Italy: From Revolution to Republic, 1700 to the Present

By Spencer M. Di Scala | Go to book overview

21
A New Era?

In 1992 a drastic shakeup in Italy’s political and economic system, labeled the "bloodless revolution," began. It caught commentators completely by surprise, but if imperfect bipolarism had been the hallmark of republican politics, international communism’s collapse and the Cold War’s end was bound to produce extreme consequences. Faced with the choice of losing their liberty or tolerating a "blocked" political system that encouraged corruption, Italians had selected the latter; with the threat to their freedom gone, this dismal choice faded as well.


The "Bloodless Revolution"

Several key developments preceding general elections in 1992 signalled important changes in the Italian political equilibrium. The first put intense pressure on the PCI. In 1989 the revolution against Soviet power in Eastern Europe and the Red Chinese massacre in Tienanmen Square forced the PCI to distance itself further from Moscow than it had in the past. PCI secretary Achille Occhetto decided to change his party’s name and apply for admission into the Socialist International. Led by prestigious party founder Pietro Ingrao and former secretary Alessandro Natta, the hard-liners objected because, they argued, PCI tradition differed from those of the "People’s Republics." The long debate over these issues and grave internal opposition to Occhetto’s leadership—not only from hard-liners but also from Communist "reformists" (miglioristi)—presaged a split. With selection of a new name, the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), the hard-liners broke off and formed Rifondazione Comunista.

International communism’s fall caused a grave crisis for the Christian Democrats. Relying on their status as an anti-Communist bulwark, they had blocked progressive reforms advocated by their Socialist and smaller allies over the years. The odd contrast between a modern economy and inefficient public services, discussed in the previous chapter, and the brazen exploitation of state resources

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