Democratici di Sinistra

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Partito Democratico della Sinistra
Democratici di Sinistra
Party logo
Party executive Massimo D'Alema (1998) ,
Walter Veltroni (1998–2001) ,
Piero Fassino (2001–2007) (Segretario)
Giglia Tedesco Tatò (1998) ,
Massimo D'Alema (1998–2007) (Presidente)
founding February 3, 1991 (emerged from: Partito Comunista Italiano )
fusion October 14, 2007 (published in: Partito Democratico )
coalition L'Ulivo (1998-2005) ,
L'Unione (2005-2007)
ideology Social democracy , democratic socialism
International connections Socialist International
European party European Social Democratic Party
EP Group Socialist Group in the European Parliament
Headquarters ItalyItaly Rome , Via Palermo 12
Party newspaper L'Unità

The Democratici di Sinistra ( DS , German Left Democrats ) were until 2007 the largest Italian party of the center-left electoral alliances L'Ulivo ("Olive Tree") and L'Unione . It can be described as a social-democratic party; individual party-internal currents also saw themselves as democratic socialists , left-wing liberals or Christian socialists .

It was founded in 1991 under the name Partito Democratico della Sinistra ( PDS , "Democratic Left Party") and thus followed the post-communist transformation of the old Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) into a moderate left party. The faction that wanted to remain loyal to communism split off as the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista . In 1998 the DS emerged as a merger of the PDS with some smaller left-wing groups, such as the Cristiano Sociali (Christian Socialists), the Federazione Laburista and the Comunisti Unitari (United Communists). The Democratici di Sinistra merged in 2007 with other parties of the center-left spectrum to form the Partito Democratico .


Turn of Bolognina

The Communist Party of Italy had already distanced itself from the leadership role of the Soviet Union on the occasion of the overthrow of the “ Prague Spring ” in 1968 and advocated a Eurocommunism that was largely compatible with Western ideas of democracy. In parliamentary elections it regularly received more than 20, sometimes even 30 percent, appointed the mayor of several large cities and even entered into an alliance with the Christian Democrats as part of the “ Historic Compromise ” in 1976-78 . Instead of a revolution, the majority of the PCI sought a peaceful parliamentary path to socialism. A “social democratization” of the party became apparent as early as the 1970s and increasingly in the 1980s.

In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall , the then General Secretary of the PCI, Achille Occhetto , announced a fundamental change in the party during a memorial event in Bolognina (a district of Bologna) on November 12, 1989, in the course of which it could also change its name . The change from PCI to PDS is therefore called svolta della Bolognina ("Wende von Bolognina").

On her XX. At the congress in Rimini, the PCI decided on February 3, 1991 to finally turn away from communism and rename it to Partito Democratico della Sinistra . The internal party opponents of this decision founded the Movimento per la Rifondazione Comunista on the same day , to which 150,000 members converted by May 1991. The previous general secretary of the PCI, Achille Occhetto, also became the first secretary (ie operative party leader) of the PDS and remained so until 1994. The logo of the PDS showed an oak tree, but in the lower area the old PCI emblem with a hammer remained in a smaller area and sickle to build on their tradition. The former communist party organ L'Unità became the official newspaper of the PDS.

Partito Democratico della Sinistra (1991-1998)

In September 1992 the PDS was accepted into the Socialist International , which was also approved by its two previous Italian member parties - PSI and PDSI . Two months later, the PDS took part in the founding of the Social Democratic Party of Europe (SPE). The European parliamentarians of the PDS then switched from the group of the European United Left to the Social Democratic group .

The PDS first took part in the national elections in 1992. It received 16.1% of the vote - over 10 percentage points less than the PCI before it - and 107 of the 630 seats in the House of Representatives (51 fewer than the PCI before). In April / May 1993 the PDS was represented by three ministers in the cabinet of the independent Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi . For the first time since the all-party government in the immediate post-war period (1945–47) (former) communists were once again involved in an Italian government with ministerial posts. However, they resigned just a few days after they were sworn in, after Parliament had refused to lift the immunity of the head of PSI, Bettino Craxi , who was suspected of corruption .

