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Main article: "Italian general election, 1948
De Gasperi during a rally of "Christian Democracy.

The "general elections in April 1948 were heavily influenced by the cold-war confrontation between the "Soviet Union and the United States. After the Soviet-inspired "February 1948 communist coup in "Czechoslovakia, the US became alarmed about Soviet intentions and feared that, if the leftist coalition were to win the elections, the Soviet-funded "Italian Communist Party (PCI) would draw Italy into the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.

In the US, a campaign was launched to prevent a victory of the Communist-dominated "Popular Democratic Front (FDP – "Italian: Fronte Democratico Popolare). Italian-Americans were encouraged to write letters to their relatives in Italy. The popular Italian-American singer "Frank Sinatra made a "Voice of America radio broadcast. The "Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funneled "black bag" contributions to anti-communist candidates with the approval of the "National Security Council and President "Truman. "Joseph P. Kennedy and Clare Booth Luce helped to raise US$2 million for the Christian Democrat Party.[4] Time magazine backed the campaign and featured De Gasperi on its 19 April 1948 issue’s cover and in its lead story.[5] (He would appear on a Time cover again on 25 May 1953, during the campaign for that year's election, with an extensive biography.[6])

The election campaign remains unmatched in verbal aggression and fanaticism in Italy's history on both sides. The election was between two competing visions of the future of Italian society. On the one hand, a Roman Catholic, conservative and capitalist Italy, represented by the governing Christian Democrats of De Gasperi; on the other, a secular, revolutionary and socialist society, represented by the Popular Front. The Christian Democrat "campaign claimed that, in "communist countries, "children send parents to jail", "children are owned by the state", "people eat their own children", and assured voters that disaster would strike Italy if the "Left were to take power.[7][8] Another slogan was, "In the secrecy of the polling booth, God sees you - Stalin doesn't."[9]

The Communists were de facto leading the Popular Democratic Front, and had effectively marginalised the Socialist Party, which eventually suffered because of this in these elections, in terms of parliamentary seats and political power;[10] The Socialists also had been hurt by the secession of a social-democratic faction led by "Giuseppe Saragat, which contested the election with the concurrent list of "Socialist Unity.

The PCI had difficulties in restraining its more militant members, who, in the period immediately after the war, had engaged in violent acts of reprisals. The areas affected by the violence (the so-called "Red Triangle" of "Emilia, or parts of "Liguria around Genoa and Savona, for instance) had previously seen episodes of brutality committed by the "Fascists during "Benito Mussolini's regime and the "Italian Resistance during the "Allies' gradual advance through Italy.

The Christian Democrats won a resounding victory with 48.5% of the vote (their best result ever) and strong majorities in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. The Communists received only half of the votes they had in 1946. Although De Gasperi could have formed an exclusively Christian Democratic government, instead he formed a ""centrist" coalition with Liberals, Republicans and Social Democrats. De Gasperi formed three "ministries, the second in 1950 after the defection of the Liberals, who hoped for more rightist policies, and the third in 1951 after the defection of the Social-democrats, who hoped for more leftist policies. He ruled for five more years, helming four additional coalitions. "De Gasperi’s policy is patience," according to the foreign news correspondent for the "New York Times, "Anne McCormick. "He seems to be feeling his way among the explosive problems he has to deal with, but perhaps this wary mine-detecting method is the stabilizing force that holds the country in balance."[11]

Social security reforms[edit]

Social security reforms under Alcide De Gasperi

In domestic policy, a number of social security reforms were carried out by various ministers of De Gasperi's cabinets in the areas of rents and social housing, unemployment insurance and pensions.

Alcide De Gasperi in his office in "Palazzo Chigi.

On 9 January 1946 the government reorganised the health insurance system for sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and agricultural workers, with a flat-rate daily indemnity of Lit.28 for women and Lit.60 for men (i.e. 3% and 7% of the average gross industrial wage for 1947) for a maximum of 180 days a year and free medical and hospital assistance provided through INAM.;[12] on 19 April 1946 the government reorganised the health insurance system for industrial employees, with a daily sickness indemnity equal to 50% of earnings, for a maximum of 180 days a year, a flat-rate maternity indemnity equal to a lump sum of Lit.1000 for 120 days (1% of average gross for industrial wage in 1947), a funeral allowance and free medical, hospital, and pharmaceutical assistance through INAM. On 31 October 1947 the "Italian Parliament approved a bill that reorganised the health insurance system for service employees (e.g. banking and commerce), with a daily sickness indemnity equal to 50% of earnings for a maximum of 180 days a year, a flat-rate maternity payment, funeral allowance, and free hospital, medical, and pharmaceutical assistance through INAM.[12]

On 28 February 1949 De Gasperi launched a seven-year plan for social housing to increase the stock of economic housing by means of construction or purchase of economic accommodation. The law also established a special housing fund (INA-Casa) within the National Institute for Insurance ("Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni, or INA).[12] Moreover, on 29 July 1947 the government established a Fund For Social Solidarity within INPS in order to pay graduated supplementary allowances to all pensions, compensating for inflation.[12]

Alcide De Gasperi addressed the crowd in "Bologna, 1951.

