Nicola Bombacci : from Moscow to Salo


“With the beard of Bombacci / we will weave rags / to clean the shoes / of Benito Mussolini”.

At the beginning of the Twenties, fascist shock troops sang this refrain. Twenty five years later, on April 25, 1945, the communist ex-deputy, former friend of Lenin and important member of the Comintern – Nicola Bombacci – who had accompanied Mussolini in his escape, was shot at Dongo with several high-ranking fascists. As he fell, he shouted “Viva socialism!” So ended a life that was out of the ordinary.

Nicola Bombacci was born in the province of Forli in 1879 to a family of peasants. First a seminarian, then a student, Bombacci received his teaching license, then met- in the exercise of his profession – Benito Mussolini, a socialist and teacher like him. Indeed, Bombacci had joined the Italian Socialist Party (ISP) because he was attracted by the virulence of its anticlerical and antimilitarist remarks. In 1909, he left teaching to become a professional revolutionary. In same time, he became more and more important in the left-wing of the ISP, to which Mussolini also belonged. Being a pacifist, Bombacci was also imprisoned for a period during World War I. Later, with Gramsci and Bordiga, he helped organize the intransigent wing of the ISP, the faction most favorable to the Russian Revolution. Founding member of the Italian Communist Party(ICP) and considered by the press “the same type of Bolshevik conspirator”, Bombacci was in addition elected a deputy. A little time afterwards, he started to work for the Comintern and went to the USSR where he became the friend of Litvinov, Zinoviev and Lenin. However, Bombacci soon quarrelled with the ICP because of his refusal to condemn Mussolini. Sympathetic with Annunzio’s expedition at Fiume and the developing theories on convergence of the fascist and communist revolutions, he pleaded for an alliance between the governments of Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia. Gradually marginalized for his heterodox standpoint – but one which was said to represent the views of certain Soviet leaders – Bombacci was finally excluded from the ICP in 1927.

This exclusion resulted in his withdrawal from political life for a time and the beginning of a new career producing educational cinema. Bombacci however kept bonds with the Soviet embassy until the middle of the Thirties as well as with representatives of the left-wing of the Fascist regime; serving in a certain measure as a clandestine diplomat between the Italian and Russian governments.

From 1936, Nicola Bombacci resurfaced by publishing, with other militants of the extreme-left, The Truth (it was even proposed that Bordiga participate at the editorial board), a newspaper which defended the thesis of a proletarian Italy fighting against the world capitalism of foreign powers. One could read in this newspaper the populist critics of the regime-in-place, but also considerations on the necessary Rome-Berlin-Moscow union, or the difference between Sovietism and Bolshevism.

Bombacci rallied officially to Fascism in 1943, after the deposing of Mussolini and his return on scene with the help of the Germans. Very quickly, he became the occult ideologist of the movement, the writer of the laws of nationalization and Proclamation of Vérone. As the Duce’s right-hand man, he accompanied Mussolini in his escape from the advancing Allied armies. An escape in which both were to meet death.

Christian Bouchet

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