ORIANA FALLACI: Mr. Berlinguer, this is intended to be an interview on the Italian Communist Party (the biggest communist party in the West) vis-a-vis the international crisis. That is, vis-a-vis a reality which threatens to fall into a third world war. So the subjects will be many and the first one will inevitably be your rapport with the Soviet Union. I begin it with a brutal question: Don't you ever break with the Soviets? Each time it seems that a tremendous earthquake is going to erupt, or God knows what schism, and instead, when the tempest is over, the sun shines again.
Enrico BERLINGUER: I wouldn't call it sun, and I wouldn't say that it shines. Just think of the positions taken in these last six months by the party. I mean our condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, our refusal to take part in the European Communist Party meeting organized by the French and Polish CPs, our trip to China to reestablish our relationship with the Chinese. However, it's true that we have not broken with the Soviets, that we do not break. You ask me why. Because this is the policy we follow with all: to affirm our autonomy, to say without hesitation what we think, and at the same time to maintain the thread of the rapport -- that is, an open dialogue. Didn't we do it with the Chinese also? Yet our points of view remain different from those of the Chinese also.
Q: By the way, did Brezhnev know that you would go to China?
A: He knew it was our intention. I told him last summer, when I accepted an old invitation and I accompanied my family there for a holiday. I met him in Moscow. We spoke about many things: their internaal situation, the international problems, the detente, the disarmament, the Salt II agreement, China. I told him that it was my intention to reestablish our relationship with the Chinese Communist party.
Q: And Brezhnev?
A: He answered: It's your business, but . . .
Q: Mr. Berlinguer, you spoke of a thread. But what if the thread were an umbilical cord? In such case, the truth would be different: The Italian Communists don't cut the thread because they are unable to cut the umbilical cord which still fastens them to the Soviet Union.
A: One should see what you mean by umbilical cord. If you mean that my party, like the other Communists parties, was mainly born by the Third International of Lenin and under the influence of the October Revolution, then I answer that this is a fact of our history. Also, a fact that we do not intend to repudiate, though we examine it critically. If, instead, you mean bonds and chains which prevent us from acting independently, than I answer that you are wrong. The times when the ICP was uncritical toward the Soviet Union are gone, and we never put any limit to our freedom, we never worry about being in contrast with their foreign policy. This more and more clearly in the last year. But we do not want to break with them. We just want to judge, we judge the Soviet policy for what it is.
Q: Cautiously and respectfully, though. Never with the passion or the disdain that for tens of years you expressed toward the United States. This even when you speak against the gulags or the psychiatric clinics where they keep the dissidents. [White House national security adviser Zbigniew] Brzezinski is right when he says that the Italian Communists always blame the Soviet Union for "something," never the entire regime.
A: For years we have heard this unfair accusation. Unfair. Those who know the books, the essays, the articles, the conventions we dedicate to the Soviet Union and to the socialist countries, to their history, are very aware that we don't stop on "something" and that we analyze the deep aspects of the system, searching for the roots of the negative facts. The point is that we refuse to see the Soviet Union as a gulag only, a psychiatric clinic only. One cannot cut down the whold history, reality, social regime of a country to a gulag only. One cannot condemn the Soviet Union in its whole with a sort of historical excommunication as Mr. Brzezinski would like to do. Mr. Brzezinski is an enemy of socialism, of communism, and he would like to see the Soviet Union wiped out from the earth. I cannot want that. There have been dark pages in the Soviet Union, tremendous crimes, but I never forget that the first victorious revolution of the poor took place there and that it was followed by great social conquests. You have been in the Soviet Union. You must have seen them.
Q: I have been there once only because, after that time, they did not want me anymore. Even this year, the Olympic games year, they refused me the visa as if I were a criminal. However, what I saw then did not seem very exciting to me.
