Showing posts with label Antonio Segni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antonio Segni. Show all posts

19 September 2018

Giuseppe Saragat – fifth President of Italy

Socialist politician opposed Fascism and Communism

Giuseppe Saragat
Giuseppe Saragat, who was President of the Italian Republic from 1964 to 1971, was born on this day in 1898 in Turin.

As a Socialist politician, he was exiled from Italy by the Fascists in 1926.

When he returned to Italy in 1943 to join the partisans, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazi forces occupying Rome, but he managed to escape and resume clandestine activity within the Italian Socialist Party.

Saragat was born to Sardinian parents living in Turin and he graduated from the University of Turin in economics and commerce. He joined the Socialist party in 1922.

During his years in exile he did various jobs in Austria and France.  After returning to Italy, he was minister without portfolio in the first post-liberation cabinet of Ivanoe Bonomi in 1944.

He was sent as ambassador to Paris between 1945 and 1946 and was then elected president of the Constitutional Assembly that drafted postwar Italy’s new constitution.

At the Socialist Party Congress in 1947, Saragat opposed the idea of unity with the Communist Party and led those who walked out to form the Socialist Party of Italian Workers (PSLI).

In 1951, Saragat founded the Italian Democratic Socialist Party
In 1951, Saragat founded the Italian
Democratic Socialist Party
Saragat was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in April 1948. He became vice premier and minister of the merchant marine, but he resigned from his posts in 1949 to devote himself to his party.

It became the Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) in 1951 in an effort to reaffirm its independence from the Communists and the other left-wing groups.

Between 1954 and 1957 Saragat again served as vice-premier but resigned in opposition to the government’s position on NATO. He suggested the idea of ‘an opening to the left’ - a coalition government including left-wing socialists.

Saragat was minister of foreign affairs in the cabinet of Antonio Segni between 1959 and 1960 but then resigned causing the downfall of the government. In 1963 he campaigned against nuclear power stations in Italy saying they were an unnecessary extravagance.

He then became minister of foreign affairs under Aldo Moro and saw the opening to the left materialise as Moro formed Italy's first centre-left government He served until late 1964 when he succeeded Segni as President of Italy.

He stepped down from the presidency in 1971, becoming a Senator for Life.  In 1975 he became secretary of his old party, the PSDI.

Saragat died in June 1988 aged 89, leaving a son and a daughter.

An internal courtyard at the University of Turin
An internal courtyard at the University of Turin
Travel tip:

The University of Turin, where Saragat studied for his degree, is one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1406 by Prince Ludovico di Savoia. It consistently ranks among the top five universities in Italy and is an important centre for research. The university departments are spread around 13 facilities, with the main university buildings in Via Giuseppe Verdi, close to Turin’s famous Mole Antonelliana.

The Palazzo Quirinale in Rome is the official residence  of the presidents of Italy
The Palazzo Quirinale in Rome is the official residence
of the presidents of Italy
Travel tip:

When Giuseppe Saragat was the President of Italy, he lived in Palazzo Quirinale in Rome at one end of Piazza del Quirinale. This was the summer palace of the popes until 1870 when it became the palace of the kings of the newly unified Italy. Following the abdication of the last king, it became the official residence of the President of the Republic in 1947.

More reading:

Why Antonio Segni was famous for tactical cunning

Ivanoe Bonomi - a major figure in the transition to peace

When the Red Brigades kidnapped Aldo Moro

Also on this day:

The Festival of San Gennaro

1941: The birth of controversial Lega Nord politician Umberto Bossi


2 February 2017

Antonio Segni - prime minister and president

Sardinian politician famous for tactical cunning

Antonio Segni: Christian Democrat was twice Italian prime minister
Antonio Segni: Christian Democrat was
twice Italian prime minister
Antonio Segni, the first Sardinian to become Italy's prime minister, was born on this day in 1891 in Sassari, the second largest city on the island.

Sassari was also the home town of another Italian prime minister, Francesco Cossiga, and of the country's most successful Communist leader, Enrico Berlinguer.  Like Segni, Cossiga also served the country as president.

Born into a landowning family and a prominent member of the Christian Democratic party from the time of its formation towards the end of the Second World War, Segni was prime minister from 1955 to 1957 and from 1959 to 1960. He was president from 1962 until he was forced to retire due to ill health in 1964.

Frail in appearance for much of his life, Segni was a strong politician nonetheless, given the affectionate nickname Il malato di ferro - the invalid with the iron constitution - by his supporters.

He was also highly astute, particularly when it came to wrong-footing opponents.

Segni became politically active in his late 20s, joining the Italian People's Party (PPI) - predecessor of the Christian Democrats - in 1919 and by 1924 was a member of the party's national council. He spoke out against extremism on the left and the right and opposed PPI participation in any coalition involving the Fascists.

