Giovanni Gronchi

Giovanni Gronchi, OMCA (Italian pronunciation: [dʒoˈvanni ˈɡroŋki]; 10 September 1887 – 17 October 1978)[1] was an Italian politician from Christian Democracy who served as the president of Italy from 1955 to 1962 and was marked by a controversial and failed attempt to bring about an "opening to the left" in Italian politics. He was reputed the real holder of the executive power in Italy from 1955 to 1962, behind the various Prime Ministers of this time.

Giovanni Gronchi
Giovanni Gronchi.jpg
Official portrait, c. 1955
President of Italy
In office
11 May 1955 – 11 May 1962
Prime MinisterMario Scelba
Antonio Segni
Adone Zoli
Amintore Fanfani
Fernando Tambroni
Preceded byLuigi Einaudi
Succeeded byAntonio Segni
President of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
8 May 1948 – 29 April 1955
Preceded byUmberto Terracini
Succeeded byGiovanni Leone
Minister of Industry and Trade
In office
18 June 1944 – 1 July 1946
Prime MinisterIvanoe Bonomi
Ferruccio Parri
Alcide de Gasperi
Preceded byAttilio Di Napoli
Succeeded byRodolfo Morandi
Member of the Senate of the Republic
For life
11 May 1962 – 17 October 1978
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
8 May 1948 – 11 May 1955
In office
1 December 1919 – 21 January 1929
Member of the Constituent Assembly
In office
25 June 1946 – 31 January 1948
Personal details
Born(1887-09-10)10 September 1887
Pontedera, Tuscany, Kingdom of Italy
Died17 October 1978(1978-10-17) (aged 91)
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Political partyItalian People's Party
Christian Democracy
Carla Bissatini
(m. 1941⁠–⁠1978)
; his death
Alma materScuola Normale Superiore di Pisa


Early life and political careerEdit

He was born at Pontedera, Tuscany, and was an early member of the Christian Movement founded by the Catholic priest don Romolo Murri in 1902. He obtained his first degree in literature and philosophy at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Between 1911 and 1915 he then worked as a high-school teacher of classics in several Italian towns (Parma, Massa di Carrara, Bergamo and Monza).

He volunteered for military service in the First World War and when it was over he became in 1919 one of the founding members of the Catholic Italian Popular Party. He was elected to represent Pisa in both the parliamentary elections of 1919 and 1921. A trade-union leader in the Italian Confederation of Christian Workers, in 1922–1923 he served in the first government of Benito Mussolini as Under-secretary for Industry and Commerce. In April 1923, however, a national meeting of the Popular Party held in Turin decided to withdraw all PPI representatives from the government. He then went back to his role in the leadership of the Catholic trade unions, and tried to face the daily violence brought against them by the fascist squads.

In 1924, after Luigi Sturzo had resigned as Secretary of the PPI, Gronchi became leader of the party, together with two other "triumvirs", (Spataro and Rodinò). Re-elected to Parliament in the same year, he joined the anti-fascist opposition of the so-called Aventine Secession (from the hill in Rome where the opposition withdrew from Parliament). In 1926 he was expelled from Parliament by the new regime.

In the years between 1925 and 1943 he thus interrupted his political career. In order to avoid having to become a member of the Fascist Party, he also resigned his position as a schoolteacher, and earned his living as a successful businessman, first as a salesman and then as an industrialist.

After the Second World WarEdit

In 1943–1944 he was a co-founder of the new Christian-Democratic party (DC), and became a leader of its left-wing faction,[2] together with men like Giorgio La Pira, Giuseppe Dossetti and Enrico Mattei (the future boss of ENI, the Italian government-owned petrochemical giant). He was also a member of the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, the multi-party committee of the Italian Resistance, as a representative of his party.

Although often in conflict with his party's majority and its Secretary Alcide De Gasperi, he served as Industry minister in 1944–1946 and as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1946. In 1947, as the Cold War began, he vehemently opposed his party's decision to expel the Italian Communist and Socialist parties from the national government. From 1948 to 1955 he was elected President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (the lower branch of Parliament).

President (1955–1962)Edit

In 1955 Luigi Einaudi's term as first President of the Italian Republic came to an end, and Parliament had to choose his successor. The new Secretary of the DC, Amintore Fanfani, was promoting for the job the liberal Cesare Merzagora, who was then President of the Senate. However the extreme right-wing of the party – led by Giuseppe Pella, Guido Gonella, Salvatore Scoca and Giulio Andreotti – joined hands with the trade-unionist left – led by Giovanni Pastore, Giorgio Bo and Achille Marazza – in an "uprising" against the party leadership, in order to get Giovanni Gronchi ("Parliament's man") elected instead. The move had the support of the Communist and Socialist parties, and also of the monarchic and neo-fascist right. After a bitter battle and the final crumbling of the centrist front, on 29 April 1955 Gronchi was elected President of the Republic with 658 votes out of 883. He was the first Catholic politician to become Head of the Italian State.[3]

His period in office lasted until 1962. It was marked by the ambition to bring about a gradual "opening to the left", whereby the Socialists and the Communist Party would be brought back into the national government, and Italy would abandon NATO, becoming a non-aligned country. There was however stiff parliamentary opposition to this project, particularly by the small Italian Liberal Party, which was deemed a necessary ingredient of any viable majority.

In an attempt to escape the deadlock, in 1959 Gronchi appointed as prime minister a trusted member of his own Catholic left-wing faction, Fernando Tambroni, sending him to Parliament with a "President’s government" but no pre-arranged majority. However Tambroni found himself surviving in Parliament only thanks to neo-fascist votes. This unforeseen "opening to the right" had serious consequences. In 1960 there were bad riots in several towns of Italy, particularly at Genoa, Licata and Reggio Emilia, where the police opened fire on demonstrators, killing five people. The Tambroni government thus ended in ignominy; forced to resign, it was followed by an all-DC government, with a traditionally centrist parliamentary majority.

