Basso, Lelio


Basso, Lelio
(1903–1978)
   An uncompromising socialist, Lelio Basso was both one of the historic leaders of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and a stern critic of its policies in the 1960s. Born in the province of Savona (Liguria), Basso joined the PSI while a student and wrote for or edited several of the principal literary and ideological journals of the Italian left, including Piero Gobetti’s famous Rivoluzione liberale(Liberal Revolution). In 1928, he was arrested and confined on the isle of Ponza (Campania) for three years. Upon release, he was kept under strict surveillance, and in March 1940 he served six months’internment in a camp near Perugia.
   In January 1943, Basso, who had always been one of the most outspoken voices of the PSI’s “maximalist” wing, instituted a new party, the Movimento d’Unita Proletaria/Movement of Proletarian Unity (MUP). In August of the same year, the MUP merged with the by now almost moribund PSI, and the new party became the Partito Socialista Italiano d’Unita Proletaria/Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP). The party program contained many echoes of Basso’s belief that the Italian socialist movement should struggle for a socialist revolution, not parliamentary democracy. He was soon criticizing the timidity of the party leadership, and in November 1943 he gave up his membership.
   After returning to the fold in May 1944, Basso became the PSIUP’s chief organizer in northern Italy, successfully nurturing the party’s clandestine networks in the factories of Lombardy and Piedmont. In April 1945, he was one of the leaders of the Milanese insurrection against the Germans. His courageous clandestine work was rewarded in July 1945 when he became the vice secretary of the party.
   Basso was elected to the Constituent Assembly in June 1946 and took a prominent role in its work. In January 1947, he became party leader at the stormy Rome congress of the PSIUP, which saw the party’s moderates, led by Giuseppe Saragat, leave the party. During Basso’s tenure as leader, the newly renamed PSI identified itself closely with the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI)—even to the extent of condoning the February 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia, but the strategy proved an electoral disaster. Basso was replaced as party leader in July 1948 after the triumph at the polls of the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC).
   Basso never yielded in his revolutionary beliefs. He opposed any arrangement with the DC, and in 1963, when Aldo Moro formed the first DC-PSI administration, Basso was one of 24 PSI deputies who broke ranks to found a new Marxist party that defiantly took the name of the PSIUP. In the late 1960s, Basso participated in the Russell War Crimes Tribunal on American atrocities in Vietnam. He died in Rome in 1978.
   See also Nenni, Pietro.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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