Alcide de Gasperi led Italy's first government as a republic after the end of the Second World War
Alcide de Gasperi led Italy's first government as
a republic after the end of the Second World War
In 1926, the debate became irrelevant as Fascist leader Benito Mussolini banned all political organisations apart from his own and for the next 17 years Segni, who had graduated with a degree in agricultural and commercial law, returned to academic life, lecturing in agrarian law at a number of universities.

He resumed his political career in 1943 - the year in which Mussolini was thrown out by his own party and arrested by King Victor Emmanuel III - helping launch the Christian Democratic Party in Sardinia.  He was part of the wartime governments of Ivanoe Bonimi, Ferrucio Parri and Alcide de Gasperi before being elected to the first parliament of the new Italian Republic, serving as Minister for Agriculture, also under De Gasperi.

It was in that capacity that Segni showed himself to be an innovative thinker in political tactics.  Aware that agricultural workers, still living in a somewhat medieval societal structure dominated by large landowners, were a prime target for left-wing revolutionaries, Segni sought to keep them onside by proposing that areas of uncultivated land should be expropriated from large landowners and given to the workers so that they could grow and sell their own produce.

He was prepared to lose substantial amounts of his own land under the scheme.  In the event, the proposal met with opposition both from the right, who objected to any imposed limitations on property ownership, and from the left, who saw it as a calculated attempt to undermine their support from agricultural workers.  Nonetheless, the watered down version that was passed still led to some 121,000 working class families becoming landowners.

Giovanni de Lorenzo was the head of Italy's Carabinieri police force
Giovanni de Lorenzo was the head
of Italy's Carabinieri police force
As prime minister, Segni introduced other social reforms to the benefit of ordinary Italians, particularly in the area of pensions, and in insurance against health problems linked to working conditions.

Later, however, it was alleged that his tactics for keeping the left from gaining power in Italy were not always so honourable.

In 1967, after an investigation by the news magazine L'Espresso, it was claimed that, as president, Segni was so uneasy about the growing popularity of the Italian Socialist and Communist parties he had asked General Giovanni de Lorenzo, the head of the Carabinieri - Italy's quasi-military police force - to work with the Italian secret services and the CIA to prepare a coup.

This supposedly would have involved 20,000 Carabinieri officers on the streets around the country, 5,000 of them in Rome, who would occupy government buildings such as the Palazzo del Quirinale, the offices of the television and radio stations, plus the headquarters premises of the Communist and Socialist parties and the Communist party newspaper, L'Unità.  Leaders and prominent supporters of the Communist party were to be detained and interned at a secret base in Sardinia already used by the clandestine anti-Communist organisation, Gladio.

The existence of the plot was never proved.  It was suggested in some quarters that the story was a plant by the right aimed at dissuading progressive Christian Democrats such as Aldo Moro from entering into coalition deals with left-wing parties; others dismissed the story as an attempt by L'Espresso to discredit De Lorenzo, who was a member of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.

Segni stepped down as president in December 1964, four months after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage.  He died in Rome in 1972 at the age of 81.

Travel tip:

Sassari, the origins of which can be traced to the early 12th century, is a city rich in art, culture and history. It is well known for its beautiful palazzi, for the Fountain of the Rosello, and for the elegant neoclassical architecture that can be found around the central Piazza d'Italia and the Teatro Civico. The city - second in size on Sardinia only to Cagliari - is not heavily industrialised, its economy mainly reliant on tourism and the service industries.

Palazzo Madama is the seat of Italy's Senate
Palazzo Madama is the seat of Italy's Senate
Travel tip:

Rome's four main government buildings can be found within a short distance from one another in the centre of the city.  The prime minister's official residence and cabinet office are in Palazzo Chigi in Piazza Colonna, just off Via del Corso.  The Palazzo Montecitori, where Italy's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, convenes, is little more than 150m from Palazzo Chigi in the Piazza di Monte Citori.  Approximately 600m from Palazzo Chigi, going west, and a stone's throw from Piazza Navona, the upper house, the Senate, sits in Palazzo Madama, which can be found in Piazza Madama. The official residence of the Italian president is the Palazzo del Quirinale, or simply il Quirinale, which is roughly 800m from Palazzo Chigi in the opposite direction.  Sitting atop one of Rome's seven hills, it is often referred to also as il Colle – the Hill.

More reading:

How Enrico Berlinguer turned Italy's Communist Party in a political force

Why the Aldo Moro tragedy overshadowed career of Francesco Cossiga

Also on this day:

1723: The death of anatomist Antonio Maria Valsalva

1925: The birth of Olympic showjumper Raimondo D'Inzeo

(Picture credit: Palazzo Madama by Paul Hermans; via Wikmedia Commons)