Italy. The year began to be problematic for the Italians
when demand for the euro, which at the turn of the year
replaced the lira, was significantly higher than the supply.
Long queues of annoyed customers rang outside the banks. The
introduction of the euro also triggered a government crisis.
Just a few days later, the EU-friendly and internationally
respected Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero resigned. He no
longer considered himself to have Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi's support for his EU policy.
Countryaah website, Ruggiero's departure was a loss of prestige for
Berlusconi, who chose to temporarily take over the post of
foreign minister. Worst, however, did not become
Berlusconi's time as head of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. Only in November did he hand over the post to the
former Minister of Civil Affairs Franco Frattini.
The media magnate Berlusconi's ability to keep apart his
private business interests and his political
responsibilities was questioned by the opposition. Great
anger was aroused when Parliament in the autumn approved a
new law that the opposition thought was tailor-made to save
the prime minister from a pending bribery trial. The law
gave the right to a new trial if there were reasons to
"suspect the judges were not impartial". Berlusconi had
previously managed to avoid litigation by delaying them
until the limitation period expired. The opposition feared
that the Prime Minister would once again escape a judicial
Berlusconi, owner of Italy's largest private ethereal media
company Mediaset, was also accused by the opposition of
trying to take control of state-owned television RAI by
directing the appointment of a new board. Opposition anger
increased when the new RAI board later gave a company with
ties to Berlusconi the task of conducting TV opinion polls.
RAI journalists protested when two news anchors criticized
by Berlusconi were dismissed.
The government's efforts to reduce unemployment through
changes in labor law brought millions of Italians together
for major demonstrations and general strikes during the
year. The trade unions were upset when the Ministry of Labor
wanted to make it easier for employers to dismiss new
employees. Italy was shaken when Marco Biagi, adviser to the
Ministry of Labor and architect behind the reforms, was shot
dead in Bologna on March 19. The left-wing group of Red
Brigades took on the blame and stated that Biagi's reform
proposal was the motive for the murder.
Three months later, Interior Minister Claudio Scojola was
forced to resign after he aroused public anger with a
derogatory statement about the murdered Marco Biagi.
During the year, several suspected members of the
al-Qaeda terrorist network were arrested in Italy The police
believed that Milan was an important base for the network's
European branch. In February, a suspected al-Qaeda leader in
Europe was sentenced to five years in prison. On February 7,
the entire CAA board was dismissed for failing to
investigate the plane crash at Linate Airport in Milan in
October 2001, when a SAS plane collided with a German Cessna
plane and killed 118 people.
Christian Democrat Giulio Andreotti, seven-time prime
minister, was sentenced in the fall to 24 years in prison
for ordering the murder of a journalist in 1979, who was
revealing Andreotti's conspiracy with the mafia.
At the end of October, 26 schoolchildren and three adults
were killed when a school was destroyed in an earthquake in
the village of San Giuliano di Puglia in southern Italy.
Black terror - "strategia della tensione"
The mass radicalization in the late 60's was answered
with the "strategia della tensione" - the well-known
strategy of the fascists. At Milan's Piazza Fontana, 16
people were killed and a hundred injured in a bomb attack on
December 12, 1969. This was the beginning of a series of
acts of violence and of the witch-hunt of so-called
left-wing extremists. Law and order instinct was mobilized.
Only some groups from the new left - i. Lotta Continua
- immediately went to counter-attack. They eventually
revealed what was called "La strage di stato". It was only
later that it was publicly acknowledged that the
assassination in Milan was a plot of the most reactionary
parts of the state apparatus, namely the Ministry of the
Interior and the intelligence service. Former intelligence
chief Miceli was arrested in 1974.
The 1972 election was a victory for the right wing in DC
and for the neo-fascist party, MSI. The working class was
made responsible for the increasing financial problems as it
did not relinquish continued offensive struggle in the
factories. The fascist propaganda set the unemployed and
underemployed - especially in southern Italy - against the
workers of the big companies in the north. A popular
right-wing uprising in Reggio Calabria in 1971-72 became a
symbol of this serious labor movement crisis.
The historical compromise
Fearing a fascist development in Italy and following the
bloody defeat of the Unidad Popular experiment in Chile, PCI
leader Enrico Berlinguer launched in 1973 the "historic
compromise" - a strategy for government cooperation between
the Christian Democrats and the Communists. In the 70's,
this was the major topic of war on the left in Italy. The
left wing line for a left government was rejected by PCI.
With 51% of the electorate behind them, frontal attacks on
the Christian Democrats, which continued to support about
40% of the people, could not be made. But the notion that it
would be possible, through cooperation with DC, to overcome
the problems that were not least due to the long-standing
rule of the Christian Democrats, was also rejected by the
critics on the left.
PCI made great progress in the local elections in 1975
and the parliamentary elections in 1976, when the party
gained 1/3 of the vote. The Democrazia Proletaria
constituency consisting of PdUP, Avanguardia
Operaia and Lotta Continua got 1.5%. The
groups to the left of PCI were crippled by internal disputes
with constant divisions and new rallies. The PdUP was formed
by the Manifesto Group and part of the PSIUP. In 1978, a
majority in Avanguardia Operaia and a minority in
PdUP joined the DP party.
On the far left there was a continued radicalization and
inspired by the Palestinian armed struggle for liberation
and a similar development in other European countries was
formed in the early 70's Brigate Rosse (the Red
Brigades). The movement mainly benefited from abductions,
but also attacks where the victims were shot in the knees
were widespread. The attacks were directed not only at
right-wing people, but also at left-wingers who advocated
for the historic compromise. The Red Brigaders' most
spectacular action was the abduction of 78 by the country's
prime minister, Aldo Moro. Ultimately, DC refused to
negotiate for Aldo Moro's life, and he was killed by the
brigade. The action also showed that the brigade had closed
inside a dead end and marked a steep decline in the
An important reason for the political influence of PCI
was the organizational strength of the party. The number of
members increased during the period 1974-76 by over 150,000
to approx. 1.8 million. PCI was traditionally strongest in
the so-called "red belt" in Central Italy - the area from
Bologna to a little north of Rome - but weaker in the highly
industrialized north and the poor south. In its strong
areas, PCI represented a subculture that dominated local
politics, social conditions and to a large extent also the
economy. Throughout the post-war period, the Communists have
been on several important local administrations. The classic
example of this is Bologna.
In 2008, it was revealed that NATO was preparing a coup
in Italy if the PCI had won power in the country in the
mid-1970's. Italian democracy was enough for the right wing
to have power.