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Post8 September 1943: Italy Surrenders (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 09/08/18 3:30 pm)
Seventy-five years ago today was the saddest day of Italian history: the day of the ignominious unconditional surrender and betrayal.
JE comments: This is a major anniversary. Italy's surrender, at least from the perspective of the Western Allies, meant that the war was won. Eugenio Battaglia was a boy at the time and sees Italy's capitulation as a humiliation. But I ask: what were the alternatives? Had Italy fought on, wouldn't its suffering have been worse?
8 September 1943: Ignominious Day for Italy,,,or Glorious?
(Carmen Negrin, France
09/09/18 5:02 AM)
Eugenio Battaglia described Italy's surrender to the Allies as "ignominious." One can also remember 8 September 1943 as a glorious day for Italians who fought against Mussolini and who might have interpreted it as bringing Italy at long last on the right side of history.
JE comments: September 8th, 1943 certainly didn't bring peace, but rather marked Italy's transition from a losing battle to a full-scale civil war. No war is glorious in my view, but the forces that overthrew Il Duce probably spared the nation much suffering. To be sure, Eugenio Battaglia would not agree.
Glorious or Ignominious? Armistice or Surrender? More Thoughts on 8 September 1943
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
09/13/18 8:57 AM)
I have several responses to Carmen Negrín's comments, but I will try to do so without writing as much as De Felice in his 9 volumes...
Let's start with Putin. In the Empire he is seen as an adversary, but in Italy he is seen as a possible good commercial partner.
Had the EU and the Empire not vetoed the South Stream pipeline, it would have have been built by the Italian company SNAM, with an Italian president. This pipeline could have rendered unnecessary both the Turkish Stream and the North Stream 2.
As soon as Putin returned Crimea to the Motherland (I do not believe that after 800 years Genoa still could claim Caffa-Feodosia), he recognized the Tatar minority as an oppressed minority under Stalin. He also recognized the tiny Italian minority at an event attended by the former Italian PM Berlusconi.
Moreover, Putin saved Russia from bankruptcy,
Under his alcoholic predecessor, thousands of Russians were coming to Italy ready to do any work, mature ladies to care for elderly people and beautiful young ladies as prostitutes. On top of it at the weekly markets around Italy you could find sellers of military uniforms and excellent equipment (no weapons--that was a different market).
Personally, returning one evening by commuter train from Genoa to Savona, I made the acquaintance of a marvelous and beautiful young lady, with a humanities degree from the University of Moscow. After a while she told me about her new profession: the oldest.
As my trip home by car from the railway station passed in front of the place where she was "working," I gave her a ride, but I was scared as hell to be stopped by the police and accused of supporting prostitution, which is a crime in Italy. The young lady offered me compensation for the ride, but I refused--was I a bloody fool or wise husband?
Now with Putin in power, only paying Russian tourists come to Italy.
About the ignominious day of 8 September 1943 I again ask, which side is the "right" side of History?
With Stalin, the murderers of the innocent son of General Moscardò or of Andreu Nin, and General Eisenhower responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of German POWs (disarmed enemies), see a 2007 review of Giles MacDonogh's book by WAISer Nigel Jones: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/5567469/1938-Hitlers-Gamble-by-Giles-MacDonogh-review.html
To this we should add the ethnic cleansing of millions of German civilians, or 250,000 Italians from the East Adriatic and thousands more from Africa, etc.
Finally the unconditional surrender ("armistice" in fake news-speak) did not spare Italy any suffering. Rather, it increased it many times over. In 1943, at the time of the treacherous act of the king and his lousy government, the Army and the Navy (almost intact) could still fight well in Italy, Greece, Balkans, France, Baltic, etc. With the unconditional surrender and betrayal of its allies, Italy lost its honor, became an open battlefield and was plunged into three wars: one of the RSI against the Allies, the second with the South Army as cobelligerant (what a repulsive word) with the Allies against Germany, plus a bloody Civil War. Some pro-Allies fools even wanted to send Italian soldiers of the South against Japan.
Losing a war is not shameful, providing that one acts with honor towards both allies and enemies.
To Istvan Simon I only say: Yes, I believe that the Empire has unwisely supported terrorists in Syria and many other countries, including the Caucasus.
Furthermore I have seen actual lynchings carried out by the communist partisans, and I am strongly against any political lynching against any human being, no matter if s/he is Red or Black or Bolivarist. Of course I supported the Hungarian rebellion of October 1956 but the lynching of "Stalinists" and policemen was a dark page and should not be repeated by anyone, including Venezuela.
