Partito Socialista Italiano

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Partito Socialista Italiano
party board Filippo Turati , Enrico Ferri , Pietro Nenni , Sandro Pertini , Francesco De Martino , Giacomo Mancini , Bettino Craxi , Ottaviano Del Turco (party secretary)
founding August 14, 1892 (as Partito dei Lavoratori Italiani )
resolution November 12, 1994 (merged into: Socialisti Italiani )
ideology socialism , social democracy
Headquarters Italy Rome ,
Via del Corso 476
party newspaper Avanti!

The Socialist Party of Italy ( Partito Socialista Italiano , PSI) was an Italian political party ascribed to the socialist labor movement . It was founded in Genoa in 1892 as a social democratic party . Until 1893 it was called Partito dei Lavoratori Italiani ( Italian Workers' Party ).

Founding phase and early years of the party up to 1914

In 1892, Filippo Turati pushed for the merger of various socialist tendencies into a unified party.

Around 1889 repressions against the predecessor organization Partito Operaio ( Labor Party ) began in Italy. This was the trigger for Filippo Turati to seek the amalgamation of all the country's socialist organizations into a single party. The Partito dei Lavoratori Italiani was founded during the Socialist Congress in Genoa on August 14 and 15, 1892. The party was formed from the merger of:

  • Partito Operaio Italiano (established 1882)
  • Lega Socialista Milanese (founded in 1892)
  • several other groups with a socialist-Marxist orientation

In the course of the 2nd party congress, which took place from September 8 to 10, 1893 in Reggio nell'Emilia , the party merged with the Partito Socialista Rivuluzionario Italiano and changed its name to Partito Socialista dei Lavoratori Italiani (PSLI). In January 1895 the party was finally given the name Partito Socialista Italiano (PSI).

He advertised Turati in his magazine Critica sociale , clearly distancing himself from the anarchism that was influential in Italy at the time , instead orienting himself towards German social democracy . Alongside him, Antonio Labriola , who as a Hegelian had been teaching philosophy in Rome since 1873 and was an independent interpreter of Marxism , is considered the founding father of the party. As a result of the numerous labor disputes in the 1880s, the two found each other. However, differences in content could never be completely eliminated. This was one of the origins of the later numerous splits in the party. The central conflict was the relationship with the bourgeois democrats. While Turati did not rule out partial cooperation, Labriola considered the differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat to be insurmountable.

At the founding congress of the party in Genoa in 1892 , a Marxist program was adopted, which Turati also agreed to. A year later the party took the name Partito Socialista Italiano . This created a new, offensive and effective party. Without a comparable organization, the bourgeois governments tried to fight the socialists with repression in the following decade. From 1894, exceptional laws against the Socialists were enforced by the then Prime Minister of Italy, Francesco Crispi . Similar to the Socialist Law in Germany, these attempts to legislate against the party were largely ineffective.

In 1896 the magazine Avanti! (Forward!) founded under Leonida Bissolati . Four years later, the PSI had 32 mandates in the Italian parliament. In 1901 and 1906 respectively, the two unions close to the party, Federterre and Confederazione generale del lavoro , were founded. Before the First World War, the long-serving middle-class Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti tried several times to involve the PSI in government responsibility. This failed in 1901 because the majority of the party was against such a move. In 1908 a line related to German revisionism prevailed. At first there was cooperation with the bourgeois left.

This ended as early as 1912, when a direction based on revolutionary syndicalism prevailed. Benito Mussolini , who also took over the editing of the newspaper L'Avanti, played an important role in this . His predecessor Bissolati was expelled from the party and founded the Partito Socialista Riformista Italiano . In the run-up to World War I , the PSI remained pacifist . Alongside a number of reform socialists, Mussolini also became pro-war. This change of position prompted him to be expelled from the editorial board of the party organ and relieved of his official post. Mussolini founded his own magazine called Popolo d'Italia ('Italian People') in 1914, after which he was expelled from the PSI in November 1914. In the period that followed, the later fascist dictator developed into a bitter opponent of socialism.

