The author of this Report is afflicted with a great disadvantage: it seems to him that nothing, or almost nothing, must be treated in a light tone. The 20th Century thinks the opposite, and it has its reasons for this. Our democracy, which demands the expression of personal opinions from an infinity of brave people who do not have the time to form a single one, forces everyone to speak with a thoughtlessness that we, in our turn, are obliged to excuse, given the necessities of the times.
Nevertheless, this first disadvantage does not shelter us from an opposite one: if we refuse to use a light tone, we also reject an academic or serious style for the good reason that we do not intend to demonstrate in 50 pages what can be said in five lines. We hope that this double premise will at least serve to excuse, if not justify, the trenchant [French in original] tone.
In these first few lines, we would like to thank a number of illustrious Italians, whom we would name if they were dead, but who at this moment are occupied with important tasks in our economy and politics, and thus will be grateful to us for our discretion, given the undeniably delicate character of the subjects treated herein. All that we can permit ourselves to do is offer to them these pages, which we have finally decided to publish under the rubric of this Report, although, we must confess, we secretly but unsuccessfully nourished the hope that someone other than us would undertake it. On the other hand, given the speed of the Italian crisis, and the urgency of adopting remedies, we have had to resolve ourselves to confiding our opinions in a published work, because, after their previous distribution in the form of confidential notes and private conversations, it hasn’t seemed to us that they have encountered all of the desired audience, precisely “there where one can do what one pleases” [Dante: là dove si puote ciò che si vuole], that is to say, at the summit of economic power.
It is fitting to say immediately that we do not intend to speak for all of the Italian bourgeoisie, which has been bastardized by its own illusions of “openness,” but only a part of it, in which one can distinguish a veritable elite [French in original] of the powerful. It is to this elite that what follows is addressed, in an epoch in which the monopoly on the more or less critical discourse on contemporary society seems to belong to those who are opposed to it in a more or less effective manner, while on our side of the barricade one discerns a pitiful silence and even an ever-more clumsy recourse to embarrassed justifications for it. As for us, at this moment in which we break this monopoly, we are quite far from wanting to seek the least appearance of “dialogue” with our real enemies. We speak to the heart of our own class so as to perpetuate its hegemony over this society.
Unlike those who critique society so as to revolutionize its bases, we will not make grand demagogic or pedagogic speeches; and rather than responding to our radical critics, we prefer to personally assume the disgraced grace [Greek in original: αχαριν χαριν], that is to say, the displeasing honor of criticizing, even pitilessly, that which in our management of economic and political power must be effectively criticized with the sole goal of reinforcing efficiency and domination.
Thus we do not seek to prove that contemporary society is desirable, and even less to weigh the possibly modifiable aspects that it compose it. With all the cold veracity that we have adopted for all the other affirmations contained in this Report, we say that this society suits us because it exists and we want to maintain it to maintain our power over it. To speak the truth in these days is an exacting and time-consuming task, and since we cannot hope to exclusively encounter impartial readers, we will content ourselves by being ourselves as we write, even at the price of making accusations against the politicians who, over the years, have defended our interests with more good will than success. We must cease to be hypocrites amongst ourselves, because we are in the process of becoming victims of this hypocrisy.
Today, from the point of view of the defense of our society, there only exists a single danger in the world, and it is that the workers succeed in speaking to each other about their conditions and aspirations without any intermediaries. All the other dangers are attached to, or even proceed directly from, the precarious situation that places before us this primary problem, which in many respects is concealed and unacknowledged.
Once this true danger has been defined, it is a question of exorcising it, and not seeing false dangers in its place. Yet our politicians only seem preoccupied with saving their own reputations, and too often this comes too late. But, on the contrary, it is saving our basis, which is economic above all, with which they must occupy themselves. For example, we have noted the stupidity that currently dominates the debate, conducted under the heading of “the Communist question,” among the principal political leaders, as if this were a problem that was so embarrassing as to be “new,” as if we ourselves – and several others, who are certainly no less qualified – had not already set the form, timing and conditions that will render the official entrance of the Italian Communist Party [ICP] into the sphere of power useful for both sides, and as if the Communist leaders had not, during the most recent meetings that we have held, already unofficially accepted even the most unfavorable aspects of the project that at this moment, with the prudence that is now necessary, they are attempting to get the rank and file of their party, which believes itself to be the most radical, to accept. This imaginary political debate, which does not even serve the majority parties by assuring them of the support of moderate voters – which is a superfluous concern, since the voters always vote as they are told to vote – , cannot mislead the intelligent conservatives, either in Italy or abroad, because we know that it is no longer a question, at the current moment, of seeing if we more or less need the ICP, given that no one can doubt the utility that this party has been to us during the last few, very difficult years, when it would have been so easy for its leaders to harm us and perhaps in an irreparable fashion, but instead a question of us being in a position to offer this party sufficient guarantees so that it will not run the risk – once it is openly allied with our management of power – of being involved in our possible ruin, for which the ICP would ipso facto find itself sharing the responsibility and the consequences by, at the same time, losing its own basis among the workers who, no longer having any illusions about the most minimal changes in their fate – a fate that is indeed hardly enviable – and no doubt estimating this to be a betrayal by their leadership, would react freely, beyond any control and against all control. That’s the real question; that’s the real danger.
