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

By Alice A. Kelikian | Go to book overview

5
Conservative Revival in the Search for Order

WITH the change of government early in the summer of 1920, the old political establishment scored its first victory of the post-war period. The ousting of Nitti, whose rule came to represent economic austerity, social unrest, and the ambiguous status of Fiume, meant that liberal élites no longer intended to watch the country descend into violence while the authorities in Rome slept. Support for the prime minister withered during his third cabinet crisis, when the constitutional parties looked to an ageing figure from the past to restore law and order. Denounced as a traitor over the issue of intervention, Giolitti suddenly found acceptance in public opinion. Determination to secure parliamentary consensus, bureaucratic control, and domestic peace drove conservatives to court the politician they had rejected five years before. Even nationalists entrusted the return to normality and the salvation of the state to the former premier, now nearing eighty. The consolidation of industrial pressure groups in the autumn and the municipal election returns of November gave further testimony to the regeneration of the right.1

The occupation of the factories during September 1920 revealed the limits of Giolittian liberalism, as more than 400,000 metallurgists seized hold of plants and workshops throughout the peninsula. The labour cause began with wage claims but widened to include demands for workers' control. Industrialists left little room for manœuvre and closed off lines of communication by calling a lock-out, so no complications over bourgeois collaboration existed for the reformists of the CGL. Union leaders felt compelled to endorse the spontaneous sit-in strike, expecting a united socialist front to force state arbitration and settle the dispute. The premier did intervene later to arrange a compromise scheme, in the interests of ending the PSI's intransigence in parliament, but the failure of the left to realize the myth of

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1
C. Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe, pp. 180-2; C. Seton-Watson, Italy from Liberalism to Fascism, pp. 561-70.

-117-

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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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