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This is a good bet for the 2009 summer exams. The issues are likely to revolve
round the aims of the various resistance groups, how effective they were, the
attitude of the Allies and whether the outcome was a success and if not why not..
As the notes on dissent make clear - prior to July 1943 - there was very little
opposition to Mussolini. It was disorganized, sporadic and often based around
specific issues such as rationing rather than per se resistance to the government.
Most effective opposition came from organizations nominally part of the Fascist
state such as the Fascist Grand Council the Gerachi and the Church.
All of this changed after the armistice with the Allies on 8 September 1943. Dino
Grandi’s pact with the left allowed resistance groups to materialize.
The anti fascist parties in Rome (largely Liberal, Christian Democrat and Socialist
groups later joined by the Communists) are called the CLN
Opposition to the Nazis and the Salo republic is called can the Resistenza.
Churchill had little liking for Italy and saw them as the authors of their own
misfortune. He said they should be punished to get their return ticket into the
civilized nations. The lira was devalued at 400 to £1. However he was worried
about the spread of communism and saw Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio as the
best upholders of the social order. He preferred to cooperate with the existing
elites rather than try and improve Italian society
The Americans were more sympathetic and supported the anti fascists of the
CLN. They arranged food relief for Italy through the United Nations.
Allied troops especially French Moroccans called Goumiers committed atrocities
in Italy.
Palomo Togliatti returned from Moscow in March 1944 and took control of the
Italian Communist Party (PCI). The communist party was well organized and
had Russian support. He made it clear the first priority aim was liberating Italy
and a social revolution could wait. He advocated a union of all anti fascist forces.
(This is called the Salerno Turning point). Togliatti was a democrat of sorts and
he realized that a workers revolution would be brutally crushed either by the
Germans or by the Allies. At the time British troops were busy sorting out
communist partisans in Yugoslavia and Greece and he put national unity first.
Many rank and file members believed that there would be a communist revolution
once the allies had left. They were wrong.
They were the successors to the Popolari (PPI) and they were led by Alcide De
Gasperi an associate of Sturzo. He had cautious support from the Vatican.
They were able to play to fears about a Communist takeover founding the
Coldiretti in 1944 a catholic association of peasants.
Although they had support they lacked a clear leader and were tainted by the
events of 1921. They wanted to unify with the PCI.
As the Allies advanced they handed territory over the Badoglio government.
One problem faced by Badoglio was the future (if any of the monarchy). In
January 1944 at the Congress of Bari the anti fascist groups demanded Victor
Emmanuel’s abdication.
On 22 April 1944 the parties of the CLN led by Togliatti entered Badolgio's
When the Allies took Rome Crown Prince Humbert was proclaimed Lieutenant
General as the King had returned to private life. Anti Fascist groups in Rome
supported by the Americans forced Badoglio to resign to be replaced by
The Roman Catholic Church took a leading role in the south in sheltering Jews,
in distributing aid to the poor and dispossessed and providing a focus of loyalty.
It had high prestige with the people and the state.
The South was semi anarchic with peasants striking and seizing land. Land
reform was encouraged by Gullo the Communist Minister of agriculture.
However he was undermined by the compromises of Togliatti in Rome
See notes on the Salo republic
The greatest failure of the Salo republic was it’s failure to maintain public order.
The partisan groups originated from the large number of individuals wandering
round Central and Northern Italy. Ex Italian soldiers, escaped allied prisoners of
war, deserters and draft dodgers of all varieties. They were joined by men
avoiding forced deportations to work in Germany. They had a degree of popular
support and lived off and protected the peasants. Many were local men and
many were criminals.
They were nominally grouped under the CLNAI (The committee for the liberation
of Northern Italy). In the Protocols of Rome in November 1944 they received
160m Lira a months from the Allies. In return they agreed to disband
immediately on liberation by the Allies. This compromised their independence.
By 1944 most had become party affiliated. Communists ran the Garibaldi
brigades the Socialist controlled the Matteotti brigades and the Party of Action
controlled others. The Christian Democrat partisans were called the Green
Flames which developed from Catholic Action. Some priests fought with them
and the Bishop of Turin gave mass to partisans. .
The Communists were the best organized and the most effective. They had
50,000 men around 60% of the whole.
In 1944, with the Allied forces nearby, the partisan resistance in Italy staged an
uprising behind German lines, led by the CLNAI. This rebellion led to the
establishment of a number of provisional partisan governments throughout the
mountainous regions of northern Italy, of which Ossola was the most important
and received recognition from Switzerland and from Allied consulates in
Switzerland. By the end of 1944, German reinforcements and Benito Mussolini's
remaining forces had crushed the uprising, and the area's liberation had to wait
until the final offensives of 1945.
