The Italian statesman Amintore Fanfani (born 1908) was a major leader of influence on the post-World War II Christian Democratic Party and held many important political offices, including that of prime minister.
Amintore Fanfani was born in Pieve Santo Stefano (Arezzo Province) February 6, 1908, the son of an attorney and supporter of the Partito Popolare, the forerunner of the postwar Christian Democrats. His mother was very religious. At the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan he excelled in mathematics and physics, but later chose to study political economy and earned his doctorate in 1932.
Professor and Politician
Fanfani pursued a dual career of university professor and politician. As a student of economic history he was the author of a number of important works dealing with religion and the development of capitalism in Renaissance and Reformation Europe. His thesis was published in Italian and then in English as Catholicism, Capitalism and Protestantism in 1935. Fanfani accepted a chair at the Catholic University of Milan in 1936. During this period he joined a group known as the "little professors" who lived ascetically in monastery cells and walked barefoot. These men formed the nucleus of Democratic Initiative, the liberal wing of the postwar Christian Democratic Party. From 1938 to 1943 he taught at the University of Venice. Called up for military service in 1943, Fanfani took refuge in Switzerland where during the remainder of the war he taught interned Italians at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne. After 1955 he served on the faculty at the University of Rome.
His political career began with his participation in Catholic youth groups during the Fascist period, especially the Federazione Universitaria Cattolica Italiana (FUCI) (University Federation of Italian Catholics) and the Laureati (Catholic university graduates.) With the end of the war, Fanfani emerged as one of the youngest leaders of the Christian Democrats and a protege of Alcide De Gasperi, the party's leader.
Balancing Capitalism and Christianity
An able administrator and organizer, Fanfani represented the socially more progressive left-wing of the Christian Democratic Party. In his politics, as in his academic interests, Fanfani always struggled to resolve the tensions between capitalism and Christianity. In line with his devoutly Christian beliefs, his goal was to mitigate the less charitable aspects of free enterprise and to infuse capitalism with a more socially conscious spirit.
In June 1946 Fanfani was elected to represent the Arezzo-Siena-Grosseto area in the constituent assembly which drafted a new constitution effective January 1, 1948. The very first article of the constitution reflects Fanfani's work and philosophy. Staunchly anti-Communist, but socially progressive, Fanfani proposed an article which read: "Italy is a democratic republic founded on work." His proposal, which was eventually accepted, countered the Communist version: "Italy is a democratic republic of workers." By a seemingly harmless change in the wording he avoided the class implication inherent in the Communist formula.
In 1948 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He joined Alcide De Gasperi's fourth, fifth, and sixth cabinets and served from 1947 to 1950 as minister of labor and social welfare. During this period he put into operation a seven year plan to build workers' houses financed jointly by workers, the government, and employers. Fanfani also played a significant role in the creation of non-Communist labor unions which broke the monopoly of the Communist-controlled General Federation of Labor. In 1951 he held cabinet rank as minister of agriculture and forestry and expedited land reforms. In 1953 he was appointed minister of the interior under Giuseppe Pella, and subsequently he became secretary-general of the Christian Democrats in 1954-1959 and in 1973-1975.
From 1954 to the mid-1960s Fanfani's influence both in the party and in national politics was at its height. Fanfani served as premier in a series of governments, some of them short-lived. His first government in 1954 lasted only 21 days. Later he headed governments from July 1958 to January 1959, from July 1960 to February 1962, from February 1962 to May 1963. From 1965 to 1966 Fanfani served as president of the United National General Assembly. In 1972 he was elected as Life Senator of the Italian Senate. He was chosen as the president of the Senate from 1968-1973, 1976-1982, and 1985-1987.
Together with Aldo Moro, in the early 1960s Fanfani became the architect of the Center-Left Coalition. De Gasperi's coalition governments during the immediate postwar period had been staunchly anti-Communist and based on collaboration with the Right—Social Democrats, Liberals, and Republicans. However, during the 1950s clerical influence on the Christian Democrats diminished; a liberal Pope, John XXIII, was elected in 1958; and the Socialists loosened their ties with the Communists. Coalitions on the Left now became possible, and Fanfani led his party in this direction. At the Christian Democratic congress of January 1962 in Naples an overwhelming majority voted for the "opening to the left." The Center-Left Coalition program called for increased participation by the masses in the exercise of political power, the nationalization of the electrical industry, the democratization of the educational system, the expansion of regional governments, and improvements in agriculture. In foreign affairs, the program reaffirmed Italy's alignment with the West, but pledged to work for an easing of East-West tensions.
In 1986 when the Italian government was in crisis, President Francesco Cossiga turned to Fanfani for help. He first served as a mediator between the Socialist and Christian Democratic parties. However, when these efforts failed, President Cossiga asked Fanfani to form a new Parliament in 1987. Fanfani was once again Prime Mnister of Italy, but this position lasted only ten days as his government lost a vote of confidence on April 28, 1987.
Further Reading on Amintore Fanfani
Sources on Fanfani in English are scarce. See "Fanfani" in Frank J. Coppa, ed., Dictionary of Modern Italian History (1985). Italian sources are Piero Ottone, Fanfani (Milan, 1966); and Giorgio Galli, Fanfani (Milan, 1975).
"Amintore Fanfani." The International Who's Who, 57th Edition. England: Europa Publications Limited, 1993.
"Fanfani Forms Cabinet in Italy; June Vote Seen." New York Times, 17 April 1987.
"Italy Turns to Fanfani to Form Government." New York Times, 16 April 1987. Suro, Roberto.
"Mediator Named to Untangle Italy's Cabinet Crisis." New York Times, 5 July 1986.
—"Italy's Government Falls and a June Election is Called." New York Times, 29 April 1987.
Tagliabul, John. "Fanfani is Sworn in as Head of Italy's 46th Postwar Cabinet." New York Times, 19 April 1987.