Christian Democracy (Italy, historical)

Christian Democracy (Italy, historical)

Infobox Political party
foundation = 1942
dissolution = 1993
party_name = Christian Democracy
party_name_italian = Democrazia Cristiana
party_status = Former Italian National Party
colorcode = blue
membership = 1,390,918 (1991) max: 2,109,670 (1990) min: 537,582 (1945) []
newspaper = "Il Popolo"
ideology = Centrism, Christian democracy
european affiliation = European People's Party
website = n/a

Christian Democracy ("Democrazia Cristiana", DC), the Christian democratic party of Italy, dominated government for nearly half a century until its demise amid a welter of corruption allegations in 1992-94.


Early years

The party was in part a revival of the Italian People's Party (Italian: "Partito Popolare Italiano") created in 1919 by the priest Don Luigi Sturzo but declared illegal by the Fascist regime in 1925 despite the presence of some members in Benito Mussolini's first government.

As Fascism's ruin approached in the latter years of World War II, the Christian Democrats started organising post-Fascist Italy in certain competition but also for a time in coalition with the parties of the center and left. Breaking decisively with its former Communist coalition partners in May 1947, the party went on to win its greatest election victory in April 1948 with the support of the Church and the United States.

Forty-four years in power

From 1948 until the 1992, DC was the largest party in parliament, governing in successive coalitions with the smaller Liberal, Republican and Social Democratic parties and, after the 1963, with the Socialist party. Basing its electoral majority largely on the Catholic countryside, the party moved over time from its reformist origins to a more conservative role. A short-lived DC government led by Fernando Tambroni (1960), relying on parliamentary support from the Italian Social Movement, Fascism's ideological heir, was disowned by the party following widespread opposition. Later in the sixties, the increased political influence of the left-wing factions, led by Amintore Fanfani, moved the party to a center-left strategy based on the coalition with the Socialist Party.


Party life came to be characterised according to adherence to respective "correnti" or factions, each identified with individual leaders. Among the leaders who built DC, notable names include those of Alcide De Gasperi, Giuseppe Dossetti, Antonio Segni, Amintore Fanfani, Giulio Andreotti, Aldo Moro and Francesco Cossiga. Many DC members were attacked in the 1970s, and in some cases murdered, by terrorists.

Aldo Moro's murder

The abduction and murder of Aldo Moro in 1978 removed one of the party's most highly regarded leaders. Aldo Moro was the leader that was trying to replicate the inclusion of the socialist party with the communist one, a highly contested manoeuvre in conservative circles. This policy became known as "parallel convergences", or the historic compromise. However, this policy was no longer considered after Moro's murder.Many conspiracy theories flourished about Moro's murder, and an account satisfactory for all parties involved may never be found. The main issues were:
*When Moro was abducted, the government immediately took a hardline position: the "State must not bend" on terrorist requests. This was a very different position from the one kept in the kidnapping of Ciro Cirillo, a minor political figure for which the government negotiated with terrorists. It has been suggested that some politicians, especially Giulio Andreotti, took the chance of getting rid of a political competitor by letting the terrorists execute him.
*It has been claimed that the hideout of the Red Brigades in Rome where Moro was kept prisoner contained material received from Italian and/or NATO secret services. Also, more than one member of the BR commando would have been an undercover agent of some government agency, but these claims are inherently difficult to substantiate.
*Moro wrote a series of letters [ [ Aldo Moro's letters] from the "People's prison" it icon.] during his time as a captive, at times very critical of Andreotti. These letters were kept secret for decades, and published only in the early nineties.

After the recovery of Moro's body in a road midway between the headquarters of the Christian Democracy and the Communist party in Rome (with a clear symbolism), the Minister of the Interior Francesco Cossiga resigned, gaining trust from the Communist party, which would later make him the first President of the Republic to be elected at the first ballot.

Corruption and relations to the Mafia

Having ruled the nation for over 40 years with no alternative other than the Communist party, DC members had ample opportunity to abuse their power, and undoubtedly some did.

In the 1960s scandals involved frauds such as huge illegal profits in the administration of banana import quotas, preferential allocation of purposely misprinted (and, therefore, rare) postage stamps ; president of Italy Giovanni Leone himself was forced to resign after a scandal involving Lockheed aeroplanes.

