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Italy The Second Republic

1990s, Tangentopoli, Mafia and the Second Republic
In 1992, Bettino Craxi, associated by many to widespread corruption, is greeted by a salvo of coins as a sign of loathing by protesters. From 1992 to 1994, Italy faced significant challenges as voters disenchanted with political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime’s considerable influence collectively called the political system Tangentopoli (bribe-city).

As Tangentopoli was under a set of judicial investigations known as Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) led by a young and tough magistrate Antonio Di Pietro. Voters demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The Tangentopoli scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and split into several small groups such as the Italian Peoples’s Party and the Christian Democratic Center.

The PSI (along with other minor governing parties) was completely wiped out of the political scene. Two prominent magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were looking into corruption and the links between politics and organized crime in Sicily, are assassinated. An explosion destroyed Falcone’s car by a remote-control bomb set up by the Corleonesi clan in May 1992, on the motorway, near the town of Capaci. On July 9 of the same year, his colleague Paolo Borsellino is killed as well by a mafia car-bomb in Palermo.

1994 - Berlusconi’s Forza Italia
The 1994 elections swept Milanese media tycoon and real-estate broker Silvio Berlusconi, founder of a new party, Forza Italia, and leader of the Polo delle Liberta’ (Pole of Freedoms coalition) into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, a crucial ally, withdrew its support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.

The April 1996 national elections sanctioned the victory of a centre-left coalition under the leadership of economist Romano Prodi. Prodi’s first government became the third-longest to stay in power. He had to resign when he had narrowly lost a vote of confidence in October 1998. A new government was formed by Massimo D’Alema leader of the Democratici della Sinistra (Democrats of the Left, a new name of former communists).

In April 2000, as a result of a poor showing of his coalition in regional elections, D’Alema was forced to resign. The following centre-left government was headed by a former socialist Giuliano Amato from April 2000 till June 2001. Amato had already served as Prime Minister in 1992-93.

2000s - The new millennium: between Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi
In the 2001 elections, the centre-right coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi was able to regain power and keep it for a complete five-year mandate, (the longest government in post-war Italy). The elections in 2006 saw the return to power of the center-left coalition L’Unione made up of eleven parties.

Romano Prodi became Premier again. His victory was very slim in the Senate, also due to the new proportional electoral law introduced in 2005. In the first year of his government, Prodi had followed a cautious policy of economic liberalization and reduction of public debt. His government fell when it lost the support of a tiny centrist party led by Clemente Mastella.

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi won again in a snap election with the Popolo della Libertà (People of the Freedom) party -a fusion of his previous Forza Italia party and of Gianfranco Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale- against Walter Veltroni of the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party).

2011 - The end of Berlusconi’s Regime?
In 2010, Premier Berlusconi’s government survived a confidence vote on December 14. Since then he has remained in power on shaky grounds. Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord support is crucial for his survival. Because of Premier Berlusconi’s personal problems, Italy’s international prestige has suffered and the country’s economic situation is in dire straits.


Italy The First Republic

1945 - The immediate post-war period
In April 1945, at the end of the WWII, Italy recovered its freedom, but the scars left by the fight between fascist and anti-fascist political forces were deep. Resistance groups, mostly of the Left (Communists and Socialists) were settling old scores, with weekly killings and assassinations. The political system had to be completely redesigned. Fascism was suppressed, and new parties emerged. The leading ones were the Christian Democrats led by Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954), the Socialists led by Pietro Nenni, the Social Democrats led by Giuseppe Saragat, and the Communists led by Palmiro Togliatti (1893-1964).

In June 1945, an all-party government (including the Communists) was formed, headed by Christian Democrat Alcide De Gasperi. As a result of its military defeat Italy was stripped of its colonial possessions (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya and the Dodecanese Islands). Alcide De Gasperi became Premier in 1945 and served until 1953.

