The Rise of Socialism and
the Giolittian Era
Depressedprices and poor economic conditions plagued Europe from the early 1870s to the 1890s, but higher prices and prosperity marked the years between 1896 and 1914, despite the sharp 1907-1908 recession. Protectionism increased prices for agricultural goods, industrialists created combinations to raise prices for their products, and gold discoveries in South Africa and the Klondike fueled expansion of the money supply. The demand for industrial products increased as a result of the arms race, growth of the middle class, the opening of colonial markets, higher wages, and governmental stimulation of the economy through increased spending. Most important, technological advances in electricity, chemicals, and the internal combustion engine created new industrial sectors and touched off the "second" industrial revolution.
These changes allowed Italy to become the first Mediterranean area to move into the advanced industrial arena, even if the country’s development remained skewed by regional imbalances. Economic changes had drastic effects on the country’s political and social life. Requiring more freedom and less friction, the growing and increasingly powerful northern bourgeoise displayed less tolerance for leaders like Crispi who failed to recognize the paramount importance of their goals, who favored foreign adventures, and whose recalcitrance stimulated the social unrest that interfered with the country’s economic development. If necessary, during the early years of the twentieth century, industrialists could reach limited understandings with their enemies, and Socialists also were committed to liquidating the repressive mentality of late nineteenth-century government leaders; the previously mentioned Milanese alliance between radicals and business leaders against Crispi clearly demonstrated this tendency. Between 1901 and World War I, converging interests of bourgeoisie and proletariat outweighed ideology and had positive if limited effects. But in both camps the groups criticizing this practical "politics of things" gained strength, and as war