ITALY IN TO 1950's AND 1970's

Under the 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made to Italy's frontier with France, the eastern border area was transferred to Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated a free territory. In 1954 with the London Memorandum of Understanding, the Free Territory of Trieste, which had remained under the administration of U.S.–UK forces (Zone A, including the city of Trieste) and Yugoslav forces (Zone B), was officially divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, principally along the zonal boundary. Italy also lost its colonial Empire, except Somalia, which formed the object of a UN trusteeship mandate, expiring in 1960.

In the 1950s Italy became a founding member of the NATO alliance (1949), a member of the United Nations (1955) and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. In the same years, Italy also became a founding member of the ECSC (1952) and of the European Economic Community (1957), later developed into the European Union. At the end of the 1950s an impressive economic growth was termed "Economic Miracle", a term that is still recognized in Italian politics ( Silvio Berlusconi won the 1994 elections promising a new "Miracle"). Italian families used their newfound wealth to purchase consumer durables for the first time. Between 1958 and 1965, the percentage of families owning a television rose from 12% to 49%, washing machines from 3% to 23%, and fridges from 13% to 55%.

As noted by the historian Paul Ginsborg “In the twenty years from 1950 to 1970 per capita income in Italy grew more rapidly than in any other European country: from a base of 100 in 1950 to 234.1 in 1970, compared to Frances increase from 100 to 136 in the same period, and Britain’s 100 to 132. By 1970 Italian per capita income, which in 1945 had lagged far behind that of the northern European countries, had reached 60 per cent of that in France and 82 per cent of that in Britain.”A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988 by Paul Ginsborg Christian Democracy's main support areas (sometimes known as "vote tanks") were the rural areas in South, Center and North-East Italy, whereas the industrial North-West had more left-leaning support because of the larger working class. An interesting exception were the "red regions" ( Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria) where the Italian Communist Party has historically had a wide support. This is considered a consequence of the particular share-cropping ("mezzadria") farming contracts used in these regions. The Holy See actively supported the Christian Democracy, judging it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Communist party and excommunicating all its supporters. In practice, however, many Communists remained religious: Emilia was known to be an area where people were both religious and communists. Giovanni Guareschi wrote his novels about Don Camillo describing a village, Brescello, whose inhabitants are at the same time loyal to priest Camillo and communist mayor Peppone, who are fierce rivals. In 1953, a Parliamentary Commission on poverty estimated that 24% of Italian families were either “destitute” or “in hardship,” 21% of dwellings were overcrowded, 52% of homes in the south had no running drinking water, and only 57% had a lavatory.

In the 1950s, several important reforms were launched: e.g. agrarian reform (legge Scelba), fiscal reform (legge Vanoni), and the country enjoyed a period of extraordinary economic development (miracolo economico, economic miracle). In this period of time, a massive population transfer, from the impoverished South to the booming industrial North, took place. This however exacerbated social contrasts, including between the old-established "worker aristocracy" and the new less qualified immigrants ("operaio-massa") of Southern origin. In addition, a wide gap between rich and poor continued to exist. By the end of the Sixties, it was estimated that 4 million Italians (out of a population of 54.5 million) were unemployed, underemployed, and casual labourers. As noted by the historian Paul Ginsborg, the affluent society to this section of the Italian population “might have meant a television set but precious little else.” During the First Republic, the Christian Democracy slowly but steadily lost support, as society modernised and the traditional values at its ideological core became less appealing to the population. Various options of extending the parliamentary majority were considered, mainly an opening to the left (apertura a sinistra), i.e. to the Socialist party (PSI), which after the 1956 events in Hungary had moved from a position of total subordination to the Communists, to an independent position. Proponents of such a coalition proposed a series much-needed "structural reforms" that would modernize the country and create a modern social-democracy. In 1960, an attempt by the right wing of the Christian Democrats to incorporate the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) in the Tambroni government led to violent and bloody riots (Genoa, Reggio Emilia), and was defeated.

