From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948


354 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8768-X
DDC 324.945'0924




Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of


The academic community nowadays has a profound interest in the
phenomenon whereby a coalition of democratic countries defeats a
dictatorship and succeeds or fails in turning that dictatorship into
another democracy. The experience proved highly successful in West
Germany, Austria, and Japan at the end of World War II. It does not
appear to be faring as well in Afghanistan and Iraq, the causes of the
renewed interest in the topic. From Fascism to Democracy deals with
Italy, where there was a stronger possibility than in the aforementioned
countries of a Communist takeover.

Ventresca’s book is both timely and thorough, written on the basis of
Italian and U.S. archival sources as well as extensive secondary
literature. Allied armies had defeated Mussolini, and in a 1946
referendum, Italian voters terminated the monarchy that had assisted his
rise to power decades earlier. The election of April 18, 1948, was the
first under the new republican constitution, and the world watched. Pope
Pius XII—who had soft-pedalled any political convictions during World
War II—actively promoted the cause of the Christian Democrats, warning
Italians that they could vote “with Christ or against Christ.” The
Truman administration warned that American generosity had its limits,
and that assistance to war-ravaged Italy would end if Italians chose a
Popular Front government. The newly formed CIA played a significant
role. Events in Czechoslovakia a few weeks earlier, when Communists
ousted their coalition partners and monopolized political power, loomed
as an ominous portent of what Italy’s possible future could be.

The Christian Democrats won, and they dominated Italian politics for
generations. Communist and other left-wing parties endured in
opposition. Italy long remained arguably the most politically polarized
of Western European countries. At the same time, it became prosperous
and democratic. It was the 1948 election—the focus of this
well-researched book—that set the process in motion.


Ventresca, Robert A., “From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,