Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926

By Alice A. Kelikian | Go to book overview

2
Workers and Warriors

WHEN on 20 May 1915 parliament granted the Salandra government full powers for war, the public accepted the call to arms with resignation. Four days later Italy was fighting on the side of the Triple Entente. The mobilization against Austria lulled the interventionist crowds, who likened their victory to the triumph of privileged patriots fifty-five years before. Recalling the campaigns of the liberation movement, during which a heroic élite imposed its notion of the general will on a passive populace, the renunciation of neutrality allowed an ardent minority to serve as the embodiment of the civic conscience. Belligerence, as the Brescian nationalist Filippo Carli understood it, represented yet another episode in the struggle for independence that began with unification: Germany threatened the peninsula's economic and political autonomy, and only by meeting the Teutonic challenge abroad could sovereignty at home ensue.1 Whereas their liberal predecessors had placed premature optimism in free trade and constitutional monarchy to Europeanize the country, the apostles of war suffered from the delusion that controlled markets and rule by decree could rescue the infant state from oblivion as a second-rate empire. But whatever the divergence in agenda, the demeanour of the regenerative forces appeared the same. Again, a narrow yet influential group of partisans prevailed over the lower classes without having to play the plebiscitary card. So long as the real nation remained highly localized and loosely integrated, the patrimony of the Risorgimento would linger.

Instead of touting the benefits of agricultural development as the liberal oligarchs of the nineteenth century had done, conservative interventionists saw in industrial expansion the basis for prosperity. Commercial independence, according to the nationalists, required imperialist drive to release the energies of domestic enterprise from acknowledged inferiority. Until obstacles of location and cost

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1
F. Carli, La riforma della tariffa doganale e le industrie meccaniche e chimiche ( Brescia, 1915), pp. 25-8.

-45-

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Town and Country under Fascism: The Transformation of Brescia, 1915-1926
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Silk, Steel, and Society 7
  • 2 - Workers and Warriors 45
  • 3 - Political Alignments in Post-War Brescia 70
  • 4 - Labours of the Left 96
  • 5 - Conservative Revival in the Search for Order 117
  • 6 - Lamentations and Recriminations 137
  • 7 - The Brescian Road to Fascism 161
  • 8 - Strike and Stabilization 181
  • Conclusion 201
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 221
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