- (1925– )A native of Naples, Giorgio Napolitano joined the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) in 1945 after a period of youthful antifascist activity. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 1953 and represented first the PCI, then the Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) in Parliament for most of the next 40 years. Napolitano remained in the PCI after the Soviet Union’s crushing of the 1956 revolution in Hungary, though he has written that the decision to stay within the communist movement was very difficult. He was, nevertheless, closely identified with the PCI’s social-democratic wing, the so-called miglioristi (reformers), and their leader, Giorgio Amendola. In the 1970s and early 1980s, he was the chief theoretician of the PCI’s move away from the Soviet bloc and its adoption of a foreign policy that defended international institutions and criticized Soviet expansionism. Napolitano believed, as he argued in a famous 1979 book, that the PCI was wallowing “in the middle of the ford” between communism and social democracy. In domestic policy he was a strong proponent of an electoral alliance with the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI). The PSI’s integration into the structure of political power in the 1980s, however, rendered this project impossible. Neither Bettino Craxi nor the majority of the PCI’s membership would have been willing to turn it into a political reality.Napolitano has held several of the highest positions in the Italian state. Between 1981 and 1986, he was the PCI’s floor leader in the Chamber of Deputies, and, between 1992 and 1994, he was president of the Chamber of Deputies. In May 1996, he became minister for the interior in the center-left government formed by Romano Prodi and in this role was instrumental in passing an important (and relatively liberal) immigration law. In 2005, president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi made him life senator. After the elections of April 2006, Napolitano succeeded Ciampi as president of the Republic, although he was elected with the votes of the center-left forces in Parliament only.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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