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MASS PAR1ILS AND 1HL DLMOCRA1IC S1A1L
´ivove `eri ´erveri
1. íabovr ava `atiov iv !taíy. Previ.e..
Italian scholars ha·e rarely debated 'nation-building' as a proper issue.
Ne·ertheless, Italian historiography has always explored this national is-
sue, since it was identiíied with the unitarian monarchical state built in
1860. One could recall Gioacchino Volpe and his ·ision oí 'Italia in cam-
mino', meaning the gradual integration oí masses in the originally oli-
garchic national state, carried out by the monarchy and, o·erall, by the
íascist regime. Or, we could consider Gramsci's reílections about the 'pas-
si·e re·olution,' íocusing on marginalization oí popular classes, labourers
and peasants during the period oí national uniíication between 1859 and
1860 and, moreo·er, in the political and institutional liíe oí the liberal state.
By the íirst postwar period, many Italian intellectuals broadly agreed with
such a ·ision. In íact, many non-marxist intellectuals, such as leít-wing li-
berals and radicals, also considered the Italian national state to be strictly
conser·ati·e and oligarchic, in spite oí its parliamentary institutions.
lor quite some time, labour historians ha·e debated the extent to which
the Italian labour mo·ement was a descendant or heir oí the leít wing ri-
sorgimental democrats. More recently, the nexus between the labour mo-
Relazione presentata al 28º seminario dell'Internationale 1agung der Historikerin-
nen und Historikeren der Arbeiterbewegung ,Linz, 14-1¯ settembre 1993,, nell'ambito
del dibattito su "Labour and 'Nation-building' - the contribution oí Labour to the 'natio-
nalization oí the masses'", uno degli argomenti in cui era articolato il tema generale del
seminario, dedicato a "Labour mo·ement and national identity".
Some recent and interesting exceptions are Raííaele Romanelli, !í covavao iv¡o.·
.ibiíe. ´tato e .ocieta veíí´!taíia íiberaíe ,Bologna, 1988,, Sil·io Lanaro, L'Italia nuo·a. Identita
e s·iluppo 1961-1988 ,1orino, 1988,, and Bruno 1obia, |va ¡atria ¡er gíi itaíiavi. ´¡a¸i,
itiverari, vovvvevti veíí´!taíia vvita ;1º¯o·1·oo) ,Bari, 1991,.
Gioacchino Volpe, í´!taíia iv cavvivo. í´vítivo civqvavtevvio ,Milano, 192¯,, Adolío
Omodeo, í´eta aeí ri.orgivevto ,Messina, 1931, 2. enl. ed.,, Piero Gobetti, Ri.orgivevto .ev¸a
eroi e aítri .critti .torici, ed. lranco Venturi ,1orino, 19¯6, 1ed.: 1926,, Antonio Gramsci, !í
Ri.orgivevto ,1orino, 1949, and Pri.ov `otebooí. ,New \ork, 1991-,.
·ement and the nation has been debated in connection with popular
attitudes during the lirst \orld \ar.
I could gi·e many other examples. But, beíore I mo·e on to a more
systematic re·iew oí the theme, a preliminary warning is in order. It con-
cerns the íact that in Italy, unlike in Germany, Great Britain and lrance,
'nation-building' is hardly to be considered a cumulati·e process, whose
quantitati·e and qualitati·e le·els can be easily identiíied. In the scholarly
world, nation-building is considered a process on the way to mo-
Indeed, I preíer a looser meaning and here I am going to de-
íine nation-building as the coalescence oí diííerent social groups or classes
in a unitarian community and under some unitarian cultural and political
unity, whose institutional and political system grew out oí state-building.
Because oí that, we must consider how many diííerent and opposing po-
litical and social groups succeeded in creating a national identity and a sta-
te. 1his was a ·ictory achie·ed only aíter much struggle and the outcome
was not guaranteed.
I intend to íocus on the two postwar periods, when the interaction
between political mobilization and eííorts to set up a national community
and a unitarian state was more intense and intelligible. My purpose, there-
íore, is to consider the role oí the organized labour mo·ement and its par-
ties in constituting a national identity and a democratic state, against the
background oí Italy's social conditions.
Since I deal with the contribution oí Labour to the 'nationalization oí
the mass', I would like to speciíy only that internal regional diííerences did
not ser·e as decisi·e íactors in de·eloping a national identity: until the
1950s Italy was a 'labour exporting' country and there wasn't any massi·e
internal migration or strong competition among workers írom diííerent
areas, thereíore ethnic- or regional-based conílicts were scarcely rele·ant
at home and the national issue was much more conditioned by sharp social
Renato Monteleone, íettere aí re. 1·11·1·1º ,Roma, 19¯3,, Roberto Vi·arelli, !í faí·
íivevto aeí íiberaíi.vo. ´tvai .vííe origivi aeí fa.ci.vo ,Bologna, 1981, and ´toria aeííe origivi aeí
fa.ci.vo. í´!taíia aaíía gravae gverra aíía varcia .v Rova, 2 ·s. ,Bologna, 1991,, ´tato e cía..e
o¡eraia iv !taíia avravte ía ¡riva gverra vovaiaíe, ed. Gio·anna Procacci ,Milano, 1983,, ía
gravae gverra: e.¡eriev¸a, vevoria, ivvagivi, eds. Diego Leoni, Camillo Zadra ,Bologna,
Reinhard Bendix, `atiov·bviíaivg ava Citiv¸ev.bi¡. ´tvaie. of ovr Cbavgivg ´ociaí Oraer
,New \ork-London-Sidney, 1964,. Howe·er, I agree with Bendix's statement ,Chap. 1,
that nation-building results in the legitimation oí a nation-wide political order.
and,or geographical clea·ages. As a matter oí íact, 'nation-building' íigu-
red in the historical problem oí legitimation both oí the state go·ernment
and oí the political system which was caused more by social and local stra-
tiíications and opposing interests rather than by ethnic or national mino-
According to Lrnest Gellner,
nationalism aííirms that political and na-
tional unity should be congruent, or that each nation should be a proper
state and ·ice ·ersa. Howe·er, such a narrow, yet general, deíinition redu-
ces nationalism to the right-wing nationalist mo·ements. \hat concerns
us is that, historically, 'nation' and 'state' had social and political meanings
and that, because oí these meanings, se·eral conílicts and disputes arose
in which labour mo·ements were deeply in·ol·ed.
In Italy, the monarchy achie·ed national unity beíore any organized la-
bour mo·ement had arisen. lor this reason, it was not necessary íor the
Italian labour mo·ement to select a priority between the national question
or the social and political questions. In íact, the national and social que-
stions were strikingly close to each other, since the monarchist legitimacy
oí the preíascist state led to a mutual separation between the state and the
labour mo·ement, which was considered 'antisystemic', a potential threath
to the .tatv. qvo.
Despite that, compared to the German mo·ement, Ita-
lian labour appeared relati·ely more integrated, by participating in local
go·ernments and by organizing diííerent kinds oí mutual associations. Be-
cause the Italian ruling classes were unable acti·ely to integrate the lower
classes, the labour mo·ement can be considered both relati·ely integrated
- mostly on a local le·el - and 'antisystemic'. In reality, it was a scanty inte-
gration, which was exposed during the lirst \orld \ar when Italian so-
cialists chose 'neither to support nor to sabotage.' As the post-war era
demonstrated, this attempt to ignore the 'bourgeois state' was shortli·ed.
1he attitude toward the war coníirms also, that it would be incorrect to
speak oí 'negati·e integration,' with reíerence to Italian labour
. In íact,
that polemical deíinition was rarely used. \e must also remember that in
the decade beíore the war many leít-wing syndicalists ,'re·olutionary syn-
Lrnest Gellner, `atiov. ava vatiovaíi.v ,Ithaca-London, 1983,, p. 1.
Paolo Pombeni, !vtroav¸iove aíía .toria aei ¡artiti ¡oíitici ,Bologna, 1985,.
lor a critic oí the idea oí 'negati·e integration', reíerred to the German labor
mo·ement, see Vernon L. Lidtke, 1be .ítervatire Cvítvre. ´ociaíi.t íabor iv !v¡eriaí Cervavy
,Oxíord, 1985,, pp. 3-20.
dicalists' and 'anarcho-syndicalists', had separated írom the main labour
mo·ement and had shiíted toward right-wing nationalism. By then, major
disputes had occurred just o·er the nexus between national and class inte-
rest and thereíore o·er the attitude about the 'Lybian war' and, íew years
later, the lirst \orld \ar: in 1914 the change oí Mussolini's attitude to the
war - írom sabotage to inter·ention - was at the íoreíront oí this shiít, sin-
ce Mussolini was chieí editor oí .ravti!, the oííicial party newspaper. Some
years later, most oí these syndicalists would organize the íascist unions.
