BIOGRAPHY

Alessandro Pertini was born in Stella, in the province of Savona (Liguria) on September 25, 1896, to a prosperous family (his father, Alberto, was a landowner). 

He had four siblings: Luigi, the eldest, became a painter; Marion married an Italian diplomat; Giuseppe became an officer in the armed forces; while Eugenio died tragically at a very young age in a concentration camp in Flossenburg on April 25, 1945.
 
Devoted to his mother, Maria Muzio, Pertini studied at the "Don Bosco" Salesian college of Varazze and then (in high school) at the Liceo "Chiabrera" in Savona. His philosophy professor there was Adelchi Baratono, a reforming socialist who contributed to Filippo Turati's review-Critica Sociale-and who undoubtedly contributed to bringing Pertini closer to socialist thought and to the circles of the workers' movement in Liguria.
Pertini enrolled at the University of Genova from which he graduated with a degree in jurisprudence.
In 1917, the young Pertini was drafted as a second lieutenant and sent to the front along the Isonzo River and near Bainsizza. Although the military authorities had been notified of his socialist and neutralist tendencies, they still recognized a series of acts of valor by the young Lieutenant Pertini who was nominated for a silver medal for military valor for leading an assault on Mount Jelenik in August 1917. In 1918 Sandro Pertini began his political activism in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI).

After the war, Pertini moved to Florence where he stayed with his brother Luigi. He enrolled at the Istituto Cesare Alfieri and received a degree in political science in 1924, submitting a thesis entitled "La Cooperazione" ("Cooperation"). 

In Florence he came into contact with those socialists and democrats who had advocated entering the Great War following Gaetano Salvemini, the Rosselli brothers, and Ernesto Rossi. At this time he joined Italia Libera, a movement opposing fascism. Finding himself immediately in conflict with the fascist movement which had come to power in October 1922 with the March on Rome, Pertini, then a young lawyer, soon became the target of repeated attacks from fascist mobs. 

In 1924, after the barbarous assassination of Giacomo Matteotti by fascists, Pertini joined the PSU (Unitary Socialist Party).

Following the assassination of Matteotti, Pertini launched himself into intense antifascist activity. Several times the office of his law firm in Savona was wrecked and he was physically attacked on repeated occasions by squadristi-fascist thugs. On May 22,1925, Pertini was arrested in Stella for distributing a clandestine publication entitled Under the Barbarous Fascist Domination. The articles published in this pamphlet, whose authorship Pertini claimed, stressed the responsibility of the Crown for the preservation of the fascist regime and for its illegal, violent activities. 

In addition, this pamphlet expressed distrust (in the impartiality) of the Senate of the Realm, then controlled by a majority of fascist sympathizers, which had been called upon to judge in its High Court of Justice the alleged complicity of General Emilio De Bono in the Matteotti assassination.

Charged with "instigating hatred among social classes" (a crime under Art. 120 of the Zanardelli criminal code), in addition to publishing clandestinely, to insulting the Senate, and to impairing the Crown's prerogative to renounce responsibility for the acts of the government, Pertini, during his pre-trial questioning as well as before the court's Prosecutor and during his public trial before the Tribunal of Savona, insisted that he had worked alone and that he accepted full responsibility for his actions. He added that regardless of his sentence he would continue his antifascist struggle for socialism and freedom. 

On June 3 of that same year, he was sentenced to eight months in jail and fined for the crimes of clandestine publication, insult to the Senate, and impairing the Crown's prerogatives. He was, however, acquitted of the charge of instigating class hatred. Released after the successful appeal of his lawyer, G.B. Pera, Pertini took up the struggle where he had left off at the time of his arrest. 

On June 9,1925, on the eve of the anniversary of the Matteotti assassination, Pertini, aided by some workers, managed to hang, under the marble slab placed on the wall of the fortress of Savona commemorating Giuseppe Mazzini's imprisonment, a crown with a red banner inscribed with "Glory to Giacomo Matteotti." 

The fascist attacks and the violence which he suffered gradually increased in intensity. The worst of these, during the summer of 1926, led to his hospitalization. In November 1926, after Zamboni's failed attempt on Mussolini's life, Pertini, like many other antifascists throughout Italy, was subjected to renewed fascist attacks. Forced to abandon Savona, Pertini fled to Milan. On December 4, 1926, following the proclamation of new laws against antifascists, Pertini was placed under confino-a court-appointed relocation under strict police surveillance-for five years (the most the law allowed).

In flight from the authorities, hiding out in Carlo Rosselli's Milan apartment, Pertini was able to meet, in person, the "master" of reformist socialism, Filippo Turati. 

Pertini was one of the orchestrators of Turati's sensational clandestine expatriation. 

