Italian Socialist Party

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Italian Socialist Party


(ISP; Partito Socialista Italiano), founded in August 1892 at a congress in Genoa. From 1892 it was called the Italian Workers’ Party, from 1893, the Socialist Party of Italian Workers’ and from 1895, the Italian Socialist Party. In 1930 the party’s name was changed to the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity, and in 1947, to the Italian Socialist Party. The party was known as the Unified Socialist Party from 1966 to 1968, when its name was changed to the Italian Socialist Party. The ISP is a section of the Socialist International.

In 1893 the Second Congress of the ISP adopted a program that proclaimed as the party’s purpose a struggle to gain power for the working class and to socialize the means of production. The complexity of the situation in Italy, including the incompleteness of bourgeois-democratic reforms and the difference in the levels of development of the north and south, accounted for the specific characteristics of the ISP. The party expressed diverse and contradictory opposition sentiments—the revolutionary socialist aspirations of the progressive proletariat, the radical democratic sentiments of the masses, and the reformist tendencies of a segment of the intelligentsia and some strata of the working class. From the very beginning two basic currents took shape in the party: a left-wing current (the Implacables, then the Anarchosyndicalists, and still later, the Maximalists) and a right-wing current (reformist). The predominance of the reformists under F. Turati began in 1902 and ended in 1912, after the expulsion from the party of their extremist wing (for example, L. Bissolati and I. Bonomi), which had adopted chauvinist positions. From that time the ISP usually took more left-wing positions than the other social democratic parties in Western Europe.

Under the leadership of the Maximalists (G. M. Serrati and C. Lazzari) the ISP opposed the world imperialist war of 1914–18, but its opposition stemmed from a social-pacifist point of view. The party was among the initiators of and participants in the international socialist conferences in Zimmerwald (1915) and Kiental (1916). It actively supported a movement in defense of Soviet Russia, and in 1919 it announced that it was joining the Comintern. In the parliamentary elections of 1919 the ISP received 30 percent of the vote. During the postwar revolutionary crisis the party called for revolution, but its leaders failed to give purposeful, practical guidance to the mounting mass movement and were unable to devise specific means of attaining the victory of socialist revolution in Italy. In 1921 the revolutionary wing of the ISP withdrew from the party, forming the Communist Party of Italy. Under attack by fascism, which took power in Italy in 1922, the ISP had essentially ceased its activities in the country by 1926.

The lessons of the postwar revolutionary crisis and the struggle against fascism promoted a rapprochement between ISP émigré organizations and the Communist Party and the conclusion on Aug. 17, 1934, in Paris of a pact calling for unity of action between them. (The pact was renewed several times.) The Socialists participated actively in the struggle of the International Brigades in Spain (1936–39) and in the Resistance Movement in Italy during the occupation of the country by fascist German troops between 1943 and 1945.

Between 1944 and 1947 the ISP, which was under the leadership of P. Nenni at that time, joined antifascist coalition governments in Italy, aligning itself with their left wings. It cooperated with the Communist Party in the struggle for progressive democracy that developed after the liberation of Italy. In 1947, G. Saragat’s right-wing grouping left the ISP, as did G. Romita’s group in 1949. In 1951 these two groups formed the Italian Social Democratic Party (ISDP).

In 1955 the ISP had 700, 000 members. Despite its militant class policy, the ideological level of the ISP was low. In the changed atmosphere of the mid-1950’s—a time marked by an economic upsurge, some improvement in the standard of living of the masses, and a concomitant increase in reformist illusions among a segment of the working people—the ISP leadership group, which was headed by Nenni, began to evolve toward the right. After dissolving the pact on unity of action with the Communist Party in 1956, the ISP drew closer to the ruling Christian Democratic Party (CDP). From 1962 the Socialists supported the policy of the “left center,” and in 1963 they joined the left-center government of A. Moro. In 1964 the left wing of the ISP seceded from the party and formed the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity. The ISP merged with the ISDP in 1966, essentially adopting the latter’s platform.

The participation of a unified Socialist party in a coalition government demonstrated the impossibility of carrying out democratic reforms without relying on the masses. A new upsurge of the mass movement beginning in 1968 raised the danger that the party would be isolated from the broad strata of the toiling people. In the parliamentary elections of 1968 the ISP suffered a defeat, winning 1.5 million fewer votes than in the previous elections. Substantial forces in the party (the “new majority”) called for a policy change toward more vigorous support of the working people’s demands and toward cooperation with the Communist Party on certain issues. In 1969 the opponents of a turn toward the left in the party’s course—former Social Democrats and a segment of extreme right-wing socialists —left the party and formed the Unitary Socialist Party, which became the Socialist Unity Party in 1971. In the parliamentary elections of May 7, 1972, the ISP garnered 3.9 million votes (9.6 percent of the vote). The 39th congress of the ISP (1972) came out against the right-center government that had been formed that year and in favor of restoring the left-center coalition. Until November 1974 the ISP was part of the new left-center government. Subsequently, it supported the two-party government of Moro. In general, the ISP favors cooperation with the Communist Party.

The ISP’s program of action for the immediate future is formulated in the secretary’s report to the party congress. The most recent party rules were adopted in 1968. The party is dominated by urban strata of the working people. In 1974 the ISP had about 640, 000 members. The party chairman is P. Nenni, and the political secretary is F. de Martino. The daily newspaper A vanti! is the ISP’s central organ.

S. I. DOROFEEV [11–129-1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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