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 6

The Long Ministry, 1906–1909: The Heyday of the Giolittian System

BUILDING BRIDGES TO THE RIGHT

Giolitti began his longest government somewhat reluctantly. Senator Tommaso Senise described what Giolitti and his closest advisers would have liked to clear up before regaining office: “Surely the crisis did not arrive on time; it has been downright impatient! We had to discuss and resolve first the railway question, that of the South and also the inquiry into the navy: and then wage open warfare! But events have been precipitated both by Sonnino—out of ineptitude—and the opposition out of impatience.” Despite everything, if Giolitti refused to take the presidency, the king would have no option but to go back to Sonnino and give him the right to call new elections: “And would you like to consign all your political friends to the sword of Hon. Sonnino?” 1

Giolitti had brought parts of both left and right within the framework of the new course between 1901 and 1905. Whether the conversion proved durable over the long term and whether the conciliation of both left and right was even possible or desirable remained unsettled. Certainly the 1906–1909 government consolidated earlier gains on the right. Giolitti continued to attract conservatives to his majority as long as he closed the door to the Estrema, but once he began to move leftward again in 1911, many conservatives deserted to follow not Sidney Sonnino, but Antonio Salandra. However, the political arithmetic in May 1906 was too clear to be ignored. The Chamber of Deputies that had been elected to punish the Socialists for the general strike in 1904 was naturally oriented to the right, making Giolitti’s return at the head of a conservative government almost a foregone conclusion. 2 In fact, the new government continued the 1903–1905 administration without Luigi Luzzatti. Tommaso Tittoni returned as foreign minister and clerical-conservative Emanuele Gianturco became minister of public

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