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From Fascism to Democracy

From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948

Robert A. Ventresca
  • Book Info
    From Fascism to Democracy
    Book Description:

    From Fascism to Democracytells the story of the birth of the post-war Italian political system through the lens of a single event: the Italian national election of 1948, the first parliamentary election of the Republican era. Robert A. Ventresca offers the first comprehensive analysis of this central topic of contemporary Italian and European history. Bringing together the broad political and diplomatic narrative of 1948 with the social and psychological dimensions that determined how ordinary Italians experienced the election campaign, this book is about much more than just a political event. Broad in scope, it is a story about the fall of Fascism and the achievements of the Italian Resistance, Italian political culture, American influence in Italian politics at the start of the Cold War, and the interaction between Italy's secular and religious traditions.From Fascism to Democracyexpands on the common understanding of what is 'political' to examine how such factors as popular piety, gender, and historical memory became intertwined with the politics of Italy's fledgling democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7507-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations: Italian Political Parties, 1944-1948
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    The chapters that follow tell the story of Italyʹs transition to democracy after the Second World War. Liberation brought to an end two decades of dictatorship by the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) of il Duce, Benito Mussolini. The birth of the postwar political system in Italy will be studied through the lens of a single event: the Italian national election of 1948. The Republic of Italy was inaugurated at the start of 1948 and the first parliamentary election of the republican era was held on 18 April 1948. Voter participation was tremendous with more than 90 per cent of eligible...

  6. Chapter One The Legacy of Fascism: Redefining Italy after Mussolini
    (pp. 24-60)

    Writing to the Supreme Allied Commander of the Mediterranean Theatre in June 1945, just two months after the liberation of Italy, U.S. Admiral Ellery W. Stone warned that although the Second World War was over, Italyʼs status as a stable Western ally was far from assured. As in other European countries ravaged by war, Stone warned, Italy was ʻfertileʼ ground for the emergence of a Soviet-inspired movement to bring the country into the Soviet sphere of influence if the Allies did not move quickly to help it along the road to economic and political reconstruction. ʻItaly is at the parting...

  7. Chapter Two Guns, Butter, and Good Ole Yankee Know-How: America's Crusade to Defeat Italian Communism
    (pp. 61-99)

    Going into the 1948 election, Italian democracy was still learning to walk. At least this was how U.S. policy-makers saw things as Italians prepared to choose their first democratically elected parliament in more than twenty years.1 After all, the Americans reasoned, the memories of Fascism and the habits of mind associated with authoritarian rule could not easily be erased. An entire generation of Italians who were of voting age in 1948 had never known free and democratic elections or meaningful political dialogue protected by the guarantee of free speech. It followed that from time to time the infant democracy would...

  8. Chapter Three Madonnas, Miracles, and the Pulpit as Soapbox: The Use of the Sacred in the Campaign for Christ
    (pp. 100-137)

    In his annual Christmas Eve address to Rome and the world in December 1946, Pope Pius XII told Italians that the political decision they would be facing when the first parliamentary election of the republican period was finally called could be reduced to the following choice: ‘essere con Cristo o contro Cristo: è tutta la questione,’ to be either with Christ or against Christ.³ For Italian voters, then, unlike for voters in traditional democracies, the choice was not between political parties or philosophies, but between heaven and hell. That was the implication of Pius XIIʼs Christmas Eve admonition, and in...

  9. Chapter Four Salerno Betrayed: Italian Communism from Participation to Confrontation
    (pp. 138-176)

    The Americans invited the man they saw as their chief ally in Italy for a visit. Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi arrived in Washington in the first week of January 1947, ostensibly to participate in a conference on postwar reconstruction. De Gasperi really went to the United States because he wanted to discuss with the Americans what was perceived as the need to shift Italian politics to the right to better promote economic recovery and contain the spread of communism. The prime minister had managed to procure a formal invitation to meet with President Harry Truman at the White House....

  10. Chapter Five When Politics Reaches the Altar: Catholic Action Gets Out the Vote
    (pp. 177-196)

    In the campaign for the hearts and votes of the Italian people, organization was the operative word in both the Catholic and the Marxist camps. Indeed, both sides were after the same thing: what one student of the period calls themobilitazione totale,² the total mobilization of Italian society, from the bottom up, in a coordinated effort that sought to reach voters from all social classes and in every region of the country. Both sides relied on their respective capillary-like presence everywhere in the daily life of Italians to reach voters wherever they were to be found - in the...

  11. Chapter Six Battle of the Senses: The Propaganda War
    (pp. 197-212)

    In the 1948 Italian election the Popular Front, on the left, and Christian Democracy and all its supporters, on the right, engaged in a propaganda war of virtually epic proportions. In doing so, they pushed the limits of conventional propaganda, while experimenting with new forms of getting the masses on side. Both camps went all out in courting Italians of all social classes and from every region to give them their vote. Inspired propagandists of the left and the right produced an enormous array of colourful (even off-colour) posters, provocative flyers, and short popular films and newsreels. By far, posters...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. Chapter Seven A Free and Fair Election? The Campaign
    (pp. 213-235)

    With domestic and international tensions rising, on 9 February 1948, Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi called a general election. Thus ended months of speculation. Italians would go to the polls on 18 April to elect the first parliament of their new republic. In calling on Italians to perform a duty of which they had been too-long deprived an opportunity, De Gasperi's government made it clear that its first priority was to keep the peace. The guarantee of a free and fair election, the government said, was its foremost objective. It promised to give law enforcement agencies the means necessary to...

  14. Chapter Eight The Day After
    (pp. 236-261)

    A few days after the polls opened on 18 April 1948, the waiting was finally over. By the morning of the twenty-first, when all the votes had been counted, Christian Democracy (DC) emerged as the party with the support of close to half (48.5 per cent) of the voters and, more importantly, with a majority of seats in parliament (305 of 574). In the national election of June 1946, the DC had won only 35 per cent of the vote, a telling statement of how effective the anti-communist campaign had been in 1948. The real story, however, was the surprisingly...

  15. Epilogue: Politics in a New Key or Blocked Democracy?
    (pp. 262-272)

    On 30 December 1857, Camillo di Cavour, the first prime minister of a united Italy, rose in the Piedmontese legislature to issue a dire warning about the harmful effects clerical involvement in politics would have on the cause of freedom and democracy in Piedmont and all of Italy. Little over a month had passed since the voters of Piedmont had gone to the polls to elect a new legislature, and controversy swirled around allegations that clerical meddling of one sort or another had helped secure the election of several undeserving Catholic deputies. Cavour denounced the overt clerical manipulation as a...

  16. Appendix On Elections: Voting in 1948
    (pp. 273-284)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 285-338)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 339-342)
  19. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 343-344)
  20. Index
    (pp. 345-354)