department telegram to a New York politico read: "Voting Communist appears to constitute affiliation
with Communist Party within meaning of Immigration Law and therefore would require exclusion from
United States."] It was urged that this information be emphasized in letters to Italy.
President Truman accused the Soviet Union of plotting the subjugation of Western Europe and called
for universal military training in the United States and a resumption of military conscription to forestall
"threatened communist control and police-state rule". During the campaign, American and British
warships were frequently found anchored off Italian ports. Time, in an edition widely displayed and
commented upon in Italy shortly before the election, gave its approval to the sentiment that "The U.S.
should make it clear that it will use force, if necessary, to prevent Italy from going Communist."8
The United States and Italy signed a ten-year treaty of "friendship, commerce and navigation". This was
the first treaty of its kind entered into by the US since the war, a point emphasized for Italian
A "Friendship Train" toured the United States gathering gifts and then traveled round Italy distributing
them. The train was painted red, white and blue, and bore large signs expressing the friendship of
American citizens toward the people of Italy.
The United States government stated that it favored Italian trusteeship over some of its former African
colonies, such as Ethiopia and Libya, a wholly unrealistic proposal that could never come to pass in the
post-war world. (The Soviet Union made a similar proposal.)
The US, Great Britain and France maneuvered the Soviet Union into vetoing, for the third time, a
motion that Italy be admitted to the United Nations. (The first time, the Russians had expressed their
opposition on the grounds that a peace treaty with Italy had not been signed. After the signing in 1947,
they said they would accept the proposal if other World War II enemies, such as Bulgaria, Hungary and
Rumania were also made members.)
The same three allied nations proposed to the Soviet Union that negotiations take place with a view to
returning Trieste to Italy. Formerly the principal Italian port on the Adriatic coast, bordering Yugoslavia,
Trieste had been made a "free city" under the terms of the peace treaty. The approval of the Soviet Union
was necessary to alter the treaty, and the Western proposal was designed to put the Russians on the spot.
The Italian people had an intense sentimental attachment to Trieste, and if the Russians rejected the
proposal it could seriously embarrass the Italian Communists. A Soviet acceptance, however, would
antagonize their Yugoslav allies. The US prodded the Russians for a response, but none was forthcoming.
From the Soviet point of view, the most obvious and safest path to follow would have been to delay their
answer until after the election. Yet they chose to announce their rejection of the proposal only five days
before the vote, thus hammering another nail into the FDP coffin.
A "Manifesto of peace to freedom-loving Italians", calling upon them to reject Communism, was sent to
Premier de Gasperi. Its signatories included two former US Secretaries of State, a former Assistant
Secretary of State, a former Attorney General, a former Supreme Court Justice, a former Governor of
New York, the former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and many other prominent personages. This message
was, presumably, suitably publicized throughout Italy, a task easy in the extreme inasmuch as an
estimated 82 percent of Italian newspapers were in the hands of those unsympathetic to the leftist bloc.
More than 200 American labor leaders of Italian origin held a conference, out of which came a cable
sent to 23 daily newspapers throughout Italy similarly urging thumbs down on the Reds. At the same
time, the Italian-American Labor Council contributed $50,000 to anti-Communist labor organizations in
Italy. The CIA was already secretly subsidizing such trade unions to counteract the influence of leftist
unions,9 but this was standard Agency practice independent of electoral considerations. (According to a
former CIA officer, when, in 1945, the Communists came very near to gaining control of labor unions,
first in Sicily, then in all Italy and southern France, co-operation between the OSS and the Mafia
successfully stemmed the tide.)'10
The CIA, by its own later admission, gave $1 million to Italian "center parties", a king's ransom in Italy
1948,11 although another report places the figure at $10 million. The Agency also forged documents and
letters purported to come from the PCI which were designed to put the party in a bad light and discredit
its leaders; anonymous books and magazine articles funded by the CIA told in vivid detail about supposed

communist activities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; pamphlets dealt with PCI candidates' sex
and personal lives as well as smearing them with the fascist and/or anti-church brush.12
An American group featuring noted Italian-American musicians traveled to Rome to present a series of
President Truman chose a month before the election as the time to transfer 29 merchant ships to the
Italian government as a "gesture of friendship and confidence in a democratic Italy". (These were Italian
vessels seized during the war and others to replace those seized and lost.)
Four days later, the House Appropriations Committee acted swiftly to approve $18.7 million in
additional "interim aid" funds for Italy.
Two weeks later, the United States gave Italy $4.3 million as the first payment on wages due to 60,000
former Italian war prisoners in the US who had worked "voluntarily" for the Allied cause. This was a
revision of the peace treaty which stipulated that the Italian government was liable for such payments.
Six days before election day, the State Department made it public that Italy would soon receive $31
million in gold in return for gold looted by the Nazis. (The fact that only a few years earlier Italy had been
the "enemy" fighting alongside the Nazis was now but a dim memory.)
Two days later, the US government authorized two further large shipments of food to Italy, one for $8
million worth of grains. A number of the aid ships, upon their arrival in Italy during the election
campaign, had been unloaded amid ceremony and a speech by the American ambassador.
A poster prominent in Italy read: "The bread that we eat”40 per cent Italian flour”60 per cent American
flour sent free of charge." The poster neglected to mention whether the savings were passed on to the
consumer or served to line the pockets of the baking companies.
Four days before election day, the American Commission for the Restoration of Italian Monuments, Inc.
announced an additional series of grants to the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts.
April 15 was designated "Free Italy Day" by the American Sympathizers for a Free Italy with nation-
wide observances to be held.
The American ambassador, James Clement Dunn, traveled constantly throughout Italy pointing out to
the population "on every possible occasion what American aid has meant to them and their country". At
the last unloading of food, Dunn declared that the American people were saving Italy from starvation,
chaos and possible domination from outside. His speeches usually received wide coverage in the non-left
press. By contrast, the Italian government prohibited several of its own ambassadors abroad from
returning home to campaign for the FDP.

