Postwar Italy

Between 1945 and 1948 a new Italian nation emerged from the disaster of Fascism and war. On June 2nd, 1946 a popular election abolished the monarchy in favor of a republic; a new constitution was adopted the next year. The Christian Democrats, the Communists, and the Socialists became the leading political parties in the country. The largest of these parties, the Christian Democrats, first under the leadership of Alcide De Gasperi, dominated the Italian government after 1948. De Gasperi stressed industrial growth, agricultural reform, and close cooperation with the United States and the Vatican. With massive U.S. aid, Italy underwent a remarkable economic recovery that saw rapid industrial expansion and a sharp increase in the standard of living. Italy joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, and the European Common Market (European Community) in 1958.

The 1960s were marked by continued prosperity and a lessening of tensions between right and left. In the early 1970s the Italian Communists, led by Enrico Berlinguer, became prominent advocates of Euro communism, a doctrine stressing independence of the USSR.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s labor unrest, frequent government scandals, and the violence of extremist groups (especially the left-wing Red Brigades terrorists, who kidnapped and murdered former premier Aldo Moro in 1978), all contributed to a volatile political situation.

The postwar system was modified somewhat under the long premiership (1983-87) of Socialist Bettino Craxi and was shaken to its foundations by revelations of widespread corruption involving leaders of all the major parties during 1992-93. New regional parties began to win support among the voters, who demanded fundamental political reforms. At the same time the government and the judiciary initiated a determined effort to break the power of the Mafia and other traditional criminal elements in southern Italy and Sicily. In the spring of 1994, Italian voters rejected the traditional parties. Media mogul Silvio Berlusconi became premier, leading a fragile conservative coalition called the Alliance for Freedom.

Created: November 1996
Updated: 05/22/04
Back to History of Italy Index Page

Go to a summary of Italy's Chronology

Back to the Arcaini Home Page
e-mail Questions and Suggestions