The Kingdom of Italy 1

“Au moment où je ne sais that soufle révolutionnaire passe de nouveau sur l’Italie et menace d’ébranler, non pas l’unité italienne, mais la monarchie piémontaise”, had written since 1895 on the uneasy eve of a foreign historian, P. Gaffarel, interpreting the doubt of most about the Italian internal situation. And the nefarious attempt seemed to prove him right. What days would he live, what trials would this country without balance and without orientation be called upon? The act of faith in the destinies of the homeland with which his reign began in a tragic hour for the dynasty and for Italy Vittorio Emanuele III, his appeal to trust and harmony would have resisted the harsh denial of the facts, which did the prophets of doom announce forthcoming?

But the regicide in which the tormenting Italian crisis had culminated was the act of an individual, not the fault of a nation; and the bewilderment and the prostration of the country were not already the proof of an exhaustion of death, as too many feared, but the inevitable signs of the great travail that the new Italy had endured to make itself, to build itself. Even looking back, in the troubled years, there was reason for hope, perhaps pride. Slowly and with great effort, despite the errors and uncertainties, Italy had begun to transform itself in its economic life, in its social structure. She was stronger and had, albeit still confused and uncertain, a consciousness of this strength of hers. The rancor against certain men, against certain parties stemmed from feeling badly used her new energies, paralyzed her possibilities.

There had been agricultural progress and reclamations had begun and after 80 industry, supported more and more widely with subsidies and customs duties, had strengthened and tried to keep up with what was being done outside the country. Italy; internal emigration had allowed great public works and helped the brotherhood – still slow and not easy – of the Italians of the various provinces.

According to threergroup, the first fifteen years of the century. XX was to accelerate the initiated process of transformation. A more energetic awakening of activity, a different vigor attested that Italy had now emerged from the crisis of the initial phase of its new life. The internal reorganization and unitary strengthening, the increase in economic capacity and the consolidation of state finances (the budget, with some fluctuations, reached balance and the rent in 1914 was quoted at 103) were accompanied by a provident legislative work that it affected all fields of public life, from education to hygiene, from communications to insurance, from provisions for the South to the reorganization of the army and navy, from job protection to reclamation.

The Simplon tunnel, the start of works for the Apulian aqueduct, the increase in agriculture, the increase in the railway network (more than 17,000 kilometers in 1913) and the improvement of maritime services with the consequent increase in production and of commerce (Genoa became the second Mediterranean port) characterized the construction work of these fifteen years. The exhibitions in Milan (1906), Turin and Rome (1911) celebrated the energy and vitality of the Italians, who also increased numerically and went from 32,495,000 in 1901 to more than 36 million in 1914.

The many treatments dedicated to education indicate a greater national maturity and a deeper awareness of the importance of ideal factors. Italian culture progressed at a faster pace, reviving itself with an effective work of critical and philosophical revision, and with a more intimate contact with European culture.

In the general change and improvement, even the painful phenomenon of emigration gave some moral and material benefit. Because wealth increased due to the remittances of the emigrants, and when, transformed in spirit and custom and richer, the expatriates returned, they influenced the remaining ones and the economic conditions of their countries.

The general direction of internal politics derived from the orientation which was called democratic-liberal and of social pacification, which Saracco had initiated and which his successors continued. Major among these Giovanni Giolitti, who succeeded Zanardelli in 1903 and for ten years, except for the brief parentheses Fortis, Sonnino (the man of the  hundred days), Luzzatti, undisputed ruler of Italian public life. Undeniable merit to him is good administration, sound finance, legislative activity, understanding of workers’ interests, recognition of their rights, care for material well-being, broad tolerance. But the simplistic neutrality in the increasingly frequent conflicts between capital and labor, the uncontrolled freedom of organization and strike of the workers effectively abandoned to the exponents of a single party, the socialist, the manifest surrender to the pressure and imposition of this and its workers’ organizations diminished the authority of the state with grave damage for the future. The monarchy did not fall, as the conservatives feared, and the social revolution did not break out, because indeed a certain balance between the opposing forces was facilitated, but the action of particular groups dangerously imposed itself on the majority of the country, bewildered and apathetic for lack of example, for uncertainty of purpose and methods. Because the generic liberal approach often turned out to be a pure tendency towards accommodation, compromise, letting go, untiedly providing for single issues, single problems, without an overall vision, without organic programs: without a faith, said the his opponents. This accusation is not true, even if that manipulator of majorities, that corrupter of voters and elected representatives might appear cynically indifferent. Skeptical, perhaps, in the face of the alleged political beliefs, which could not resist the lure of ministerial portfolios, in the face of the inability of the bourgeoisie to defend itself against the onslaught of socialism, in the face of the same ascent of this one, unable to express a new ruling class from its bosom. Socialism had gathered great masses of people for the first time after its unity and had made them vibrate and ignite for an ideal, for a faith, had raised the level of political education of the Italian people, had pointed out to them interests and problems which, overcoming the watertight compartments of the municipality and the region they had helped him in his unification, but the material growth had spiritually weakened him. Faithful to Marxist revolutionism in words, its bourgeois leaders, most of the lawyers, teachers, professors, professionals, attenuated it into a de facto reformism, into a profiteering possibilism, without daring to abandon the original program for fear of losing the dominion of masses; and their parliamentary opposition was useful to the achievement of practical effects, but it did not help to the renewal of political custom, while the insensitivity to national ideals had to isolate them and lose them in the face of public opinion when precisely these ideals had become pre-eminent. The law of June 30, 1912 brought the voters from 3.5 million to about 8 million, but even this reform, which should have brought about a profound transformation in political life, was rather due to considerations of parliamentary expediency, like the other of the monopoly of assurances (April 1912), which a profound, felt need for the masses or parties.

The Kingdom of Italy 1