The Hunchback's Tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and Liberal Italy from the Challenge of Mass Politics to the Rise of Fascism, 1882-1922

By Alexander De Grand | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Into the Wilderness: Giolitti in Opposition, 1894–1901

FROM GIOLITTI TO CRISPI

Giolitti faced the most difficult period in his long political career during the two years after the end of his first administration. Events had negated his moderate course in domestic politics, but the personal attacks were even worse. It was almost as though the political system had decided to expel the outsider. A few lines to his daughter Enrichetta reveal his mood of deep dejection: “I won’t speak of politics to avoid running the risk of becoming pessimistic. Certainly, if I don’t become so now, I won’t [ever] run such a risk.” 1 Former political allies kept their distance from a man whose career seemed over. Relations between Giolitti and Giuseppe Zanardelli cooled considerably when the Zanardellians quickly abandoned Giolitti. In contrast, conservatives Luigi Luzzatti and Antonio di Rudinì never joined the chorus of attacks on Giolitti. 2

With Rudinì’s group on the right and the Giolittians on the left out of the picture, much uncertainty existed about the future direction of politics. The majority that Giolitti worked so hard to create collapsed when 190 of the 371 ministerial deputies passed over to Francesco Crispi. By the eve of the 1895 elections, Crispi had the backing of 288 deputies to the opposition’s 164. Of the 190 crossovers, 120 came from the left, 60 from the center-right, and 10 from the right. The initial opposition came from the supporters of Giolitti and Benedetto Brin in Piedmont, Zanardelli’s followers in Lombardy, and Pietro Rosano’s group of Neapolitans; Rudinì, Giulio Prinetti, and Giuseppe Colombo formed the conservative opposition of about twenty. 3

The degree to which Crispi resented Giolitti was surprising. The latter’s initial positions in parliament offered ample room for a rapprochement. In contrast to Zanardelli, Giolitti supported Crispi’s repressive policies in Sicily, although he

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