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4 The Rise of Italian Fascism, 1919-1929 Italy, like the other new nations of the 1860s-Germany, Japan, Hungary, and Romania-was a latecomer to international competition and, like all the other new nations sav~ Germany, faced daunting problems of internal development and modernization. After its most serious effort at imperial expansion had ended in humiliating defeat at Adowa in 1896, for a number of years the Italian government prudently avoided major new international involvement. The economic growth of the first years of the new century was, however, accompanied by an increase in nationalist and imperialist sentiment, primarily among sectors of the middle classes and the intelligentsia. The ruling liberal government of Giovanni Giolitti decided to accommodate this pressure by invading Libya, a territory of the Turkish Empire directly across the Mediterranean, on the specious grounds that vital interests of Italy had been violated there. Libya was therefore invaded and the main Mediterranean districts occupied in 1911-12, together with the Dodecanese islands in the south Aegean. Turkey was forced to cede these territories officially to Italy in 1912. Yet this did not appease extreme nationalists, whose appetite was only whetted. They coveted other territory in East Africa and the Balkans, and especially the Italian terra irredenta (unredeemed Italian-inhabited territory) of Trieste and the Trentino within Habsburg Austria. Social differentiation increased steadily after 1900, with the expansion of the urban middle classes and the rapid growth of an industrial working class. The new Italian Socialist Party emerged as a major force, though it was increasingly divided between reformists and revolutionaries, the latter vociferously pacifist and internationalist. Led by the young journalist Benito Mussolini and 80 Italian Fascism, 1919-1929 81 others, the revolutionaries seized control of the party in 1912 and, two years later, in June 1914, helped to lead it into the abortive general strike and partial insurrection of the Settimana Rossa (Red Week), which was effectively repressed and ended in complete failure. After the general European war began six weeks later, each of the opposing alliances sought to draw Italy in on its side. Though Italy had a defensive alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, its terms did not apply to the situation in 1914. Italian government leaders found that the anti-German Entente had more to offer, and the eventual secret Treaty of London of April 1915 pledged Italy to enter the conflict on the side of the Entente in return for Trieste, all the greater Trentino area, and further territory in the east Adriatic, in Turkey , and in Africa. Implementing this drastic new policy seemed initially more complicated, however, for most Italian opinion exhibited little enthusiasm for war, and the majority liberal bloc in the parliament was tepid. Italian "Left Interventionism" While right-wing nationalists were eager for Italian intervention, support for the war also suddenly appeared among an enthusiastic and heterogeneous group of leftists who would be subsequently referred to as left interventionists . Some of these were comparatively moderate leftists from the ranks of the middle-class Radicals and Republicans. More vociferous backers of intervention , however, came from the revolutionary left. A minority of the leaders and writers of revolutionary syndicalism had supported the war of 1911 against Turkey. The syndicalist labor confederation, the Unione Sindacale Italiana, quickly adopted a resolution supporting neutrality in August 1914, but this was rejected by some syndicalist leaders, particularly by such spokesmen as the young Alcestc de Ambris, who brought the Unione Sindacale Milanese (USM)-the syndicalist organization in Italy's largest industrial center-to call for intervention on the side of the Entente. By October various syndicalist leaders and several key local groups formed a new ad hoc organization, the Fascio Rivoluzionario d'Azione Internazionalista. Forming a fascio-the term means band, union, or league-had been standard practice among various sectors of Italian radicalism since the 1870s.I Fasci (the plural form) had been organized by trade unions, middle-class radicals , or reformist peasants, the most famous being the Fasci Siciliani, the broad federation of peasants and others in Sicily during 1895-96 that had brought much of the island out in revolt against the existing political and economic I. Fascio is derived from the Latinjasces. which originally referred to the bundle of lictors (rods with protruding axeheads) carried by the judges of ancient Rome, symbolizing justice, unity, and the sovereignty of the Roman Republic. 82 PART I: HISTORY structure. Thus the nomenclature adopted by the new Fascio Rivoluzionario was standard practice among the Italian...


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