- Italian Socialist Party
name_english = Italian Socialist Party
Filippo Turati, Pietro Nenni, Sandro Pertini, Francesco De Martino, Giacomo Mancini, Bettino Craxi
membership = 674,057 (1991) max: 860,300 (1946) min: 430,258 (1949) [http://www.cattaneo.org/archivi/adele/iscritti.xls]
Democratic socialism, Social democracy
Party of European Socialists
Party of European Socialists
colorcode = red
The Italian Socialist Party ("Partito Socialista Italiano", PSI) was a democratic socialist/social democratic political party founded in
Genoain 1892. Once the dominant leftist party in Italy, it was eclipsed in status by the Italian Communist Partyfollowing World War II. It dissolved in 1994 as a result of the Tangentopoliscandal, an investigation into political corruption by the Italian government.
Founding to World War I
The Italian Socialist Party was founded in 1892 by delegates of several workers' associations. It was part of a wave of new socialist parties at the end of the nineteenth century, and had to endure persecution by the Italian government during its early years. At the start of the twentieth century, however, the PSI chose not to oppose the governments led by five-time prime minister
Giovanni Giolitti. This conciliation with the existing governments, and its improving electoral fortunes, helped to establish the PSI as a mainstream Italian political party by the 1920s.
Despite the party's improving electoral results, however, the PSI remained divided into two major branches, the Reformists and the Maximalists. The Reformists, led by
Filippo Turati, were strong mostly in the unions and the parliamentary group. The Maximalists, led by Benito Mussolini, were affiliated with the London Bureauof socialist groups, an international association of left-socialist parties. The schism between these factions made it difficult for the PSI to make decisions with one voice.
In 1912, Mussolini and the Maximalists prevailed at the party convention. Despite this, they were not to separate themselves from the Reformists until the
1920s, after Amadeo Bordigaand the abstentionists split, creating the Communist Party of Italy. This severe division has never been recovered since then and have had enormous consequences on Italian politics.
World War I tore the party apart, as orthodox international socialists were challenged by advocates of
national syndicalismin the party that advocated a revolutionary war to liberate Italian territories from Austrian control and to force the government by threat of violence to adopt changes that would create a corporatiststate. The national syndicalists intended to support Italian republicans in overthrowing the monarchy if such reforms were not made and if Italy did not enter the war. The dominant internationalist and pacifist wing of the party remained committed to avoiding what it called a " bourgeoiswar". The PSI's refusal to support the war led to its national syndicalist faction either leaving or being purged from the party, such as Mussolini who had begun to show sympathy to the national syndicalist cause. A number of the national syndicalists removed from the PSI would become members of Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the PSI quickly aligned itself in support of the communist Bolshevikmovement in Russia and supported its call for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
From 1919 to the 1920s, the Socialists and the Fascists engaged in political violence in Italy's urban centres. In 1921, the radical wing of the PSI split to form the
Communist Party of Italywhich continued to fight against the Fascists, as did the rump of the PSI. In 1924, the PSI's Giacomo Matteotiwas assassinated by Fascists, and shortly afterwards a Fascist dictatorship was established in Italy and the PSI and all other political parties except the Fascist party were banned. The party's leadership remained in exile during the Fascist years. After World War II, the party returned to stand in Italy's first post-war elections in 1946, and obtained 22.6 % of the popular vote.
In 1948, the Socialist Party ran for elections as part of a
Popular Front, the Fronte Democratico Popolare, in alliance with the Italian Communist Party, or PCI. However, it lost at the polls, with many of the party's supporters choosing instead to vote for the PCI.
Nonetheless, the PSI continued its alliance with the PCI until 1956, when Soviet repression in Hungary caused a major split between the two parties.
After 1962, the Italian Socialists participated in the centre-left governments, in alliance with the Christian Democrats and other smaller parties. The party failed to achieve most of their reformist objectives with this new alliance.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the PSI lost much of its influence, despite actively participating in the government. The PCI gradually replaced it as the strongest party of the left. In 1963, the PSI formed a coalition with the Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) under the name of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU). However, the parties disbanded their after a dismaying loss in the 1968 elections, in which the PSU gained far fewer seats in total than each of the two parties had obtained separately in the 1963 elections. The elections of 1972, underlined the PSI's precipitate decline. The party received less than 10% of the vote compared to 14.5% in 1958.