The departure of the leader of the Italian reformist socialist movement had been decided in order to keep Turati out of the hands of the fascists At the last minute, in part because he had been subjected to confino, Pertini was chosen to accompany Turati in his flight into exile. The first leg was to Savona.

From December 8 to the 11, Pertini and Turati were harbored in the house of Italo Oxilia in Quigliano. On the night between December 11 and 12, accompanied by Ferruccio Parri, Carlo Rosselli, and Adriano Olivetti, in addition to Boyancé, Oxilia, Da Bove and Amelio the mechanic, Turati and Pertini boarded a motorboat steered by Oxilia and Da Bove from a pier in Savona. 

After a storm-filled trip, they reached the city of Calvi in Corsica, on the morning of the 12th. While the others turned back for Italy on the afternoon of the following day, Pertini and Turati remained in France as they had planned. In a highly emotional passage, Pertini would later recall the bitterness of Turati's departure, fully aware that he would never again return to Italy, his homeland. 

On the morning of December 14, Parri and Rosselli were identified as they moored their motorboat in Marina di Carrara. They were immediately connected to Turati's sensational flight. 

The affair was brought to a close at the famous trial of Savona which concluded on September 14, 1927 with sentences of 10 months of jail for Ferruccio Parri, Carlo Rosselli, Da Bove and Boyancé, as well as for Turati and Pertini, in absentia. Oxilia, as leader of the expedition, received a heavy sentence as well. 

The trial of Savona was one of the last collective protests against fascism.

While in exile, Pertini formed ties to other Italian antifascists abroad. He took part in the Congress of the League for Human Rights held in Marseilles. He moved to Paris and then to Nice, working at different jobs in order to survive: taxi washer, manual laborer, brick-layer, peintre en bâtiment (painter of buildings), movie extra. 

In 1928, with money he received from the sale of a farmhouse inherited in Liguria, Pertini, under the false name of Jean Gauvin, established a radio transmitter in Eze, near Nice, from which to broadcast antifascist propaganda. 

He was found out, tried and sentenced to a month in prison (suspended) and fined by the Tribunal of Nice. Pertini could hardly tolerate his life of exile from the moment he arrived on French soil His character required that he return to Italy as soon as possible, and he started to plan his return to his homeland in the beginning of 1929.

On March 26, 1929, using a false passport for a Swiss citizen named Luigi Roncaglia, Pertini was finally able to return to Italy. There, he got in touch with the clandestine antifascist network. He was identified and arrested in Pisa on April 14, 1929. Brought before the Special Tribunal, Pertini was sentenced on November 30, 1929, to ten years and 9 months of prison and to 3 years under special vigilance. 

During the entire proceedings, Pertini maintained what the Prefect called "a haughty and contemptuous demeanor," refusing to recognize the authority of the very Tribunal. At his sentencing, Pertini replied by crying out "Hurray for socialism" and "Down with fascism." This behavior resulted in Pertini's imprisonment in Regina Coeli (in Rome) and in the prison of Santo Stefano. In spite of much harassment, Pertini always maintained an attitude of serenity and firmness. 

Soon his name was mentioned in the same breath as those of the other antifascist leaders. He managed to make contact, albeit sporadic and fortuitous, with other antifascists. Not long afterward, however, his health began to suffer. A campaign to sway public opinion was launched; it brought minimal results. Thus, in December 1930, Pertini, now ill, was relieved from his harsh conditions of imprisonment and was transferred to a clinic for the chronically ill in Turi. There, Pertini met and befriended another imprisoned antifascist leader, Antonio Gramsci. 

In April 1932, Pertini was transferred to a sanatorium prison on the island of Pianosa. In spite of these improvements, he did not get better so that his mother felt she had to plead for mercy. For the first time the relationship between mother and son suffered. Pertini rejected the plea for mercy directing very harsh words to both his mother and the president of the Special Tribunal. In September 1935, Pertini was released from prison and taken to confino on the island of Ponza. 

In 1939, he was transferred first to the Tremiti Islands and then to Ventotene. He regained his freedom, more than 14 years later, only in August of 1943, a month after the fall of fascism. After July 25, a free man at last, Pertini became one of the major protagonists of the movement for national liberation. Among those who took part, in Rome, in the reconstitution of the socialist party, he was put in charge of its military organization. 

After September 8 and the flight of the royal family from Rome, Pertini fought alongside military and civilians in defense of the capital at Porta San Paolo. He went underground following the Nazi occupation of part of the peninsula and he was active until October 18, 1943, when he was arrested along with Giuseppe Saragat, by Nazis or Fascists. Imprisoned in Regina Coeli, he was interrogated harshly and sentenced to death without his having betrayed his fellow partisans. 