A: You should consider the conditions of the Soviet Union after the First World War, the 20 years when it lived under the siege of the capitalistic powers which tried to suffocate the October Revolution, the four years of the Second World War, their 20 millions of dead. Then you should add the mistakes and degenerations of the Stalin period, the military expenses they have to maintain the balance of armaments with the United States, and you would understand why these conquests are limited. Now, if you want me to tell you what I don't like in the Soviet Union, I'll be happy to do it.
Q: Yes, I would like that.
A: First, a political regime which does not guarantee the full excercise of freedom. It isn't a small thing; I mean it's the most serious thing. In fact, it is what drives us to search for a way to socialism different from their way. Secondly, certain aspects of the state and of the party's processes, for instance the insufficient participation of the workers in the political life of the country. Finally, the military interventions in Czechoslovakia and in Afghanistan. Both of them very serious.
Q: Why, wasn't the intervention in Hungary as serious?
A: It was a little different. In fact, that time the Italian Communists did not express their dissent. They connected the Hungarian insurrection with the Anglo-French aggression to Suez, they judged it dangerous for the international situation because the insurgents' movement was falling into the hands of the reactionaries forces, just think of [Hungarian Cardinal Josef] Mindszenty, and . . . Yes, I know that the insurgents were workers, students, people. I know, I also know that 24 years later our attitude can be criticized. However, it was taken with a very clear standpoint: "This is the last time that we accept to see things settled militarily." And we kept our word: In fact, for Czechoslovakia our position was totally different, as anybody knows. From a certain point of view the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia was the most condemnable, because a very important experiment was happening there, the experiment of developing a democratic process in a socialist regime. And the Soviets suffocated it. From another point of view, the invasion of Afghanistan is more condemnable, because in Afghanistan the Soviet army crossed beyond the area of the Warsaw Pact. It entered in a country which had no military alliance with the U.S.S.R. But, about Afghanistan, I guess that you have many things to ask me.
Q: Yes. And, to begin with, the fact that about Afghanistan not everybody in the ICP thinks as you and the other leaders do. This especially at the base, but not only at the base. Even in your press I read that "many comrades do not approve the condemnation and approve the intervention." By the way, they call it "intervention," not "invasion," as you do. So I ask: Is it Berlinguer or the party that condemns the invasion?
A: Berlinguer?!? What do you mean, Berlinguer?!? The ICP condemned the invasion fully, clearly, and at once. It did so first through the General Secretariat, then through the Central Committee, then through the Federation Secretariats, the Federal Committees, the various regional sections and all its organizations. All. True, a certain number of comrades don't approve the condemnation, but in my opinion they are much fewer than you believe, and they took that position in the very beginning, without influencing the majority at all. You see, it doesn't take much to understand that a revolutionary regime cannot be supported by an occupation army.
Q: Revolution -- or coup d'etat?
A: In my opinion, what they call the "revolution of April 1978" was rather a coup, a military putsch. In my opinion, even then this Afghan revolution was a very disputable thing. Adventurous, extremist mistakes, reforms realized in an excessively radical way like the agriculture reform, which arose also the opposition of the peasants and the shepherds. Then their anti-religious policy, and in such a religious country. Finally, the bloody fight for power between the two factions of the party. Given this situation, the Soviet behavior is inexplicable, even from a rational point of view. I mean, what need had the Soviets to force the situation and make it internationally dangerous? Even when the country was ruled by the king, the Afghani policy was of good neighborhood with the Soviet Union. Moreover, in 1973 a Republican revolution had taken place and brought democratic, liberal reforms. As if this weren't enough, in 1978 there had been that military putsch made by officers who had studied in the Soviet academies, like Taraki and Amin.
Q: Mr. Berlinguer, why don't you admit that the explanation exits, that the Soviet Union still is the old Russia of the czars, that Brezhnev wants to occupy Afghanistan for the same reasons the czars did, that he aims to the Persian Gulf as the czars did?