1946 - Italy becomes a Republic
In 1946, King Vittorio Emanuele III abdicated in favour of his son, Umberto II. On June 2, 1946, a referendum was held to decide whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic. Twelve million voted for the republic and 10 for the monarchy. Women were granted the right to vote for the first time and participated in the plebiscite. As a result, Italy became a republic, and King Umberto II went into exile.

In the 1946 national elections the 556 members of Parliament became part of the Constituent Assembly, with 207 Christian Democrats, 115 Socialists, and 104 Communists. A new constitution was written, setting up a parliamentary democracy. The 1929 Concordat with the Vatican was continued, but Catholicism stopped being the official state religion.

The new Republic kept some economic institutions set up during the fascist era: the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) and Eni, (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) the national oil company. Enrico Mattei, became its chairman and played a significant role in bringing back Italian reconstruction on its rails and heading economic development.

In 1947, after a visit of Prime Minister De Gasperi in the USA, the Left-leaning parties (Socialists and Communists) were expelled from the government because they seemed to harbour insurrectionary designs. Economic chaos continued, with large-scale strikes in 1947.

On a historic election held on April 18, 1948, the Democrazia Cristiana emerged as the main political party with 48,8% of the vote.The Fronte Popolare did much poorer than expected with only 31% of the vote. The Socialists received just 10% of the vote and were brought under the domination of the PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano), much larger. This was the birth of the so-called ‘Italian anomaly’ which lasted for decades.
The 1948 elections ended the immediate postwar era and set up the framework of government for the following 45 years: a blocked parliamentary system, with the DC always in government and the PCI always in opposition. Cabinets were very short (usually less than one year) and reshuffles involved the same politicians in different combinations.

Italy loses La Venezia Giulia
By 1950, the economy had to a large extent stabilized, with the industrialized North far more prosperous than the rural South, the Mezzogiorno. Under the terms of the Paris Peace Treaty, the Northeastern border,

La Venezia Giulia, corresponding to the area of Istria, was annexed by Yugoslavia. The Italian population, about 350,000 people, had been expelled or forced to leave to avoid being killed, from the prewar boundaries. Only in 2005 the question of the forced killings and the massive exodus were officially recognized as a tragic page of recent Italian history. The dispute for the possession of the area around the city of Trieste between Italy and Yugoslavia was settled only in 1954. Italy retained Trieste, but most of the peninsula of Venezia Giulia went to Yugoslavia.

In 1949, Italy was a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - the western Military alliance. It was a crucial, strategic decision. Italy became part of the ‘free’, capitalist world. This blocked the establishment of a Soviet-style dictatorship, but also made the alternation of power impossible. Italy remained till the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 a ‘blocked democracy’. The recovery of the Italian economy in the 1950’s was helped through the Marshall Plan. Italy was a founding member in 1956 of the European Economic Community which today is known as the European Union.  In 1955 it became a member of the United Nations.

1950s - Reconstruction and the economic boom
In the 1950s and 1960s the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth, accompanied by a dramatic rise in the standard of living of ordinary Italians. Through land reform and industrial development, the country gradually achieved prosperity, although the south remained depressed.

Political stability, however, proved difficult because of the large number of small political parties that formed coalition governments with the Christian Democrats (DC). Throughout the 1960’s the Christian Democrats, the largest party, formed a series of coalitions. The Communists, the second largest party, were systematically excluded from the coalitions for strategic reasons. In 1956 and 1968 Russian troops re-established order in their satellite countries, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

1960s - Fanfani, Moro and the Center-Left
In 1958, Christian Democrat leader and economist Amintore Fanfani invited the Socialists of Pietro Nenni that had distanced themselves from the Communists, to become part of a center-left Government.His reformist platform was picked up by Aldo Moro who formed a center-left government with Nenni in 1964 and implemented many reforms: nationalization of electric power, obligatory school attendance until age 14, withholding tax on stock dividends.