Bettino Craxi's leadership
Bettino Craxiwas elected the new Secretary of the Party. From 1976-1983, Craxi tried to undermine the PCI, which until then had been continuously increasing its votes in elections, and to consolidate the PSI as a modern, strongly pro-European reformist social-democratic party . This strategy called for ending most of the party's historical traditions as a working-class trade-union based party, and attempting to gain new support among white collar and public sector employees. At the same time, the PSI increased its presence in the big state-owned enterprises, and became heavily involved in corruption and illegal party funding which would eventually result in the Mani Pulitescandals.
In 1978 Craxi decided to change the symbol of the PSI: he chose a red
carnationto represent the new course of the party, in honour of the Carnation Revolutionin Portugal. The party shrank the size of the old hammer and sickle in the lower part of the symbol. It was eliminated altogether in 1985.
Even if the PSI never became a serious electoral challenger either to the PCI or the Christian Democrats, its pivotal position in the political arena allowed it to claim the premiership after the 1983 elections. The Christian Democrats' electoral support significantly weakened, leaving it with 32% of the vote, compared to the 38% it gained in 1979. The PSI, which had obtained only 11%, threatened to leave the parliamentary majority unless Craxi was made prime minister. The Christian Democrats accepted this compromise to avoid new elections. Bettino Craxi became the first Socialist in the history of the Republic of Italy to be named President of the Council, and thus head of the
Unlike many of its predecessors, Craxi's government proved to be durable, lasting three-and-a-half years thanks in part to the support of the President of the Republic
Sandro Pertini, who was a fellow member of the Socialist Party.
During Craxi's presidency, the PSI gained popularity. He successfully boosted the country's GNP to a high level and controlled
inflation. He demonstrated Italy's independence and nationalism during the clash with the United Statesduring the Sigonella incident. All of these were attributed to the reforms which the PSI had long wanted to initiate. The PSI looked like the driving force behind the bulk of reforms initiated by the 'Pentapartito'. Craxi, however, lost his post in March 1987 due to a conflict with the Pentapartito over the proposed budget for 1987.
However, because that legislature did not end until 1988, Craxi was able to arrange for a Christian Democrat to take the reins of government:
Amintore Fanfaniremained president for 11 days and was left alone after the PSI left the Pentapartito.
From 1987-1992 the PSI participated in four governments, allowing
Giulio Andreottito take power in 1989 and to govern until 1992. It held a strong balance of power, which made it more powerful than the Christian Democrats, who had to depend on it to form a majority in Parliament. The PSI kept tight control of this advantage.
In the 1987 general election the PSI gained 14.3% of the vote, but this time it was the Christian Democrats' turn to govern. However, the PSI created immense institutional confusion by not allowing governments to govern for more than 11 months, which eventually precipitated an economic crisis. The alternative which Craxi had wanted so much was taking shape: the idea for 'Social Unity' proposed by Craxi in 1989 after the fall of communism. He believed that the collapse of communism in eastern Europe undermined
Italian Communist Partyand made 'Social Unity' inevitable. Indeed, until the Tangentopoliscandal, the PSI was in line to become the Italy's second party.
In February 1992, the Socialist hospital administrator
Mario Chiesawas caught taking a bribe of some 3,600 Euros, which was only 50% of the total expected bribe. The PSI, or more likely Bettino Craxi, did not see this as dangerous and denounced Chiesa by calling him an isolated thief, who had nothing to do with the party as a whole. However, this was technically not true. The former mayor of Milan Carlo Tognolihad received many bribes according to Chiesa. Chiesa also admitted the fact that he had also financed the brother in law of Craxi, Paolo Pilliteriwho himself had been Mayor of Milan (1986-1992).
Although Craxi did not see the danger, many Milanese industrials quickly confessed their crime. Consequently other Socialists as well as Christian Democrats and Social Democrats entered the tempest of the judicial investigation named
Mani Pulite(Clean Hands). The investigation was carried out by three Milanese magistrates among whom Antonio Di Pietroquickly stood out becoming a national hero thanks to his charismatic character and his ability to extract confessions.
The investigations were suspended for four weeks in order for the 1992 Italian general election to take place in an uninfluenced atmosphere. The Socialist Party managed to garner 13.6% of the votes in spite of the corruption scandals. Many in the PSI thought the scandal had been brought under control but failed to realize that investigations would eventually be launched against ministers and party leaders. Furthermore, as early as May 1992, public opinion unconditionally supported the magistrates against a political system that the majority of Italians already distrusted.
Soon after the elections, Mani Pulite started the investigations at full speed. In May 1992, the Socialist deputy
Paolo Pilliterireceived an "avviso di garanzia", a letter informing him he was under criminal investigation. Craxi himself was to receive one of those letters in December 1992. Later, the Parliament, under pressure, abolished the need for authorization by the magistrates to continue the investigation, although in April 1993, Parliament denied it four times. Italian newspapers shouted 'scandal', and Craxi was besieged at his Rome residence by a crowd of young people, who threw coins at him and shouted "Bettino, do you want these as well?". This scene was to become one of the many symbols of corruption within the Italian political scene.