Party leader Massimo D'Alema (1996)

In 1993 a new electoral law, called the Mattarellum , was passed, according to which three quarters of the seats in the House of Representatives were determined by majority instead of proportional representation as was previously the case. In the run-up to the early elections triggered by the Tangentopoli / Mani pulite corruption scandal , the PDS formed the center-left with the Rifondazione Comunista, Greens , Socialists, the left-liberal reform parties La Rete and Alleanza Democratica as well as the Cristiano Sociali (a left-wing split from the crumbling Democrazia Cristiana) Alliance Alleanza dei Progressisti ("Progressive Alliance") to improve their chances in the majority election. Although the PDS itself increased its share of the vote to 20.4% and the number of its MPs to 125, the Progressisti alliance was clearly subject to the center-right alliance Polo delle Libertà / Polo del Buon Governo under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi and his new one Party Forza Italia . Then Achille Occhetto resigned as party secretary. He was succeeded by Massimo D'Alema .

After Berlusconi's coalition collapsed in December 1994, the PDS failed to form an alternative government majority. She also initially shied away from new elections. Instead, they supported the non-party technocratic government of Lamberto Dini . At the same time, however, she worked on the formation of a new, expanded center-left alliance called L'Ulivo ("The Olive Tree"), which, in addition to the parties of the Alleanza dei Progressisti , also included the PPI , the liberal PRI , which emerged from the remnants of the Christian Democrats. the South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) as well as the reform party Rinnovamento Italiano (RI), newly founded by Dini, were members. Although the PDS was the largest party in this alliance, the former Christian Democrat Romano Prodi ran as its top candidate. The L'Ulivo alliance won the early parliamentary election in April 1996 . Although the PDS itself was only able to increase its share of the vote to 21.1%, the number of its MPs rose to 172, as L'Ulivo won the direct mandate in most of the constituencies. In the Prodi I cabinet that was subsequently formed , the PDS provided 10 of the 18 ministerial posts.

Democratici di Sinistra (1998-2007)

Election poster with the Democratici di Sinistra party logo (2005)

On February 13, 1998, the constituent assembly of the new Democratici della Sinistra party took place, in which the following organizations took part:

Parliamentary group (and political origin) Chairman Representation at the assembly
PDS (ex PCI ) Massimo D'Alema 73%
Federazione Laburista (ex PSI ) Valdo Spini , Giorgio Ruffolo 8th %
Comunisti Unitari (ex PRC ) Famiano Crucianelli 6%
Cristiano Sociali (ex DC ) Pierre Carniti , Ermanno Gorrieri 6%
Sinistra Repubblicana (ex PRI ) Giorgio Bogi 3%
Riformatori per l'Europa (ex PSI ) Giorgio Benvenuto 2%
Agire Solidale Giuseppe Lumia 2%

The hammer and sickle have now been removed from the party logo for good. It was replaced by the red rose used by the Socialist International, the British Labor Party and other social democratic parties in Europe. The previous secretary of the PDS Massimo D'Alema initially remained secretary of the DS and the Democratici di Sinistra continued the PDS's participation in the Prodi cabinet. When the Rifondazione Comunista withdrew its trust in Prodi, the latter resigned in December 1998. The new Prime Minister was Massimo D'Alema, the first ex-communist to head the government of a NATO member state. At the same time he handed over the operational party leadership (secretary) of the DS to Walter Veltroni and took over the more ceremonial office of party president. Massimo D'Alema led the government until April 2000, when he resigned following the defeat of the center-left in the regional elections. However, the DS remained part of the government, which was then led by the non-party Giuliano Amato .

For the 2001 parliamentary elections , the DS again ran as part of the L'Ulivo alliance, which, however, was subject to Berlusconi's re-established center-right camp. The DS fell to 16.6% of the vote and 137 seats in the House of Representatives. Five years in the opposition followed. Walter Veltroni resigned as party secretary after the election defeat (also because he became mayor of Rome at the same time). His successor at the party leadership was Piero Fassino , who led the Left Democrats until they were dissolved in 2007.