Since then, italian trade unions ha·e careíully distinguished between their
national role - trying to uniíy the highly diííerentiated requests oí the
working-people - and the identiíication with the 'nation' or the nationalist
appeal, distincti·e oí the corporati·e ideology oí íascism.
As a starting point, we can reconsider Hobsbawm's considerations
about class consciousness and national identity: only in a right-wing pers-
pecti·e are 'nation' and 'class' readily separable, because when we accept -
as we do - that class consciousness had a ci·ic-national dimension and that
ethnic or ci·ic-national consciousness had social dimensions, we can un-
derstand how class and national identity could interact. 1hereíore, we can
agree with Hobsbawm's remark that radicalization oí the working classes
in post-war Lurope reiníorced their potential national consciousness and
that, in the íollowing years, antiíascist nationalism arose in the context oí
an international ideological ci·il war.
On the contrary, Gellner's thesis, which proposes that nationalism built
nations by using and homogenising pre-existing materials, has to be
In íact, national identity and unity were more likely to de·elop
out oí interactions oí opposing social groups and homogenization seems
to ha·e been an eííect oí the spreading oí an industrial economy more
than oí any political authority's eííort. lrom this point oí ·iew, analysing
the contribution oí the labour mo·ement to the building oí national unity
Alceo Riosa, !í .ivaacaíi.vo riroív¸iovario iv !taíia e ía íotta ¡oíitica aeí Partito .ociaíi.ta
veíí´eta gioíittiava ,Bari, 19¯6,, lrancesco Períetti, Daí .ivaacaíi.vo rirov¸iovario aí cor¡orati·
ri.vo ,Roma, 1985,, Zee· Sternhell, `ai..avce ae í´iaeoíogie fa.ci.te ,Paris, 1989,.
Lric J. Hobsbawm, `atiov. ava vatiovaíi.v .ivce 1º¯o. Progravve, vytb, reaíity
,Oxíord, 1991,, pp. 145-14¯.
Gellner, `atiov., pp. 55-56.
2. 1he postwar crisis
By the end oí \orld \ar One, the Italian socialist mo·ement was re-
lati·ely consolidated, ha·ing been rooted deeply in central and northern
regions íor nearly thirty years. Its social base was among industrial
workers, urban craítsmen and lower middle classes, but the stronghold oí
its support was in the countryside. Here, among day and seasonal labou-
and sharecroppers oí the Po Valley and oí the central re-
gions, the labour mo·ement had its more traditional and, aíter the war,
large new constituency. Howe·er, its presence in southern regions was we-
aker, e·en ií the party and the unions were strong enough in Sicily, Apulia
and near Naples. In íact, the labour mo·ement was relati·ely well organi-
zed in the major industrial northern towns and, without question, the la-
bour organization, its unions, cooperati·es and other mutual associations
composed a large and articulate social network in many ·illages and small
and middle agrarian towns, so that they had already gained a strong in-
íluence on a local and regional scale. Such an organization was preeminen-
tly deíensi·e, e·en ií it was not strictly class-based, because oí the large
internal diííerentiation among the working class. Reliable as an instrument
oí social selí-organization, it was still politically íeeble, unable to eííect po-
siti·ely national politics.
Ne·ertheless, due to its organization and politi-
cal culture, the Italian socialist party ,PSI, can be considered a modern
Generally, there is no doubt that the PSI and the labour mo·ement as a
whole were deeply in·ol·ed - as important promoters - in building a na-
tion-wide political system. Besides their engagement in many local go·er-
nments ,oíten allied with radicals and leít democrats, especially in
In Italy, there was a huge number oí small land-owners, who could hardly substain
their íamilies working their land by themsel·es, so that, oíten, they or their relati·es also
worked as day or seasonal wage-workers. 1he socialist mo·ement tried to organised
these particular 'land-labourers', oíten in competition with the catholic organizations.
Maurizio Degl'Innocenti, Ceografia e i.titv¸iovi aeí .ociaíi.vo itaíiavo ,Napoli, 1983,
and idem, Cittaaivi e rvraíi veíí´íviíia Rovagva fra ´ºoo e ´·oo ,Milano, 1990, . lor a useíul
sur·ey, see John A. Da·ies, ´ociaíi.v ava 1be !oríivg Cía..e. iv !taíy ßefore 1·11, in íabovr
ava ´ociaíi.t Morevevt. iv ívro¡e ßefore 1·11, ed. Dick Geary ,Oxíord, 1989,, James L.
Miller, lrom Llite to Mass Politics. Italian Socialism in the Giolittian Lra, 1900-1914
Maurizio Ridolíi, !í P.i e ía va.cita aeí ¡artito ai va..a, 1º·2·1·22 ,Bari, 1992,.
important cities like Milan, Rome and Bologna,,
the PSI partecipated in
national elections and recei·ed a growing electoral support, which had
been enhanced by the electoral law oí 1912 which allowed íor near uni·er-
sal male suíírage. 1he parliamentary system, howe·er, encountered
growing diííiculties beíore and, moreo·er, aíter the war, because oí the
weakness oí the centre-leít area, which should ha·e íilled the gap between
the traditional conser·ati·e notables and the PSI, the only 'mass party' un-
til 1919, when the recently íounded catholic Partito ¡o¡oíare gained a large
íollowing ,though less than the socialists,.
Prior to the war, the parliamentary system's weakness had already poin-
ted to an increasing splitting oí national community, to be di·ided among
those who ía·ored inter·entionist and neutralist positions toward the war.
1he socialists also maintained a neutralist position, in part in order to a·oid
dangerous internal clea·ages. It ought to be noted that during the war ye-
ars, local socialist go·ernments did not support the military eííort and re-
íused any patriotic engagement or vviov .acree, but did demonstrate their
eííecti·e national in·ol·ement by largely pro·iding íor common people's
By this way italian socialists, especially the reíormists, tried
to emphasized the diííerences between the true needs oí the country - whi-
ch they cared íor - and the war.
As a matter oí íact, national political identity and institutions were chal-
lenged sharply immediately aíter the war. A widespread mobilization in-
·ol·ed both íormer military íigures ,lower middle class oííicials and
pri·ate soldiers, who were mostly peasants in ci·il liíe, and members oí the
labouring industrial and rural classes.
In an early stage, diííerent social
groups mobilized simultaneously and potentially con·erged on pro-
gressi·e tasks. 1he labour mo·ement could and in part did ser·e as the
central organizing unit íor these groups.
One main stream oí the mobilization was in the íactories. Historians
ha·e íocused on this pattern, as it was the core oí the Italian communist
mo·ement and oí Gramsci's reílections. In íact, it is interesting, because it
allows a more general consideration oí the state and broader perspecti·es
oí the reíormist-led main industrial union and oí the general unions con-
íe .ivi.tre e ií gorervo íocaíe iv ívro¡a: aaíía five aeíí´ºoo aíía .ecovaa gverra vovaiaíe, ed.
M. Degl'Innocenti ,Pisa 1984,.
lor a major example see Maurizio Punzo, ía givvta Caíaara: í´avvivi.tra¸iove covv·
vaíe ai Miíavo vegíi avvi 1·11·1·2o ,Milano-Roma, 1986,.
Industrial workers' mobilization was a large-scale re-
sult oí huge increases in industrial production during the war and raised
the question oí the working classes' social and political power and, es-
pecially, the role oí trade unions in an industrial society. Since the mobili-
zation did not yield any rele·ant political eííects, it pointed to the
diííiculties íor the industrial union in acquiring the desired national role
through the management oí labour.
Also, it highlighted the party's irre-
solution which leít many crucial decisions to the trade unions and e·en-
tually encouraged tendencies toward both a labour ,apolitical, party and a
communist party, which ultimately led to the di·ision oí the PSI. On the
other hand, recent research has shown that Italian reíormists' programs
were technically well concei·ed, but still politically íeeble.
Another main íocus oí postwar mobilization was in the countryside, in
northern as well as central and southern areas. Many diííerent and so-
mewhat coníused goals were sought, sharp strikes and íights occurred,
unionization and participation amounted to unprecedentedly high rates. In
southern areas, the most widespread demand was íor land-reíorm, else-
where workers supported wage- and work-claims. Because the Italian agri-
culture was scarcely modernised, such demands challenged owners'
control and mirrored the weight oí labour on the land. Since the industrial
Among local studies, see Gio·anni Sabbatucci, ! covbattevti veí ¡rivo ao¡ogverra
,Bari, 19¯4,, Simona Colarizi, Do¡ogverra e fa.ci.vo iv Pvgíia ;1·1··1·2ó) ,Bari, 19¯¯,, Paul
Corner, ía.ci.v iv íerrara, 1·1··1·2: ,Oxíord, 19¯5,, Alice A. Kelikian, 1orv ava covvtry
vvaer ía.ci.v: tbe trav.forvatiov of ßre.cia, 1·1:·1·2ó ,Oxíord-New \ork, 1986,, A. Lyttel-
ton's and P. Corner's essays in !taíy ava Crav.ci´. ¡a..ire reroívtiov, ed. John A. Da·is ,Lon-
don, 19¯9,, I·ano Granata, ´ivaacato e cri.i aeíía aevocra¸ia. ía Cavera aeí íaroro ai Miíavo
aaíío ¨.¡íevaore¨ aeí bievvio ro..o aíío .ciogíivevto ;1·1··1·2:) ,Milano, 1986,, lrank M.
