Liberalism and radicalism in Italy

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The formation of political groups in the 19th century in divided Italy is based upon personalities, like Camillo di Cavour and Giuseppe Mazzini. Both the Historical Right (Destra Storica) and the Historical Left (Sinistra Storica) were composed of monarchist liberals, while radicals organised themselves as the Radical Party and republicans as the Italian Republican Party. Only in the 1920s, the Liberals around Giovanni Giolitti formed their party, the precursor of the Italian Liberal Party. After the end of World War II both Liberals and Republicans reorganised themselves, followed by more liberal parties in the upcoming decades.

Liberalism was strongly divided after the shake up of Italian politics, following the Tangentopoli scandal and the subsequent Mani Pulite. Nowadays a broad group of parties, not all included, tend to use the label liberal. Liberals are now divided over the centre-right The People of Freedom (the Silvio Berlusconi-led successor of Forza Italia, itself primarily a merger of liberal and Christian-democratic forces) and the centre-left Democratic Party (a merger of social democrats, progressive Christian democrats and social liberals). Then there are some minor liberal parties: the formerly centre-left - nowadays centre-right - Italian Republican Party (former ELDR member) and the Italian Radicals (ALDE and Liberal International member).

Also the centrist-populist Italy of Values is a member of ALDE Party, although it is very difficult to classify it as a liberal party in whichever sense.

Most members of the late Italian Liberal Party (refounded as a very small party in 2004, see Italian Liberal Party of 2004) and many former Republicans joined Forza Italia, which was often presented and defined in Italy as a liberal party, and the other parties of the House of Freedoms coalition. This is the reason why the term 'liberals' is more often used when speaking of the centre-right, now dominated by Forza Italia successor party The People of Freedom, which tries to combine economic liberalism with freedom of conscience on ethical matters.


Radical Party (1877)[edit]

  • 1877: Progressive liberals left the Historical Left (Sinistra Storica) and formed the Radical Party (Partito Radicale)
  • 1926: The party was banned but many members remained politically active

Italian Republican Party[edit]

  • 1895: The Mazzinisti organised themselves into the Italian Republican Party (Partito Repubblicano Italiano, PRI)
  • 1926-1943: The PRI was banned, but continued its activities in exile
  • 1946: A faction of the Action Party, the Republican Democratic Party (Movimento Democratico Repubblicano), joined the party, followed by other members of the PdA
  • 2001: The party joined the centre-right House of Freedoms coalition of Silvio Berlusconi
  • 2003: A progressive liberal faction formed the European Republicans Movement (Movimento Repubblicani Europei)
  • 2011: The European Republicans Movement re-merged with the PRI.

Italian Liberal Party[edit]

National Union[edit]

  • 1924: Anti-fascist liberals formed the National Union (Unione Nazionale)
  • 1926: The party was banned

Action Party[edit]

From Radical Party (1955) to Italian Radicals[edit]

Forza Italia[edit]

  • 1993: Forza Italia was founded by the political initiative of Silvio Berlusconi. Most of the PLI members joined Forza Italia alongside many ex-Christian Democrats. Though some members of the party initially joined ELDR, the party as a whole officially joined the European People's Party in December 1999. The party was considered by many as a liberal and Christian-democratic party, and was a staunch supporter of free market.
  • 1998: The Union of the Centre merged into Forza Italia
  • 2003: Liberals within Forza Italia formed Popular Liberalism (Liberalismo Popolare), a liberal faction
  • 2006: Liberal Reformers elect one deputy in Forza Italia's list
  • 2007: Silvio Berlusconi announces the creation of The People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà), a party merging Forza Italia with National Alliance and other parties in the House of Freedoms coalition.
  • 2009: Forza Italia is finally merged into The People of Freedom.
  • 2013: Silvio Berlusconi announces the upcoming revival of Forza Italia on 18 September. The People of Freedom party is finally folded into the new Forza Italia on 16 November.

From Democratic Alliance to Democratic Party[edit]

Civic Choice[edit]

Liberal leaders[edit]

Liberal thinkers[edit]

In the Contributions to liberal theory the following Italian thinkers are included:

See also[edit]