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

By James Edward Miller | Go to book overview

5
The Eye of the Storm: The Socialist Parliamentary Group, 1900-1910

Parliamentary government is, like all other, an historic form, responding to the needs of a large and concentrated state in which classes with antagonistic interests operate. It is the mechanism for expressing the collective will, which is presently monopolized by the predominant classes. It is, therefore, the indispensable mechanism that the subject classes grasp in order to give weight to their own interests. . . . The day that they become arbitrators of this mechanism, they must utilize it to abolish the causes of class antagonisms, thus completing their own emancipation.

-- Leonida Bissolati ( 1895)

The Reformists' belief that parliament was the key to the triumph of the working classes meant that this institution inevitably became the focus of their political efforts. If Reformism was to hold on to its dominant position in the PSI, the men who formed the Party's parliamentary group (GPS) had to provide tangible success in the form of significant reform legislation. The debate over whether Reformism was a success or failure occupied center stage at the Party Congresses between 1902 and 1912. The efforts of the GPS were monitored, criticized, and defended. Yet the group lived a life of its own, seemingly as indifferent to the demands of its leftist critics as it was to the plans and pleas of its Reformist defenders. Ironically, the Reformists' insistence that the group possess the widest possible autonomy ultimately undermined their leadership because the GPS

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