A: No, because I believe that the Soviet regime is radically different from the czarist regime. The great landowners and capitalists who sustained the czarist expansionism are gone, the awful poverty and illiteracy don't exist anymore, and one cannot say that Brezhnev's policy is the same as the czar's. But of course no one can deny that the Soviets behave as a great power driven by the ambition of influencing the world's reality. There is no doubt about that.
Q: Then let's call things with their name, Mr. Berlinguer. Let's use the word that Communists always use for the United States, and rightly so, but never for the Soviet Union. The word "imperialism." So now: Isn't the Soviet Union imperialist?
A: If by imperialism you mean a great power policy, then we can speak of imperialism for many countries since the oldest times. But in the scientific analysis that Marxists and not only Marxists have made of the concept, imperialism is something else. That is, a phenomenon connected to the formation of the capitalistic monopolies and to the economic exploitation of other countries.
Q: Thus, you say, the Soviet Union is not imperialist. Ah, that umbilical cord! And I expected to find you so angry with the Soviet Union, to hear only answers given to persuade me that your party is not anymore the party of "Big Moustache will come," I mean "Stalin will come!"
A: In fact, it is not. But it is a communist party, not a conservative party. We are Communists, you are forgetting that. We are such in a very original and peculiar way, different from any other communist party, but we are born and we live to fight capitalism, to cancel it, so we remain Communists and you cannot drive me to speak as Mr. Brzezinski or even as an American liberal. Nor as a German social democrat or an English laborite. Yes, I have some points in common with the liberals and the social democrats and the laborites, but I remain a Communist, I repeat. Regarding my being angry against the Soviet Union, and apart from the fact that I never get angry, I'm afraid you want to push me to throw invectives. And I never do that. I never pronounce anathemas. They are manifestations of fanaticism, and there is too much fanaticism in the world. Almost everybody is loaded with the burden of some ideology, some religion, some blind belief, and thus judges things only in his own personal perspective, and also because of it things go so bad. We must try to reason in logical and historical and critical terms.
Q: The point isn't throwing invectives or anathemas, Mr. Berlinguer. The point is saying "imperialism" when it is imperialism.
A: But don't you see that I always avoid drastic judgments? Either I speak of the Soviet Union, or I speak of the United States or China. I never set myself on extremist positions: "The Soviets are the new czars, no, the Soviets are pure and don't want to dominate, gulag or regime of freedom?" The Soviet Union is not one thing or the other, it is a complex and contradictory reality which contains progress and repression, love for peace and great power's ambitions. So is life. The life of the individuals, of the social groups, of the countries. Life is made of good and evil, and when I'll speak of the United States you'll see that I express myself in the same way.
Q: Well, in the meantime let's go on with the Soviets, whom you refuse to define as imperialists yet they are in Afghanistan and they haven't withdrawn the 10,000 troops, as promised; they only withdrew 3,000 and substituted them with fresh anti-guerrilla troops, while Moscow says that "any dialogue on Afghanistan will start only when the foreign interferences will stop in that country." For Christsake, do they take us all for idiots?
A: Well, it's rather extravagant to talk about foreign interferences while staying there with an occupation army, I agree. This, though other countries' interferences do exist. Neighbor countries and, behind them, the United States also. But, you see, asking the Soviets to withdraw their troops is not enough. We have to find a political solution. I mean a solution which gives back to the Afghans their independence, their right to choose the government they like, and at the same time considers the Soviet Union's necessity of feeling safe at the borders. In other words, the Soviet Union must be reassured about the government which would follow the present one in Kabul. She must be sure that it will not be a hostile government. And the same for Pakistan, for Iran, the other bordering countries.
Q: But this would mean three communist states! Three instead of one!
A: No, it does not. There are countries which have non-communist regimes and yet guarantee the safety of their neighbors, like Austria. Austria is a neutral country, nobody can say that it bends to foreign interferences. Yet it enjoys an international status quo which is considered satisfying by the United States and the NATO countries as much as by the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
Q: Do you really believe that the Soviets would be satisfied with an Afghanistan as neutral as Austria?
