Democrazia Cristiana

Christian Democracy Party (DC)
   The DC was founded in September 1942. After the armistice on 8 September 1943, the DC took part in the governments that were formed in Allied-occupied Italy. Only in the summer of 1944, however, when the Church threw its unambiguous backing behind the new movement, did the party emerge as a force of genuine weight. After the war, the leader of the DC, Alcide De Gasperi, became first foreign minister and then, from November 1945, prime minister. No party other than the DC would hold the premiership again until 1981, a cycle of institutional dominance unmatched by any other party anywhere else in democratic Europe. The DC’s emergence at the core of the Italian political system was founded on the broad appeal of its policies. In the immediate postwar period the party defended the rules governing relations between church and state established by the Lateran pacts, evinced a strong commitment to European integration, was forcefully anticommunist, and proposed the wider diffusion of private property through land reform and measures to strengthen small owners of all kinds. These policies made the DC the natural party of the peasants, shopkeepers, small businessmen, clerical workers, and self-employed artisans, who constituted a huge proportion of the electorate, but who were less well organized than the manual workers or the big industrialists. The votes cast by these middle-class electors established the DC as the largest party in the country in Italy’s first free elections in 1946. De Gasperi’s resolute handling of the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) gave the DC a positive aura in American eyes. American support for the DC (in the form of campaigns asking Italo-Americans to write to family and friends in Italy encouraging votes for the DC) was instrumental in the party’s massive victory in the 1948 elections (48 percent of the vote and an absolute majority of seats), which laid the foundations for the party’s subsequent political hegemony. De Gasperi dominated the party until shortly before his death in 1954. Once the De Gasperi era was over, the party’s internal ideological divisions (the party encompassed all creeds from Christian socialists to extreme conservatives) burst out as De Gasperi’s most dynamic successor, Amintore Fanfani, tried to shift the party to the left. By the end of the 1950s, the party was broadly divided into three main factional blocs, representing the party’s left, center, and right, each of which was further subdivided into a vast array of subfactions and individual cabals. Over the next 30 years, although these blocs regularly changed their names and individuals habitually decamped from one faction to another, the basic structure remained approximately the same, and so did the form of politics that these internal divisions entailed. No one faction rode roughshod over the others; every faction (and subfaction, and cabal) was consulted on policy questions, questions of ministerial nominees, and state appointments, and got its share of all available patronage. The center group became the majority in 1958 and remained the party’s center of gravity thereafter. In these circumstances, the party leader had to be above all a weaver of compromises. The DC was fortunate that for much of this period its dominant figure was Aldo Moro, an artful master of coalition politics.
   By the early 1970s, the DC had almost two million members and could count upon a solid 40 percent plurality of the electorate. But this state of affairs was less healthy than it looked. Increasingly out of touch with public opinion, the DC attempted to overturn the 1970 divorcelaw by referendumin 1974 and was humiliatingly defeated. The DC seemingly had no answer to the industrial and social strife that paralyzed Italy from 1968 onward. Worst of all, its long hold on power had had predictable effects on public ethics: Major corruption scandals marred the two governments of Mariano Rumor in 1973–1974 and would continue to dog the DC until the collapse of the political system in 1993.
   In the 1976 elections, the DC just managed to keep ahead of the PCI (39 percent to 34.5 percent) but could not muster a parliamentary majority. The solution was a government of national solidarity between the DC and the PCI in which the latter took no part but agreed not to vote against policies on which the PCI was consulted. This relationship lasted until the PCI leadership felt themselves excluded while, at the same time, facing the disenchantment of many in the rank and file.
   In the 1980s, electoral arithmetic forced the DC to relinquish some of its hold on power. In 1981, Giovanni Spadolini became the first non-DC premier. In a bid to recapture its central role, the DC elected Ciriaco De Mita party secretary in May 1982. De Mita promised to end patronage politics and attempted to put fresh life into the DC’s by-now moribund stock of ideas, but the results were disastrous. The party received its lowest ever vote in the June 1983 elections (just under 33 percent) and was forced to allow the PSI’s Bettino Craxi to assume the premiership. Craxi’s ruthless exploitation of his party’s position as the fulcrum of Italian politics eventually produced a tacit power-sharing agreement between the DC’s leading powerbrokers and Craxi.
   The last two governments headed by a member of the DC, Giulio Andreotti’s sixth and seventh administrations (July 1989 to June 1992), illustrated in full the malaise of the DC. The party, once a movement of idealistic Catholic democrats, had become a conspiracy to defraud the state. Corruption was rampant at all levels of government, and in southern Italy links between important DC politicians and organized crime were commonplace. Such a party was incapable of resisting the challenges presented by the PCI’s renunciation of communist doctrine, new political movements such as the Lega Nord, and public demands for political and electoral reform. In the April 1992 general elections, the DC’s share of the vote fell below 30 percent, and the party entered into a crisis that proved to be terminal.
   The subsequent Mani pulite and mafia investigations, which revealed the full, astounding extent of political wrongdoing, were the party’s death knell. In January 1994, the party was officially wound up and replaced by a new formation with an old name, the Partito Popolare Italiano.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Democrazia Cristiana — Die Democrazia Cristiana (DC) (ital. für Christliche Demokratie) war die wichtigste politische Partei Italiens zwischen 1945 und 1993 und stellte fast alle Ministerpräsidenten in diesem Zeitraum. Sie verstand sich als gemäßigte katholische… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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