Snowden, 1ioíevce ava Creat í.tate. iv tbe ´ovtb of !taíy. .¡víia, 1·oo·1·22 ,Cambridge,
1986,. lor a general outline, see Angelo 1asca, 1be Ri.e of !taíiav ía.ci.v, 1·1º·1·22 ,Lon-
don, 1938,, Paolo larneti, "La crisi della democrazia italiana e l'a··ento del íascismo:
1912-1922", Riri.ta itaíiava ai .ciev¸a ¡oíitica, 1, 19¯5, Giuseppe Maione, !í bievvio ro..o.
.vtovovia e .¡ovtaveita o¡eraia veí 1·1··1·2o ,Bologna, 19¯5,.
´ivaacato e cía..e o¡eraia veíí´eta aeíía !! !vterva¸iovaíe, ,lirenze, 1983,.
Giuseppe Berta, "Un caso di industrialismo sindacale: la liom del primo no·e-
cento", in ´ivaacato e cía..e o¡eraia.
Sabbatucci, "'Riíare l'Italia': 1urati íra dopoguerra e íascismo", in íiíi¡¡o 1vrati e ií
.ociaíi.vo evro¡eo, ed. M. Degl'Innocenti ,Napoli, 1985,, Giulio Sapelli, Covvvita e vercato.
´ociaíi.ti, cattoíici e ¨gorervo ecovovico vvvici¡aíe¨ agíi ivi¸i aeí `` .ecoío ,Bologna, 1986,, ía
cvítvra aeííe riforve iv !taíia fra Otto e `orecevto. ! Movtevartivi ,Milano, 1986,.
labour market was increasing slowly, the rural labour íorce still held much
importance. Moreo·er, mobilization in southern Italy had a strong politi-
cal ·alue, signiíying a democratic and organised in·ol·ement oí the middle
classes, until then traditional allies oí the land-owners.
Post-war mobilization has been debated íor years. In a recent and im-
Roberto Vi·arelli noted that most oí the economic reque-
sts were tolerable, in spite oí the extremist ,maximalist, slogans. 1he
struggle was such a diííicult and ·iolent íight - Vi·arelli argued - because
historically the Italian countryside was socially and economically un-
derde·eloped and because politically, the socialists, both reíormists and
maximalists, were utopian-minded and not íaithíul enough to the de-
mocratic parliamentary system. In addition, the ruling classes preíerred to
maintain traditional social order rather than to bring about reíorms which
would enlarge the political and social bases oí the liberal state. 1he outco-
me oí this tension was the íascist regime. Although sharply critical oí many
important aspects oí Vi·arelli's study, re·iewers seem to agree on his main
thesis concerning the breakdown oí the 'liberal' state and the emergence
oí íascism in the post-war years as the consequence oí the exacerbation
and íailure to resol·e oí the long-term clea·ages in the national social and
Our perspecti·e is íocused on the nexus between socio-economic clai-
ms and institutional change and on the labour mo·ement's positi·e attitu-
de toward integration and,or transíormation oí the national social and
political íramework during the post-war crisis.
During the post-war mobilization, historical social and economic clea-
·ages combined with recently sharpened political and ideological con-
Indeed, the labour mo·ement and especially the socialist party
were unable to suggest reasonable actions or an eííecti·e strategy íor the
mobilization. Ne·erthless, they were partly aware oí the question and tried
to arrange an institutional íramework which could allow social and po-
Gaetano Sal·emini, O¡ere, !1. 1ovo !!. Morivevto .ociaíi.ta e qve.tiove veriaiovaíe, ed.
Gaetano Aríé ,Milano, 1963,, G. Dorso, ía Riroív¸iove Meriaiovaíe ,1orino, 1925,, L. Del
Piano, l. Atzeni, Covbattevti.vo, avtovovi.vo e fa.ci.vo veí ¡ev.iero ai Caviíío ßeííievi ,Roma,
1986,. See also note 13.
Vi·arelli, ´toria aeííe origivi aeí fa.ci.vo.
"La Storia delle origini del íascismo di Roberto Vi·arelli: una discussione", ´ocieta e
.toria, 55 ,1992,. On this theme, also see Adrian Lyttelton, 1be ´ei¸vre of Porer: ía.ci.v iv
!taíy, 1·1··1·2·, 2ed. ,Princeton, 1988,.
litical clea·ages to be disclosed and managed gradually. 1he tragic delay
between the actual occurence oí the mobilization and this attempt pro·o-
ked sharp social and, later, institutional reactions which were exploited by
1he PSI - since the Communist Party did not share at all such a per-
specti·e - acted by de·eloping its pre·ious attitude toward executi·e
powers: local go·ernment rule had been concei·ed and practised in order
to obtain institutional support íor socio-economic and mutual or-
ganizations oí the labour mo·ement.
Attitudes toward state go·ernment
had been much more unclear: while they awaited íor the coming e·olution
oí capitalism toward a socialist society, socialists had been di·ided among
those who ía·ored external support íor progressi·e go·ernments and
intransigents. Howe·er, each law was considered separately and the deci-
sion to support or not was conducted on a case-by-case basis. Debates
about institutional and electoral reíorms remained secondary to other que-
stions, considered more urgent.
Approaching the peace, the socialist mo·ement ,party, trade unions and
cooperati·es, had issued a 'democratic platíorm,' demanding proportional
Some rough indications about clea·ages can be drawn by considering that in 1921
agriculture contributed to the gross domestic product ,GDP, íor 34°, industry íor 24°
and ser·ices íor 44° and that in 1938 the íigures were still 2¯°, 31° and 44° respecti-
·ely, the acti·e population in agriculture was 9,962 ,thousands, in 1921 and still 8,261 in
1951, respecti·ely 4,349 and 6,920 in industry and 3,456 and 5,026 in ser·ices. Moreo·er,
in political elections in 1919 56° oí people who had the íranchise ·oted: the PSI gained
32.4° and the catholic PPI 20.4° and 156 and 100 seats respecti·ely ,together they
controlled the majority oí the seats a·ailable,, on the contrary, the traditional liberals
together controlled only 1¯9 seats, compared to about 310 they held beíore, when
catholics had 29 seats and socialists 50. It should also be noted that in southern Italy the
PSI recei·ed less than 15° or, more oíten, less than 9° oí the popular ·ote. In 1946,
the major parties recei·ed in northern Italy respecti·ely 3¯.3° ,DC,, 28.5° ,PSI, and
22.4° ,PCI,, in central Italy 30.0° ,DC,, 1¯.¯° ,PSI, and 24.¯° ,PCI,, in southern
Italy 35.0° ,DC,, 10.¯° ,PSI, and 9.8° ,PCI,.
íe .ivi.tre e ií gorervo íocaíe, Degl'Innocenti, "Per uno studio del tema delle municipa-
lizzazioni nella politica socialista íino all'a··ento del íascismo", in í´e.¡eriev¸a aeííe a¸ievae
vvvici¡aíi¸¸ate tra ecovovia e .ocieta, ed. londazione L. Micheletti ,Brescia, 1990,, ía
vvvici¡aíi¸¸a¸iove iv area ¡aaava. ´toria ea e.¡eriev¸e a covfrovto, eds. A. Berselli, l. Della
Peruta, A. Varni ,Milano, 1988,.
Brunello Vigezzi, "Giolitti, il giolittismo, il Partito Socialista e il suííragio uni·er-
sale nelle lettere di lilippo 1urati e di Anna Kuliscioíí 1910-1911", .vvaíi íeítriveííi, XIV
representation and list-·oting, republican institutions, and other democra-
Clearly, the project required a democratic con-
stituency in order to build a mass party-based political system, wherein the
labour mo·ement could gain appropriate political importance.
As a matter oí íact, the party coníerence in 1918 rejected the platíorm
and adopted the va..ivaíi.ti tasks oí the 'socialist republic' and 'proletarian
dictatorship'. Ne·ertheless, the end oí \orld \ar One and e·ents throu-
ghout Lurope reiníorced the reíormists in calling íor a parliamentary and
democratic reíorm, through a real republican constituent assembly, sugge-
sted by Modigliani and 1re·es, or in a simpler and realistic parliamentary
way, as proposed by 1urati.
Challenged by an eííecti·e turning point, the
labour mo·ement deliberately coníronted state-building. By proclaiming
support íor íull political citizenship, labour, perhaps íor the íirst time, íor-
mulated its own proposal about the question.
