30 April 2018
The History of Italy after World War II
In April 1945, at the end of the WWII, Italy recovered its freedom but the damages left
by the fight between fascist and anti-fascist political forces were deep. Resistance groups, mostly
Communists and Socialists were settling old scores with weekly killings and assassinations. The
political system had to be completely redesigned. Fascism was suppressed, and new parties
emerged. The leading ones were the Christian Democrats led by Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954),
the Socialists led by Pietro Nenni, the Social Democrats led by Giuseppe Saragat, and the
Communists led by Palmiro Togliatti (1893-1964).
In June 1945, an all-party government, which included the communists, was formed
headed by Christian Democrat Alcide De Gasperi. As a result of its military defeat, Italy was
stripped of its colonial possessions, which included Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya and the Dodecanese
Islands. Alcide De Gasperi became prime minister in 1945 and served until 1953. In 1946, King
Vittorio Emanuele III abdicated in favour of his son, Umberto II. On June 2, 1946, a referendum
was held to decide whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic. Twelve
million voted for the republic and ten for the monarchy. Women were granted the right to vote
for the first time and participated in the plebiscite. As a result, Italy became a republic, and King
Umberto II went into exile.
In the 1946 national elections the 556 members of Parliament became part of the
Constituent Assembly with 207 Christian Democrats, 115 Socialists, and 104 Communists. A
new constitution was written, setting up a parliamentary democracy. The 1929 Concordat with
the Vatican was continued, but Catholicism stopped being the official state religion.
The new Republic kept some economic institutions and they settled up the Institute for Industrial
Reconstruction and Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, which was the national oil company during the
fascist era. Enrico Mattei became its chairman and played a significant role in bringing back
Italian reconstruction on its rails and heading economic development.
In 1947, after a visit from Prime Minister De Gasperi in the USA, the left leaning parties
(Socialists and Communists) were expelled from the government because they seemed to
harbour insurrectionary designs. Economic chaos continued, with large-scale strikes in 1947.
On a historic election held on April 18, 1948, the Democratic Cristiana emerged as the
main political party with 48.8% of the vote. The Fronte Popolare did much poorly than expected
with only 31% of the vote. The Socialists received just 10% of the vote and were brought under
the domination of the PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano), much larger. This was the birth of the so-
called ‘Italian anomaly’ that lasted for decades. The 1948 elections ended the immediate postwar
era and set up the framework of government for the following 45 years which inclued a...