The collaboration between DS and its partners in the L'Ulivo alliance - especially with the La Margherita party, which consists mainly of former Christian Democrats - intensified in the period that followed. For the 2006 parliamentary election , DS and Margherita no longer drew up their own party lists, but a joint L'Ulivo list. This in turn was part of the expanded center-left coalition L'Unione under the leadership of Romano Prodi, which won the election by a narrow margin. Prodi became Prime Minister for the second time, and his cabinet consisted of 9 DS ministers, including Massimo D'Alema as Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Fusion to Partito Democratico

After the decision of the IV Party Congress (April 19-21, 2007), the DS merged with La Margherita and other groups of the center-left camp on October 14, 2007 in the newly created Democratic Party ( Partito Democratico , PD) , whose first chairman was Walter Veltroni.

Some of the DS members did not agree, however, because the PD no longer had a clear social democratic profile. In May 2007 they founded the Sinistra Democratica (SD, Demokratische Linke), whose chairman was then Science Minister Fabio Mussi . The SD took part in the 2008 election as part of the left-wing alliance La Sinistra - L'Arcobaleno , left parliament because of its poor performance and was again incorporated into the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) at the end of 2009 .


The PDS initially took over a large part of the membership of the Communist Party, in 1991 the number of members was 989,708. In the following years, however, this dropped rapidly. In 1998, before the conversion to DS, there were still 613,412 members. After the merger to form DS, it had 656,146 members in the first year of its existence. However, this fell further to 543,907 members in 2005. In the last year of its existence, the number of members rose again to 615,414 in view of grassroots elements such as the primary election of the top candidate. This made it the party with the largest number of members in Europe in 2006, ahead of the German CDU (557,175) and SPD (556,185).

Regional and municipal level

Share of DS votes in the 2001 election to the House of Representatives by province (the darker the stronger)

The left-wing democrats had their regional strongholds in northern central Italy, namely Emilia-Romagna , Tuscany , Umbria and Marche . These zone rosse (“red zones”) were the same regions in which the PCI was traditionally strongly represented.

In South Tyrol the name was Die Linkdemokrats - Democratici di Sinistra , where the party was involved in the coalition of the state government with Luisa Gnecchi from 1999 to 2008 . Representatives of the left-wing democrats also sat on the city councils of the larger South Tyrolean towns. Party secretary was Christian Tommasini .

From the founding of the party until 1999 and again from 2004, the left-wing democrats appointed the mayors of Bologna (Renzo Imbeni, Walter Vitali, Sergio Cofferati ), from 1993 to 2000 in Naples ( Antonio Bassolino ), from 1997 in Genoa ( Giuseppe Pericu ), from 1999 in Florence ( Leonardo Domenici ), from 2001 in Rome ( Walter Veltroni ) and Turin ( Sergio Chiamparino ).

Party secretaries of the DS

Election results

See also

Web links

Commons : Democratici di Sinistra  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Martin J. Bull: The great failure? The Democratic Party of the Left in Italy's transition. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 159-172

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Thomas Kroll: Democracy and Stalinism in the Political Faith of the Communist Intellectuals in Italy during the Cold War (1945-1956). In: Petra Terhoeven: Italy, Views. new perspectives on Italian history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010, pp. 159–183, on p. 182.
  2. Nikolas Dörr: The Red Danger. Italian Eurocommunism as a Security Policy Challenge for the USA and West Germany 1969–1979. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2017, p. 63.
  3. ^ John M. Foot: The 'Left Opposition' and the crisis. Rifondazione Comunista and La Rete. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 173-188, at p. 174.
  4. Martin J. Bull: The great failure? The Democratic Party of the Left in Italy's transition. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 159-172, at p. 161.
  5. Martin J. Bull: The great failure? The Democratic Party of the Left in Italy's transition. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 159-172, at pp. 166-167.
  6. Martin J. Bull: The great failure? The Democratic Party of the Left in Italy's transition. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 159-172, at pp. 168-169.
  7. Martin J. Bull: The great failure? The Democratic Party of the Left in Italy's transition. In: Stephen Gundle, Simon Parker: The New Italian Republic. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to Berlusconi. Routledge, London / New York 1996, pp. 159-172, at p. 170.
  8. ^ Gli organismi politici per quote usciti dagli Stati Generali ( Memento of February 22, 2001 in the Internet Archive ).