On January 24, 1944 he was liberated thanks to partisan action. Having regained his freedom of movement, Pertini joined the central military leadership of the National Liberation Committee as a representative of the PSIUP (Italian socialist party, proletarian union). After moving north, Pertini reorganized the Socialist Party in Northern Italy, soon becoming its secretary, and he took part in the activities of the CLNAI (National Italian Liberation Committee).

In July 1944, after the Allies liberated the capital, he returned to Rome crossing the battle line. He then took part in the battle for the liberation of Florence. 


In October 1944 he returned north once again. Having reached France by plane, he crossed Mont Blanc and re-entered Italy where resumed his role of leader of the PSIUP and the CLNAI. 

In April 1945 he was among the organizers of the insurrection of Milan, along with Leo Valiani and Luigi Longo. During these months he met a partisan messenger, Carla Voltolina, who would later become his wife.

Secretary of the PSI in 1945, elected to the Constituent Assembly, later a member of parliament, director of (the Socialist Party newspaper) Avanti! in 1945-1946 and in 1950-1951, Pertini was one of most prominent figures of the socialist party of the early post-war years.

Although he was in favor of a political alliance with the PCI (the Italian Communist Party), Pertini always defended the autonomy of the socialist tradition-understood as the exaltation of democracy and freedom, of the defense of the interests of the most disadvantaged social classes and of the working class in particular. 

From his point of view, the role of the Socialist Party was to be that of a "democratic conscience among the working masses." A proponent of peace and of détente between East and West, during the Cold War he shared the prevalent view on the left in Italy according to which the U.S.S.R., having defeated nazism and fascism, was a crucial player in maintaining the political balance that followed the Second World War. 

This position, however, was more the result of seeking a dialogue between East and West than one adopted from a prior allegiance to the Soviet orbit. Moreover, following the events of 1956, while not abandoning all faith in the experience which emerged from the October Revolution (1917), Pertini reaffirmed the requirements of democratic rule of law, of a nation's right to self-determination and of national sovereignty-principles manifestly violated by the Soviet armored tanks. 

Belonging to this same line of thought are the constant condemnation of colonialism of all kinds, whether explicit as that of France in Indochina or covert as that of Italy's "trusteeship" in Somalia (whose colonization started in 1889 with this pretence). Within the party, Pertini always kept himself above the factional conflicts and always appealed to party unity. 

Pertini welcomed the formation of center-left governments as the harbinger of a significant political participation of the working class (although the majority of workers were still excluded as they voted for the communist opposition). Pertini looked favorably upon the Atlantic alliance, for its defensive and stabilizing role, and especially upon a united Europe, conceived as a union of ordinary Europeans and not just of a united diplomatic representation for free-flowing capital. 

In 1968, he was elected President of the House of Representatives (Parliament). Pertini filled this office with considerable even-handedness and a great respect for the institution. He inaugurated his practice of regularly meeting young people from all over Italy.

On July 8, 1978, after protracted voting for the needed two-thirds majority, Sandro Pertini was elected the seventh President of the Republic. 

These were the anni di piombo ("years of lead"), the years of terrorism, of economic crisis, and of the political-parliamentarian crisis following the failure of the government of national solidarity which followed the kidnapping and the assassination of Aldo Moro.

Quite apart from the institutional and political role Pertini played-it was he who, during his mandate as President, nominated the first lay prime minister, Giovanni Spadolini, and then the first socialist, Bettino Craxi-his character and humanity emerged unquestionably. 

Despite his old age, Sandro Pertini succeeded in rekindling in Italians their faith in their institutions. Despite his old age, he traveled throughout Italy and abroad where he represented the Italian State at various functions, both happy and tragic. His intransigent denunciations carried the great authority of his office and (during his visits to the sites of terrorist attacks) his visibly distressed figure echoed the alienation felt by both public opinion and by Italian workers in particular before the work of terrorists-a foreign body undermining the society of Italians. 

Pertini adopted much the same attitude toward organized crime when he denounced the Mafia for its "harmful activity against humanity." During the years of his presidency, Pertini turned more insistently to defending human and political rights at an international level, for instance denouncing South Africa's apartheid, South American dictatorships, and the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. 

A great communicator, Pertini displayed an extraordinarily forthright manner, even at unavoidably official and stilted functions and, all the while, his measured but heartfelt expression invested his words a universally appropriate message. No Italian head of state or politician has enjoyed popularity comparable to his, under the most varied circumstances. 

He received honorary degrees from the most prestigious universities, he was nominated an honorary French academic, and his opinion was constantly sought by the foreign media. Pertini greatly helped Italy's image abroad. 

When his term as president was up, he became a senator for life. The only official role he chose to accept, upon the invitation of some academics and historians of the workers' and socialists' movements, was that of President of the "Filippo Turati" Foundation for Historical Studies of Florence inaugurated in Florence in 1985 with the end of preserving the rich documentary patrimony of Italian socialism. 

Pertini died in Rome on February 24, 1990.

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