Partito Socialista Democratico Italiano

Italian Social Democratic Party (PSDI)
   The first step toward the creation of a social democratic party in Italy was taken in January 1947 when Giuseppe Saragat, motivated above all by his opposition to the power of the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI), led 52 of the 115 Partito Socialista Italiano d’Unita Proletaria/ Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP) deputies in the Constituent Assembly to form the Partito Socialista dei Lavoratori Italiani/Italian Socialist Workers’ Party (PSLI). In December 1947, this new formation entered the government, with Saragat becoming vice premier. In May 1948, the PSLI fought the elections in the company of the Unione Democratica Socialista/Democratic Socialist Union (UDS), a movement headed by the writer Ignazio Silone. The results were promising: In all, the new ticket received over two million votes (7 percent of the electorate). The PSLI’s internal politics were turbulent after the 1948 elections. Afurther schism in the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) led to the formation of a miniparty headed by the former interior minister, Giuseppe Romita, which quickly merged with the UDS and numerous defectors from the PSLI to form the Partito Socialista Unificato/Unified Socialist Party (PSU). The political line of the new party was more neutralist in foreign affairs and more critical of Saragat’s policy of cooperating with the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC). This fragmentation of Italian social democracy was unsustainable, however, and, in January 1952, a unifying congress took place in Bologna, where the PSDI was born. Romita was the first party secretary; the following year, he was replaced by Saragat. The PSDI’s electoral baptism came in 1953, when its vote fell to just 4.5 percent.
   The PSI’s shift away from the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) and toward the political center after 1962 raised the question of the reunification of Italian socialism. The PSI’s votes contributed to Giuseppe Saragat’s election as president of Italy in 1964, and, in 1966, the PSI and the PSDI merged into a new party known as the Partito Socialista Unificato/Unified Socialist Party (PSU). The experiment was not a success. The PSU obtained just 14.5 percent of the vote in the elections of 1968, 5 percent less than its two component parties had obtained in the previous electoral test in 1963. The PSU fell apart in July 1969, and, in 1970, the PSDI reformed under the leadership of Mario Tanassi. Lacking a mass electoral base (over the next 20 years the PSDI’s support would never be higher than 5 percent of the electorate), the PSDI became a satellite of the DC and adopted the corrupt and clientelistic policies that were the DC’s trademark. In 1976, party leader Tanassi was accused of having accepted bribes from the American aerospace company Lockheed while minister of defense under Mariano Rumor from 1971 to 1974. He was eventually found guilty and sentenced to two years’imprisonment. Most of Tanassi’s successors were little better. One of them, Pietro Longo, was found to be a member of the subversive masonic lodge Propaganda Due (P2) and was later arrested on corruption charges. The last two secretaries of the PSDI, Antonio Cariglia and Carlo Vizzini, were swept away by the corruption investigations of 1992–1993. The PSDI took part in every administration between August 1979 and July 1992, but it made no apparent contribution to improving Italy’s political and economic life.
   See also Opening to the Left.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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