The scandal regarding the secret society P2 forced the premier Arnaldo Forlani to resign, because he had delayed the publication of an alleged member list (among which many high-ranking bureaucrats, enterpreneurs, army generals and also Silvio Berlusconi).

Minister of Public Health Carlo Donat-Cattin was helped by the minister of Internal Affairs, Francesco Cossiga, to let his son Marco escape from the police while wanted as a terrorist of Prima Linea.

In 1992 an investigation was started in Milan, dubbed Mani Pulite. It uncovered corruption practices at the highest levels, causing many spectacular (and sometimes controversial) arrests and resignations. After two years of mounting scandal and divisions, the party disbanded in 1994. Party treasurer Severino Citaristi became the recordman of investigations, with an impressive 72 investigations on him.

Being the party's stronghold in the Italian south, it was likely that the Mafia and dishonest politicians may try to collaborate. Of all government parties, DC was the most associated with Mafia in the popular opinion. Leaders as Antonio Gava, Vito Ciancimino, Salvo Lima and especially Giulio Andreotti were perceived by many to belong to a gray zone between simple corruption and mafia business.

In the 80s, the "Pentapartito" ("five-party coalition") made up of Christian Democracy, Italian Socialist Party, Italian Socialist Democratic Party, Italian Republican Party and Italian Liberal Party was started as a government alliance. Its main aim was to keep the Italian Communist Party away from power. However, after a disappointing result in the elections of 1983 (just 34.8%), the DC was forced to cede the premiership to the powerful Secretary of the Italian Socialist Party, Bettino Craxi. Craxi stayed in office for 4 years, leading a Government where the Socialists were junior partners, with DC representatives as ministers of internal and foreign affairs. Craxi and his PSI aimed at replacing the Communists as main reformist left-wing party, but never polled more than 14% in national elections, while the PCI managed to rise to 36%. While Italy experienced continuous economic progress in these years, Italian economy was being undermined by constant devaluation of the Italian Lira (2000 lire for a u.s. dollar in 1988) and emission of excessive amounts of high-interest treasury bonds, the excessive budgetary deficit (between 1982 and 1992 Italy did build half of the deficit still plaguing her 15 years later) caused exchange rate instability and political confusion,

In the nineties, some of the politicians prosecuted during the "Mani Pulite" investigations were acquitted, sometimes however on the basis of legal formalities, or on the basis of statutory time limit rules.

After 1994

In January 1994 the last DC secretary Mino Martinazzoli decided to change the name of the party, which had suffered many defeats in 1993 local elections, into Italian People's Party.

Pierferdinando Casini and Clemente Mastella, representing the centre-right faction of the party (previously led by Arnaldo Forlani) decided to launch a new party called Christian Democratic Centre and to make an alliance with the new party of Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia. A leftish faction founded the Social Christians, which decided to enter in coalition with the Democratic Party of the Left.

In any case many Christian Democrats decided to join directly Forza Italia, and in the years to come Forza Italia would have become the party with more ex-members of DC in absolute terms.


The party's ideological sources are principally to be found in democratic and social Catholic doctrines of the 19th century (see Christian democracy), developed in France by Buchez, Lamennais and Le Play, and in Italy by Giuseppe Toniolo and Romolo Murri; in addition, the movement gained limited elements from liberal and social-democratic influences.

Of particular influence were the two Papal encyclicals, "Rerum novarum" (1891) of Pope Leo XIII, and "Quadragesimo anno" (1931) of Pope Pius XI, which were offered a basis for social and political doctrine; in economy, DC opposed the concept of cooperation to competition, and rejected Marxism's idea of conflict among social classes.

The so-called "leftist wing" of DC, originating with Dossetti, Giorgio La Pira, and Lazzati (represented by the magazine "Cronache Sociali"), advocated dialogue with leftist parties and gave birth to the concept of center-left, proposing governments with minority socialist participation.



*cite book|first=authorlink=Nico Perrone|first=Nico|last=Perrone|title=Il segno della DC|location=Bari|publisher=Dedalo|year=2002
*cite book|first=Luciano |last=Radi|title=La Dc da De Gasperi a Fanfani|publisher=Rubbettino|year=2005


External links

* [ Archive of DC posters]
* [ Archive of DC posters, part 2]

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