We know quite well that the Communist parties have many times furnished proof of their aptitude at collaborating in the management of bourgeois society, but we must not rely on such a general certitude, as if it would confer upon our power a reserve of unlimited security, that is to say, a recourse that would be sufficient in every case no matter what “the day and hour” of the supreme danger would be, as if this recourse would not itself be a historical force among others, as if this force wouldn’t be susceptible of wearing out, either through inaction or an action that was too maladroitly or too tardily engaged in. The height [of folly] for us would be finding ourselves, precisely ourselves, to be the last dupes of the Communist myth by betting on the fantasy of its omnipotence, which we ourselves have supported at the times in which it was advantageous for us to combat it. We must never forget that the only effective power is ours, and that it is nevertheless threatened. Thus, it isn’t sufficient to know that the Communist Party is ready to manage society for our profit; we must also have a place to offer it in a capitalist society that still merits being managed. Who doesn’t understand that, if the State and civil society continue to deteriorate at such a dramatic speed under the pressure of truly irreconcilable enemies whom we – the Communists and us – have in common, the Communists, caught up with us in the same disaster, will find themselves as incapable of helping us as the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or the Kingdom of Jerusalem? If, at that moment, the Communists deplore the fact that they can no longer maintain the existing order, that will be a subjective event that will not offer us any consolation! And if the Communists, by once again taking up the weapons of counter-revolution, crush the attempt to set up a classless society in Italy, they would certainly merit the recognition of the property-owning classes in America and Russia, in Europe and in China, and they could be admitted more or less quickly into the UN as the masters of our country, but we – the real dominant class in Italy, the particular class that can even call itself the founders of the universal bourgeoisie of modern times and the millennium that it has effectively imposed on the entire world – will no longer be here. We will endlessly experience how salty is the taste [Dante: Paradiso, XVII, 58] of the bread of exile in London or Madrid.
What we must save isn’t only [the] capitalism that maintains the market economy and salaried employment, but, rather, capitalism in the only historical form that suits us, which, moreover, can quite easily be shown to be the effectively superior form of economic development. If we don’t even know how to offer the Communists a chance to save this form of capitalism, they will confine themselves, as much as they can, to saving another form of it, the unfortunately rustic character of which one has seen in Russia for more than a half-century. The new class of property-owners that this inferior form produces, one knows well, leaves us no existence locally, just as it also suppresses – everywhere in which its crude dictatorship takes the place of the one that we don’t fear to call ours – the totality of the superior values that give existence a meaning.
What we have said here are banalities, obvious facts. Those who do not accept them are sleepwalkers who haven’t for a moment reflected on the fact we will lose all of our reasons for managing a world in which our objective advantages have been suppressed from the moment that it will no longer be possible for anyone to enjoy them. Capitalists must not forget that they are also human beings, and as such they cannot accept the uncontrolled degradation of all human beings and thus the personal conditions of life that they especially enjoy.
We would like to prevent an objection, nay, a reproach, that could be addressed to us, and that we judge to be absolutely unfounded when it comes to our Report: namely, that we herein reveal secrets that we have come to know over the last few years, which, when it comes to State secrets, have certainly not been few and far between, and that we divulge them without preoccupying ourselves with the possibly dangerous consequences they will cause in public opinion. Well! We can immediately reassure anyone who fears this: if one takes into account the double presupposition, which is too neglected in our country, that, on the one hand, he who always lies will never be believed, and, on the other, the truth is destined to forge its route with a force that can override the most powerful lies, whose destiny it is, on the contrary, to lose all of their strength when and to the extent that they are repeated, then we will see that the small number of naked truths that we have decided to reveal in this pamphlet can no longer be kept quiet without our running the risk that, in a short period, one or another of them will be put to seditious ends.
Moreover, our remarks will be quick, and we will never dwell on anything for too long, supposing that the readers to whom we are addressing ourselves through special means, and who are the very people with whom we have done business during these last few years, are sufficiently up-to-date concerning a good part of the delicate details, of which we will content ourselves with a quick review, that they will grasp the insinuations or allusions to facts or individuals, while all this will completely escape those who live at a distance from the centers of power in our society.
Instead of the celebrated phrase loqui prohibeor et tacere non possum [Latin for “I am prohibited from speaking and I cannot keep quiet”], we prefer the honesty of omnia non dicam, sed quae dicam omnia vera [Latin for “I will not say everything, but everything that I say will be true”].
Perhaps it might not be useless for me to specify, before concluding this preface, that we are not in the habit of writing books, not because we don’t love reading them, but precisely because we love them more than this century seems to permit us. This is why, personally speaking, we are grateful for those who today do not write them and we abhor the amateur or professional writers of our times, in which illiterate intellectuals unsuccessfully pursue the remission of their ignorance by publishing the proofs of it in a multitude of unreadable volumes, volumes that our culture industry undertakes to erect as a kind of barricade against true culture, which is currently out of fashion. If we ourselves have taken up the pen, this should rather be interpreted as our manner of payment of a una tantum [Latin for “unique”] tax to the troubled Republic. And, if we have wanted to give to this Report the literary form of the pamphlet, which has been out of fashion for two centuries, this is only because it possesses the double advantage of being easy to read and quick to write. In it we address ourselves to men for whom the time to read is less than the necessity to act. And if we ourselves reject the method of reading quickly what appears to be important, without exhaustively treating each question that is raised, perhaps we might leave [behind] some monumental work of which the historians will one day make use to shed light on the years in question here, but in such case we would lack the time to confront and master (such is our intention) the crucial problems that we limit ourselves herein to sketching out, because we are not in the habit of believing that real difficulties can be resolved through writing. Thus, this pamphlet must be read as it was written: in one sitting, following the mood of the moment – a mood that, in this case, cannot be better than the gravity of the moment allows.
As for the fact that the author of this text has used a pseudonym: this was done to respect the tradition of the pamphleteer, illustrated by the Fronde under Mazarin [France between 1649 and 1652] and by Junius in 18th Century England. Moreover, we are sure to be easily recognized by all those who have had the occasion to encounter us over the course of the last 30 years. Finally, for all the others, we prefer that it isn’t our name that encourages the most rigorous reflection, but the seriousness of what we evoke.Censor