During the late 1960’s demands for social reforms led to widespread strikes and student demonstrations in 1968 and 1969.The national government took steps to restore order, and in 1970 it established regional governments with jurisdiction over many matters formerly under central control. With the government unable to agree on austerity measures, Italy was left on the brink of economic disaster in 1973.

In addition, many controversial issues continued to divide the country, such as the dispute over the enactment of a 1970 law legalizing divorce. The matter was settled in 1974 with a referendum that made divorce legal. During the 1970’s, the country was governed by a series of coalitions made virtually powerless by internal dissension and having little popular support. The Communist party made significant electoral gains during the decade. Italy, heavily dependent on imported oil, was hit by sharp increases in the world price of oil during the Six Days War between Egypt and Israel. A high rate of inflation also plagued the economy.

1970s -- The Red Brigades and the historical compromise
Political instability and acts of terrorism characterized the 1970s. Known as the Anni di Piombo (a reference to the lead bullets used by terrorists) this period was characterized by widespread social conflicts and terrorist acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements such as the most famous and ruthless group, the Brigate Rosse (The Red Brigades) founded by Renato Curcio. The abduction and assassination of DC Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978 was the most spectacular.

Moro’s death put an end to the compromesso storico or historic compromise, based upon the notion of convergenze parallele (parallel convergences) between the DC and the PCI. Enrico Berlinguer’s communists had increasingly been moving away from Russian influence and had come up with a form of ‘comunismo dal volto umano’ and ‘comunismo latino’. The PCI was becoming increasingly a reformist rather than a ‘revolutionary’ party.

1980s - Bettino Craxi’s Socialists in power
In the 1980s, for the first time, two governments were managed by a republican Giovanni Spadolini (1981-82) and by a socialist Bettino Craxi (1983-87) rather than by a Christian Democrat. Moreover, another socialist and a Resistance leader, Sandro Pertini was elected President of the Italian Republic.

In 1976, the PCI gradually increased their votes thanks to Enrico Berlinguer. The Socialists (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the communists and their link to the Soviet Union. Craxi favoured and allowed US President Ronald Reagan to position Pershing missiles in Italy. Craxi’s strategy worked. The PCI slowly began losing support, especially after the sudden death of Berlinguer. The PSI allied itself with the DC and three smaller parties and formed the Pentapartito that ruled till 1992.

The Rise of Fascism In Italy

1922 - March on Rome:
Facta’s failure to act against  growing Fascist violence and the failure of Filippo Turati’s  Socialists to cooperate with Sturzo’s Catholics strengthened  Mussolini. Two wings existed within the PNF: Dino Grandi’s approach that pressed to come to power legally and Italo  Balbo’s ‘insurrectional’ approach. This second had the upper  hand. On October 28, the ‘March on Rome’ took place with  the Fascist occupation of strategic sites. King Victor Emmanuel III refused to sign martial Law to restore order  and the army failed to act. The fascists’ coup d’état thus succeded.  On November 30, Mussolini was invited by King  Victor Emmanuel III to become Prime Minister and, for  all intents and purposes, the parliamentary constitutional  tradition came to an end.

1923 - Acerbo’s electoral reform:
Mussolini consolidates  his ‘illiberal regime. On December 15, 1922 the Fascist  Grand Council is formed. It assumes both party and state  functions foreshadowing the one-party system Italy was  becoming. Giacomo Acerbo’s bill on electoral reform is  approved on July 10. It eliminates proportional representation  and gives two-thirds of the seats to the electoral coalition  that receives 25% of the vote cast.

1924 - Giacomo Matteotti  murdered:
National Elections  are held in April. Internal disputes  within the Socialist and  Catholic ranks and Mussolini’s  control of the voting machines  allows the Fascists to win the  election. The leader of the  Socialists Giacomo Matteotti  gives a speech contending that  Fascist violence has invalidated  the recent elections. Matteotti  disappears on June 10 1924. His body is found only in  August. Did Mussolini give the order to kill him? Historians  are still debating. On June 30, the Senate and the  Chamber grant Mussolini a vote of confidence. The  opposition is absent from the Chamber after the ‘Aventine  Secession’ makes it easy for Mussolini to introduce repressive  legislation and establish his fascist dictatorship.