A: We must try. We must consider things as they are and try. Because if the Soviets don't feel safe at the borders, their occupation army remains where it is.
Q: And what about if, to guarantee that safety, the Soviets invade Iran also? They have massed tens of thousands of troops at its borders, and Khruschev used to say: "Iran is a rotten pear. We only have to wait that it falls."
A: I ignore what Khruschev meant with those words, but the situation in Iran is such that it could light the third world war. For instance, had the American blitz succeeded, this could have caused the war.
Q: Let us not always incriminate the Americans only, Mr. Berlinguer! Before that tragic and ridiculous blitz, the Americans had been very patient. b
A: Yes, there has been much patience. But no positive act has been done, no initiative taken to solve the hostage problem. All of us asked the liberation of the hostages. All. But, again, asking is not enough. Even before the embassy occupation, the American government did nothing to recognize the new reality of Iran, the happened revolution. I don't say it is a likable reality -- I don't like it either -- but the fact remains that a revolution took place and that, even after chasing the shah, the Iranians feel offended by the United States. You come from the United States, so you know better than I how deeply the American people feel offended by the hostage thing. But I ask: What did the American government do to explain to the American people that the Iranians feel deeply offended also?
Q: Are you saying that Carter should have given the shah back to Khomeini?
A: Never. This, never. I wouldn't have done it myself. But no positive act took place, I tell you, and six months of patience have been wiped out by an absurd blitz.
Q: And thus we get to the subject of the rapport between the ICP and the Americans. An important subject because I think that the Americans don't understand much of what happens in Italy. Just think that, often, the man in the street doesn't see the difference between the ICP and the Red Brigades.
A: This isn't possible! Anyone knows that for years the ICP has been on the front line of the struggle against the Red Brigades, the terrorism, in defense of the democratic state! Anybody knows that the Red Brigades have been murdering Italian Communist Party members! What you tell me is really disconcerting! Don't they read the newspapers? Maybe the newspapers don't follow very much the Italian events. As a matter of fact, I noticed that an event as important as our trip to China was not emphasized at all by the American press. Why?
Q: I don't know. But let's concentrate on the rapport which was totally closed during the Nixon administration when Kissinger said: "No communist party has even been organized democratically, no communist organization has ever differed with the Soviet Union on foreign policy, no communist party has ever shared power with other parties . . ."
A: Let me start by saying that we Italian Communists don't live in anxiety of receiving recognition from the rulers of the United States or of the Soviet Union or of any other country. We may understand the American preoccupations for the Atlantic Alliance: In fact, those American preoccupations are our preoccupations also. We may be interested in knowing their judgments of us because such judgements are related with the good rapport that Italy must have with America, and we care about that good rapport. But we do not live in the anxiety I mentioned, and I refuse Mr. Kissinger's verdicts, his belief that the participation of a western communist party in the government would necessarily mean a point in favor of the Soviet Union. The Americans who think like Mr. Kissinger have an old and distorted idea of the Italian Communist Party, not only on the theme of our rapport with the Soviets but also on our concept of socialism. They do not understand, or they don't want to understand, that we respect the Atlantic Alliance and that our goal is not to take power alone as a communist party. It is to participate in a government coalition together with other democratic forces and of the left, according to the rules of democracy and our constitution.
Q: Yet, you just told me, you are Communists. Not liberals, not social democrats, not laborites: Communists who remain Communists. And saying, "When a communist party went to power, it remained in power" is a sacred truth.
A: It also happened that we were chased from power by force. It happened in Spain where we participated in a government coalition, it happened in Hungary in 1919. Anyhow, there is something metaphysical in these doubts. Because they all depart from the nature of the communist party and, in politics, nature does not exist. Or, if it exists, it is not invariable. Not even for the Communists. I mean, many things which never happened may happen and do happen. Thirty years ago, who would imagine the rise of communists parties hostile to the Soviet Union? Think of China. We Italian Communists are what the Italian history and experience have made on us, together with our reflections on international communism, reflections through which we have reached the conclusion that the only way to get to socialism is through democracy.