3. lacing the íacism
By no means was this a deíiniti·e outcome, as irresolutions in íacing ía-
scism demonstrated. Here, I cannot debate whether or not socialists
should or could ha·e openly supported any go·ernments opposed to the
íascists. But I must emphasize that the Italian ruling class intended to di-
rect Mussolini's party against the increasing menace oí catholic and so-
cialist mass parties. Moreo·er, the catholics did not intend to íorm a
go·ernment coalition with the socialists. Most oí the leít-wing socialists
took no interest - or did it too late - in parliamentary institutions and tra-
gically underestimated íascism, belie·ing it to be a simple ·ariation oí the
'capitalistic state.' Larly on, reíormists were aware oí the íascist menace
,íascists looked upon the reíormists as their íirst enemy,, but they reacted
1he text was published in .ravti! ,May 10, 191¯,. A critical re·iew is in R. Vi·arelli,
!í ao¡ogverra iv !taíia e í´arrevto aeí fa.ci.vo ;1·1º·1·22). !: Daíía five aeíía gverra aíí´iv¡re.a ai
íivve ,Napoli, 196¯,, pp. 303-305.
As an example, see lilippo 1urati, "La Repubblica per ridere e la repubblica sul
serio", Critica .ociaíe ,September 1-15, 1918, and "Dobbiamo ·olere la Costituente·", Cri·
tica .ociaíe ,lebruary 1-15, 1919,, Claudio 1re·es, "L'ora delle istituzioni", ibidem. See
1urati, "Per la rappresentanza proporzionale", in Di.cor.i Paríavevtari ,Roma, 1950,. On
Modigliani, see Marina 1esoro, !í rvoío ai Moaigíiavi veí .ociaíi.vo aeí ¡rivo ao¡ogverra, in
C.í. Moaigíiavi e ií .ociaíi.vo itaíiavo ,Roma, 1983,.
either by deíending mostly the socio-economic organizations, íollowing
the ad·ice oí Modigliani and others, or by continuing - íor too long a time
- to consider their own direct in·ol·ement in the go·ernment an untimely
hypothesis, like 1urati did. Indeed, Luropean socialists continued to di-
scuss such alternati·es íor many years.
Ne·ertheless, the trend which socialists, and especially 1urati, esta-
blished was extremely meaningíul. Acti·ity in local and parliamentary in-
stitutions was no longer belie·ed to be a deíensi·e warranty íor the labour
mo·ement awaiting socialism, but rather a way to build a new political sy-
stem based on mass parties, on coalitions as collections oí diííerent pro-
grams and social classes, on state and local parliaments as the playing íield
íor political conílicts, on majority rule and respect íor minorities and on
Such a change inspired the attitude toward the legislati·e reíorm which
introduced uni·ersal male suíírage and proportional representation
and also sparked oíí the acti·ity oí the socialist parliamentary
especially concerning the contro·ersy regarding support íor any
go·ernment containing íascists, a debate which íinally resulted in another
split in the party, in 1922. In choosing to deíend the parliamentary system
at the cost oí di·iding the party, many socialists acknowledged - perhaps
too late - that the labour mo·ement was already largely integrated and in-
terested in the national state.
1he next important stage in·ol·ed opposition to antidemocratic electo-
ral reíorm issued by Mussolini's go·ernment early in 1923. Most socialists,
both reíormists and maximalists, were coníused and irresolute and
under·alued the issue. lilippo 1urati alone was aware oí the stakes and
íought ·igilantly to deíend proportional representation and, by extension,
the institutional role oí mass parties and parliamentary control oí go·ern-
Again during the highly contested elections in 1924 and during the
next parliamentary secession ,'A·entino',, reíormist socialists and the right
Simone Neri Serneri, "Regime parlamentare e rappresentanza proporzionale.
1urati e il Psu di íronte alla "legge Acerbo'", !taíia Covtev¡oravea, 168 ,198¯,, Serge Noi-
ret, "Riíorma elettorale e crisi dello stato liberale: la 'proporzionale', 1918-19", !taíia cov·
tev¡oravea, 1¯4 ,1989,.
See 1urati's letters in l. 1urati, Anna Kuliscioíí, Carteggio. 1: 1·1··1·22 ,1orino,
19¯¯,, the motion oí the socialist parliamentary group in .ravti! ,April 5, 1919, and the
others proposed by Modigliani and carried by the group, in .ravti! ,No·emeber 30,
wing oí maximalist socialists insisted on reclaiming a political system built
on actual parliamentary democracy and mass parties. According to them,
the de·elopment oí parties encouraged by proportional representation
would necessarily promote parliamentary conírontation between diííerent
social classes, stiíle pre·ailing indi·idual or group interests and channel the
political debate into clearer programmatical terms. In this way, the state
would lose its pre·ious 'bourgeois' character.
In conclusion, the nation was belie·ed to be a compound whole, which
should be uniíied by means oí mass parties. 1hrough these, it would be
connected to the state, which was supposed to become a reílection and in-
stitutional promoter oí national unity. In addition, that íramework would
ideally allow the socialist and labour mo·ement to approach the go·ern-
ment and a·oid any heightening oí dangerous political disputes or an un-
timely transíer oí power. 1his was a partly e·olutionary perspecti·e,
because political progress was still considered dependent on social and
economic modernization. Also, there was some íormalism in the concep-
tion oí parliamentary institutions' representati·e liability, thereíore major-
ity rule was regarded as the best method through which the labour
mo·ement could come to power, since it would presumably obtain majo-
rity consent oí the working classes, which were considered a majority oí
·oters. lor this reason, socialists neglected executi·e power and belie·ed
that collaboration with a parliamentary majority would be suííicient and
that the executi·e should strictly submit to such a coalition.
1he socialists' engagement in state-building was still quite deíensi·e.
1hey paid particularly little attention to the extent to which opposed social
interests concretely aííected the parliamentary regime. Nor did they
Neri Serneri, "Regime parlamentare". lor signiíicant articles, see 1urati, "Per la
rappresentanza proporzionale", speech in íront oí the 'Camera' ,March 6,1919,, col-
lected in 1urati, Di.cor.i ¡aríavevtari, and "Il íascismo e la riíorma elettorale politica",
speech in íront oí the 'Camera' ,July 15, 1923,, published in Critica ´ociaíe ,July 16-31,
1923,, and cír. "Petizione" ,Associazione Proporzionalista Milanese, 1923,, reprinted in
G. Micheli, L. Degli Occhi, Cove eíeggere ía Co.titvevte? ,Como, 1945,. As an example, also
see Luigi Basso, "La riíorma elettorale. La proporzionale e la solidarieta di go·erno" and
"Ancora sulla riíorma elettorale. Il peso della proporzionale", ía Civ.ti¸ia ,January 5 and
lebruary 2, 1923,, Camillo Prampolini, "Democrazia e dittatura·", ía Civ.ti¸ia
,lebruary 6,1923,, Adelchi Baratono, "Democrazia e storia", ía giv.ti¸ia ,lebruary 8,
lor a wider treatment oí this argument, see S. Neri Serneri, Devocra¸ia e .tato.
í´avtifa.ci.vo íiberaíaevocratico e .ociaíi.ta aaí 1·2² aí 1·²² ,Milano 1989,, pp. 116-192.
expand on the means and stages necessary íor a democratic transition
toward socialism or actually attempt to apply the watchword oí a 'demo-
cratic economics,' about which other Luropean - primarily German and
Austrian - socialists debated at the time.
As a notable exception, Giaco-
mo Matteotti seemed to be quite aware oí how parliamentary democracy
was endangered as much by the authoritarian purposes oí íascism as by the
shiíts in the traditional settlement oí powers to the ad·antage oí the exe-
cuti·e and the bureaucracy, which had restricted parliament írom control-
ling and addressing the go·ernment.
lacing the íascism, the Italian socialist mo·ement began to transíorm
its ·iew oí nation and state írom one en·isioning a íorced cooperation oí
opposing social classes - and, thereíore, írom simply seeking political gua-
rantees - toward a pluralistic perspecti·e oí both nation and state as íra-
meworks oí a democratic and progressi·e rebuilding oí social order. As
rhetorically proclaimed in the political declaration oí the PSLI - the reíor-
mist socialist party in 1925 - the state should be concei·ed "an outcome, a
synthesis: indi·iduals' existence brings to it, does not come írom it, becau-
se indi·iduals' rights are in themsel·es. 1he state does not create, but only
deíines them and there lies its so·ereignity |...|, that is to take care and war-
rant oí any selí go·ernment, which it |the state| conciliates with harmony
4. Ci·il war, íascism and nation
See note 26 and also A. Baratono, "Liberalismo e liberismo", ía Civ.ti¸ia ,March
31, 1923,, Claudio 1re·es, "Al potere!", Critica .ociaíe ,January 16-31, 1920,, and "Parla-
mento e Ri·oluzione", Critica .ociaíe, ,August 16-31, 1920,, and "I tre gangli dello stato
democratico", Critica .ociaíe ,June 16-30, 1923, and "L'equi·oco dei liberali" Critica .ociaíe
,October 1-15, 1924,, cír. A. Casali, ´ociaíi.vo e ivterva¸iovaíi.vo veíía .toria a´!taíia. Cíavaio
1rere., 1ºó··1·²² ,Napoli, 1985, pp. 93-108. See also Giuseppe L. Modigliani, Per ía ra¡·
¡re.evtav¸a ¡ro¡or¸iovaíe ,Milano, 1919,.
