Giolitti sought the simultaneous integration of the reformist labor movement and the emerging – in 1904 election of the first Catholic MPs with papal approval – anti-socialist-Catholic movement into the monarchy through concessions such as the right to strike, workers’ protection, social insurance (strategy and tactics of “trasformismo”) and by dismantling anti-clericalism. Agreements with France (1900-02) and Russia (1909) gave Italy freedom of movement in foreign policy, which in the limited Italian-Turkish War of 1911/12 brought the acquisition of the Libyan opposite coast of Italy (Cyrenaica and Tripoli) and the Dodecanese. Also the anti-Austrian irredentism took a new upswing, with radicals like E. Tolomei the ethnic and cultural conditions beyond the Italian borders began to falsify propagandistically in order to achieve long-term political goals (here not only the Trentino, but the Brenner border with South Tyrol). After the electoral reform (1912), which increased the proportion of eligible voters from 8.3% to 23.2% with almost universal male suffrage, Giolitti won again in the 1913 elections in the electoral alliance with the Catholics, but lost the support of the anti-clericals and resigned in March 1914. For more articles about Italy and Europe, please follow Hyperrestaurant.
First World War and the post-war period (1914-1922)
The new right-wing liberal government under A. Salandra (1914-16) ended the integration course in 1914 (suppression of the Settimana rossa strike movement in northern Italy) and remained neutral when the war broke out. The agitation of a heterogeneous coalition of radical democrats, revolutionary socialists, right-wing liberals and nationalists that deeply divided the country led after the failure of compensation negotiations with Vienna and after the conclusion of the London Treaty negotiated with the Allies (April 26, 1915, prospects also of Trento and Trieste on South Tyrol and Dalmatia, but not on Fiume) against Giolitti’s insightsand the intimidated, actually neutralist parliamentary majority to enter the war against Austria-Hungary (May 23, 1915), which, under pressure from the Allies, was followed by the declaration of war on the German Reich on August 28, 1916. Salandra’s expectations of consolidating the supremacy of the conservative liberals through a short, victorious war were disappointed by the years-long onslaught against the Austrian Alpine front, which resulted in twelve battles of the Isonzo in vain. The German-Austrian breakthrough in Karfreit (Caporetto) in October 1917 brought Italy to the brink of defeat. It was not until the final offensive of October 1918 (Vittorio Veneto) had a decisive impact on the disintegrating Danube monarchy (armistice of Villa Giusti, November 3, 1918).
1919-20 Italy took part in the Paris Peace Conferences, but was only able to achieve part of its war aims. In the peace treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye with Austria (September 10, 1919) it won Trento, South Tyrol (up to the Brenner), Gorizia, Trieste and Istria, as well as Zara (Zadar); in favor of the newly created “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes” (later “Yugoslavia”) it had to postpone its claims on Dalmatia and Fiume (Rijeka). The peace treaty of Sèvres with the Ottoman Empire (August 10, 1920) granted Italy to Rhodes and the Dodecanese archipelago (confirmed by the Treaty of Lausanne, July 24, 1923). As the leader of a free group, G. eliminated D’Annunzio 1919/20 the international control of Fiumes. However, the Italian-Yugoslav Treaty of Rapallo (November 12, 1920) gave it the status of a free state. The political disappointment over the “lost victory” and the economic crisis (as a result of the war: inflation, national deficit, industrial overcapacity, changes in international markets) led to strong internal contradictions that brought Italy to the brink of civil war. The socialists (PSI) could not decide on a consequent revolutionary policy or on joint government responsibility with the liberal forces of the bourgeoisie. By L. Sturzo led Catholic People’s Party (Partito Popolare Italiano; PPI, founded in 1919) rejected cooperation with both the Liberals and the Socialists; as a result, the country’s strongest political forces paralyzed each other in parliament. Socially motivated unrest also under the sign of the new “Bolshevik” communism (factory and farm workers’ strike, occupation of factories in northern Italy) ultimately promoted the fascism led by the former socialist B. Mussolini, which since its sharp turn against the two directions of the Marxist left, based on the militant activist associations (Squadre d’Azione), developed into a system-threatening mass movement.
As a supposed force of order, fascism was supported by some entrepreneurs, many large landowners and regionally by the military, police and authorities. Prime Minister Giolitti (again 1920/21) tried to “transform” the fascist movement into the existing political system. In 1922, the government under Prime Minister Luigi Facta (* 1861, † 1930) managed to fight the civil war between the fascists (organized as a party in the Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF, since 1921) on the one hand, and socialists and communists (split off as Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI since 1921) on the other hand, do not quit. Through negotiations on all decisive sides and with the help of a threatening demonstration movement organized by the PNF (March on Rome) Mussolini reached that King Victor Emmanuel III. appointed him to the head of a coalition government on October 29, 1922.