From Elite to Mass Politics: Italian Socialism in the Giolittian Era, 1900-1914

By James Edward Miller | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgments

How and why do organizational issues affect the ability of political parties to operate in their environments? This study argues that between 1900 and 1914 questions of organization played a significant and largely unappreciated role in defeating the efforts of the Italian Socialist party (PSI) to achieve the radical transformation of Italy's society. Specifically, it contends that the leaders, of both the Party's left- and right-wing factions consciously chose and maintained an organizational structure that made the PSI the representative of a small portion of Italian industrial and agrarian workers. It argues that by limiting the PSI's size and failing to support the extension of voting rights to the mass of Italians, particularly Southern farm labor, the PSI reduced its political options. Finally, it attempts to demonstrate that the PSI's choice of political organization had a deleterious effect on the Italian socialist movement throughout the period 1900-1914 but especially in the triennium 1911-14 when the Party attempted to halt Italy's involvement in colonial expansion and war.

Party organization was only one factor, albeit a significant one, in the PSI's inability to master its political environment. Conflicts over ideology, mistaken political strategy, shifting economic conditions, and personal rivalries posed significant obstacles to the Party's success. Moreover, the creation of a mass-based political party was no guarantee that the PSI could achieve its objectives. The mass-based European socialist parties of the era were unsuccessful in achieving the radical transformation of bourgeois society or in mastering the crisis of July-August 1914, when Marxist internationalism collapsed before the power of nationalism. The German Social Democrats (SPD), European Marxism's most influential mass movement

-vii-

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