Showing posts with label Ivanoe Bonomi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ivanoe Bonomi. Show all posts

24 February 2019

Bettino Craxi - prime minister

The Socialist who broke the grip of the Christian Democrats


Bettino Craxi was the first socialist prime  minister of Italy in the modern era
Bettino Craxi was the first socialist prime
 minister of Italy in the modern era
Bettino Craxi, the politician who in 1983 became the first member of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) to be appointed prime minister, was born on this day in 1934 in Milan. 

He was not the first socialist to hold the office - Ivanoe Bonomi had been prime minister for six months in 1920 on an Italian Reformist Socialist Party ticket and succeeded Marshal Pietro Badoglio as leader of the war-torn nation’s post-Mussolini government in 1944. However, Craxi broke the hold of the Christian Democrats, who had been in power continuously since the first postwar elections in 1946.

Craxi was a moderniser who moved his party away from traditional forms of socialism in a way that was replicated elsewhere in Europe, such as in Britain under the New Labour prime minister Tony Blair. Craxi replaced the party’s hammer-and-sickle symbol with a red carnation.

His reputation was ultimately wrecked by a corruption scandal, but during his tenure as prime minister, Italy became the fifth largest industrial nation and gained entry into the G7 Group.

His fiscal policies saw him clash with the powerful trade unions over the abolition of the wage-price escalator under which workers’ wages rose automatically in line with inflation, scoring a major victory when a referendum on the issue called by the Italian Communist Party went in his favour.  However, as a result of Craxi’s overall spending policies, Italy’s national debt overtook its gross domestic product.

Craxi with the US president Ronald Reagan, with whom he clashed over the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship
Craxi with the US president Ronald Reagan, with whom he
clashed over the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship
Craxi demonstrated his strength again in a dispute with the United States following the hijacking off the Egyptian coast of the Achille Lauro cruise ship by members of the Palestine Liberation Army in 1983, during which an American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, was killed. President Ronald Reagan wanted the four perpetrators to be extradited to the US but Italy wished to preserve its good diplomatic relations with the Arab world and avoid becoming a terrorist target, so Craxi refused, insisting that the hijackers should come under Italian jurisdiction. His firmness earned him a standing ovation in the Italian Senate, even from his Communist opponents.

Craxi, who formed a new coalition in 1986 after his 1983 government collapsed, resigned in early 1987. In 1993, following the mani puliti investigations, multiple charges of political corruption against him forced Craxi to quit as party leader.

He did not deny that he had solicited funding for the Socialist Party illegally but claimed that all the political parties did the same and that the PSI were being targeted for political reasons. Craxi fled to exile in Tunisia later that year, just before being convicted, and never returned. He died there in 2000.

Craxi opposed the mooted 'historic compromise'  with Enrico Berlinguer's Communists
Craxi opposed the 'historic compromise' with
 the Communists of Enrico Berlinguer (above)
Craxi - who was christened Benedetto - owed his political beliefs to his father, Vittorio, an anti-Fascist lawyer from Sicily, who became vice-prefect for Milan and then prefect for Como and stood in the 1948 national elections for the Popular Democratic Front, a political alliance between Socialists and Communists. Bettino campaigned for his father and later joined the Italian Socialist Party at the age of 17.

After being elected a town councillor in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano - his mother’s birthplace - in 1956, he became a member of the PSI’s central committee in 1957, won a seat on the city council of Milan in 1960 and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1968.

In 1970 he was appointed the party’s deputy secretary. He was a strong supporter of the centre-left coalition between the Christian Democrats of Aldo Moro and Amintore Fanfani, the PSI, then led by Pietro Nenni, the Social Democrats the Republicans.

He was elevated to general secretary in 1976 following a poor election performance by PSI candidates and set about uniting the party’s squabbling factions, committed it to moderate social and economic policies, and tried to dissociate it from the much larger Italian Communist Party.

Craxi always opposed the mooted 'historic compromise' favoured by Moro and the Communist leader, Enrico Berlinguer, on the basis that a political alliance between the Christian Democrats and the Communists would marginalise the Socialists, yet when Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades in 1978, amid demands for the release of so-called political prisoners, Craxi was the only political leader to declare himself open to a "humanitarian solution" that would allow Moro to be freed.

Under Craxi’s leadership the Socialists were members in five of Italy’s six coalition governments from 1980 to 1983 before the 1983 elections gave him the opportunity to form a coalition government with the Christian Democrats and several small, moderate parties.

His tenure as prime minister lasted three years and seven months, the third longest in the republican era. Silvio Berlusconi, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship despite their political differences, is the only prime minister to enjoy longer unbroken spells in office.

