Partito Radicale

Radical Party (PR)
   The PR was founded in 1955 by a group of intellectuals drawn from among the disaffected within the Partito Liberale Italiano/Italian Liberal Party (PLI) who had grown impatient with the economic conservatism of Giovanni Malagodi. Originally hardly more than a club of intellectuals associated with the weekly newspaper Il Mondo, the PR nevertheless articulated a penetrating critique of the economic and political tendencies of Italian society. The PR’s principal figures, Mario Pannunzio and Ernesto Rossi, waged war against the dogmatism of both the Catholic Church and the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) and against the growing corruption and clientelism of the chief political parties, and argued that the Italian state was interfering too much in the workings of the free market. In 1962, a generational change in the leadership brought the PR under the control of Marco Pannella, who has been the dominant figure in the party ever since. Until the late 1970s, Pannella’s small band of activists was merely a Rome-based pressure group that agitated for social reforms, but the PR’s sponsorship of a referendumto liberalize the 1978 abortion law brought genuine electoral popularity, especially among the urban young. In the 1979 general elections, the PR could boast the votes of 3.5 percent of the electorate, up from just 1 percent in 1976, and as much as 7 percent in big cities such as Rome, Milan, and Turin. The PR also persuaded nearly four million Italians to vote for its amendment to the abortion law in May 1981— nearly 12 percent of the electorate. Since 1981, the PR has made the referendum its chief political weapon, sponsoring or cosponsoring plebiscites on nuclear power, the judiciary, hunting, and electoral reform, among other issues. In the 1980s, the PR developed into a campaigning movement that resembled Greenpeace or Amnesty International more than a traditional political party. The PR’s primary concerns became world hunger, environmentalquestions, the fight against the death penalty, and the decriminalization of drugs. PR members were allowed to join other parties, and the party essentially became a forum for Pannella. In 1992, the PR actually fought the election as the Lista Pannella, which symbolized the unhealthy extent of the PR’s enthrallment to its charismatic leader. Also in 1992, the PR staved off extinction by a recruitment drive that attracted 37,000 new subscriptions. This testified to the affection that the increasingly eccentric PR inspired, but this affection was put to the test by Pannella’s perverse decision to defend the politicians involved in the corruption investigations, and, in 1994, to side with Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition. Since the late 1990s, an aging Pannella has been superseded by Emma Bonino, who is currently minister for European Union affairs in the government of Romano Prodi and who was previously the European Union’s commissioner for fishing, human rights, and third world issues. The PR joined with the Partito Socialista Italiano/ Italian Socialist Party (PSI) to form a joint list called the “Rose in the Fist” during the 2006 general election campaign. The party’s main platform today is once again the need for economic deregulation, free trade, and privatization. In this regard, despite the extreme liberalism of the Radicals’stance on social policy, the PR in some ways is the nearest thing to a conservative party that Italy possesses.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

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