Renewing Italian Socialism: Nenni to Craxi

discala-renewing-italian-socialismRenewing Italian Socialism: Nenni to Craxi (OUP, 1988)

After having published Dilemmas of Italian Socialism, Di Scala wanted to write a comprehensive history of the movement after the era that he had covered in the previous book. Having given a brief synopsis of the period when the Socialists were defeated by Mussolini, he decided to begin in earnest with the period when the Socialists went into exile and began rebuilding their movement abroad; the book ends with an examination of the Craxi government up to 1987, the year in which he completed the manuscript.

An important innovation that Di Scala incorporated in this book was the interview method. He had conversations with many of the protagonists in Italy, including President of the Republic Sandro Pertini, and the United States—for example, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who had a crucial role in the “opening to the left,” and State Department officials. In addition to archival work in Italy, he mined the archives at the John F. Kennedy Library for his chapter giving the definitive history on the coming of the center-left during the Kennedy Administration.

The first comprehensive history of Italian Socialism in English, this book ranges from the defeat of Socialism by Mussolini in 1926 to its resurgence as a powerful force in Italian politics in the 1980s, concluding with the first full-scale coverage of Bettino Craxi’s administration. The Italian Socialist Party was defeated by Fascism in 1922 but emerged as the largest Italian leftist party immediately after World War II. Then, primarily under the leadership of Pietro Nenni, the PSI underwent 30 years of subordination, first to the Italian Communist Party, then to the Christian Democrats. This state of affairs lasted until 1976, when Craxi was elected secretary of the party. He went on not only to transform the PSI into a powerful party on the German Social Democratic model, but also to become Italy’s first Socialist Prime Minister.

During its record tenure from 1983 to 1987, Craxi’s administration presided over the revitalization of the Italian economy, eased labor tensions, and gave the country the longest period of government stability in 30 years. As president of the European Economic Community, Craxi played a prominent mediating role, and, utilizing his connections with the German socialists, Felipe Gonzalez, Francois Mitterrand and Andreas Papandreou, he revived Eurosocialism as an alternative to Eurocommunism.

The book is extensively researched with material from archives in Italy and the United States and interviews from an array of prominent Italian and American personalities, providing testimonies that in themselves have become important historical documents.

Praise for Renewing Italian Socialism

“Seen from an Italian viewpoint, Di Scala’s book is stimulating and instructive above all because it allows us to reconsider an entire complex of events as an organic whole—events which frequently appear disconnected precisely because we have seen them from too close a perspective….But, viewed from an American vantage point, Di Scala’s book can be called a breakthrough work, quite innovative, compared to the hoary tradition of historical and political studies on Italy: that tradition by which it seems that an American who wishes to occupy himself with things Italian has nothing better to do than study Mussolini or—in some cases of particular sophistication—Antonio Gramsci.” —Giorgio Spini, Il Messaggero (Rome), November 5, 1989, p. 3

“One need not agree with all of Di Scala’s conclusions to appreciate this book. From these pages one understands better the activities of Morandi, Saragat, and Nenni and the frustrations of a party which could never reap the electoral rewards that its central role merited. Fundamental questions about the future of socialism are incisively presented. Indeed, it is a tribute to the author’s scholarship and objectivity that, despite his ultimately favourable judgment of Craxi, the reader has ample material from which to draw quite different conclusions about the new PSI.” —Alexander De Grand, The Journal of European Economic History, 19, N. 1 (Spring 1990)

This book was widely reviewed in historical journals, including The American Historical Review and The Journal of Modern History.


discala-da-nenni-a-craxiDa Nenni a Craxi: Il socialismo italiano visto dagli Usa (SugarCo, 1991)

This Italian translation of Renewing Italian Socialism received wide notice in Italy, including reviews in such newspapers as Il Giorno (Milan), Il Messaggero Veneto (Venice), Il Lavoro (Genoa), Avanti! (Rome), and others. There was a widespread debate there that occurred in numerous symposia (in which Di Scala participated) on the book in cities that included Rome, Florence, and Genoa, and in the press.

Praise for Da Nenni a Craxi

“Curiosamente, il miglior libro sulle traversie del socialismo italiano dalla scissione di Livorno alla presidenza Craxi l’ha scritto ora un italoamericano: osservatore imparziale ma appassionato, dotato del distacco sufficiente a pronunciare un guidizio storico, nutrito delle piu` vaste letture, Spencer Di Scala ha messo a segno il bel saggio ‘Da Nenni a Craxi. Il socialismo italano visto dagli Usa’, Sugarco edizioni. E` un contributo storiografico di primissimo ordine.” —Guido Gerosa, Il Giorno (Milan), January 13, 1992, p. 3