Italy in the 1970's 1

Italy in the 1970’s Part 1


According to, the mid-1970s marked the culmination of a long period of social transformation, growth of expectations and mobilization of civil society. These phenomena, triggered by the economic miracle of the late 1950s and prompted by the spread of well-being, had found only partial response in the first center-left reforms. On the contrary, the widespread request to reduce persistent social gaps and discomforts had increased. The main interlocutors in this process, both political and social, and the recipients of these requests, explicitly invoked or implicitly involved, were always the large mass parties and trade unions. The results of almost twenty years, after the the acceleration given to it by the student revolt of 1968 and the workers’ struggles of 1969, had suddenly appeared measurable in the results of the referendum on divorce which, in May 1974, had seen 59.3% of voters take a stand against the repeal of the law. The victory of the divorce was perceived as the signal of a profound secularization of society and, at the same time, of the irrevocability of the reforms.

In those years, the electoral successes of the PCI indicated that a substantial part of the electorate had entrusted the Communists with a decisive role in a radical transformation project. Another fundamental component of the situation were the new forms of mobilization and participation. Models of political action and behavior were affirming that united – with many intertwining and diversity – traditional left, new left and Catholic movements. These were all signs – even the most anomalous ones, such as the beginnings of terrorism – that indicated an accentuated politicization of society.

At the beginning of the Eighties this process began to run out and the following decade will demonstrate the progressive loss of effectiveness of political instruments as factors of transformation and intervention in society. At the same time, the ideal tension that had characterized the previous period faded. In those years there was an emptying of the traditional ideological baggage and the awareness of a certain inanity and unproductivity. To this contributed either the anguished spectacle of the devastating terrorist radicalization, or the reaction, against every type of avant-garde, of the ” inert ” components present in every political camp. The term “ ebb ”, with which the mass media and commentators baptized – already at the end of the seventies – this trend seems appropriate to designate the crisis of ideologies, especially those of the left, and the moderate reaction. Potentially beneficial, this orientation collided instead with an accentuation of the inefficiency of the government and with the corporate hardening of social groups. The increasingly marked gap between awareness of things to do and concrete achievements has been accompanied by the stickiness of the party system increasingly compromised in clientelist dynamics and relationships. The awakening of the social fabric and the vigorous resumption of the debate around the issues of electoral reform and more generally of institutional reform (between the end of the decade and the early 1990s), far from producing changes, seemed to have a paralyzing effect on the political system. But the collapse or downsizing of some traditional forces, in the elections of 1992 and 1993, together with the birth or strengthening of others and the indictment of an entire political class seemed to prefigure new realities and new protagonists.

National solidarity and terrorism. – After the political elections of 20 June 1976, the constitution, in the summer, of the new government chaired by G. Andreotti and supported in Parliament by the favorable vote of the Christian Democrats alone with the abstention of all the other parties of the constitutional arch ”, PCI, PSI, PSDI, PRI and PLI (opposed radicals, demoproletari and missini) had started a new, short and dramatic phase of Italian political life, that of ” national solidarity ”. New for the presence in the parliamentary majority, albeit initially only in the form of abstention, of the PCI remained or confined to the opposition for almost thirty years. Short because already at the end of 1978 it could be considered completed.

For the Communist Party, strengthened by the electoral results, it was a first application of the policy of historical compromise. Theorized by the PCI secretary E. Berlinguer in 1973, in the wake of the Chilean crisis of that year, to prevent a program of profound social reforms from being swept away by the reaction of the subversive and fascist right, it envisaged an unprecedented alliance of Catholic forces and socialists. In 1976 it appeared rather dictated by the emergency conditions imposed by the serious economic crisis and by terrorism – and so the other parties understood it from the beginning.

The most politically relevant aspects of the economic crisis were represented by the very high rate of inflation (16.9% in 1975, 16.7% in that year, 17% in 1977), growing unemployment, difficulties in controlling spending. and the cost of public debt. If inflation could be partly traced back to the international situation following the 1973 oil crisis, the other factors of crisis now appeared as permanent aspects of the Italian system and therefore more difficult to modify.

Italy in the 1970's 1