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 4

The Zanardelli-Giolitti Government, 1901–1903

THE NEW ZANARDELLI-GIOLITTI GOVERNMENT

The Zanardelli-Giolitti government that took office in February 1901 brought Giolitti just fame as a liberal reformer. As interior minister, his handling of the strike wave that gripped Italy in 1901 symbolized a new course in Italian politics. Labor organizations and collective bargaining in the private sector were henceforth tolerated by the government. Troops were not automatically called in to break strikes, although the right of nonstrikers and scab labor to work was protected. Politically the Socialist Party and the trade unions became subordinate negotiating partners within the Giolittian system.

Giolitti again revealed a sure hand in directing the bureaucratic apparatus of the state, but the context was very different from 1892–1893, when he was a junior partner to Giuseppe Zanardelli. Far more than the elderly Zanardelli, Giolitti understood how to realize his vision for the Liberal Party in competition with socialism and clericalism, but the new government broke with the past more over its interpretation of existing administrative procedures than over the initiation of fundamental reforms, such as equalization of tax burdens and cuts in the military budget. If the old structures of the liberal state remained in place, Giolitti gave them new efficiency and vigor.

The parliamentary situation in 1901 made any ambitious legislative agenda difficult. The new cabinet took power in a Chamber of Deputies that had been elected under the Pelloux government. The political class had not yet changed its attitudes in any fundamental way. But the new monarch, Vittorio Emanuele III, no longer believed that, Sidney Sonnino responded to the mood of the country. 1 The Zanardelli-Giolitti combination was also helped by the relatively benevolent attitude of the Marchese Antonio di Rudinì and Luigi Luzzatti, who

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