JE comments: Any mention of pipelines brings on sadness, and I remember how much I miss WAISer Robert Gibbs and our monthly phone conversations. Bob was absolutely convinced that the South Stream project was never more than a political bluff. I'll let him explain in this post from January, 2016:
Next, we'll hear from Istvan Simon on several of these subjects.
Is Putin Popular Among Russians? Response to Eugenio Battaglia
(Istvan Simon, USA
09/15/18 4:09 PM)
Eugenio Battaglia's post of September 14th has multiple historical inaccuracies mixed in with personal anecdotes which lead him to broad and very doubtful generalizations.
Like his story of the beautiful Russian prostitute. Does Eugenio really believe that there are no longer Russian prostitutes coming to Italy, but only paying tourists thanks to Putin? How naive and surely false.
Let us start with his assertion that in Italy Putin is seen as an attractive prospective business partner. By whom, may I ask? This may be Eugenio's view, but in my experience it does not reflect the views of the majority of Italians. I believe only a small minority in Italy would agree. Among Italian or Italian-origin WAISers, Eugenio seems to be the only voice defending such views.
As our expert on gas pipelines, Robert Gibbs, unfortunately no longer with us, has observed in multiple posts, Eugenio's dreams of big profits for Italian companies in building a pipeline that never was a feasible or serious project is nothing more than a pipe dream, which Eugenio just keeps using repeatedly for his politically biased anti-American posts. Surely the USA did not stop that project. How could we, if it was as beneficial as Eugenio believes it to be?
I agree with Eugenio that Putin's first term was good for Russia. In fact the American government was favorable to Putin in those years. But that was a long time ago, and though many Russians still support Putin today, there is also a very sizable number of Russians who simply hate him and see him as just an immensely corrupt tyrant that victimizes the lives of ordinary Russians, who are strongly opposed to his dictatorial rule, as well as all the stupid military adventures that he got Russia embroiled in, from Crimea, to the outrageous war on Eastern Ukraine, to Syria, murdering people in the UK, or murdering Russians that oppose him in Russia itself.
I personally met many such Russians who did not hide their utter contempt for Putin and his rule. Since I met Russians more or less at random, it would be an amazing coincidence if this was not quite a common viewpoint of Russians about their own government. It perhaps is sufficient to say that under Putin's rule the Ruble lost 2/3 of its value against the dollar in the last 9 years, a development that surely means hardship and poverty for many ordinary Russians. Worse still, the corruption is generalized. For example the police are also often corrupt, so that many Russians avoid going to the police after being victimized by organized groups of criminals, because the criminals are in cahoots with the police that protects the criminals rather than the people. One only needs to re-read Cameron Sawyer's WAIS posts over the years, which years ago were quite favorable to Putin, but have become gradually ever more critical of his rule. The same has happened in Russian society.
How irrelevant that Putin "recognized" the Tartar "minority," which by the way would be much more numerous in Crimea, if it were not for being forcibly deported to the far East by Stalin, to make Crimea more ethnically Russian. Also, answering Nigel Jones, Russia has no right whatsoever to stir up trouble in Ukraine through an artificial military intervention and outright invasion of Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine. It is irrelevant how Crimea became part of the Ukraine. The fact is that it did belong to Ukraine, and that this was recognized by Russia itself when the Soviet Union broke up. Thus Russia violated internationally recognized borders and unilaterally changed such borders by force. Did Russia get away with it, as JE said? That is not clear. For the time being, he got away with it, but it very well may be that the Ukraine will recover Crimea in the future, just like the Baltic countries recovered their independence after decades of Soviet annexation.
Julia Ioffe is an American journalist, born in Moscow. She was 7 years old when her parents moved to the United States. Educated at Princeton, she graduated in history, specializing in Soviet history. She has deep knowledge of Russia, Ukraine, and Putin's policies and motivations, and the history of Russia under Putin's rule. In an excellent interview with Frontline she reviews this history that she has reported on as a Fulbright scholar. It is a long interview, but well worth listening to.
Moving from Russia to the Italian surrender in World War II to the Allies, once again Eugenio's views are fortunately not representative of the the majority of Italians. His peculiar views on "honor" seem a bit bizarre to me. Let me mince no words: Mussolini allying Italy with one of the most inhuman regimes in history, cruel, genocidal, murderous Nazi Germany, responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people, women, children, unarmed civilians in cold blood, will be forever a dark unforgivable stain on fascist Italy. It cannot ever be forgiven, forgotten nor glossed over. There is no honor in it, only dishonor. Italy corrected that enormous historical mistake when it surrendered to the Allies and switched sides.
