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
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Chapter 7

Domestic Reform and War, 1910–1914

THE NEW ANTI–GIOLITTIANISM

For the second time in four years the official opposition held power only by the toleration of the Giolittian majority. As a result, charges of a Giolittian parliamentary “dictatorship” inevitably gained currency. Giolitti’s opponents increasingly contrasted a parasitic political Italy—Montecitorio and its master, Giolitti—to a “real,” productive, Italy. If the Chamber of Deputies was so dominated by one man that it could no longer be the basis for opposition, then opposition would have to move outside of and against parliament. Discontent with giolittismo came from many sources. Part of the democratic left, especially with ties to the South, resisted. Gaetano Salvemini had long contended that only a radical break with the Giolittian system and the introduction of sweeping and substantial reform would lay the foundation for a democratic Italy. His bitter anti–Giolittianism found a ready audience among the discontented young intellectuals who wrote for the Florentine review La Voce after 1908.

La Voce provided a forum for various strands of left and right anti–Giolittian sentiment. Hostility was directed at all parts of the Giolittian consensus. 1Voce editor Giuseppe Prezzolini wrote: “The present democracy represents by now only the decline of all standards only the interests of the most greedy and aggressive are served.” After almost ten years of Giolittian government, “Everything falls. Every ideal evaporates. Parties no longer exist, only little factions and clienteles…. The disgust is overwhelming. The best no longer have any faith. The young, if they are not spineless climbers, no longer enter parties.” 2 Prezzolini’s question, “What to do?” revealed a general frustration. He noted that Giolitti’s policies “ended by producing a reaction, first among a few, then in larger numbers; a reaction on the conservative side called nationalism, and on the

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