From Socialist Voice, January 2008

The shallowness of their democracy

There is much talk about how workers involved in industrial disputes, or people campaigning for social change, should “respect democracy” and work only within the accepted rules and “democratic norms” of society in pursuing their demands.
    Recently released documents from the British national archives expose the extent to which the British establishment was prepared to go to prevent the Italian Communist Party getting into government in the elections of June 1976.
    The British government considered supporting a right-wing coup to prevent the Communist Party coming to power through the ballot box. Foreign Office planners in May of that year considered “a clean surgical coup,” which would remove communists from the government.
    Referring to the general secretary of the Italian Communist Party, Enrico Berlinguer, the British ambassador to Italy, Guy Millard, wrote in a memo that “Berlinguer’s entry into government would create a serious problem for NATO and the European Community and could turn out to be an event with catastrophic consequences.” If communist ministers joined the government, sensitive NATO documents would be sent to Moscow, he claimed.
    A memo dated April 1976 also listed a number of other options to be considered, including financing rival parties and subversive or military intervention against the Communist Party. The will of the Italian people was to be subverted at all costs to maintain the political domination of the rich and powerful minority.
    For younger activists who may not know much about that period, a notorious terrorist group operating in Italy called the “Red Brigades” was being armed and trained by the Israeli secret service, Mossad. This group carried out a whole range of terrorist attacks against judges, the police, and political activists, including communists, in a campaign of destabilisation. They murdered the head of the Christian Democratic Party, Alberto Moro, who had been prepared to co-operate in government with the Communist Party in what was called the “historic compromise.”
    At the same time the CIA was running a number of shadowy organisations and pumping millions of dollars into subverting communist parties, not only in Italy but throughout Europe.
    So the next time you hear some establishment figure or some lecturer talking about “democratic norms,” remember that they are talking only about norms that they want you to operate within. There are no limits to what they will do to defend their own class interests.

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