“In order to understand what happened in Italy during the ‘Biennio Rosso’, the ‘red biennium  1919-20’, it is necessary to remember the position taken by Lenin concerning the Italian question. On 28 October 1919, Lenin wrote to the most authoritative leader of the Socialist Party, Giacinto Menotti Serrati, advising him against an uprising. Lenin began his letter by confessing that he did not know very much about what happening in Italy. None the less, he urged his Italian comrades not to make any moves. Evidently, his motivation had to do with the international situation and with events within Russia, since he himself admitted he was not aware of the Italian events. ‘Britain and France’, he wrote, ‘with the cooperation of the Italian bourgeoisie, may possibly try to provoke the Italian proletariat to a premature uprising in order the easier to crush it. But their provocation will fail’. To counteract the risk of revolution being ‘premature’, the Italian Communist were to win ‘the entire industrial and the ‘entire rural’ proletariat plus the small peasants’ to the Communist cause. This meant, of course, about 90 per cent of the entire working population. In other words, the Bolsheviks leader was setting impossible conditions before authorising Italian Communists to seize power. Furthermore, he added that the revolution in Italy should take place only ‘after the proper moment in chosen internationally’. The Italian Socialist Party – in other words – was to leave that decision to the Comintern, but the Comintern was against the Italian revolution, as Lenin’s letter made clear (6). In October 1919, Angelica Balabanoff was in Moscow, acting as secretary of the Comintern, and read the letter before it was sent off. She telephoned Lenin immediately, advising him that his reference to premature uprising would favour the enemies of the revolution and asking him to reread the text, because it risked being badly misinterpreted. ‘It will play into the hands of the opponents’, she said, ‘since it is they who claim that Italy is not ready for revolution’. Lenin reread the letter, telephoned Angelica Balabanoff and told her that, after having thought carefully about the matter, he had no intention to changing a single word (7). The letter was published in Italy by ‘Avanti!’ on 6 December 1919 and provoked a great stir” [Piero Melograni, ‘Lenin, Italy and fairy-tales 1919-20’] [(in) ‘Challenges of Labour. Central and western Europe, 1917-1920’, London, 1993, a cura di Chris Wrigley] [(6) V.I. Lenin, ‘To Comrade Serrati and to all Italian Communists’, Collected Works, vol. 30 (London, 1969), pp. 91-2. The letter was printed originally in ‘Avanti!’ (Piedmont edn), 6 December 1919; (7) A. Balabanoff, ‘Lenin visto da vicino’, (Rome, 1959), pp. 118-19] [Lenin-Bibliographical-Materials] [LBM*]