Enrico Berlinguer

Italian politician

Enrico Berlinguer (15 May 1922 – 11 June 1984) was an Italian politician. Considered the most popular leader of the Italian Communist Party, which he led as the national secretary from 1972 until his death during a tense period in Italy's history, marked by the Years of Lead and social conflicts such as the Hot Autumn of 1969–1970. He distanced the party from the influence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and pursued a moderate line, repositioning the party within Italian politics and advocating accommodation and national unity. This strategy came to be termed Eurocommunism and he was seen as its main spokesperson.

Quotes about Enrico Berlinguer

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  • Yet, alongside Western weaknesses, there were also serious problems for the Soviet system, while the American position was less bleak, in both absolute and relative terms, than the successive electoral defeats of presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in presidential elections in 1976 and 1980 might suggest. Moreover, the failure of the Communists to benefit substantially from the changes in Portugal, Spain and Greece was matched by Communist weakness elsewhere in Western Europe. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, French President from 1974 to 1981, and Helmut Schmidt, German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, combined to act as a very strong stabilising force and to relaunch the EEC project. Within the Socialist International, the so-called Socialist Triangle of Willy Brandt, Olof Palme, Swedish Prime Minister, and Bruno Kreisky, Austrian Chancellor, was dominant. In Italy, the Communist Party, the most powerful in Western Europe, adopted a ‘Euro-Communism’ that was opposed to Soviet direction. Enrico Berlinguer, who became Party Secretary in 1973, a key figure, was committed to the existing democratic system and pursued what was termed the ‘historic compromise’ with the established Christian Democrat-dominated political system. A pact was negotiated in 1976, with the Communist Party agreeing not to try to overthrow the Christian Democratic government. Euro-Communism was a term coined in 1975 by Western European Communist leaders keen to demonstrate their democratic credentials. More generally in Western Europe, the declining position of heavy industries was a challenge to the trade unions that were central to left-wing political parties, and notably to the Communists.
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