Up until the Nineties, two types of governmental coalitions characterised the politics of post-war Italy. The first were “centrist” coalitions led by the Christian Democracy party together with smaller parties: the PSDI, the PRT, and the PLI. The first democratic government (1947) excluded both the PCI and the PSI, which brought about the political period known as “centrist government,” which ruled over Italian politics from 1948 to 1963. The centre-left coalition (DC-PRI-PSDI-PSI) was the second type of coalition that characterised Italian politics, coming about in 1963 when the PSI (formerly the opposition party) went into government with the DC. This coalition lasted in parliament first for 12 years (from 1964 to 1976) and then with a revival in the Eighties that lasted until the start of the Nineties. , Prime Minister from 1963 to 1968 and from 1974 to 1976.]] The PSI entered government in 1963. During the first year of the new Centre-Left Government, a wide range of measures were carried out which went some way towards the Socialist Party's requirements for governing in coalition with the Christian Democrats. These included taxation of real estate profits and of share dividends (designed to curb speculation), increases in pensions for various categories of workers, a law on school organisation (to provide for a unified secondary school with compulsory attendance up to the age of 14), the nationalisation of the electric-power industry, and significant wage rises for workers (including those in the newly nationalised electric-power industry), which led to a rise in consumer demand. Urged on by the PSI, the government also made brave attempts to tackle issues relating to welfare services, hospitals, the agrarian structure, urban development, education, and overall planning.Italy by Muriel Grindrod For instance, during the Centre-Left Government's time in office, social security was extended to previously uncovered categories of the population.

In addition, entrance to university by examination was abolished in 1965. Despite these important reforms, however, the reformist drive was soon lost, and the most important problems (including the mafia, social inequalities, inefficient state/social services, North/South imbalance) remained largely untackled. Following the 1963 Ciaculli massacre in the suburbs of Palermo, a car bomb which killed seven police and military officers sent to defuse it after an anonymous phone call, the Italian Parliament voted a December 1962 law which created an Antimafia Commission. The massacre had taken place in the frame of the first Mafia War in the 1960s, with the bomb intended for Salvatore Greco, head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission formed in the late 1950s. The mafia was fighting for the control of the profitable opportunities brought about by rapid urban growth and the heroin trade to North America. The ferocity of the struggle was unprecedented, reaping 68 victims from 1961 to 1963. The Antimafia Commission submitted its final report in 1976. The mafia had created ties with the political world. The period 1958-1964, when Salvo Lima (DC) was mayor of Palermo and Vito Ciancimino (DC) was assessor for public works, was later referred to as the " Sack of Palermo".

In 1965, the SIFAR intelligence agency was transformed into the SID following an aborted coup d'état, Piano Solo, which was to give the power to the Carabinieri, then headed by general De Lorenzo. The difficult equilibrium of Italian society was challenged by a rising left-wing movement, in the wake of 1968 student unrest ("Sessantotto"). This movement was characterized by such heterogeneous events as revolts by jobless farm workers (Avola, Battipaglia 1969), occupations of Universities by students, social unrest in the large Northern factories (1969 autunno caldo, hot autumn). While conservative forces tried to roll back some of the social advances of the 1960s, and part of the military indulged in "sabre rattling" in order to intimidate progressive political forces, numerous left-wing activists became increasingly frustrated at social inequalities, while the myth of guerrilla (Che Guevara, the Uruguayan Tupamaros) and of the Chinese Maoist "cultural revolution" increasingly inspired extreme left-wing violent movements. Social protests, in which the student movement was particularly active, shook Italy during the 1969 autunno caldo (Hot Autumn), leading to the occupation of the Fiat factory in Turin. In March 1968, clashes occurred at La Sapienza university in Rome, during the " Battle of Valle Giulia." Mario Capanna, associated with the New Left, was one of the figures of the student movement, along with the members of Potere Operaio and Autonomia Operaia such as ( Antonio Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Franco Piperno and of Lotta Continua such as Adriano Sofri.


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