I'd like to address again the summary justice for tyrants. Personally, ordinarily, I am against violence of any kind and certainly against mob rule. Yet I cannot condemn those that hanged AVO henchmen on lamp-posts in Hungary in 1956. This was no lynching, as Eugenio terms it. This was summary justice well deserved by those that suffered such fate. Had they not murdered thousands in the streets of Budapest, one might see it otherwise. But such as it was, it was simply justice. Similarly the killing of Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania, or Gaddafi in Libya was justice by a long-suffering population for years of torture, abuse and murder, and if Maduro should suffer one day a similar fate I would not be terribly upset. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow.
JE comments: Istvan, if I may pry into some painful memories, did you witness the hanging of AVO henchmen in 1956?
Are Italians Pro-Putin? Is Crimea Russian?
(Luciano Dondero, Italy
09/16/18 4:51 AM)
Istvan Simon (13 September) raised a number of interesting questions in his latest post. Let me try to address some of them.
I'll start with this: "Are Italians pro-Putin?"
Well, I personally don't support Putin or most of his policies; however, the current Italian government is apparently going that way. The two parties that hold power (M5S and Lega Nord/Lega per Salvini) are rather open in their (confused, at times) expressions of sympathy for him--and they got elected by a majority of Italian voters. Not only that, but Berlusconi's Forza Italia, which is now in opposition to the government, even though they ran in the elections together with Salvini, are also known for their pro-Putin approach--remember when Berlusconi was Prime Minister and mediated between Bush and Putin at the time of the Georgia war?
I should add a strong disclaimer: I don't believe that "the voters are always right." The German people voted Hitler and his Nazi party into power in 1933, and Putin gets regularly re-elected. The Italian "grey-grey" (not "green-yellow") coalition of "little Mussolinis" (Moscovici dixit--https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/14/little-mussolinis-eu-chief-angers-italy-with-comment-on-rise-of-far-right ) is not my government, but it's the government of my country for the time being.
Is Russia a dictatorship? Is Russia democratic?
Russia may have been a democracy for a few months in 1917, but before the February revolution and after the October revolution, Russians were under autocratic or bureaucratic rule.
In 1991 the Soviet regime came to an end, in a rather more peaceful way than one could have imagined--no revolution, not even a real coup d'etat. A few tanks rolled around and then went back to their barracks scared by a few white flags!
For a while Russia was "The new Far West," where everything goes. Literally. But like in the historical Far West, democracy came along, with various kind of electoral competitions, and a fairly democratic process--in 1992 I met a Trotskyist member of the Duma, for instance, elected on an openly revolutionary platform. At the other end of the spectrum, various anti-Semitic and extreme nationalist groups like Pamyat were also vocal and active in public.
One can say that Russia is democratic, sort of.
Apparently more democratic than Turkey under Erdogan, which keeps tens of thousands of people in jail for their ideas (or their language: Kurdish!) but probably Erdogan is another in a long list of "our sons of a bitch" (as Theodore Roosevelt may have said in his time about some unsavory "friend of the USA"). Is that why Istvan does not seem to be so hard set against Erdogan as he is against Putin?
Is Crimea Russian? And why did Putin get away with it? (Unlike Saddam's Kuwait adventure)
Obviously Crimea is Russian. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation_of_Crimea_by_the_Russian_Federation )
Leaving aside that it was occupied by Russia a couple of centuries ago and populated by Russian settlers, it has been the location of the Black Sea Russian fleet (at Sevastopol) since it was born. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation_of_Crimea_by_the_Russian_Empire )
When the USSR ended, and Ukraine become a country on its own, an agreement with Russia allowed continued use of the naval base there (it was renewed a few years ago, lasting till 2032). However, after Maidan, the new anti-Russian and pro-Western government in Kiev made some noises to the effect that the base (and the fleet!) might actually belong to Ukraine, that the deal had to be renegotiated, and so on.
This precipitated the crisis, not to mention that living conditions in Crimea under Moscow are inevitably better than under Kiev, because of the difference in the overall economic conditions.