1925 - Alfredo Rocco’s new electoral law:
Between January 1925 and the end of 1926 the regime  consolidates itself. Abolition of antifascist political parties,  of free labour unions and of freedom of speech.  Italy becomes a Fascist state. Creation of special tribunals  that have the power to confine persons who subvert the  political and social order. Only Fascist unions can negotiate  and enforce contracts. In 1927 the Confindustria  becomes formally Fascist and its president enters the  Fascist Grand Council. According to Alfredo Rocco’s new  electoral law, political parties are eliminated and only persons  on a national list can become members of  Parliament. Voters can only accept or reject the list.  Mussolini announces the ‘Battle of the Grain’, to make  Italy self-sufficient in foodstuffs. Only large landowners  benefit from it and consolidate their position.

1929 - The Lateran Accords with the Vatican:
On  February 11 Mussolini signs the Lateran Accords with the  Vatican. They end the dispute with the papacy that resulted  from the annexation of the Papal States during the  Risorgimento. The Accords created the small independent  state of the Vatican City in Rome, paid the Pope compensation  for the annexed territories and made Catholicism the  official religion of Italy. The Accords had vast repercussions.  The Duce came to be seen as a man sent by Providence  against the threat of communism and solidified Mussolini’s  regime both at home and abroad.

1933 - IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione  Industriale):
As a means to face the Great Depression,  to finance industries in difficulty and stimulate economic  recovery, Banker Alberto Beneduce and finance minister  Guido Jung founded a new state agency: IRI (Istituto per la  Ricostruzione Industriale). IRI’s role was far-reaching and  significant. It owned one fifth of outstanding stocks in  Italian companies. IRI stimulated industries in Northern Italy,  improved production methods and enabled the country to  match the most advanced international industrial standards.  Italo Baldo with his ‘flying armada’ crossed the Atlantic  ocean and visited Canada and the world Exposition in  Chicago and flew back to Italy. A major achievement in the  history of aviation.

1934 - Fascism, a Corporate State :
Mussolini  opposes Adolf Hitler’s attempt of annexation (Anschluss) of  Austria into Germany after Chancellor Dolfuss’ assassination  by the Nazis. Founding of the 22 Corporations, the ‘third  way’ between Marxist class struggle and ‘plutocratic’  capitalism with equal representation of employers and  employees. Fascism thus defined itself as a Corporate  State and in 1938 a law abolished the Chamber of  Deputies and replaced it with the Chamber of Fasces and  Corporations. The Fascist State relied also on ONB (Opera  Nazionale Balilla), which regimented boys and girls and  prepared them to become militant members of the regime  and the GUF (Gioventù Universitaria Fascista) to which university  students were obliged to adhere. The OND (Opera  Nazionale Dopolavoro) rounded out the Fascist socialization  network.The OND was in contact with millions of workers and  was the regime’s most successful institution.

1935-36 - Conquest of Ethiopia:
After meeting  French Premier Laval in Rome and receiving his nod,  Mussolini has a free hand to conquer Ethiopia. In October  1935, Italian troops under the command of generals Del  Bono and Graziani invade Abyssinia. After a few months the  Italian troops enter Addis Ababa and Ethiopia becomes an  Italian colony. The shameful defeat at Adua is finally  avenged. The king of Italy becomes emperor of an empire  that includes Lybia, the Dodecanese Islands, Eritrea,  Somalia and Ehtiopia. As a result of this conquest, economic  sanctions are imposed on Italy. During the 1930s the  Duce accentuates his personal power and slogans like  ‘Mussolini ha sempre ragione’ (Mussolini is always right’  and ‘Credere obbedire, combattere’ (Believe, Obey, Fight)  cover Italian buildings. In 1935 radio, cinema and other  means of communications become favourite tools for propaganda  under the umbrella of the Ministry of Popular  Culture (Minculpop).