Q: When I interviewed William Colby, the ex-head of the CIA who knows Italy rather well, and I recalled to him that Italian Communists have been always acting very democratically, he dryly answered: "Tactics, tactics."
A: Mr. Colby can think as he likes, but I answer that, should we deviate for a second from the rules we predicated and practiced for years, we would immediately lose not only our non-communist electorate but also our masses themselves. Those who suspect in us the existence of God-knows-what arriere pensee, hidden goal, should put this question: How is it possible to keep masses believing in a lie for so long? Listen, I don't doubt of our good faith, beginning with mine.
Q: I don't doubt your good faith, either. But what if it were not the good faith of all your party? In such a case, Berlinguer could become the Kerenski of the situation.
A: That! Oh, that! You always go back to the times of "Big Moustache will come," when many communist militants thought that communism could win also with the help of the Soviet Union. You always forget that those illusions did not correspond to the policy of the party, and that the party's policy was no trick. You also forget that all the communist parties which went to power chasing the other parties, or eliminating them, belong to Eastern Europe. They belong to the Soviet system. We Italian Communists belong to Western Europe, to the Atlantic Alliance. Isn't that a guarantee by itself?
Q: Also Marchais, with his French Communist Party, belongs to Western Europe. And look what a volte-face he did, look how fast he went back to daddy and mommy. Then what about the head of the Portuguese Communist Party, Cunhal?
A: In my opinion, Marchais did not go back to mommy and daddy. On Afghanistan he certainly took positions very different from us, but I don't believe that he did so under Soviet pressure or request. Regarding Cunhal, it's true that he doesn't believe as we do, but I wouldn't say that the PCP refuses the rules of democracy.
Q: Brzezinski says that the Portuguese Communist Party is, at the most, in a phase of de-Stalinization but in an ambiguous way. The Italian Communist Party has gone further, but it still is too soon to say if it has completed the process and will go beyond. The Spanish Communist Party is ahead of all. But none of them has started the process of de-stalinization.
A: Apart from the fact that I do not accept Mr. Brzezinski's classification and that I don't recognize myself in the marks he gives us as if we were children at school -- Carrillo smarter than I am and I smarter than Cunhal -- I have the impression that Mr. Brzezinski is obsessed by the Soviet system. Moreover, I'm afraid that he thinks like Foster Dulles, for whom one of the American final goals was the return of capitalism in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Well, Mr. Brzezinski's thinking has nothing in common with mine. I have no intention of joining the Christian-Democratic Party or the Conservative Party or any other party which pleases him better than mine. Besides, Mr. Brzezinski ignores that already in 1956 we began a critical revision of Stalin's thought and policy. Then, recently, we also began the critical revision of Lenin's thought and policy.
Q: Will you please clear this point.
A: It's simple: We do not identify Lenin with Stalin, because we think that Lenin's thought still contains some valid teachings. I say teachings and nothing more. In fact, during our last convention we took off the expression "Marxism-Leninism" from the statute's preamble. Now it only says that the ICP recognizes itself in the ideal and cultural tradition inspired by the thought of Marx and Engels and by the renewing ideas of Lenin. It also reaffirms the laical and rational essence of the party and the original elaboration which we started with Labriola, Gramsci, Togliatti, and which is open to the confrontation with all the trends of modern thought. In other words, Lenin is for us an ideal patrimony only, and the party is no more driven by an ideological characteristic. As sources of inspiration, today it can also quote Vico, Cavour, Machiavelli.
Q: Guess how Colby reacts if he reads this. "See? Machiavelli! Machiavelli!"
A: Yes, I'm afraid that many Americans don't know Machiavelli very well. I'm afraid they see in Machiavelli the symbol of politics used as a fraud, not the founder of modern politics as a science totally free from religions and from ideologies. In that sense Machiavelli has a great value for us.