Italian general election, 1948

Italian general election, 1948

The Italian elections of 1948 were the second democratic elections with universal suffrage ever held in Italy, after the 1946 elections to the "Assemblea Costituente", responsible for drawing up and adopting the Italian Constitution. They were held on 1948-04-18.

They were won by the conservative Christian Democracy, defeating the left-wing Popular Democratic Front (FDP).

Violent campaign

The elections remain unmatched in verbal aggression and fanaticism in Italy's history, on both sides. The Christian Democrat propaganda became famous in claiming that in Communist countries "children sent parents to jail", "children were owned by the state", "people ate their own children", and claiming disaster would strike Italy if the left were to take power. [ [,9171,779791,00.html Show of Force] , Time, April 12, 1948] [ [,9171,798374,00.html How to Hang On] , Time, April 19, 1948] The PCI Italian Communist Party, was de facto leading the FDP, and had effectively marginalised the PSI Italian Socialist Party, which eventually became the actual casualty of these elections, in terms of Parliamentary seats and political power.

The PCI had difficulties in restraining its more militant members, who in previous years had unleashed a killing spree against perceived "class enemies" (priests, landlords, etc.)Fact|date=April 2008. 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 vicious episodes of brutality on part of the Fascists during the Mussolini regime and the 1943-1945 civil war, raging as the Allies slowly conquered Italy. The legacy not only of Fascism, but of past social structures in general, was deeply resented, especially by the poorer people. These killings too, though eventually stopped on strict orders from the Communist Party itself, had some role in the heated political debate.

uperpower influence

The 1948 general election was heavily influenced by the United States as part of their ongoing effort to fight communism. In order to influence the election, the US agencies undertook a campaign of writing ten million letters, made numerous short-wave radio broadcasts of propaganda and funded the publishing of books and articles, all of which warned the Italians of what the US felt would be the consequences of a communist victory. The CIA also funded the centre-right political parties and was accused of publishing forged letters in order to discredit the leaders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI).cite news
url =
title = CNN Cold War Episode 3: Marshall Plan. Interview with F. Mark Wyatt, former CIA operative in Italy during the election.
publisher =
date = 1998-1999
accessdate = 2006-07-17
] The National Security Act of 1947, that made foreign covert operations possible, was just signed into law an half year earlier by the American President Harry S. Truman.

The former PCd'I ("Communist Party of Italy"), from which PCI emerged in 1943, received funds by the Soviet Union, as member of the Comintern. A CIA operative stated:

:"The Communist Party of Italy was black bags of money directly out of the Soviet compound in Rome; and the Italian services were aware of this. As the elections approached, the amounts grew, and the estimates [are] that $8 million to $10 million a month actually went into the coffers of communism. Not necessarily completely to the party: Mr. Di Vittorio and labor was powerful, and certainly a lot went to him."

Perhaps because of this campaign, the Christian Democrats won the 1948 election with 48 percent of the vote, while the FDP only received 31 percent. A leftist coalition would not win a general election for the next 48 years, till 1996. This was due to the Italians' traditional bend for conservatism, on one side, but even more importantly to the Cold War, with the US closely eyeing Italy, and often heavily meddling in its politics, not always by licit means "(See: strategy of tension)", after their desire to maintain a vital NATO presence amidst the Mediterranean. cite news
url =
title = N.A.T.O. Gladio, and the strategy of tension
publisher = Three Monkeys Online
date = October 2005
accessdate = 2006-07-21


Chamber of Deputies


ee also

*Elections in Italy


Further reading

*cite book | author= Blum, William | title= Killing Hope| publisher= Common Courage Press| year= 2000| id=ISBN 1-56751-053-1 Chapter 2 Italy 1947-1948: Free elections: Hollywood style []
*cite book | author= Blum, William | title= Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower| publisher= Common Courage Press| year= 2000| id=ISBN 1-56751-194-5 Chapter 16 Perverting elections

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