1939: The Balance Sheet: Paradoxes and Imponderables -- Part 27
Most Italians didn't need much prompting to recognize the evils of Nazism, since they themselves had suffered under Nazi rule.
Italians could claim to have re established democratic rule on their own, rather than having it imposed on them, as was the case for the Germans.
The Italians' break with their past was further emphasized by the results of the constitutional referendum on July 2, 1946, which abolished the monarchy and replaced it with a liberal-democratic republic.
Another sign of a new democratic age in Italy was that women gained the vote.
Fascists remained in the government and judiciary, but Alcide De Gasperi, the head of the Christian Democratic Party and prime minister throughout the postwar years, effectively removed those plans.
He was worried about the divisive effects of such a purge, but he was also worried that getting rid of former Fascists in the government and judiciary would strengthen the power of the revolutionary left and weaken the Christian Democrats.
By early 1948, his party was emerging as Italy's most powerful; in the projected April elections, fear of a Communist takeover had become a central issue, and De Gasperi could count on the vote of the propertied as well as the support of the Vatican.
The pope told Catholics to vote for the Christian Democrats and threatened to excommunicate those who voted Communist.
The leaders of the US government had come to view Italy as a crucial battleground in the emerging Cold War and the Berlin Blockade would begin in June.
American leaders went all out to support De Gasperi and his party.
The Christian Democrats won an absolute majority in the elections, which was the only victory of a single party in Italian parliamentary history.
In terms of American political discourse, the large role of the state in Italy's economy and society could easily qualify as "socialistic," since De Gasperi's party favored state.
There was no wave of postwar nationalizations in Italy comparable to those in Britain and France, and the meagerness of the country's "defascistization" meant that a fair amount of Fascist law was allowed to remain on the books.
In Labour-ruled Britain and Fourth-Republic France, the state retained control over a larger part of the economy.
By the late 1950s, most of the rising income of the families of Italian workers was in the form of wages, while the rest came from various welfare payments administered by the state.
De Gasperi dominated Italian politics and guided his country away from the left, like De Gaulle did in France.
The new Italian republic was not as tough as the new French republic.
Italy stumbled from crisis to crisis under Christian Democratic leadership.
After his departure, De Gasperi's eight years as prime minister set a new record.
After decades of parliamentary deadlocks and cabinet musical chairs, corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies persisted.
The Italian republic is not a failure.
Italy eventually joined the ranks of the world's most affluent nations due to its reforms.
Among those European leaders who supported plans for European integration, De Gasperi was prominent.
Italians were disgusted by the results of extreme nationalism, and polls in the immediate postwar period showed them more favorable to the idea of European unity than most other Europeans.
Even though the British were at this point among the least favorable, they still spoke favorably of a kind of united states of Europe.
It would remain the question for a long time.
With France and Germany leading the way, Britain would retain its identity from the Continent.
The American model was deceptive.
The citizens of the United States of America spoke a single language, they enjoyed a revered and tested constitution, and they had experienced modern nationalism as a unit rather than as many competing, often hostile nations.
The details are complex and the issues are arcane, but the simple truth is that Europeans still feel stronger emotional attachment to their national identities than to an emerging European identity.
Europeans were repelled by the nationalist extremes of the past, but still looked at the prospect of major limitations of their national sovereignty in any united states of Europe.
The most widely accepted path was moving cautiously toward economic unity.
The European Coal and Steel Community was formed in 1951.
The economies of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg were pulled together by placing their coal and steel industries under the direction of a supra-national agency.
The initiative of Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, and Jean Monnet, the French economic expert, was crucial to this initial step.
Schuman was supported by a number of political leaders, including Christian Democrats such as De Gasperi and Adenauer, as well as Paul-Henri Spaak, the Socialist prime minister of Belgium.
He was a native of the area and was proficient in both French and German.
The Schuman Plan was a success.
The Common Market was expanded seven years later to include a program of gradually lowering all tariffs, not just those of coal and steel, between the six member countries, and in other ways coordinating their economic policies.
All tariffs had been abolished by 1968.
The Common Market was larger than the United States in terms of capital productivity.
Walter Hallstein was the first president.
He put special emphasis on the long-range political ambitions contained in the Treaty of Rome and hailed its economic success.
The Common Market was seen as a solid foundation for a politically united Europe by Hallstein and others.
The German Question: West Germany's full membership in NATO - less than a decade after Nazi Germany's surrender - took some getting used to for those who had been through the Cold War.
Fear of Communist expansion and pressure from the United States prevailed.
The prosperity that came from economic cooperation with Germany was smooth.