In his historic speech of 12 March 1947, which came to be known as "The
Truman Doctrine", the president had proclaimed:

I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who
are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.
I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their
own way.13

It scarcely needs to be emphasized how hypocritical this promise proved to be,
but the voices which spoke out in the United States against their government's crusade
in Italy were few and barely audible above the roar. The Italian-American Committee
for Free Elections in Italy held a rally to denounce the propaganda blitz, declaring that
"Thousands of Americans of Italian origin feel deeply humiliated by the continuous
flow of suggestions, advice and pressure put on the Italians, as though they were unable
to decide for themselves whom to elect."14
The Progressive Party also went on record, stating: "As Americans we
repudiate our Government's threat to cut off food from Italy unless the election results
please us. Hungry children must not go unfed because their parents do not vote as
ordered from abroad."15The party's candidate for president in 1948 was Henry Wallace,
the former vice-president who was an outspoken advocate of genuine detente with the
Soviet Union. History did not provide the opportunity to observe what the reaction
would have been” amongst those who saw nothing wrong with what the United States
was doing in Italy”if a similar campaign had been launched by the Soviet Union or the
Italian left in the United States on behalf of Wallace.

Though some Italians must have been convinced at times that Stalin himself
was the FDP's principal candidate, the actual Soviet intervention in the election hardly
merited a single headline. The American press engaged in speculation that the Russians
were pouring substantial sums of money into the Communist Party's coffers. However,
a survey carried out by the Italian bureau of the United Press revealed that the anti-
Communist patties spent 7 1/2 times as much as the FDP on all forms of propaganda,
the Christian Democrats alone spending four times as much.16As for other Soviet
actions, Howard K. Smith presented this observation:

The Russians tried to respond with a few feeble gestures for a while”some
Italian war prisoners were released; some newsprint was sent to Italy and offered
to all parties for their campaign. But there was no way of resisting what
amounted to a tidal wave.
There is evidence that the Russians found the show getting too rough for them
and actually became apprehensive of what the American and British reaction to
a Communist victory at the polls might be. (Russia's concern about conflict with
the West was also expressed within a month of the Italian elections in one of the
celebrated Cominform letters to Tito, accusing the Yugoslavs of trying to
involve the Soviets with the Western powers when "it should have been known
... that the U.S.S.R. after such a heavy war could not start a new one".)17

The evidence Smith was alluding to was the Soviet rejection of the Trieste
proposal. By its timing, reported the New York Times, "the unexpected procedure
caused some observers to conclude that the Russians had thrown the Italian Communist
Patty overboard."18 The party's newspaper had a difficult time dealing with the story.
Washington did as well, for it undermined the fundamental premise of the Italian
campaign: that the Italian Communist Party and the Soviet Union were
indistinguishable as to ends and means; that if you buy the one, you get the other as
well. Thus the suggestion was put forth that perhaps the Soviet rejection was only a
tactic to demonstrate that the US could not keep its promise on Trieste, out the Soviet
announcement had not been accompanied by any such propaganda message, and it
would not explain why the Russians had waited several weeks until near the crucial end
to deliver its body blow to their Italian comrades. In any event, the United States could
only come out smelling a lot sweeter than the Russians.
When the Broadway show had ended its engagement in Italy, the Christian
Democrats stood as the clear winner with 48 percent of the vote. The leftist coalition
had been humiliated with a totally unexpected polling of but 31 percent. It had been a
crusade of the kind' which Aneurin Bevan had ascribed to the Tories: "The whole art of
Conservative politics in the 20th century," the British Labour leader wrote, "is being
deployed to enable wealth to persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep
wealth in power."

3. Greece 1947 to early 1950s
From cradle of democracy to client state
Jorge Semprun is a Spaniard, a Frenchman, a novelist and film-writer, former
Communist, former inmate of Buchenwald. He was at the infamous Nazi concentration
camp in 1944 with other party members when they heard the news:

For some days now, we had talked of nothing else. ... At first some of us had
thought it was a lie. It had to be. An invention of Nazi propaganda, to raise the
morale of the people. We listened to the news bulletins on the German radio,
broadcast by all the loudspeakers, and we shook our heads. A trick to raise the
morale of the German people, it had to be. But we soon had to face up to the
evidence. Some of us listened in secret to the Allied broadcasts, which
confirmed the news. There was no doubt about it: British troops really were
crushing the Greek Resistance. In Athens, battle was raging, British troops were
retaking the city from the ELAS forces, district by district. It was an unequal


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