Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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De Gasperi, Alcide (1881–1954)

Title: Alcide De Gasperi
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Italian politician, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, and premier (1945–1953). Born in Pieve Tesino, Trento, on 3 April 1881, when that region was still part of the Austrian Tyrol, Alcide De Gasperi graduated from the University of Vienna in 1905. He founded the Partito Popolare Trentino (PPT, Trentine Popular Party) and was elected to the Austrian parliament in 1911. When Trentino became part of Italy in 1919, De Gasperi joined Luigi Sturzo's Partito Popolare Italiano (Italian Popular Party). De Gasperi was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1921 and emerged as one of Italy's foremost antifascist leaders. In 1927 he was incarcerated by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's government, but intercession by the Catholic Church secured his release. De Gasperi was allowed to live in the Vatican and worked in its library, under surveillance, until 1943.

With the end of fascism, De Gasperi became the undisputed leader of the Democrazia Cristiana (DC, Christian Democratic Party), which replaced the Partito Popolare and established itself as a pivotal force in Italian politics. From December 1944 to December 1945 he was foreign minister in the governments of Ivanoe Bonomi and Feruccio Parri. In December 1945 De Gasperi replaced Parri as premier, a position he retained until 1953. A moderate, centrist politician with a clear vision of Italy's future as a pro-Western country, De Gasperi skillfully led Italy through postwar reconstruction and the early years of the Cold War.

As Italian premier, De Gasperi immediately began the hard work of transforming a defeated nation into a legitimate member of the international system. His 1947 state visit to the United States earned him the political and economic support of President Harry S. Truman. In May 1947, De Gasperi's decision to form a new cabinet without the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) broke the wartime antifascist coalition and ushered in a period of strong disagreement between the DC and the communist-led opposition. De Gasperi led the DC to an undisputed victory in the dramatic elections of April 1948.

De Gasperi signed on to the 1947 Marshall Plan but in early 1948 exhibited hesitation in joining the Brussels Treaty. He also authorized Italy's inclusion in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. His efforts to rebuild Italy's international reputation were matched by his interest in the early stages of European integration. After Italy joined the European Coal and Steel Community (EEC) in 1950, De Gasperi became a leading proponent of European unity.

De Gasperi's concerns over the growing tensions in Italian politics led him to propose an electoral reform that was defeated at the polls in June 1953, thus ending his political career. He died in Pieve, Tesino, on 19 August 1954.

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Further Reading
Wertman, Douglas, and Robert Leonardi. Italian Christian Democracy: The Politics of Dominance. London: Macmillan, 1989.
 

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