Neri Serneri, Devocra¸ia e .tato.
See Matteotti's report on the law proposal "Delega di pieni poteri al go·erno del
Re per il riordino del sistema tributario e della pubblica amministrazione" ,No·ember
23, 1923,, now collected in Matteotti, Di.cor.i Paríavevtari, ·ol. 3 ,Roma, 19¯0,.
Giustizia (October 31, 1926) and Psli, Dichiarazione
Programmatica ([Roma], 1926).
By 1926, such declarations had no connection with a historical reality.
lascism had triumphed. It broke down the nation-building process or, at
least, íorceíully interrupted the process as it had occurred up until that ti-
me. lascism ·iolently disrupted the mass parties and impeded the labour
mo·ement's organization, íocusing on these groups because they were
among the most important political subjects in industrial society. Me-
anwhile, íascism rebuilt the 'liberal' state's íramework in an authoritarian
way. 1hrough all this, national unity characterized by a ci·il coexistence
was íorceíully demolished and íascism reclaimed, íirst as a political party
then as a regime, a monopoly oí national legitimacy. 1his new monopoly
was constructed upon a polarity which di·ided the inter·entionist-natio-
nalist and all opposition. 1hese opponents - catholics, democrats and la-
bour - were declared avtiva¸iovaíi, out oí, or against, the nation.
Indeed, íascism represented a break with the traditional political system,
primarily in the ideological sphere.
Historically, íascism introduced es-
sential changes to the pre·ious political and institutional íramework, de-
spite the connections between the liberal state's crisis and the origins oí the
1he labour mo·ement considered the deíeat by the íascism to be a hi-
storical turning-point. A long-standing experience seemed to ha·e come to
a conclusion - and it really did. Italian communists built their political iden-
tity with a contrast to the supposed íailures oí that experience, reíormists
themsel·es regarded íascism as a direct outcome oí the war, which had
abruptly interrupted the gradual rise oí the working classes by extending
to social conílicts that breakdown oí ci·il coexistence which was already
experienced among states during the \orld \ar.
\ounger socialists íelt that íascism was more like a 'ci·il war', an expres-
sion which signiíied a breakaway within the nation, e·en though they did
Pier Giorgio Zunino, í´iaeoíogia aeí fa.ci.vo. Miti, creaev¸e e raíori veíía .tabiíi¸¸a¸ioveaeí
regive ,Bologna, 1985,, Lmilio Gentile, íe orgivi aeíí´iaeoíogia fa.ci.ta ;1·1º·1·2:) ,Bari,
19¯5,, idem, !í vito aeíío .tato vvoro aaíí´avtigioíitti.vo aí fa.ci.vo ,Bari, 1982,, idem, Il culto
del littorio. La sacralizzazione della politica nell'Italia íascista ,Bari, 1993,, Sternhell,
`ai..avce ae í´iaeoíogie fa.ci.te.
Alberto Aquarone, í´orgavi¸¸a¸iove aeíío .tato totaíitario ,1orino, 1965,, Lyttelton,
1be ´ei¸vre of Porer, R. Vi·arelli, "Interpretations oí Origins oí lascism", ]ovrvaí of Moaerv
íi.tory, 63, 1 ,March 1991, and !í faííivevto aeí íiberaíi.vo. lor a less accentuati·e ·iew see
Renzo De lelice, Mv..oíivi ií fa.ci.ta. ! ía covqvi.ta aeí ¡otere ;1·21·1·2:), !!. í´orgavi¸¸a·
¸iove aeíío .tato fa.ci.ta ;1·2:·1·2·) ,1orino, 1966-1968,.
not openly use this concept. It is signiíicant that by attributing the blame
íor íascism to the 'capitalistic bourgeoisie,' socialists implicitly charged the
bourgeoisie with ha·ing destroyed the social coexistence or the national
community and, by extension, they considered themsel·es loyal to the na-
tion. 1he 'ci·il war' argument was widespread throughout Luropean socia-
lism, especially among its leít wing. Pietro Nenni, in particular, íocused his
own analysis oí íascism in Italy and in Lurope and his political strategy du-
ring the interwar period on the notion oí 'ci·il war.'
Regardless oí how
much the 'ci·il war perspecti·e' supported radical opposition or alliances
against íascism, it should be stressed that through such expression so-
cialists presented themsel·es as rebuilders oí the national community whi-
ch had been destroyed by íascism's 'ci·il war.'
By the 1930s, the communist party had also begun to íace the national
question positi·ely. In applying the 'popular íront' watchword, appeals íor
national unity showed - with a strong and sometimes excessi·e emphasis -
that the 'nation' was going to be an important issue in the communist stra-
tegy. Indeed, the PCI then initiated a gradual but deep political transíor-
mation, which was completed mostly during the antiíascist resistance and
íocused just on the national role that the communists intended to íulíill.
Some historians portray íascism as a deliberate and successíul stage in
nation- and state-building,
identiíying it with increasing le·els oí moder-
nization. Here, we cannot debate the real meaning oí íascist 'moderniza-
See III. Kongress der Sozialistischen Arbeiter-Internationale. Italienische Delega-
tion, Referat veber aev ía.cbi.vv. ,Bruessel, 1928, pp. 1-¯, partially reprinted in ía íiberta
,September 2, 1928,, l. 1urati, Ciò cbe í´!taíia iv.egva, a lecture gi·en in April 1928 ,Parigi,
1933,, and his speech at the 3rd Coníerence oí IOS in Bruxelles, on August ¯, 1928,
published in ía íiberta ,August 19, 1928, and both collected in íe rie aeí .ociaíi.vo, ed.
Gaetano Aríe ,Napoli, 1966,.
Pietro Nenni, ía ívtte ae cía..e. ev !taíie ,Paris, 1930,, which enlarged his pre·ious
´toria ai qvattro avvi ,Milano, 192¯,. Note also that Nenni entitled another book, which
highlighted the 'ci·il war' in postwar Italy, ´i· av. ae gverre ciriíe ev !taíie ,Paris, 1930,. See
also Nenni, "1rotski, il íascismo italiano, il íascismo tedesco", `voro .ravti! ,March 12,
1932,, also published in Die Ce.eíí.cbaft ,April, 1932, and entitled "1rotzki und der
laschismus. Reíormismus, Kommunismus und die italienische Lríahrung". In general,
see Neri Serneri, Devocra¸ia e .tato, pp. 281-30¯, Leonardo Rapone, "Il Partito socialista
italiano íra Pietro Nenni e Angelo 1asca", in "L'Internazionale operaia e socialista tra le
due guerre", ed. Lnzo Collotti, .vvaíi aeíía íovaa¸iove C.C. íeítriveííi, XXIII ,1983-1984,.
An o·er·iew in Paolo Spriano, ´toria aeí ¡artito covvvi.ta itaíiavo. !!!. ! frovti ¡o¡oíari,
´taíiv, ía gverra ,1orino, 19¯0,.
and we can only brieíly concern oursel·es with the kind oí
'nationalization oí the masses' íascism did realise. I don't mind engaging in
the qvereííe raised by De lelice
about popular consent íor the regime, be-
cause debating the extent to which a dictatorship gains passi·e consent is
not useíul. I would rather íocus on the regime's policies aimed at reducing
social and political clea·ages and increasing political sociability. In this
area, research on the working-classes
or the 'welíare' system
how íascism scarcely impro·ed social liíe and working conditions: its po-
licies had scanty eííects and resulted mostly in creating bureaucratic
corporations. 1hey were neither original nor speciíic, because they usually
de·eloped preexisting projects and prosecuted them mostly to the beneíit
oí the middle classes. Indeed, something resembling a 'welíare state' was
built in Italy only aíter the Second \orld \ar. It is also questionable
whether or not the 'dopola·oro' - an organization charged with íacilitating
working people's recreation during íree time and írequently cited as an
example oí íascist attempts to integrate labourers into the regime - really
succeeded in it or not.
