Italy in the 1970's 3

Italy in the 1970’s Part 3


On March 8, a meeting of the parties that made up the previous alliance – DC, PCI, PSI, PSDI, PRI but excluding the PLI – launched the programmatic agreement and the composition of the new government: it was again a Christian Democrat single-party still chaired by Andreotti for which this time all the parties of the new majority would have voted in favor. On the morning of March 16, a few hours before the vote to sanction the formation of the government, a RB commando kidnapped Moro in a Rome street, massacring the five men of his escort. The government gained the trust that same day in a moment of great drama, while the country remained annihilated and dismayed at the gravity of the incident.

According to, the government immediately decided not to negotiate for Moro’s release. A different choice would inevitably have led to the political recognition of the Red Brigades.

The painful adoption of this line was supported above all by the DC, the PCI and the PRI, convinced that the state had to give proof of great firmness. PSI secretary B. Craxi instead insisted on a unilateral initiative by the state aimed, through the release for humanitarian reasons of some terrorists, to induce the Red Brigades to free the president of DC. The fifty-five days of the kidnapping were marked by heated debates between supporters of ” firmness ” and supporters of the ” negotiation ”, by confused and inconclusive investigations, by appeals to terrorists to which was added in vain also that of Pope Paul VI.. In the meantime, the BRs filtered letters from Moro criticizing the DC and arguing in favor of the negotiation. The tension broke up dramatically on 9 May with the discovery of Moro’s body in a car parked provocatively in the center of Rome, a stone’s throw from the national secretariats of the DC and the PCI. The following day, the Minister of the Interior F. Cossiga resigned.

The killing of Moro represented a crucial point for left-wing terrorism in Italy: it showed its full force, but it also marked the beginning of its decline. If in the immediate future the number of terrorist actions remained high, then a distancing from the subversive area began on the part of those – and they were numerous – who had cultivated ambiguous solidarity in the name of confused revolutionary perspectives.

The Moro case had highlighted profound differences between the two leftist parties, PCI and PSI. In the summer of 1978 Craxi shifted the conflict to an ideological level by opening the debate on the presuppositions of socialism, contesting the theoretical roots of communism and claiming the primacy of socialist reformism. The reasons for this open competition, destined to last and to accentuate over the years, stemmed from the PSI’s fear of being marginalized by the DC-PCI bipolarity and the need to regain a large margin of maneuver especially towards the DC.

Despite the tensions between the coalition parties, the ” national solidarity ” government managed to achieve a series of results. The austerity policy promoted above all by the Communists and the moderation of union demands contributed to the reduction in the cost of labor and the inflation rate which in 1978 fell to 12.1%, the lowest in the 1973-84 period. The financial situation of the state benefited from a series of new indirect taxes and from the effects of the tax reform that came into force in 1974. Among the laws with a social content approved in 1978 we should mention those on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, on the abolition of asylums, on the ” fair fee ”, on health care reform. The latter, which established the national health system, provided for free treatment for all and reorganized public medicine, entrusting its management to the Local Health Units (USL) dependent on the regions: in the following years its application, entrusted to a control system linked to parties, will give rise – in many parts to Italy – to phenomena of waste, inefficiency and even corruption. The other two laws related to public health aroused, for radically opposite reasons, various perplexities, despite being open and balanced measures in substance and the result of very long debates. The one on abortion was opposed by Catholic movements in defense of life and hindered, in its application, by the conscientious objection of many doctors: these oppositions resulted in the request for an abrogative referendum which, held in 1981 together with another promoted by the radicals to liberalize some provisions of the law, it will nevertheless confirm its validity. The provisions on asylums, while they healed antiquated and oppressive systems of therapy, appeared too permissive and to some extent utopian in that they tended to unload the difficult problem of the mentally ill on society and on families without realizing that set of curative aids that also the law foresaw. The entry into force of these “ social laws ” highlighted an insufficient administrative and financial support framework, the failure to complete parallel interventions and at the same time an excess of state-bureaucratic interventionism that partially distorted the objectives and nullified the results.

Italy in the 1970's 3