1936-1939 - Civil war in Spain:
A pro-Germany  policy in Foreign affairs begins. In 1936 Hitler and Mussolini  support Francisco Franco’s revolt in Spain and send troops to  help him. The Rome-Berlin Axis is born and Mussolini’s sonin-  law Count Galeazzo Ciano becomes Minister of Foreign  Affairs. 1937. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany adhere to the  Anti-Comintern Pact.

1937-38 - Anti-Semitism in Italy:
An anti-Semitic  faction emerges within Italian Fascism. Only in May 1938,  after Hitler’s visit to Rome, Mussolini lets Gerarchi like  Bottai who identify Jews with the ‘bourgoisie’ have their  way. There were only 50,000 Jews living in a country of  about 40 million people. The Duce who wanted to transform  Italians into a ‘warrior’ race and had prohibited  racial interactions in Italian East Africa, allows the foundation  of a racist magazine: La Difesa della Razza, and a  law is passed in September 1938 which prohibits foreign  Jews from entering Italy, bans Jews from the teaching  profession and excludes them from receiving an education  in public secondary schools. A ban on intermarriage,  exclusion from the army and public jobs and a limit to  Jewish economic activities are later added. Anschluss  (annexation) of Austria by Germany takes place.

1939 - Conquest of Albania:
In April Italy occupies  and annexes Albania. Signing of the Pact of Steel between  Italy and Germany. The Second World War begins. Mussolini  declares Italy’s non-belligerence.

Italy During World War II

1940 (June 10) - Declaration of war:
After the  sudden and unexpected defeat of France by Germany,  Mussolini finally decides to declare war against England,  Canada and France. Italy’s campaign against Greece begins  in October. It turns quickly into a great blunder.

Mussolini meets Hitler in April and agrees to  declare war against Yugoslavia. In June, after Germany’s  invasion of the USSR, Mussolini sends on the Russian front  an expeditionary corps. In December Mussolini declares war  against the USA.

1942 - War in Russia and North Africa:
Italian and  German troops invade and conquer Tunisia on the African  front. British victory at the Battle of El-Alamein in North  Africa. Disastrous retreat of the Italian expeditionary corps  from the Russian front.

1943 - (July 25) Mussolini removed from power:
May, surrender of the Italo-German army in Africa.  Mussolini’s inept leadership and the Italian army’s unpreparedness  and weakness lead Italy to defeat. When the military  disaster is inevitable the Fascist Grand Council finally  has the courage to challenge MussolinI’s erratic leadership.  In a historic meeting during the night on July 24 Dino  Grandi’s motion to remove Mussolini from power is  approved by a vote of 19 to 7.  At a meeting with the king the following morning on July  25, he is informed that he has been replaced with general  Badoglio. Mussolini is arrested. Badoglio abolishes the PNF  (Partito Nazionale Fascista) and initiates talks with the Anglo-  Americans. The announcement of an armistice with the Allies  on September 8 provokes a furious German reaction. While a  battle is raging in Rome Badoglio and the Italian royal family  flee ignominiously to Allied-occupied Brindisi. The Italian army  either resists German attacks or simply dissolves.  Mussolini is freed from his mountaintop prison on the  Gran Sasso in Abruzzo by an SS commando led by Otto  Skorzeny who flies him to Germany.There the Duce announces  the creation of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana which has its  capital in the Northern Italian town of Salò. Mussolini has his  son-in-law arrested, put on trial at Verona and executed by  firing squad. Italy is divided both ideologically and geographically.  The center and northern part of the country is under fascist  and German occupation whereas the southern part is  under Allies’ command. On November 4 1943, American  troops land at Anzio, south of Rome.