The Castello di Sant'Angelo Lodigiano is now a museum set up in honour of the Bolognini family
The Castello di Sant'Angelo Lodigiano is now a museum
set up in honour of the Bolognini family
Travel tip:

The town of Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, where Bettino Craxi served as a councillor in the 1950s, is situated about 40km (25 miles) southeast of Milan, close to the city of Lodi in Lombardy. It is best known for the castle that was built there in the 13th century, standing guard over the river Lambro in a strategically favourable position for the control of river traffic to Milan. The castle was turned into a summer residence by Regina della Scala, wife of Bernab├▓ Visconti. In 1452, with the passage of the power of the Duchy of Milan from the Visconti to the Sforza, the fiefdom and the castle were donated, by Francesco Sforza, to Michele Matteo Bolognini, who received the title of Count. It remained the property of the Bolognini family and became known as the Castello Bolognini until 1933, when the widow of the last descendant - Count Gian Giacomo Morando Bolognini -  created the Fondazione Morando Bolognini for agricultural research and turned the castle into a museum.

Hotels in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano by Booking.com


Lodi's beautiful main square, the Piazza della Vittoria. looking towards the 12th century cathedral
Lodi's beautiful main square, the Piazza della Vittoria.
looking towards the 12th century cathedral
Travel tip:

The city of Lodi sits on the right bank of the River Adda. The main square, Piazza della Vittoria, has been listed by the Touring Club of Italy as among the most beautiful squares in Italy with its porticoes on all four sides. Its cathedral, the Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta, was founded on August 3, 1158, the day on which Lodi was refounded after its destruction by Milanese troops in 1111. The fa├žade, built in Romanesque style with the exception of the large Gothic entrance portico supported by small columns with lion sculptures at the base, was completed in 1284.




(Picture credits: Castle Sant’Angelo Lodigiano by Paperkat; Piazza della Vittoria, Lodi by Gabriele Zuffetti; via Wikmedia Commons)


28 September 2018

Pietro Badoglio - soldier and politician

Controversial general who turned against Mussolini


Pietro Badoglio was Mussolini's Chief of Staff from 1925 to 1940
Pietro Badoglio was Mussolini's Chief of
Staff from 1925 to 1940
Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who was a general in the Italian Army in both World Wars and became Italy’s wartime prime minister after the fall of Mussolini, was born on this day in 1871 in the village of Grazzano Monferrato in Piedmont.

He was Mussolini’s Chief of Staff between 1925 and 1940, although his relationship with the Fascist dictator was fractious.

Indeed, he ultimately played a key part in Mussolini’s downfall in 1943, encouraging the Fascist Grand Council to remove him as leader and advising King Victor Emmanuel III in the lead-up to Mussolini’s arrest and imprisonment in July of that year, after which he was named as head of an emergency government.

It was Badoglio who then conducted the secret negotiations with the Allies that led to an armistice being signed barely five weeks later.

However, historians are divided over whether he should be seen as an heroic figure, in part because of his role in the disastrous defeat for Italian forces at the Battle of Caporetto in the First World War, at a cost of 10,000 Italian deaths and 30,000 more wounded.

Many Italian soldiers became German prisoners of war after Badoglio had secretly negotiated Italy's surrender
Many Italian soldiers became German prisoners of war
after Badoglio had secretly negotiated Italy's surrender
Badoglio hailed from a middle-class background. His father, Mario, was a small landowner. He trained at the Royal Military Academy in Turin.

After completing his studies, he served with the Italian Army from 1892, at first as a Lieutenant in artillery, taking part in the early Italian colonial wars in Eritrea and in Libya.

Early in Italy’s participation in the First World War, he was elevated to the rank of Major General following the capture of Monte Sabotino in May 1916, which was attributed to his strategic planning.

The Battle of Caporetto in October 1917 went less well, however. He was blamed in various reports for poor decision-making with regard to the forces under his command. However, by the time a commission of inquiry looked into his role Mussolini had taken control and, having identified Badoglio as someone he wanted on his side, is thought to have ordered all references to Badoglio to be excluded from the report.

Pietro Badoglio was a soldier for the  whole of his life
Pietro Badoglio was a soldier for the
whole of his adult life
Badoglio was uneasy, however, with the aggressive Fascist stance on foreign policy issues and, in an effort to distance himself from Mussolini’s ambitions, which he felt were unrealistic, asked to be assigned to an ambassadorial position in Brazil. However, Mussolini summoned him back and offered to make him his Chief of Staff, a position Badoglio felt unable to refuse.

He was made a Field Marshal in May 1926, governed Libya from 1928 to 1934 and assumed command of the Italian forces during the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, capturing Addis Ababa, the capital.  The conflict was notorious for the use by the Italian side of mustard gas, in contravention of the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Blame for this was laid at the feet of Mussolini, but some claim Badoglio had already ordered its deployment before authority was given.