\hile waiting íor the íorthcoming essay on the
íascist party which Lmilio Gentile is attending to,
local studies on íasci-
as well as on íascism'organization oí woman
suggest as well that the
íascist party struggled with an unresol·able tension between being a mass
organization and a bureaucratic-authoritarian one. 1his quickly erased any
potentiality and ended its íunctions oí impro·ing political sociability and
Very asserti·e in presenting the íascist regime as a successíul modernization was
A.J. Gregor, !taíiav fa.ci.v ava aereío¡vevtaí Dictator.bi¡ ,Princeton, 19¯9,. L·en ií without
deliberate reíerence to sociological theories, a mild positi·e interpretation oí íascism as
an agent oí modernization is also De lelice, Mv..oíivi ií Dvce. !. Cíi avvi aeí cov.ev.o ;1·1··
1·²o), !!. ío .tato totaíitario ;1·²ó·1·1o) ,1orino, 19¯4-1981,.
A useíul re·iew is 1im Mason, "Italy and Modernization: A Montage", íi.tory
!orí.bo¡, 25 ,Spring, 1988,.
Abo·e all in Mv..oíivi ií Dvce.
1he most important research is "La classe operaia durante il íascismo", ed. Giulio
Sapelli, .vvaíi aeíía íovaa¸iove íeítriveííi XX ,19¯9-1980,.
Domenico Preti, ía voaervi¸¸a¸iove cor¡oratira, 1·22·1·1o: ecovovia, .aívte ¡vbbíica,
i.titv¸iovi e ¡rofe..iovi .avitarie ,Milano, 198¯,, Maurizio lerrera, "Italy", in Crortb to íivit..
1be !e.terv ívro¡eav reífare .tate. .ivce !oría !ar !!, ed. Peter llora ,Berlin, New \ork,
1986-8¯,, ·ol. 2.
Victoria De Grazia, 1be cvítvre of cov.evt: va.. orgavi¸atiov of íei.vre iv fa.ci.t !taíy ,Cam-
bridge-New \ork 1981,.
oí selecting new ruling élites, especially in the 1930s. Indeed, the íascist
party could not be considered an eííecti·e mass party.
lascism supported the social impro·ement and political integration oí
the white collar and intellectual middle classes,
but mostly it íorced a cor-
poratist sharing oí nation-building in order to gain a speciíic consent írom
white collar workers employed by the go·ernment and in public ad-
ministration or in public enterprises. Moreo·er, large, historical clea·ages
- between cities and countryside or northern and southern Italy - were not
resol·ed at all.
In íact, íascist nationalism does not seem to ha·e promo-
ted social and cultural homogenization at all, in contrast to the general
deíinition oí 'nationalism' espoused by Gellner, who argues that na-
tionalism signiíies the need íor homogenization required by industrial so-
Mostly, íascists imposed a homogenization designed chieíly to
strengthen the ruling elite as well as social and interest groups which sup-
ported them. Homogenization rarely aimed to íacilitate an impending mo-
dernization, rather it was designed to íace or, indeed, control it.
Still now is a·ailable Lmilio Gentile, ´toria aeí ¡artito fa.ci.ta. !: 1·1··1·22: vorivevto
e viíi¸ia ,Bari, 1990, and his introductory essays "1he Problem oí the Party in Italian
lascism", ]ovrvaí of Covtev¡orary bi.tory, 19 ,1984,: 251-2¯4, "La natura e la storia del PNl
nelle interpretazioni dei contemporanei e degli storici", ´toria covtev¡oravea, 19, 2 ,April
1984,: 521-60¯, and "Partito, Stato e Duce nella mitologia e nella organizzazione del
íascismo", in ía.ci.vo e va¸iovaí.ociaíi.vo, eds. Karl Bracher, Leo Valiani ,Bologna, 1986,.
See íor example, !í Pvf iv íviíia·Rovagva. Per.ovaíe ¡oíitico, qvaari .ivaacaíi, coo¡era·
¸iove, eds. M.Degl'Innocenti, P.Pombeni, A.Ro·eri ,Milano, 1988,, the special number
about Lombardia during íascism, in ´toria iv íovbaraia, 1989, 1-2, Paolo Var·aro, Potere e
.ocieta a `a¡oíi ,Palermo, 1990,. Also see Guido Quazza et al., ´toriografia e fa.ci.vo
,Milano, 1985,, with a large bibliography.
V. De Grazia, íor ía.ci.v Rvíea !ovev. !taíy 1·22·1·1: ,Berkeley-New \ork,
1992,, p. 269-2¯0.
A. Lyttelton, "lascismo e antimodernismo", in ! íiviti aeíía aevocra¸ia. .vtoritari.vo
e aevocra¸ia veíía .ocieta voaerva, eds. R. Scartezzini, G. Germani, R. Gritti ,Napoli, 198¯,
p. 161, and Mariuccia Sal·ati, !í regive e gíi iv¡iegati. ía va¸iovaíi¸¸a¸iove ¡iccoío·borgbe.e veí
revtevvio fa.ci.ta ,Roma and Bari, 1992,.
See í´ecovovia itaíiava veí ¡erioao fa.ci.ta, eds. G.1oniolo and P.Ciocca ,Bologna,
19¯6, and, íor example, Cav¡agve e vorivevto covtaaivo veí ve¸¸ogiorvo a´!taíia aaí ao¡ogverra
aa oggi ,Bari, 19¯9,.
Gellner, `atiov., p. 45-46.
5. Aíter 1943: íighting íor democracy
In March, 1943, unexpected íactory strikes - without question the most
important in twenty years - broke out in 1urin, clearly demonstrating the
extent to which the dictatorship was lacking social control and consent.
June brought the landing oí allied military íorces in Sicily and in July an at-
tempt at internal political change through dismissal oí Mussolini pro·ed to
be the downíall oí the regime.
1he ine·itable outcome oí íascist authoritarian politics had been war.
1hese politics íailed and íascist authoritarianism pro·ed incapable oí al-
lowing a change oí leadership. Mussolini's dismissal caused the breakdown
oí the dictatorship because the problem was not one oí leadership but oí
In 1943, the state-building question was again prominent, aíter the ía-
scist regime had died like the 'liberal' state beíore it. Nation-building was
on the agenda also, because oí the íailure oí paternalistic-authoritarian ía-
scist social policies and since all social classes and groups ,both those whi-
ch had supported the regime - enterpreneurs, Catholic gerarchy,
landowners, etc.- and others which had been much more alooí írom it, ne-
eded to íind their place in a new political and social íramework.
Indeed, in 1943 the labour mo·ement was ·ery scarcely organized: there
were a íew small communist groups which lacked eííecti·e unity and some
socialists, trying to attract íormer comrades. Ne·ertheless, the numbers oí
organizations increased in the succeeding months, both centrally and lo-
cally, pro·ing there was much popular support, which needed to be har-
nessed: at the end oí the war, in 1945, the socialist party claimed about
¯00.000 members and the communist party more than one million.
Nation- and state-building had to be íulíilled in a dramatic and special
context. Italy was a battle-ground íor regular and irregular armies. 1he Na-
zis occupied northern and central regions and supported a neoíascist go-
·ernment, both ruled by terror and were opposed by the ¡artigiavi who
íought a widespread guerrilla war, supported by antiíascist parties and a
large popular íollowing. 1he monarchy had íled to southern Italy - which
was under allied control - and there tried to reestablish a conser·ati·e and
preíascist-like political system. 1his was a dangerous undertaking because
the monarchy was supported by the Allies, especially Great Britain, and
because the democratic and mass parties were still somewhat disorganized,
due to social and economic conditions and attempts by preíascist notables
to gain new iníluence under the monarchy and the Allies.
1he labour mo·ement
íaced the nation and state questions jointly: the
unity oí the resistance mo·ement was a main goal, prosecuted both on a
military le·el among the guerrilla bands and on a political le·el within the
popular antiíascist mo·ement. 1he aim oí uniíying the resistance combi-
ned the tasks oí uniíying nationally against Nazis and íascists - the occu-
pants and their ser·ants - and oí deíending the interests oí working-
people. 1hrough this combination it was belie·ed that the central interests
oí the working classes would be ad·anced to prominence in post-war Italy,
through leadership oí the antiíascist resistance and through pro·iding in
the meanwhile premises íor institutional and social reíorms - outlined as
land reíorm and nationalization oí main industrial, íinancial and ser·ice
trustes - based on long-standing plans oí Luropean socialism.
An important implication oí that strategy was the intention oí allying
with the catholic party - the Devocra¸ia Cri.tiava ,DC, -, which it was belie-
·ed would ha·e organized a large number oí working people, mostly in the
countryside. Unlike the period aíter the lirst \orld \ar, the catholics
should be encouraged and engaged to establish democracy and workers'
go·ernment. In June 1944, the early constitution oí a syndical íederation
which gathered together all unions without regard to religious or political
party aííiliation - something which ne·er existed beíore in Italy - resulted
írom the unitarian strategy and marked a historical step towards rebuilding
a democratic antiíascist national identity through support and strict con-
trol oí the three mass parties.
1he unitarian strategy was pursued in both southern and northern Italy.