From World War I to the end of fascism

Swiss police photos of Benito Mussolini , a socialist functionary and journalist until 1914, and Italy's fascist head of government from 1922.

Under the party leadership of Filippo Turati, the party was shattered by severe ideological factional fighting during and after World War I. In 1917, most of the Socialist deputies went over to the pro-war camp, while the party leadership continued to oppose the war. In the immediate post-war period, social tensions increased in Italy and there was a wave of sometimes violent strikes, and later land and factory occupations. In the PSI, conflicts between the reformist and revolutionary wings intensified. In the latter, communist influences gained strong ground. In the 1919 elections, the PSI and the Catholic PPI gained the greatest support. However, the PSI was opposed to coalitions with the PPI and the Liberals. Tensions within the party, also under the repression of the prevailing fascism, were so great that in 1921 the PCI split off from the PSI around Amadeo Bordiga , Antonio Gramsci and Palmiro Togliatti .

In the first years of fascist rule, the opposition parties were not yet banned and the PSI was thus able to take part in the elections of May 1924, even if the new electoral law meant that the (relatively) strongest party, in this case Mussolini 's PNF , automatically won two thirds of the seats received. On June 10, 1924, the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti , who had denounced fascist attacks and called on the opposition to act together, was kidnapped by fascists and murdered after some time. This action also triggered outrage in the bourgeois camp. The opposition left parliament in protest. Of course, this also meant their parliamentary self-elimination. The assassination of Matteotti was the beginning of the actual transformation of Italy into a fascist state, in the course of which the PSI and the KPI were also forcibly dissolved and some of their leading politicians arrested.

Giacomo Matteotti , socialist parliamentarian, assassinated by Mussolini's fascists in 1924.

Some time later, MPs were stripped of their mandates and leading opposition politicians went into exile. The PSI joined the Concentrazione Antifascista alliance of opposition parties founded in Paris in 1927. Their aim was to enlighten the international public about Mussolini's policies. Secretary General became the socialist Pietro Nenni . After the great blockade between the two left-wing parties had disappeared with the settlement of the social- fascism thesis , PCI and PSI agreed on a unit of action in 1934. Within Italy, however, the PSI (like the other opposition parties) initially played no role.

Participation in the Second World War , which was not received enthusiastically by the population, the lack of war successes, numerous losses and more extensive and harsher repression of members of the opposition and Jews meant that from 1942 the anti-fascist opposition became active again in the country itself and could count on the support of the population . In March 1943, socialist and communist factory cells organized strikes in the northern Italian industrial centers of Milan and Turin . The supporters of the PSI took part in the now growing resistance . After the fall of Mussolini and the announcement of the armistice on September 8, 1943, the reorganization of the party began in the areas not occupied by the Germans. Together with the KPI, the PSI under Nenni called for a radical restructuring of the state. At Stalin's behest, the CPI, unlike the PSI, postponed this issue until after the war. The PSI was also represented in the all-party government of the reform socialist Ivanoe Bonomi in 1944/45.

From the action front with the PCI to the coalition with the DC

In the post-war years, the socialist party initially operated under the abbreviation PSIUP. This was initially the strongest of the non-communist left-wing parties. She was close to the UIL trade union federation and the influential Turin daily newspaper La Stampa . The unity of action with the PCI was reaffirmed and the party recognized the leadership role of the USSR. For about ten years it was closely dependent on the PCI. This also served to bind the voters and intellectuals who did not want to vote directly for the communists. This left-wing orientation led to the splitting off of the social-democratic-reformist wing, which organized itself in 1947 as the PSLI ( PSDI since 1952 ). Chaired by Giuseppe Saragat , he invoked the tradition of the Risorgimento . Defamed as "worker traitors", the party remained a minority group.