Between 1992-1993, many Socialist regional, provincial and municipal councillors, MPs, mayors and even ministers found themselves overwhelmed with accusations and arrests. A famous but scandalous episode happened in
Calabriawhere the Socialist mayor and all the Socialist councillors were placed under arrest. At this point, public opinion turned against the Socialists. Many regional headquarters of the PSI were besieged by those people who wanted an honest party with true socialist values.
Between January 1993 and February 1993,
Claudio Martelli(former Justice Minister and former Vice-Prime Minister) started to contend for the leadership of the party. Martelli stepped forward as a candidate, emphasizing the need to clean the party of corruption and make it electable. Although he had many supporters, Martelli and Craxi were both caught in a scandal dating back to 1982, when the Banco Ambrosiano gave to the two of them around 7 million dollars. Martelli's candidacy disappeared and he resigned from the party and from the government. A few days later, Bettino Craxi too tendered his resignation.
Craxi resigned as Party Secretary in February 1993. Many other important leaders left the party, including Claudio Martelli and Paolo Pillitteri. Between 1992 and 1993, three Socialist deputies committed suicide and stated before dying 'the veil of hypocrisy which had covered the wrongdoings concerning financing their party'. Craxi was succeeded by two Socialist trade-unionists, first
Giorgio Benvenutoand then by Ottaviano Del Turco. He was a simple person who had no link with the old dirigents of the party which had nearly all vanished.
At the administrative and communal elections of December 1993, the PSI was virtually wiped out, receiving around 3% of the vote. In Milan, where the PSI had won 20% in 1990, the PSI received a mere 2%, which was not even enough to elect a councillor. The last secretary of the PSI
Ottaviano Del Turcotried in vain to regain credibility for the party. Giuliano Amato, a Socialist and a close friend of Bettino Craxi, resigned as Prime Minister in April 1993. His government was succeeded by a technocratic government which sought to govern without political influence.
In the 1994 general election, what was left of PSI allied itself to the alliance of the "Progressives" under the leadership of post-Communist
Democratic Party of the Left(PDS). Del Turco had quickly changed the party symbol to reinforce the idea of innovation. However, this did not stop the PSI gaining only 2.2% of the votes compared to 13.6% in 1992. The party's candidates were mostly from the left-wing of the party, as Del Turco himself, while many Socialists left politics. Some of them joined other parties: Antonio Guidi, Monica Stefania Baldi, Umberto Scapagniniand Emiddio Novijoined Forza Italia, Giulio Tremontijoined the Patto Segni, Giorgio Benvenutojoined the Democratic Alliance, while Carlo Ripa di Meanajoined the Greens.
The PSI elected 16 deputies (
Giuseppe Albertini, Enrico Boselli, Carlo Carli, Ottaviano Del Turco, Fabio Di Capua, Vittorio Emiliani, Mario Gatto, Luigi Giacco, Gino Giugni, Alberto La Volpe, Vincenzo Mattina, Valerio Mignone, Rosario Olivo, Corrado Paoloni, Giuseppe Pericuand Valdo Spini) and 14 senators ( Paolo Bagnoli, Orietta Baldelli, Francesco Barra, Luigi Biscardi, Guido De Martino, Gianni Fardin, Carlo Gubbini, Maria Rosaria Manieri, Cesare Marini, Maria Antonia Modolo, Michele Sellitti, Giancarlo Tapparo, Antonino Vallettaand Antonio Vozzi), down from 92 deputies and 49 senators of 1992.
The party was disbanded on 13 November 1994 after two years of agony, in which almost all of its longtime leaders, especially Bettino Craxi, were involved in Tangentopoli or decided to leave politics. The 100-year old party closed down, partially thanks to its leaders for their personalization of the PSI.
The Socialists who did not align with the other parties organized themselves in two groups: the
Italian Socialists(SI) of Enrico Boselli, Ottaviano Del Turco, Roberto Villetti, Riccardo Nencini, Cesare Mariniand Maria Rosaria Manieri, who decided to be autonomous from PDS, and the Labour Federation(FL) of Valdo Spini, Antonio Ruberti, Giorgio Ruffolo, Giuseppe Pericu, Carlo Carli and Rosario Olivo, who entered in close alliance with it. The SI eventually merged with other Socialist splinter groups to form the Italian Democratic Socialists(SDI) in 1998, while the FL merged with PDS to form the Democrats of the Left(DS) in the same year.