Badoglio joined the Fascist Party but his relationship with Mussolini began to fracture soon after the Ethiopia war, in part because the dictator wanted to take personal credit for the operation’s success.  Badoglio opposed Italy’s involvement in the Pact of Steel with Germany in the lead-up to the Second World War because he had doubts about Germany’s ambitious military objectives, yet led Mussolini to believe the Italian army was capable of playing a significant role.

Indeed, the invasion of Greece by Italian forces in 1940 went ahead, seemingly with Badoglio’s endorsement.  The campaign was a disaster for the Italians, however, with considerable losses in personnel and equipment. Badoglio resigned as Chief of Staff soon afterwards.

Plaques identify the house in Grazzano where Badoglio was born
Plaques identify the house in Grazzano
where Badoglio was born
As the Second World War as a whole became one in which Italian sacrifices looked increasingly likely to be pointless, Badoglio positioned himself with those who believed the only hope for Italy was to remove Mussolini.  He began to be involved in talks with other prominent Fascists about how this might be brought about and made it known to Victor Emmanuel III that he would be willing to lead an interim government if Mussolini was overthrown.

In the event, he was installed as prime minister on the day Mussolini was arrested. However, he attracted criticism for allowing news of the armistice to come out on the Allied side before his own troops had been informed, appearing to put his own safety ahead of Italian personnel.

Right up to the moment it was announced, Badoglio had been reassuring the Germans that Italy remained a fully committed ally. When the armistice was revealed, many Italians were still fighting alongside German forces, unaware that their status had suddenly changed to enemies.  Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel, on the other hand, had removed themselves to safe locations in the south of the country, avoiding capture.

Badoglio dissolved the Fascist Party, and Italy declared war on Nazi Germany.  He was never a popular figure, however, as the political climate changed and in June 1944 he resigned, giving way to the left-winger, Ivanoe Bonomi.

Badoglio retired to his home in Grazzano Monferrato, which by then had changed its name to Grazzano Badoglio in his honour. He remained a figure of influence amid increasing tensions over the Soviet Union and managed to convince the British government that he could help prevent the establishment of a communist government in Italy, thus avoiding any prosecution for war crimes over what happened in Ethiopia.

He died in 1956 at the age of 85, having returned to his home village. He is buried at the village cemetery.

The Royal Palace in Turin is not far from where the  former military academy was located
The Royal Palace in Turin is not far from where the
former military academy was located
Travel tip:

The Royal Military Academy in Turin, where Badoglio trained, was the oldest military academy in the world, dating back to the 17th century, when Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy had the idea of creating an institute to train members of the ruling class and army officers in military strategy.  It was inaugurated on January 1, 1678, which predates the Royal Academy at Woolwich in Britain by 42 years and the Russian Academy in Petersburg, by 45 years. The court architect Amedeo di Castellamonte designed the building, work on which began in 1675, which was situated a short distance from the Royal Palace in the centre of the city. Unfortunately, the building was almost totally destroyed in 1943, during Allied air attacks.

The hilltop village of Grazzano Badoglio, with the former Abbey of Aleramica visible at the top
The hilltop village of Grazzano Badoglio, with the former
Abbey of Aleramica visible at the top 
Travel tip:

The hilltop village of Grazzano Badoglio, which was Grazzano Monferrato until 1939, is situated about 80km (50 miles) to the east of Turin in the province of Asti . In was renamed by the Fascist mayor in 1939 in honour of Pietro Badoglio.  The house where Badoglio grew up, which became an asylum in 1937, is marked with a commemorative plaque.  The village, which had Roman origins, is notable today for the Abbey of Aleramica - today the village’s parish church - which was founded in 961 by the Marquis Aleramo I of Monferrato on top of the hill where the church stands today. It was home to Benedictines monks for more than four centuries. The cloister, restored and open to the public by request, is among what remains of the original building. The Romanesque bell tower was added in 1910.

More reading:

Mussolini appointed prime minister with Italy on brink of civil war

Palermo falls to the Allies

Germans free captive Mussolini in daring raid

Also on this day:

1924: The birth of actor Marcello Mastroianni

1978: The sudden death of Pope John Paul I


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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


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20 April 2017

Ivanoe Bonomi – statesman

Liberal socialist was a major figure in transition to peace in 1945


Ivanoe Bonomi was prime minister of Italy on two occasions
Ivanoe Bonomi was prime minister
of Italy on two occasions
The anti-Fascist politician Ivanoe Bonomi, who served as prime minister of Italy both before and after the dictator Benito Mussolini was in power, died on this day in 1951.

He was 77 but still involved with Italian political life as the first president of the Senate in the new republic, an office he had held since 1948.