The goal of preventing an absolute majority for the Democrazia Cristiana in the 1948 elections led to the creation of a popular front of PCI and PSIUP and a single list against "capitalist restoration". This alliance achieved 31% of the vote, losing to the DC, which was able to achieve an absolute majority. In the second half of the 1950s, Nenni distanced himself from the PCI as the leading figure of the socialists, now known again as the PSI. The suppression of the uprisings in Hungary and Poland in 1956 played a central role in this. The party gradually abandoned its revolutionary ideas and instead advocated social change through social reforms . However, it took a long time for internal party disputes before the party was ready to participate in the government with the now weakened DC. It was not until 1962 that a DC-led government was supported by the PSI in Parliament. In 1963, a phase of centre-left coalitions, supported primarily by the DC and the PSI, began.

Centro-Sinistra coalitions

Sandro Pertini , President of Italy from 1978 to 1985

The Centro-Sinistra coalitions led by the DC lasted about a decade. Between 1963 and 1974 there were twelve governments, nine of which were coalition governments, eight of which included the Socialists. One consequence of government participation was the splitting off of the radical wing in 1964 as PSIUP ( Partito Socialista Italiano di Unità Proletaria /Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity), which merged into the PCI in 1974. On the other hand, the PSI and the PSDI were reunited in 1966, after which this party was temporarily called the PSU ( Partito Socialista Unitario /United Socialist Party). The merger was not honored by voters and the PSU fared worse than before in the 1968 elections. The weakening meant an increase in tensions in the coalition. As early as 1969, against the background of social protests and the student movement, there were further splits among the socialists. During the period of participation in the government, the PSI also fell into the system of clientele , right up to mafia contacts .

After 1972, under the leadership of new leader Francesco De Martino , the PSI had tried to steer a course between government participation and opposition. In part, the party attempted to overtake the PCI to the left, which had turned away from Soviet communism and revolutionary ideas in favor of Eurocommunism , and increased local collaboration with the communists. In the 1972 elections, the PSI only got 9.6%. The PCI, on the other hand, improved from 26.9% (1968) to 34.4% (1976). The PCI was now clearly the leading force on the left, and governments were increasingly dependent on its support.

"Golden Years" and Decay

Bettino Craxi, PSI Party Secretary and Prime Minister of Italy from 1983 to 1987

Bettino Craxi had been the party's general secretary since 1976 . Under his leadership, the party embarked on a social- democratic course. After a brief interim phase in which the DC-led governments ruled with the support of the PSI, Francesco Cossiga in 1979 saw a relaunch of the centre-left alliances, including the PSI and the Liberals. Against this background, Sandro Pertini became the first socialist President of the Italian Republic. In 1981 there was a non-Christian Democratic head of government for the first time in Giovanni Spadolini . He was followed in 1983 by Bettino Craxi, a socialist. Like its predecessor, it headed a coalition of five parties ( Pentapartito ). He served four years, a very long reign in post-war Italy. After 1987, the PSI lost governance back to the DC.

In 1992, evidence was mounting of the party's widespread involvement in a system of corruption. The allegations against Craxi in the bribery scandal Mani pulite (Clean hands) were the most serious and clearest. The party tried in vain to regain confidence by changing chairman Craxi to Giorgio Benvenuto . In the snap elections in 1994, it fell back to the status of a splinter party with 2.2%. Craxi fled into exile and died in Tunisia in 2000 , after being convicted multiple times in absentia by Italian courts.


On November 12, 1994, the PSI disbanded. Their immediate successors were the Socialisti Italiani (SI) under Enrico Boselli and the Partito Socialista Riformista (PSR) under Fabrizio Cicchitto . There have always been more or less successful attempts to revive the PSI under a similar name, such as Gianni De Michelis ' Partito Socialista (PS) , founded in 1996 ; the Socialisti Democratici Italiani (SDI), which replaced the SI in 1998; the Partito Socialista - Nuovo PSI (NPSI), in which in 2001 the PS and the Lega Socialista of Claudio Martelli and Bettino Craxis son Bobo went up. The Socialisti Uniti (SU) around Bobo Craxi and Saverio Zavettieri split from the NPSI in 2006 .

