But united Socialists may get some 'Left' Catholic votes
By DOUGLAS HYDE
WHEN the Italian Socialist Party—the "Nenni" Socialists—met in conference in Venice last week-end Catholics throughout the diocese were urged by Cardinal Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, to pray for the delegates and to give them a good reception.
In a pastoral letter the Cardinal Patriarch said that the conference was inspired by " an effort to seek . . . mutual understanding and bettor living conditions " in Italy.
14e went on to warn the anticler icats among this Socialists—of
whom there are many—that a
" modern economic and social system cannot be solidly built on a foundation which is not that of
The eongress gil e Communism in Daly a notable set-back when it gledged itself to the use of democratic ificthods and called for unity with the Social Democrat Party.
Since the Nenni Socialists and the Saragat Socialists—the Social Democrats—slit nine years ago. Nenni's followers have been closely allied with Communist policies and have worked closely with the Communist Party and helped to give it much of its strength at the polls. Now, by conference decision, they are committed to seeking unification with the Social Democrats. This means a clear break with the Communist Party in the political sphere although there may be co-operation on concrete italics particularly within the Communist-led trade unions.
An indication that all will not he plain sailing came on Monday. The day before had been Signor Nenni's day of 'victory, when in a three-hour speech he persuaded the conference of the correctness of his policy of Socialist unity and for an ending of the alliance with the Communists.
On Monday, howeeer, when members of the party's central committee were elected, his own group within the party failed to obtain a majority of the 81 places.
Leading were a group of some 30 party functionaries, then came 27 of Signor Nenni's followers. Pro-Communists got 24 places.
Signor Nenni therefore will not have a free hand to carry his policies into effect and wilt have to tread carefully if he is not to have to share the leadership with someone who note not share his views.
The adoption of the Socialist merger may have far-reaching political consequences damaging the electoral chances of both the Communists and the Christian Democrats as at present constituted.
At the last election the Communists got some 6,000,000 votes, Nenni's party received 3,000,000 and the Saragat Socialists 1,600,000.
A united Socialist party can reasonably he expected to syphon off at the very least the votes of most of the many Communist supporters who are now angry or bewildered by the de-Stalinisation policy and the events in Hungary.
It may also attract some of the Left Christian Democrats, too. As Elicit party has tended to move to the Right in reaction to the threat of Communism, this Left group has found itself less and less in sympathy with its party-leaders' policies and increasingly in sympathy with much of the Socialist programme for social betterment.
' LEFT ' CATHOLICS
It may not be without significance that the strongest and best organised Left Christian Democrat group is in Venice.
Its members are good Catholics who are sincerely convinced that if the attraction which Commenism has for Italy's poor 15 to be broken it can only be by vigorous and radical social reform. And they tend more and more to doubt whether it can come from their own Catholic party, in which big industrialists and landowners, as well as workers, are represented.
As long ago as the summer of 1955, I -sat in on one of their meetings in Venice at which they discussed the possibility of their group forming an alliance with the Socialists in the event of the Nenni Socialists breaking with the Communists and merging with the Social Democrats.
Barring some unexpected crisis, the Socialists now have a year or so to complete their merger—if it is to be completed—before the next general election. If this is done they may very well draw off many Christian Democrat votes, too.
A Socialist Government, backed by Left Christian Democrats but free of Communist associations, thus becomes possible.
Catholics here would regret the defeat of the Christian Democrats, who have held the fort for so long.
On the other hand. the routing at the polls of the biggest Communist Party in Europe would be of enormous significance.