Under Nazi occupation, an antiíascist organization had de·eloped during
the \inter oí 1943 and continued to grow through the íollowing Spring
Perhaps the best account oí the PCI is still P. Spriano, ´toria aeí ¡artito covvvi.ta ita·
íiavo, 1. ía Re.i.tev¸a e ií ¡artito vvoro ,1orino, 19¯5,, see also essays collected in ´tvai ´to·
rici 31, 1 ,March, 1990, and 33, 2 ,June, 1993,. An introductory essay is Da·id 1ra·is,
"Communism and Resistance in Italy, 1943-48", in Re.i.tavce ava Reroívtiov iv Meaiterra·
veav ívro¡e, 1·²··1·1º, ed. 1ony Judt ,London and New \ork, 1989,. lor the socialist
party see Lnnio Di Nolío, Giuseppe Muzzi, "La ricostituzione del Psi. Resistenza,
Repubblica, Costituente ,1943-1948,", in ´toria aeí .ociaíi.vo itaíiavo. 1. !í .ecovao ao¡ogverra
;1·1²·1·::), ed. G.Sabbatucci ,Roma, 1981,, lrancesca 1addei, !í .ociaíi.vo itaíiavo aeí
ao¡ogverra: correvti iaeoíogicbe e .ceíte ¡oíiticbe ;1·1²·1·1¯) ,Milano, 1984,, !í Partito .ociaíi.ta
veíía Re.i.tev¸a. ! aocvvevti e ía .tav¡a cíavae.tiva, ed. S. Neri Serneri ,Pisa, 1988, and S. Neri
Serneri, ´ociaíi.ti, gverra e re.i.tev¸a ,íorthcoming: Milano, 1994,.
until the war ended in April 1945. Its central structures were the National
Liberation Committees ,CLN,, which were constituted in towns and ·illa-
ges and also in major íactories, banks, public oííices, schools and among
proíessional groups such as teachers and lawyers. Usually the CLN collec-
ted one member írom each oí the íi·e antiíascist parties ,socialist, com-
munist, catholic, liberal and democratic,. 1his organizational composition
accomplished se·eral diííerent íunctions: 1. it was the basis oí antiíascist
unity 2. it promoted a widespread, continuous political mobilization orga-
nized on party bases 3. it legitimated parties as major instruments oí poli-
tical liíe 4. it constituted a basis íor new democratic institutions, especially
by portraying parties as connections between society and institutions and
by suggesting a largely decentralized, representati·e and antiíascist state
1he old monarchical state was openly rejected, e·en ií internal and in-
ternational conditions required that any change in the íorm oí go·ernment
and any actions taken against the monarchy íor supposed complicity with
íascism, be postponed until the end oí the war. Indeed, in Rome and in
southern Italy, the CLNs struggled íor quite some time against the monar-
chy in order to gain control oí the go·ernment. It should be noted - as a
meaningíul example oí how nation-building was concei·ed - that none oí
the parties, not e·en the socialists who were the most radical on these is-
sues, suggested the creation oí another go·ernment, autonomously íor-
med by the CLN, to counter against the monarchy. Antiíascist parties
appeared to share an open-minded ·iew oí the national state they intended
to build and to agree upon the wide consent it should be based on. 1hey
realized that in order to present themsel·es as a historical alternati·e they
needed to íirst gain an eííecti·e popular legitimacy.
In this long political struggle, the labour mo·ement exploited its deep
social roots among the partisans and in the íactories - as the general strike
in March 1944, the largest in all occupied Lurope, demonstrated - in order
to lead the antiíascist mo·ement, urge the de·elopment oí local CLNs and
many other mass organizations and to deeply modiíy traditional socio-po-
litical balances. All this did not result - as some ha·e argued - in abando-
ning the working-class. On the contrary, the antiíascist mo·ement
reiníorced itselí by combining democratic and class goals, which stren-
gthened both. Indeed, the di·iding line within the antiíascist mo·ement
ran between its leít wing ,PCI, PSI and the democratic Pd'A, and its mo-
derate and conser·ati·e wing as the Bonomi go·ernments ,June 1944-June
6. Mass parties and political system
I do not intend to analyze results oí these politics in detail. I merely want
to remark that the labour mo·ement contributed hea·ily to the constitu-
tion oí a national unity based on a democratic political system. Nor should
it be íorgotten to what extent their approach to the catholic party ía·oured
the shiít oí catholics írom being íellow-tra·ellers oí íascism toward beco-
ming proponents oí democracy. 1his strategy ultimately resulted in the
íoundation oí the republic and in the Constitutional Laws, between 1946
and 1948, despite increasing social and political conílicts. As matter oí íact,
these conílicts ser·ed as coníirmations oí the nation- and state-building
processes as proper
Antiíascism was the common basis through which state- and nation-
building could be achie·ed. As a di·iding line, antiíascism had social, po-
litical and institutional meanings: in outline it aimed íor a democratic sy-
stem supported by social reíorms and organized through the mass parties,
originally created by the labour mo·ement and working-classes in order to
undermine the old monarchical and íascist ruling classes.
1he labour mo·ement's contribution to nation-building and state-buil-
ding started around the time oí the lirst \orld \ar, but had taken a dra-
matic turn in 1943-1944. 1hen, the antiíascist resistance, including both
the military guerrilla arm and the mobilized common people, oííered basic
conditions in order to plan and promote social and political changes. As
Claudio Pa·one has recently suggested,
all this required a redeíinition
and expansion oí the national identity. Reíerring back to the identiíication
Documents on the socialist party's acti·ities are íound primarily in Carte Nenni
,.rcbirio Cevtraíe aeíío ´tato, Rome,, Carte Lelio Basso ,íovaa¸iove ßa..o, Rome, and in
diííerent collections by íovaa¸iove 1vrati ,llorence,, most documents concerning the
PCI are in .rcbirio aeíía íovaa¸iove Crav.ci ,Rome,.
On the point see also Gian Lnrico Rusconi, Se cessiamo di essere una nazione. 1ra
etnodemocrazia e cittadinanza europea ,Bologna, 1993,, pp. 6¯ ís., 86, although he
underscores the role oí the mass parties in promoting a democratic mobilization.
Claudio Pa·one, |va gverra ciriíe. ´aggio .torico .víía voraíita veíía Re.i.tev¸a ,1orino,
oí íascism and 'ci·il war,' the labour mo·ement re·ersed reíerences to na-
tion,antination and connected them partly with a class,class-war based
ideological context. 1his resulted in a new ethical and political national
identity, whose main ·alues were antiíascism, solidarity and democracy
and which was íounded on the coexistence oí ·arious antiíascist parties'
programs and on the experience oí a popular struggle against the Nazis
1he labour mo·ement's role is also e·idenced in the íact that mass par-
ties resolutely contributed to the achie·ement both oí nation-building, in
promoting a democratic political sociability, and oí state-building, in sup-
porting organization, pro·iding premises íor new institutions and ultima-
tely contributing to the stabilization oí the parliamentary system.
mass party-based íramework permitted the combination oí social identity
,ideological and class oriented parties,, local selí go·ernment through the
territorial and permanent organization and support íor the weakest social
interests. Moreo·er, this íramework institutionally emphasized the repre-
sentati·e íunction, eníorced by the adoption oí a proportionally represen-
tati·e electoral system and by the submission oí go·ernment to
parliament, which was also responsible íor legislati·e power. 1hereíore,
go·ernment was intended to reílect a social majority expressed through a
coalition oí diííerent parties. \ithout question, the major purpose oí such
a political system was to o·ercome through nation-wide mass parties, the
sharp social, ideological and geographical clea·ages which still existed in
Despite wide use oí re·olutionary and radical ideologies, the two large
labour parties ,each oí them had gained about 20° oí the ·ote in 1946,
were the major promoters in empowering the mass party as the pi·ot oí
the democratic system. Catholics were also compelled to build a similar
political party, in some degree loosening their connections to ecclesiastical
In southern Italy too, mass parties were organized in most
pro·inces quite quickly and began to undermine traditional notables, who
On the role oí parties in stabilizing the parliamentary system, see Maurizio Cotta,
"1he 'centrality' oí parliament in a protracted democratic consolidation: the Italian case",
in Paríiavevt ava aevocratic cov.oíiaatiov iv ´ovtberv ívro¡e: Creece, !taíy, Portvgaí, ´¡aiv ava
1vríey, eds. M.Cotta and U.Liebert ,London-New \ork, 1990,.
Perhaps, the best essay about catholics in the 1940s is still Pietro Scoppola, ía ¡ro·
¡o.ta ¡oíitica ai De Ca.¡eri ,Bologna, 19¯¯,, but see also lrancesco 1raniello, Citta aeíí´vovo.
Cattoíici, ¡artito e .tato veíía .toria a´!taíia ,Bologna, 1990,.
had sur·i·ed e·en íascism. Signiíicantly, the catholic DC was the largest
party o·erall in southern Italy.
