DENIS MACK SMITH: TOWARD THE "APERTURA A SINISTRA" (1963)

The election as Pope of the elderly John XXIII did not seem very significant in 1958, but by 1962, when the 2nd Vatican Council met, Catholicism could be seen to be moving towards greater changed than any in four hundred years. Pius IX, in the allocution "Jamdudum cernimus" of 1861, had formally repudiated 'progress, liberalism and modern civilization;" Pius X, in "Lamentabili sane" of 1907, gave a long list of "modernistic" errors that the Inquisition had decided were more deadly than those of Luther; but now Pope John, in welcoming "aggiornamento" (Modernization) went to what many churchmen would call the opposite extreme. Pius XI after 1922 had encouraged authoritari- anism in Church and State, but John XXIII expressed a preference for the methods of liberal democracy and episcopal collegiality. Pius XII's excommunication of the extreme Left in 1949 gave way to John's desire to repair the bridges which had been too hastily burnt, and the hierarchy was even urged to a hesitant acceptance of Socialism as a possible partner in government. Freedom of conscience was now praised as a Christian virtue, and in the encyclical "Mater et Magister" of 1961, as in "Pacem in Terris" of 1963, John showed how far the church could push its advocacy of progressive social ideas.

Editor's Summary:

[Other factors also indicate the moment has come for the Opening To The Left.

1. the economic boom of the 1950's encouraged, clearly by some prudent management, as well as by foreign loans, had led to a rapid pace of industrialization, which in turn had led to demands for extended centralized plan- ning and government intervention in an expanded public sector.

2. Central Government planning in theory would redress the gross imbalance between the North and the South, for the government would be prepared to invest massively in areas crying out for development, where private and venture capital would not go.

3. In the area of agriculture the Christian democrat sponsored Verde Plan had already allocated vast expenditures of public money aimed at modernizing this industry, thus breaking a pattern and establishing a principle.

So, by 1958, the climate being conductive for a Center-Left coalition, it remained to persuade not so much the diehards of the Christian democratic Right, as the independent Socialists, with 80 Parliamentary seats, under Pietro Nenni.]

Though a quarter of Nenni's party kept up an irreconcilable opposition against any "bourgeois" government, he himself had changed, and he persuaded them in 1952-53 to drop their common slate with the Communists; subsequently Khrushchev's revelations about Stalinism, followed by the Soviet invasion of Hungary further weakened the cohesion of the Left, while improvement in living standards was helping to convert more Socialists to a belief in gradualism. Meanwhile in local government alliances were sometimes worked out which brought the Left into municipal administrations as the only means of providing a working majority (as in Milan and Genoa in 1961 and also in Sicily, where in the regional assembly the CD repeatedly defied Vatican protests and relied on Socialist or even Communist support).

As Giolitti and Cavour had shown earlier, an alliance with the Left could be used to absorb or submerge a potentially dan- gerous opposition; but there was a price to pay, in that it meant adopting a more radical policy. Everything depended on whether any Christian-democrat leader was skillful enough to carry out such an operation at the national level without splitting his party or wrecking his political future.

The first attempt was made by Fanfani who became Prime Minister in 1960. As secretary of the party since 1954, Fanfani had brought younger men to the political forefront, and given them the backing of a reinforced party organization. These men had set their mind on the only realignment of political alliances which offered hope of success. They met renewed opposition from the hierarchy, but gradually Pope John prevailed against the conservative curia cardinals, until he could revoke Pius XII's prohibition against political alliance with marxists. He knew this would increase the Communist vote, but his overriding aim was not to play politics, rather to end the cold war and promote social justice.

Fanfani's fourth administration in February 1962, was at last enabled to offer a left-oriented policy the socialists might accept. He was ready to promise more government intervention in the economy, reform of the civil service, the abolition of share- cropping in agriculture, a program for building new schools, and another for controlling urban sprawl. He was even prepared to create the other 15 regional governments promised in 1947. Higher pensions and social welfare were part of the package, and in foreign policy he persuaded the Americans to remove their missile bases from Italian soil.

The Socialists supported this program, though they would not join the cabinet until they saw what, if anything, it meant in practice. But Fanfani had been too agile for his colleagues, and now discovered that he had vacated the center ground in his party which was a necessary basis for success. The Dorotei (of the progressive center) preferred Aldo Moro, a party secretary since 1959, whose support of the Center Left was combined with a greater political consistency, and a positively Giolittian skill in avoiding rather than imposing solutions. Fanfani was finally displaced when, partly as a result of Pope John's more permissive attitude, the Communists picked up a million extra voted in June 1963, and pushed down popular support for the CD from 42 to 38%. The obvious successor would have been Moro, but Fanfani's supporters made difficulties about serving under him, and so another caretaker government of "monocolore" Christian democracy was formed under Giovanni Leone. Only at the end of 1963 did the Nenni socialists agree to join a Coalition, and, when the Dorotei admitted there was no other alternative, Moro formed an adminis- tration, with Nenni as deputy Prime Minister. The "opening to the Left" was a reality.

(From: Italy. The Transformation of Italy Chap. 59, "Italy Shifts to the Left)


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