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ITALY: De Gasperi’s Seventh

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Alcide de Gasperi’s strength is also his weakness. He has ruled over Italy for five out of its six postwar years, thus giving a troubled nation a stable government and the West a good friend. But to do this, he has had to conciliate almost all factions (save the Communists, whom he fought uncompromisingly all the time). In his sprawling Demo-Christian Party there are some who favor land reform and some who resist it; some who support a balanced budget and others committed to heavy spending to help the unemployed. De Gasperi learned how to appoint one wing to office, make private promises to its rival, and deliver public speeches in which all could find comfort.

But not even so adroit a compromiser as Signor de Gasperi could slither out of a few hard statistics. The government promised to expropriate 3,500,000 acres of land and redistribute it to the poor peasants; in fact, it has redistributed only 225,000 acres. Unemployment is close to 2,000,000. Italian productivity lags behind that of Britain and France. In the spring municipal elections, the Demo-Christians lost ground in the popular vote (TIME, June 25). Last month, beset by a revolt within his own party, De Gasperi resigned.

Last week, after a superficial reshuffle of his men, De Gasperi presented a new cabinet, his seventh, to Parliament, won approval in both houses where his party has a big majority. Characteristic compromise: much-criticized Giuseppe Pella was out of his old post as Treasury Minister, but stayed on as Budget Minister. De Gasperi’s troubles were not solved, but they were postponed. With that, De Gasperi, indispensable man of compromise, left to vacation in the hills.

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