1943 (September 8) - 1945 (April 25) Civil war  in Italy:
June 1944, liberation of Rome. War rages in  German - occupied regions of Italy. Italians still loyal to  Mussolini fight against Italians that have joined the  Badoglio reorganized army on the side of the Allies. In  central and especially Northern regions of Italy. The resistance  movement under the CLN (Comitato di Liberazione  Nazionale - Committee of National Liberation) led by  antifascists leaders like Pertini, Longo, Parri and others  helps the Allies to defeat Fascist and German forces.  This is a very dark moment in recent Italian history.

1945 (April 27) Mussolini  captured and executed:
Allied  troops attack and break the  German line near Bologna. In  April Mussolini and his mistress  Claretta Petacci are captured by  partisans while attempting to  escape to Switzerland. On April  27, both are executed by  ‘Valerio’ (Walter Audisio) at  Giulino di Mezzegra. Their  corpses are taken to Milan and  left hanging to the crowd’s scorn where 15 hostages had  been executed by the fascists. On April 25, the CLNAI  (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia) proclaims popular  insurrection in Milan. On April 29, the last German troops  surrender and the liberation of Italy is complete.April 30.Allied  troops enter Milan and Hitler commits suicide in Berlin.

Italy After The First World War

The Fiume question in 1919 – Gabriele D’Annunzio’s role

1919-1920: Disappointment for the missed opportunity to expand in the Balkans and in Africa is strong in Italy. The nationalists define the outcome of WWI as a “mutilated victory”, a victory that caused the death of over 600,000 soldiers. On September 12, 1919, Gabriele D’Annunzio, as a protest against the decisions taken at Versailles leads his volunteer legionnaires and occupies the Dalmatian city of Fiume and declares it a free Italian city. Fiume becomes Italian only in 1924. With the Treaty of Rome, Italy renounces Dalmatia, except for the city of Zara, in favour of Yugoslavia.

The two decades between the end of World War I and World War II (1918-1945) were truly dramatic for Italy, Europe and the rest of the world. During the Red Biennium (1919-1921) factory workers emulated the Russian Revolution which led to the crisis of the liberal State, the rise of Fascism and the dictatorial regime of Benito Mussolini, his alliance with Adolf Hitler, Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia, the participation in the Spanish Civil War and in the Second World War. The results were catastrophic for Italy. The country was defeated militarily and only after a bloody civil war and the Duce’s death was democracy finally re-established. Here is a chronological presentation of the salient facts of the Ventennio Nero.

1919-20: The Red Biennium.
Giovanni Giolitti’s  tenure as Prime Minister comes to an end in August 1920  when 600,000 workers in the metallurgical industries  demand salary increases and occupy factories. The results  allowed them to get better working conditions, but plunged  the country into a deep crisis. The maximalist leadership of  the Socialist party wanted to bring about a revolution in  Italy emulating the Russian Revolution of 1917. It squanders  its reformist heritage and creates the conditions that  destroyed democracy in Italy. Industrialists and landowners  turn to the para-military Fascist movement founded by journalist  Benito Mussolini in Milan in March 1919. Mussolini’s  Fasci di combattimento (combat groups) emulated Filippo  Tommaso Marinetti’s futurists, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s volunteers  after they were dislodged from Fiume in December  1920, war veterans and former revolutionary interventisti.  Mussolini also absorbed much of the neo-Roman symbolism  first used by D’Annunzio in Fiume.

1921 (January 15) Birth  of PCI:
At the Congress of Livorno the left-wing section  of the Socialist Party led by  Antonio Gramsci, editor in-  chief of Turin’s newspaper  L’Ordine Nuovo and by  Neapolitan engineer Amedeo  Bordiga, change the party’s  name into PCI (Italian Communist Party). The split had disastrous consequences. It led to social violence and to the death of democratic government.  Under Bordiga’s leadership the PCI became rigidly extremist  and fuelled nationalist reaction. An unsteady coalition of Catholics and Liberals allowed Luigi Facta, Giolitti’s lieutenant, to form a weak government. In November 1921 the Third  Fascist Congress formally established the PNF (Partito  Nazionale Fascista).