An interesting article from 2015 shows why "Putin got away with it." (https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2015/03/20/one-year-after-russia-annexed-crimea-locals-prefer-moscow-to-kiev/#32d7effc510d )
Unlike the Baltic states, which were never Russian to begin with and never wanted to be either Russian or Soviet, people in Crimea are overwhelmingly in favor of being part of Russia.
Years ago one of my Russian teachers was a beautiful lady from Crimea, she might have had some Tatar blood in her veins, and she told me once of "that idiot Khrushchev who decided to gift Crimea to the Ukraine!"
This transfer was done in 1954, almost as soon as he took the reins of power after Stalin's death, and was probably a combination of his rewarding the Ukraine for having been good to him throughout the years (Khrushchev was in charge of this Soviet republic for a long time after the war), and playing for its support in his bid for full power in the CPSU Politburo.
Nobody ever thought that Crimea was Ukrainian. It's just that when the USSR was dismantled, nobody wanted to put their fingers on the various disputed borders between the former Soviet republics, and the new independent states all got to keep their borders of the time. A stupid non-decision, not only in relation to Crimea, but also to other Russian-populated areas in other Republics, as well as to other thorny situations, like Nagorno-Kharabak and many more. In the aftermath of the USSR implosion there have been dozens of near-civil wars throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia. Some were/are very bloody and well known like Chechnia. Others only Russia specialists know a little about.
Two weights, two measures?
A few years ago (2014) I already raised in this Forum the issue of "1945 borders versus national rights." (See "Self-Determination and the Inviolability of International Borders"-- https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=89730&objectTypeId=75995&topicId=118 )
It seems that the US, various European countries and others have two ways to look at border issues or "new states" issues. One for their friends and another for their enemies. It was OK to carve out Yugoslavia into its constituent countries, and then to carve Kosovo out of Serbia. It is not OK for Russia to carve Ossetia and Abkhazia out of Georgia. It is OK for South Sudan to split from Sudan, but no way can the Kurds (some two dozen million plus of them!) have their own state. Even though the Kurds are strongly pro-US: maybe they will have to start using the methods of the Islamist terrorists sponsored by Iran/Daesh/others in Western capitals for their plight to be recognised?
It is very hypocritical to mention the fixity of borders when you dislike those who are clamoring for national rights, and then to uphold those same rights against the powers that are not your friend, is it not?
And finally, looking at this from my own standpoint which is fairly pro-Israel, I might add that Putin is a lot more friendly to Israel (and to Jews in general) than Erdogan and many other "democratically elected" chiefs of government.
Russian-manned anti-air missile defense in Syria does not regularly shoot down Israeli jets bombing Iranian/Syrian installations, for instance, which they possibly could, or at least make their job a lot harder.
And remember that the only chief of government in Moscow for the May 2018 celebration of the Russian/Soviet 1945 victory over Nazi Germany was Netanyahu.
In 2012 Putin and Netanyahu jointly opened the Victory Monument in Netanya, a memorial that marks the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany in World War II. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Monument_in_Netanya )
Russia does recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital--starting from the pragmatic notion that each country decides where to put it own capital! Putin even mentions Israel in public as an example to be followed. (But you need to understand Russian to pick it up--I don't think the Western media likes to highlight this too much...)
And I say that this approach to Israel is a good thing: chalk one up for Mr Putin!
JE comments: Is life in Crimea "better" under Russia? I've heard/read answers in both the affirmative and negative. Note that the Forbes piece cited here by Luciano Dondero is from 2015. More recent reports show Putin delivering on very few of the promises made to the Crimeans for infrastructure improvements and higher standards of living. Let's delve further into this.
- 8 September 1943 and the Ensuing Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 09/10/18 3:11 AM)
Effectively, Italy surrendered 75 years ago.
September 8th marked the 75th anniversary of Fascist Italy's 1943 surrender to the Allied Powers during the Second World War. Certainly, it was a milestone and was another step towards the final defeat of Nazi Germany, and ultimately of Japan.
But for Italy it didn't make things much better as JE suggests. Rather than leaving its former Ally, Germany proceeded to occupy the entire Italian peninsula--Sicily has been already conquered by Anglo-American forces--and the war raged, leaving most of Italy entirely destroyed. The fate of Italy wouldn't have been very different if it had stayed alongside Germany.
The war in Italy was a war of attrition that kept tied to the Italian front no less than 23 German divisions and 300,000 soldiers who were much needed by Germany in the terrible onslaught being fought at the same time on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. Stalin himself recognized this fact at a certain point.
