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Christian Democrat Party (DC) Democrazia Cristiana

Christian Democratic Party (Democrazia Cristiana, DC) was founded in July 1943 from the remnants of various groups which had been outlawed in Fascist Italy, including the Italian Popular Party, the Florentine group Catholic Action, the Lombardian Guelf movement, and the Italian Federation of Catholic Students. Under its first leader, De Gasperi, it acquired a heterogeneous mass base and quickly developed into Italy's main conservative party and a central pillar of the Italian political order.

Among Italians, the very polarized climate of the late 1940s led Communists and Christian Democrats to accuse one another of being "totalitarian" and emphasize their own repugnance at the discredited Italian regime. DC leaders pointed to the PCI's links with Stalin and advanced arguments for the equivalency of fascism and Communism. For the ruling DC, on the other hand, damage control was crucial to rehabilitate Italy and gain a better bargaining position with the Allies. This mandated doing everything possible to prevent Italian war atrocities from coming to international attention, downplaying the past association of Italians and Germans, and diffusing a counter-narrative that emphasized the anti-fascist feelings of Italians.

In June, 1946, the Italian people participated in their first democratic election since Mussolini seized power 24 years earlier. By only a narrow margin they voted to abolish the monarchy. As in France, three popular parties won the bulk of the votes. They were the Communists, the Socialists, and the Christian Democrats, a Roman Catholic people's party which at first showed liberal tendencies. The Christian Democrats won the most seats and their leader, Alcide de Gasperi, formed a coalition cabinet which included Socialists and Communists. Sharp differences of policy between the Roman Catholic Christian Democrats and the Socialists and the Communists in de Gasperi's coalition government arose, of course, from the first.

The breakdown of Soviet-American relations in the spring of 1947, as in the case of France, split the Italian moderate and leftist coalition asunder. In May, 1947, two months after the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, de Gasperi, after much reshuffling, organized a cabinet in which for the first time there were no Socialists or Communists. The first parliamentary elections under the new republican constitution which were scheduled to be held in April, 1948, were viewed by the capitalistic world with apprehension. The rightist groups won a sweeping victory in the elections with de Gasperi's Christian Democrats alone gaining more than half the seats in the dominant lower chamber. Thus, by the summer of 1948 Italy appeared to be safely in the American camp in the SovietAmerican cold war and under the control of an American-supported rightist government.

The Christian Democrat Party (DC) had always played a leading role in Italian politics. From 1948 through 1992, it consistently led party coalitions in Italy. The DC suffered many divisions within its organization during this period. However, the party's staunch anti-communist theme held the organization together in spite of its internal problems. Another source of strength was the DC's close but unofficial ties with the church.

At the end of World War II, when the monarchy and the political institutions were discredited, the church was the one tradiditional and familiar feature of Italian life that could still command the respect of a large number of Italians. The DC gained credibility and greater legitimacy through its relationship with the church. The church in turn benefited by indirectly gaining a voice in government affairs. The clergy had been banned from membership in political parties, but the church's ties with the DC ensured them party influence and a voice in political matters.

Not since the 1948 election had there been a majority vote gained. It was then that the DC won an absolute majority of chamber seats as well as an absolute majority of elected seats in the Senate. The DC leadership, however, chose not to capitalize on the opportunity to form a one party government but instead opted for a coalition. It formed a center-right government comprised of four parties: The DC; PRI; PLI; and Saragat's right-wing socialist party, called the Socialist Party of Italian Workers (PSLI). This Center-Right rule lasted through 1953.

The result of the June 1953 elections was not what Washington had expected, as the DC and its allies did not obtain 50% of the votes plus one, the total needed to obtain the majority bonus allowed by the so-called 'legge truffa', the swindle law, which could have ensured them 65% of seats in Parliament. Thus, in comparison with the 1948 results, the DC was falling behind, while the PCI and the PSI slightly improved their positions.

During the 1950's and 1960's, two factions within the DC struggled for control. The left wing favored closer alignmekit with the parties of the left while the rightists stood adamantly opposed to the move. Through the late 1960's all factions agreed on hardline anti-communism, but the party's governing philosophy was about to change and an "opening to the left" would result.

Coalitions continually changed but the DC remained the central partner in government. As a result, it permeated the ministry system and allowed the continued influence of vested interests over successive administrations. This created a corrupt, distorted policy which further destabilized the system, caused dissent, and increased disillusionment among the country's populace. Spiraling problems within Italy's government and society culminated in the 1960's, erupting into violent social unrest. Wanton violence would first take hold with the students and then involve labor.

The 1962 saw the first government which relied on the support of the Socialist Party which has distanced itself from the Communists. Center-left governments based on coalitions between Christian Democrats and Socialists will rule the country until 1992. From 1962, government was dominated by a centrist coalition comprised of the DC, PLI, PRI and Social Democrats. The economic policies of this government were responsible for the economic recovery of Italy after the country's devastation by World War II and period of fascist rule.

The Clean-Hands scandals toppled the powerful Christian Democrat and Italian Socialist parties in the early 1990s. When Andreotti and other DC leaders were implicated in the country's corruption scandals (Tangentopoli) from 1992, the DC, exhausted from 45 years in government, collapsed. It was dissolved and a new party, the Partito Popolare Italiano (Italian People's Party), formed on 22 January 1994, gaining 33 seats in the 1994 parliamentary elections. A second successor party, the Centro Cristiano Democratico (Christian-Democratic Center), which was established on 23 January 1994, gained 32 seats as part of Berlusconi's right-wing bloc One obstacle to bipartisan democracy has been the survival of a Christian Democrat movement, split between right and left, whose members are reluctant to give up the dream of joining hands in the center.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:01:06 ZULU