A law of 29 April 1949 introduced new provisions for unemployment insurance and labour policy. A Central Commission for Work Training and Assistance for the Unemployed was set up with the task of monitoring the state of the labour market and the conditions of the unemployed, while regulations concerning the replacement of the unemployed into the labour market (collocamento) were introduced. Provincial offices for Labour and Full Employment were also established, with local sections, which organised waiting lists, training courses, and the allocation of available jobs, amongst other services. Unemployment indemnity was increased to Lit. 200 per day (approximately 17% of the average gross industrial wage for 1949) and its duration was extended from 120 t 180 days. Unemployment insurance was extended to agricultural workers, and a special unemployment benefit (sussidio straordinario di disoccupazione) was introduced, paid under exceptional circumstances; flat-rate benefit with ad hoc determined level for 90 to 180 days. Vocational training and professional qualification programmes for the unemployed were also introduced, along with a Fund for Professional Training of Workers.[12]

On 29 April 1949 it was approved law that introduced new provisions for unemployment insurance and labour policy. A Central Commission for Work Training and Assistance for the Unemployed was established with the task of monitoring the state of the labour market and the conditions of the unemployed.[12]

On 23 March 1948 the "National Institute For Assistance of The Orphans of Italian Workers" and the "National Institute For Italian Pensioners" were established, providing benefits and services for needy pensioners.;[12] on 26 August 1950 the government introduced various regulations covering maternity insurance for all female employees.[12]

In 1952, the party overwhelmingly endorsed his authority over the government and over the party. However, it was also the start of his decline. He came under increasing criticism from the emerging left wing in the party. Their main accusations were that he was too cautious in social and economic reform, that he stifled debate, and that he subordinated the party to the interests of government.

1953 general election and decline[edit]

Italian general election, 1953
Alcide De Gasperi during his last years in power.

The "1953 general election was characterised by changes in the electoral law. Even if the general structure remained uncorrupted, the government introduced a "superbonus of two thirds of seats in the "House for the coalition which would obtain "at-large the "absolute majority of votes. The change was strongly opposed by the opposition parties as well as DC's smaller coalition partners, who had no realistic chance of success under this system. The new law was called the Scam Law by its detractors,[13] including some dissidents of minor government parties who founded special opposition groups to deny the artificial "landslide to "Christian Democracy.

The "Holy See actively supported Christian Democracy, declaring that 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.

The campaign of the opposition to the Scam Law achieved its goal. The government coalition (Christian Democracy, "Italian Democratic Socialist Party, "Italian Liberal Party, "Italian Republican Party, "South Tyrolean People's Party, "Sardinian Action Party) won 49.9% of national vote, resulting in an ordinary proportional distribution of the seats. Minor dissident parties resulted determinant for the final result, especially the short-lived "National Democratic Alliance. The leading party "Christian Democracy did not repeat the extraordinary result of five years earlier, which had been obtained under special conditions linked to the "Cold War, and lost a lot of votes to the "right, including resurgent "fascist politicians particularly in "Southern Italy.

Technically, the government won the election, winning a "majority of seats in both houses. But the frustration with the lack of a supermajority caused significant tensions in the leading coalition. De Gasperi was forced to resign by the "Parliament on August 2: De Gasperi consequently retired and died twelve months later.[14] The legislature continued with weak governments, with minor parties refusing institutional responsibilities. "Giuseppe Pella rose to power, but fell after only five months, following heated disputes about the status of the "Free Territory of Trieste which Pella was claiming. "Amintore Fanfani's succeeding first ministry failed to receive a "vote of confidence in Parliament, whilst "Mario Scelba and "Antonio Segni followed with more traditional centrist coalitions supported by Social democrats and Liberals: under the administration of Scelba, the problem of "Trieste was settled by ceding "Koper to "Yugoslavia. The parliamentary term was seen out by the minority government chaired by "Adone Zoli, finishing a legislature which hugely weakened the office of the Prime Minister, held by six different leaders.

In 1954, De Gasperi also had to give up the leadership of the party.[15][16]

Death and legacy[edit]

Alcide De Gasperi burial in "San Lorenzo Basilica, Rome.