Between 1994 and 1996, many former Socialists joined Forza Italia, as did
Giulio Tremonti, Franco Frattini, Massimo Baldiniand Luigi Cesaro. Gianni De Michelis, Ugo Intiniand several politicians closer to Bettino Craxiformed the Socialist Party, while others like Fabrizio Cicchittoand Enrico Mancalaunched the Reform Socialist Party. As of today, at least two minor formations claim to be the party's successor: the Italian Democratic Socialists (SDI), that evolved from the Italian Socialists (SI), and the New Italian Socialist Party(NPSI) founded by Gianni De Michelis, Claudio Martelliand Bobo Craxi in 2001.
However, both SDI and NPSI are very minor political forces. Most Socialist members and voters joined
Forza Italia(FI)Fact|date=September 2008, a centre-right party (see membership and factions of Forza Italia), while others joined the Democrats of the Left(DS) and Democracy is Freedom – Daisy(DL). [Among Italian MPs and MEPs, 62 out of 1060 come from the Italian Socialist Party: 32 are affiliated to Forza Italia( Simone Baldelli, Massimo Baldini, Paolo Bonaiuti, Margherita Boniver, Anna Bonfrisco, Renato Brunetta, Francesco Brusco, Giulio Camber, Giampiero Cantoni, Fabrizio Cicchitto, Francesco Colucci, Stefania Craxi, Luigi Cesaro, Gaetano Fasolino, Antonio Gentile, Paolo Guzzanti, Raffaele Iannuzzi, Vanni Lenna, Chiara Moroni, Francesco Musotto, Emiddio Novi, Gaetano Pecorella, Marcello Pera, Mauro Pili, Sergio Pizzolante, Gaetano Quagliariello, Maurizio Sacconi, Jole Santelli, Amalia Sartori, Aldo Scarabosio, Giorgio Stracquadanio, Renzo Tondoand Giulio Tremonti), 9 to the Italian Democratic Socialists( Rapisardo Antinucci, Enrico Boselli, Enrico Buemi, Giovanni Crema, Lello Di Gioia, Pia Elda Locatelli, Giacomo Mancini jr., Angelo Piazzaand Roberto Villetti), 7 to the Democrats of the Left( Giorgio Benvenuto, Antonello Cabras, Carlo Fontana, Beatrice Magnolfi, Gianni Pittella, Valdo Spiniand Sergio Zavoli), 5 to Democracy is Freedom – Daisy( Laura Fincato, Linda Lanzillotta, Maria Leddi, Pierluigi Mantiniand Tiziano Treu), 4 to the New Italian Socialist Party( Alessandro Battilocchio, Lucio Barani, Mauro Del Bueand Gianni De Michelis), 2 to the Movement for Autonomy( Pietro Reinaand Giuseppe Saro), 1 to the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats( Giuseppe Drago) and 2 non-party members ( Giuliano Amatoand Giovanni Ricevuto).]
The Socialists who joined Forza Italia include
Giulio Tremonti, Franco Frattini, Fabrizio Cicchitto, Renato Brunetta, Amalia Sartori, Francesco Musotto, Margherita Boniver, Francesco Colucci, Raffaele Iannuzzi, Maurizio Sacconi, Luigi Cesaroand Stefania Craxi. Valdo Spini, Giorgio Benvenuto, Gianni Pittellaand Guglielmo Epifanijoined the DS and Enrico Manca, Tiziano Treu, Laura Fincatoand Linda Lanzillottajoined DL. Giuliano Amatois now an independent in the Olive Treefederation, which unites DS and DL.
In 2007 many former Socialists, including the Italian Democratic Socialists, the faction of the New Italian Socialist Party led by Gianni De Michelis,
The Italian Socialistsof Bobo Craxi, Socialism is Freedomof Rino Formicaand splinters from the Democrats of Left, decided to join forces and to form a new Socialist Party. Although this party, whose foundation is scheduled in January 2008, is open also to many ex-Communist Democrats of Left disappointed with the Democratic Party, it is considered as a sort of an end of the "Socialist diaspora" and will become the second biggest gathering of former PSI members, after Forza Italia.
National secretaries of PSI from 1943:
Ivan Matteo Lombardo(1946–1947)
Francesco De Martino(1963–1968), co-secretary during the Unified Socialist Party's years (1966–1968)
Francesco De Martino(1969–1970)
Francesco De Martino(1972–1976)
Ottaviano Del Turco(1993–1994)
* [http://www.cartacanta.it/manifesti/partito%20socialista%20italiano/index.html Archive of PSI posters]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.