Putting Italy out of the war, and consequently weakening Germany, had been always a personal goal of Winston Churchill, who was the main architect behind this story. In the early days the United States was not in favor of conducting a war in the Mediterranean, favoring instead a direct attack against Germany through occupied France. The British managed to dissuade the American command not to do this in light of the strong German defenses in France. The Mediterranean and Italian campaigns saw at first General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery combining their efforts, but not always in a good mood. Both were transferred by the end of 1943 to the UK to start preparing for the invasion of France.
Certainly, it was the Allied conquest of Sicily and the later landings at Salerno, resulting in the falling of Naples, what led to the surrender of Italy. But Italy didn't merely surrender. It instead declared war on its former German Ally.
This fact was considered a dishonest betrayal by the Germans, and by a relevant part of the Italian population and I can understand Eugenio Battaglia in this sense. Mussolini had been arrested by his own people on July 24, and put in a secluded location in northern Italy, from where he was ultimately rescued by German paratroopers.
The functions of the Head of Government, Prime Minister and Secretary of State were taken by Army Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The real intention of the Italian Government to end the war took the form of negotiations carried out by General Giuseppe Castellano from August 16 to 27 in Lisbon. On September 3, 1943 Castellano signed the armistice. Badoglio was received by King Vittorio Emanuele III, who accepted the armistice.
On September 8th, 1943, the Italians heard their new Prime Minister, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, read a statement: "The Italian Government, recognizing the impossibility of continuing the unequal struggle against the overwhelming power of the enemy, and with the object of avoiding further and more grievous arm to the nation, has requested an armistice from General Eisenhower ... This request has been granted. The Italian forces will, therefore, cease all acts of hostility against the Anglo-American forces wherever they may be met."
The announcement was widely perceived by the Italians as the end of the war, and many soldiers returned home in civilian clothes. An Italian newspaper on September 9 simply said, "The war is over."
On September 10, Italian Army General Count Carlo Calvi signed the surrender of Rome to Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring. Rome was retaken only on June 4, 1944, two days before D-Day. The Germans began the realization of "Operation Axis," the invasion of Italy and disarmament of the Italian troops in Italy, France, Yugoslavia, Greece and the Aegean, where they disarmed over 1,000,000 men.
The Italian Government wanted to become a new ally after having fought the Allies for over three years. It was instead attributed the inelegant status of "co-belligerent," and I believe is to this what Eugenio is talking about.
Ceasing a war against the Allies and start a new war against the former German ally exposed Italy to almost two more years of war but also it was the birth of an Italian civil war, where fascist and in general people against the armistice were opposed to anti-fascist, mainly communists but also to fascists who changed their mind in order to seize new opportunities and who regrouped in partisan units, reclaiming the liberation of Italy and taking the most important political roles in the following years. Wasn't it like that?
After the war, Italians in a referendum chose the republic instead of the monarchy, and a new constitution was promulgated in 1948.
This is what I think Spaniards should do to get rid once and for all of Franco's ghost.
In the case of Italy, choosing the option of the surrender and refusing to fight still holds great significance for the identity of the nation, which even today after 75 years is not ready to tell what happened as just historical facts, and where anyone depicting the events must be careful of the terms used for fear of being held up as a fascist. Italy doesn't have a law for historical memory, as Spain does, but one must be very careful with what one says. I'm sure Eugenio's words won't be well received in the so-called "politically correct" circles.
I attended the Italian War College in 1984-1985, at Civitavecchia, and I noticed that the ghost of September 8th was still haunting many senior Italian officers. Actually, we were given some handouts explaining the "Otto Settembre."
JE comments: A very informative overview. Here's a hypothetical for discussion. If, in 1943, the Anglo-Americans had focused on France and Germany instead of the Italian "underbelly," would the war have ended sooner or later? Certainly Mussolini would have remained in power longer, and the Italian people spared much death and destruction.
- 8 September 1943 and the Ensuing Civil War (Anthony J Candil, USA 09/10/18 3:11 AM)
- Are Italians Pro-Putin? Is Crimea Russian? (Luciano Dondero, Italy 09/16/18 4:51 AM)
- Is Putin Popular Among Russians? Response to Eugenio Battaglia (Istvan Simon, USA 09/15/18 4:09 PM)
- Glorious or Ignominious? Armistice or Surrender? More Thoughts on 8 September 1943 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/13/18 8:57 AM)