Niels Jonassen is a fine writer from Denmark, the author of a marvelous book titled “Lancia Aurelia in Detail: GT, Spider, Convertible & Saloon“, published by Herridge & Sons, Ltd.
Niels read my post on the death of Gianni Lancia and shared this on the story of Gianni’s supposed Communist ties: “Before I wrote my book on the Lancia Aurelia I asked members of the Lancia family about Gianni’s alleged membership (in) the Communist Party. I was told he had not been a member of the Party but he had been a member of the ‘Committee for the Liberation of Italy’, an antifascist organization of which the Communists were members. In the days of McCarthyism that was enough to make him persona non grata to the US government.”
The ‘Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale’ organized partisan fighters into brigades by party affiliation. Of the six brigades of the CLN, the largest was that of the Partito Comunista Italiana (PCI), ten times the size of the smallest, that of the Democrazia Cristiana (DC). It is perhaps this that drew the attention of the eagle eyes of the Communist hunters. There was also a good deal of internal politics involved as the Marshall Plan funds were administered in concert between a US representative and a local government official and most post-war governments were run by the DC, or Christian Democrats…
The CLN was disbanded in 1947. At the same time, and as Marshall Plan funds began to be allocated in Italy, the decision was made to utilize the system established by the fascist government of ‘Autonomous Public Boards’, led by the Bank of Italy and Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, or IRI who drew up outline plans for how Marshall Plan funds might be used in Italy.
While this group was not directly involved in the actual distribution of funds, the fact was that the automotive sector- Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Innocenti, Piaggio- was to be a key component of the post-war industrial development. Of course as it happens, Alfa Romeo was owned by the state-run IRI since its establishment in 1933 and 12 years before that through the ‘Consorzio per Sovvenzioni sui Valori Industriali’. Anyone who thinks government bailouts of automakers is a recent phenomenon is quite wrong…
Alfa had also on its books a business plan to expand production dramatically through moving into direct competition with Lancia. It opens the possibility that this might also have had an influence on where the funds were and were not directed. One wonders.
That the threat was made to cut or eliminate altogether Marshall Plan funding if the Italian Communist Party were to win the 1948 elections made any Communist connection, no matter how distant, well meaning or apolitical, a great liability. The overwhelming victory of the Christian Democrats in 1948 decided the factor and may indeed have been a contributing part of Lancia’s lack of funding.
A fascinating time in history, with issues far from black and white and repercussions far more widespread and perhaps even more important than what happened when a headstrong and imaginative heir decided to make his mark in the world of racing, to prove he was at least the man his legendary father had been.