By the late 1960s the continued postponement of major reforms gave rise to widespread protests by labor unions demanding better wages, better housing, and welfare provisions. In 1968 students demanding educational reforms joined the workers. The student and labor protests that year led to violent clashes with the police in many cities, and workers called general strikes to urge an overhaul of the social security system. The demands for reform indicated profound changes within Italian culture and a widespread revolt, particularly among younger people, against the conservative and authoritarian climate of the 1950s and 1960s and against the power exercised by the Catholic Church over censorship, family law, and reproductive issues. The protests forced the government to hold referendums that resulted in the legalization of divorce in 1973 and abortion in 1978.
An international economic depression, triggered by the rise in petroleum prices in 1973, added to Italy’s tensions, causing severe inflation, unemployment, and currency outflows. Government deficits rose rapidly, and massive international loans were needed to avert bankruptcy. As Italy’s economic problems worsened, public confidence in the government declined.
For a short period in 1974 the country was without a government altogether. Support for the Communist Party, led by Enrico Berlinguer, increased. For a short period in 1974 the country was without a government altogether. Support for the Communist Party, led by Enrico Berlinguer, increased.
In parliamentary elections in 1976 the Communists made more gains, winning 35 percent of the vote; the Christian Democrats won 39 percent. The Christian Democrat leader Giulio Andreotti formed a new government with Communist support. Although barred from cabinet positions, the Communists stopped abstaining and began voting with the government. The eventual loss of Communist support led to Andreotti’s resignation in early 1979.
Starting in 1969 and continuing through the 1970s extremist political violence became a feature of Italian life. The first random bombings were carried out by neo-Fascist terrorists, whose aim was to destabilize the democratic process and open the way for an authoritarian coup. In response, left-wing extremists organized paramilitary terrorist cells and began to target public and labor union officials in the hope of encouraging a mass popular insurrection. At first these actions had widespread support, and the decision of Communist leader Berlinguer to support the Christian Democrat government in efforts to restore public order infuriated many on the left. The violence of the opposing terrorist organizations began to spiral out of control as politicians, police, journalists, and businessmen became terrorist targets. The wave of political assassinations culminated in March 1978 when former prime minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped by a fanatical left-wing group, the Red Brigades, which made Moro’s release contingent on the freeing of other terrorists from Italian jails. The government refused to deal with Moro’s captors, and he was subsequently found murdered. But revulsion at Moro’s assassination deprived the terrorists of the popular support they had enjoyed earlier in the decade, and their organizations quickly unraveled. Later inquiries revealed that the extreme right had been the first to resort to terrorist action, although their attacks were often deliberately disguised as the work of the left. Indiscriminate right-wing terrorist acts culminated in a bombing at the Bologna train station in August 1980 that killed 84 people. Through the 1980s evidence mounted of close ties between the extreme right and elements within Italy’s secret services. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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