(COLD WAR: 1945-49 – continued)
The leader of Italy's Communist Party, Palmiro Togliati, was one of communism's brighter stars. His was the largest communist party in Western Europe: 2,000,000 members. He was cooperating with Stalin, and his party was a member in good standing in the Cominform. Togliati let criticism from the Cominform slide. He wanted for Italy something more suited to the disdain that the Italian people had learned in the fascist years for dictatorship and the "great" leader.
Togliati was himself charismatic. He could easily draw a crowd of 100,000. He campaigned vigorously for the general election scheduled for April 18, 1948. In the United States a campaign was launched to prevent a victory of the Communists and their allies. Italian-Americans wrote letters to their relatives in Italy. Frank Sinatra made a Voice of America radio broadcast. The Central Intelligence Agency was asked to do what it could, and with approval of the National Security Agency and its chairman, President Truman, the CIA funneled "black bag" contributions to Italy's anti-communist candidates. The U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Claire Booth Luce, and Joseph P. Kennedy helped raise $2 million for the Christian Democrat Party's candidate, Alcide de Gasperi. More influential was the Catholic Church in Italy, which worked hard to encourage people to vote against communist candidates. And their work paid off. The Communists received only half the votes they had in 1946. The Christian Democrats won a parliamentary majority and de Gasperi formed a new center-right government.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.