The unhappy Tambroni experiment tarnished Gronchi's reputation for good, and until the end of his period of office he remained a lame-duck President. In 1962 he attempted to get a second mandate, with the powerful help of Enrico Mattei, but the attempt failed and Antonio Segni was elected instead. As he ceased to be Head of State, he became a life senator by right, according to the Italian Constitution. He died in Rome on 17 October 1978 at the age of 91.[4]


For an overall historical assessment of his presidency, it must be kept in mind the Tambroni failure, with its suggestion of an authoritarian approach. An "opening to the left" of sorts happened soon after his mandate was over; the first centre-left coalition was formed by Aldo Moro as soon as 1964, when the Socialists (but not the Communists) entered the government. In the 1970s, the Christian Democrats and Communists made efforts toward what was called the Historic Compromise. On this basis he might be credited with some important foresight and a lasting influence. Still, it is hard to maintain that his political project had really very much to do with the center-left governments that followed each other between 1964 and 1992. During most of this period the Communists were isolated even more tightly than before, due to the loss of their former Socialist allies and the bitter conflict that followed with them, particularly after Bettino Craxi became the Socialist leader. Outside influences were later revealed to be at work as well. A 2000 Parliament Commission report concluded that the strategy and operations by the clandestine, US-supported, "stay-behind" Gladio was designed to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI [Italian Socialist Party], from achieving executive power in the country".[5][6][7] In any case, Italy kept its socio-economic structure as a market economy and its foreign policy alignment.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1941, Gronchi married Carla Bissatini (2 September 1912 – 14 August 1993)[8] and had one son and one daughter.

In the Florestano Vancini's film The Assassination of Matteotti (1973), Gronchi is played by Giorgio Favretto.

Electoral historyEdit

Election House Constituency Party Votes Result
1919 Chamber of Deputies Pisa PPI  Y Elected
1921 Chamber of Deputies Pisa PPI  Y Elected
1924 Chamber of Deputies Pisa PPI  Y Elected
1946 Constituent Assembly Pisa–Livorno–Lucca–Massa Carrara DC 47,424  Y Elected
1948 Chamber of Deputies Pisa–Livorno–Lucca–Massa Carrara DC 68,808  Y Elected
1953 Chamber of Deputies Pisa–Livorno–Lucca–Massa Carrara DC 62,099  Y Elected

Presidential electionsEdit

1955 presidential election (4th ballot)
Candidate Supported by Votes %
Giovanni Gronchi DC, PSI, PCI, PSDI, PRI, MSI 658 78.1
Luigi Einaudi PLI 70 8.4
Others / Invalid votes 103 13.5
Total 833 100.0

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rizzo, Tito Lucrezio (23 October 2012). Parla il Capo dello Stato: sessanta anni di vita repubblicana attraverso il Quirinale 1946-2006. Gangemi Editore spa. ISBN 9788849274608. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Françoise Boucek (2012). Factional Politics. How Dominant Parties Implode or Stabilize. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 146. doi:10.1057/9781137283924. ISBN 978-0-230-01993-5.
  3. ^ "Italy: Danger on the Left". Time. 9 May 1955.
  4. ^ "Giovanni Gronchi Dies". 18 October 1978. Retrieved 29 January 2018 – via
  5. ^ "Commissione parlamentare d'inchiesta sul terrorismo in Italia e sulle cause della mancata individuazione dei responsabili delle stragi (1995 Parliamentary Commission of Investigation on Terrorism in Italy and on the Causes of the Failing of the Arrests of the Responsibles of the Bombings)" (PDF) (in Italian). 1995. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 August 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2006.
  6. ^ "Strage di Piazza Fontana – spunta un agente Usa" (in Italian). La Repubblica. 11 February 1998. Retrieved 2 May 2006. It includes links to juridical sentences and Parliamentary Report by the Italian Commission on Terrorism.
  7. ^ (in English, Italian, French, and German) "Secret Warfare: Operation Gladio and NATO's Stay-Behind Armies". Swiss Federal Institute of Technology / International Relation and Security Network. Archived from the original on 25 April 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2006.
  8. ^ "MORTA A ROMA LA VEDOVA DI GRONCHI - la". 15 August 1993. Retrieved 29 January 2018.

External linksEdit


  • (it) Igino Giordani, Alcide De Gasperi il ricostruttore, Rome: Edizioni Cinque Lune, 1955.
  • (it) Giulio Andreotti, De Gasperi e il suo tempo, Milan: Mondadori, 1956.
  • Paul Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy, Penguin Books, 1990 (lengthy account of post-war events in Italy from a rather heavily biased left-wing point of view; Gronchi's election and its peculiar political circumstances are not covered; the Tambroni affair is narrated, but Gronchi's role in it is glossed over).
  • (it) Indro Montanelli and Mario Cervi, L'Italia del Novecento, Rizzoli, 1998 (in Italian; a somewhat journalistic account of twentieth-century Italy, from a liberal point of view).
  • (it) S. Bertelli (ed.) Scritti e discorsi su Giovanni Gronchi a vent'anni dalla morte (1998), Giardini, 2000 (in Italian; mostly eulogies by old friends).
  • (it) Nico Perrone, Il segno della DC, Bari: Dedalo Libri, 2002, ISBN 88-220-6253-1.
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Trade
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Chamber of Deputies
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Italy
Succeeded by