On 19 August 1954, Alcide De Gasperi died in "Sella di Valsugana, in his beloved Trentino. It is said that he had to be given a State funeral as he had died with almost no means of his own - a jaw-dropping fact in a country where, even then, politicians were expected to do well for themselves. He is buried in the "Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, a basilica in Rome. The process for his "beatification was opened in 1993.[17]

"De Gasperi was against exacerbating conflict," according to his former secretary and former Prime Minister "Giulio Andreotti. "He taught us to search for compromise, to mediate."[18]

He is considered to be one of the "founding fathers of the European Union. From the very beginning of European integration, De Gasperi, Robert Schuman, and Konrad Adenauer met regularly.[19] He helped to organize the "Council of Europe and supported the "Schuman Declaration, which in 1951 led to the foundation of the "European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – a forerunner in the process of European integration. He was named president of the Community in 1954, and although the project eventually failed, De Gasperi helped to develop the idea of the common "European defence policy.[20] In 1952, he received the "Karlspreis (International Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen), an award by the German city of "Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace. The 1954–1955 academic year at the "College of Europe was named in his honour.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Alcide De Gasperi (Italian statesman).
  2. ^ De Gasperi through American Eyes: Media and Public Opinion, 1945–53, by Steven F. White, in: Italian Politics and Society, No.61 Fall/Winter 2005
  3. ^ The Italian Stabilization of 1947: Domestic and International Factors, by Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, Institute of European Studies, 2007
  4. ^ The Cold War Begins, Frank Eugene Smitha
  5. ^ How to Hang On, Time magazine, 19 April 1948
  6. ^ Man from the Mountains, Time magazine, 25 May 1953
  7. ^ "Show of Force", TIME Magazine, April 12, 1948
  8. ^ "How to Hang On", TIME Magazine, April 19, 1948
  9. ^ "Fertility vote galvanises Vatican", BBC News, 13 June 2005
  10. ^ The Communist party gained more than the two-thirds of the seats won by the joint list. ("Number of MPs for each political group during the First Legislature", Italian Chamber of Deputies website.
  11. ^ New York Times, 16 February 1949, quoted in De Gasperi through American Eyes: Media and Public Opinion, 1945–53, by Steven F. White, in: Italian Politics and Society, No.61 Fall/Winter 2005
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Growth to Limits: The Western European Welfare States Since World War II Volume 4 edited by Peter Flora
  13. ^ Also its parliamentarian exam had a disruptive effect: "Among the iron pots of political forces that faced in the Cold War, Senate cracked as earthenware pot": Buonomo, Giampiero (2014). "Come il Senato si scoprì vaso di coccio". L’Ago e il filo.   – via "Questia (subscription required)
  14. ^ (Italian) Come il Senato si scoprì vaso di coccio, in L’Ago e il filo, 2014.
  15. ^ Cabinet Maker, Time, 27 July 1953
  16. ^ De Gasperi's Fall, Time, 10 August 1953
  17. ^ (Italian) Servo di Dio Alcide De Gasperi, Santi beati
  18. ^ All the prime minister's men, by "Alexander Stille, The Independent, 24 September 1995
  19. ^ Alcide De Gasperi's humanist and European message, European People's Party
  20. ^ In the beginning was De Gasperi, The Florentine, 4 October 2007

Further reading[edit]

In Italian[edit]

External links[edit]

Assembly seats
Preceded by
Mario Rossi
"Member of the Austrian Reichsrat
for "Fiemme Valley
Legislatures: XXI, XXII

Constituency abolished
"Italian Chamber of Deputies
Constituency established Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for "Trentin & South Tirol
Legislatures: XXVI, XXVII

Title jointly held
Parliament re-established Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for "Trentin & South Tirol
Legislatures: CA, I, II

Government offices
Preceded by
"Ivanoe Bonomi
"Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
"Pietro Nenni
Preceded by
"Ferruccio Parri
"Minister of the Italian Africa, "a.i.
Position abolished
Preceded by
"Giuseppe Romita
"Minister of the Interior, "a.i.
Succeeded by
"Mario Scelba
Preceded by
"Carlo Sforza
"Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
"Giuseppe Pella
Political offices
Preceded by
"Ferruccio Parri
"President of the Council of Ministers of Italy
Succeeded by
"Giuseppe Pella
Preceded by
"Umberto II
as King of Italy
"Provisional Head of State of Italy
Succeeded by
"Enrico De Nicola
as President of Italy
Preceded by
"Paul-Henri Spaak
"President of the European Parliament
Succeeded by
"Giuseppe Pella
Party political offices
Position established "Secretary of the Christian Democracy
Succeeded by
"Attilio Piccioni
"President of the Christian Democracy
Succeeded by
"Adone Zoli
Preceded by
Guido Gonella
"Secretary of the Christian Democracy
Succeeded by
"Amintore Fanfani
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