Democratic Party of the Left
(PDS - Partito Democratico della Sinistra)
For a variety of reasons, the conflicts that divided political parties in the older democracies of Western Europe attenuated substantially since the end of the Cold War. There has been a reduction in levels of ideological polarisation, with 'anti-system' parties - parties that challenge the fundamental principles of democratic regimes are founded, and espouse an entirely alternative political settlement - have either moderated their demands and moved into the mainstream, or have experienced significant reductions in their electoral support. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, for example, Communist parties either gave up the ghost or transformed themselves into more widely acceptable social-democratic alternatives, and those that have chosen the latter route have also enjoyed access to government office.
Politicians, in their droves, were victims of the "clean hands" campaign that started in 1992 and led to some 2,000 prominent figures being prosecuted for corruption. But when a senator from the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), the reformed communist party that has been virtually untainted by the campaign, makes the same sort of charge - that magistrates have "a hegemonic plan" to grab power and influence.
Democratic Party of the Left (PDS - Partito Democratico della Sinistra) was founded in January 1991 as the successor to the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Moving in a democratic-socialist direction, the first leader was Achille Occhetto, the last secretary of the PCI. In the 1994 general election Occhetto led the Alliance of Progressives but he lost to Silvio Berlusconi. After the election, Massimo D'Alema was elected new party secretary. In the 1996 general election, after the collapse of Berlusconi's coalition, the PDS was part of the winning coalition, The Olive Tree, led by Romano Prodi. In the Prodi I Cabinet, a leading member of the PDS, Giorgio Napolitano, became Minister of the Interior.
The ex-Communists and then Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, the first former communist head of government, had to demonstrate to the US and in a lesser way to the other Europeans, that they were efficient, trustworthy allies who could be relied on in a crisis. Certainly D'Alema saw it in this light and he did his utmost to behave loyally towards the US.
In this transformation, however, the PDS lost support from hard line Marxists who had supported the PCI. Hardliners left the party and launched the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC). The split between the left wing of the former PCI and the mainstream of the PDS was testimony to the persistence of anti-American feelings and Italian fears of U.S. hegemony in European affairs. The establishment of the Refounded Communist Party (RC- Rifondazione Comunista) in 1991 showed that many Italians opposed the hegemonic posture of the United States, even in the absence of another established alternative. They did not move to the political center with the creation of the PDS because of their ideology, and therefore excluded themselves by choice from voicing their opinion about Italy's future.
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