The Kingdom of Italy – Fifteen Years of Fruitful Work Part II

By | February 23, 2022

There was practically a positive improvement in the Roman question, from which the pontificate of Pius X (1903-1913) removed the harshness of the rigid temporal demands, but the intervention of Catholics at the polls was felt by Giolitti more as a useful ingredient in parliamentary alchemy. (Gentiloni pact of 1913), which as the sign of a fruitful transformation of good.

The ambiguity presented by domestic politics was less sensitive in foreign politics due to the advent of new factors. If the older ones, still under the nightmare of Adua or faithful to naive democratic and pacifist ideals, declared themselves averse to every expansion and every adventure, there were young people of the new generation, who, evaded the charm of socialism and worried about interests and purposes that went beyond the borders of the state, felt the need for problems different from those of everyday politics, hinted at wider horizons. Literature did not remain insensitive to this rekindling of national faith. The precious sensualism of D’Annunzio, who had already given the  naval Odes , resounded in  La Gloria , in  Più che amore , in The ship the reasons and aspirations of Italian expansionism. National pride was awakened and, overcoming the forms of traditional patriotism and antitriplicist irredentism, it took shape in a doctrine that was not insensitive to foreign models, but revived by the awareness of particular Italian needs, both internal and external: nationalism. Since the congress of Florence, from which the Italian Nationalist Association came out (December 1910), the representatives of the movement took a position against “the policy of fearful concentration and intended to satisfy particular interests” which proved unable to solve “the great problems of life Italian”; affirmed the need for a “conscious and strong” foreign policy to be able to carry out a “truly beneficial” action internally, declaring at the same time the need to strengthen and elevate the feeling of civil and military duties in all orders of citizens in order to raise the national conscience. And from the columns ofNational idea  the leaders of the new movement, men of culture, writers and journalists, such as Corradini and Federzoni, and some right-wing parliamentarians, such as Foscari, who were based on Crispi and Oriani, carried out this work of national education, opposed by democratic parties, derided by other journalists; men of culture and writers, misunderstood by the mass, who did not find themselves in their too aristocratically ideal language, in their contempt for immediate reality. Yet their action was not in vain: the Tripoli undertaking is also their merit.

The beginning of the century had found Italy in the block of the Triple Alliance. And he remained faithful to the alliance, although the impossibility of a sincere agreement with Austria and the need to better protect his Mediterranean interests with other contacts and other agreements, undermined the ancient pact, which on the occasion of the various renewals (1902, 1907, 1912) became predominantly peaceful. Meanwhile, Italy was approaching France and England, with the former negotiating the agreements of 1900 and 1902, which ensured mutual neutrality and a free hand for Italy in Libya, France in Morocco, with the latter those of 1905. Its international position was strengthened: the time when Italy seemed resigned to the role of minor ally in the Triplex was getting longer. This autonomy of foreign policy, which became evident with travels and visits by sovereigns and heads of state and continued in the tripartite agreement for Abyssinia and in the action carried out in favor of France in Algeciras (1906) and extended to contacts with Russia (1908 ), aroused concerns and reactions in Berlin and Vienna. There Bülow could pretend to smile gods waltz rounds (January 8, 1902), but here in gen. Conrad did not dislike the idea of ​​attacking Italy during the Calabrian-Sicilian earthquake crisis (1908). Necessity pushed us to walk together again, but the traveling companions no longer understood each other. And the issues of the Near East (Albania, the Mitrovica-Sarajevo railway and, more serious and disturbing, the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) upset the waters of the alliance, alongside which the foreign minister Tittoni (8 December 1908) it boasted beneficial “traditional friendship” with England, the “renewed” one with France and “the recent understanding” with Russia. The increased interest in foreign policy and in particular in oriental events was attested by parliamentary discussions and publications by eminent politicians, such as Di San Giuliano and Guicciardini.

According to timedictionary, the failure of Tunis and the disaster of Adua had for a long time undermined every desire for expansion. While Austria dreamed of a descent to the Aegean and France asserted itself as mistress of Morocco, Italy seemed not to even notice its two small colonies, Eritrea, which had risen after ten years of good government by Martini, and Somalia, forget both even in election campaigns. The Anglo-French recognition of an Italian right on Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, the incitement of explorers and politicians to occupy those lands that could have accommodated Italian arms and capital, the charm of ancient memories, the reality of recent interests had not yet rocked the government.

In the spring of 1911, the year in which the fiftieth anniversary of unity was commemorated, nationalists and colonialists, taking the motive from recent new Turkish violence against Italians and from the rumors of a forthcoming Germanic occupation of Cyrenaica, claimed that the government acted. Historical traditions, political reasons, economic reasons, sentimental and literary pretexts, all benefited the propaganda and the government (Giolitti was in power) was decided: a brief diplomatic action was followed by the ultimatum of 29 September. A burst of enthusiasm shook the peninsula: the days of the Risorgimento seemed to be back. The socialist opposition did not take hold of the masses who were in favor of the war, on the contrary it provoked splits in the party and in the parliamentary group; some democrats like Cavallotti remained isolated. The people felt that the war meant for Italy the resurrection of its national conscience and they accepted it with joy and sang it in easy rhythms, while the high literature exalted the “great proletarian” moved to meet its fortune or screamed in sonorous and very erudite verses the archeology of the memories of Genoa, Venice, Pisa. Andrea Sperelli made amends for Dogali. But this too was useful, this too was a precious indication of the keenest national sensitivity, to which Giolitti too had surrendered, even though he was so averse to sentimental infatuations. Like Piedmont after Novara, the new Italy had, after Adua, its Crimean War. It was a hard and difficult war, militarily and politically. The great powers, unfavorable to this Italian claim, as soon as naval or maritime action appeared contrary to any of their interests, they protested and threatened, preventing Turkey from being hit in vital points. And in the opposition, the allies of the Triplex and the friends of the other group got along well. But the hostility of the powers, the natural difficulties of the enterprise, the uncertainties in the political conduct of the war did not prevent sailors and soldiers from writing splendid pages in Tripoli, Benghazi, Rhodes, in the Dardanelles (most audacious glory of Millo) which they canceled the memory of Adua.

Forced to surrender Turkey with the threat of intensifying operations, peace was signed in Lausanne (October 18, 1912). Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, annexed since November 5, 1911, passed to Italy, which promised to return the Aegean islands it occupied when the Turks had cleared the territory.

The threat of Balkan complications had influenced the peace negotiations. The war that broke out shortly afterwards between Turkey and the fourfold Christian ended up upsetting the European balance that the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente had so laboriously maintained. Dangers of new complications had appeared even after Italy and Austria, forced to proceed together by their own antagonism, had forbidden the Serbs from entering the Adriatic and created an ephemeral Albanian state (1914). And since July 1913 Austria, fearful of Serbia, had envisaged a preventive war against the restless southern neighbor to the Italian government. Rome had opposed it by declaring that the  casus foederis did not exist, but, even in the face of such a dangerous demonstration and a threatening situation, he had neglected to provide for the army, which was suffering from the wear and tear to which the Libyan war had subjected it.

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