Several of these parties and groups - including the SDI, part of the NPSI with Martelli and part of the SU with Bobo Craxi - merged in 2007 to form the Partito Socialista , which was renamed the Partito Socialista Italiano in 2009. Since then there has been another PSI under the historical name, but it was far from able to match the importance of its model: in the 2008 parliamentary elections it received 0.98% of the votes; in the following elections, it no longer ran independently, but in alliance with other parties (in 2013 with the Partito Democratico , which brought it 4 MPs and 3 Senate seats; in 2018 with the green-left list Insieme , which gave the PSI one seat per Chamber of Parliament gave). This revived PSI has been led by Riccardo Nencini since 2008 .

However, many former PSI politicians took a different path and, since 1994, have joined parties that do not expressly describe themselves as socialist or social democratic. This is referred to in the Italian press and political science as "socialist diaspora".

A large group of former PSI members (e.g. Renato Brunetta , Franco Frattini , Giulio Tremonti ) went to Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party , although this was more of a centre-right party with liberal, conservative and populist elements . As an entrepreneur, Berlusconi had previously had a close relationship with the PSI under Bettino Craxi. From about 1999, however, a number of politicians also switched to Forza Italia, who expressly referred to social democratic or socialist traditions (in the sense of the PSI), e.g. B. Fabrizio Cicchitto, Maurizio Sacconi and Stefania Craxi (Bettino's daughter). From 2003 to 2011 a group of "liberal socialists" who had switched from the PSI to the FI (including Valter Lavitola , Renato Brunetta, Paolo Guzzanti ) published a daily newspaper called L'Avanti! out - an obvious reference to the former party newspaper of the PSI. In 2009, Forza Italia merged with the centre-right party Il Popolo della Libertà (PdL), which renamed itself back to Forza Italia in 2013 . There have been several splits from FI/PdL in which former PSI members were also involved, e.g. B. Futuro e Libertà per l'Italia (2010/11) and Nuovo Centrodestra (2013).

On the other hand, former PSI members also joined new centre-left parties, notably Valdo Spini 's Federazione Laburista (FL) or the social-liberal Alleanza Democratica (AD) with Giorgio Benvenuto . Both were involved in founding the centre-left alliance L'Ulivo in 1996 . In 1998, the Federazione Laburista merged with the ex-communists of the Partito Democratico della Sinistra, who had turned into social democrats, to form the Democratici di Sinistra (DS). The AD, on the other hand, merged (with the intermediate stage Unione Democratica) into I Democratici in 1999, which in turn became La Margherita in 2002 . Giuliano Amato , a former PSI member who was non-party from 1994 but close to L'Ulivo, was prime minister of a centre-left coalition from 2000 to 2001. The two main components of the L'Ulivo alliance - DS and Margherita - merged in 2007 to form the center-left rally party Partito Democratico (PD). This was also joined by individual SDI members such as Ottaviano Del Turco and the previously independent Amato.

Twelve years after the dissolution of the PSI, in the XV. Legislative period (2006–08) of 1030 Italian MEPs in the national or European Parliament 63 former PSI members. Of these, 33 belonged to Forza Italia, 13 to the SDI, 12 to the Democratici di Sinistra, two to the Movimento per le Autonomie (MpA) and one each to the Nuovo PSI and the Unione di Centro (UdC), one was independent.


  • Wolfgang Altgeld , Rudolf Lill (ed.): Little Italian History. Bonn 2005. ISBN 3-89331-655-8 , pp. 338, 347, 365, 375f., 384-389, 414, 439f., 445, 450f., 453-468, 471f., 475-477.
  • Friederike Hausmann : A short history of Italy from 1943 to the present day. Berlin 1997. ISBN 3-8031-2288-0
  • Giuseppe de Rosa: Socialism and Communism in Italy . In: Dieter Oberndörfer (ed.): Socialist and communist parties in Western Europe. Publication of the Social Science Research Institute of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation . Volume 1: Southerners (= university paperbacks . Vol. 761). Leske + Budrich (UTB), Opladen 1978, ISBN 3-8100-0240-2 , pp. 133–194.

web links


  1. Susanna Böhme-Kuby: The Craxi-Berlusconi Connection. In: Leaves for German and International Politics , No. 4/2010.