In this area, though, a greater contribution
to nation-building could be seen in the labour parties' ·ast support íor the
peasants' struggles towards land reíorm. Indeed, by the end oí the war and
in the years aíter 1945 the socialist and especially the communist parties
made energetic eííorts to connect the large mobilization in the southern
countryside with the main strategy oí the syndicate. Clearly, they were awa-
re that beíore the onset oí íascism the lack oí connection between nor-
thern and southern working people had hea·ily undermined the entire
labour mo·ement, as Sal·emini and Gramsci had highlighted se·eral ti-
mes. Aíter the Second \orld \ar, the labour mo·ement succeeded in uni-
íying northern and southern Italy on a national le·el. Howe·er, this was
achie·ed only by juxtaposing the diííerent political claims. lor a long time,
an anachronistic íear induced the labour mo·ement not to íace the que-
stion also on an institutional le·el, because they belie·ed that any íederali-
sm should allow conser·ati·e parties to pre·ail. In conclusion, in the
period between 1943 and 194¯ and until the 19¯0s, labour parties were a
central element oí social and political liíe in Italy, a loyal and decisi·e tutor
oí republican democracy.
A recent trend in political and historical studies aims to suggest that the
immoderate power and the connected corruption oí the italian parties - hi-
gly increased during the last two decades - is an outcome oí the constitu-
tional íramework built in the 1940s, because the central role oí parties
should ha·e resulted in reproducing and e·en increasing the submission oí
the go·ernment and state administrations, which íascism had already
brought about. Some scholars argue that a connection could de·elop just
through mass mobilization and the mass party as major elements oí poli-
tical liíe. Indeed, mass parties would ha·e ser·ed as new and exclusi·e de-
alers in patronage and clientelism, caring íor all needs and inducing
íanatical assent among their own members, thereby undermining íree re-
lationships between indi·iduals and democratic institutions.
In my opinion, the main thesis oí such critics should be rejected.
\ithout question, the mass party as a political organization arose long be-
See documents conser·ed in .rcbirio Cevtraíe aeíío ´tato, Mivi.tero aeíí´!vtervo, Dir.
Cev. Pvbbíica .icvre¸¸a, 1·11·1·1ó. See also essays in í´aítro ao¡ogverra. Rova e ií .va 1·1²·
1·1:, ed. N.Gallerano ,Milano, 1985,.
1his reíutes the sense oí the e·ents emphasized by Pietro Di Loreto, 1ogíiatti e ía
´ao¡¡ie¸¸a´. !í Pci tra aevocra¸ia e iv.vrre¸iove 1·11·1·1· ,Bologna, 1991,.
íore íascism. In Italy, where it de·eloped ha·ing learned írom both the
German and Belgian experiences, labour's mass party was already well-ro-
oted by \orld \ar One. Indeed, it preceeded íascism and was íollowed
and imitated by it. lascism attempted to take the place oí labour's mass
party and, to a certain degree, its íunctions. lascism was the mass party -
organizationally resembling the socialist party - oí the middle classes, a re-
sponse to the pressure oí mass labour parties, which were endangering
their traditional identiíication with the state.
1hereíore, the íascist mass
party was a special one, targetted against the historical mass parties in or-
der to pro·ide an authoritarian solution to the conílict between the idea oí
the state as protector oí the general interest ,indeed oí the upper and mid-
dle classes' interests, and mass parties, as expressions oí class-speciíic
As íor the submission oí the administration to parties, until the 1960s it
deíerred mostly to the DC and was the result oí the speciíic type oí 'wel-
íare state' and 'mixed economy' which were practised in Italy. Both the
'welíare state' and 'mixed economy' were determined by the catholic ·iew
oí combining pri·ate enterprises, social assistance and regulatory econo-
mic inter·ention. Moreo·er, in the íirst decade íollowing the war the
dominant institutional role oí parties permitted - in spite oí the 'cold war'
- an increase in democratic mobilization. Aíter the 1950s, Italy's traditional
clea·ages and political system underwent a transíormation, which hea·ily
undermined traditional ways oí political mobilization and communication
and changed the role and íunction oí parties.
linally, it should be pointed out how the role oí the labour mo·ement
in nation- and state-building suííered írom dual party organizations. Al-
Joseph La Palombara, Devocracy. !taíiav .tyíe ,New Ha·en-London, 198¯,, p. 2¯2 ís.
Also see Simona Colarizi, ía .ecovaa gverra vovaiaíe e ía Re¡vbbíica ,1orino, 1984,, p. 548,
Pietro Scoppola, ía re¡vbbíica aei ¡artiti. Profiío .torico aeíía aevocra¸ia iv !taíia 1·1:·1··o
,Bologna, 1991,, p. 9¯ ís., Luciano Caíagna, ía gravae .íariva. í´!taíia rer.o ía cri.i aeíía
aevocra¸ia ,Venezia, 1993,, p. 62-64, Aurelio Lepre, Storia della prima repubblica. L'Italia
dal 1942 al 1992 ,Bologna, 1993,, p. 52-59.
P. Pombeni, "La íorma partito del íascismo e del nazismo" in ía.ci.vo e va¸iovaíi·
.vo, esp. p. 228 ís., see also idem, Demagogia e tirannide. Uno studio sulla íorma partito
del íascismo ,Bologna, 1984,.
More in S. Neri Serneri, "Sistema dei partiti e democrazia nell'Italia repubblicana",
!taíia covtev¡oravea, 189 ,December, 1992,: ¯33-¯39, a re·iew to Scoppola, ía re¡vbbíica
though their relationships were good enough because oí the lengthy colla-
boration in the antiíascist mo·ement since the 1930s, the socialist and
communist parties were di·ided o·er se·eral political tasks. Socialists were
more dedicated and radical about institutional changes, while communists
insisted more on alliance with catholics, arguing that political relationships
would decide the íuture oí post-íascist Italy.
Howe·er, perhaps most im-
portant was the ri·alry in gaining consent and eníorcing their own
organizations, both during resistance
and the íollowing years, when the
so called 'succession' took place gradually and the communist party be-
came the leading one also in traditional socialist strongholds.
Diííerences between the parties were not to be repaired easily. 1hese re-
sulted írom the diííerent ways they ·iewed the So·iet Union and the ways
in which they concei·ed democracy, both within and outside the party, sin-
ce the socialists íelt uncomíortable with the so·iet and communist political
style. 1he stricter ideology and organization oí the communist party mat-
ched its more homogenous, ·ery class-oriented social roots, the socialist
party on the other hand, exhibited more internal diííerencies both in social
composition and in ideological tendencies.
1he coexistence oí two parties resulted in an increasing polarization in-
side the labour mo·ement. 1he 'cold war' beneíited the communist party,
but damaged the labour mo·ement as a whole and narrowed its limited
possibilities to control oí the go·ernment, since it weakened the socialist
Since then, the antiíascist combination oí nation-building and state-bu-
ilding began to loosen.
1he internal reílection oí the 'Cold \ar' and the
sharp social conílicts emphasized the political clea·ages until the middle
oí the 1950s. Social identities and partitical membership pre·ailed and the
coalescence oí a national identity slowed. 1he antiíascist coalition collap-
sed as eííecti·e legittimation oí the go·ernment: the communist-led labour
mo·ement was pushed into isolation and the PSI was ineííectual. Ruled by
See notes 48 and 49 and Donald Sassoon, 1be ´trategy of tbe !taíiav Covvvvvi.t Party.
írov tbe Re.i.tavce to tbe íi.toricaí Cov¡rovi.e ,New \ork, 1981,.
S. Neri Serneri, "Dal íascismo alla Repubblica. La politica unitaria durante la Resi-
stenza", !í Povte ,May, 1992,: 219-235.
A general account in Paul Ginsborg, . íi.tory of Covtev¡orary !taíy: ´ociety ava Poíi·
tic., 1·1²·1·ºº ,London, 1991,. Norberto Bobbio wrote that aíter 1948 anticommunism
was the ideological basis oí the ruling majority, see "Lettere sull'azionismo", Il Mulino, 6
catholics and allied with the \est, Italy preser·ed its institutions. Indeed,
the transition to democracy slowed and the political system regained some
authoritarian tendencies írom íascism in order to íight the labour mo·e-
ment. Since then, Italy has been endangered by dangerous co·ert actions,
which constricted or undermined democracy. Some ha·e e·en spoken oí
a dual state, where non-democratic powers controlled the democratic
1here is no doubt that state-building was clearly undermined. At the
end oí the 1950s, howe·er, an incoming rush economic de·elopment and
large social transíormations deeply changed the perspecti·e oí nation-bu-
ilding and oí making the democracy working in Italy.
lranco De lelice, "Doppia lealta e doppio Stato", Studi storici, 30, 3 ,July-Septem-
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