Bonomi had briefly been head of a coalition government in 1921, during which time he was a member of one of Italy’s socialist parties, but his major influence as an Italian statesman came during Italy’s transition to peace after the Second World War.

Having stepped away from politics in 1922 following Mussolini’s March on Rome, he resurfaced almost two decades later when he became a leading figure in an anti-Fascist movement in 1942.  He founded a clandestine anti-Fascist newspaper and became a member of an elite committee who would meet in the Seminario Romano, which was owned by the Vatican and therefore considered neutral territory.

Bonomi was one of a number of political figures who urged the King, Victor Emmanuel III, to abandon Italy’s alliance with Germany and remove Mussolini from office.  After Mussolini was arrested in 1943, and by then a member of the Liberal Party, Bonomi became part of the new government led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, chairing the National Liberation Committee.

He was appointed prime minister for a second time, in succession to Badoglio, in 1944, because he was seen as a moderate and had the approval of the Allies.

King Victor Emmanuel III
King Victor Emmanuel III
His premiership lasted one year, ending when he tended his resignation in June 1945 after the liberation of northern Italy from the Germans, two months after Mussolini, who had been freed from house arrest in the Gran Sasso raid, was executed by Italian partisans.

Bonomi remained a key figure on the path to peace, however, as one of three Italian negotiators at the talks that led to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.  

Born in Mantua in 1873, Bonomi obtained degrees in natural sciences and law and after a short period in teaching he turned to journalism, writing for the socialist newspaper Avanti and other left-leaning publications.

He joined the Italian Socialist Party and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1909, representing Mantua, yet he was expelled from the party in 1912, partly because he was an advocate of reform and moderation, but mainly because of his support for the Italian invasion of Libya, which he hoped would create new economic opportunities for Italians and stem the migration to North America and other European nations.

Bonomi then joined the Italian Reformist Socialist Party, and supported Italy's participation in the First World War on the side of the Triple Entente.  He volunteered for the army.

He entered government as minister of public works from 1916 until 1917 under the Liberal prime minister Paolo Boselli and was minister of war in the government led by the Radical Party's Francesco Nitti and the Liberal Giovanni Giolitti from 1920 until 1921, helping to negotiate a treaty with Yugoslavia via the Treaty of Rapallo.

Bonomi's moderate views made him an acceptable post-War prime minister
Bonomi's moderate views made him an
acceptable post-War prime minister
After becoming treasury minister under Giolitti, he became prime minister of Italy for the first time – the first socialist to hold the post – in a coalition government, although the grouping collapsed after seven months and he was replaced Luigi Facta, another Liberal and the last prime minister before the Fascist insurgency seized power.

Unable to prevent the rise of Fascism and amid an atmosphere in which opponents of Mussolini were subjected to intimidation and sometimes violent attacks, Bonomi chose to withdraw from public life and concentrate on historical studies.

He attracted criticism for appearing to be a weak figure at the time but risked his own safety by joining forces with other opponents of Fascism during the war, narrowly escaping arrest when a Fascist military unit raided the Seminario Romano, in violation of Germany’s purported respect for the sovereignty of the Holy See.  Bonomi was among 110 anti-Fascists who were inside the seminary. Most escaped, although 18 were captured.

The Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza delle Erbe in Mantua
The Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza delle Erbe in Mantua
Travel tip:

Mantua has been made effectively safe ever from being spoilt by progress by the three artificial lakes created almost 1,000 years ago that form a giant defensive moat around the Lombardy city. It means that little has changed about Mantua in centuries, its dimensions and its population remaining almost constant. Italians refer to it as La Bella Addormentata – the Sleeping Beauty. It’s architecture is the legacy of the Gonzaga family, who ruled the city for 400 years and built the Palazzo Ducale – Ducal Palace – which is not so much a palace as a small town, comprising a castle, a basilica, several courtyards, galleries and gardens. At the centre of the town, life revolves around Piazza delle Erbe, an old marketplace with arched porticoes, fashion shops and lively bars, and Piazza Sordello, with grand palaces and a white marble Baroque cathedral.

The Seminario Romano provided shelter for anti-Fascists
The Seminario Romano provided shelter for anti-Fascists
Travel tip:

The creation of a seminary in Rome for the education of priests was promoted by Pope Pius IV and Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, his nephew. The Seminario Romano, in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, was housed in several buildings until 1607, when it was moved to a palace belonging to the Gabrielli family. In 1824 Pope Leo XII assigned the building to the reconstituted Jesuit Order and it is now a residence for Jesuit priests and brothers studying for advanced academic degrees.


More reading:


How Mussolini had his own son-in-law executed

The Fascist thugs who murdered socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti

Alcide de Gasperi - the prime minister who rebuilt Italy


Also on this day:


1949: The birth of politician Massimo d'Alema, Italy's first communist prime minister