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 5

Giolitti’s Second Ministry: Doing It “Right,” 1903–1905

The waning days of the Zanardelli government were filled with maneuvers for the succession. Old and sick, Giuseppe Zanardelli saw that his last chance was to bring the Radical leader Giuseppe Marcora into his coalition, but the very tenuousness of the Brescian leader’s hold on power made Marcora hesitate. 1 Zanardelli’s followers, fearing the worst, approached Giolitti for some assurances that he would welcome them in the new majority and find a place for key leaders like Scipione Ronchetti and Francesco Cocco-Ortu in the government. 2 The possibility that Giolitti might even reach out to Sidney Sonnino met resistance from the left, but an extremely acute analysis by La Stampa anticipated the future development of both Sonnino and Giolitti. With surprising accuracy the paper predicted: “Sonnino is so little the head of a conservative party that in the hypothesis, today far off, of his return to power, he would call to take part in his government men of the Radical Party and we are not going to be far off the mark by saying that, if Filippo Turati wanted to take part in his government, he would be well received.” La Stampa also correctly anticipated that Giolitti would move to the right rather than to the left to find a basis for his government. 3

Giolitti’s rise to power after 1901 has often appeared to be the inevitable consequence of the failure of repression a year earlier, but there was nothing inevitable about the 1903 government. He had previously failed as prime minister and might have been no more than a successful interior minister. Once again, as Giolitti formed his second ministry, he would be limited by the choices of the king, now a much friendlier Vittorio Emanuele III. 4 The Estrema pressed him to form a pure left government, but this was not necessarily his inclination. Instead, he conducted simultaneous negotiations with Radicals, Socialists, and conservatives. Giolitti offered Filippo Turati a post in the government in the expectation that the Socialist would not be able to accept and, in the unlikely

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