2 APRIL 1948, Page 1

Decision for Italians

Long before the Italian elections came to be regarded as a phase in a struggle between East and West it was clear that they would decide not only the composition of the next Cabinet, but also the whole character of the government of Italy. It was also clear that the threat of the use of force by the Communists lay just below the surface. The parallel between Italy and Czechoslovakia was there- fore so plain that it immediately gave an added significance to all gestures by the Great Powers towards Italy. What is more impor- tant to Italians, it gave a new clarity to the election issues. The sweeping Communist promises of prosperity, full employment and land for the peasants can no longer be separated from the threat of

police rule, the loss of at least part of the Trieste area and Russian domination. There are numerous signs that the appeal of the so-called Popular Democratic Front—the alliance of Communists and Left-wing Socialists—is waning. But there are few correspond- ing signs that the Christian Democratic Party, which, with 48 per cent. of the seats at the 1946 election, is easily the largest in Italy, has strengthened its programme and its affiliations sufficiently to form a stable and united Government. Fundamentally, the Italians must save themselves, which means that before, during and after the election they must prevent force from taking charge of the situation. The threat of force undoubtedly exists. The Communist Party possesses funds, arms, a trained nucleus of revolutionaries in the industrial towns and elsewhere, and a potentially explosive mass of discontent among the landless peasants of the south. It also pos- sesses the sympathy of the Cominform and of the Soviet Union. The first barrier against disorder, which could develop into civil war, is the good sense of the Italian people themselves. The second is the police force, which is• strong and free from infiltration by Com- munists. The third is the peaceful example and encouragement of the Western Powers. For those Powers, with the example of the seizure of power in Czechoslovakia fresh in their minds, to pretend that they have no interest in the future of peace and liberty in Italy would be hypocrisy or worse. For anyone, inside or outside Italy, to ignore the fact that the Communists, with encouragement from the East, may be willing to use force, would be silliness at best.