On April 19, 1945, concurrent with the renewal of the Allied offensive, the CLN
called out a general insurrection. Bologna was liberated on April 21 by Polish and
Brigata Maiella troops. Parma and Reggio Emilia were liberated on April 24.
Milan and Turin were liberated on April 25. The last German troops left Genoa on
April 26, when General Meinhold surrendered to the CLN.
Allied troops arrived in the liberated cities in the next few days.
1. The tied down 26 German divisions in Italy
2. They killed some 5000 Germans in the last 3 months of 1944 and helped
Allied prisoners to escape and sabotaged the Axis War effort.
3. They achieved some success especially in August 1944 when they helped
the allies take Florence.
4. They established short lived partisan governments.
5. Politically they claimed to have forged a new national unity
6. They legitimized the PCI.
7. They gave Italy some degree of self respect and international respect.
1. There was a myth that rose up after 1945. It stated that the Resistenza
was a united revolutionary force that played the leading role in throwing
out the Germans. The reality was far more shambolic, factional and
2. They did not liberate Italy. Their insurrection in 1944 was crushed and the
1945 insurrection only worked because the allies arrived a few days later.
3. The Protocols of Rome meant they disbanded after liberation.
4. They were not a united force. They fought among themselves and
collaborated with the enemy, In 1945 in Udine the Garibaldi Brigade
fought catholic partisans.
5. Their activities led to vicious reprisals from German and Fascist troops.
6. Communist aspirations to a revolutionary fair society were not realized
after 1945. Italy remained as class ridden and corrupt as ever.
Italy was in a shocking state.
1. Industrial output was a quarter of 1941 and prices had gone up 24 times.
2. 3 million houses had been destroyed as had much of the transport
3. Criminality was widespread - there were 15,000 murders in the three
months after April. Many were revenge killings.
4. The normal mechanism of government – paying tax and so on had ceased
to function.
The country was occupied by the Allies but they were keen to establish a
functioning civilian government.
Bonomi resigned and the new Prime minister of Italy was Ferruccio Parri.
Parri was leader of the radical Action Party. His was a radical agenda based
on the restoration of law and order and long term economic and social
change. His ideas were called the Wind from the North. His government
attempted to punish anyone in the North who had collaborated with the Nazis
or the Salo republic or Mussolini at any time. This was drawn widely and
pretty much covered anyone who had not been an active partisan. People
who had been fascist Party members under Mussolini were worried. This led
to widespread resentment and his government fell in December 1945 to be
replaced by Alcide de Gasperi. As a Christian Democrat he essentially ruled
Italy till 1953
In the 1945 election the Christian Democrats were the largest party with 35%.
The communists got 18% and the Socialists 21%
.On the 2nd June 1946 they held a referendum to see if they wished to stay a
monarchy. Victor Emmanuel had abdicated in favor of his son Humbert II.
However the monarchy was voted out by a narrow majority 54%. The result
has been viewed with suspicion especially as the North voted overwhelmingly
against the monarchy and the South heavily for
The new constitution was agreed in 1946/7. The Lateran treaties were
incorporated into the new republic
Italy signed a peace treaty in 1947 and lost all it’s overseas territories and
land to France Austria and Yugoslavia including Fiume. Italy had to pay
some reparations and no concessions were made to Italy having played a
part in it’s own liberation.
In 1948 Gasperi got 48% of the vote the closest to a majority any Italian
politician (except Mussolini has ever got.
Italy benefited from the Marshall Plan (The Communists opposed this) and
joined NATO in 1949
Italy was one of the founder members of the European Coal and Steel
Community which later became the European Union
Italian politics continued much as usual – proportional representation, short
lived coalition governments, corruption etc. The North South Divide and
organized crime continue to this day.
The 1948 democratic Constitution of the Italian Republic declared itself to be
"built on the Resistance".
The division of Italy into two parts
The devastation caused by the War
The behavior of Britain backing conservatives such as Badoglio.
The failure of the Communists to launch a revolution
Rows between parties – dating back before Mussolini’s time.
Communist dreams of a fairer society were not realized due to The Salerno
turning point and the Protocol of Rome.
Italy was treated as a defeated power rather than one who had liberated her
country from the Nazis.
There were no nationalizations no NHS no Welfare State and so on.
The Church through the Christian Democratic Party kept an iron grip on Italian
Corruption the North South Divide poverty etc continued.
It could have been a lot worse – Italy was saved a Communist revolution.
The monarchy was abolished – good or bad.
Italy did not fall apart and is now a reasonably prosperous part of the
international community,