Italy: From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present

By Spencer M. Di Scala | Go to book overview

18
The Structure of Postwar Italy

Facism And World War II left Italy a troubled legacy. Not only had the war been lost in an inglorious manner, but the country’s participation in the conflict had no moral or diplomatic justification. In addition, the Resistance confirmed the aspects of civil warfare initiated by the Fascist regime in 1922. The division of Italy into northern, German-controlled and southern, Allied- dominated regimes exacerbated existing confusion and increased animosity among Italians. Creation of an Italian army in the South to fight alongside the Allies, designed to refurbish Italy’s image, helped perpetuate the stereotype of Italian "treachery," and the Resistance, even though it did much to save Italian honor, hardly reversed hostile Western opinion. Indeed, the Communist-dominated Resistance caused the Allied victors considerable worry.

The Resistance, however, allowed anti-fascists to claim credit for overthrowing Mussolini and the mission of ruling Italy. But twin fears threatened the future—a Fascist resurgence or a Soviet-style dictatorship. Right and left evaluated these threats and their implications differently, and their contrasting judgments determined the country’s postwar destiny.


A Devastated Land—and the "Golden Age"

To contemporaries, Italy at war’s end presented a desolate picture. Combat deaths were fewer than in World War I, but the bombings and fierce fighting on Italian territory more than made up the difference among civilians, and a million and half deportees and prisoners of war were not finally repatriated until 1947. Of the 31 million rooms available to the population before the conflict, 6.7 million had been either destroyed or damaged. In the North, electricity functioned go percent of the time but in the South less than 45 percent, and in parts of the Center, where the worst fighting had occurred, 3 percent. Another crucial economic sector, transport, had been hardest hit, with the once-proud merchant marine reduced to a tenth of its prewar size, the railway system work

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